Manchester Village was deeded to John Gilbert in 1826 and platted on paper. Only a few settlers arrived before 1832. The Village began to grow in 1837, after a township government was formed. The site was one of the last places settled, because of the boggy ground and tree stumps. The farmlands were in "oak openings" described by James Fenimore Cooper.
Many of the first settlers came from the New England states. These people were often solemn, bent on self-improvement even in their leisure time. Church functions, spelling bees, country dances, fiddle playing, and the "Lyceum Study Club" were a change of pace from their daily and often physical routines. Community festivities reflected these attitudes. Handbills from the pre-Civil War era list tightly programmed and serious events. Long speeches were common. However, spontaneous horse races and card games at the taverns were popular pastimes for the more exuberant.
By the 1880's, many German immigrants had moved to the area, opened businesses, and began farming. They were a major influence on Village culture. For example, their traditional celebrations were active and light in tone. Sporting events took precedence over oratorical programs on public occasions, although self-improvement activities were still highly valued. The Germans interjected the idea of having fun as well as making money on the public events. Advertising themes were evident in parades. Local businessmen and organizations constructed floats to highlight a variety of services. Goods were thrown as favors to the crowd, a custom that survives in today's annual Community Fair Parade.
In the late 1960's, Manchester's Chamber of Commerce organized a movement to coordinate the appearance of downtown structures by accenting their Nineteenth Century architecture. Merchants chose complementary exterior paint colors for their tall and narrow buildings. Some removed their modern facades to reveal a rich array of architectural detail. Cornices, metal pillars and window moldings were highlighted rather than downplayed. The result is a warm and inviting shopping environment reminiscent of earlier days. The Manchester Area Historical Society has grown steadily in strength and visibility since its organization in the late 1970's. It sponsors activities and has spearheaded the recognition of four State Historic Sites and one National Historic Register site in the Village. It also contracted and donated a 19th century style gazebo in Wurster Park to the Village (partially financed through a Michigan Equity Grant).
Community-wide festivities are still a dominant theme in Village life. Several events generate revenue, others are just fun. Some residents joke that the year begins and ends the third Thursday in July, when the famed Manchester Chicken Broil occurs. Local residents prepare and serve over 14,000 charcoal grilled chicken dinners in one day. The Manchester Chicken Broil was held for the 50th time in 2003. Improvements to the Alumni Memorial Field and Carr Park, the purchase of Kirk and Chi-Bro Parks as well as providing funds toward the purchase and restoration of the historic Blacksmith Shop, were all possible, because of funds raised by the Manchester Chicken Broil.
A canoe and boat race has been held every May for the past several years. Contestants from all over the county participate.
Parades are held on Memorial Day and during the Community Fair. The Memorial Day parade includes the High School Band, veterans groups, and the Boy and Girl Scouts. It is followed by a ceremony at the cemetery. The Community Fair Parade, which is often three miles long, also features the High School Band along with floats, decorated bicycles, antique cars, displays from local businesses, and the twelve contestants for the Fair Queen contest.
A Fourth of July celebration, which includes a community picnic and fireworks display, is one of the largest in the county with attendance coming from neighboring communities and counties.
Gazebo concerts are held on Thursday evenings from June through August at Wurster Park. Entertainment is provided by a variety of musicians. The type of music varies week to week. A new addition to the summer music scene is the Riverfolk Festival, held for the first time in 2002, with encores planned for the first Saturday in August each year.
The five-day Community Fair, held every summer, draws entries and exhibits from the residents of the Village and surrounding townships. It is a five-day display of home cooking, handcrafts, livestock, pets, and pony and tractor pulls. A carnival features a midway and rides. Afternoon and evening entertainment are also offered.
There are many organizations in Manchester, which provide a variety of leisure-time activities. The Sportsman's Club sponsors dinner-dances, skeet shoots, out-of-town trips, volunteer social service, fraternal gatherings, literary discussions, historical presentations, workshops, and so forth. There is a community brass band that performs in concert annually. The Manchester Men's Club, the Optimist Club, Chamber of Commerce, Knights of Columbus and Kiwanis sponsor a diversified series of annual events including volleyball leagues and tournaments; Christmas tree sale; Easter candy and flower sale; shopping sprees for underprivileged children at Christmas; River Raisin clean-up; a visit from Santa Claus, which includes songs by the grade-school; youth contests in basketball, baseball, and football skills; swine, lamb and steer clubs for youth; youth dances; recognition of a high school Student of the Month; oratorical and essay contests, and a Halloween party following trick-or-treating in the Village. There are a variety of women's church groups. The Historical Society holds monthly meetings open to the public. It sponsors such events as the annual Luminaria exhibit. For a nominal fee, Village residents purchase a number of luminaries, which they place outside their homes along the streets on Christmas Eve giving the Village a seasonal appearance. It draws viewers from the surrounding towns
Manchester Village is a small, closely-knit community, which provides opportunities for leisure time involvement in organizations, churches, and schools. It provides cultural resources for residents of the adjacent rural townships. The Village is a full service center and not a suburb. Its geographical position has thus far saved it from the pressures of rapid urbanization and encourages self-sufficiency even in recreational pursuits. However, the Village is within driving distance of a variety of cultural events in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Adrian, Jackson, and of programs at two universities and several colleges.
Community organizations in Manchester sponsor regular events, which have become important traditions in Village social life. Several organizations have provided most of the support for the park and recreation system. Throughout the years, innumerable contributions of energy, time, and materials have been donated as part of the desire to "take care of our own." For a number of years, these volunteer organizations spearheaded park and recreation development plans. They continue to support them, but the Village Council also currently commits .6019 mills of the general tax levy for parks operation and development.