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Point of Interest

Eastern Michigan State Fair

A scene on the midway in 1909

Eastern Michigan State Fair – 1883
195 Midway Street

In 1883 the Imlay City Driving Club was formed and a track was leveled off for buggy races. A year later the Imlay City Agricultural Society was formed. The first Society-sponsored fair occurred on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, October 7-9, 1896. The Agricultural Society included Lapeer, Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties. The south half of the current fairgrounds had been purchased for $1,000. Admission to the first fair was 25 cents and it was all horses and buggies.
The inaugural Fair Board officers were T. B. Keyworth, president; Nelson Haskin, vice president; William Swan, secretary; and D. S. Marshall, treasurer. Directors serving a one-year term were William Sleeman, Will Elliott and J. P. Egglestone. Serving two-year directorships were Issac Willis, George Jones, M. J. Haskin, Jim Sheppard, Fred Pennington, N. W. Stock and D. V. Yerex.
During the years 1919-1921, the fair grew due to the arrival of the Royal Oak Booster Club who chartered trolley cars on the Interurban line from Detroit. On a daily basis, three or four trolleys holding 50 people each were brought to the fair. At that time the midway was in the middle of a racetrack. A “Bowery” (dance hall) was also on the midway. The fair included a baseball field, a duck pond, chickens, and rabbits and in the southwest corner of the grounds were the horse, cattle and sheep barns and pigpens.
In 1933, the Lapeer County Agricultural Society was chartered by the state and operated as the Lapeer County Fair. In 1951 the Lapeer County Fair was renamed by the State Fair Board as the Eastern Michigan Fair. In 2012 the Eastern Michigan Fair was renamed and is now known as the Eastern Michigan State Fair.

Historical Marker

Historical Marker
Depot Drive next to the Museum

The plaque highlights the founders of Imlay City and the importance of the railroad to the region.

Imlay City Historical Museum

Imlay City Historical Museum
77 Main Street

The Imlay City historical museum is owned and operated by the Imlay City Historical Commission, which collects, preserves, and interprets the heritage of Imlay City and the surrounding area, and instills an appreciation of local history through exhibits and educational programs.  It is located in the historic Grand Trunk Railroad Depot at 77 Main Street in Imlay City.  The museum is open April through December on Saturday afternoons and staffed by volunteers.

The museum is divided into thematic sections that transport one to different segments of the area’s history.  Whether it is doctor’s office equipment, memorabilia or vignettes of bedchambers, or a sample parlor filled with period furniture, visitors have plenty to peruse.  Other sections are devoted to everything from music ephemera, to kitchen goods to radios, and personal grooming items.

Another fascinating area brings local soldiers up close and personal.  Veterans from various armed services and wars are presented through mannequins wearing their uniforms.  Visitors can also examine the personal items and equipment the soldiers used.  Visitors have the chance to delve deeper into the history of the area through detailed panels that highlight various people and events.  The museum honors the area’s agricultural heritage with a display of hand tools in an annex building.  Through that exhibit visitors can truly understand and appreciate the hard work and sweat that it took to build Michigan’s farms.

Although open only on Saturday afternoons, the Imlay City Historical Museum is worth a stopover.  Nearby is a restored Grand Trunk Railroad caboose and dining car.  The depot museum still welcomes visitors today, as it did during the heyday of passenger railroading, but in a different sense—it is now a place remembering history instead of making history.

The depot is listed on the State Register of Historical Sites.

Train Viewing Platform

Train Viewing Platform
Depot Drive

In 2012, with the generous support of the Four County Community Foundation and the Lapeer County Community Foundation, the Imlay City Downtown Development Authority organized the building of a train viewing platform on Depot Drive.  The platform acts as a reminder of the tremendous importance of the railroad to Imlay City’s founding, growth, and future.  Today, train enthusiast of all ages love to sit and watch the trains go by.

Ruth Hughes Memorial Library

Ruth Hughes Memorial Library
211 North Almont Avenue

The library in Imlay City was established by the Women’s Study Club at a meeting in October of 1921.  Money for the project was raised by putting on three plays in the town’s opera house.  All the work was donated along with a large number of books and furniture.The first library opened its doors in January 1923 at the town hall on the corner of Fourth and Almont Avenue with 450 books.

