2021, Ben Fogt
What's the Deal, Grosse Ile?
[0:00] [Ben Fogt] This is episode 18 of What’s the Deal Grosse Ile, the podcast that explores the people, places, history, and events that make Grosse Ile unique. I’m your host, Ben Fogt.
[0:11] I just came in from clearing the driveway of 8 inches of snow. I blew nearly as much off yesterday and the day that this episode publishes we’ll be back out there doing it again. “Welcome to Michigan”, …… right? But we don’t just sit back and sulk. For years now, Islanders have found a way to pretend it’s summer in the bleakest of winters.
[0:30] I heard about what we’re going to talk about today in 2016 and it’s just about the most Island thing we do on Grosse Ile.
[0:37] Today, we’re talking about Yard Game Palooza. And in lining that up, I learned that the mind behind that also has a really interesting season of fishing tournaments for islanders that run at more of an island pace. So we talk about that, too.
[0:52] Adam Young has brought together the chance to meet new people with the fun of backyard party games with Yard Game Palooza.
Thank you for talking with me on What's the Deal, Grosse Ile?
[Adam Young] You're welcome, Ben. Thanks for having me. I appreciate your investment in time into our unique community. Happy to be here.
[B] Oh, I appreciate that. So let's start with what is Yard Game Palooza?
[A] So hey before we jump into that, can I go a bit rogue on you and make a couple macro-level comments?
[B] You absolutely can.
[A] I just wanted to maybe set the stage or table for the big picture on these events because we're talking about Yard Game Palooza, Yard Game Leagues and Fishing Clubs today. Things I've hosted for five years. But whether it's these types of social community activities or a restaurant or salon ventures, it's all been routed from a common inspiration. We talked a little bit about the time you and I each spent moving to Grosse Ile from other places. Well when I moved to Grosse Ile 8 years ago, I lived in Ann Arbor for 15 years and I quickly became aware of a perception.
[1:57] And while I'm not big on caring about what others think because hey I'm the guy that's known for driving a 13 year old car with a hundred fifty thousand miles and several basketball-sized dents on the side, but the fact is perception is a form of reality. And the perception, and I don't know if you encountered anything similar, but the perception, the first thing I would hear, is "why are you moving to Grosse Ile? There's nothing really to do there. Great if you're a boater or golfer but that's only a handful of months out of the year." So I guess it's a good lead into our topics today because I do believe in the cliche that you're either part of the problem or part of the solution and then there's not much of a middle ground. I took these passions with the yard games and fishing which wasn't part of the plan but in hindsight
[2:45] they became dedications of sorts to my late grandfathers who spent much of their lives sharing these things with their friends and family. So I guess I just wanted to set the table. I personally wanted to help fight this perception and work on creating events that I would want to participate in, somebody who moved to Grosse Ile 8 years ago.
[B] You know, I resonate with that so well. That's really part of the reason for the podcast is that there are a lot of perceptions from people outside of Grosse Ile about what we as a community are and I hope that the podcast is able to reveal some of the depth that we've got beyond just what people see maybe in the news or in chance encounters. I think a lot of what we've got on the island is sort of
under the surface and definitely the Yard Games and then this fishing that you've conducted. I'm still blown away by it the more I'm learning about it, the more I'm encouraged by it. So thank you so much.
[3:42] [A] Well you're absolutely right because just as we were talking here in the beginning I learned about a farmers market at Westcroft and I didn't know about that, but that's why it's important. It's why it's important and why I jumped at the chance
to be on here. So thank you.
[B] That sets the scene then. So Yard Game Palooza. When I think of yard games I think back to my childhood and we had jarts.
[4:03] And maybe at my parents house we'd have what we called in Western Ohio at the time bean bags.
[A] Yeah you'll hear it called bags or cornhole. I agree with you. When I grew up we called them bean bags. That was a little family game.
[B] So that's the core of Yard Game Palooza?
[A] Yeah yeah. So Yard Game Palooza or YGP is a pop-up social event definitely with a competitive flare. It takes place at the South end of the island on Groh Road. The facility used to be known as the GI Tennis Center which is now Island Athletics. It's the yard games: cornhole, fowling, can jam, beersbee, ladder toss, I think another good old-fashioned game, music. It's an indoor getaway during winter time for socialization and just having a good time. So we just started our adult leagues that will run through April. A few years ago, YGP also included family nights, Team Takeover events, and birthday parties. A lot going on with that and the new ownership group at Island Athletics is now doing birthday parties again and I just have been talking to them the last few weeks and they're interested in bringing back the ideas of the family and team nights as well and I believe to be looking for somebody to help manage those.
