July 9: 5 Mile Drive in Movie Theater, Dowagiac MI

It’s Day 190 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Staying in the Sister Lakes area of southwest Michigan, it took me barely 20 minutes to drive from the Sunset Drive In Theater, halfway between Hartford and Watervliet, to the 5 Mile Drive in Movie Theater north of Dowagiac.

The 5 Mile was built in 1961 as a single-screen drive-in with a capacity of about 450 cars. It was purchased by Glenda and Neal Edwards in 2006. That’s the same couple that has owned the Sunset since 2003.

There was a nice article about the 5 Mile in The Detroit News in July 2013, available online in a report (pdf) by the city of Dowagiac. “The lot was grass and not gravel,” wrote Tom Greenwood, “footballs and Frisbees cut through the air, kids did tai chi on the monkey bars and lawn chairs sprouted like mushrooms after a rain.”

A trip to the concession stand around midnight that night also delighted Greenwood. “It was like nothing had changed since I was a teen,” he wrote. “Hot popcorn spilling from the sizzling popper, pizza whole or by the slice, hot dogs, nachos, candy and a three-gallon brine-filled jar of pickles the size of a turkey drumstick.”

Just like my last report, I added a YouTube video by Outdoor Moovies to show you a few scenes from the drive-in. This one’s from September 2013.

The weekend-only 5 Mile had a great double feature, the same as the night before at the Sunset: Despicable Me 3 followed by the new Spider-Man movie. Too bad I can never stay up late enough for the second show. This was my sixth DM3 viewing, so I’m starting to memorize longer stretches of dialogue.

Miles Today / Total:  15 / 23973 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Despicable Me 3 / 106

Nearby Restaurant: Usually, when I read about folks buying a 50-year-old drive-in from the original owners, it’s about a theater. Last January, the story (in the Dowagiac Daily News) was about Lutz’s Drive-In restaurant next door to the 5 Mile. New owner Scott Scherer and his family must be doing okay, because Lutz’s still served up its signature chicken ranch pizza.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Scathing reviews on TripAdvisor drove me away from downtown Dowagiac to a cute little place, across the street from Round Lake, called The Bed-No-Breakfast Resort. The room was great, the price was better than I’ve seen lately, and they told the truth – there really is no breakfast included.

Only in Dowagiac: Dowagiac gained national attention in June 1964 after police began investigating multiple reports of what became known as the Dewey Lake Monster. According to Wikipedia, the beast had already been known to locals in the area for several years prior, and was rumored to dwell primarily along a 15-mile stretch of swamp-land extending from Dowagiac/Sister Lakes toward Decatur (along Dewey Lake Street). The mystery remains to this day, as do the sightings of the bipedal 10-foot creature.

Next stop: Getty Drive-In, Muskegon MI.

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