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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 03/06/13
Romeo celebrates 175th
anniversary on March 9
by CHRIS GRAYThough the actual Village of Romeo can't eat cake nor receive gifts on its birthday, those observing its dodransbicentennial are invited to do both on its behalf.
Observer Staff Writer
A free Community Open House is scheduled for noon to 4 p.m. on March 9 at the Romeo Masonic Temple on N. Main Street in downtown Romeo to celebrate Romeo's 175th anniversary.
Following the open house is a dinner ball and fundraiser from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Coordinators have worked since May 2012 to prepare a free celebration of Romeo's dodransbicentennial<a mouthful of a word that means 175th anniversary<in observance of its establishment in 1838.
Kim Hale, co-chair of the 175th Anniversary Committee, said thanks to numerous sponsors and fundraising, the event will be held at little to no cost.
"The whole spirit of the 175th is to make as much of it free or low-cost as possible so families can come and spend the entire day participating in the event without needing to pay for anything," she said.
On March 9, guests can enjoy a cake-cutting ceremony at 12:15 p.m., where free cake and other refreshments will be available.
From 12:30 p.m. on, guests will be entertained by local bands, dancers and performers on the Gray's Opera House stage inside the Masonic Temple. Local elementary students are asked to read their winning essays about Romeo in between performances.
Guests can peruse historical displays, including the Michigan Vietnam Moving Wall. The wall contains the 2,600-plus names of Michigan soldiers that died, were prisoners of war or are missing in action from the Vietnam war.
Dave Schoenherr, who helps transport the wall, said two are soldiers from the Romeo area. He said the wall helps bring closure for those who can't make it to Washington, D.C. to see the Vietnam memorial wall.
"The idea is to bring awareness of what happened," he said. "We don't want these guys who sacrificed their lives for their country to be forgotten."
Hale said March 9 will also feature kid-friendly activities so children and adults can be involved.
"We wanted to make sure kids had stuff to do when parents are looking at historic photos," she said.
Activities include Wowie! the clown making balloon sculptures, free face painting and a historical costume contest. Entrants into the contest should be in costume by 1:45 p.m. at the open house.
Tickets will also be on sale for the gift basket raffle during the day, with prizes like Nooks and Blu-Ray players and local products like wine and treats from orchards.
The dinner ball, a ticketed event, will include a cash bar, music and dinner with special 175th Anniversary wines from The Village Winery.
The ball will also feature a new documentary produced by WBRW that tells Romeo's history through the eyes and words of residents.
"Not only did we want to involve everybody, but felt part of what we're trying to do here is harken back to the kinder, simpler times," Hale said.
Before it was renamed to Romeo in 1839, the settlement was known as Indian Village. Between the 1820s and 1830s, it was re-named Hoxie's Settlement when businesses were established on Main Street.
Mel Bleich, publisher of The Romeo Observer since 1959, has studied Romeo's history through old newspapers and other sources. He said the area benefited from many advantages when it was being settled, such as an established high school system, ideal farmlands and major industries like timber and carriages.
"You've got to be impressed by the fact that some of these things were just a happenstance," he said. "Things just came together, like wealthy farmers who made enough money to invest into factories we had."
Because of this, he said the area rapidly grew, moreso than towns closer to Detroit like Birmingham.
"Just one generation, from 1820 to 1840, you could start with nothing and wind up with a Main Street with a lot of buildings on it, a lot of stores and factories and commercial enterprises," he said.
Village Clerk Marian McLaughlin began her career in village government as a trustee in 1983, then moved on to be the clerk in 1986. Two years later she took on the additional role of administrator.
She said one of the aspects village government and residents should be proud of is that a historic village offers the same services of a large city or township, such as water, sewer, sidewalks and industrial sites.
"I think it's important that we recognize our existence for as long as we've been able to survive, and that I hope we're able to continue with our historic character and nature," she said.
She said beyond Romeo's historic nature, though, the community itself helps make the village what it is today.
"We're a small knit community, we always pull together to help each other out," McLaughlin said. "It is, and has been, a great community to live in and raise a family in."
For more information about the 175th Anniversary, call (586) 531-5926 or visit romeoturns175.com.