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Life as performance art

Life as performance art


By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel

A longtime resident who lamented the destruction by fire of the Big Pavilion in the 1960s.

Many people feel that way and treasure memories of the big bands that played here, roller-skating, movie nights and much more the Pavilion hosted. They hold a fond wish that it could be magically rebuilt.

It’s a dream, of course. that might turn into a anightmare should it be realized. Imagine the discussions we could have on a huge building like that right along the waterfront, the zoning challenges, security questions and all the rest.

Even if the same blueprints were used, it would never be the same atmosphere. “Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be,” Yogi Berra said, “and never was.

Over the past century and a half since Saugatuck was chartered as a village, it has reinvented itself many times.

The old trading post days were replaced by the lumber era. When the great forests were gone and the lumber companies moved, we became a fishing port and fruit growers.

At the turn of the last century a small group of Chicago artists started spending summers here and found no lack of scenes to paint. Ox-Bow resulted, which set the tone for a community that supported the arts, the Red Barn Theatre, then Mason Street Warehouse theatre.

On a much smaller level, when I came here there were shops that exclusively sold candles because they were popular at the time. Their popularity waned, then there were t-shirt shops galore, some shirts bearing racy messages or at least implications. When that died out, new businesses migrated in.

What has been the real strength of Saugatuck and Douglas has been resilience in our ability and willingness to reinvent ourselves. It leads to genuineness of the experience here.

Good times and bad, through wars, financial recessions and depressions, and demographic changes over the past 150 years, we’ve created a wonderful place to live and visit.

Happy birthday, Saugatuck!