Friday, June 29, 2012

The Windsor–Detroit International Freedom Festival

A lot of people in the U.S. probably don't know this, but Detroit, MI is actually located north of Windsor, ON, Canada. There's your first fun trivia fact for this entry. The next is that since 1959, the two cities have celebrated the International Freedom Festival to honor our two countries days of independence, July 4th for the U.S. and July 1st (2nd if it falls on a Sunday) for Canada. And how do we celebrate? With fireworks, of course! The best fireworks display I have ever seen, in fact. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Growing up, I had often heard about the joint fireworks celebration along the Detroit River, and I have always wanted to go. This year, I finally got my chance. Knowing it would be busy and parking would be scarce, my boyfriend Greg and I arrived in front of the Rosa Parks Transit Center where we were allowed no further by a bunch of police blockades. We found a place to park for $10, then made our way to the People Mover. At 75 cents per ride, the People Mover is the cheapest form of public transportation I think I have ever taken. (It's $1.50 to ride the bus in A2.) 

The People Mover is kind of fun. It was first time riding it, and it reminded me of MUNI when it's in the tunnels. It also reminded me of the tram that zips around San Francisco's airport. The People Mover moves in only one direction and rides a continuous loop, which seemed odd to me, but it's certainly efficient since the track isn't very long at all. You get a great view of Windsor, where a carnival was going on, and at night, you could see all the rides lit up, such as the large Ferris wheel. 

Anyway, we took the People Mover to Greektown (again, my first visit), and had dinner at Pegasus. Greg and I both ordered the Greek Trio, a plate comprised of large squares of spanakoteropeta (spinach pie), moussaka (a layered eggplant dish), and pastitsio (a baked pasta dish). My favorite by far was the moussaka, though I think the spinach pie would have been improved by not having bechamel sauce all over it from the other dishes. (But I do freaking love bechamel sauce.) 

After dinner, we found a spot in front of the civil courthouse to watch the fireworks. The are was swarming with police officers, many of them mounted, and Greg witnessed a man giving crap to one of the mounted officers who was ordering him out of the street and back onto the sidewalk. In retaliation, the officer nudged her horse, which then pushed the man back toward the sidewalk, spooking him more than if the woman had done something herself. 

As I said earlier, the fireworks were spectacular! Easily the most beautiful I've ever seen. The show began with a plane flying over the river pulling a Canadian flag followed by another plane pulling a much larger American flag. The cheers and applause were equal to the sizes of the flags (at least on the Detroit side). There was music meant to accompany the show, but we were too far away and the crowd was much too loud in their appreciation to hear it.

At one point, while we were sitting quite happily watching the pretty fire explode in the sky, screams erupted from the people immediately to my left. The crowd rose almost as one, and a tide of people surged toward me. I got stepped on by at least two before I could get to my feet. A bunch of mounted officers came trotting over, but the police on foot were faster. I didn't know what was happening, though I overheard a few of my neighbors say a man had had a gun. 

The man immediately to my left (who happened to have a misbehaving daughter with the same name as me, which was confusing and weird as they kept yelling out her name) loudly declared: "I came here to watch some fireworks - I'm going to watch the fireworks!" Everyone settled down for the remainder of the show, and many people clapped as an officer led a man away in handcuffs (after having tackled him, or so said Greg, who saw it happen.)

The police were definitely out in force as we walked back to the People Mover and then to the car, but I didn't notice any more serious incidents. Just some young guys throwing glass bottles at another young man, possibly trying to start something (the glass shattered in the street and skittered into the crowds on the sidewalks). Oh, and the cop that had to get out of the patrol car to yell at a driver to let them through after the driver had cut them off. ('Cause that's a good idea.) Getting to I-94 really didn't take very long, surprising Greg and myself, and we returned to my apartment in practically no time, where we promptly fell asleep because that had been one eventful evening. 

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