[5:26] I think that's something exciting for the community especially as we have the bridge closure. There's been a lot of things put on hold but that would include Nerf Battle, Laser Tag, those large bubble balls or hamster balls where the kids would climb in them and they're big enough you and I, adults, can get in them as well but I don't know we're too easy to break some bones or whatever for us, Lip sync Contest, Trivia. But yeah, plenty of things, good activities for teenagers and families alike.
[B] Sure and you mentioned the season just started here recently and goes through April. How many seasons do you have? Do you do one in the fall then, too?
[A] Yeah. So this is our fifth year and we typically just have one season running from November to March, but because of COVID. We tried to limit our capacity at the facility and it's been moved to Sunday evening. So we just kicked off in January and we'll run it through April but there will be a new season in, knock on wood, that we can start again in this fall probably. Usually November's our start time.
[B] That's excellent. How much does it cost?
[A] So it's $75 per person. And usually sign up as a two-person team but don't mind playing
[6:41] matchmaker a little bit if somebody wants to sign up and then we can line them up. We have a men's division and co-ed division and we've trialled and had some mixed results when we've done just a fowling only league as well just to be able to get extra people. We have six events and we do prizes nightly and at the end of the season as well.
[B] And I know for me fowling was something new when we moved to Detroit. So that's football-bowling, right?
[A] Yep just knocking down. You're about 40 feet away or so from your opponent's bowling pins and you're trying to knock them over with the football. Very simple but a lot harder than it looks.
[B] I'm sure. That's not normally the direction you're trying to throw a football, down at the ground like that.
[A] Exactly and sometimes the tight spiral quarterback throws really aren't the most successful. It's those wobblers and bouncing all around that happen to cause a lot of havoc on your opponent. Detroit and Hamtramck are the birthplace of fowling as far as I understand. We're proud to own that here.
[B] You talked about the teams. So two member teams and I would imagine a lot of those especially in the mixed are couples but are there other other ways people form teams?
[A] Yeah. So you'll have couples and you'll actually have couples
[7:58] who'll use it as a good night out and decide to be partners where the husbands partner up and the wives or significant others partner up and use it as a good night out by hanging out. So yeah with that you get
[8:12] people playing with their buddies, playing with their significant others. We've done some events in the past, more like
summer home events, where you would draw random partners but with these ones you bring your partner and there's a lot of ways you can do it.
[B] You mentioned the parties. Have you done any home events? Do you take it on the road at all?
[A] So this summer because people were looking for something to do, we had our first ever home party. I hosted it in my front yard actually. We haven't had a roadshow event for 20 people. So we dubbed this one the 2020 Island Olympics. Without the actual Olympics being held. It was a long hot August day for us, want-to-be-athletes, but so we did one of those. It's just we have the equipment and wanted to rent it out to others to have the events but once you get past 12 or 16 participants that actually is a lot of equipment to be moved around especially, and talk about those bowling pins and the board should things for fowling, the popular fowling.
[B] Well you know from this, there may be somebody who wants to get you out for a corporate event and that might be worth it.
[A] Well there you go. We're open to anything there. I like new ideas so I am always willing.
[9:38] [B] That's for sure. So what is your favorite game to play?
[A] That's a tough question. I feel like the games are almost like my children and that I love them all. Um but if you force me to choose
it's the games, not my children, but I'd have to say I'm going to punt a little bit and say it's the newer age games.
[9:57] that have a flair of both offense and defense like fowling and beersbee or ones that your teammates really have to work together like can jam. I really favor these because you compare those to the traditional games like corn hole or ladder toss where you can just have one ringer on the team that can really dominate the whole game. These other ones, you really have to have two teammates that work well together. So I'd have to give an edge to those games and because it is newer you made me pick just one, I've been a fan of fowling for a while. I'm sure something new will come out that'll be something to add to the list, but I'd have to go with fowling.
[B] Well and you certainly have a different perspective because you're watching probably more than you're playing.
[A] Yeah. I like the games that are easy to officiate and to score, so you're right. That is part of it as well. Fowling would be the best for that. We don't even need a scoreboard. The pins are the scoreboard.
[B] So speaking of officiating, what happens if there's a fight? Do you have a box or anything?
[10:59] [A] We get out the UFC cages and let them duke it out or get out those bubble hamster balls and let them crash until they knock out the other one. No no no! It's a good time out where everyone's just looking to socialize, but we take it seriously so I've had to have a couple situations where we go to the rulebook, right. We have to... I always tell people hey if both teams agree on a set of rules feel free to, but if you ask me to jump in and to be a referee, I'm going to go to the official rules, actually Grandpa Young's... they're actually Grandpa Young's rules. So we go to Grandpa Young's official rules.
