BY PAT ANDREWS
“A chapter might be finished, but the story goes on…”
Debra “Debbie” Vollenweider believes the phrase is the only appropriate way to sum up her husband’s 52-year career at a Downriver landmark. The Detroiter Truck Stop in Woodhaven recently changed owners when it was sold to James Haslam III. He is the CEO of the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain and owner of the Cleveland Browns football franchise. More importantly, he is a longtime friend of the current owner, Bill Vollenweider. Turning over a legacy is always difficult, but Bill said he is confident that his father and founder, the late Edward Vollenweider, would be pleased that an old friend has taken the helm.
At age 68, the Grosse Ile resident and his wife are not sure what will be next, but it certainly will not be an alarm clock.
Bill literally followed in the giant steps of his father — a man who was a wartime hero and made deals and dreams happen as he built a commercial center in an up and coming city. The senior Vollenweider was born in Chicago in 1921 to Swiss immigrants and then grew up on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin. He joined the United States Air Force in World War II and as a B-26 bomber pilot flew 72 missions in the European Theater. His heroic efforts and that of his crews were fodder for the history books and one of the many planes he flew, the Flak Bait, is now housed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. (read more…)
BY MELANIE YOUNG
A project near and dear to Woodhaven Mayor Patricia Odette’s heart was approved at the Aug. 3 Woodhaven City Council meeting. A few years ago, Odette recalled how she was in the city’s playground at Civic Center Park and saw a young girl with different abilities just watching the other kids playing because she couldn’t use the equipment.
“It broke my heart,” she said. “I never wanted to see that again.”
The process of building a playground that is appropriate for kids of all ages and abilities was set in motion. The playground will be located right next to the existing playground at Civic Center Park with the current fencing extending to include the new area.
The project will occur in two phases. The cost of Phase 1 was approximately $150,000, with most of the funds coming from the city’s Community Development Block Grant fund. Odette is currently working with grant writers seeking grants for the second phase. (read more…)
BY RICK SCHULTE
It’s no secret many school districts — including the Woodhaven-Brownstown School District —have had to roll up their sleeves and come up with creative means for funding. That’s because traditional revenue sources have had less to offer in recent years.
The Woodhaven-Brownstown Education Foundation has grown to become as innovative as the projects it helps to fund. While many items are covered through annual funding, there are some items geared toward adding to the educational experience. (read more…)
BY MELANIE YOUNG
The month of August was busy for the Woodhaven City Council and Mayor Patricia Odette, as several new measures were addressed. The mayor was excited to see a couple of projects she has been working on for years finally come to fruition. (read more…)
BY MELANIE YOUNG
Downriver families looking for fun won’t have to travel out of the area when a new entertainment venue opens up later this year in Woodhaven. It will be located in part of the former Kmart building on West Road.
According to General Manager Zach Johnson, Rev’d Up Fun will have six primary attractions, including laser tag, a ballistics playground, ropes course with zip line, Spin Zone bumper cars, a 5D Theater ride and a redemption arcade.
The laser tag arena will be a two story professionally designed course that will be called the Junkyard Wars Laser Tag. The Ballistics playground will include three levels of climbing structures and will include foam balls and blasters that are similar to an indoor water park’s water blasters but with foam instead of water. The area will be large enough so parents will be able to interact with their children.
The Spin Zone bumper cars will be just like regular bumper cars, go forward and backward, but will spin if bumped in certain areas. The ropes course and zip line will be indoors, as will all of the attractions. (read more…)
Southpoint Church last month kicked off a nearly month-long celebration beginning April 19, the date of its opening in Woodhaven High School on Easter Sunday 1992.
The church started with 257 people in attendance by inviting people over the phone. It grew to become a spiritual home for thousands of people over the years, with more than 3,200 people being baptized. It is now one church in multiple locations with a campus in Trenton, another in Allen Park, and its most recent one meeting in Huron High School. (read more…)
BY MELANIE YOUNG
Kimberly Mott is a well-known business owner and community volunteer in Trenton who built her successful business from the ground up — and gained a little faith along the way.
