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Fireworks light up Detroit skyline

Payne Lubbers
The Detroit News

There was dancing, grilling and games but let's face it, the main attraction for those gathered along the Detroit River for the annual ritual was the fireworks Monday night in downtown Detroit.

Crowds in lawn chairs and on picnic blankets packed the riverfront Monday as colorful explosions filled the skies for the 61st Ford Fireworks. 

Organizers had promised a bigger and better pyrotechnic show this year. From the oohs and ahhs, they didn't disappoint as color filled the sky and the display rumbled on the river, sending waves of exclamations from among the crowd.

Crystala Hazelett of Warren and her family said they found the perfect spot on the side of a low hill overlooking Hart Plaza.

“The weather doesn’t bother us,” said Hazlett. “These are the best fireworks around, so it’s worth getting here early and waiting it out.”

Hazlett said she has been coming to the fireworks for the last 19 years with her son, and has seen plenty of change both at the event and in downtown.

“It just feels safer now, over the last five years or so. We come down here all the time for dinner now,” Hazelett said.

Dennis Miller, 51, of Detroit wears an Uncle Sam novelty top hat while waiting in Hart Plaza with other fireworks spectators Monday evening in Detroit.

Event organizers had vowed to give the crowd a show.

"We've really packed them in," Tony Michaels, Parade Company president and CEO said of the 10,000-plus fireworks that were set off from three barges in the Detroit River. The company has put on the display for more than 35 years.

Two low flying helicopters dragged massive American and Canadian flags across the night, to claps and cheers from the ground. 

The Ford Fireworks burst over downtown Detroit on June 24, 2019.

The show kicked off just before 9:55 p.m., pairing the display's mix of brilliant colors with Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” followed by Beyonce's "Halo." The music quickly moved on to a mix of genres, from country to the Monkees. Aretha ended the pyrotecnics as huge bursts of orange and yellow filled the sky.

Michaels said he and choreographer Patrick Brault worked on the music for the show since December. 

"Tonight will be a real goosebump night," Michaels said earlier Monday. "It's really going to rock the city."

Chanee Green, 39, and Raymond Harbour, 47, at right, both of Detroit wait in Hart Plaza for the fireworks to begin in Detroit on June 24, 2019.

Light showers fell before the fireworks but didn't put much of a damper on the festivities and the crowd seemed not to mind. 

Rain or not, Georgette Flowers and Greg Merkerson of Southfield made the trip for their first-ever Detroit fireworks. Flowers said that working downtown inspired the two to finally check out the show.

“It’s excellent, the shops, the restaurants, all of it,” Flowers said. “We’re just down here taking advantage of it.”