After a few moves, a new building was built at 213 East Third Street to include the library and the township office.

In 1989 a new library was built from a generous trust left by Ruth Hughes. Ruth E. Hughes was born in Imlay City on October 24, 1898. After graduating from Imlay City High School in 1916, she attended and received her first degree from what is now Eastern Michigan University. After teaching in a country school for a while, she attended and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1926. Ruth spent the rest of her career teaching fourth and fifth grade for Center Line Schools, retiring in 1962. Upon her death in March of 1985, her Trust was read:

All the remainder of the trust property I bequeath to the Library of Imlay Township for the building of an Imlay Township Library in the name of Ruth E. Hughes. Some $350,000 was given to construct a library building. That building, the Ruth Hughes Memorial District Library, was dedicated and opened on January 27, 1990.

Those who knew Ruth say she was a gentle lady who loved motivating children to read. She generously donated money to build a library in the city where she was born, where there had been no library when she was a child. Her wish was for future generations to benefit from such a place in their community.

Vlasic

Vlasic
415 South Blacks Corners Road

Frank Vlasic moved to America in 1912 to build a better life for his family.  After saving every dime from his $2 a day car foundry job, Frank established a creamery business in Detroit.  He eventually turned it over to his son, Joe.

Joe expanded the family milk and cheese business into selling Polish pickles spiced with garlic and dill.  During WWII, his supply of pickles dried up so Joe started testing a new idea:  selling Polish pickles in glass jars.  Joe couldn’t keep up with the demand and the Vlasic Pickle brand was born.

Joe’s son, Bob, joined the company after the war and became General Manager of the Vlasic operation which still included the creamery.  Its first plant was built in Imlay City, MI.

Twenty-eight new, large tanks were installed for the making of sauerkraut and contracts were made with farmers for cabbage acreage.  In addition,  Vlasic contracted with farmers for about 500 acres of cucumbers which supplied receiving stations of the company located at Kingston, Deford and Hemans, in addition to Imlay City.  The cucumbers were all processed at the Imlay City plant.  In 1945 Patzer had an 80 by 120 foot building for receiving cucumbers, and was constructing another of the same size.  In 1946 they constructed an additional building 80 by 300 feet to be used exclusively for packaging of product.  They were employing 25 employees, with plans to add more.

The pickle empire really began in Imlay City when Joseph Vlasic bought the Patzer Food Products Company in 1957 and two years later created Vlasic Foods.

Joseph Vlasic retired in the 1960’s and his son, Bob, took over direction of the company, which was sold to the Campbell Soup Company in 1978 for $33 million.

The plant has expanded to 10 times from its original size.  The Imlay City facility encompasses more than 457,000 square feet and spans 190 acres.  The company employs 850 people during its peak season.

In 2017 the company “America’s #1 Pickle” and marked its 75th year.  Vlasic pickles are now distributed throughout the United States and Canada, as are a variety of other products offered under the brand.  The Vlasic brand currently (2019) is owned by Conagra Brands.

FUN FACTS

In 1933, per capita pickle consumption was 2.09 pounds.  By 1974, consumption grew to 8 pounds.  Joe and Bob became so successful at pickles that they dropped the milk and cheese business entirely.

In 1974, a wisecracking Vlasic Stork flew out of American television screens with the message that crunchy “Vlasic is the best tasting pickle I ever heard!”

 

Thank you to the Vlasic website for supplying portions of this article.

 

2019 Season
May 16 - October 17
Thursdays
10:00 AM-4:00 PM
Corner of Third & Main Streets

June through August
Tuesdays
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Lamb Steele Park
(Behind City Hall)

September 28, 2019
Saturday Night
6:00 PM- 10:00 PM
Downtown Imlay City

December 7, 2019
Saturday Night
6:15 PM
Downtown Imlay City

Imlay City DDA

150 North Main Street

Imlay City, MI 48444

8:00 AM- 4:30 PM

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