[B] There aren't any standards organizations for these? No commissioners?
[A] Well there are, but I guess one of the beauties of this is I get to do the rules that I like. I'm the game warden. So we use the game wardens rules. I do consult with the officiating bodies out there to make sure we're putting the best rules out there.
[B] That's great. Well you mentioned Game Warden and when we started talking about talking about the Yard Games, you mentioned that you do fishing tournaments and that was something I had not heard of.
[12:13] I'd heard that some of the clubs have their fishing tournaments. Of course there's the walleye tournaments that happen on the other side of the river, but tell me about your fishing tournaments.
[A] Yeah, so we're starting our sixth season of The Big Fish Derby and will likely be kicking it off in April. The simple explanation is it's the fishing version of golf or bowling league. We have eight events from Spring to Fall and the goal is simply to catch the longest fish each event of the targeted species. I fished a lot of the more competitive, hardcore tournaments in the past where they're eight hour days and you're up at 4 a.m. and there's a hundred fifty, two hundred people at the boat ramps and those are definitely have their place, but this is much more low-key. It's kind of for those with a family, a heavy work and family schedule or maybe. Kids activities kind of dominate the calendar and this gives a chance to go out for... usually it's a three or four hour event on a Friday night or Saturday or Sunday morning so it's pretty low-key in that we do like to be a little competitive and have our bragging rights but we even have some booby prizes for catching the event's smallest fish or catching the wrong species. So we definitely have some fun with it.
[B] Where do they center around? Is there a general starting spot or do you start wherever you're at?
[13:32] [A] Yeah so a difference between this and some of those bigger tournaments you're thinking of, like out of Elizabeth Park or Erie Metro is we have a time like Friday night, maybe it's 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and folks who live in different parts of the island or Downriver, we have folks that come from a good distance away. I think last year we pulled from Farmington and Fenton. We had boats
or participants coming to fish with their friends and relatives here. So it's a timed, rather than like a big blast off, it's a time frame on the river which we have some boundaries at the lower end of the river because there's definitely different size boats. But yeah we
usually basically at the middle to lower end of the river. We leave Lake Erie off limit so nobody... this is fifty dollars to fish for the whole season so we don't want anyone breaking their boat or venturing too far out for
[14:28] what this is.
[B] So it's low risk.
[A] It is low risk, but it's had a great following over the years. Last year, obviously with covid, made it a little more challenging, but we've had... Our annual highlight actually started off as a bit of an afterthought, but this has really grown to be one of the most anticipated events of our season. We have a kids event. After our participants fish in the morning, they can take their kids out.
And then the kids have their own competition and we follow it up with a barbecue. The significant others joined up and ice cream, prizes and music and the first four years this was held at Elba-Mar Boat Club over Memorial Day weekend and I believe we had over 80 kids out fishing and in terms of medals and prizes and ice cream. I remember there was a lot going on but it was great to get all those kids out on the river fishing. And this past year we had to adjust that with the covid situation. We moved it to Labor Day and had to do more of a low-key Sugar Island beach hang out and treats for the kids but we still got all the kids that wanted to get out fishing. So yeah that was kind of an unintended thing, but it really is a low-key family-focused event and it's a lot of fun to see all those kids smiling,
[B] How do we find out about it? How do we get on the schedule? How do we get registered?
[A] Yeah. So the schedule usually comes out in March.
[15:54] I hate that we have to talk about covid in all these discussions, but last year, right as we were kicking this off we actually had executive orders that we can't even get the boats out on the river. So we had to postpone a month but this has really been a grassroots, word-of-mouth and event. I think you know this is the first time really I have done any interviews or anything to really formalize information but I think we could post some links in this podcast and I can field additional questions or those that want to register and join where we're always... It's an easy going group and all are welcome.
[B] So we'll get that posted in the episode notes there. I'll tell you, I'm amazed by this. I bought my kids fishing poles. We were coming back from Frankenmuth last summer. We went up after the Fourth of July. The most empty I've ever seen Frankenmuth and I've been there in the first week of March.
[16:48] It was really dead but when we came back we stopped at Bass Pro and got them a couple fishing rods and they've been casting into the pool out back to practice. But we don't have a boat. As I told the guys at Elba-Mar, I want to have friends that have boats.
But I also wanted friends that had pools and I ended up with the pool so... So we haven't been out fishing with the kids and we haven't really found a good spot to fish. So for those of us who aren't quite up to speed on the fishing culture, what do you suggest as the best fishing experience around the islands?
