DETROIT: Summertime Fun

4 Aug

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Since June and running through September 2, Detroit has been entertaining locals and visitors alike with fun activities: Beach Parties, live musical performances, movie night, volleyball, fitness classes and food truck gatherings  with Summer In The Parks. Every day brings new offerings to Campus Martius/Cadillac Square, Capitol Park, Grand Circus Park and Paradise Valley—and it’s all FREE! This evening we are headed to Campus Martius to see one of Nick Cave’s Dance Labs. Best known for his “sound suits” Nick Cave earned his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, his show Here Hear will be at Cranbrook until October 11, 2015. Cave has spent the summer in Detroit working with local dance companies and musicians; tonight’s performance pairs Hardcore Detroit with Odu Afrobeat Orchestra. 

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We park about a block away from Campus Martius, this is Detroit’s point of origin, all major avenues radiate out from this point; I guess you could say it’s the heart of the city. The 2.5 acre public square is buzzing with excitement; green folding chairs set up in rows on the lush lawn hold anxious spectators, the beach bar is serving up cocktails in clear plastic cups for the occasion, funky plastic chairs host barefoot individuals in the warm, soft sand. The Compuware building looms tall behind the stage, a large screen at the back of the stage assures even those farthest away can enjoy the show. Performers take their place and the music begins. Dancers dressed in Cave designed sound suits move to the beat of the music, these vibrant-colored fabric sculptures twirl, rise and fall in rhythm. Lengthy fur flows with the music creating its own choreography. Six dancers move in unison, then take turns solo; one individual wears gloves and a mask in white, duplicating signature Michael Jackson moves. Two young children are brought on stage to join in, the audience shows their approval with loud applause.

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The production comes to an end, folks mingle, a reggae band starts to play at the opposite side of the park; the soldiers and sailors monument looks on with approval. Water sprays from the big fountain throwing mist into the air, refreshing the lucky ones it reaches. Across the street in the Sports Zone a volleyball game is in progress on the sandy court, four basketball half-courts are filled with guys going one on one, shooting free throws and showing off their skills; nearby benches offer pedestrians respite and court-side seating. The Bagley Memorial Fountain sits silently in Cadillac Park, carved in granite by Henry Hobson Richardson back in 1887 as a drinking fountain, it originally sat at the corner of Woodward and Fort, it has been on this spot since 2007–I’d love to see water flow from the lions mouth once again. Gardens line both sides of the park; Hydrangea, Purple Coneflower and neatly maintained shrubs create a pretty landscape.

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Greektown At Sundown is the latest activity to join Detroit’s summer line up. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from now until September 6, Monroe Street in Greektown will be closed to vehicle traffic from 5 pm until 2 am between Beaubien and St Antoine. Musicians, street performers and artists will replace cars on this pedestrian friendly block. Eight restaurants now offer outdoor seating on newly constructed patios, Ikea provided the furniture and umbrellas, Shinola has installed bike racks. We arrive at twilight to a scene of bustling foot traffic, the hum of conversation, and laughter; strings of clear lights criss cross Monroe, the glow grows as darkness sets in. Food is on our mind and Santorini Estiatorio is where we are having dinner.

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The restaurant’s patio is full of diners, the roll-up doors are open to the sidewalk, tonight we will dine al fresco. Waiters work at an accelerated pace on this busy Friday night. We place our order and sip on chilled Reisling as we watch folks eating ice cream and carrying white bakery bags pass by; we are surrounded by the sound of Greek speaking patrons, very cool. Long, white rectangular plates of food are set on our table, squares of Spanakotiropeta (spinach pie), Moussaka (layers of eggplant, potato and beef in a bechemal sauce) and Pastitsio (macaroni, spiced ground meat, parmesan and bechamel) and a couple of Dolmathakia (stuffed grape leaves in lemon sauce) make our mouths water. Without hesitation we dig in, the food is wonderfully fresh and delicious, it disappears quickly.

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Out on the street darkness surrounds us, signs and city lights shine bright; we gather with others to watch a street performer breathe fire then twirl batons of fire. Policemen on horses patrol the street, there’s a line to pet the beautiful animals. We stop in at Krema for something sweet. The modern space serves up Greek pastries, Gelato and Coffee, what else could you want? Their signature pastry is Bougatsa, a breakfast pastry made with phyllo and semolina cream, they also make a Kremnut—kind of a combo of a croissant and a doughnut, filled with tasty things like custard, nutella, key lime and strawberry. One custard for me please, Kris cannot resist the Nutella Gelato. We eat our dessert sitting at a table watching the line ebb and flow, gelato seems to be the most popular item tonight. I have to say my Kremnut is really good, the dough tender with lots of tiny air pockets, the custard filling is just the right amount of sweet, the gelato is equally as good.

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It has been a long time since we have seen Greektown looking so vibrant and attractive. Restaurants have opened balconies and rooftops to visitors, Ikea has a wonderful window display and pop-up shops appear here and there along the street. Bicycles with illuminated rims are pedaled through the district, friends group together in street-side chairs, everybody is having a good time. It’s a celebration of summer and you’re all invited!

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