Ford Fireworks set to dazzle June 24

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News
The Ford Fireworks display over the Detroit River taken from Windsor.

Early summer feeling a little ho-hum?

Mark your calendars for Monday, when the Ford Fireworks over the Detroit River will electrify crowds on both sides of the international frontier. 

Here's what you need to know to have a stress-free, eye-popping evening on this 61st annual fireworks celebration.

When do the fireworks start?

Precisely at 9:55 p.m., Monday in downtown Detroit. 

Who puts them on, anyhow?

The Parade Company, better known for mounting America's Thanksgiving Parade every year down Woodward Avenue. 

The Ford Fireworks display over the Detroit River taken from Windsor.

Where do I park?

Anywhere you can. But be forewarned -- downtown lots and garages are likely to be jammed. It may make sense to park somewhere north along Woodward, and then take the QLine to the riverfront -- or park east or west of downtown and enjoy the walk.

Is there anything going on if I arrive early?

Ford Motor Co. will be sponsoring live entertainment and giveaways in Hart Plaza from 5 p.m.-9 p.m.

In addition, Ford's working with the Yankee Air Museum to bring in World War II bombers and other historic aircraft to for a riverfront flyover at 7:30 p.m.

Is there someplace I can escape the madding crowds? 

Limited tables are still available for the Ford Fireworks Rooftop Party, presented by Ford Motor Co.

This fundraiser for the Michigan Thanksgiving Parade Foundation will take place atop the Center Parking Garage at 415 Renaissance Drive West, on the downtown side of Renaissance Center. For tickets, visit or call (313) 923-7400. 

How many fireworks do they shoot off?

About 10,000, said Tony Michaels, president and CEO of The Parade Company. 

"They shoot them off from three barges," he said, "and we don't shoot the same thing from every barge. We blend the show. You get fireworks crashing into fireworks in mid-air. The show is truly one of the tops in America, hands down."

Who actually handles the pyrotechnics?

Zambelli Fireworks, a family business in New Castle, Penn., that also did President Reagan's 1981 inauguration, President Carter's in 1978, and the 2017 New Year's ball drop in Times Square.

Everything on the Detroit River is computerized, naturally, but there are still a couple people on board each barge -- just to make sure things run smoothly. 

Who runs the computer?

Patrick Brault, who's lit up the Detroit riverfront since 2009 and handled the fireworks for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. 

"Patrick does the choreography," said Michaels, "and I do the music and get with him. Patrick lays it all out, and it comes together in a big way." 

Where can you hear the music?

"We're going to pipe it into Hart Plaza like we did last year," he said. "Some day we want to try to get it throughout downtown because it's such a cool, choreographed show."

Crowds watch the fireworks from the roof of the Miller Parking Garage next to the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit.

How long does the show last?

"Twenty-four minutes," Michaels said. "We jam a lot of fireworks into that time period."

What if you can't get downtown?

The Ford Fireworks will also air on WDIV-Local 4's live broadcast. Paul W. Smith will do a special radio simulcast during the evening, and News/Talk 760 WJR will provide traffic and weather information throughout the day. 

What if it rains?

"Lordy be, please, no," Michaels said. "The show must go on. We're a week away," he said, laughing. "Do you think this city can dodge the rain? This 'drought' is killing me. It really is."

Ford Fireworks

9:55 p.m. Monday June 24

7:30 p.m. - riverfront flyover by WWII bombers and other historic aircraft

Downtown Detroit


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