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 Sterling Heights Digital Content Coordinator Marissa Russo, center, interacts with Sonic the Hedgehog, left, and Sterling B. Counted in front of The Halo in Sterling Heights Feb. 6.

Sterling Heights Digital Content Coordinator Marissa Russo, center, interacts with Sonic the Hedgehog, left, and Sterling B. Counted in front of The Halo in Sterling Heights Feb. 6.

Photo by Eric Czarnik


Sonic the Hedgehog speeds into Sterling to see its gold ring

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 6, 2020

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STERLING HEIGHTS — He had to go fast, but video game legend and upcoming movie star Sonic the Hedgehog visited Sterling Heights’ Golden Corridor zone to see, up close, its iconic golden ring landmark. 

A handful of Sonic fans and families with kids braved wintry cold temperatures Feb. 6 to witness the blue hedgehog in action at The Halo sculpture. Sterling Heights police briefly blocked off traffic on M-59/Hall Road to help Sonic reach the median where The Halo stands.

Sonic’s tour is part of Paramount Pictures’ publicity for the new film “Sonic The Hedgehog,” which debuts Feb. 14 in theaters. 

The “Sonic” movie is a live-action adventure comedy based on the popular Sega video game. The plot revolves around Sonic experiencing life in the real world while fighting his archnemesis, Dr. Robotnik. The film stars Jim Carrey, who plays Robotnik, as well as James Marsden, Ben Schwartz and Tika Sumpter.

An initial movie trailer and its CGI rendering of Sonic stirred up chaos on social media, drawing complaints and jeers from some fans who demanded that Sonic more closely resemble his video game form. Paramount listened and delayed the film’s release from November to February in order to fix the character model.

Sonic’s publicity tour stop to The Halo in Sterling Heights is no coincidence. In the video games, Sonic collects gold rings to protect himself against enemy attacks. He also sometimes jumps through large rings that are portals to otherworldly special stages.

Sterling Heights officials set up their own 35-foot-tall golden ring — made of steel and aluminum —  in January 2019 to symbolize a Golden Corridor economic zone along part of M-59/Hall Road. City officials last year estimated the giant ring’s price tag at $180,000.

After online mockers dubbed the sculpture “The Golden Butthole of Macomb County,” officials held an official public naming contest for it in March, and “The Halo” won.

Andrew Kozinski, who attended Sonic’s Feb. 6 visit to The Halo, still prefers the old nickname. While he came with his son, a Sonic fan, he also brought a sign that read: “It’s called the ‘Golden Butthole.’”

“I’m a huge ‘Golden Butthole’ advocate, so I’ll be (with) this sign in front of the Golden Butthole and just have a good time,” he said.

Other spectators, like Mike Worton, came because they wanted to express their Sonic fandom. 

Worton, 28, from Chesterfield Township, wore a Sonic T-shirt and brought along plush toys of Sonic and another character from the video game franchise, Silver.

Worton called Sonic “an inspiration to me” and said he takes along the Sonic plushie when he goes running.

“Actually, I just did my first marathon last year, but every time I run — 5Ks, half-marathons, things like that — I always have (the Sonic plushie) on my back, and it says, ‘If you pass me, give Sonic a high-five.’” he said. 

“So when people do, they’ll pass to get a smile on their face, to get that speed boost, sort of, to like keep going. … And that’s really like the whole spirit behind it: He’s a freedom fighter; he’s capable of inspiring people to do better, and everything like that. So it’s not just a video game character — it’s a cultural icon.”

During Sonic’s speedy visit to metro Detroit, he got a chance to meet Sterling Heights’ bee mascot, Sterling B. Counted. The anthropomorphic bee has been locally spreading the buzz about filling the 2020 census form.

Marissa Russo, the digital content coordinator for the city of Sterling Heights, was excited to have the bee appear “with such an iconic character that people can really resonate with.” 

“So having Sterling B. Counted up here to kind of spread the word about our census mission and getting everything counted, I think it’s a great opportunity for us to outreach that to the community,” she said. 

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor didn’t attend the visit, but he said he saw pictures online and thought it was awesome. He said he can’t wait to see the “Sonic” movie.

“A major motion picture. They're coming to Sterling Heights to promote their movie because of a landmark, an iconic sign we’re having here,” Taylor said. “It’s beyond my wildest dreams.”

Taylor said his kids love Sonic, and the character’s visit brought back his own memories of growing up with Sonic, Mario and video games. 

“I remember when I was about 10, 11, 12. We got a Sega Genesis, and the main game is ‘Sonic the Hedgehog.’ And I played ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ all my life growing up,” Taylor said. “It is just like coming full circle to see a character from my childhood that’s coming to Sterling Heights.” 

According to event organizers, Sonic was also expected to greet fans at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy the morning of Feb. 8. He was scheduled to appear during the afternoons of Feb. 8 and 9 at the Quicken Loans Winter Blast Weekend in downtown Detroit, on the TCF Bank Family Fun Stage.

Find out more about Sonic the Hedgehog by visiting www.sonicthehedgehog.com. For the movie specifically, visit www.sonicthehedgehogmovie.com. To learn more about Sterling Heights, visit www.sterling-heights.net.

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