article and photos by Tina Cole-Mullins
HELL, Mich. — It seems that a lot of people want to go to Hell. Sometimes, you just can’t stop them.
Organizers of Just Hearse N’ Around’s 17th annual Hearse Fest found they couldn’t keep visitors away on Sept. 15, even though the event had been canceled.
“People plan their vacations around it. There is no way to stop the hearses from coming here,” said John Colone, the self-proclaimed mayor of Hell. “I’ve already announced it’s officially canceled, but it’s been a tradition with hearses coming from all over the country.”
After all, what better place to try and set a world record for the Longest Hearse Parade?
But this year a curse seemed to befall this ghoulish event. A conflict with the township over obtaining a permit for the festival brought plans to a screaming halt.
On the eve of the event, WHMI Livingston County released an updated statement from the Putnam Township supervisor and the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department. They planned to enforce a temporary traffic control order, it said, put in place by the Livingston County Road Commission.
And police presence clearly was visible upon entering the hamlet of Hell for the festival. But there was no sign of the expected “No Stopping, Standing, or Parking” signs along Patterson Lake Road. However, a Livingston County police car and “No Parking ” signs were visible every few feet along Riverbank Drive.
Colone could be seen speaking with a Livingston County police officer about vehicles parked on Patterson Lake road in front of the Hell Hole Bar. Meanwhile “Vehicles parking alongside the road will be towed” blared intermittently between the Hell’oween music.
While it appears as if another festival fell under Hell’s curse, as had the Helluva Cruise and Event 666, the truth has nothing to do with the supernatural.
Hell simply can’t hold thousands of people at a given time, and as many at 10,000 attended the Event 666. An estimated 1,000 attended Hearse Fest midway through this year’s unofficial gathering. With numbers like these, safety becomes a concern.
Reports claim local residents have complained to the township about parking and traffic. In an attempt to pacify those who complained last year, resident Alex Santos put up no-parking signs along the same roads as the official signs and police presence.
“It never bothered me, nor did I have an issue with it,” he said. “I see it as an exciting time and the reason for moving here in the first place.”
“With the addition of the no-parking signs, everything was perfectly passable,” he said. “Without these events, we’d be just another lake community—might as well just change the name.”
And when you live in Hell, you just might expect to see a hearse or two. But with 107 the world record to beat, the Guinness Book listing will have to wait for another year.
About 65 to 70 hearses could be seen, about the same as in past years. So canceling the event had little if any impact on the turnout of hearse enthusiasts.
On the plus side, the cancellation left the Hell Hole Bar as the only place to buy food or beverage on site. In addition to its traditional menu items offered inside the bar, Hell Hole served pulled pork, coleslaw and beer on tap under its tent. Screams Ice Cream and Novelties next door also enjoyed a steady flow of patrons.
For a canceled event said to be cursed, retail establishments sure seemed to do a helluva business.