by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor
A piece of history has been restored to its former glory or even better as the Westminster Park gazebo brought people together Saturday.
The structure housed the members of the Rogers City Concert Band, established in 1906 by Dr. William Arscott, as the band became the main occupant of the bandstand 12 years later.
“At that point the band began its tradition of performing weekly summer concerts,” said city manager Joe Hefele as he ran through the history of the structure. “In 1923 the Michigan Legislature adopted Act 230, which allows communities with populations under 50,000 to levy up to a half-mill to fund a band with the support of the electorate. So, the city cannot levy that. It has to be the voters who say they want this.”
Rogers Township voters approved the millage in 1926 and that continues today, Hefele said. Rogers City is only one of three communities in the state that has a voters’ approved millage to support a band, he said.
The bandstand began as a project at Michigan Limestone as leader Carl D. Bradley supervised its construction in 1918. The bandstand found a home on the courthouse grounds before the city relocated it to the City Hall grounds in 1934. When the new Norman J. Smith Memorial band shell was constructed in 1954, the city band played there and the original bandstand fell into disrepair and went into private ownership.
Hefele said Westminster Park had served as a baseball and football field until those were relocated to Gilpin Memorial Field. Later a water fountain along with walking trails and military displays were found in the park.
In 1973, the bandstand was acquired and restored by Donelda McWilliams, and relocated to what is now Beck Funeral Home. By 1989, the bandstand had fallen into disrepair and was reacquired by the city, then further restored by the Optimist Club and relocated to Westminster Park.
With Optimist Club president Mike Peltz leading the way, the structure was moved by the Optimists in 1989 onto the foundation of a no-longer-used water fountain in Westminster Park. A plaque honoring Peltz is in the park showing him on the top of the structure as it moved down Second Street, raising the utility lines so the structure could pass under. Later Peltz served on the city’s parks and recreation committee.
“Mike is a huge part why we were able to renew this gazebo. The community raised $22,000 and there will be some permanent plaques listing the donors,” said mayor Scott McLennan.
“The majority of the $22,000 was raised by Mike Peltz. He was a good friend to all and a good friend to Rogers City.” McLennan asked members of the Peltz family, including his widow Barb, to stand and be recognized.
McLennan recognized the efforts of the city department of public works crew and the builder, Corey Szatkowski, who did the work on the structure.
“Corey was the only one we could find who was capable of restoring this cedar shank roof,” McLennan said.
Jack Fults, director of the city band and the Rogers City High School band program, directed the city band as they played a march called “Nautical City.” The piece was written by Lloyd Conley as a tribute to his brother, longtime city band director Del Conley.
The Rev. Dr. Gregory Zurakowski, chairman of the parks and recreation commission acknowledged the members of the commission by calling out their names. They include Renee Szymanski, Jean Garratt, Maggie List, Ken Bielas, Kaelie Fessler, Brittany VanderWall, Erika Comerford and Val Meharg.
“The fact that the community made this happen, not some government commission or some outside entity, speaks to who we are in Rogers City as a community. And that is a really important word. We are not just a bunch of people who live in the same place, but we are a group of people who care for one another, who care for this town and community,” Zurakowski said.