ArticleID: 191
Date: 5/10/2004 1:17:00 AM
Written By: Captain Jackson

by Captain Jackson

Some people call it Michigan`s "Emerald City". But for people who have never visited, Jackson Michigan is mostly known as a prison town. The fact is that the city of Jackson hasn`t had a prison in it for almost 70 years when it was moved to the northern part of the county, and the main unit is now called Michigan State Prison.

Located in south central lower Michigan on the I-94 corridor, Jackson is within a forty minute drive of the state capital, Ann Arbor, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Another thirty minutes and you can reach most of the metro Detroit area.

Besides being the birthplace of the Republican party, it was once the third largest automobile manufacturing location in the United States (it was even the original home of the Buick Division of General Motors). In addition, it was the central hub for ten Railroad Companies in the 1910`s and 1920`s.

Jackson has gone through many changes over the years. During the post world war two years and into the seventies it became one of the largest industrial manufacturing communities in this region of the country. The eighties brought near financial ruin as most of these industries either went out of business or relocated in other locations.

At that point Jackson almost turned into a ghost town. Industry consisted primarily of small businesses and the local economy became one of the worst in the entire state. Even many retail businesses were forced to close. An example of this is Jacobson`s, a high end retail store. Though it`s world headquarters was located in Jackson, it`s local retail outlet was closed due to a lack of customer base.

But regardless of the negative decades, Jackson has proven to be a resilient community. Reinventing itself, in the recent number of years Jackson has become a hub for all types of cultural events and the arts. And like the automobile industries of almost a hundred years ago, there are now more free per-capita events during the spring and summer months than even Detroit!

Thanks to the Downtown Development Authority and many local sponsors, from the end of May through the end of August, Jackson boasts one of the largest car rallies within a three state area. Called CRUISE NIGHTS, this event takes place on the fourth Friday of these four months. Name bands provide the entertainment for the average five thousand people and hundreds of classic and hot rod cars that attend. On each Friday this event doesn`t take place, a free concert is held with both local and visiting bands at the amphitheater located next to the new $70,000,000 Consumer`s Energy headquarters (and don`t worry about parking in the PERMIT PARKING structure as anyone can park there for FREE from 3:00pm to 7:00am throughout the week and all weekend long). On Tuesdays an event called PICNIC IN THE PARK takes place featuring a variety of local and regional music in downtown`s Buckey Harris Park during the noon lunch hour attracting scores of people.

If you like motor car racing, just southeast of Jackson in Brooklyn is Michigan International Speedway. Being one of the largest and most modern racetracks in the country, during a race weekend this small town swells to become the second largest city (by population) in the state! In addition, during July a county wide event called RACE WEEK takes place. Actually running almost three weeks, this event encompasses more activities, including SUMMERFEST with it`s downtown mini-grand prix car races, than any other such event in the country.

Into history? Each year one of the largest regional Civil War musters takes place annually at a local park. And how about aeronautics? Reynolds Field, Jackson`s County airport, holds an annual Hot Air Balloon Festival, now in it`s twenty-first year, which features everything from hot air balloon competition to antique airplane exhibitions and an airshow. Like art? The multi-million dollar Armory Park is slated to be completed within the next few years with artists of every field from all over the planet taking up residence. And let`s not forget the Ella Sharp Museum which hosts many different presentations throughout the year.

Entertainment is certainly not lacking in this community. Jackson has become a hub for many upcoming performers, as well as seasoned stars. For example, The Thunderbird Coffee House, The Rocket, Mike`s Cafe and many other downtown eateries regularly host singers and bands who only need the exposure. A number of these performers have become successful both regionally and nationally. And as far as the Blues, the local blues music organization holds a free annual "Blues Fest" at the county fair grounds. If you seek "big name entertainers" there is The Michigan Theatre and Jackson Community College`s Potter Center. For the same ticket price as any large city auditorium, you can enjoy big names such as Ann Margaret, Jefferson Starship, Blue Oyster Cult, Three Dog Night, Mickey Rooney and many more. And you don`t need "theater glasses" to see the action occurring on the stage. Also, I can`t forget to mention the Jackson Symphony Orchestra. This rivals most of the larger city orchestras, and again, you are right there to enjoy the action.

For what many people may think of as only a "prison hick town", Jackson has done quite well providing more activities than most people could ever attend. While our "Emerald City" may appear like many other small communities, don`t look for a "yellow brick road" on main street. Call it magic if you like, but we know how to keep ourselves entertained.

Copyright 2004 CFC

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