Flint-born economic stimulus plan a fun ride across historic Michigan
By BETH ALTENA
What began nearly a decade ago in Flint as a way to stimulate spending and celebrate the historic richness of the automotive industry has become an annual event that is rolling into Rockford for the first time Friday, June 7. Back To The Bricks is named for the brick-paved staging area in downtown Flint where the oldest of car show vehicles are allowed exclusive parking rights. Additional vehicles can be seen around town. Here in Rockford cars will congregate in the South Squires parking area (Towers parking lot) but also may be seen elsewhere as drivers enjoy the city.
Rockford residents can expect 150-plus cars for the first local visit of Back To The Bricks, which crosses Michigan stopping in historic towns on a week-long rolling car show. According to organizer Charles SeKrenes, the Rockford visit is part of a week-long promotion of the “big” Back To The Bricks, which is held in August in Flint. Car fans—please note anyone is allowed and invited to participate—sign up for this Back To The Brick trip for just $35 and receive two t-shirts, a lanyard, goodie bag and can enjoy the stops along Michigan after the day in Rockford.
SeKrenes said Back To The Bricks was begun in Flint as a way to generate spending and the economy after the city was so badly hurt by the closing of many automotive manufacturing plants. “We lost a lot of people, we lost a lot of jobs,” said SeKrenes. The Back To The Bricks brings in people who shop, visit, eat, stroll, stay and otherwise generate spending. A winner for Flint, the model is repeated with this week’s drive across Michigan, beginning in Rockford, heading up to the now-closed Rosie’s Diner for photo opportunities, then heads along M-57 to Greenville to visit the original historic Meijer store.
Rockford residents will enjoy the show whether they sign up to be part of the tour or not. Several downtown restaurants will offer specials and provide live music. Those who have signed up or sign up to take part in the trip also receive packets that offer information about each town to be visited—historic sites, places of special interest, coupons for freebies or discounts for shops in each town visited.
Participants can be expected to start rolling into Rockford around noon and parking at South Squires. SeKrenes said not just antiques, but any kind of vehicle may be found on display, many with informational material about the history of the vehicle. He said the car drivers, all ages, many multi-generations taking part together, will wander Rockford, appreciating the many restaurants, the beautiful views of the Rogue River and the shops. The day here in Rockford will include a visit to a home with an automotive museum located in outbuildings behind the residence.
The historic appreciation of Michigan’s heritage is a built-in component of the Back To The Bricks in Flint and in this promotional tour. SeKrenes said the towns the tour rolls through are always thrilled and many roll out the red carpet. As an example, during the drive through Hart the cars are invited to be part of the town’s annual Asparagus parade. Organizers also favor businesses with a background that includes automobiles, such as old drive ins and drive-up diners.
“We always have a lot of cars join us as we go,” said SeKrenes. “People can join for the whole tour or hop on and stay for a few cities and then hop off.” He said the first year of the event the tour was planned to go all the way to New York City and be featured on Good Morning America, although that fell through. Last year was in honor of our military guard and included a crane displaying a gigantic American flag and B-52 bombers flying over. The local television station in Flint has a crew along, filming the activities and reporting back to folks in Flint.
It is ironic that Rockford became part of the agenda, which SeKrenes said will likely be part of the tour every year from now on. SeKrenes’ son works for a company in Rockford that installs commercial flooring, including the floors in new Meijer stores. SeKrenes was in Rockford one winter weekend visiting his son and came downtown for the ice festival. He was charmed by the history here, the old buildings, the dam, the dining, the whole Rockford experience.
After approaching his Back To The Bricks board, telling them he thought Rockford was prime enough a destination to deserve a day stop here, he approached the City and the Chamber to set up the event.
The Back to the Bricks in Flint, has become a huge deal with an annual city-wide party including 1960s and 1970s famous bands, the car show which has upwards of 400 cars and 400,000 visitors and has lead to the creation of life-sized statues of automotive leaders such as David Buick and Louis Chevrolet. It has not only certainly become a huge medium of economic activity, but is also bringing economic growth to Rockford. For more information, google Back To The Bricks.