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 Detroit Circus performer Eric Scott Baker, of Detroit, balances a juggling pin on his forehead while performing during the Winter Blast preview event at Cadillac Square Jan. 14.

Detroit Circus performer Eric Scott Baker, of Detroit, balances a juggling pin on his forehead while performing during the Winter Blast preview event at Cadillac Square Jan. 14.

Photo by Sean Work


Detroit prepares for 2020 Winter Blast festival

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published January 17, 2020

 Ice carver Chad Pisarski, of Flat Rock, puts the final touches on an ice sculpture during the Winter Blast preview event at Cadillac Square Jan. 14. Such ice sculptures will decorate the event when it takes place Feb. 7-9.

Ice carver Chad Pisarski, of Flat Rock, puts the final touches on an ice sculpture during the Winter Blast preview event at Cadillac Square Jan. 14. Such ice sculptures will decorate the event when it takes place Feb. 7-9.

Photo by Sean Work

 Latrice McClendon, of Detroit, left, and Malinda Jensen, of Detroit, right, roast marshmallows, which is one of the long-running attractions at Detroit’s Winter Blast.

Latrice McClendon, of Detroit, left, and Malinda Jensen, of Detroit, right, roast marshmallows, which is one of the long-running attractions at Detroit’s Winter Blast.

Photo by Sean Work

DETROIT — Detroit is getting ready for its annual Winter Blast festival, which will run from Friday, Feb. 7, to Sunday, Feb. 9, in Cadillac Square.

Begun to coincide with Super Bowl XL in Detroit in 2006, Winter Blast has since grown into a Detroit winter tradition.

“(Our goal is) to celebrate Detroit, embrace winter and enjoy all the great things we have here,” said festival producer Jon Witz. “When we talk about evolving the city of Detroit, every time when someone comes to a new Winter Blast, you’re seeing new businesses, new restaurants, and it’s a good time to check out how far Detroit has come.”

The festival organizers hosted a press preview day Jan. 14. Unlike last year, the event will return to its traditional one-weekend format instead of being spread out over four weekends.

“We did fine last year with the four weekends, but we got feedback that people had come out and they saw one of the big activities but not all of the signature attractions, and I think we got the sense that if people came to Detroit, they wanted all of that,” Witz said. “Also, with the auto show moving to June, we thought it was better to have one weekend that was a big splash instead of spreading out our content over four weekends.”

Witz said Winter Blast has an important role in the city.

“With the auto show moving to June, we are now Detroit’s signature and exclusive wintertime event. It will be a great time for tens of thousands of people,” he remarked. “(The movement of the auto show) just says to us that we need to make this as strong and significant as possible. There’s a little bit of a void in the winter, so we want, as an event taking place in that winter time frame and embracing winter, to put on a great show.”

Malinda Jensen, the senior vice president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. and a representative of Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority, expressed how the event is a meaningful one for the city.

“It’s one of those types of programs that is consistent,” she said. “Everyone is invited to attend. It’s a signature event in the winter months. Normally, programming comes in the summer when it’s nice out, but this is something people can come down and enjoy in the winter.”

This year’s Winter Blast will see a continuation of several fan-favorite attractions.

“We’ve seen the evolution of our food offerings; you’ve seen skiing and snowboarding added recently; you’ve seen our snow slide and tubes,” said Witz. “I think we have a lot of new activities, but we are bringing back our classics, like free skating, marshmallows, warming tents and spectacular ice sculptures.”

Individual attractions, like food and skate rentals, will include a cost; however, the event will maintain its free-to-attend model, which it returned to in 2019 after several years of charging for attendance.

“We saw the vision of this prior to the Super Bowl, that a winter event would work in downtown Detroit, and what continued it was keeping it fresh and adding new activities,” Witz said. “Steady support from our stakeholders was important so we could offer all of this for free. We had a few years where we had to charge to come in, and we were excited to be able to offer this event to everyone (for free), and our sponsors are the reason why.”

Mount Brighton is one of the main sponsors of this year’s Winter Blast and will be bringing several of its ski instructors to help teach attendees how to ski on a custom-made snow hill built right off Cadillac Square.

“Everybody will get the chance to experience the joy of sliding down the hill,” said Beth Lohman, the general manager of Mount Brighton. “I think (Winter Blast) introduces the community to winter sports and the outdoors and how fun it is in the wintertime. It brings a message of inclusivity that this is for everyone, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

Jensen said that big public celebrations such as Winter Blast are part of what turns cities into thriving communities.

“I think any major city needs this type of programming,” she said. “You’re activating public spaces; it’s for the whole community, there’s something for everyone. There’s things like ice skating and ski lessons, which are very powerful to me because there are children who might never have the opportunity to go out to Mount Brighton. So bringing these things to the city is exposing our youth to different ways to be healthy.”

She added that it’s one of her favorite events that Detroit takes part in.

“I think it’s an opportunity to see the best of Detroit,” remarked Jensen. “It’s open to the public; you don’t have to have a ticket; you can try different food trucks; you can see people enjoying the best Detroit has to offer.”