Monthly Milestone: Celebrating Three Years

Bezonki Awards honor people who make Ann Arbor special

Three years ago today, we launched The Ann Arbor Chronicle with a lot of hope but no certainty of success – we didn’t know if others would embrace our passion for intense coverage of local government and civic affairs. We’re grateful that you did – and on July 29, we hosted an open house to thank the people who’ve helped us get this far, and to honor a few of the people who make this community special.

Jeremy Lopatin

Jeremy & Penelope Lopatin at the 2011 Ann Arbor Chronicle open house in July. (Photos by Lynn Monson)

The lead photo in this column was taken at that event, and like the other photos below, it was shot by my former Ann Arbor News colleague, Lynn Monson. Many of you will recognize Jeremy Lopatin in this image – he and his wife Aubrey are owners of Arbor Teas. They’ve been Chronicle supporters from Day One, but that’s not why we chose this photograph.

The image shows a quiet, gentle moment between a father and his child, amid the cacophony of a crowded room. It’s an intimate detail that likely passed unnoticed by most people around them. But if you were paying attention and witnessed it, it was one of the most special moments of the evening.

Details are important to The Chronicle. We pay attention to them – some might say to a fault. But we see value in the interplay of fine lines that define our community. We’ve strived to bring a finer-grain of detail to the workings of our local government, to record the context in which decisions are made that involve taxpayer dollars. For whatever role you’ve played in helping us do that – as an advertiser, subscriber, commenter, contributor or Chronicle reader and evangelist – we thank you. It’s been an interesting three years.

When we launched The Chronicle on Sept. 2, 2008, we thought we knew this community pretty well. But over the past three years we’ve encountered even more people whose generosity of spirit and commitment to the Ann Arbor area have amazed us.

So as we started thinking of how to celebrate our first three years in business, it seemed obvious that in addition to thanking people who’ve helped us get this far, it was a fitting time to honor some of the people who represent the qualities we admire and respect. And that’s the genesis of the Bezonki Awards, which we gave out at the July 29 open house, held at the Workantile Exchange on Main Street.

We asked local artist Alvey Jones, creator of the Bezonki cartoons published each month in The Chronicle, to make a physical artifact that reflected the uniqueness of this community. And each of the six Bezonki Awards is gleefully unique, at the same time futuristic and grounded in the past – some of the parts were salvaged from equipment at the former Ann Arbor News.

The people who received the 2011 Bezonkis are also unique. Yet for everyone who received an award that evening, there are dozens of others who make similar contributions, shaping this community in special ways. We are thankful for all of you, and thankful that the past three years have allowed us to get to know you in ways we didn’t anticipate.

These awards are a bit unusual in another way. In some sense, they’re just on loan. We’re asking that each winner of the Bezonki be a steward of the award for a year. They will then pass on the physical award to next year’s winner. We hope that in this way the awards will create connections between people in the community year after year – people who might not otherwise have crossed paths.

So who received the inaugural Bezonkis? They are people you likely already know for their work in the community: Claire and Paul Tinkerhess, Jason Brooks and Matt Yankee, Vivienne Armentrout, the teachers and students at Summers-Knoll School, Yousef Rabhi, and Trevor Staples. You’ll read more about them below.

And now, on to the Bezonkis!

2011 Bezonki Awards: Claire and Paul Tinkerhess

What they do: Owners of Fourth Ave Birkenstock, community activists, visionaries/organizers of the inaugural 2011 Water Hill Music Fest.

Why they’re Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of their vision for a joyful neighborhood celebration, and their efforts to pull off a major community event without relying on government or commercial support. The Water Hill Music Fest not only became an “instant classic” Ann Arbor event, but also gave that neighborhood a name that both reflects and shapes its unique identity.

2011 Bezonki Awards: Jason Brooks and Matt Yankee

What they do: Until recently, both Brooks and Yankee were both deputy county clerks, working at the Washtenaw County clerk/register of deeds office, which handles everything from elections to marriage certificates. In August, Brooks moved to work in the county administrator’s office.

Why they’re Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of their steadfast competence and professionalism – they are symbolic of the many staff who work on the front lines of our local governments, who help citizens navigate the bureaucracy of our public sector, and whose capable, often thankless work on a daily basis makes our community a better place.

2011 Bezonki Awards: Vivienne Armentrout

What she does: A former county commissioner and previous candidate for other political office, Armentrout writes the Local in Ann Arbor blog, which covers issues in the Ann Arbor area.

Why she’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of the wealth of knowledge and experience in local government and civic affairs that she brings to bear on important issues in our community, and for her willingness to share her insights in many forums, both online and in person, with fact-based commentary, wit and good humor.

2011 Bezonki Awards: Summers-Knoll Teachers & Students

What they do: Summers-Knoll is a small private school for kindergarten through grade 8. The head of school is Joanna Hastings, who accepted the Bezonki on behalf of the school.

