Community | Events | Outdoors

Belle Isle Aquarium & Conservatory celebrate 110th birthday

It’s a party, and much more!  Visitors to Belle Isle this Saturday, August 16 will experience a multitude of events and celebrations.  The Belle Isle Conservancy and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are celebrating the Belle Isle Aquarium and Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory’s 110th Birthday from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m., BLISS Summer Saturday events throughout the day at various locations around the island and a meet-and-greet of Belle Isle Park staff and partners in an open house from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. at the Flynn Pavilion.  Here’s the full line-up of what’s going on:

Aquarium and Conservatory Anniversary Celebration
Part of the Belle Isle Summer Saturdays (BLISS) program, the birthday celebration will feature free family-friendly activities to celebrate the 110 years the Aquarium and Conservatory have served as cultural institutions. The birthday celebration will include free goodies, giveaways, vintage games, arts and crafts, face painting, and more from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Belle Isle Aquarium and Conservatory. In honor of the occasion, the Belle Isle Conservancy will also be selling limited edition t-shirts and coffee mugs.

“This has been a great summer so far, and we’re really looking forward to celebrating with the August 16th birthday party,” said Michele Hodges, president of the Belle Isle Conservancy. “This event really shows the power of collaboration to create experiences for our guests.”

On this 110th anniversary, a special gift has been made to the Aquarium by donors who were drawn to the uniqueness of the building, quality of design, and the opportunity to show their children and future generations the importance of preserving something that stands the test of time. The generous donation allows for the restoration of two skylights that have been shuttered since 1954, as well as the renovation of the small tank alcove in the rear of the building, bringing an exhibit back to that area of the Aquarium.

“The restoration project is symbolic of Detroit’s tough times, as well as its rejuvenation, and symbolic of a small group of people linked by commitment and conviction that the Aquarium is important and remains here today,” said donors Randy and Trayce Fenton. “By restoring the skylights, the original Albert Kahn design of natural light is restored. For our family and many others that need to let light back in to their lives, we are dedicating this project in loving memory of our son.”

The restoration work on the skylight project is scheduled to be finished in September for the public to see the light come through as it was intended more than 110 years ago.
BLISS Summer Saturday Events

The anniversary celebration is part of the larger BLISS Summer Saturday series of events on the island. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., BLISS’ presenting sponsor, Charter One, will be providing complimentary Recreation Passports on a first-come first-served basis to those who register at the Information Table, located at the Belle Isle Aquarium. The Recreation Passport is required for vehicle entry to Michigan state parks, including Belle Isle Park. Featured BLISS activities include:

  • Yoga from 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. at the Conservatory Gardens(first 50 participants each month receive complimentary Recreation Passports, courtesy of Kind Snack Bars);
  • Hustle and ballroom lessons from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. at the area next to the Flynn Pavilion (directional signage will guide attendees);
  • Kid Zone from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Aquarium with arts and crafts, sno cones, DJ, moonwalk and more, sponsored by Cornerstone Schools;
  • Vintage baseball game from 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. at the Athletic Fields, presented by The Henry Ford;
  • Food concessions from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at various locations (pricing based on vendor);
  • Family-friendly painting lessons from 11 a.m. – 1p.m. at the Flynn Pavilion by Paint and Pour for $25; and
  • Kayaking at the Belle Isle Beach from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. by Detroit River Sports (fees: $15/hour single, $20/hour tandem).

BLISS will wrap-up September 20 with the Belle Isle Biergarten, which will be a vintage-style beer garden experience, presented by the Belle Isle Conservancy’s Emerging Patrons Council.

Belle Isle Open House
The Belle Isle Park open house, hosted by the DNR, will take place from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. at the Flynn Pavilion on this date. Take the opportunity to meet DNR Belle Isle Park staff, DNR Law Enforcement Division conservation officers, DNR outreach and education program staff, Michigan State Police officers, Belle Isle Conservancy staff and representatives from partner organizations including the US Coast Guard – Belle Isle Station.

In addition to a meet-and-greet, those stopping by the open house can enjoy interactive games, face painting, bounce houses, music, refreshments and gift give-a-ways. Conservation officers will also have equipment on display, including boats and patrol cars, which visitors can explore and learn more about.

“We encourage visitors to take this opportunity to meet staff dedicated to the revitalization of Belle Isle, ask questions, enjoy conversations and engage in games and fun for the entire family,” said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division chief. “The Detroit community is instrumental in the park’s revitalization, and the DNR and our many partner organizations appreciate the opportunity to meet Detroit area residents who care so deeply about the island.”

While on Belle Isle, visit the Scott Fountain which runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Labor Day, stop by the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory and the Belle Isle Nature Zoo, both open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday and the Belle Isle Aquarium which now has extended days and hours, open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The Dossin Great Lakes Museum is open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. as well as Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the summer.

Tatiana Grant
Tatiana Grant is president of Infused PR & Events, and co-owner of Flash Delivery. Infused PR & Events offers premier public relations and event planning services to celebrities, small businesses, non-profits and corporations. A self-proclaimed "foodie", Tatiana decided to turn an idea into reality after realizing she needed dinner delivered to her. After some research, she discovered this could turn into a viable business venture. The concept of Flash Delivery was born. Flash Delivery is a restaurant and grocery delivery service, focused on downtown Detroit. Tatiana enjoys spending time with her friends and family, and taking weekend trips to various cities. More importantly, she enjoys food... fine dining, fast food, slow food, whatever kind of food.