Detroit’s Winter Blast festival focuses fundraising efforts on Flint
Detroit — Winter Blast, downtown Detroit’s outdoor frost fest, has had a charitable angle to it since it began in 2005. But this year, fundraising efforts have been ramped up significantly to help the city of Flint.
This year the event, officially titled the Meridian Winter Blast presented by Quicken Loans, is subtitled “Sing, Skate & Slide for Flint.” Title sponsor Meridian Health Plan will match up to $40,000 raised during the event and donate it to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund.
Organizer Jon Witz says he estimates at least $80,000 to be collected over the festival weekend, which runs Feb. 12-14 at Campus Martius.
“As The Detroit News and other media entities have brought this crisis to full light, we’re the first big event, city-wide event, that has a chance to make a positive impact,” said Witz, who also oversees Arts, Beats & Eats over the summer in Royal Oak. He said Winter Blast organizers researched ways to make sure their donations would have long-lasting effects and aid those affected by the tainted water in the long-term.
The bands performing at Winter Blast — local favorites like Thornetta Davis, the Orbitsuns, the Ruiners and the Reefermen — will donate 10 percent of their pay to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund. The Winter Blast festival will match those numbers, said Witz.
“Kids (in Flint) are going to need help for life, and there needs to be funding set aside for that,” said Witz. “We reached out to 46 bands and they agreed to donate a portion of their pay and will dedicate the first and last song (to the Flint effort).”
Additionally, attendees taking advantage of the free ice skating at Campus Martius will be asked for donations. Talmer Bank will give $1 for every thrill-seeker who travels down the 30-foot tall, 200-foot long snow slide.
“The crisis and longtime needs of Flint transcends any situation in Michigan right now,” said Witz. “Not only do they have folks without the means to deal with the problems up there... but, they’re completely innocent, they just drank water, and they don’t have the resources to deal with the lifelong effects of tainted water.”
About 75,000 people attended Winter Blast in 2015. The event started in 2005 and in 2006 served as a backdrop to the Super Bowl XL.
“In 2006 Detroit looked like New York City for four days when the Super Bowl came to town,” says Witz. “After the Super Bowl the festival came back down to earth, and what’s happened over the last few years is we’re starting to build back into that Super Bowl-esque kind of presentation.”
Besides the famous snow slide, the sled dogs and the zip line, Winter Blast offers snowshoeing, ice skating exhibitions, a hockey shot competition, an ice garden and a food tent with fare from hot restaurants like Slows BBQ, La Dolce Vita, El Barzon, Revolver and more.
While the focus of this year’s event is helping Flint, Winter Blast also continues its tradition of helping Detroit residents through Matrix Human Services. Admission to the festival is a $2 donation, three non-perishable food items or a children’s book. These goods will benefit local children.
“It keeps our light on Detroit as well,” said Witz.
2016 Meridian Winter Blast presented by Quicken Loans
Dates/Times: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. Feb. 12-13 and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Feb. 14
Location: Campus Martius, 800 Woodward, Detroit
Admission: $2 donation, three non-perishable food items or a children’s book, to be donated to Matrix Human Services