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River Days put Detroit’s uniqueness on display

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — Kimberly Horsley makes a point to enjoy the Detroit River every day she comes to work downtown.

It’s not a sight her son, Amare, 6, though, gets to enjoy as frequently, living in Plymouth.

But with GM River Days, now in its 10th year downtown, and with temperatures approaching 90 degrees, Sunday was as good a time as any.

It didn’t take long before Amare expressed interest in the “big boat” -- the U.S. Coast Guard’s Mobile Bay.

Since Friday night, it’s been on the Detroit River, available for walk-around tours; more than 4,500 people had toured by Sunday afternoon.

The Mobile Bay, stationed in Sturgeon, Wisconsin, is a 140-foot ice-cutter whose primary duty, from mid-December to mid-April, is to keep the waterways of commerce clear and passable, said Anthony Mallia, a public affairs officer with the Coast Guard auxiliary.

Amare wanted to sit on the big chair of the ship, behind the steering wheel.

“Awesome,” Amare said after he got his chance.

“I wanted my son to just come down and enjoy the river,” Horsley said. “I told him about how (Coast Guard cutters) clear the shipping channels during the winter and I promised to bring him down to see it. That hasn’t happened yet, but he got to be on a cutter today.”

US Coast Guard MK3 Aaron Ross, machinery technician, right, talks with Kimberly Horsley and her son, Amare Horsley, 6, of Plymouth, about the USCG cutter Mobile Bay on board the Mobile Bay on Sunday at GM River Days in Detroit..

River Days wasn’t purely about boats, though several attractions revolved around them, from Diamond Jack’s river tours to jet ski demonstrations to a ship 89 feet high. There were carnival rides, games, musical stages and fair food.

Jennifer Johnson is a retired math and fifth-grade teacher at Detroit Public Schools. When she saw the weather she called her cousin, who lives downtown, and asked what they were doing on the water today. The answer: River Days.

“Detroit is beautiful,” Johnson said. “Detroit is one-of-a-kind — we’re looking across the river at another country right now.”