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Jan 15, 2016

What’s unique about your town?

Maybe it’s that little coffee shop down the road, which has inhabited the place for decades. Or that one bar everyone gathers at on Fridays. What about that spooky ghost story that’s based off a true event that happened in your town?

Michigan Radio’s Emily Fox wants to know about these places, and you have the answers. The stories of these quirky attributes or historical sites can be told through Michigan Radio’s Community Vibe series, which explores one interesting thing about different towns across the state.

All we need is your help. For inspiration, check out highlights from the stories the Community Vibe series has told so far:

Credit Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society Collection

How the largest gay resort in the Midwest is in Michigan’s ‘Bible Belt’

That’s right: the gay community is thriving in Saugatuck and Douglas, two West Michigan resort towns. But, surrounded by conservative Christian communities, how did this hot spot come to be?

Emily, who spoke with Johnathan Schruer, a Saugatuck resident, reported on Monday:

If you follow the Kalamazoo River about a mile from downtown Saugatuck, it dumps into Lake Michigan where you see miles and miles of dunes. Up until five years ago, one of those dunes hosted a private nude beach. Schruer says that’s where the gay community gathered for more than a century.

“There were newspaper articles from the 19th century that referenced men laying out in the nude,” Schreur says, “So in the 1890s already, that was going on.”

But this didn’t just happen by random happenstance. In 1910, the Art Institute of Chicago opened a summer program called Ox-Bow in the area, and soon, more gay men and women flocked to these towns, according to Schruer.

Credit Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

A visit to Hell (Michigan)

Emily went to Hell and back for her next piece. Hell, Mich., that is.

About 20 miles northwest of Ann Arbor sits Hell — a small town with a big knack for puns. There’s the Hell Hole bar, T-shirts that read “Get over it, Hell froze over,” and even a Locks of Love Bridge and a wedding chapel.

John Colone grew up near the town and now owns two of the three commercial buildings in Hell. He says the name particularly resonates with him.

Emily reported on Tuesday:

Colone likes to take themes of hell and the afterlife lightly. He says he’s a Vietnam vet and says he had a pretty hellish near-death experience when he was in the war.

“During Tet Offensive of 1968 we were at Fantiet and there was 23 in our platoon and 17 were wounded or killed and I was actually shot five times and found in a body bag in the morgue,” Colone says. “I rolled off a pile of bodies and the second time I rolled off, they decided to open the bag.”

He says he came back from the dead “and still ended up in Hell.”

Credit Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

An Amish community modernizes in Michigan: Goodbye horse and buggy, hello minivans and power tools

There's an Amish community in a small town called Rosebush, near Mt. Pleasant and Clare — and they’re using some modern technology.

Emily reported Wednesday:

Wayne Helmuth is Amish and lives about 10 miles south of Clare in the tiny village of Rosebush

“We don’t see ourselves as all that different, it is only because the world has changed,” Helmuth says.

Helmuth and his wife dress like they're from the early 1900's. His wife wears a bonnet and a long dress that looks like it belongs on the set of Little House on the Prairie.

The Amish are a branch of the Mennonite church. The way they dress and their lifestyle is based on their interpretation of the Bible.

“We don’t dress differently just to be different,” Helmuth says. “We dress differently because we want to represent modesty.”

The community may use modern technology, because for some jobs, it’s difficult to make a living without electricity.

Helmuth has a cell phone and drives a white minivan.

Credit Jodi Green / flickr

What it means to be ‘Downriver’

As New Jersey is to New York, River Rouge is to Detroit, according to Don Duprie, a third-generation resident of the Downriver community.

Emily reported on Thursday:

Duprie is proud to be from River Rouge.

“We worked for a living,” he says. “We busted our butts. We didn’t get nothing handed to us and we got our hands dirty and things like that.”

But Duprie says River Rouge and other Downriver communities get a bad rap. He says people from Downriver are called things like, “stupid hillbillies” or “trash.”

But the area has its own beat, which especially resonates with Duprie, an artist himself. When he sees River Rouge, he sees beauty.

“I dig it. I think it’s a very picturesque, beautiful thing,” Duprie says.

Do you have a story to tell? Let us know! You can leave us a message at 248-962-3806, or fill out this form. You can also tweet us or message us on Facebook.

- Jennifer Calfas, Michigan Radio Newsroom