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2023 Year in Review: Our favorite feel good stories

I’m sure we’ve all faced our share of challenges this year. But plenty of good things did happen. Here are some of our favorite feel-good stories we brought you in 2023.

CraneFest: Michigan birders celebrate thousands of migrating sandhill cranes

Francie Krawcke and Sarah Gilmore are environmental educators with the Michigan Avian Experience.

They hoot and whistle back and forth to each other in a convincing demonstration of owl calls at Michigan's 28th annual CraneFest in Bellevue. The festival, put on by the Kiwanis Club of Battle Creek, celebrates the annual southward migration of sandhill cranes as they gather by the thousands at Big Marsh Lake. While the cranes are the main attraction, other birds receive attention, too.

Birders are drawn to CraneFest for the cranes, Krawcke and Gilmore's raptor presentations, the plethora of other bird species that can be seen and heard along the lake edge, and the bird-themed crafts and activities. The maple kettle corn is popular, too.

Iconic water tower lets people in to honor Ypsilanti's 200th year

The city of Ypsilanti celebrated 200 years of history, and if you’ve ever been there, you’ve probably seen their water tower. Built in 1889 by day laborers, the water tower still serving the community.

In honor of the city’s bicentennial, the Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority decided to open it up to the public for a few hours

on Saturday, August 19 for just a few hours. It was the first time they did so since 9/11.

The structure was built from Joliet limestone. The walls measure 40 inches thick at the base and taper to 24 inches at the top. The steel tank is original.

Residents and visitors were excited to make the 139-step trek to the top. Ypsilanti resident Ryan Hoppe brought his two young children with him. "We drive by here all the time. They are obsessed. We've done tons of bike rides just so they can touch the water tower. We do picnics by the water tower. It's our Fourth of July. We park ourselves right out front so they can hang out. For whatever the reason, they're obsessed," he said.

The spooky-artsy festival embracing Michigan’s weirdos: "Frankenfest"

It’s alive, and growing.

Beneath its spooky exterior, underneath the cosplay, the fishnets, the horror memorabilia and art that ponders mortality, “Frankenfest“ is a festival that celebrates being(s) slightly outside the mainstream.

It’s a half-art festival, half-costumed-Halloweenish extravaganza that’s been appearing at historical venues in Michigan since 2021. The fourth and final event of the 2023 season was an indoor event in Jackson, located in what was originally a 19th-century carriage factory.

“We don’t really classify it as a Halloween type of art fair, but it’s got that spooky flair to it,” said Frankenfest co-founder and artistic director Krista Johnston. “We're just a bunch of weirdos, and you can express yourself in so many different ways. Whether it's their fashion, or their artwork, it's people who are just very expressive and comfortable in who they are. And they're very welcomed.”

Movies for all: How one dementia-friendly screening brought people together

On a sunny Wednesday morning, a group of seniors — along with their family, friends, and caregivers — trickled in through a side door of Emagine Theater in Canton. Before showtime, groups of older people chatted away, nibbling on cookies and snacks. The room was abuzz with conversation.

They were there for a special screening of the film adaptation of the musical Mamma Mia! , planned especially for people with dementia.

Renee Ralsky is the marketing manager for Waltonwood Senior Living Facility, which partnered with Emagine Theaters to put on the event. She said her hope was to create a sense of community. She wanted to provide families and their loved ones suffering from memory loss a way to spend time together. She worked with the theater to create a space and setting that meets patient's medical and emotional needs.

Planning this event was very intentional.

The theater had patrons come in through a door at the back, so they wouldn't have to navigate the theater complex. They used the theater closest to the bathrooms, and set up ramps over the steps down to the front rows.

The movie selection, too, was intentional. "Because music is healing and it is one of the things that individuals with memory loss, they can recall music from their past," Ralsky said.

Truly America's Thanksgiving Parade: 97 years of festivities for the people, by the people

America’s Thanksgiving Parade steps off in Detroit for the 97th time this year. Thousands of people head into Detroit each year to see giant balloons, floats, and performers all march down a 2 1/2 mile stretch of Woodward Avenue, from the Detroit Institute of Arts to Campus Martius Park.

America’s Thanksgiving Parade was first put on by Hudson’s department stores in 1924, the same year that Macy’s started its parade in New York City. During World War II, both parades took a two-year break and are tied as the second-longest running parades in America. As the department stores took an economic hit, management of Hudson’s parade was sold off and was turned into a nonprofit organization in the 1980s.

Paulette is a digital media reporter and producer for Michigan Public. She started as a newsroom intern at the station in 2014 and has taken on various roles in that time, including filling in as an on-air host.
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