Labor Day

I'll be honest. I've never been one to get super-excited about Labor Day, even as just a day off, because I'm just not used to the whole end-of-summer celebration that traditionally goes with it. Sure, it's an extra-long weekend reserved for boating, picnicking, and traveling in general, but up until a couple years ago, I never really had the privilege of having the day off at all. As a student, I always went back to class near the end of August, and I guess giving us a mini-vacation so close to the beginning of the academic year was just too much for any school administration to handle. As for having Labor Day off when you're out of school and in the real world, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense if most people you know already have plans, have no motivation to make plans, or are still in school themselves.

So, much to my happy surprise, I was granted the wish of having my first, real Labor Day weekend, complete with planned activities. And when you live in Michigan during the time of year where summer jumps into fall, believe me--there are plenty of things to do. Problem is, everyone else up here plans to do the same things at all of the same places.

Arts, Beats, & Eats

On Friday evening, Brad and I headed out to Arts, Beats, & Eats, an annual festival in Downtown Royal Oak. The celebration goes from Friday through Monday evening, and features a myriad of--you guessed it--art, live music, and food. After finding a hole-in-the-wall where we only had to pay $10 for parking (most places within comfortable walking distance charged $15), we made our way down the street to see what all the commotion was about.

As far as the eye could see (and just about as far as our feet could drag us), the streets of downtown Royal Oak were covered with people, all out to take part in a little end-of-summer fun. Local restaurants set up shop next to the sidewalks, and the only thing between us and a pulled pork platter, plate of chicken wings, or brick oven pizza was a handful of tickets, which were available for purchase at festival-managed stations.

So, naturally, our indecisiveness and need to separate ourselves from the crowd led us to a seafood restaurant down a side street.

Lily's Seafood

We shared the Captain's Plate
(crab cake, flounder, mussels, scallops, shrimp, hushpuppies, red potatoes, and vegetables)

Creepy, old man statue that held free after-dinner peppermints
After filling up, we made our way back outside, focusing our attention on the artwork and live music (there were several stages scattered throughout the festival). I was kind of surprised at how many of the bands were dedicated to country, folk, and acoustic music. I mean, after all--we did move up north. I guess the South is just too cool to ignore.

Donut Art
Local4 News set up a stage to cover the opening evening's festivities
Of course, he had to find the only car on display at the entire festival...

"Turn my TV on again, turn my TV on again...I'm so glad the government turned my TV on again..."
(Real lyrics from one of this group's songs)

Overall, the festival was great, and while I got a completely different first impression of Royal Oak than I had of Northville, I was intrigued by the city's young, artistic, and vintage-inspired culture.

Those days in-between

Saturday marked the beginning of college football season, so of course we had to watch the VT v. Appalachian State game. It was probably the first time I've ever been out of state for the first Tech home game, which is a change from the usual game-day frenzy you see backed up from Blacksburg to Roanoke. Now, I'm not a fan of football (*insert collective gasp here*), but I do enjoy the atmosphere--friends, overpriced hot dogs, seas of people wearing the same team colors, and the enormous team spirit that wafts over a group of thousands of people, each of whom are rooting for the same thing. Sure, I spend most of those four quarters people-watching instead of keeping score, but I really don't mind as long as it's not 10 degrees outside (more on that in a later post, I'm sure).

For the VT game, we went over to our friends' house, where they fed us some delicious pork barbecue. We, along with a few other VT grads, watched the Hokies pummel the Mountaineers. And yes, I did just Google the other team's mascot.

On Sunday, we made a delightful trip to the outlet mall in Birch Run, which is apparently where everyone else in Michigan decided to go that day, too. As soon as we got into town, traffic backed up way down the road. Parking was also an issue, and I started to get a little agitated at rude people who liked to steal parking places and cut in front of others.

Brad: "How is it that you're the one with road rage, and you're not even driving?"
Once we realized that everyone was ignoring the Tommy Hilfiger parking lot, we stowed the car and got to shopping. Other than Coach, which had a roped-off line to limit the amount of customers in the store at one time (a huge turn-off that caused me to turn right back around, even though I had no intention of buying a $300 purse in the first place), the stores weren't too awfully bad. Crowded, yes, but that's to be expected at the largest outlet mall in Michigan on Labor Day weekend. Plus, I have an extensive history with crazy people in discount stores, which I will also explain in more detail at another time.

Labor Day
Monday was, undoubtedly, an awesome end to an awesome weekend. Brad and I went back to Royal Oak to visit the Detroit Zoo, which was, as you may guess, also very crowded. Thankfully, it was much easier to get into the zoo than it was to get into Arts, Beats, & Eats, so we were all set.
Sitting in traffic--story of the weekend
Inside the butterfly garden at the zoo...a huge butterfly landed right on this lady's face

This Gorilla struck a GQ-esque pose for us

The lions decided to give us a little roaring show

Brad pretending to smile while watching the lions

"I wanna see the polar bears!" The polar bears were hiding.

Meerkats make Brad giggle
And, of course, what would the Wolverine State be without its state animal?
Overall, we ended the weekend with tired feet and wishing for naps, but had a great time. Here's to keeping the whole Labor Day thing going--maybe next year, we'll have our own boat to cruise around in.