They came to the riverfront on bikes and in cars. They walked in from the neighborhoods and from secret parking spots blocks away. They rode shuttle buses in from the suburbs and many hopped on the city busses to downtown. A few even arrived by taxi. In some cases, friends and families got there at sun up to get the best seats available along the Detroit River. They were all there with one goal in mind, to claim the best viewing spot for the 54th annual fireworks display. It’s one of the world’s largest, and it is held over the river at the foot of Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit.
While riding along the many streets near the river on fireworks night, I was amazed at the amount of people filling the green spaces and setting up chairs along the many blocked off streets. The parks and streets that hug the riverfront from west of Joe Louis Arena, to east of Belle Isle and beyond, were jammed with people preparing for the big event. Numerous tents were set-up, blankets spread out, colorful play pens and other kid’s toys were everywhere. Needless to say, hot grills were loaded with ribs, chicken, and burgers and the grill masters kept a keen eye on the sizzling meats that created a smoky haze over the parks.
Parked cars lined Jefferson Avenue, Lafayette Boulevard, Fort Street, Gratiot Avenue and many of the other major feeder streets leading into the city. In fact, the Lodge Freeway was closed where it passes under Cobo Hall downtown. However pedestrians and bicyclists had access to the closed section. So I took advantage of the opportunity by swooping under Cobo on my bike, in high gear. It was a fast, exhilarating, unique ride .
Bicycling throughout downtown and in the immediate area near Hart Plaza, ground zero for the annual fiery display in the sky, I couldn’t help but notice the large amount of police. I spotted Detroit police, Wayne County deputies, and members of the U.S. Border Patrol. State police were there, as were rangers from the DNR and others. They seemed to be everywhere I went.
Officers were sitting high on horses scanning the ever-growing crowd. Others were on motorcycles and a few were slowly pedaling their bicycles through the masses, all working as a team to control the droves of people. Many of the police on foot were standing at busy intersections directing traffic that was lined up for blocks in all directions. EMS technicians and trucks were in plain view, strategically placed should an emergency occur.
As the daylight inched its way closer to darkness, more and more people poured onto the downtown streets heading to Hart Plaza. Woodward Avenue, which leads directly to the Plaza, seemed to be the viewer’s street of choice. There people haphazardly set-up rows and rows of chairs in anticipation of the fireworks. Those entering Hart Plaza were funneled into fenced off access points where coolers, bags, etc. were searched.
I headed out of downtown shortly before show-time and once the darkness settled in, the fireworks went off as scheduled. Not only did I stop a few times to watch them, I could hear them exploding, popping and booming in the background as I rode home ahead of the traffic.