GM River Days, Ford Fireworks to light up Detroit

Deion Kathawa
The Detroit News

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to stare up into the air and watch 11,000 fireworks paint a pitch black sky with vibrant colors over the course of about two dozen minutes — wonder no longer, because you’ll have the chance to do exactly that come Monday when the 59th annual Ford Fireworks light up the Detroit River.

This year’s theme “Detroit! Right Now!!” was The Parade Company’s (the nonprofit that puts on the show) theme this year to salute the excitement and sense of progress felt by many in and around Detroit.

Tony Michaels, president and CEO of The Parade Company, is excited about this year’s show. “With what’s happening with the city, all these great things in so many areas, the time is right now for everyone to celebrate the city and get involved,” he said.

Lorenzo Shaw-Graham, a native Detroiter and staffer for the University of Michigan’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution, said he really enjoys the fireworks.

“It’s a nice time to gather with family, friends, and other Detroiters to enjoy downtown,” he said.

Shaw-Graham is not alone in his appreciation; the show draws hundreds of thousands of spectators annually, and Michaels promised an even better show than in years past for two reasons:

First, because the show time has been increased to 25 minutes from 24 minutes. “This year we’ve added a minute to the show, which is a substantial amount amount of time when you’re setting up this many fireworks,” Michaels said.

And second, “Because technology in fireworks has improved drastically in the last couple of years, we’ll be able to create images in the night sky that will be clearly recognizable to viewers,” Michaels said.

Leading up to the Ford Fireworks is River Days, a three-day weekend festival celebration of the riverfront and of the city itself, put on by the nonprofit Detroit RiverFront Conservancy.

“River Days is the unofficial kick-off to the summer,” said Marc Pasco, director of communications for the conservancy. “For lots of people, summer hasn’t officially arrived until River Days has, so we try to have something for everyone.”

The Flagstar Bank Kid Zone, a crowd favorite, will return to River Days and so will the airshow, now in its third year.

As for the music, always a major reason for River Days’ appeal, Pasco said, “We’ll have local and national acts, and all kinds of music: rock, country, R&B, eclectic music styles from local performers.”

Headlining acts include Ann Wilson of Heart on Friday, Freddie Jackson on Saturday, and 112 on Sunday.

There will be new attractions, as well.

“This year we’ll have a 30-foot high tube slide at Milliken State Park. It’s a three-story high tube set up at a pretty steep 40-degree angle. Imagine cruising along at 20 mph in the dark down this tube. You’re flying,” Pasco said.


About the events

GM River Days

11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday

$3 before 3 p.m.; $5 after 3 p.m. Free for children 3 and younger, seniors age 65 and older, and active and retired military with ID.

“Free Friday” admission from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.


Ford Fireworks

9:55 p.m. Monday

■WDIV-TV (Channel 4) will air the fireworks, beginning at 8 p.m. Monday.

■WJR-AM (760) will simulcast the fireworks, beginning at 8 p.m. Monday.