Mott is the owner of Colors by Kim Hair Salon and Day Spa. Located at 3259 West Road, Trenton, Colors by Kim is a full-service salon and spa that offers a wide variety of services including cuts, color, special occasion styling, as well as nail services, skin care, hair removal and massages. According to the salon’s website, the business also specializes in color and hair artistry. (read more…)
BY ASHLEY SWORD
Mimi’s Mission, a local non-profit organization based in Woodhaven, has been involved in making a difference in the lives of Downriver residents. The organization has assisted thousands of people in just four years since it was established by Lisa Missler Vilella, a Wyandotte resident who owns an insurance agency in Woodhaven.
Vilella said an intricate part of Mimi’s Mission is the role local businesses play in making the dreams of the people in need come to life. Most recently, Vilella said she received a message from a mother who said her son has Spina Bifida. Due to his condition, she has to ensure he stays out of the heat because it will make him feel ill. She told Vilella that the air conditioning in her van hasn’t been working, so she was looking for some assistance in getting it fixed after being told it would cost her over $1,200 at an auto repair shop. (read more…)
Annual event returns July 7-10
BY BRIAN RZEPPA
One of Downriver’s biggest events of the summer, the Uncle Sam Jam, returns to Civic Center Park in Woodhaven July 7-10.
The Uncle Sam Jam has developed a strong following over the last seven years and the event’s organizers hope to build on that this year, with possibly the biggest music lineup that they’ve had to this point.
The legendary Vince Neil, former frontman for Motley Crue, will be headlining the musical performances with Great White on Saturday, while .38 Special will appear Friday and perennial Downriver favorite 50 Amp Fuse will close things down on Sunday.
Joe Nieporte, the owner of Funfest Events, the company responsible for organizing the Uncle Sam Jam each year, says that festivalgoers should be expecting the same great event they have experienced over the years.
“It’s been very successful and we don’t want to change too much,” Nieporte said. “As the saying goes, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ We’ve always leaned heavily toward classic rock bands and we’re doing that this year with .38 Special, Vince Neil, Great White and 50 Amp Fuse, so we feel that we have quite a lineup that people will really enjoy.”
In addition to the musical performances, the carnival will be another big hit with families, as will the petting zoo and monster truck rides.
While the event may be the same in terms of the classic music and other attractions, the layout will see a bit of a shift. With weather being a major factor in last year’s event, Nieporte and the rest of his crew chose to switch things up a bit.
“We’re flip flopping everything over. The carnival was in the southern part of the park over by the hill and soccer fields, but we’re moving it to the north side toward the parking lot. We had so much rain last year that it was a swamp and we had 18 trucks of wood chips brought in to fill the puddles, but even that wasn’t enough. We figured it’d be a better idea to have it on the paved parking lot.”
With 75,000 to 80,000 or more expected to be on hand throughout the four days, the Uncle Sam Jam has quickly become one of the more popular weekend events in southeastern Michigan.
As Nieporte noted, the event’s rise to popularity comes with the feedback and support of both the city of Woodhaven and the Downriver community as a whole.
“The reception has been incredible,” he said. “The community down there absolutely embraces it and the city of Woodhaven is phenomenal to work with. The mayor, the police chief, the fire chief and everyone down the line is 100 percent on board and supportive of us. We do events in other towns and some of them just couldn’t care less, but the whole Downriver community has supported this better than we could have ever dreamed of.”
The Uncle Sam Jam has seemingly gotten better each and every year that it has been in operation and with the loaded music lineup, the Friday night fireworks and a variety of other entertainment options, this year should have no problem continuing that trend.
For more information on the attractions and Uncle Sam Jam schedule, visit www.funfest-events.net/uncle-sam-jam/ or find them on Facebook at “UncleSam JamFest”.
