Extreme temperatures burned attendance at Utica’s first annual l as temps Thursday, Friday, and Saturday climbed into the upper 90s. Still, activities went on as planned and those who did brave the heat enjoyed the events.
The festival was the brainchild of Utica's Downtown Development, which is made up of area business owners. DDA members partnered with the Sterling Heights Chamber of Commerce and Industry to bring the event to the community.
“We are trying to bring families out and have a great event and focus on Utica’s new river walk,” said Wayne Oehmke, president of the Sterling Heights Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The event should be the first of many Riverwalk festivals, said John Sattman, owner of the and a member of the Utica/Shelby Kiwanis Club.
Fireworks sponsored by Henry Ford Hospital Friday and Saturday nights were high points of the festival. There was also a carnival midway, classic car cruise, bike decorating for kids, live music, and a rubber piggy race on the water. “Star Wars” characters appeared at the library.
Utica residents Matt and Jacob Wehnar said they enjoyed the festival because of the midway and games. It also gave them a chance to hobnob with neighbors. “I think it’s important for the community to come together and meet everybody and there’s a lot of neighbors that I haven’t met that I had a chance to meet,” he said. “It’s been fun.”
Although fun was had by most people who attended, it was difficult to ignore the extreme temperatures and thin crowds. Parking lots reserved for the festival near St. Lawrence and at Eppler Jr. High sat empty Friday and Saturday. There was a smaller than average crowd for live music Friday night. Those who visited the midway saw little to no wait for the rides.
Karolyn Deater, owner of Utica-based Miss Karolyn’s Kids Licensed Home Daycare, sat outside Argentine Tango on Auburn Road, ready to read to stories to children as they passed by. “It’s been slow so far, its been real slow,” she said. “I think the heat is bad.”
Rachel Pharis and Steve Templeton were passing out flyers for Dave and Buster’s during the festival. They, too, were concerned about the lower attendance. “It’s hot, we’re just trying to stay cool. They just need to get more people down here,” Pharis said.
Although the heat may be the biggest culprit behind the lower attendance, Sattman also expressed concern about the timing of the festival. “A lot of us are concerned about the week we choose, being the forth of July, it’s slow this week,” Sattman said. “We’ll see, maybe next year we’ll switch the time.”