MARINE City, Michigan - A sledding event in Vassar, Michigan, dubbed as “1,000 feet of fear” won the Michigan Municipal League’s Region 5 Community Excellence Award Wednesday (May 18, 2011) and now Vassar has a chance to win the statewide CEA honor.

Vassar’s “Chill on the Hill” event that included a 1,000-foot-long sledding hill down the city’s main street took home the Region 5 CEA honor in a spirited, peer-selected competition Wednesday, May 18, 2011 during an MML education seminar in Marine City. The first-time Chill on the Hill event took place in February and exceeded expectations drawing 830 sledders and upward of 2,500 spectators. Even local businesses ran out of food for the large crowds. Read a news story about it.

Also competing for the CEA honor was the City of Algonac Pool Project, which was presented by Algonac City Councilmember Gary Tuzinowski and supporters Bill Gratopp and Beth Engel. The $355,000 project included rebuilding the 50-plus year old pool house and giving the pool universal access to those with disabilities. It took about a year to raising the funds for the work from a variety of sources, Tuzinowski said.

The League’s Region 5 covers the state's Thumb area and the counties of Huron, Tuscola, Lapeer, Sanilac, and Saint Clair.

In a 5-minute presentation, Vassar City Manager Julius Suchy detailed the huge undertaking involved in winter Chill on the Hill festival, including bringing in and out truck loads of snow, arranging with MDOT to have the road temporarily closed for the event and working with the insurance company to address liability concerns.

“If you came into Vassar from the south side you would go through downtown and there is a huge hill on M15,” Suchy said. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to have people slide through downtown?’ Of course, at first they thought I was crazy. But it ended up being a fun way to get some recognition for the city and it didn’t cost the city a dime. In fact, in the first year we made $1,400.”

Suchy said he was honored to get the CEA for his community and region.

"It's a reflection of all the people and groups who were involved to make this happen," Suchy said of the CEA honor. "Despite all the cuts in our communities and financial struggles going on there are things we can do to make people proud."

League Board President and Alpena Mayor Carol Shafto said both projects were excellent and showed the unique efforts being done in Michigan’s rural communities.

“There is no question our communities big and small throughout Michigan are facing some tremendous financial challenges, but it’s nice to see communities like Vassar and Algonac still doing some clever and impressive projects for the betterment of their residents,” Shafto said. “It’s inspiring, it really is.”

As the Region 5 winner, Vassar now has a chance to win the statewide CEA honor in the Michigan Municipal League’s “Race for the Cup” competition. Read more about this peer-selected “Race for the Cup” contest that recognizes outstanding community services, projects and programs. Vassar will next compete against the winners of the other 6 regions during the League’s annual Convention Oct. 4-7, 2011 in Grand Rapids. Register online for the 2011 Convention starting June 1. Other Regional winners so far are Ludington (Region 3); West Branch (Region 6) and Southfield (Region 1).

Matt Bach is director of communications for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at and (734) 669-6317.
Vassar City Manager Julius Suchy receives the Region 5 Community Excellence Award from Michigan Municipal League Board President and Alpena Mayor Carol Shafto.

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