July 3, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Michiganians gear up for festive July Fourth holiday

Sawyer Hill, 5, left, grandfather Paul Haynes, Ailynn Hill, 2, and father, Scott Hill, set up a tent at Proud Lake Recreation Area in Commerce Township. Many Michiganians will flock to camp sites over the holiday weekend. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

Ah, the Fourth of July. This is an opportunity to unplug from the everyday grind and enjoy what the long weekend has to offer.

It also means it’s time for Michiganians to hit the road. And hit the road we will. According to AAA, nearly 1.2 million people will be traveling during the long Fourth of July weekend, most by car.

Many will be bumper-to-bumper before getting away from it all. Others will find themselves elbow-to-elbow with tourists. And some of us will just want to enjoy the head-to-pillow comforts of home.

Jim Drummond is one of those who expects to stay close to home.

“I’ll probably try to find a jazz festival in Warren or Sterling Heights,” said Drummond, 72, of Sterling Heights. “My nephew has a cottage northeast of the Mackinac bridge, but it’s a five-hour drive and that doesn’t really interest me right now.”

Many Michiganians will be driving to some of the many holiday-related events such as fireworks, festivals or communing with nature at parks, beaches, boating or camping.

“It’s a travel trifecta: School is out, days are longer and the weather is warmer. With the holiday falling on Friday, many people are taking advantage of the long weekend with some turning it into a week-long getaway,” said Susan Hiltz, spokesperson for AAA Michigan.

Gas prices are expected to be stable, hovering just below $4 a gallon for regular unleaded. So, experts say that shouldn’t dissuade travel.

“There are 9.5 million families in the U.S. who use a recreational vehicle or own a recreational vehicle,” said Bill Sheffer, director of Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds.

“We do have some of the best camping locations in the country with all the amenities as far as the woods and water. We are an idea place.”

Sheffer said a recreational vehicle is like having a portable hotel room since many offer multiple sleeping spaces, kitchens and bathrooms.

As of Wednesday morning the 14,000 state park campsites are at more than 90 percent occupancy rates, said Ron Olson, chief of parks and reception for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Since Memorial Day Weekend folks have been flocking to Metro parks in large numbers, said Chip Tischer, Huron-Clinton Metroparks spokesman.

“It has been pretty crazy,” Tischer said. “We have been seeing larger crowds because of the winter we’ve had. With the never-ending, record-breaking winter, Memorial Day weekend crowds were huge at all of our parks.”

Tischer said this holiday weekend should be no different.

Lower Huron, one of the 13 Metroparks, has rented all of its shelters and pavilions for Friday. And camping sites in Lower Huron are at least half full at this point, Tischer said.

There will be music and fireworks Thursday at Hudson Mills Metropark and Saturday at Willow Metropark. All Metropark aquatic facilities will be open this weekend as well as programing at their nature centers.

Getaway hot spots such as Traverse City and Mackinac Island are expecting large crowds. Some hotel rooms still are available in Traverse City, but Mackinac Island is sold out.

“That’s pretty normal at this time of year for the island,” said Alison Silk, assistant director of Mackinac Island Tourism. “I can’t say there may be more people than last year because we get lots of interest every year. There’s still room for day traffic” coming to the island via ferries from Mackinaw City and St. Ignace.

She said her office is fielding numerous calls requesting information about hotel availability and she’s observed large crowds of day traffic on the island.

“It’s going to be a really great season, and I think people are ready to travel,” she said.

The return of the Blue Angels is the draw in Traverse City.

“They haven’t been here for the past couple of years because of their schedule, so we’ll probably see larger crowds than last year,” said Mike Norton, media relations manager for Traverse City Tourism. “They’re here for the Cherry Festival on the 5th and 6th, but they’ll be doing dress rehearsals for the Fourth of July and we expect big crowds.”

Norton said he doesn’t expect higher gas prices to keep people away.

“We don’t see a lot of fluctuation because of gas prices,” he said. “The weather plays a more important role. If the weather is lousy, we tend to suffer.”

He said many hotels are at capacity, but there’s still room.

The fireworks also will be well attended.

“It’s been quite the fun,” he said. “They’re held right over the bay and people can gather in a large arc and watch them from all angles.”

