If you happened to drop by Michigan Theater on Thursday morning, as The Chronicle did, you’d have found: 1) 60 mini cupcakes from the Cupcake Station, 2) Peter Madcat Ruth playing harmonica, and 3) Judy McGovern and other folks from The Ann Arbor News answering phones and taking pledges for WEMU.
This year, for the first time, the public radio station housed at Eastern Michigan University is holding part of its fundraising drive in the lobby of Michigan Theater, bringing in performers like Madcat Ruth, who was celebrating his 60th birthday on Thursday. The drive continues at the Liberty Street historic theater on Friday from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Friday’s entertainment includes a live performance by Mr. B from 7-9 a.m., as well as other boogie-woogie pianists throughout the day. The event wraps up Saturday afternoon with Jeremy Baldwin of the Roots Music Project from noon until 2.
On Thursday morning, a lot of the on- and off-air activity linked back to Madcat. On-air, he revealed that he’s been known to play the ukulele while steering his car with his knees. Off-air, the WEMU crew had signed a large whiteboard full of birthday wishes – along with, of course, the 60 cupcakes. Linda Yohn, the station’s music director, alluded to the city council resolution honoring Madcat at its March 17 meeting, and came up with a few “whereas” clauses of her own, along the lines of “whereas you are a hip dude with great hair,” and “whereas you wear your flannel shirt with pride.” And he does.
WEMU’s fund drives are usually held at the station’s studios in Ypsilanti, and this drive’s early morning and evening hours are still being manned from there. Having part of the drive in the Michigan Theater, which is donating the space, was Rob Reinhart’s idea, says Molly Motherwell, WEMU’s marketing and development director. Reinhart hosts the Acoustic Café, and helps with the station’s promotion and production. The hope is to raise WEMU’s profile in a public radio market that’s the most crowded in the nation, Motherwell said. That market includes WUOM in Ann Arbor and WDET in Detroit, among others.
For this drive, WEMU’s goal is to raise $135,000. Their fall drive set a record of $141,000 though their goal – set in a “moment of madness,” Motherwell said – had been $165,000. A week before the drive began, the financial markets collapsed, so raising a record amount looks pretty good in that context. As of Thursday at noon, they’d raised nearly $90,000.