Livonia’s Birthday Celebration History


A Compilation by Fernon Feenstra – SPREE Historian


Contributors: Herman Kluver, Mike Reiser, John Nagy, Joan Duggan,

Lee Morrow and Sue Wisler



THE FOUNDATION

April 1970 Edward H. McNamara had just been elected as the Mayor of Livonia.  It was also the twentieth year of the incorporation of Livonia as a city from its township days.  In one of Mayor McNamara’s staff meetings, he is reported to have stated that he wanted to have Livonians share his vision of Livonia as a city.  Heretofore Livonia’s 36 square miles had been influenced by and identified by the various subdivisions and of course by the various subdivision officials.


Mayor McNamara stated that to bring the city to maturity, we needed to think like a city and socialize like unified city.  Asking for staffers’ suggestions, a city-wide party was organized to be held at the city ice arena with entertainment and chicken dinners. Much of the planning was influenced by the Livonia Jaycee carnivals with their fireworks and the Livonia Show Train at the race track with its fireworks.  However, these were fundraisers or commercial exhibits.  The mayor wanted a volunteer group to organize a family affair. He appointed some of his staff as volunteers.  No one was paid and volunteer energy would be what made it successful.


Year 1970 Bob Osborne was the mayor’s appointed mover of the group.  Paul Kugler, chair of the Water and Sewer Board and Stan Telman of the Chamber of Commerce were co-chairs.   Mike Reiser of the Water and Sewer Board; John Nagy, Planning Director; Dan Andrews and Dan Gilmartin of the Industrial Development Office; Herman Kluver of Burton Hollow; Tom Mitchell, beer distributor; Hugh Gedrich, restaurateur; Joan Duggan,  Moms’ for McNamara;  Sue Wisler, Moms’ for McNamara; H. Dow Tunis, Ford Motor Company; Ken Kunkle, Plante and Moran were the first committee.  The committee had many, many volunteers


So on that Sunday, August 2, 1970 the city invited the subdivision to come to a free party.  Hugh Gedrich planned for 5,000 chicken dinners, 15,000 came.  Food ran out to a disappointed crowd.  Livonians came together, volunteers planned and put on a party, city services were provided, but the food ran out!


Year 1971 of Livonia city.  All the planning done in 1970 was in place, the site, the entertainment, the free party was in place.  Hugh Gedrich and the Mayor were adamant that the food could not, would not, run out.  Chicken dinners were planned for 12,000 only 5,000 came.  The planners believe the disappointed stayed home.  The financial losses were many.


State papers for Incorporation were filed March 23, 1971 for the Livonia Anniversary Committee, Inc. by Stanley Telman with Trustees Kenneth Kunkle, Carl Demek and Daniel Gilmartin.  The purpose for which the corporation is formed is as follows:


“To conduct business pursuant to and in connection with celebrating anniversaries of the incorporation of the City of Livonia, Michigan; further, by way of example, but not limitation: to conduct picnics, dinner-dances, sports events, parades, carnivals and to sell tickets for all of the foregoing; to promote pageants; to hire bands and orchestras; to rent any premises necessary for the staging or holding any civic function connected or related to any of the foregoing; to purchase necessary supplies, merchandise, food and beverages; to sell and dispense souvenirs, food, soft drinks and beer.”


Year 1972-The Livonia city-wide party was not held to enable the committee to assess the wrongs and keep the efforts for a citywide, free party, staffed by volunteers, with assistance from city resources that would be a success.


THE PARTY STARTS

Livonia’s party in 1973 was coined Spree 23 by Industrial Development coordinator Daniel Gilmartin as a befitting name for Livonia’s is 23rd birthday.  Kiddie rides were added, civic groups were involved as food vendors, entertainment was added to the existing groups and massive feeding was gone.  Spree 23 was an entertainment success, a monetary success, and having the core of energetic workers, a tribute to the city coming together.


THE PARTY CONTINUES

40 years later the Livonia Anniversary Committee Continues to bring our community together every year to celebrate our great city.