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Kingsford plans events for 2023 centennial

THE FORMER FORD Motor Company plant in Kingsford, shown in 1942. Kingsford was established in 1923 when Edward G. Kingsford purchased 313,447 acres of land for Henry Ford to establish a sawmill and parts plant to make wooden components for Ford automobiles. The plant remained in operation until 1951. (Submitted photo)

KINGSFORD — The community that Ford built will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023.

Kingsford was chartered as a village on Dec. 29, 1923, and became a city on Aug. 5, 1947.

A year of events and family-oriented activities are being planned to mark the centennial, highlighted by a festival Aug. 3-5, 2023, at Lodal Park.

The city council has chartered the Kingsford Centennial Committee as an independent non-profit entity. Many committee members also helped in planning the 75-year Diamond Jubilee in 1998.

The three-day festival will include national, regional and local performers, using the same talent agency that brought national entertainers Martina McBride, REO and Blackhawk to the Diamond Jubilee, said John Jessen, vice president of the centennial committee board of directors.

“WOODY” STATION WAGON bodies roll off the assembly line at the former Ford Motor Company plant in Kingsford in 1946. (Submitted photo)

Jessen, who again is serving as event coordinator, said they are still very early in the planning stages for the 2023 centennial.

They have planned a commercial parade Aug. 5, 2023, with Rick and Marty Lagina of the History Channel television series “The Curse of Oak Island” — both are Kingsford High School graduates — as grand marshals.

A car show also is planned that Saturday at Venue 906 on Breitung Avenue. A car cruise will begin at Venue 906, travel on Woodward and Harding avenues and then back to Breitung. There will also be a carnival, and educational opportunities for kids.

The jubilee celebration at Lodal Park drew more than 10,000 people. After repaying a loan from the city, organizers were able to donate $40,000 to various community organizations and projects. The goal for next year’s event is to double that amount and attract more than 15,000 people.

With lingering concerns about COVID-19, the committee is considering several steps to help keep people safe. New technology will help limit direct contact between spectators and staff with the use of RFID wristbands and cashless options for point-of-sale purchases.

This is going to require installation of reliable Wi-Fi infrastructure throughout the park that will also benefit sporting events and other activities at the park for years to come.

Kingsford was named for Edward G. Kingsford, a Ford dealer and real estate agent who purchased 313,447 acres of land for Henry Ford to establish a sawmill and parts plant for manufacturing wooden components for Ford automobiles. Kingsford was also married to Ford’s cousin.

At its peak, the Ford Motor Company plant in Kingsford had more than 7,500 workers who produced “Woody” station wagon bodies. The plant was converted to glider production during World War II.

A chemical plant was constructed and in operation by 1924 to use scrap wood produced by the motor company plant to make charcoal, which was sold as Ford Charcoal Briquettes.

When Ford closed the auto plant in 1951, a group of local businessmen purchased the chemical plant and renamed it Kingsford Charcoal. It continued operation in Kingsford until 1961 and is now a division of Clorox Company.

In 1998, a book was published on the history of the City of Kingsford titled “The City That Ford Built.” Due to the high demand for that book, which required a second publishing, the committee is working on publishing a new version.

They are getting considerable support from the Ford Motor Company Archives. They have also reached out to area families and current and former businesses for any articles, stories or pictures and photos that could be included.

Anyone with items to contribute can send them to

Other members on the board of directors include President Dennis Baldinelli, Tanya Hiltonen, Holly Palmer and Melissa Doucette.

Anyone interested in joining the committee is invited to attend the regular monthly meetings at 6:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday each month in the Kingsford City Hall council chambers.

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