The Buick Snow Slide will return this year. Organizers say attendance goes up when the slide is part of the event. (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)
The snow and cold temperatures of late seem to have been the perfect set-up for the Meridian Winter Blast this weekend at Campus Martius Park in Downtown Detroit.
Now in its 10th year, the season-themed festival has long been a family affair with marshmallow roasting, ice sculptures, snowshoeing, snowmaking, dogsledding, ice skating, food and entertainment. And this year the three-lane Buick Snow Slide returns. It is a 7-second ride, more than 30-feet high and 200-feet long.
“We’re going into 2014 with a new title sponsor, Meridian Health Plan, and some fresh energy,” says Jonathan Witz, Winter Blast founder and event organizer. “And the Buick Snow Slide is just one of the favorite attractions over the years.
“We’ve not always had the sponsorship support, so there’ve been a few years that we haven’t had (the slide).” But, Witz says, the event sees an attendance boost when the slide is there.
The first Winter Blast in 2005 served as a test run for the Super Bowl XL-related Motown Winter Blast in 2006.
“We’re certainly going to put on one of the best Winter Blasts that we’ve had since our big year for our Super Bowl,” Witz says.
This year, he says, organizers expect attendance to increase from about 75,000 last year to 100,000. “We’re excited about the new partners, excited about the snow slide and excited about our lineup of acts.”
There will be four music stages in the Compuware lobby and Comfort Zones scattered around the festival where people can warm up and take in country, rock, blues, pop, acoustic, Americana, funk and soul music from a variety of musicians. Electronic music DJs bring the party, hosted by Movement Electronic Music Festival, on Friday and Saturday nights.
Country music singer Allie Shermetaro says she is excited to bring some country to the city.
“I’ll be doing some covers by Sugarland and Kerry Underwood and people along those lines,” says the 14-year-old.
The Rochester Hills resident, who has performed at the Downtown Hoedown and Arts, Beats and Eats, also plans to sing original music from her first CD, which she is recording.
In addition to the musical lineup, Witz says lovers of all things winter will find plenty to do.
For starters, courtesy of St. John Providence Health Systems, there will be free ice skating at Campus Martius Park.
Enthusiasts will enjoy live demonstrations from synchronized ice-skating teams, up-and-coming couples, speed skaters and ice skating clubs, including the legendary Detroit Skating Club and Great Expressions Hockey Shot Competition.
Thanks to the GM Foundation, there will be a little learning added in the fun for children as well.
“We have the return of the Mad Science exhibit, and kids get to perform experiments using dry ice,” Witz says.
The Meijer Stage, inside the Compuware lobby, is where families with children will find Radio Disney Detroit from noon-3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Radio Disney Junior Road Crew will be on site with interactive entertainment themes around its “Doc McStuffins” series.
Festivalgoers can replenish their energy at the Greektown Casino Taste of Detroit tent.
“This is better than your typical festival food,” Witz says.
New eateries to the festival are Bagger Dave’s, Prime 29 Steakhouse and 1-year-old Oye Crepe, based in Flint’s Genesee Valley Mall.
“We’re basically going to do crepes both sweet and savory,” says creperie owner Smita Ahluwalia. “Our best seller is the Nutella banana strawberry with chocolate sauce.”
Ahluwalia says her family has attended Winter Blast over the years, “so it will be wonderful to see it from the other side now.”
Returning restaurants include Santorini Estiatorio, Gaucho Brazilian Steakhouse, Jackson’s Five Star Catering, Olga’s Kitchen, LaFeast and Bearclaw Coffee Co.
In addition to being a fun way to spend the weekend, Witz says the festival benefits Matrix Human Services, a nonprofit that will collect the admission of $2 or three cans of food or children’s books.
Andrea Daniel is a freelance writer.