Custer sculpture to pay tribute to Johnny’s.

September 5, 2018

Custer sculpture to pay tribute to Johnny’s.

CUSTER — The Village of Custer announced today the launching of its fundraising campaign to build a sculpture. The sculpture will be part of the Mason County Historic Sculpture Trail and the Mason and Lake Music Heritage Trail.

The theme of the sculpture will be “Johnny’s Bandstand,” honoring the iconic entertainment business that has been in the village for 70 years.

The Mason County Cultural Economic Development Task Force invited the community of Custer to join the Sculpture Trail over two years ago.  The Village Council agreed and the community was asked to be a part of the planning committee and offer sculpture suggestions. The committee was tasked with selecting one element that set Custer apart from the other rural areas in Mason County.  After a year of meetings and discussions the committee voted on a sculpture theme of “Johnny’s Bandstand”, because the influx of entertainers who had appeared at the complex over four decades.

Johnny’s has long been a part of Custer history.  The business was started in 1948 by brothers Johnny and Tony Urban and named Northern Gardens, offering roller skating. Eventually, Johnny bought his brother out and started offering teen dances. Johnny’s Bandstand soon began bringing legendary artists to Custer.  As the only venue in west Michigan to seat over 500 people, Johnny’s became a stop on the circuit of many famous performers, thanks to Johnny Urban making connections with Dick Clark, Las Vegas promoters and the entertainers who played in Idelwild. Johnny also had a strong partner, his wife Maisie.  They were married for 60 years and worked together to make the business a success. They passed away in 2012, just three days apart.

Johnny’s Bandstand first hosted Bill Haley and the Comets to entertain people from all across. That was followed by at least seven Hall of Fame artists over the many years.  Recently Chubby Checker signed the Custer sculpture poster when he was performing in Manistee. He performed at Johnny’s in the late 1960s.

The sculptor selected is Tyson Snow, who created two sculptures which are included in the Sculpture Trail located at the Ludington Waterfront Park and Ludington Rotary Park. The bronze sculpture depicts two musicians and a singer standing with an old style microphone.  The steel base includes a bronze plaque bas-relief of dancers. This will be a commissioned piece of sculpture, thus it will be one-of-a-kind and, only in Custer.

The Village Council approved purchasing a small parcel of land adjacent to Mason County Eastern Schools on Main Street.  It will become a small park in addition to the sculpture setting. Development plans include a paver brick walkway made with donated personalized bricks, landscape, lighting and in the future, picnic tables and benches.  Donations are tracked by a large banner showing a musical scale of notes climbing to the goal of $63,000.

So far the project has received $20,000 towards its goal.  A large part of the funds so far have been donated from the Mason County Economic Development Task Force, with a grant of $17,000.  This grant was also given to the Village of Fountain for its sculpture and will also be applied to the scultpure in Scottville, which will honor the Scottville Clown Band. An additional $1,000 has been donated by West Shore Bank.

Donations may be sent to: Custer Sculpture Project, The Community Foundation for Mason County, P.O. Box 10, Ludington, MI 49431.

If anyone would like to create a personalized brick for the walkway, contact a committee member for a form or look for one of the paver brick order forms around Custer at various businesses.

Volunteers who would like to organize fundraisers, host a fundraiser or work on the landscape of the park site, are also being sought.

Custer Sculpture Committee: Lolly Griswold, co-chair: 757-3962; Karen Reader, co-chair, 757-2552;

Ron Bacon, 231-510-0818; Debbie Howe, 231-690-3536; Keith Livengood, 757-3495;

Ed Miller, 757-3729; Paul Shoup, 757-3103; Rita Wagner, 757-2841.


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