Nestled almost exactly between the major cities of Detroit and Chicago, Kalamazoo, Michigan, is a lively college town that has been influenced greatly by the many educational establishments in the region, including Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College.
Home to about 75,000 people, Kalamazoo is located in the southwestern region of Michigan and serves as the county seat of Kalamazoo County. Most of this 25-square-mile city is positioned on a bend in the Kalamazoo River; however, a small portion of the city established itself on the river's opposite bank. The city is segmented by a number of small tributaries that fork from the Kalamazoo River and flow through the city.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
In the past, Kalamazoo was a strong supplier of various agricultural goods such as farm crops and bedding plants. The city was a major shipping point for celery-so major, in fact, that the city acquired the nickname "Celery City."
Today, the economical makeup of Kalamazoo is driven by a number of key industries and businesses that are located throughout the city:
- Flavorings: A number of establishments committed to the manufacturing of flavorings are set up and headquartered in Kalamazoo. A.M. Todd Company is a main producer of peppermint oil and other flavorings. It began as an essential oils company and has since expanded to produce botanical extracts and nutritional supplements. Kalsec is another flavorings company that got its start in the city of Kalamazoo. This company produces spices, herbs and vegetable extracts for use in the food and beverage, and pharmaceutical industries.
- Breweries: One of the most famous brewing establishments in Kalamazoo is Bell's Brewery (formerly Kalamazoo Brewing Company), which ships its unique brews throughout a 15-state area. Another brewery is Olde Peninsula. Known for its root beer, this downtown microbrewery was Kalamazoo's first brew pub and operates a full-service restaurant.
- Manufacturing: Although the area is located in a region famous for its automobile manufacturing, Kalamazoo is home to a unique manufacturing company: Heritage Guitars, a guitar-design center. This company spawned from the Gibson Guitar Corporation, which was founded in Kalamazoo. Gibson guitars, known for their high quality, gained fame thanks to musicians such as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, and Slash of Guns 'N Roses. The original Gibson operations were moved to Nashville, Tennessee and Bozeman, Montana, in the 1980s, but many employees stayed in Kalamazoo to open Heritage Guitars.
- Health care: The Upjohn Company, a pharmaceutical-manufacturing company, was founded in Kalamazoo in 1886. The company is now part of the Pfizer Corporation, which has renovated and added on to Upjohn's original facilities in downtown Kalamazoo and nearby Portage, Michigan.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Kalamazoo has several neighborhoods:
- The Central Business District is a neighborhood that is known for its nightclubs and microbreweries.
- Edison is the most populous neighborhood of Kalamazoo and includes the Mayor's Riverfront Park.
- Knollwood, Stuart and West Main Hill are primarily student neighborhoods, given their close proximity to Western Michigan University.
- Other notable neighborhoods from the city are Arcadia, Burke Acres, Eastside, Hill 'N' Brook, Milwood, Oakwood, Parkview Hills, Vine and Westwood.
The universities and colleges that have shaped Kalamazoo as a college town offer a variety of educational programs to their students. Whether students hope to attend two-year or four-year programs, or certification courses, Kalamazoo has a program to fit each student's needs:
- Western Michigan University is a research university and home to the Hawthorne College of Business.
- Kalamazoo College (K College) is a four-year college of arts and sciences.
- Kalamazoo Valley Community College is a two-year college that offers certificate programs and associate degrees.
- Everest Institute (formerly Olympia Career Training Institute) offers short-term degree programs, including criminal justice, business, and accounting.
- Davenport University focuses on developing careers in business, health, and technology.
- Spring Arbor University is a Christian-focused liberal arts university.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Kalamazoo is rarely still; residents and visitors can find something to do during all seasons. The city typically hosts three to four events every month, and some of those events occur every month.
- Art Hop: On the first Friday of every month, the city's art council hosts an event to celebrate local artists of the area. Local art galleries and businesses open up to highlight a variety of works from area artists. Visitors can view or purchase artwork.
- Gold Company Invitational Vocal Jazz Festival: Highlighting high school, community college, and university vocal jazz ensembles, this annual event occurs in March.
- Dionysos Greek Festival: This annual June festival features Greek cultural events, food, and drinks. The three-day event is held at the Arcadia Creek Festival Place in downtown Kalamazoo.
- Black Arts Festival: The Black Arts and Cultural Center hosts a week of free art shows and events that highlight black artists. This July event takes place downtown and culminates with events at Arcadia Creek Festival Place.
- Kalamazoo Holiday Parade: A November tradition, this event in downtown Kalamazoo features a parade with beautiful floats, marching bands, and Santa and his elves.
- Eccentric Day: This event takes place very December at Bell's Eccentric Café to celebrate the last day of finals at Western Michigan University with Bell's Eccentric Ale.
Kalamazoo provides a number of media sources for local events:
- Kalamazoo Gazette: This daily newspaper is owned by Newhouse Newspapers.
- Western Herald: Students at Western Michigan University run this newspaper, which is distributed throughout the Kalamazoo area.
- WWMT Channel 13: This CBS affiliate is headquartered in Kalamazoo and serves the entire western region of Michigan.
- Community access center: This center is located in downtown Kalamazoo and is charged with providing daily media programs to the public. The channels on which the center operates include cable channels 19, 20, 21, 22, and 95.