Liz Upton’s plan for a special fireworks weekend in July encounters obstacles

By Ralph Echtinaw

One city council person’s ambitious plan to enhance the annual fireworks weekend hit multiple roadblocks Tuesday as complications ensued.

Councilwoman Liz Upton said she started planning a festival three months ago that includes a craft show, motorcycle show, bounce houses, a dunk tank, two rock bands in addition to the usual fireworks, citywide garage sales and free swimming at the city pool.

Concerns raised included liability insurance for the bounce houses and craft show, parking for fireworks viewers, road closures and a location for one of the bands.

Upton said she’s concerned about low-income families who can’t afford to take vacations or pay for their kids to swim in the city pool.

Liz Upton

“I moved here in 2018 and saw how many people in this town don’t have vehicles; how many people in this town are homeless. I have a heart for kids particularly. And when I think about all the kids in this town who aren’t going anywhere for Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July, Labor Day, summer vacation. They can’t afford to swim at the pool. 

“So many people come into my store (Uptown Treasures) and talk about how much they hate everybody that works at the city. They think nobody cares about anybody who lives here. That’s not what we should want our city to think about us. We need to show them something. Show them that we actually care about the people who live here. 

“I was told last year after a few years of trying to get these things done that the city wasn’t opposed to doing it, but they weren’t going to plan it. So this year in February I said ‘I’ll plan it all, and I’ll find people to do the craft show, the bike show, the band and all the stuff.’

“Like I said, this isn’t about me. This isn’t about my store. I’m closing my store down at the end of the year. I’m not going to be downtown. So this isn’t about me. I just legitimately care about the people in this town and think they’re all really frustrated and feel like nobody cares about them. I have teenagers that know I’m on the council, and they’re asking me to get them a skate park or to get them this or get that. 

“I’m from Maple Rapids where kids have nothing. And all the kids except for myself got into trouble. And then all those kids stayed there, and now the entire village is filled with meth addicts. 

“It’s hard when I’m trying to make these changes, offering my help. I have six or seven emails in a row with no response when I’m here trying to help, and it feels like stop signs are thrown in front of me with zero explanation.”

Upton agreed to bring more information on her plans to the next meeting. 

So the extent of activities on the weekend of July 16 remains unsettled, but Wolverine Fireworks will put on a show after dark. Citywide garage sales are approved for July 14-16. Bounce houses for Clapp Park are approved. A free swim at the city pool was authorized for July 16. And the Woody Black band will play during the day on July 16.

The craft show, motorcycle show, road closures, dunk tank and the second band (Miranda and the M80s) are yet to be settled.

Everyone on the dais supported Upton’s effort but agreed that more work must be done before any more can be approved.


“I’m behind you 112 percent,” said Councilman Bill Leonard to Upton. “What we have here is a big communication gap. And somehow someway we’ve got to get it settled.”


“I don’t think anyone’s opposed to the things we discussed,” said Councilman Roger Collison. “We’ve just got to find a way to work it all out.”


Mayor Tom Reed said Downtown Development Authority Director Phil Hansen seems to have been left out of the loop: “Phil does an awful good job here, and I get the feeling that he’s not being used the way we need to,” he said.


Councilman George Kubin lamented that this discussion took place during a city council meeting: “If city council is going to become the parks committee then I think we should meet at a different time to discuss it instead of during our business meetings,” he said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to do it during our business meeting.”

Orchard Hills water

Council approved a $94,200 payment to Spicer Group, a civil engineering firm, to begin work on a plan to connect nine houses in Orchard Hills to city water on account of their wells being in danger of contamination from the Velsicol site. Construction should begin in May 2023 and be finished by Aug. 31. The federal Environmental Protection Agency will reimburse the city for the cost.

Street light purchase

Council approved purchase of six lamps, poles and anchors from Boarder States Electric of Grand Haven for $21,530. They will be installed on M46 from Clinton to East streets.

Wastewater treatment plant purchase

Council approved purchase of a variable frequency drive from Hamlett Environmental for $5,293. The unit is expected to arrive in 14-16 weeks.

Tentative agreement with cop union

Giles announced that the city has reached a tentative agreement with the police officers union on a new contract. However, it has yet to be ratified by the officers.

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