July 10, 2014 at 1:00 am

Ragtime Street Fair syncopates Main Street with music and more

Visitors dressed in period costumes enjoy a meal on the lawn at Greenfield Village. (The Henry Ford)

There should be lots of toe tapping on Main Street at Greenfield Village this weekend when the Ragtime Street Fair swings into town.

Most of the action will take place along Main Street, where music will drift through the windows of businesses such as the Eagle Tavern, Grimm Jewelry Store, J.R. Jones General Store and the Wright Cycle Shop, the original building where the brothers built their airplane.

“We go over the top with it,” says Jim Johnson, senior manager of programs at Greenfield Village. “We transform our little urban stretch of Main Street into a slice of any small town America, circa 1912-1913.”

The atmosphere is a nod to New York City’s Tin Pan Alley days of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when songwriters in music publishing houses plunked out tunes on pianos.

The village green will become a playground for vintage base ball games, a concert and dancing.

Dressed in fashions from the era, Greenfield Village staff members will tap visitors to dance the Two-step whenever live music kicks in. Fair goers can learn the Turkey Trot, Fox-trot, the Grizzly Bear or the Bunny Hug, all popular dances of the time. There will also be a cakewalk, a turn-of-the-century dance with a chance to win a cake.

Stop at the Town Hall and listen to a re-creation of Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 presidential campaign speech, and the premiere of the 1915 silent movie “A Night in the Show.”

Pianists will battle musically during a contest Saturday. Live performers include Brent Beggs, Daniel McCarthy, Eric Shore, Jerry “The Wolverine” Perrine, John Remmers, the Moanin’ Frogs, “Perfessor“ Bill Edwards, Tartarsauce Traditional Jazz Band and Taslimah Bey.

The headlining act Saturday and Sunday is the River Raisin Ragtime Revue out of Tecumseh.

“Ragtime music is really an important part of our American musical heritage,” explains bandleader and music historian William Pemberton. “Before ragtime, people listened to music from other countries, and like America itself, it is a melting pot of music.

“It takes African-American rhythms and Latin rhythms and combines that with Eastern European harmonies and Western musical form and comes up with a totally new American music ... the first true American popular music.”

The band will perform songs such as “Pineapple Rag” from ragtime’s most well known composer Scott Joplin.

What would a street fair be without great food? Look for fresh strawberries drizzled over a biscuit and topped with homemade whipped cream, old-style hot dogs, boiled corn on the cob and hot fried dough with ice cream.

The fair will be held 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Information: www.thehenryford.org or (313) 982-6001.


Andrea Daniel is a freelance writer.

The sights and sounds of ragtime take over Main Street at Greenfield ... (The Henry Ford)