Skip Navigation
DNR - Department of Natural Resources | DNR Department of Natural Resources | DNR
Department of Natural Resources | DNR
close print view
Printer Friendly Page
Email this Page
Share this Link on Facebook
Tweet this page on Twitter!

Ronald Reagan at a Backyard Barbecue

Reagan Milliken picnic

On September 1, 1980, Emil and Mary Petri hosted a Labor Day picnic to remember. Their guests included Republican Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan and Michigan Governor William Milliken. (That's Mary Petri seated in the middle, between the two.)

In the original Detroit News report, Emil Petri noted that he "had been approached by friends in the Republican party" about hosting the barbecue. The Petris agreed. On the Friday before the party, they learned that Reagan and Milliken would also appear!

 Emil was an Allen Park steelworker who had been laid off earlier in the year. The economy was in a downturn, and many of Petri's neighbors were also unemployed. The blue-collar neighborhood had traditionally been a Democratic stronghold. Reagan listened to the neighbor's stories as he munched a hot dog and sipped a Stroh's Light.

Reagan gained at least one vote: Mary Petri's. While Emil identified himself as a Republican, his wife had traditionally voted Democrat. After the party, she declared that she'd be voting for Reagan that year. "This wasn't staged," she said of their encounter. "Nothing was held back."

Reagan and Milliken both made personal contributions to the Petris' picnic. Reagan donated a hunk of kielbasa, while Milliken brought some potato salad.

The Archives of Michigan contains many photographs of state and national political figures. The Archives also houses Michigan Executive Office records, while the private papers of many governors (including William Milliken) can be accessed at the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library ( Those interested in Ronald Reagan can visit the web site of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library ( Finally, Michigan History magazine's September/October 2004 issue is a collector's edition spotlighting Michigan politics. William Milliken is among the personalities examined. .

-Bob Garrett, Archivist

Click Archives of Michigan to visit the Archives of Michigan home page.

Click Image of the Month Archives for other archived image pages.

Archives of Michigan
Michigan Library and Historical Center
702 W. Kalamazoo Street
Lansing, MI 48913
Phone: (517) 373-1408

This was page was the Archives Image of the Month page for September, 2005.

Updated 05/18/2006

Michigan Historical Center
Use and Reproduction Information [PDF]
Contact us with your question or comment about this page.

QR code

Copyright © 2001-2014 State of Michigan