A star-spangled extravaganza lit up the Detroit skyline with lustrous colors Monday night and Greg Hines had a front-row seat.
Hines and thousands of his closest friends gathered to watch from Belle Isle as explosions of sound and light punched the sky.
When it comes to the 56th annual Ford Fireworks show, it’s hard to find a better viewing spot.
“The atmosphere, the environment, the people, the excitement, the adventure, you can’t beat it,” said Hines.
Providing an exclamation point to his remarks were thousands of mortars that flashed and banged for almost a half-hour that began at 10:11 p.m. to the song “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles.
The joy was tempered by tight security that saw police hauling away dozens of youths who violated a 6 p.m. curfew because they weren’t accompanied by an adult. In all, 80 were arrested and taken to the 4th Precinct on West Fort Street.
As for the other pyrotechnics, the aerial type, the oohs and aahs of observers weren’t limited to the island.
They spread along a five-mile stretch of the Detroit River, from a crowded Hart Plaza to power boats bobbing on the waterway.
They ranged from blue-collar workers at free waterfront parks to the swells watching from downtown high-rises.
“I like the shapes and colors,” said Megan Holleman, who watched from a 25th-floor deck of the Miller Canfield law firm.
Among those gazing heavenward on the overcast, muggy day was a late-growing throng at Hart Plaza.
Detroiter David Johnson Sr., 54, brought his wife, mother-in-law and three children, ages 6, 2 and 1.
Asked what he was celebrating, Johnson, a veteran, had a simple answer — independence. “Where we live, there is no place like it in the world,” he said.
A smaller-than-normal turnout may have connected with the threat of rain or security concerns, but Jazmine Moore of Detroit wasn’t worried.
She had stopped attending for a couple of years because of safety concerns, but her children’s godmother convinced her to return.
She felt confident to show up at Hart Plaza with her brood in tow: four children, ages 14, 10, 8 and 3.
“I know it’s safer than usual,” she said. “There is a lot more police presence. I like that.”
At Belle Isle, Shirley Scott of Detroit helped erect a blue and gray tent with her son and grandchildren in case of rain. They also planned to barbecue hot dogs and hamburgers.
The main draw, though, was the pyrotechnics.
“We enjoy it every year, especially at the end,” Scott said while standing beneath a tree in the tranquil breeze.
Her granddaughter Katrina, celebrating her 10th birthday, said she loves seeing “all the colors.”
As for security, more than a 1,000 police officers from local, state and federal agencies patrolled fireworks downtown.
Police Chief James Craig said the fireworks are a fun celebration and the police wanted to keep it that way.
“We want minors to come, if they’re with their parents,” he said. “We’ve already started our truant sweeps. We want the kids to enjoy this, but where are the parents?”
Troublemakers “can expect a one way ticket (to jail),” Craig said. “We’re not going to tolerate it.”
The concerns were heightened as videos surfaced of groups of youths getting into fights Saturday at the River Days festival downtown, which ended Sunday. Five arrests for gun violations were made.
Not only were police enforcing curfew, they were monitoring dress code, making people pull up their pants when they hung too low. One man whose drawers were showing didn’t seem happy, but he complied.
To make sure neighborhoods are covered with the large police presence downtown, no officer got the day off, according to Craig.
On Belle Isle, MSP troopers teamed up with EMS units and conservation officers from the Department of Natural Resources.
“This is the first time the state police have coordinated this event,” said Lt. Mike Shaw, public information officer for the Second District of the MSP.
Between 2 p.m. and 9:45 p.m., when the MacArthur Bridge was closed to traffic until the fireworks were finished, 2,088 vehicles entered the island, Shaw said. During that time, one person was arrested and two were escorted off the island for disorderly conduct, he said. The capacity for vehicles on the island is about 3,300.
Overall, the effort “went without a hitch,” Shaw said.