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The Blast is Back

Detroit's Winter Blast is coming back. The event that was the heart of the Super Bowl XL celebrations for so many ticket-less metro Detroiters is returning for its third installment, and organizers say it's a chance to celebrate winter, and the city.

In fact, Jonathan Witz, president of Jonathan Witz & Associates and the mastermind behind the event, says that even if all you do is walk from your car to a restaurant or theater, you can say you were part of the Winter Blast.

"You don't have to necessarily skate or do the slide. If you do Detroit, you do the winter blast," Witz says. "There are just so many great messages about the value of the city in this event. Our message is, 'If you go to Atlas Global Bistro and the Gem Theatre for the new musical Respect, you've done the winter blast.' "

From Feb. 9-11, the street party includes music stages, marshmallow roasting, dog sled teams, ice sculptures, free ice skating at Campus Martius, a taste of Detroit dining area, shopping — and don't forget the pièce de résistance, the big, 200-foot snow slide.

"It's all about embracing Detroit's true qualities. And one of those things is that we have cold winters," says Jim Townsend, executive director of the Tourism Economic Development Council, a public-private partnership that works to boost tourism spending in metro Detroit.

The Winter Blast can also be something of a hair of the dog for Detroiters suffering a hangover effect between big national events here. Bringing back the Blast is a way to remind everyone that what we accomplished during the Super Bowl — a sparkling downtown and a big party that drew participants from all over the region — wasn't a flash in the pan, Townsend says.

The Winter Blast, he says, "is both symbolic as well as a real substantive strategy to not let us go into these lulls where there's nothing going on.

"It's great to stage these big international events," Townsend continues, "but they leave a hangover that's deepened by the fact that we're still building up Detroit's attraction.  It's not where we want it to be yet, so we have to try harder — and we have to keep creating events to drive people downtown."

The event attracted more than 200,000 people for its debut in 2005 and 1.2 million Detroiters and visitors during Super Bowl XL weekend in 2006.

This year's Winter Blast will span 11 city blocks. Along with food from 25 restaurants, live music from 60 bands, and special family-oriented activities, there will also be a Pure Michigan exhibit, located in the Compuware Building atrium, featuring activities and talent from across the state. 

Witz says that in '08, there's talk of expanding the event even further, making it a weeklong extravaganza and something that could attract people to Detroit from all over the region.

For a complete list of events and more details, go to: www.motownwinterblast.com



Campus Martius skating photographs copyright Dave Krieger


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