Birmingham returns to Dream Cruise — with smaller footprint

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 1, 2021

 The lawn area in the Triangle District will once again be host to the General Motors display and local broadcasters during the Woodward Dream Cruise.

The lawn area in the Triangle District will once again be host to the General Motors display and local broadcasters during the Woodward Dream Cruise.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

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BIRMINGHAM — The City Commission decided the city will participate in this year’s Woodward Dream Cruise, after taking a year’s hiatus due to COVID-19.

But festivities like the annual Birmingham Cruise Event will be pared down, at the request of the city’s fire chief.

“In a normal year, (the Dream Cruise) is our busiest time; my most stressful time as a fire chief. I need to have services available for residents and not overstretch ourselves,” said Birmingham Fire Chief Paul Wells. “I’m not anti-Dream Cruise. I have to tell you, I’m concerned if we overextend ourselves.”

Wells first addressed the commission back in May about his apprehensions in bringing back the city’s traditional Dream Cruise events, like the major media and corporate sponsorships that set up shop in the Triangle District, between Woodward and South Old Woodward avenues, and the approximately 300-vehicle classic car show that closes the downtown area and draws crowds from all over the region.  

His worries ranged from traffic jams limiting access for emergency vehicles to concentrated crowds and a higher risk of virus transmission amongst revelers. He told commissioners he believes that, based on updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the new Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus will tick up during the summer.

“The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are 79% effective against it. So one in five people can still get it, and right now 10% of the cases are the Delta variant. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 60% effective against the Delta variant. There are still CDC orders and (Michigan Department of Health and Human Services) guidelines to avoid large-scale gatherings,” he said.

The commissioners acknowledged Wells’ concerns and agreed that a full-scale event like in years past would be irresponsible so soon after the height of the pandemic. But with sponsorship requests already rolling in from General Motors, WXYZ Channel 7 News and 104.3 FM WOMC, there’s a chance the city could potentially lose that participation if they opt out for a second time.

“It would be nicer if we had statewide public health orders to guide this decision,” said Mayor Pro Tem Therese Longe. “Can we envision a scaled-down event where we have these sponsorships but we never again shut down (Old) Woodward? Whatever we decide will have consequences for more than one year.”

Commissioners Mark Nickita and Rackeline Hoff agreed, noting that the reality is that since Woodward Dream Cruise Inc. has already started promoting the return of the main event, and nearby communities are committing resources to the festivities, Birmingham’s participation is already decided.

“As for Woodward, you’re going to have to take an active part,” Hoff said to Wells. “Regardless of whether we’re a sponsor, we’re going to have to be there. I can see limiting the events, but when I hear WXYZ and WOMC are still going to be broadcasting whether it’s on private property or (city property), I think we’re entitled to those sponsorships.”

Wells and the Birmingham Shopping District, which hosts the Birmingham Cruise Event, presented something of a compromise to the commission during its regular meeting June 14. The plan for a smaller event outlines space for a GM attraction and live broadcast space for media partners, along with a smaller space for car clubs to set up shop. The portion of road closed for the car show will be scaled back, with a larger fire lane than usual.

“I think people were going to park in those spots anyway, so we might as well (allow classic cars there) for the event, and I think it’ll be fine,” Wells said.

The commission voted unanimously to approve Birmingham’s participation in the Dream Cruise in a reduced capacity, which Mayor Pierre Boutros said was a reasonable move.

“I think this is a great compromise. I think the Dream Cruise is going to happen regardless, and, hopefully, now it will be controlled and you’ll have enough help and we can stay safe through the pandemic.”

The Woodward Dream Cruise will take place Saturday, Aug. 21. For more information on Birmingham’s festivities, visit allinbirmingham.com.

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