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Loons aside, Midland has art, history07/05/2013 10:48 AM ET
By Benjamin Hill / MiLB.com
One of the best things about going on a Minor League Baseball road trip is that there's always so much to see beyond the ballparks themselves. In this regard, the Minor Leagues serve as the impetus for explorations of towns and cities that one otherwise might not ever think to visit.
But just because one would never think to visit a particular town doesn't mean that it's not worth visiting, and this is something I've learned time and time again as I've traversed the Minor League landscape over the course of the past four seasons.
The Week That Was
A recent example is Midland, Mich., home of the Great Lakes Loons. Prior to attending June 25's ballgame, I took a whirlwind tour of three worthwhile destinations located in close proximity to Dow Diamond.
If you're ever in Midland to take in a ballgame, I'd recommend complementing the experience with stops at the following destinations. (And, on a broader level, I'm always interested in highlighting unique tourist destinations in Minor League towns. Send me an email with your favorites, and I'll do my best to highlight them in a future article or blog post.)
The Alden B. Dow Home and Studio
Herbert's son Alden was a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright who went on to enjoy a distinguished architectural career, and for the last 50 years of his life he lived and worked in a whimsical yet geometrically precise house -- constructed largely with one-foot square "Unit Blocks" recycled from the chemical company -- that has since been designated a National Historic Landmark.
I took one of the house's daily tours, joining a group of about two dozen people. Enthusiastic retired schoolteacher Sarah Yoder led us from room to room while explaining the guiding principles behind Alden's quirky, playful and functional aesthetic.
Highlights include a backyard pond used for both canoeing and ice skating, a model train set circling around a spacious drafting room and a basement theater featuring both a stage and projection screen. As an added bonus, I learned the architectural term "compress and release," a strategy heavily employed by Dow in which intentionally cramped entrance areas open up into spacious areas designed for relaxation and personal interaction.
Midland Center for the Arts
Assistant marketing director Kristen Wuerfel gave me a brief after-hours tour of the facility, passing by attractions such as a mastodon skeleton, an interactive periodic table of the elements and a full-size farm tractor en route to a fourth floor "Icons of the Sky" exhibit featuring the Lego architecture of Adam Reed Tucker (standing amid a 1/200 scale layout of famous skyscrapers, I felt a little like Godzilla but restrained myself from going on a Lego rampage).
"Icons of the Sky" runs through September, at which point it will be replaced by an exhibit featuring a live frog habitat.
"We've displayed everything from the unearthed terra cotta warriors of China to live frogs. It's very diverse, and we try to have something for everyone," said Wuerfel. "Midland is so richly blessed, as you're not often going to find this kind of quality programming in a town of 40,000 people."
Dow Gardens currently features an exhibit titled "Zimsculpt," which highlights work done by Zimbabwean artists. Sculptor Patrick Sephani (below), a native of Zimbabwe, tours with the exhibit and was happy to explain a little bit about the process.
"Sometimes we make sculptures that represent a person so that the community can remember him, but other times the sculpture might take on a more abstract form," said Sephani. "It all comes down to the stone. Once you get the stone you try to imagine what comes out of it, and that idea develops into the finished sculpture."
After visiting this triumvirate of Midland cultural attractions, I made the short drive to Dow Diamond to see the Loons take on the South Bend Silver Hawks. There will be plenty to come regarding that particular experience in a forthcoming Ben's Biz Blog post, but for now I leave you with one more Midland attraction:
Located in downtown Midland at the confluence of the Chippewa and Tittabawassee Rivers, the Tridge (an abbreviated way of saying "tri-bridge") consists of three entry points instead of the usual two. I had never heard of such a thing until I visited Midland and likely never would have, and that, in a nutshell, is why visiting Minor League stadiums can be such a beneficial experience.
Come for the baseball, stay for the Tridge.