At 7 a.m. Burns Park is waiting for kids. [photo of toys scattered around the playground's sandbox]
Justice Center second floor police department. Joel Dalton is obtaining permits for an Ann Arbor Active Against ALS event: Burns Park Brewers Brewfest for ALS Research. Details: Oct. 26, 2013 from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Location: Burns Park. Music, delicious beers and ales, a chili cook-off and more!
Remember Field Day? For most of us, it was a hallowed year-end school tradition, right up there with ice cream socials, and signing yearbooks. The kids loved it, of course, and looked forward to it every year.
But not at Burns Park, one of Ann Arbor’s oldest, most desirable and most educated neighborhoods – and occasionally, one of its kookiest. There is a reason many townies jokingly refer to it as “The Republic of Burns Park.”
The Burns Park PTO might be the most active one in the state. In the late ’90s, some parents, led by a social work professor, decided the competitive spirit of Field Day was too much for the kids, and changed “Field Day” to “Friendship Day” – replacing foot races, long jumps and tug-of-wars with games that emphasized cooperation over competition.
A noble notion – but the kids hated it. During one event, a cross-section of students from all grades had to walk together on two long boards. The big kids kept yelling at the little ones to lift their left foot, then their right – but the first graders didn’t know which was which. They all fell over, and the first graders burst into tears.
I suspect that’s not exactly what the parents had in mind.
Last year a local Ann Arbor attorney, Zachary V. Moen, apprenticed himself to Ann Arbor master violin maker Gregg Alf. And now, under Alf’s direction, Moen has completed two violins.
On Monday afternoon at Alf’s Prospect Street studio in Ann Arbor’s Burns Park, Moen and Alf allowed The Chronicle to bear witness to the first sound check of Moen’s second violin. It’s a copy of a famous instrument made by Joseph Guarnerius del Gesù (1698-1744), and played by Norwegian violinist Ole Bornemann Bull (1810-1880) – the Ole Bull del Gesù.
After coaxing the first notes out of the violin, the verdict from Alf on his apprentice’s work: “It’s an incredible D!”
For non-violinists: That doesn’t translate to D-plus as a letter grade … D is the name of the second string from the left.
The sound is like heavy rain clattering on a tin roof. “It’s called twittering – yes, we know how to twitter!”
The “we” is a group of six who’ve come to the Ann Arbor Senior Center on a frigid Monday afternoon to play Mah Jongg, and they’ve graciously allowed The Chronicle to sit in on their game.
It’s a slow day at the center – typically, there might be 16 or more people here to play the traditional Chinese tile game, plus another couple dozen playing bridge – but wind and snow and perhaps the holiday weekend made for a thin turnout.
The Chronicle has covered two meetings of a city task force that’s trying to save the center – it’s slated to close on July 1, unless the task force can come up with ways to cut expenses and raise revenues to overcome a $151,687 operating shortfall.
But we hadn’t yet visited the center to see what goes on there during a typical day. So on Monday, we made the snowy trek.
“Oooh, shiny!” exclaimed Howard Ando and Jane Wilkinson when we unveiled our set of six petanque boules, scarcely used over a decade since they were purchased.
The couple’s own set of metal boules were dull with the wear of frequent play on the gravel surface typical for petanque. Over the last two years, much of that play has come on the rectangle of gravel in the side yard of the couple’s Ypsilanti home, just west of the Eastern Michigan University campus.
After seeing the game played during their visits to France, they developed a passion for it that led them to have their own court constructed. And now they’d like to invest in petanque for the public – they’ve offered to pony up the cash for a facility in Burns Park. A public meeting to discuss the potential facility will be held on Monday, Nov. 17 starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor Senior Center at Burns Park.
On Sunday, the northeast corner of Burns Park was already teeming with humanity at 1 p.m. That was the start time that Ann Arbor Active Against ALS [A2A3] had scheduled for its kickoff fundraiser: a family field day. David Lowenschuss, one of the organizers, pointed out Bob Schoeni for us among the crowd waiting for the formal start to the festivities on a crispy overcast day. Schoeni had provided the impetus for the formation of the A2A3 nonprofit, when he was diagnosed with ALS in July.
A few minutes later, when Christopher Taylor took the microphone to help get the field day fun started, the gray skies had gone from spitting a few misty drops of rain to a steady sprinkle. It was hard to escape the conclusion that it was really raining. Added to a breezy day that saw temperatures in the low 50s, the rain meant that Taylor’s declaration, “It’s a beautiful day!” easily drew the chuckles it deserved from the crowd.