News Column

Surprises at Tonight's Detroit Fireworks Show

June 25, 2012

Gina Damron and Matt Helms

The bright lights and big booms will start out slowly when the first rockets are launched at 10:06 tonight for the 54th annual Target Fireworks above the Detroit River.

-- Are you going? Parking map -- More Michigan fireworks listings -- Share your photos with us! Download our Android or iPhone app and tap "Submit a story" to send pictures. On Twitter and Instagram, use the hashtag #detroitfireworks

That's on purpose -- the opening will be choreographed to the music of a famous Broadway song that organizers are keeping secret. But the show will end with a bang.

"When you think we have finished the grand finale, we urge you to stay in your seat -- whether it's down by the water or if you are watching on television," said Tony Michaels, president of the Parade Company, which organizes the event. "There will be one last song that is going to be pretty meaningful in Detroit. ... That's all I can tell you. I can't give it away." Share your photos with us! Download our Android our iPhone app and tap "Submit a story" to send pictures. On Twitter and Instagram, use the hashtag #detroitfireworks

There was some concern that the fireworks would be canceled this year because the cash-strapped city can't afford to pay police officers to patrol the crowd or control traffic during the annual event that draws hundreds of thousands.

But the Michigan State Police and sheriff's offices in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties stepped up, and are going to help with enforcement.

As for the future, Michaels pledged that the tradition will continue, although more sponsors are needed.

"These events will go on for many years," Michaels said.

A regional effort to keep peace

As thousands gather along Detroit's riverfront tonight to watch the Target Fireworks, law enforcement from agencies across metro Detroit will be on hand to keep the peace.

With Detroit's financial crisis and shrinking police force, the city has enlisted the Michigan State Police and nearby county sheriff's offices to help.

Mayor Dave Bing announced Friday that he is working on a regional plan to ensure celebrations like the fireworks festivities can continue. In recent weeks, the city's financial situation has put some of its annual events in jeopardy, including the fireworks and America's Thanksgiving Parade.

"I have every confidence that our plan and strategy to provide the necessary funding with the support of the private sector will work," Bing said in a statement. "We continue to hold meetings with my administration, business leaders, and potential sponsors to push forward my plan for regional support and participation."

The total cost for security and traffic control at the fireworks is about $700,000, Bing has estimated. The Detroit City Council has approved spending $172,000 for extra assistance.

Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said the Sheriff's Office is committing 50 deputies, 14 mounted deputies and between 10 and 30 reserves, who are volunteers.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said his office will contribute 19 deputies and 20 reserve officers, including members of the mounted unit.

Wayne County Undersheriff Daniel Pfannes previously told the Free Press that his office will send reserve officers and mounted forces to assist.

In previous years, crimes have occurred at the fireworks, including a nonfatal shooting last year and a shooting in 2004 that injured eight people and killed one person.

Lt. Renee Hall, commanding officer of tactical operations for Detroit police, said last year's attendees also experienced thefts and vehicle break-ins, some involving youths.

Police plan to monitor social networking sites to find out about potential problems before they occur.

Hall said Detroit police officers will work 12-hour shifts today to ensure the entire city, not just downtown, is properly patrolled.

"As a city, our primary goal is to take care of the citizens of our city first," Hall said.

Hall wouldn't say how many officers will be at the fireworks, but said between 35 and 40 mounted units will be there to help with crowd control. Often, when someone doesn't want to listen to an officer, she said, "They can't help but back up once that horse gets in front of them."

Visitors to the fireworks may notice a few changes this year.

Hall said some areas along the riverfront that were previously used by people to view the fireworks will be closed this year for public safety reasons.

A citywide curfew also will be in effect. Hall said children and teens ages 17 and under must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian from 6 p.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesday. Hall said adults will have to show proof they are the parent or legal guardian of anyone 17 and under.

Hall said usually only a few troublemakers cause problems.

"We have some of the best viewing public for these events," Hall said. "We typically have very, very few problems."



Source: (c) 2012 the Detroit Free Press


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