Detroit's plans for fireworks leaves Windsor officials scrambling for safe solution

Detroit's plans for the 2020 Ford Fireworks included a televised event and keeping away from the riverfront on the U.S. side of the border. Meanwhile in Windsor, officials are trying to figure out what to do.

Medical officer of health said city contacted him for advice, planning

The 2020 Ford Fireworks will proceed on Aug. 31, but members of the public won't be allowed to congregate in public spaces for viewing. 0:50

Officials in Detroit announced the 2020 Ford Fireworks would go ahead this year as a televised event on Aug. 31, with citizens being kept away from the riverfront to maintain physical distancing measures. 

That announcement may have come as a surprise to officials in Windsor, as the city has asked the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed for advice on whether the city should allow spectators at the riverfront for the event. 

Late last night, Windsor's mayor's office contacted Ahmed about planning for the annual show.

"I am still concerned that we don't know what would happen, what the situation looks like in August. What could happen in the future, I don't know, if the province come back and maybe loosen those restrictions," said Ahmed. 

Ahmed said there is no way to predict if we will have zero cases by then, or possibly hundreds.

"It just makes me nervous when people are thinking about it, and events like these can really trigger what we are calling I guess a second wave, even locally," he said. 

State and city officials in Michigan plan on formulating public safety guidelines for this year's Ford Fireworks, "in the coming three months," according to a media release issued Wednesday. 

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said he was initially surprised to hear that Detroit planned on holding this year's fireworks celebration.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens says he was initially surprised to hear that Detroit planned on staging this year's fireworks show. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

"My second reaction was, you know what? Who knows this situation is gonna be like over 90 days from now," Dilkens said on Thursday, while speaking with Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre. "Think of where we started. It's been two and a half months where we started and how far we've come at this particular point."

Dilkens explained that the annual fireworks show in Detroit is entirely handled by people on the U.S. side of the border. 

"This event is completely fully funded and brought to you by the Parade Company in Detroit and sponsored this year by Ford and past years by Ford as well," he said.

"We have no financial exposure from a city perspective."

Let's hope that we're at a place where everyone can go and gather and watch the fireworks show.- Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens

He added that he doesn't feel "slighted in any way" that Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan didn't inform Windsor officials about the plans for this year's celebration. 

"Everyone's busy and everyone's focused on doing what they can do right now," Dilkens said. "I've got great communication back and forth with Mayor Duggan, so this is not any sort of fatal event."

Dilkens reiterated that it's difficult to predict what will take place over the next three months, saying that "we just can't' prejudge what type of situation we'll be in and whether it will be safe to have tens of thousands of people … along the waterfront."

"Let's hope that we're at a place where everyone can go and gather and watch the fireworks show. But if we can't, if it's not safe to do so, we'll certainly make everyone informed of what the rules are so that they can govern themselves accordingly."

LISTEN | Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens talks about the 2020 Ford Fireworks with Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre:

The biggest fireworks show in Windsor and Detroit is back on - but looks like the people in Detroit forgot to tell the folks in Windsor. We spoke with Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens. 7:43

Windsorites react to fireworks plans

CBC Windsor asked some residents walking along the river Thursday for their thoughts on this year's fete. 

"If you look at California, Florida the beach — they don't care," said Kenny Ing, referring to the amount of people who have swarmed those areas after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. 

Ing doesn't think the show is a good idea. 

As Detroit's 2020 Ford Fireworks plan is unveiled, the City of Windsor is figuring out what to do to keep people safe in a COVID-19 era. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"I don't think so, you put people in a risky situation," he said. "I'd rather watch it on TV. Too many people around, the virus still isn't done yet."

Ryan Sleiman said he thinks it's a good idea during "tough times"

"Even though we can't have the crowds we normally would... it's a good tradition in Windsor," he said. "If they police it well and they tell people not to [congregate] I think it will be OK."

Sarah Abouzeeni said she thinks it's sad, because she'd like to see them with everyone. 

"Watching fireworks on TV and getting the whole vibe outdoors is not the same whatsoever," she said. "But I don't think people will stay away. We just got sunny weather and no one is away from each other — everyone is touching, hugging and hanging out." 

Abouzeeni said if people can't come together for the event, there's really no point of a televised version. 

With files from Kaitie Fraser and Afternoon Drive


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