Democracy and hamburgers: more alike than you think

FlagWhen I was a kid, celebrating the Fourth of July was simple.

In the morning, my family would drive to our cabin and spend hours grilling hamburgers while blasting country music on our ancient stereo. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins would arrive throughout the day, bringing along the other necessities: apple pies, s’mores supplies and sparklers. Then we’d all bedeck ourselves in ridiculously patriotic accessories. My favorite was a clunky plastic necklace that lit up, alternating flashes of red, white and blue.

At night, we’d head down to the beach and start a bonfire in the sand. Neighbors to our left and right would set off fireworks over the water. The folks on the other side of the lake would answer back with their own pyrotechnics, until it became a contest to see whose fireworks were louder, bigger, brighter.

FireworksBut that’s all the Fourth ever was for me: a fireworks competition. I was young. I didn’t understand what it really meant to celebrate the country’s independence.

That is, until the 2016 presidential election.

Now, by no means was the 2016 election the craziest one we’ve ever had. (The election of 1800, for instance, ultimately caused a literal gunfight between the vice president and his rival.) Nonetheless, last year’s election was exhausting, no matter which side you were on.

For months on end, it seemed that every TV sitcom was interrupted by a campaign advertisement; every family dinner or night out with friends was punctuated by a political argument. Tensions ran high. Many people, myself included, feared the country wouldn’t survive.

But we did. Against all odds, the country is still here.

And every morning, we all get up and interact with people who are different from us in some way. Despite our disagreements, every single one of us has one thing in common: we care. We all want to do right by our country, and make it a better place for future generations. That’s why elections are so dramatic—we all just have different ideas about how to bring about that bright future.

Yes, elections can certainly be tiring. I learned that last year. But I also learned that having the right to vote for the leader of the country is a great gift. That’s what our founding fathers fought for. And that’s what they won, when they declared our independence on July 4th, 1776.

Like a delicious hamburger, our democracy is multilayered, complicated, and a little messy. But we’re Americans. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Jenna Russell is a summer intern at the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. She is a senior at Oakland University.

Posted in community, outdoor, summer, veterans | Leave a comment

Get away at On the Bay Customs

On the Bay Customs feels like a boutique you’d find on a boardwalk in Florida. It’s full of hand-carved anchors, souvenir mugs and nautical T-shirts. But instead of “Sunshine State,” you’ll find “New Baltimore” stamped all over these items.


Owner Cher Bell opened the shop last year. While searching for a home on the water, she fell in love with New Baltimore. After owning a successful string of businesses, including floral design and a motorcycle shop, Bell decided to open On the Bay Customs on Washington Street in the city’s downtown. She said she is excited to be part of New Baltimore’s evolution into a tourist destination.

“I truly believe this could be the next Traverse City,” said Bell. With outdoor seating, a walkable downtown and Lake St. Clair on the horizon, the area certainly has a tourist vibe – just like her shop.

nautical room

From nautical home décor and garden trinkets to clothing, jewelry and purses, On the Bay Customs carries a diverse selection of merchandise. They offer lots of products to flaunt your hometown pride including Pure Michigan cups, Great Lakes baseball hats and New Baltimore tote bags. There is a T-shirt print room where Bell’s custom graphic designs can be printed onto a shirt of your choosing right while you shop.

Many items they carry are made by local artists, such as carved ship wheels, stenciled stools, hand-painted signs, tables, bookshelves and hand-drawn cards. These artists are in their 80s and 90s, and Bell says she is happy to give them a creative outlet.

Continually offering new products, the shop recently opened a café to sell cold drinks and desserts to beachgoers headed to Walter and Mary Burke Park. The café’s treats can also be enjoyed in the shop’s new courtyard, which made its debut during the Bay-Rama Fishfly Festival.

mike 1I asked Bell why she thought On the Bay Customs was doing so well in their first year.

“The key to success is to make it a party,” said Bell.

To join in on the party, visit On the Bay Customs at 51034 Washington Street in New Baltimore. Their summer hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Visit their website at for more information.

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas works for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, often providing content for the Make Macomb Your Home website.

Posted in arts, business, community, entertainment, family friendly, macomb county, Make Macomb Your Home, New Baltimore, outdoor, Shop Local, small business | Leave a comment

Resources for caregivers at upcoming Senior Fun Festival

According to the U.S. Census, an estimated 12 percent of Macomb County’s population is above the age of 65. While the “golden years” can be a wonderful time for retirees who are able to travel, spend quality time with grandchildren or pursue lifelong hobbies and interests, the aging process can also bring on new health and wellness challenges.

