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Detroit : Michigan Renaissance Festival

Friday Sep 5, 2008
Spirit of Detroit - Courtesy

Spirit of Detroit - Courtesy

Detroit had always intrigued me. Not because of its singular achievement of putting the world on its wheels or for the record sounds that it produced. More than that it had always fascinated me because of a long line of achievers that came out of this city to go on to have profound impact on the world. Be they architects, painters, photographers, sportsmen, musicians, singers, actors, writers, novelists, poets or its famed industry men.

And so it was, that when I found myself in Windsor, Ontario in the line of work, I decided to exit Canada through Highway 401. The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is the only vehicular international subaqueous border crossing in the world. Recognized as a great engineering feat I was only too happy to go through the first auto traffic tunnel between two nations and come out in Detroit.

Like I said it was the inherent atmosphere of the place that I was keen to explore. What started out as a fortified bastion to rise to its present day stature is what drew me to the city. I was keen to know what exactly conspires here-abouts to produce such multifarious go-getters. Or overachievers as the case turned out to be. Everywhere it was the incumbent mayor that was the talk of the town. The recent dethroning of the mayor bespoke of a revival of the great American spirit that can act out its mind.

This spirit is appropriately personified in the Spirit of Detroit, a 26-foot statue of the 1950s depicting a seated man holding a sphere in one hand and a family group in the other. Located by the City-County building it rightly appeared to be a symbol of Detroit. My timing could not have been more propitious with the hot days extending into a pleasant Indian Summer. With the weather still warm and news of cider mills getting into their act I was in for the famous cider and donut events of the Metro Detroit area where many cider mills are scattered.

As I moved about I realized that Detroit is a great place to visit and seemingly has had a part in crafting populist American cultures. Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokie Robinson, Michael Jackson, the Temptations, Diana Ross and others – all of them either grew up or gained their first fame in Detroit. The region is currently undergoing a renaissance with new developments and attractions. Downtown Detroit development boom is unparalleled in the country.

Nonetheless despite a history of prosperity and innovations, Detroit had been embroiled in racial and economic class differences since the seventies. The apparent overlap between the haves and the have-nots could be the reason for its crime graph that has fortunately seen a gradual decline. Detroit, the metonym for the American automotive industry, is also the place where the nation’s first traffic light was installed in 1915.

Today, metro Detroit has world-class shopping, first-rate cultural attractions, including one of the nation’s largest theater districts, and Las Vegas-style casino gaming. The city also brings plenty of shows and concerts in the seasons. The ultimate celebration of this season is the Michigan Renaissance Festival that will last up to September, 2008. Here you can enjoy turkey legs or watch a joust in the re-depiction of an Elizabethan era where you experience life among the peasantry. Get amused in 16th century England with jugglers, comedians and sword swallower’s providing unique entertainment. Themed weekends reflect different cultures that include bagpipe contests, Highland games and Middle Eastern dances.

Come September and there are events lined up to make you enjoy all the fun that Detroit’s got to offer. Dally in the Alley is a festival thats grown over the years in terms of both size and scope. Its claim to fame is that it showcases local artists, performers and vendors, including live performances on four stages. The festival also offers a kids fair, food court and beer aplenty. Detroit’s Fashion Week begins on September 29th. It includes a designer runway showcase tent and exclusive premiere runway collections, as well as charity events and parties.

But the best treat in store is the cider and donut season that having begun from Labor Day will go on until Thanksgiving weekend, all through out the Metro Detroit Area. Enjoy pressed cider, apples and piping-hot donuts that herald the fall season in Michigan. Experience the charm of hanging out at a picnic bench and meeting the locals by big barns in softly cooling air. Detroit remains a strange mix of rootedness and upscale boom.

Tourist buffs like me would be keen on Detroits rich history reflected in its buildings and landmarks. Exploring monuments that characterize Detroit is as interesting as meeting people who make Detroit what it is. Its fun chatting up in restaurants and pubs to get the feel of the city’s mind. Yes over typical Detroit hot fudges, potato chips or sodas, its politics as usual. To get to this one US city that looks south to Canada you might want to log on to Downtown Detroit hotel site for confirmed reservations.

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