A girl waves as she takes a spin on the merry-go-round during the inaugural Rock ’n’ Rides festival in downtown Royal Oak in 2019.

A girl waves as she takes a spin on the merry-go-round during the inaugural Rock ’n’ Rides festival in downtown Royal Oak in 2019.

Photo provided by Natalie Stavale

Rock ‘n’ Rides to return to Royal Oak this month

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 10, 2021

 A girl tries her hand at the ball toss.

A girl tries her hand at the ball toss.

Photo provided by Natalie Stavale

ROYAL OAK — The Rock ‘n’ Rides festival, which debuted in downtown Royal Oak in 2019 and was canceled last year due to the pandemic, will return Thursday, June 17, to Sunday, June 20.

The outdoor event includes an expanded variety of rides and attractions, including the Royal Oak Block Party that will feature DJs and a slew of food trucks, as well as a kickoff community event and a vaccine clinic.

Event producer Jon Witz said the event turned on a dime when the state of Michigan reversed some of its COVID-19 restrictions, and organizers have been working overtime to ensure that they put on a premier event featuring local musicians, entertainers, food trucks and a carnival.

Witz said the inaugural festival resulted from the Detroit River Days’ move from the General Motors headquarters to the west riverfront, whose grounds were unsuitable for the carnival, so it opened up the opportunity to come to Royal Oak.

“The event was so successful in Royal Oak that it didn’t matter what events were happening in Detroit; that unit wanted to come back,” he said.

This year, Rock ‘n’ Rides will feature 18 rides, including the Cliffhanger, Ring of Fire, Screamer, Sizzler and Vertigo. A dollar from each carnival wristband sold will benefit Open Hands Food Pantry in Royal Oak and Forgotten Harvest.

In keeping with COVID-19 protocols, Witz said signage will be posted advising all unvaccinated guests to wear masks and maintain social distance. All vendors handling food, beverages and tickets will also be required to wear masks; staff will continually disinfect common surfaces; and hand sanitizing stations will be readily available.

A COVID-19 vaccination clinic, courtesy of Henry Ford Health System, will take place from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 17 in the parking lot of the Rock on Third pub, 112 E. Third St. Those who receive a shot will receive a carnival wristband for free rides on any day of the festival or two free tickets to the Soaring Eagle Arts, Beats & Eats festival on Labor Day weekend.

The Royal Oak Block Party will take place along Fifth Avenue, between Washington and Center avenues, as an event for adults featuring the new House of Dank stage with live DJs and special guest food truck appearances.

The block party will also include the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort Music Stage, featuring a rotation of local, high-energy rock bands throughout the weekend.

On June 17, Rock ‘n’ Rides will kick off the festival with Community Day, which will offer 1,500 local kids and their families free carnival wristbands, plus lunch for the first four hours of the festival, courtesy of a range of nonprofit organizations.

“The Rainbow Connection is thrilled to be a part of this year’s Community Day at Rock ‘n’ Rides,” The Rainbow Connection Executive Director George J. Miller said in a prepared statement. “Granting wishes to kids in Michigan battling a life-threatening illness is our main mission, but we often look for partners in the community to help with what we call enhancements.”

Local nonprofits and community organizations partnered with Rock ‘n’ Rides this year and will receive a portion of gate or beverage sales, including Metro Detroit Youth Clubs, Open Hands Food Pantry, Royal Oak First United Methodist Church, Royal Oak football and cheer teams, Royal Oak Schools Performing Arts Committee, St. Paul Lutheran Church, and more.

The festival will open to the public at 4 p.m. June 17, and admission will cost $5. Festival entry is free on Friday until 5 p.m. — after that, the price is $5. Children under 3 are free at all times.

Carnival wristbands cost $18 per person June 17, and $28 from June 18 to June 20. Individual tickets for rides range from $3 to $6.

For a full schedule of events, bands and kids activities, or for more information, visit www.rocknridesro.com.