Detroit River Walk, Detroit fireworks. It doesn’t get any better.


Not quite sure what’s gonna happen with the fireworks here just yet, but even if the event gets rained out this evening and they have to be postponed until tomorrow, that’s OK. Whenever it goes down, trust me, it’ll be off the chain.

The fireworks display in Detroit has always been a major deal, drawing hundreds of thousands of folks downtown to enjoy one of the nation’s best, and you won’t find many people willing to challenge that ranking. But this year will be the first year that the fireworks will be positioned not simply as an event unto itself but as  the grand finale of what even the most cynical among us would have to agree has been an incredible six-day celebration of the opening of Detroit’s new Riverwalk.

Listen, I don’t usually get worked up about much, but this Riverwalk is something beautifully, magically special. The River Days party was almost enough to make a Detroiter shed a few tears, and that is a hard, hard thing to do. My wife and I went last Friday, and then again on Sunday when we took the dogs. We couldn’t get enough of it. The people, the weather, the river, the music, the food, the crowds, the carousel, the helicopter rides, the jet skis, the vibe. All of it. Everything.

In all my 14 years of living here I’ve never seen anything remotely as encouraging, as enjoyable, or as hopeful as that event. When we finally decided to head on home late Sunday afternoon, I walked away convinced that Detroit is coming back. If this makes me naive, then fine. Whatever. But I’m telling you, there is something about that Riverwalk that offers more hope about Detroit’s future than a thousand new clubs, homes, or Book Cadillac renovations.


Because the Riverwalk is free and is for everyone. Because it looks like Detroit at its best. Because it looks like what Detroiters deserve, not what so many of us have allowed ourselves to accept and expect. The Detroit River Walk is not upscale, it’s not downscale, it’s just the best thing to happen to this city since I don’t even know when.

When I first moved to Detroit on a 7 degree winter day in January, 1993, I remember that the best view of the river was from the parking lot of the RenCen. The damned parking lot. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what a parking lot had ever done to deserve so much love. Then, some years later when I still lived in an apartment complex not far from the river, I remember when then-Mayor Archer had this insane plan to bring back the river by moving all three casinos down there. Thank God the plan never took hold, but the stench surrounding the idea was enough to transform Rivertown to Ghost Town.

Today, Detroit’s Riverwalk is considered to be one of the biggest and most impressive  riverfront transformations of any city in the country. Ten years ago I never, ever would have believed something like this could have happened.

So bring on those fireworks, man. Or bring ’em tomorrow. Or the next day. Bring ’em whenever you feel like. Whatever day they come, the River Walk will be there.


~ by Keith A. Owens on June 27, 2007.

7 Responses to “Detroit River Walk, Detroit fireworks. It doesn’t get any better.”

  1. I had the joy of being a part of something really special. I was visiting family in Detroit the day the Riverwalk opened. My brother Mike and I spent the day enjoying what I can only say was the best day I have every had in Detroit. I grew up in Melvindale and moved to California when I was 19. I never ever thought that I would see Detroit come around. Even the casino…did nothing compared to what the Riverwalk is doing for downtown. So I’m here to tell you that I am shouting about what a great place Detroit is to all my California friends, now if I could just convince Detroiter’s that what they have is something special. I left my heart in Detroit years ago and after last week I’m happy to say it’s beating again. Enjoy!!

  2. A sea of people seem drawn to the river by a piper,a crowd as diverse as a Sly Stone concert ,lets ride this momentum to the door of regional cooperation.Hey Keith great meeting you,this is the start.

  3. Hey Leslie!

    So glad to hear you say that, and thanks so much for stopping by and speaking out in support of The “D”!


    As always, glad to have you in the house. I definitely agree that this is the start of something great, and very possibly the beginning of the regional cooperation you speak of and that is so sorely needed.

    And you’re so right about the effect of water. Something about it draws people and just puts them in such a mellow mood. God knows we need that in Detroit..

  4. A sea of people seem drawn to the river by a piper,a crowd as diverse as a Sly Stone concert ,lets ride this momentum to the door of regional cooperation.Hey Keith great meeting you,this is the start

  5. Jenna,

    Great meeting you too! And thanks so much for dropping by. Hope you’ll be in the neighborhood often.

    And regional cooperation is the definite keyword here, you got that right on the head. Because that’s the only way this region has any chance of making it.

  6. The fireworks were amazing! I wish we had transit, I live downtown, but overlook the Foxtown parking desert. I feel for all the people who had to wait for hours in that mess.

    • Hey Sean!

      Thanks for stopping by, man. And I totally agree with you about the need for transit. Detroit needs mass transit BAD. Fortunately it looks like there nis finally some actual credible movement in that area.

      As for the fireworks, I used to live not far from the river at the Garden Court, and could actually watch the fireworks from my porch or from the roof of the building. Absolutely spectacular. I’m a west sider now, though, and no way am I going through all that traffic. But God bless those with the fortitude.

      Take care, and come on back to the ‘Spot’!

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