We’re having a party, Detroit! No, sadly, it’s not the full-on, get-tipsy-with-other-real-live-humans kind of party. More of the look-at-these-pictures-and-use-your-imagination type — the sort of surrogate experience we’ve all become accustomed to settling for in these Zoom-ified, can-you-hear-me-now times.
But hey, a party’s a party. And, for now, we’ll take what we can get.
For our Best of Detroit issue this year, we invited a cast of winners to help us conjure up this imaginary soiree, held at the David Whitney Building on a hopefully not-too-distant evening when things are back to “normal.” Dressed to the nines after a year of sweats and slippers, we imagined, we’d hit the town with abandon and — perhaps after a mass mask-burning ceremony in Campus Martius Park — crowd together in that elegant space to party like it’s … oh, let’s say 2022. Just to be safe. Think of it as a sort of coming-back-out party for a city that’s been stuck in a COVID-induced, half-speed version of itself for far too long.
But this year’s issue isn’t just a celebration of the businesses that, with characteristic Motor City grit and imagination, powered through the pandemic and still managed to earn the affection of Hour Detroit readers — though it certainly is that, with winners chosen in more than 175 categories. It’s also an ode to all the little joys of life that we’ve missed out on over the past year and that are now — with vaccinations readily available to anyone with enough good sense to get one — tantalizingly close to being back within reach.
In his insightful essay, Stephen Henderson, the host of WDET’s Detroit Today (who also happened to be voted Best Radio News Reporter by our readers), reflects on his long-held belief that the best way to truly appreciate Detroit is to leave it, spend some time building a life elsewhere, and then come back. In many ways, that’s what the past year has been like for all of us, as we’ve been separated in a very real way from the full experience of Detroit life.
Throughout this issue, we asked some of our frequent contributors to tell us what they’ve missed most during the pandemic. What struck me in reading their diverse submissions was what they almost universally had in common. Whether they wrote about getting a late-night haircut in Dearborn, splitting a dessert downtown, or taking in a live show at El Club, what lay beneath each of their missed experiences was the same thing: the enriching presence of fellow Detroiters.
Henderson captured the sentiment beautifully in explaining why he hasn’t been back to the stunning Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts, even though it’s been open to the public for quite a while now: “For me, the strongest emotional resonance in that space comes from the people I’ve shared it with, the other Detroiters who come to mind when I think of that room.”
We’re itching to share this city with all of you again, too. But here’s the thing: That’s only going to happen when the pandemic is in our past. So, don’t be a killjoy. Roll up your sleeve, get your shot — and let’s get this party started.