NEW TROY — The 15th anniversary of the Friends of New Troy converting a former school building into a Community Center and park was celebrated with chili and a movie on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 12.
The original plan was to premiere the short historical film "Claim to Fame" outdoors behind the center. Live music also was on the agenda, but persistent rain prompted organizers to have people pick up samples of the six chili cook-off entries (plus extra fixings) along with DVDs of the movie.
The competing chilis were provided by area restaurants including Mesa Luna (two varieties), Greenbush, the Peasant’s Pantry, Metal Munchiez, and an anonymous restaurant.
The top three vote-getters were: first place — Texas Chili by The Peasant’s Pantry; second place — White Chili by Mesa Luna; third place — Beef and Bean Chili by anonymous restaurant.
“Claim to Fame” is the third local history documentary produced by Terry Hanover.
The chili and a movie event was originally scheduled in March as a celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of Friends of New Troy.
Hanover, a founding member of the Friends group, said a big part of the celebration is reflected on the "We did it!" sign in front of the Community Center showing 100-percent of the $240,000 goal from 15 years ago achieved. —
He said "Claim to Fame" is a snapshot of 1870s New Troy (the community was founded in 1837).
Hanover said the1870s were a busy time in the community's history – the effects of the Chicago fire and an economic depression were felt while Michigan achieved statehood that year.
The lives of local people from that era are brought to life in "Claim to Fame" by readings, remembrances from pioneers, photos, and an original soundtrack by musicians from the Three Oaks School of American Music (SAM).
Hanover said SAM instructor, Garth Taylor, and his students created the melody to accompany lyrics written in the 1870s about the Center of the World General Store.
Lorraine Hanover (Terry's wife and another founding member of the Friends of New Troy) said a recent trial run of showing the movie in the Gazebo Garden behind the Community Center worked beautifully, and room for 100 people had been prepared.
"But from the remarks people have been texting along with their votes, it sounds like we achieved in large part what we set out to do anyway. Even if it was just in the parking lot for a few minutes as they picked up their chili, people saw neighbors or friends they hadn't seen in months. They loved it. They had fun," she added.
Going forward the 2020 Run to the Center of the World is planned for Oct. 24 outside at the Community Center, with a 5K, a 10K and a half marathon planned (the event will be capped at 100 participants and include staggered start times).
The Friends group also is in the process of upgrading the wifi service that reaches outside of the center.
A milestone moment in the Community Center's history occurred in late 2018 when the Friends of New Troy received a donation that made them the sole owners of the facility.
"A donor came in anonymously and paid off the balance. We now own this," Terry Hanover said in October of that year.
He said the final payoff was $35,000.
The donation left the "Giving Tree" plaque that greets visitors to the Community Center fully leafed out (each of the 60 or so golden leaves representing a donation of $1,000).
"We had so many wonderful people come forward and make this happen," Hanover said.
He said the Friends of New Troy initially took out a $240,000 loan to establish the Community Center in a former River Valley Schools facility at 13372 California Road.
Some other highlights of the Friends of New Troy (FONT) organization's 15-year history follow:
• River Valley School District decides to sell New Troy campus
• Concerned citizens gather to discuss ways to save the property
• Group calls itself Friends of New Troy (FONT)
• First fundraiser held — a chili cook off
• FONT and RV agree to selling price of $240,000
• Sale is completed by summer
• By that fall, the Community Center’s lending library is open to the public
• IRS approves FONT’s application for 501(c)3 Non-Profit status
• Library obtains its first computers, donated by University of Michigan
• Summer Reading Program begins in conjunction with RV
• Former shop building is sold
• First annual Hunter Safety Class
• First Winter Flea Market
• Engraved bricks & benches installed in Memorial Garden
• Weesaw Township purchases 8.5 acres from FONT for Township Park with assistance of grant from Michigan Department of Natural Resources
• Giving Tree & Campaign Fund unveiled. It’s goal: pay off mortgage
• Rain garden installed
• FONT’s Facebook page created
• First annual Run to the Center of the World 5K
• First annual Electronic Waste & Tire Recycling event
• First Annual Coat Drive
• Pickleball begins
• New roof on gym and kitchen
• Community Room renovated
• First yoga classes held
• Gazebo donated and first annual Strawberry Social held, courtesy of the Family of Allan Boyd
• New website launched
• Gazebo Garden planted
• Yoga now offered 6 days a week
• Bathroom Renovation Fund Drive begins
• Bathrooms renovated