GM River Days Returns to the Detroit Riverfront

By: Amber Ogden | June 17, 2015

The first official day of summer is a mere four days away, but residents of the Motor City are preparing to kick things off a few days early. GM River Days, a festival put on by the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, begins tomorrow with a special preview event and is a quintessential celebration of summer in downtown Detroit.

The 9th Annual festival along the Detroit Riverfront runs Friday, June 19 through Sunday, June 21. If you’re eager for the fun to start, consider attending the special preview event on Thursday night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.!

“(The preview evening is) a fundraiser for the conservancy, and for $50, you really get a good bang for your buck,” Marc Pasco, director of communications of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, said.

This is the first time there will ever be a sneak preview event since the festival began in 2007. The $50 fee will benefit the conservancy and get you free parking in the River East Garage, food from participating restaurants and carnival fare, three drink tickets, unlimited midway rides, and zip line rides, according to Pasco. You’ll also get to enjoy a live performance by R&B group The Spinners.

Tickets to the River Nights preview event are still available and can be purchased online.

Friday is when the first day of GM River Days officially begins, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., you can get in for free!

“This River Days is a nice mix of returning favorites, as well as some new components,” Pasco said, noting that Saturday and Sunday’s Tuskeegee Air Show is a new attraction, as well as the two zip lines. While there has been a Kids’ Zone in years past, the one this year is expanded and features free activities like face painting and arts and crafts.

Some returning favorites include sand sculptures, Jet Ski demonstrations with Typhoon Tommy and live music. In addition to national names on multiple stages, there will be 50 some local acts performing throughout the weekend.

GM River Days

(Photo provided by Marc Pasco of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy)

If you’re interested in the full music lineup, take a peek at it here before you go. There are three different stages boasting live tunes morning until night, and the acts range in genre from rock to country to funk to bluegrass to alternative. There’s a little something for everyone, no matter your music taste.

You’ll find a great mix of rides to enjoy, and when hunger strikes, a variety of food from local bars and restaurants in addition to the usual carnival fare of elephant ears and corn dogs. Keep your eyes peeled for participating eateries like Andiamo, Bert’s Market Place and Famous Dave’s!

Last year, 150,000 people attended GM River Days, and Pasco said he expects just around the same number this year, depending on the weekend’s weather.

“Over the years, this festival seems to have become the unofficial kickoff to the summer for many people,” he said, noting that the festival takes place right as kids are getting out of school and its location along the Detroit Riverfront makes it special.

The ultimate goal of GM River Days, according to Pasco, is to get people to come down to the Riverfront, especially if they’ve never been before. The Riverfront has evolved tremendously, and the festival is a great opportunity to see how the area has changed over the years.

The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy has some 300 volunteers, many of whom will be taking tickets and helping behind the scenes throughout the weekend. If you’re interested in being a volunteer, you can find more information online.

The festival is open Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission costs $3 before 3 p.m. and $5 after 3 p.m. Carnival rides require tickets, and you can purchase individual tickets for $0.50 a pop, or a $20 wristband that will give you access to rides for the day. Note that tickets are also required for the zip line rides and cost $15 for one or $25 for two.

For more information on GM River Days, visit the official website or Facebook page.