Last night was the fireworks celebration in downtown Detroit.
For many reasons, Detroit and Windsor have had a common celebration a week (or week and a half) before the 4th of July. The celebration is centered around a huge fireworks display launched from three barges in the Detroit River. It it intended to cover both Independence Day and Canada Day. But being so early, it seems more like a pre-celebration than a celebration.
I and a couple of friends found a location to park about a mile from Hart Plaza in the downtown area. It seemed easier to park there, for free, than to drive closer to the event and pay to park. This meant that we had to traverse a good deal of the downtown area on foot...but it also meant that we were not going to be idling in traffic on the freeway out of the downtown area at the end of the night.
(I think the part of the parking plan was that the chosen parking location is next to a building that is heavily-used by City Police. A pleasant surprise ensued when we arrived. The Police were using the site as a staging area. The staging area was cleverly supported by an afternoon cook-out. Several dozen officers were milling around the site when we arrived, and a handful looked to be tasked with keeping an eye on the cook-out and the staging area all night long. Teams of alert-but-slightly-bored Policemen were at many intersections and road blocks near the Downtown area. That sight was also encouraging...as was the short chat about Police motorcycles with the team stationed in front of the Cobo Center.)
During our walk into Downtown, we saw many buildings that were faded relics of the former days of Detroit. The Grand Army of the Republic Building was a surprise to me. (It was built in the 1890s, and was used by the Grand Army of the Republic until the 1930s.) The building looks like a castle, and it nestled on a triangular lot edged by Grand River Ave, Cass Ave, and West Adams Rd. Currently, the building is surrounded by scaffolding (at the sidewalk level) indicating some sort of renovation project.
We also saw the Michigan Building (once a theater, now a parking garage), the empty Book Tower, and the in-use Book-Cadillac Hotel. Once we arrived at Hart Plaza, we had a very good view of the Rennaisance Center, One Detroit Center, and the Madden Building.
About 5 minutes into the fireworks display, there was a rush of people trying to leave Hart Plaza. And there were rumors of shots fired and people wounded. So far, those rumors have not been confirmed. This disturbance did, however, make the event more stressful than it should have been.
The thunderous booming of the fireworks rose and fell many times during a 20-minute period. It turned into an accelerating, staccato drumbeat during the closing.
This would have also provided great cover for the sound of gunshots. The heavy Police presence was successful at putting a damper on low-level crime (theft, mugging, fighting, and juveniles disobeying a City curfew). And this likely discouraged shootings.
All told, the night was enjoyable. Though I wish that the potential for an ill-timed panic had been less.