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June 21-23, 2013 - Detroit River Days

The Detroit River Days Festival is one of the events that we at DMM attend every year. This year’s 2013 festival was presented by the Soaring Eagle Casino and was held June 21st through the 23rd. The festival was begun by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy ( in 2007 and this year marks the Conservancy’s 10th anniversary.

It’s hard to describe the peacefulness of the Detroit River flowing by, sometimes nearly empty, other times alive with barges and boats, as carnival rides tilt and spin, musicians riff and rhyme, artists contemplate the people at their exhibits, and jugglers juggle dangerous objects and each other while butterflies flit and red-winged blackbirds zip through the air, all in the strip between the River Walk and Jefferson Avenue. Forever overlooking it all, this year the Renaissance Center quietly illustrated the Motor City’s enthusiasm for Tigers baseball by intermittently lighting up the circumference of the upper floors with rotating orange and black tiger stripes.

One of the shows we were fortunate to happen upon was the juggling of the Detroit Circus. These three performers really wowed the crowd with their magical-seeming floating orbs, the juggling of fire, sledge-hamOmers, and huge knives to the exhortations of “more danger, more danger!” Yours truly watched with rapt attention, with scarcely less enthusiasm than the kids, occasionally snapping the camera shutter. Another major attraction for the children, of course, was the carnival rides and the treats at the carney food wagons.

In 2012 about 150,000 people attended Detroit River Days and we expect the numbers will be similar or greater this year because there was even more to do. The number of artists exhibiting paintings, sculptures, and mixed media was increased to 15, significantly more than last year and this was a major festival enhancement for us. Additionally, it seemed as though the average scale of the artworks was doubled; some sculptures were large enough to climb on or walk through, were that not verboten. Huge artworks are fun to photograph, but hard to capture in a picture, and we had a great time trying to do so.

The wafting aromas from the food vendors made us so hungry, particularly the BBQ smells that signaled “summer is finally here!” This festival is a time to cast off the dense winter and the unsettled spring weather, to come together with friends, family, and total strangers; to have an enjoyable time and get ready for the 55th Annual Detroit Fireworks that conclude the festivities on Monday. This year the fireworks sponsorship is changing hands and will called the Ford Fireworks presented by Target, this being the last year of Target’s sponsorship.

If you didn’t make it to the Detroit River Days Festival this year, or have never made it, be sure to show up next year. If you haven’t been in the area of the river for the past few years, you won’t recognize it. Due to hard work, donations, and a lot of creativity, the River Walk has been transformed into a feature that would be envied by any city, and it’s right here in the Big D!