You may have heard of a certain annual holiday event. It's been happening in Midtown every year since 1972. It opens the doors of the district's major museums and institutions and offers a free and festive view of the city's cultural center. It's Noel Night.
Started by the Detroit Adventure, a now defunct arts council, Noel Night was an event used to strengthen membership at Detroit's cultural institutions, but it's continued to flourish (even though it's begetter did not) as a holiday tradition in the years that have followed. Now directed by Midtown Detroit, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to community development; the evening is used not only as a district-wide "open house" but as a means to continue the growth of the city's cultural center.
Thirty-nine years after that first Noel Night, the evening is still what Midtown Detroit Inc.'s Special Projects Manager Annmarie Borucki refers to as "one of the best kept secrets out there."
And what does that mean exactly? Well, you probably won't ever see an advertisement for Noel Night. She says, instead of paying for ad space, the council tries to allocate its resources to booking venues and paying certain fees like for the closing of Woodward Avenue. Plus, there really isn't a need. According to Borucki, the average attendance of Noel Night is around 35,000 and most of the participating institutions are at their max capacity throughout the evening.
That's pretty amazing for a city that's supposedly on the brink of financial ruin, especially if you consider that the event is clearly continuing to grow. But those two facts are corollary, if you ask Borucki.
"We offer everything for free," she says. "So, it's an opportunity for families who wouldn't normally be able to go to these institutions."
By "everything" Borucki means access to 60 Midtown venues including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Historical Museum and the Detroit Public Library
Even families who've got the extra cash to visit the Detroit Science Center haven't been able to experience the institution's exhibits since its doors were closed in September, but on 12/3, there will be a one-night-only chance for metro Detroiters to explore those exhibits once more.
"We just couldn't image Noel Night without the Detroit Science Center," says Borucki. So, Midtown Detroit, Inc. decided to pay for the center to reopen, just for the night.
Patrons will be able to visit the planetarium, experience the IMAX and the multi-media Toyota Engineering Theater and there is even a chance the Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit will be opened to the public as well.
But Noel Night isn't just about Detroit's amazing museums and institutions (although they are a pretty big deal). There will be a lot of little stuff happening in Midtown that's just as exciting. There will be everything from book sales and bell choirs, to holiday bazaars and even bowling.
There will be countless musical acts throughout the evening at almost every venue. Some will be as big as gospel greats, the Blind Boys of Alabama and some will be as local as the Allen Park High School Marching Band.
There will be an array of art, from the Student and Alumni art sale at the Center for Creative Studies to Wayne State's Winter Art Market to 71 Pop's pop-up art galleries to the halls of the Detroit Institute of Arts, plus much more.
Create crafts with the kids at MSU's Detroit Center, MOCAD, The DIA, the International Institute, The Detroit Public Library, The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Barnes & Noble and plenty more places.
Sample sweets at Avalon International Breads or stop in for an obscure (and quite possibly bizarre) holiday film screening at Leopold Books.
Shop at stores like City Bird, Showtime and Soul Sisters or swing by the Somerset Collection's CityLoft (it'll only be open 12/1, 12/2 and 12/3).
Suffice it to say, Midtown Detroit, Inc. hasn't left much to want for in a holiday tradition that's been around for almost four decades. And if you haven't made it to a Noel Night yet, there's no reason not to make this your first annual trip.
"It's amazing to be out there," says Borucki. "It's amazing to be part of that excitement." | RDW
Fa la la la la your little heart out for free at Noel Night in Midtown on 12/3 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more info visit detroitmidtown.com/05/noelnight.