Detroit Riverwalk “River Days” a Success



River Days a success, officials say; bigger ’08 event planned


The first Detroit International River Days ended a little early when the sky dumped water all over the festivities, but that by no means made the outdoor party a washout.

Between the time the festival and the east riverfront officially opened Friday morning with the snip of a blue ribbon to the time the pouring rain forced rides to shut down early Wednesday afternoon, about 700,000 people came down to check out the festivities, organizers said, triple the number they had hoped for.

“I sent a note to our team that said we had very high expectations,” Matt Cullen, general manager of Economic Development and Enterprise Services for General Motors Corp., said Wednesday afternoon. “I didn’t have any idea that this many people would come down.”

As for next year? River Days will be back.

“It’s just been fabulous,” Faye Nelson, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, said Wednesday. “We have had a river that for far too long we have not had access to and not been able to enjoy, so for us to be able to bring the community and the river together has been terrific.”

Nelson added that the conservancy plans to again partner with GM and the Parade Company for River Days 2008. The exact dates for next year have not been determined yet, but Joan LeMahieu, president of the Parade Company, said the plan is to again tie the festival to the fireworks.

The six days of this year’s festival allowed for plenty of repeat attendees, such as Detroit resident Samson Imalele, 53, who returned to River Days with his four children Wednesday after attending Sunday.

“They kept badgering me,” he said of his kids. “They said, ‘If we don’t come back today, we have to wait a whole year!’ ”

Even as the rain fell and the rides closed, Imalele’s children, ages 2 to 9, sprinted in and out of the fountain in the General Motors Plaza and Promenade, which had been a center of festival activity.

Imalele said of Sunday’s experience at River Days, “Whoo! I’ve never seen so many people in my life. All the diversity, all the backgrounds. And all the lines. Buying tickets was like going to a Rolling Stones concert.”

Nelson, LeMahieu and Cullen, who also cochairs the RiverFront Conservancy’s Board of Directors and chairs the Parade Company’s Board of Directors, said debriefing and planning for a bigger and better 2008 River Days would begin in a few weeks.

Nelson said concessions for the Rivard Plaza and Pavilion and Gabriel Richard Park would open in July.

“This is not episodic,” she said. “Once the carnival goes away and the vendors shut down, we still have a beautiful riverfront to enjoy.”

Contact ERIN CHAN at

Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.


~ by Keith A. Owens on July 3, 2007.

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