The Rocket Plaza at Motown Museum had hundreds of visitors of all ages on Sunday, May 21 for Motown Museum’s Founders Day event. As the name implies, the event celebrated the Museum’s late founder, Esther Gordy Edwards.
Mrs. Edwards was the older sister of Motown founder, Berry Gordy Jr., and was often referred to as “Motown’s Mother.” When Berry Gordy Jr. moved Motown Records to Los Angeles, she stayed behind to handle the company’s Detroit affairs. Upon realizing the demand to visit the iconic house where the Motown sound was born, she began converting the space into a tourist destination with her own archive collection. In 1985, The Motown Museum officially came to fruition.
“It’s about celebrating community and activating what my grandmother set in motion,” announced Robin Terry, Chairwoman and CEO, who is the granddaughter of Mrs. Edwards.
And that it did. The event felt like a true Detroit block party with yard games, face painting, caricature portraits, food trucks, local vendors, and a whole lot of singing and dancing. Even the Detroit Pistons’ mascot Hooper made an appearance and danced along to some of his favorite Motown songs.
Guests lined up well before the start of the event just to secure a tour ticket into the Museum. Thankfully, they had a lot to do and see while they eagerly awaited their scheduled tour. DJ Invisible spun a mix of Motown songs and today’s hits that had museum guests, event employees, and Motown stars all on their feet, dancing together as one joyful community.
Motown alumni in attendance included Martha Reeves, Miller London, Joe Herndon, Paul Riser Sr and Henry Fambrough. At one point, Martha Reeves danced for the crowd to her own song, Dancing in the Street, and encouraged audience participation.
The day’s performances highlighted Motown Museum’s artist development program, Hitsville NEXT. Previous winners of the Motown Mic and Amplify competitions took the stage, including most recent Amplify winner, Drey Skonie. There was a memorable performance by The Fab 5, a group of young alumni from The Lyric Project, our audition-only songwriting summer camp. While in last summer’s camp, these young artists formed a powerful vocal group. You’ll definitely want to keep an eye on these fresh faces!
Michigan senator, Debbie Stabenow, also made a visit. After touring Hitsville U.S.A. and playing a quick tune on the piano in Studio A, she joined Robin Terry on stage in recognition of her support of the Museum’s expansion. She spoke on securing a $10 million federal grant for the Museum, which is the largest donation supporting our $65 million expansion project.
The entertainment culminated with a surprise performance by The Spinners. They opened with an impromptu acapella performance of That’s What Girls are Made For. Then, long-standing member, G.C. Cameron, joined the group on stage to take lead on It’s a Shame.
We welcomed the group back home on Friday, May 19, with a private ceremony and reception where they were celebrated for a generous donation of costumes and shoes to be displayed in the Museum. At Founders Day, they were able to celebrate again with an open performance. Hitsville wouldn’t be the same without all of the support we receive from our entire community. We are so thankful when we can share our excitement and history with the public as one community.