Entering the small town of Manchester, roughly fifteen minutes away from Ann Arbor, it was obvious that we had actually traveled 32 years to the past. We found a small town where the community was thriving and closely tied together with similar values. Good schools, affordable historic homes, friendly people – what more could you ask for? Chicken you say? Well they had that as well. 500 volunteers from the neighborhood build cinder block pits fueled by charcoal to broil 14,000 chicken parts, serve 14,000 rolls, and one ton of Cole slaw.
The vandals and gangs from the street had been replaced by Boy Scouts, Brownies, and the industrious lemon aid stands. Oompha beats and rhythms of polka played instead of the oversized bass from the trunks of tricked out Toyota’s. There was nothing “special” about the brownies but the wholesome taste. Rather then suspicious stares and dirty looks, the locals said words like “Sir,” “Please,” and “Thank-you.”
We were scared at first, but took comfort in the fact that we had each other if nothing else. Ben tried to fit in with the crowd by wearing the local uniform, but could not choose between white or yellow. Kristi made friends easily with the union labor serving drinks. After dinner we found ourselves walking around the town wondering if we could find a way home, would we ever want to leave this Valhalla?
On our way out of town the price of gas was our first sign that we returned to our own time. And while our visit to Manchester was magical, it reminds us that you can never go home again; but why would you need to? The annual Chicken Broil is still held today and just celebrated 52 years of community fundraising. It is the embodiment of the American sprit that can never be broken.