Road construction

The vast majority of road construction projects will be suspended for the three-day holiday weekend. However, while no work will take place, there are some projects where motorists will run into lane closures, including:
I-75 at Zilwaukee Bridge. From 11 p.m. Tuesday until 11 p.m. Saturday three northbound lanes are open and southbound traffic is rerouted to southbound I-675 due to construction on bridge. From 11 p.m. Saturday until 11 p.m. Tuesday three southbound lanes are open and northbound traffic is detoured to northbound I-675.
I-75: There is a single lane closure northbound and southbound from Wolverine to M-68.
I-96: In Livonia and Redford Township the freeway is closed between Newburgh and Telegraph roads until October.
I-196: There is a single lane closure eastbound and westbound from the U.S. 31 split east to the Allegan-Ottawa county line.
M-24: There is a single lane closure northbound and southbound from south of I-69 to Demille/McCormick Road.
U.S. 131: There is a single lane closure northbound and southbound in Osceola and Wexford conties.

Drunken driver alert

Michigan State Police, along with 150 other police departments across the state, are warning drivers to not drink and drive.
Police agencies will be mounting extra drunken driving patrols as part of a campaign that runs through July 13. The cost for the extra patrols and over time will be paid for with federal money.
State police said drivers arrested for driving drunk means a night in jail, fines, fees, increased insurance rates and driving restrictions.

How’s it outside?

Weather forecasts across the state.
Metro
Detroit: Friday, mostly sunny with highs of 74 to 78 degrees. Saturday: Mostly sunny, highs of 75 to 79. Sunday: Mostly sunny with highs of 78 to 82.
Traverse City: Friday, sunny with a high near 72. Saturday, mostly sunny with a high near 73. Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high near 74.
Saugatuck area: Friday, sunny and 74. Saturday, sunny and 77. Sunday, sunny and 75.
Newberry, U.P.: Friday, sunny and 71. Saturday, mostly sunny and 72. Sunday, partly sunny and 73.

Making plans

There’s no shortage of patriotic and other events this holiday weekend. Here’s five fun-filled events for the whole family.
National Cherry Festival in Traverse City: About a half-million people attend this event celebrating the region’s most abundant fruit. Open Space Park, 108 W. Grandview, Traverse City. www.cherryfestival.org.
Salute to America at Greenfield Village: An annual favorite, these Detroit Symphony Orchestra concerts are packed with patriotic opuses and conducted by Robert Bernhardt. Fireworks follow each performance. 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. $20.50, $12.75 ages 5-12, $60 VIP, $5 parking. 20900 Oakwood, Dearborn. (313) 576-5111.
Clawson 4th of July Celebration. Friday. It’s an all-American day in Clawson, beginning with a 7 a.m. pancake breakfast, a Beautiful Baby contest, a $1,000 Firecracker Mile run, a parade, fireworks, amusement rides, and a water battle between the Clawson Troy fire departments. Downtown Clawson. http://www.clawson4thofjuly.org/
Star-Spangled Fourth on Mackinac Island. Various events Friday at Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island. http://www.mackinacisland.org/event/fourth-of-july-weekend/
Fenton Freedom Festival: Independenence Day celebration with breakfast, 5K race, 10 a.m. parade. Fireworks at dusk. 7 a.m. Friday. Free. Silver Lake Park, 16000 Jennings, Fenton. (810) 629-5447 or cityoffenton.org.

Metro Detroit fireworks displays

Thursday

Dexter: 10 p.m. in Hudson Mills Metropark, 8801 N. Territorial. $10 special event daily vehicle permit required after 5 p.m.; free admission with annual permit.
Plymouth: 10:15 p.m. at Plymouth Township Park, 46640 W. Ann Arbor Trail.
Sylvan Lake: 10 p.m. from the middle of Sylvan Lake.
Friday

Davisburg: 10 p.m. at the Oakland County Fairgrounds, 12451 Andersonville.
Independence Township: 10 p.m. in Clintonwood Park, 6000 Clarkston.
Hazel Park: 10:30 p.m. at Hazel Park Raceway, 1650 E. 10 Mile.
Saturday
New Boston: 10 p.m. at Willow Metropark, 23200 S. Huron. $10 special event daily vehicle permit required after 5 p.m.; free admission with annual permit.

Correction The story has been updated to correct the day of the Hazel Park Raceway fireworks, which take place Friday night.

uwatson@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2613