DETROIT Stevie Wonder came home to help downtown Detroit come alive for the celebration of the city”s 300th birthday Saturday, culminating a weeklong celebration.
Fifteen tall ships docked near Hart Plaza along the Detroit River to commemorate Detroit”s role in the War of 1812. Another nine ships docked at Dieppe Park in Windsor allowed Canadians a close-up view of the ships without having to cross the river.
At 132 feet, the mast of the Bluemose II, the tallest ship, made it a popular attraction.
Comedian David Alan Grier hosted the Homecoming concert, featuring actor-comedians Dave Coulier and Tim Allen, who got their starts in the Comedy Castle in Detroit, as well as Motown legends the Temptations.
Wonder gave a free concert live for those crowding into the main stage area of Hart Plaza and the overflow crowd on the big screen in Comerica Park.
Performing hits like “Master Jam” and “Higher Ground,” Wonder pumped up the standing-room-only crowd. More than doubling his scheduled one-hour performance, Wonder featured his signature high-energy songs like “Superstition” and “Dancing in the Streets.”
“It is an exciting time. I wish we could do this every year for Detroit,” he said. “We”ve got to do something to encourage people” to embrace the city.
Wonder finished his set with “Happy Birthday,” a song written twenty years ago and heard in the city during the campaign for the organization of a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
The official celebration began Thursday with the opening and dedication of the new 3,000 foot long Riverfront Promenade. The walkway, which extends from the Renaissance Center past Joe Louis Arena, allows visitors to walk along the river and view the Windsor skyline.
Zeleka McKissic was among many revelers who showed up in the early hours of the morning to get a prime spot to watch the concerts. McKissic and 17 family and friends camped out on Hart Plaza beginning at 3 a.m.
“It”s a beautiful thing, I”m very proud of our city. We”re progressing slowly but we”re progressing,” McKissic said.
Tomorrow, the anniversary of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac”s landing on the shore of Detroit in 1701, a new statue in his image will be officially unveiled at Hart Plaza.
The celebration was an important gamble in displaying the city”s revitalization. Organizers sought to attract many who had not been downtown in years. The gamble seemed to pay off as more than a half-million packed the birthday venues.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.