Why they’re Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of their willingness to embrace and explore the unknown with creativity and good humor. When confronted with something that can seem baffling – like the inscrutable Bezonki! – they approach it with curiosity and see its potential. This is a skill and attitude that, when applied to civic affairs, serves our community well.

2011 Bezonki Awards: Yousef Rabhi

What he does: Rabhi is a Washtenaw County commissioner representing District 11 in Ann Arbor. A recent graduate of the University of Michigan, he was first elected to office in 2010, winning the Democratic primary by a vote of 998 to 997. A recount later gave him a two-vote margin of victory.

Why he’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of the energy, intellect and optimism he brings to bear in his role as an elected representative, and for being a symbolic reminder that one vote really can make a difference. May the enthusiasm he brings to his work in local government remain undiminished in his future years of service.

2011 Bezonki Awards: Trevor Staples

What he does: A life-long Ann Arborite, Staples is a teacher at Burns Park Elementary, but is perhaps best known for his advocacy of a skatepark in Ann Arbor.

Why he’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of the range of ways he looks at the community, from large-scale vision to intimate observation. His tenacity and practical, strategic approach to helping make a community vision for the skatepark a reality is remarkable. But he also has an eye for appreciating the detailed quirks of our community, as he encounters them going about his day. His Stopped.Watched observations in The Chronicle are one reflection of that.

Trevor was unable to join us at our July 29 open house. But below you’ll see a collection of photos from that event, including Bezonki awardees and the many others who helped us celebrate three years of Chronicling. Thanks again to everyone who’s been a part of our venture so far – we hope you’ll continue to join us in the months and years to come.

2011 Bezonki Awards by local artist Alvey Jones

2011 Bezonki Awards by local artist Alvey Jones. (Links to larger image)

Claire & Paul Tinkerhess

Claire & Paul Tinkerhess were honored for organizing the Water Hill Music Fest.

Joanna Hastings

Joanna Hastings, head of school for Summers-Knoll School, accepted the award on behalf of SK’s teachers and students.

Yousef Rabhi

Yousef Rabhi, a Washtenaw County commissioner representing District 11 in Ann Arbor.

Matt Yankee, Jason Brooks

Matt Yankee and Jason Brooks. Yankee is a deputy county clerk. Until earlier this summer, Brooks was also a deputy county clerk, but now works in the county administrator’s office.

Dave Askins, Vivienne Armentrout

Dave Askins and Vivienne Armentrout, who writes about local issues on her blog, Local in Ann Arbor.

Laura Rubin, John Lofy, Mary Morgan

Laura Rubin, John Lofy, and Mary Morgan.

Rhonda Foxworth, Andy Cluley

Rhonda Foxworth and Andrew Cluley.

Wendy Rampson, John & Marsha Chamberlin

Wendy Rampson, and John and Marsha Chamberlin.

Joel & Sally Goldberg, Ed Vielmetti

Catherine McClary, Joel & Sally Goldberg, Ed Vielmetti and Joanna Hastings.

Jack Eaton, Julie Weatherbee, Dave Askins

Jack Eaton, Julie Weatherbee and Dave Askins.

Jim Carty, Dave Askins

Jim Carty and Dave Askins.

Mary Morgan

Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan leads the chant “Three more years!” (Not really – there’s no telling what that fist pump was for.)

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  1. September 2, 2011 at 12:22 pm | permalink

    It was a lovely thought and a lovely evening and this is the nicest award I have ever received. It even has a reuse feature built in! Thank you for all you do.

  2. By Susan
    September 2, 2011 at 12:36 pm | permalink

    Sweet! Mary and Dave – what a great way to honor the folks who make this a special place to live. It’s the tireless (and generally good humored) hard work of these folks and others like them who stave off the general homogenization of Ann Arbor and environs. I know you can’t give yourself awards, but I’d add the Chronicle to that list as well. Consider yourself Bezonkied. (I’m sure its a verb somewhere.)

  3. September 2, 2011 at 3:55 pm | permalink

    It was a great and historic event!

  4. September 3, 2011 at 10:55 am | permalink

    Bah! I’m so sorry I couldn’t make this event :( IIRC, I had an attack of the Shyness that day and stayed in. (Yes, it does happen to even me!) Love you guys! (And I still want to hang out with you at Old Town one of these Sundays :))

  5. By C bultman
    September 4, 2011 at 9:00 am | permalink

    Dave, Mary 

    Congratulations and thanks so much for your ‘passion for intense coverage of local government and civic affairs.’ 

    I love the Bezonki awards especially because, like his cartoons, they are open to interpretation. I would love them more if they carried the names of past recipients on them. I know that they are small but I find the tradition of mixing the permanent with the fleeting kind of interesting. I also think they would be that much more special if they told the story of the company they had kept.