Utica OKs fireworks for summer Riverwalk Festival

By: Brad D. Bates | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 16, 2012

 Fireworks like these from the 2012 downtown Utica ice festival were approved for the summer Riverwalk Festival, to be held July 6 and 7, at the April 10 Utica City Council meeting.

Fireworks like these from the 2012 downtown Utica ice festival were approved for the summer Riverwalk Festival, to be held July 6 and 7, at the April 10 Utica City Council meeting.

File photo by Donna Agusti


UTICA — To celebrate the Fourth of July and its riverfront, the city of Utica will have “bombs bursting in air.”

After a unanimous vote by the City Council April 10, the city will have fireworks shows July 6 and 7 as part of the 2012 Riverwalk Festival. The shows will be done by ACE Pyro, which also provided fireworks for the 2012 ice festival in downtown Utica.

“Right now, we have a guarantee by our (Downtown Development Authority) to put up some money for that,” Cass Bar and Grill owner and Utica DDA Board member John Sattman said of the funding for the fireworks shows.

The fireworks will just be a portion of the event that will run July 5-8 and feature a carnival, a car show and “pig” races along the Clinton River.

“We’re going to have a rubber piggy race that will be partially sponsored,” Sattman said of the rubber boat races on the river. “That’s going to be held on Sunday, and we’re doing piggies because the city of Utica used to be called Hogs Hollow.”

The event follows the ice festival, which local businesses and leaders felt highlighted the city’s newly developed riverfront that won the Michigan Municipal League’s Region 1 Community Excellence Award March 20 at the Michigan Municipal League 2012 Capital Conference in Lansing.

“The ice festival really worked out well this year, and it was done on a last-minute, shoestring budget, but it did come together,” Sattman said. “It seemed to really inspire the community.”

Different from the ice festival, though, is the involvement of the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The ice festival was supported financially and logistically by the Utica DDA alone, and the added muscle of the chamber has Sattman hoping the summer festival will be an even bigger success than its winter counterpart.

“We’ve had numerous planning meetings with city administration members, fire, police, DDA, Parks and Rec, chamber staff,” SHRCCI President and CEO Wayne Oehmke said.

“All with the goal of making the Riverwalk a safe, family, fun event that will bring positive attention to our community, business to our merchants and a memorable fun time for all who attend this brand-new festival honoring the river walk and certainly all that is Utica.”

The support of the chamber will only be bolstered by what Sattman hopes will be the real economic driving force for a great event — corporate sponsorship.

“We do have some aggressive sponsors looking at (the fireworks) right now, and we think we can lock that in,” Sattman said.

Along with fireworks, the council also discussed such matters as when roads would be closed, locations for public parking and allowing street vendors during the festival.

And while they unanimously OK’d the fireworks, the decision was made to table the other items until a formal site plan is drawn up and brought before the board at its May 8 or June 12 meeting.

“We do have to come with a site plan,” Oehmke said of addressing logistics, such as parking, as the carnival is set to fill the lot in front of the Utica Department of Public Works building that usually serves as overflow parking.

“Ideally there will be parking, but we’re not going to propose what it will be at this point. Not to be a pig in a poke, not the Hog’s Hollow thing, but we want the carnival to be able to have the footprint they