KALKASKA, Michigan - The West Branch community won the Region 6 Community Excellence Award for its “Fabulous Fridays” program and now has a chance to win the statewide CEA 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.

West Branch was among four communities seeking the regional CEA honor Wednesday, May 4, 2011, at the Region 6 seminar in Kalkaska. The event was the first of seven regional seminars as part of the 2011 “League Tour”: tour.mml.org. The others vying for the award in the upper half of Michigan’s northern peninsula were Hillman for its “Extreme Makeover” bridge and street reconstruction project, presented by Hillman Village Manager David Post; Rogers City for its $7.6 million water and sewer project, presented by Rogers City Manager Mark Slown; and Petoskey for the improvement plan for the Bear River Recreation Area, presented by Petoskey City Manager Dan Ralley.

West Branch’s program was presented by City Manager Tom Youatt and councilmember Rusty Showalter and prepared by Pete Fabbri, of the West Branch retail merchants committee. Youatt said they were honored to be selected by the Region 6 peers for the award.

"It was a great competition and there were some great projects in our region presented today,” Youatt said. “We feel very honored to win our regional competition and look forward to presenting in Grand Rapids.”

The Fabulous Fridays started a few years ago and has cranked up its historic downtown economy with themed Fridays, including a very popular Gong Show and Classic Chassis car show. More than 14,000 people attended over the last three summers and business is up 10-15 percent annually in the small town, Youatt said.

“The Fabulous Fridays increase the exposure to the downtown business district in our city and it’s generated a lot of interest in West Branch and our downtown,” Youatt said.

“Plus it brings back that small town, old town feel when a community would gather together,” added Showalter.

Alpena Mayor Carol Shafto, League board president, said all four nominees did an excellent job and are proof that Michigan communities continue to take on some excellent programs and projects despite the economy

“I honestly thought all 4 of projects were really excellent and I didn’t know who to vote for,” Shafto said. “It shows that for a small region we have a wide variety of projects with each having excellence in its own rights. I thought it was amazing.”

West Branch will now compete for the statewide CEA honor (against the CEA 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.

This year’s Convention will cap-off a several month long “MML Tour”: http://www.mml.org/events/mmltour/ that began today in Kalkaska with the Region 6 seminar. For more on the MML Tour go here: http://www.mml.org/events/mmltour/; and on Twitter at #mmltour. The Regional Meetings give Michigan Municipal League members a chance to hear from League staff and state officials about the latest municipal-related legislation in Lansing and ways communities are becoming the types of areas where people want to live, work and play. The next Regional meeting is Friday, May 4, in Hamtramck: http://www.mml.org/events/regional/region_1.htm. The League is still accepting registrations from members for upcoming regional meetings Ludington (May 11), Marine City (May 18), East Lansing (May 20), Houghton (May 26-27) and Saginaw (June 1). View the full regional schedule here.

Thanks again to all those who attended! We hope to see you—as well as those who weren’t able to attend the Region Seminar—at Convention Oct. 4-7 in Grand Rapids. Find out more about the MML Tour here: http://www.mml.org/events/regional/index.html.

Matt Bach is director of communications for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at (734) 669-6317 and mbach@mml.org.


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