The Grass Lake Traffic Jam’in arose in 2009 in conjunction with the National Stock Outboard Races on Grass Lake as an approach to provide the boat racers and their families a night on the town in downtown Grass Lake to wrap up a week long racing event. The combination of racing boats with classic cars and hot rods seemed like a good combination for a street fair and party downtown.
The Chamber rallied 16 different non-profit organizations to pull together an organizing committee that was intent on making the boat racers feel at home and provide them a welcoming atmosphere that would have them wanting to return to Grass Lake for future national racing events. While no doubt intent on making some money, the different approach and organizational structure brought those 16 organizations together to supplement their current fundraising efforts with an event that nobody really had experienced before, with the possible exception of the Grass Lake Community Centennial in 1971.
Little did anybody know that the first inaugural Jam’in would far outpace the Centennial celebration; or any other event that had been held in Grass Lake before.
RACE WEEK SETS ALL RECORDS
Non-Profits Cash In
“That’s what we hoped it would do,” related Village Manager Tom Nolte as he recounted the disastrous business year that the road construction project provided the Village in the summer of 2008. “That’s largely the reason we bid for the National Stock Outboard Races,” he said, “but nobody could have imagined the end result.”
The most notable, of course, was the Friday Night Traffic Jam’in street fair. Pulled together by 16 different non-profit organizations, it filled the downtown of the Village with three blocks of people, classic cars, bands, food, car bashing, dunk tanks and fun for kids that ultimately topped what the Sheriff’s Department Mounted Division estimated at more than 4,000 people. Add to that the packed restaurants, bars and retail outlets that were open, as well as the concessions during the week at Grass Lake County Park, and the non-profits topped more than $10,000 for the whole week, with a crowd of people that even life-long residents had never seen before.
“We were up during the week more than 25 percent over a normal week,” said Bev Mattinson, owner of Bungie’s Downtown, “and more than 50 percent over any Friday,” during the night of the Jam’in. A not uncommon result, the Copper Nail Resale Shop reported nearly $900 in sales for a day that normally reaches between $200 and $250 on any other Friday. The combined events downtown yielded good results for all of the non-profits involved as Janelle Sherwood, chairperson of the Jam’in coordinating committee reported that each organization would be dispatched a check for at least $375, and possibly more once the total revenues and expenses had been tallied.
Included among those groups were the Grass Lake United Methodist Church, Whistlestop Park Association, Grass Lake Historical Society, Grass Lake Lions Club and the Lions Leos Club, Friends of Jay Mead, AYSO 610 Soccer Club, the Boy Scouts Venture Group, Cub Scouts Pack 326, Girls Scouts Troop 121, The Grass Lake Education Foundation, Masonic Lodge #116, Grass Lake Relay for Life, the Grass Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Copper Nail Resale Shop and the Grass Lake Classic Car Club. Noting the success of the day, Ed Fuller, Chairman of the Board of the Copper Nail Resale Shop reported at a meeting of the Downtown Development Authority that they would return their share from the Jam’in festivities to the organizing committee to be disbursed to the other groups. Similarly, the Grass Lake Regional Chamber noted that it will foot the bill for the sales taxes for the Jam’in festivities on the street. Ultimately, those gestures may help to get each of the other non-profits closer to a $400 return on the night.
*Photos by The Grass Lake Times