Seniors Dancing

Macomb Community Action’s Office of Senior Services provides resources to help navigate the change.

They also recognize that the aging process has an impact on the next generation, especially when health and well-being challenges set in.

That is why the 28th annual Senior Fun Festival set for Friday, June 30 has been designed to benefit older adults and those who serve in the role of caring for them.

The festival will feature more than 100 local businesses and organizations that provide support and services to older adults and their caregivers, including a variety of home care businesses, health care systems and local nonprofits. Confirmed exhibitors include Father Murray Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Michigan Complete Health, Wellbridge of Romeo, and Wilfinger Health and Life, just to name a few.


Free, on-site health screenings for seniors and their caregivers will also be available including glucose testing, blood pressure readings and balance checks. They can also use this as a respite opportunity to play bingo, take an instructor-led painting class or visit the Detroit Institute of Arts Away exhibit – all good for relaxing and relieving a little stress.

There will also be a variety of fitness demonstrations throughout the day. Some of the featured activities include: chair yoga, Zumba Gold, Association of Chinese-Americans Line Dancers and Arthur Murray Dance Studio demonstrations.

The Senior Fun Festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 30 at the Gibraltar Trade Center, 237 N. River Road in Mount Clemens. There is no cost to attend and parking is free. For more information, visit or contact the Macomb Community Action’s Office of Senior Services at (586) 469-5228.

Roneeka Pleasant-Brown is the public relations manager for Macomb Community Action.

Posted in arts, community, education, events, macomb county, Mount Clemens, Senior citizens, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Calling all hopeless romantics, reality TV-lovers and eligible singles!

This June, get ready to experience love, travel, adventure … and maybe just a little bit of drama.

The Bachelor and The Bachelorette—two reality TV shows where 25 strangers compete to win the affections of one contestant—are holding open casting calls in downtown Mount Clemens! If you consider yourself spontaneous, romantic and unafraid of the spotlight, head over to the Emerald Theatre (31 N. Walnut Street) from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 22. You never know: If you make it on the show, you just might meet your soulmate – or at least score a free excursion to Paris or Rome.

If you’re thinking of trying out, here are some of the most common tips from former contestants:

  • The producers want to get to know the real you, so be yourself! Don’t try to adopt a fake persona; they’ll see right through it.
  • Dress like you would for a date. There will probably be a short on-camera interview, so you want to look your best, in case that clip gets shown on TV! And please, please, do not be one of those people who wears a mascot suit or a ridiculous costume to your audition. See tip #1.
  • Be ready to talk about yourself. A lot. The producers will likely ask you to fill out a questionnaire with questions ranging from “Do you have any pets?” to “Are you genuinely looking to get married and why?” It never hurts to be prepared!
  • Have fun! If nothing else, this will make a great story to tell your family and friends later on. Just relax, and have a good time.

And for those who would rather watch the romance and intrigue than play a part in it, season 13 of The Bachelorette began just a few weeks ago. The show airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. on ABC.


Jenna Russell is a summer intern at the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. She is a senior at Oakland University.

Posted in community, entertainment, events, Mount Clemens | Leave a comment

Can fishflies be a good sign?

Oh no, they are back, and they keep multiplying. Mayflies, better known as fishflies, are all over and landing on everything – the light posts, the sign at 7-11 and the sidewalks. But in reality, having all these fishflies around is actually a good thing.Fishflies

The lifecycle of a fishfly is a very unique one. After the female lays her eggs on the surface of the water, they float to the bottom of the lake and become nymphs. This will be the nymph’s new home for the next year before they surface and become known as subimago. The subimago phase lasts a few hours. During this process, they shed their skin and are now a fishfly.

At this point, the fishflies mate. The females return to the water, lay their eggs and die on the surface of the water. The males fly off to land and will live between 24 hours and 7 days.

Fishflies are a water quality indicator. Fishflies are very sensitive to pollution. When the environment from which they are hatched from is producing large qualities of fishflies, it reflects on the good quality of our lakes.

fishfly bike rackIn addition, fishflies are such a part of Macomb County’s summer that a community festival is named after them, Bay-Rama Fishfly Festival in New Baltimore. This festival is a yearly event and will be taking place next week, June 21-25. Check out the calendar of events and stop on down at beautiful downtown New Baltimore. Event highlights include carnival rides, fireworks, 5K run and a parade.

While visiting the festival, check out this very unique fishfly bike rack. On July 8, 2015, Campbell & Shaw Steel donated this bike rack to the New Baltimore Downtown Development Authority and the city of New Baltimore.

Next time you go for a walk and you hear the popping under your feet, remember it will only last for a short time and all these fishflies are really a good thing. It is when we see fewer fishflies that we need to be worried.

