How to Picnic in the D (When You’re Used to Gorgeous West Michigan)

How to Picnic in the D (When You’re Used to Gorgeous West Michigan)
Photo by Jonathon Arntson
Photo by Jonathon Arntson

After such a harsh and desolate winter, I could not wait to bust out the picnic basket I inherited from my grandmother and pop a squat in every park in my city. Back home, in Ludington, I used to have one picnic per week. Since that area abounds with natural beauty, I had countless picnic venues to choose from. I miss home for many reasons, but the separation from those picnic spots is one of the harder things I am dealing with here in Detroit. This spring, summer, and fall, I am systematically visiting every park I can get to in this city.

I kicked off this adventure two weeks ago after those few days of seventy degree weather that titillated. Best Friend and I packed up a few edibles, a sheet, and Turtle the turtle (he lives in the picnic basket). We drove to the where the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood ends in the Detroit River. Here lies Alfred Ford Brush Park. The park is the furthest West in a row of three Detroit parks and one in Grosse Pointe Park. It’s in need of a lot of help, but we found the location perfect for our first Detroit picnic of the summer.

Unfortunately, the weather didn’t give a Sinéad O’Connor about our picnic. While the sun was shining mighty bright, the wind was whipping down the Detroit River like it was trying to blow us into Canada (which is to the south of us here in the D). Best Friend and I were used to this having grown up in West Michigan. We had on a few layers of clothes and brought some things that were heavy enough to hold down the picnic sheet. It took me five times to get it flat, however, as my friend stood there laughing at me. It’s okay, she got her comeuppance a few minutes later when a plastic bag took flight and she chased it for a good one hundred yards before she was able to wrangle it to the ground.

Photo by Jonathon Arntson
Photo by Jonathon Arntson

A few ideas for windy picnics: bring rocks for the corners and center of the sheet, or use a rag rug that is heavy enough to hold itself down. Also, use metal flatware—it won’t fly away. Bringing a sack for trash is a good idea, unless you enjoy the thought of running 150 yards to collect something.

With these lessons in mind, Best Friend and I joined two more friends after the Easter Detroit Tigers game. We converged on the Riverwalk near Chene Park. This day was warmer and less windy than the previous picnic day. Because it was Easter, I packed legit ceramic dishes, tin serving pieces, Turtle the turtle, and a few bunny and Easter tchotchkes. My friends brought ham salad and rye bread for sandwiches, deviled eggs, broccoli and raisin salad, mixed-berry pie, and champagne—essentially, a picnic twist on a traditional Easter dinner.

Between the weather, laughter, and food, we enjoyed our Detroit picnic as much as any West Michigan picnic. The only thing missing, for me, was a walk down to Lake Michigan to get my toes wet.

Stayed tuned for more Detroit picnic tidbits as the summer progresses.

Jonathon Arntson, Contributing Writer

Photo by Jonathon Arntson
Photo by Jonathon Arntson

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grew up in Ludington where I spent most of my summers at the beach or napping afterward to the lingering rhythm of the waves. I moved to Detroit in September of 2013 to attend Wayne State University. When I’m not studying about communications or urban studies, I adventure around the streets of Detroit to learn my real lessons. Some of my favorite things about the Mitten are Jeffrey Eugenides, Tigers baseball, Michigan brews, UpNorth, and, of course, the Great Lakes. I love receiving responses to my thoughts–if you’re so inspired!