Cherry Bowl Reopens For 2019

WPBN, Traverse City MI’s News Leader, ran a pleasant little story this morning noting the reopening of the Cherry Bowl Drive-In Theatre for another season. Owner Laura Clark said, “Watching everybody come for the first time for the season, everyone’s always very hyped, very excited. Because when the drive-in opens, it’s definitely a reminder that summer is here.”

There’s not a lot of drama in this story, and that’s a good thing. For some reason, I can’t get the video to embed here, but I’ll take any excuse to show off at least link to a bit of drive-in video. Enjoy!

Aug. 13: Ford Drive In Theatre, Dearborn MI

It’s Day 225 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Driving from the outer Detroit suburbs to the inner, it took only a half hour to get from Plymouth MI to the venerable Ford Drive In Theatre in Dearborn MI.

Karen Dybis wrote the book on the Ford. In fact, that’s the name of the 2014 book – The Ford-Wyoming Drive-In: Cars, Candy & Canoodling in the Motor City. Shortly after World War II, brothers James, Clyde and Harold Clark bought a vacant parcel to build the Ford-Wyoming. It opened for business in May 1950 with one screen, a glorious Streamline Moderne tower typical of drive-ins of the time.That tower is still there today. There was room for about 750 cars.

The Clarks ran the Ford-Wyoming for over 30 years before selling it to Charlie Shafer in 1981. Shafer was a big believer in multiple screens. He added two more within two years. By 1984, he had added a fourth screen, and manager Ed Szurek told the Detroit Free Press he wished he had room for five more. That wish would come true soon enough.

Screen number five was squeezed in before the 1988 season. Three years later, the drive-in expanded by taking over a plot of land two blocks north and setting up screens 6-8. The ninth and final screen was added before the 1995 season. At that point, all those viewing areas added up to a 3,000-car capacity, and the theatre began to make the claim of being “the largest drive-in in the world.”

In early 2010, the second parcel was closed and those four screens demolished. The drive-in was renamed the Ford, but its layout matches its 1988 five-screen configuration, and as of Dybis’s book, Shafer is still the owner.

Kristen Gallerneaux, Curator of Communication & Information Technology at The Henry Ford, has a great blog post about a 2013 visit to the Ford Drive-In and its manager that you really should read. It’s a great verbal picture of a venerable institution with new digital projection.

The video of the day is a bit of a prank. It was uploaded in 2010, and it’s just over two minutes of the old Ford-Wyoming marquee with its moving lights. There are also two fine videos of the place from Outdoor Moovies; they are really old (1995 and 2007) and low-res but great time capsules.

Here I was in the middle of the metro area, so it was only appropriate to choose Detroit as my movie of the night. It was a hard movie to watch, but I doubt that I’ll run into it too often in the weeks to come.

Miles Today / Total:  23 / 27124 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Detroit / 139

Nearby Restaurant: Ford’s Garage is such a natural fit for Dearborn that it’s hard to believe that most of the restaurants in this small chain are in Florida. There are Model T cars suspended from the ceiling here. I had the signature burger, including barbecue sauce, cheddar and bacon, with fries and a beer.

Where I Virtually Stayed: I was back to my mid-level favorite, the Hampton Inn of Dearborn. It’s close to The Henry Ford (see below), full of friendly people, and has all the standard Hampton elements that make me feel a certain continuity. There were cookies when I checked in, a room with all the standard amenities, and the solid Hampton breakfast in the morning.

Only in Dearborn: The Henry Ford is a museum of American innovation, an old-time village (that happens to have Thomas Edison’s lab), a factory tour, and the home of the Saturday morning show Innovation Nation, hosted by Mo Rocca. With all the car memorabilia around, it’s a great place to visit for any drive-in theater fan.

Next stop: Starlite Drive-In Theatre, Grand Bend ON.

Aug. 12: Summer Drive-In, Plymouth MI

It’s Day 224 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. From suburban Toledo OH to suburban Detroit took only an hour. My destination was the Summer Drive-In in Plymouth MI.

According to stories catalogued by Water Winter Wonderland, the Summer got its start in 2004 as the Slap Shot Drive-In Theater. Then as now, it was set up with three screens in the parking lot of what was then the Compuware Sports Arena parking lot. That arena was home to the Detroit Whalers (then Plymouth Whalers) of the Ontario Hockey League, a junior league.

In 2007, the “Sports” was taken out of the arena name to emphasize its other uses. By 2008, the drive-in was being called the Compuware Arena Drive-In. In 2015 the USA Hockey Foundation purchased the arena, renaming it the USA Hockey Arena, and the drive-in became the Summer.

Most of the arena facilities are available to drive-in patrons, particularly a full menu at CJ’s Brewing Company, which has a golf cart to deliver food to cars.

The video of the day comes from Metro Parent. It shows off how the place looked in 2012, which is pretty much how it still looks today.

Once again I had the choice between The Nut Job 2 and Dunkirk. (A third screen was showing Despicable Me 3, which I had already seen nine times, so that wasn’t much of an option.) I picked Dunkirk for the third time, since I remain convinced that I’ll be subjected to The Nut Job 2 often enough over the next few weeks.

Miles Today / Total:  65 / 27101 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Dunkirk / 138

Nearby Restaurant: It’s time for another regional restaurant chain. Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken is centered around Kentucky and Ohio, stretching over to Missouri and up to Michigan, but not too much farther. Their honey-dipped, pressure-cooked chicken is moist without so much grease. Interesting sides such as green beans and red beans and rice make a good thing even better.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There are a few really nice choices in Plymouth, and I chose the Comfort Inn. Everyone seemed happy to see me. My room had the full set of amenities, and the breakfast was a little better than some Comfort Inns with eggs and meat. The price was great. Just another good night.

Only in Plymouth: At the Plymouth Historical Museum, there’s yet another one of Robert Wadlow’s old shoes. Sure, there’s also a large collection of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, and the history of Plymouth itself, but after sighting Wadlow shoes in Cuba MO and Billings MT, I’m starting to wonder whether every city with a drive-in has one lying around somewhere.

Next stop: Ford Drive In Theatre, Dearborn MI.