Lauri Cowhy is a senior communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

Posted in blue economy, community, environment, harrison township, Mount Clemens, New Baltimore, St. Clair Shores, summer | Leave a comment

Father’s Day is on the way!

In some parts of Germany, men celebrate Father’s Day by drinking at beer gardens and taking adventurous wagon trips with their sons. In Thailand, people celebrate by doing good deeds: donating blood and liberating captive animals as an act of honor and selflessness. Americans, meanwhile, celebrate the holiday by spending a whopping $12.7 billion on presents. (I wonder how much of that is spent on “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee mugs?)

There’s nothing wrong with hosting a classic barbecue or getting your dad an iconic Father’s Day gift—whether that’s a tie, a toolbox or a bottle of bacon-scented cologne. But if you’re looking to treat your dad to a unique experience and create lasting memories this Father’s Day, look no further than this list. Here are the top five things to do in Macomb County this Father’s Day weekend:

Sprint and Splash

Is your dad the athletic type? Then the 6th Annual Sprint and Splash Festival of Races is just the event for him! Events include a 6-mile stand-up paddle race, 5K run, 2-mile paddle, and duathlon (5K run and 2-mile paddle). Whichever events you choose, you and your dad are sure to have an awesome time – especially when you enjoy the breakfast, live DJ, and Kuhnhenn Brewing Co.’s finest brews. Every participant also receives a free swag bag, race shirt and finisher’s medal! The event takes place at the Lake St. Clair Metropark at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 17. To register, click here!


Have fun all weekend long with the Carpathia Club’s 13th Annual Germanfest! The festival will feature live music, soccer games and a Father’s Day picnic – complete with hot dogs, pizza, french fries, potato salad, sauerkraut, schnitzel on a stick and three different kinds of wurst. The event runs from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is only $3 per day, or $7 for the whole weekend! Show your appreciation for your “vater” this Father’s Day and treat him to a cultural experience like no other!

Jazz Spectacular

If your dad is a music fanatic like mine, he’s sure to love the Jazz Spectacular, hosted at the Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre! The event begins at 6 p.m. Sunday and features a lineup of six popular jazz groups. To purchase tickets, click here!

Jimmy John’s Field

Nothing says summer like a baseball game! Bring your dad to Jimmy John’s Field and watch the Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers take on the Westside Woolly Mammoths Sunday at 1:35 p.m. Bond with your dad over peanuts and crackerjacks while you enjoy the great American pastime. Tickets can be purchased here!

Wolcott Mill Metropark

Wolcott Mill offers tons of festivities for Father’s Day! Enjoy hot dogs and other refreshments during a wagon ride through the park or spend a peaceful afternoon fishing in the mill pond (equipment and bait will be provided). Admission is only $5, and dads get in free. It’s the perfect way to spend a sunny weekend with your dad!

No matter what your plans are this weekend, have a happy Father’s Day. The material gifts and gadgets of Father’s Days’-past may be forgotten in time, but the memories you make with your dad will stay with both of you forever.

Jenna Russell is a summer intern with the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. She is a senior at Oakland University.

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Keeping up with the peregrines

falconIt’s been a bit of a tough season for Hathor and Nick, Mount Clemens’ favorite peregrine falcon couple.

The peregrine pair have nested on the roof of the Old Macomb County Building for nearly 10 years. In that time, they’ve successfully hatched 25 offspring together—an incredible feat in helping to rebuild the once-endangered species’ population. This year, however, they’ve had less luck. For reasons that remain unclear, Hathor laid six eggs in three different corners of the building and, as of yet has not incubated any of them.

Peregrine Falcon Coordinator Christine Becher believes this strange behavior may have to do with the fact that the building is now occupied. Previously empty corner offices are now filled with human inhabitants, whom the peregrines are not used to seeing. So to help them adjust to the change more gradually, the conference room window will be covered. Additionally, a small box filled with pea stone will be placed on the ledge, to provide Hathor and Nick with nesting material.

Though it may be too late to hatch a nest this summer, implementing these changes will give Nick and Hathor time to adapt and have a better chance at a successful nest in 2018.

And it’s not all bad news: one of Hathor and Nick’s offspring, 2-year-old Peace, has been spotted with a mate in South Bend, Indiana! Peace and his mate, Maltese, hatched three healthy chicks just a few days ago. To see video and read more on their newly formed family, click here.

The circle of life can be unpredictable at times, but with so many dedicated people working together, Hathor and Nick are sure to continue building their ever-growing family next year.

Jenna Russell is an intern at the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. She is a senior at Oakland University.

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