The Joys of Riverwalk

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March 12, 2007

River Walk gets Summer Blast!

6-day fest tied to fireworks aims to get crowds enjoying riverfront.

By Nolan Finley

The Detroit News

R emember that scene from “Animal House,” where the rogue frat boys are ticking off their list of infractions and failings, weighing what to do next, when John Belushi shouts, “Toga Party!”?

Metro Detroit will issue its own version of that in-your-face rebuke of doom and gloom early this summer when it stages a six-day blowout to debut the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy’s 3.5-mile River Walk.

The festival, a joint production of the conservancy and the Parade Co., will begin Friday, June 22, and culminate with the annual downtown fireworks the following Wednesday. Organizers, who are expected to announce the details this week, plan big-name concerts, food tastings and family-oriented activities.

It’s described as similar to the downtown Winter Blast spawned by the Super Bowl, only warmer and longer in duration.

And it couldn’t come at a better time.

This has been one of the tougher winters Michigan has faced in a long, long time. Comerica’s leaving. Chrysler’s on the block. Our kids are packing up and leaving for greener pastures. And the only thing we aren’t short of is red ink.

If we don’t deserve a few days of enjoying the sun and water while pouring beer over our heads, who does?

The mission of the River Walk is to make the riverfront a community gathering place, and the mission of the festival is to introduce Metro Detroit to the River Walk.

Up to 1 million people attend the fireworks, and the hope is that many of them will come down as well for a few days of the festival.

If they do, they’ll seek a string of parks and pavilions linked by a walkway that for now stretches east from the Renaissance Center and ultimately will extend west to the Ambassador Bridge.

The Riverfront Conservancy hopes to stage events throughout the summer to lure visitors to the river, and expects the festival to become the annual centerpiece of those efforts.

“Events like these are the key to Detroit’s future,” said Susan Scherer, who was executive director of the Super Bowl Host Committee. “It’s a bit like having a party in your home — you’ve got it all dolled up, how do you drive people downtown since there isn’t that natural population yet living there? It’s essential to do these things.”

Staff Writer Michael H. Hodges contributed to this report. Nolan Finley is editorial page editor of The News. Reach him at nfinley@detnews.com or (313) 222-2064. Read his daily blog at forums.detnews.com/blogs.

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~ by Keith A. Owens on March 12, 2007.

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