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Amid warm forecast, Winter Blast returns to Detroit

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The Meridian Winter Blast usually hits downtown Detroit during conditions frosty enough for snow, ice and arctic fun.

But when the popular annual event kicked off Friday, the weather was relatively mild with temperatures hovering in the upper 30s — far from freezing and well above the average for the date of 32 degrees. And this weekend, the mercury could climb into the 50s with rain instead of the seasonal snow that enhances the scene, according to the National Weather Service.

Still, that hardly chilled the enthusiasm of the crowds that flocked to the festivities at Campus Martius Park.

Makayla Hamilton, 11, flies out the bottom of the new-look slide at the Winter Blast in Detroit.

“I like it. I’m not a fan of the cold weather anyway,” Detroiter Allise Moore said as she walked alongside her son and nephew. “I’m hoping that it stays this way.”

Since the gathering presented by Quicken Loans was moved up nearly a month earlier to capitalize on the tail end of the North American International Auto Show, organizers had already anticipated adjustments — swapping snow with more-manageable ice.

The warmer air affected the fest in other ways: ice sculptures require daily replacing, some aren’t appearing as planned, and the heating tents were reduced, producer Jon Witz said. Meanwhile, more family-friendly activities — pony rides, a petting zoo and “strolling entertainers” such as stilt-walkers and fire eaters — emerged.

But Witz said the lack of cold at the winter-themed event isn’t cause for concern.

“The warm temperatures for us will probably bring thousands of more guests, and they’re going to want to stay longer,” he said. “It’s going to be a really busy weekend — probably our busiest since the Super Bowl in 2006.”

Sizable crowds strolled the grounds Friday evening — passing displays of spangled cowboy hats, electric bikes, barking toy dogs and more. Others roasted marshmallows over ringed fires while a few brave attendees shouted and dangled their legs flying high on ziplines.

Nick Ball, in town from Kansas City for the auto show, bought a shark-shaped hat after sampling the buffalo mac and cheese between listening to an array of musicians. The verdict on his first Blast: “The food trucks are awesome. The live music is really good, too. It’s cool. I like this.”

Many participants also glided across the ice at the skating rink — some clad in hooded sweatshirts or light sweaters, enveloped in violet light.

“It’s really fun,” said Ali Berry, 11, who came with a host of relatives.

Her grandmother, Sharon Mazurek, reveled in the scene she looks forward to each year. The warmth of 2017 only boosted the celebration, the Chesterfield Township resident said. “That’s why so many people are down here.”

Meridian Winter Blast

4-11 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat. and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.

Campus Martius Park

800 Woodward, Detroit

Admission: $3 or three canned food items to Matrix Human Services

(248) 541-7550