A patriotic party: Greenfield Village, DSO team up for Salute to America stroll

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Need a patriotic mix of music and history just in time for America's birthday? Good news: Greenfield Village's annual Salute to America concerts with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra are back.

The beloved tradition, which draws thousands every year, returns to Greenfield Village on Wednesday and runs through Saturday, but in a "stroll" format. Instead of the DSO playing on one large stage, musicians will be broken into ensembles and spread out across the village, playing on three smaller stages.

Salute to America "is almost like a homecoming," said Jim Johnson, director of Greenfield Village. "It's a family tradition for people."

The 1st Michigan Colonial Fife & Drum Corps will be performing for guests as they arrive at Greenfield Village for the Salute to America stroll June 30 to July 3.

The Henry Ford and DSO have teamed up for 25 years on Salute to America. It always ends with the traditional "The 1812 Overture" and a fireworks show.

And while COVID-19 foiled last year's event, Johnson said they still had to rethink things this year because of changing state guidelines and limited staffing. Salute to America can have as many as 8,000 people per night but capacity will be limited this year.

"We just don't have staff to put on a giant event," said Johnson. 

Many of the village's key buildings, meanwhile, will be open and accessible this year and the DSO will spread out on the three stages representing different sections of the orchestra.

"One of them will be their youth group that will be doing jazz music," said Johnson. "Each night we'll probably have a different selection but it sounds like it's going to be really cool."

Instead of performing on one large stage for Salute to America this year, the DSO will be split into smaller chamber ensembles in various performance locations.

Scott Strong, a French horn player with the DSO, has been performing at Salute to America since he joined the orchestra in 2014. He'll be with a quartet playing a mix of patriot favorites such as several works by John Philip Sousa, including "Stars and Stripes Forever," Scott Joplin and selections from "The Sound of Music."

Even with this year's different format, Strong said it's hard not to get caught up in the patriotic spirit. And after a year of playing without audiences, he's looking forward to the "shared community experience."

"Having that community experience in such a beloved place, Greenfield Village, it’s such a special thing," said Strong. "There are so many veterans there and and we get to play the soundtrack of our country. It’s a special experience to do that and bring it to life."

Along with the DSO, Johnson said they'll also have several other musicians performing different styles of music throughout the Village such as ragtime, jazz, blues, folk and more. 

These musicians "we've been working with for decades," said Johnson.

The first Michigan Colonial Fife and Drum Corps, meanwhile, will greet guests as they arrive. The 25-person corps draws members from all of southeast Michigan.

"It feels wonderful to be part of our country's birthday celebrations, once again," said Mark Logsdon, the group's director. "We have had a 46-year partnership with the Henry Ford that allows the 1st Michigan Colonial Fife and Drum Corps to perform historical music in a great setting."

Salute to America will be held rain or shine; there will also be several food options and the carousel will be open. The goal, said Johnson, is for guests to hear music from the beginning of Greenfield Village all the way to the back. The fireworks will go off every night at 10.

With the new format, "people can stroll at their own pace," said Johnson. "...I think it's going to be an equally cool event."


Salute to America: Summer Stroll

with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

June 30 to July 3 at Greenfield Village

Tickets are $32 for adults, $28.75 for seniors, and $22.50 for youth; kids 2 and under get in free. Tickets are discounted for Henry Ford members. Parking is $6 per vehicle.

Go to thehenryford.org.