After over two years of canceled events and caution around large gatherings, the hundreds of thousands who packed Windsor’s riverfront for the 64th edition of the Ford Fireworks Monday is the clearest signal people are eager to embrace some of the elements of normalcy that pre-dated the COVID-19 pandemic.
The skies over the Detroit River were ablaze with colour, smoke and filled with the sound of exploding pyrotechnics much to the delight of the throngs gathered on both sides of the river to witness the fiery spectacle in person for the first time since 2019.
“I’ve been to several events that have been canceled the past two years because of COVID and everyone I’ve gone to has seen bigger crowds than before (COVID),” said Merlin’s Alan Pollard, who camped out with his wife Donna in Dieppe Park more than five hours before the scheduled start of the show at about 10 pm
“People have been penned up and most are ready to get out. I think people are really looking forward to the fireworks this year,” he said.
The show has been held without spectators the past two years at Lake St. Clair Metropark near Mt. Clemens, Mich., and was available for viewing via television or livestream.
This year’s version, however, had pedestrian, vehicular and aeronautical traffic building up around and above downtown Windsor starting in the afternoon. The Detroit Parade Company, which organizes the show, said this year’s edition would be the largest to date.
Over 10,000 pyrotechnics were loaded into the launching tubes on three barges by Zambelli Fireworks’ crews over the previous several days. The Pennsylvania-based firm has been giving people a blast since 1893 and has grown into one of the world’s largest pyrotechnics’ firms, presenting over 1,600 shows annually around the world.
Few can rival the scale of the Detroit show, however, which is believed to be the largest annual fireworks display in North America. The Ford Fireworks once again drew visitors to the area from American midwestern states and across Ontario, some from as far away as Ottawa.
Tilbury’s Heather Mykytiw didn’t travel quite that far, but reckons she’s seen over 50 of the fireworks shows since she began coming as a child.
“It’s tradition,” said Mykytiw, who arrived at Dieppe Park’s Royal Canadian and Merchant Navy memorial around 3:30 pm to stake out a prime spot for 20 people.
“The attraction is partly the fireworks, but also the people-watching. It’s a family get-together.”
While she admires the beauty and creativity of the fireworks, Mykytiw also enjoys the sound and fury of the sky being ripped open with explosions.
“Those big booms, you can feel them bounce off your chest,” she said.
Mykytiw’s 13-year-old granddaughter Samantha Wraith has attended 11 shows, missing only the pandemic productions. The Windsor resident calls the event a “huge picnic with a fireworks show at the end.
“I like to see the different designs they do each year. It’s always different each year; they add something new,” said the teen. Wraith admits she was more excited about this year’s show after the two-year hiatus.
“We’ve been stuck at home,” she said. “Everyone was restrained, now we can come out and be with people again.”
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With a stiff wind blowing diagonally across the river from the Detroit side, Pollard expected to get a little closer view of the flaming embers plummeting towards the water.
“Things may come a little closer than normal, but I think those barges are far enough away that there’s lots of room for the embers to fall,” Pollard said.
This year’s show did not disappoint, wowing the huge crowds gathered along the riverfront.