I grew up in a small town, which beat out another better-known small in a Michigan’s best small town popularity poll run by the Lansing State Journal. It only won by six votes in the final round, so definitely a tight race.
I haven’t lived in Eaton Rapids, Michigan since I married and moved away in 1981, but I have family there and have spent a considerable amount of time there over the years. While I prefer my current residential location, Eaton Rapids does have a historical, small-town appeal that many love.
Before I delve into my hometown too deeply, let me give a thumbs up to the runner-up, Charlevoix, Michigan. I have always loved Charlevoix from the first time I went there. Charlevoix is bordered by Round Lake on one side, Lake Michigan on the other. Grab a whitefish dinner “to go” at Terry’s Restaurant, then walk across the street to sit in the park and eat overlooking Round Lake. A great, relaxing stop in northern Michigan.
Eaton Rapids, although not on any large bodies of water, is an Island City, the the G.A.R. park is an island within the island. The Grand River flows in and around the city, and everywhere you drive you are crossing bridges. Home of Miller Ice Cream, I grew up in a subdivision just down the street from Miller Farm #1, which is now a small historical village with an ice cream parlor and beautiful flower gardens to stroll.
Eaton Rapids is also home to the VFW National Home, the only one in the United States. The town’s latest claim to fame is the hosting of an Urban Air event, when vintage Airstream trailers line main street for a long weekend. I have not yet attended this event, but am putting it on my calendar for this year. Hopefully no conflicts arise, because I really want to visit during that time. Downtown, small-town features include an old-fashioned telephone booth that actually works, a river walk, the Island City Park, and several great eateries, including patio dining at Darb’s.
Congratulations to both my hometown of Eaton Rapids and another favorite, Charlevoix for being the best two small towns in Michigan.