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Detroit – Christopher Fiddler and his three children spent Friday night huddling around a fire pit, roasting marshmallows at the Meridian Winter Blast downtown in what he says has become an annual tradition.

“We’ve been coming for the last four years at least...while we’re at the auto show we make sure to stop by because the kids really love it,” said Fiddler, of Sterling Heights.

The family is among thousands expected to attend the weekend-long event, which kicked off Friday afternoon.

Through Sunday, attendees can enjoy free skating at Campus Martius’ ice rink, a 30-foot-winter slide, marshmallow roasting for $3, professional skating shows, music and zip lining for $10. The event also features a food truck rally with 10 local vendors along with other stands which were placed indoors alongside couches and a music stage for folks looking to escape the cold.

Olympic gold medalist Meryl Davis is expected to host a community ice skating workshop on think rink for 50 young girls on Saturday morning.

The family-friendly festival was known as the Motown Winter Blast until 2005 when it became an official countdown to the Super Bowl XL in Detroit, when it attracted more than a million people.

Farrah Bazzi was strolling around with her family Friday after visiting the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center. They were attracted to Winter Blast and ended up exploring more of downtown, she said.

“We don’t visit downtown often but were excited to smell popcorn and fried chicken...we stopped by, went ice skating and also went shopping in the district and got stuff from Nike and shirts from Made in Detroit at a tent on Monroe Street,” said Bazzi, from Bloomfield.

The winter festivities coincide with the auto show, which also runs through Sunday, and those with an auto show admission stamp can gain entry to the Winter Blast for free. skipped the $3 admission fee.

The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $3.

srahal@detroitnews.com

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