[A] Well first of all, it sounds like I have the boat and you have the pool. Sounds like we should be making a trade-off there. But I mean I get that. You always want the friends with pools, cottages, and boats.
[17:40] This is arguably the best freshwater fishery in the country and who knows maybe even the world and
[17:50] so what I'd recommend is outside of just coming over and jumping on the boat together but for the listeners I'd say the best time is in late May and early June. There's this Silver or White Bass Run and you may have witnessed this in the past or you'll see all the boats in the river, people standing at piers. You can catch these silver bass about any dock or park or anywhere there's some current and they'll bite about on every lure. My kids' favorite is the trustee spoon either flashy silver or bright colors. I'd say for starters, somebody just getting that fishing pole, these fish are plentiful there. They're fun to catch. You actually get to the point where you can get tired of catching so many. We've actually had records of going on off the end of the dock and of 10 casts like eight or nine of the casts you catch one. It's just really crazy. It's quite the phenomenon and so that would be one recommendation. The other I'd have is you know we talked about
before. All those boats and cars we'd see lined up at Elizabeth Park and Erie Metro, but we have the most sought-after walleye and perch run in the Detroit River and Lake Erie from March to May.
[19:10] And it's best really to fish from a boat and I don't know the exact stats but I'd imagine it's got to be one out of every five Island households owns at least one boat. I know there's probably two or three so I'd say there's about a thousand boats on Grosse Ile, so ask a friend or neighbor to take you out for a few hours. I think you'll be happy to give it a try. So I know there's people that post on different forums but yeah I'd definitely say in the spring is the best time to try out those new fishing poles. April, May, and June so give it a try.
[19:44] [B] I think we're ready. Well I'll tell you this has been a pleasure. I'm so excited about getting to share this with everybody. For me the fishing is just something I did not expect to run into without looking hard for it. So this is really great. Now the thing that everybody gets at the end of our interview is the question, a wish for Grosse Ile. So if you could have a wish granted for Grosse Ile, what would it be?
[A] That's a good question, right. So I listened to other podcasts so I came prepared and studied up a little bit and I'm going to go with a wish that's tied to the inspirations that we discussed. Sounds like we have a shared inspiration and motivation here and I believe this to be started in motion which also ironically has been helped out by the bridge closure and covid. But my wish is that the activities and organizations and business offerings on Grosse Ile rival and actually outperform the offerings of surrounding communities and mirror other high-performing cities and townships. And I believe the 2019 statistic is that Grosse Ile residents spend over a hundred seventy million dollars a year off island on products and services that we have available on our island.
[20:56] So my wish is to see this number heavily reduced next time that we have one of these studies conducted. So I think we're well on our way. I think it takes the collaboration and trust of the residents, the businesses, the township government officials, and I think there's evidence that this is happening and achievable. So I don't know if that's a good wish or more of our mission statement here but that's what I'm going with.
[B] I think they should be one in the same. That's great. Well, I want to thank you for sharing your projects with us today, Adam. I appreciate you and the risks you're taking on our community and I want you to know your contributions are making Grosse Ile an even more special place.
[A] Thanks, Ben. I really appreciate it. And the same to you. You know, you've invested a lot of time. You could be out fishing in the pool. You could be running the bakery mobile truck. You can be doing a lot of other things. So I appreciate that you've invested in being part of the solutions. Thank you. Thanks for having me.
[21:53] [B]Thanks again, Adam. Those are some really special ways to bring our neighbors together. I’m sure a lot of people are going to wonder if we’ll ever get out from under this snow or maybe they’ll be ready for you to start the season with Ice Fishing this year!
[22:08] I hope you enjoyed the double-feature last week. Episode 17 was a real treat. Gregory A. Fournier just told me that he’s been offered dinner at Sibley Gardens the next time he’s in town. And it’s always a pleasure to share what you think like I did in the Valentine’s Day Bonus Episode. Give it a listen if you haven’t already. It’s short and really timeless.
[22:29] In my own notes, I want to thank Marie and her folks at Grosse Ile Pet & Garden Center and the vets and staff at the Island Animal Clinic.
[22:37] We had a sick cat over the weekend. Marie had his favorite treats and some things we could try to keep him going and the clinic was quick with getting him assessed and very sympathetic when we had to let him go.
[22:48] It’s been a long year so far and I have some new things taking off. Because of that, I’m going to take a week off and be back on March 4th with Episode 19.
[22:56] Stay safe and warm and catch up on the socials.
What’s the Deal Grosse Ile? is
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[23:41] Thanks for listening to What’s the Deal Grosse Ile?