Saturday, July 14, 2012

Small Town America: Chassel, Michigan

By James and Joan, the American Vagabonds
Our last profile dealt with a vision and completion of a wonderful town project.
This edition is similar in vision and impressiveness, but of a completely different nature — a festival, and more specifically. a yearly Strawberry Festival.
Chassel, Michigan is a small town of 800 to 1000 inhabitants. It is not affluent, but it is solidly of the working class of people. While history is of the lumber industry, the economic engine that drives this small town is the employment of a University in the county’s capital of Houghton, about 13-15 miles north.
As a small town, it is impressive to the American Vagabonds what can be accomplished in bringing the community together, raising a substantial amount of money for a number of worthy projects in Chassel, and serving as a beacon of enjoyment for a weekend for people all around the state and beyond — including the two Vagabonds from a much larger small town in a much smaller state.
The residents’ claim, without objection, is that their Festival is the longest running in the State of Michigan. The 2012 edition was the 64th consecutive year for this event. It is replete with events and things to do, all impossible to accomplish without the support of the entire community.
The main sponsors are the Chassel Lions Club members, just like it is for many events in Harwinton. However, what separates Chassel and makes this event worthy of our interest to be profiled is the size and quality of the festival by such a very small community.
While it is impossible to list everything the Festival had to offer, it is paramount to mention the community dance at the local VFW on Friday night, which the Vagabonds attended. This was a dance with a healthy representation of the population having a rollicking great time — including us. We, the Vagabonds, found we were a bit overdressed but, after all, we are from New England.
The second event to mention was the Parade on Saturday. Although it was a very hot day, the population of Chassel swelled to 5 or even 10 times its size consisting of both spectators and marching participants.
The parade is open to anyone wanting to march as well as more formal units. It had the usual and customary units, but what we, the Vagabonds found most interesting was the true breadth and length of the parade.
As an example, though the schools are out for the summer, the parade consisted of the members of the high school marching band riding in a wagon and filling out their small numbers with alumni. Additionally, there was a middle school band with the band master tooting her trumpet right along with her charges in the parade.
In sum, this parade was most impressive, and could easily rival a parade in a much larger community.
One last free event to mention was the 45 minute boat rides into Lake Superior on the Research Vessel, “Agassiz.” Research is ongoing for the health of the Great Lakes and this trip was, like many other non-profits, to introduce what kinds of research the Michigan Technical University is undertaking.
There were the other non-profits and small vendors displaying their wares and showcasing their services. I know, based upon the two-day event all parties raised substantial monies and/or successfully educated the public.
For the Vagabonds, eating the signature Strawberry Shortcake was akin to tasting the sweet nectar indeed. Every Strawberry Shortcake we eat from now on will be held in comparison to the rich, smooth, sweet taste of the shortcake these Vagabonds had in a skating rink pavilion (built by the local Lions Club) at the Strawberry Festival in Chassel, Michigan.
Kudos to the people of Chassel, you did yourself proud!

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