Subzero wind chills were no match for hundreds of people who bundled up Friday for the 10th annual Meridian Winter Blast in downtown Detroit.
The annual event, presented by Quicken Loans, floods Campus Martius each year with events ranging from free snowshoeing and ice skating to dog sledding exhibitions and live music.
“We’re off to a lighter start (today) because of the temperatures,” Jon Witz, producer of the festival, said Friday. “But we’re expecting great crowds over the weekend.”
Despite near-arctic weather, Witz said he expects normal attendance levels this year, in part because of the Buick Snow Slide, a crowd favorite that returns after a two-year absence. The slide towers more than 30 feet high, with three lanes stretching 200 feet.
“Having the slide back is a big lift for the festival,” Witz said.
Darcie Jarrett and Antwonai Wiley, both 11, tackled the slide Friday as their mother, Darcy Reeves, took pictures. The girls were enjoying a “cold day” off from their Detroit schools.
“When I first got up (to the top of the slide), I was scared because I was so far up,” said Antwonai. “I don’t even know if I screamed (on the way down).”
Organizers say sliders travel 200 feet in 7 seconds, around 20 miles per hour.
But Darcie disagrees.
“You go like at least 50 miles per hour,” she said.
Those looking to avoid frosty wind chills found refuge inside the festival’s “comfort zone” warming tents, each featuring live music, food and more.
“Our motto is ‘you can find heat every 150 feet,’ ” Witz said. “Tents are set at 65 degrees.”
The Winter Blast runs 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. The cost of admission is $2, three canned food items or one children’s book.
Everything collected for admission will be donated to Matrix Human Services.