The Winter Blast festival makes its sunny and snowy debut in Royal Oak

The combination of snow and sun on Saturday provided the perfect arctic backdrop for the debut of Winter Blast in Royal Oak, which drew festival-goers from all over metro Detroit in search of outdoor games, food, music and dozens of ice-cold attractions, including an ice rink, zipline and skating rink. covered snow slide.

“We’re having a great time,” said Kendra Prevost, from Royal Oak, who visited the festival on Saturday with her husband, Kris, and their two children, Annie and Karson. “(Annie and Karson) just did the zipline…it was crazy. And then we ice skated and wiped out a bunch of times.”

The festival, which had been an almost annual tradition in downtown Detroit since 2006, announced in December that it would not be returning to its original Campus Martius Park location due to alleged funding issues. Royal Oak Mayor Mike Fournier said he was glad his city was able to step in and “keep this Detroit tradition alive.”

Annie Prevost of Royal Oak prepares to throw a beanbag as she plays a game of cornhole with her family at the Winter Blast festival in Royal Oak on Saturday February 19.

“Royal Oak is very used to hosting these types of events throughout the year,” Fournier said. “Our town centre, our staff, our police and (the Department of Public Services) are all very well equipped. … (The festival) fits well into our town centre, where we have dozens of unique businesses that you’re not going to visit. find anywhere else.”

The festival uses the city’s new Centennial Commons park at Third and Troy streets, which opened last December as part of Royal Oak’s $60 million civic center project. It’s the site of the event’s outdoor rink, which Fournier says will remain for locals and visitors to enjoy until March 13.

“The idea of ​​the Royal Oakers being able to enjoy this rink for a month after the festival is over is going to be a really cool thing,” Fournier added.

Although the rink drew a lot of people, some visitors said they were drawn in by the selection of snacks.

“I was really excited about food trucks,” Dan Wolford said. of Clawson. “Especially the Fork in Nigeria food truck – I was really excited when I saw their menu. It was a reason to get out.”

Renee Guzman-Chang of Detroit holds her daughter Soraya as she toasts a marshmallow at the Winter Blast festival in Royal Oak on Saturday, February 19.

More than a dozen food trucks at the festival served treats from local restaurants like Imperial, Wing Snob and Crispelli’s, or traditional carnival fare such as elephant ears, funnel cakes and corn dogs. Visitors looking to kick the cozy vibe up a few notches opted for s’more kits, toasting their treats (and cold hands) at the many festival-dedicated “marshmallow roasting stations.”

Those who were a little too cold could take refuge (and drink, snack and shop) in one of the three comfort zones. Each large heated tent featured its own stage and a diverse range of live entertainment, from children’s puppet shows to performances by local and national musical artists.

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However, not all participants were interested in warming up.

In an effort to raise money for the Special Olympics, Miles Macik of Northville jumped like a cannonball into a pop-up pool full of icy water during the festival’s Polar Plunge fundraiser just after 1 p.m. Saturday.

“My law firm, Howard and Howard, sponsored the event,” he explained through chattering teeth. “We believe in Special Olympics and we felt a little crazy.”

Miles Macik of Northville jumps into a pool of freezing water for the Polar Plunge fundraiser at the Winter Blast festival in Royal Oak on Saturday, February 19.

Fournier, who took an icy run down the snowslide with Oakland County Commissioner David Woodward early Saturday morning, said the festival so far appears to be a success – and Royal Oak is looking forward to it. to organize it again next year.

“We have a two-year contract,” he said. “We’ll see where it goes from there… see if it becomes a go-to tradition in the town of Royal Oak. Hopefully it does.”

Winter Blast lasts until 11 p.m. on Saturday and will return from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free, although some attractions (including skate rentals and the zipline) require a fee. For more information, visit WinterBlast.com.

Lauren Wethington is a breaking news reporter. You can email her at [email protected] or find her on Twitter at @laurenelizw1.

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