Uncle Sam Jam Friday, July 8, Headliner
From: Jacksonville, Florida
Biggest Hits: “Hold on Loosely,” “Caught Up in You,” “If I’d Been the One,” “Teacher Teacher” and “Back Where You Belong”
Formed by neighborhood friends Don Barnes and Donnie Van Zant, .38 Special got its name from the Lynard Skynyrd song ‘Saturday Night Special’ which features the lyrics, “Shoots him full of .38 holes.”
Van Zant is the brother of Ronnie Van Zant, the late vocalist for Lynard Skynyrd.
Barnes is the only original member still with the band, with each of the others joining him in 1987, 1988, 1997 and 2011, respectively.
Over the course of the last 42 years, the band has sold more than 20 million albums
In 2012, the band was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame with country stars Sugarland and Blues legend Johnny Jenkins, among others
The band has had two albums reach No. 1 on Billboard’s Album Rock Tracks chart and multiple other top five singles
They appear in over 100 cities each year
Within the last decade, they have opened for Hank Williams Jr., Lynard Skynyrd, Styx and REO Speedwagon as part of two different nationwide tours
BY VON LOZON
The Trenton and Wyandotte street fairs, the Uncle Sam Jam in Wood-haven and even the fireworks on the Fourth of July have always been big summer events in the Downriver area.
But perhaps no Downriver event has a richer tradition than the PNC Roar on the River, which will observe its 66th running when it is held in Elizabeth Park July 15-17.
This year will be similar to previous years, including the powerboat races, concerts and a “Taste of the Races,” which features a selection of restaurants and caterers from the Downriver area. There will also be food vendors all throughout the park.
“It’s a tradition,” said Boat Race Director Fred Miller. “There’s a long history of boating and racing on the Detroit River.”
The boat races weren’t always at Elizabeth Park, however. They started at the “foot of Harrison Road” and then moved to the park in 1964. They were moved back to Harrison Road until 2004. The organizers tried to move back to the park in the 1990s, but at that time Wayne County, which operates the park, wouldn’t allow them to sell alcoholic beverages. The main sponsor for the event at the time was Budweiser, so the event wasn’t able to relocate until beer and wine sales were permitted beginning in 2004.
The event, which has been run by Trenton Rotary since the 1970s, used to be just about the boat races. Over the years though it has been expanded to include bands, other forms of entertainment and food vendors. The move from Rotary Park to Elizabeth Park 12 years ago allowed for even greater expansion of the offerings.
When the event was at Rotary Park there was just one hot dog stand and one soda stand. The event now features a midway-style food area featuring numerous vendors from throughout the area.
There are two types of boats that will be used for the races; the SST45 and the SST 200. The 45s are 13 feet long and have 75-horsepower engines. Its max speed is approximately 80 mph. The 200s are 17 feet long and have 200-horsepower engines. The 200 can reach anywhere from 110-120 mph. The designs of the two boats are the same.
“The boat drivers love to come to Trenton,” said Linda Francetich, Roar on the River director of marketing, entertainment and public relations. “From the event coordinators to the vendors and restaurants, we are very focused on this community-based event. Everything is put back into the community and it’s a perpetual giving process.”
For the entertainment, several bands will be playing Friday and Saturday night, including Your Generation, DTour Band and Phoenix Theory.
One individual who helps put together the music is Moe O’Shaughnessy, who works with the lighting, stage and sound. O’Shaughnessy was the drummer for the Detroit band Salem Witchcraft in the 1970s and ’80s. O’Shaughnessy also does sound and video work at Comerica Park. He currently resides in Allen Park.
“He’s amazing to work with,” Francetich said. “He’s very humble and is very low key. He has a real strong history with rock and roll. His talent and expertise, what he brings to the event is amazing.”
The first event, the Driver’s School, begins July 15 at 12 p.m. The school will teach inexperienced boat drivers the basics and provide them with hands-on training. SST 45 and 200 testings will commence on Friday, with the races slated for Saturday and Sunday. An award ceremony for the winners of the boat races will be on Sunday at 3 p.m.