Detroit Could Get A Big Riverfront Music Festival This Summer -- At Ft. Wayne

June 08, 2012, 4:16 PM by  Doron Levin

Detroit may get its own music festival this summer, a mashup of Chicago’s Lollapalooza, Tennessee’s Bonnaroo and the Coachella event near Palm Springs, California.

The organizers of Prospecto 2012 have received the go-ahead from the city of Detroit to occupy – please forgive the verb – historic Ft. Wayne in the Delray neighborhood of the southwest section of the city the weekend of August 24-26. Brett VanTil, vice president of digital marketing for the festival, said a decision to proceed will be made within two weeks, based on financing and sponsorship commitments.

Prospecto organizers say they are negotiating with musical acts, which they declined to identify. Motown legacy acts will be in the mix, they said. Earlier this month, the music lineup at Bonnaroo featured Radiohead, the Beach Boys and Skrillex. Organizers think Prospecto could attract 40,000 people a day.

“We hope that our festival won’t be just about music, but that it will capture and broadcast the amazing entrepreneurial energy of revitalization and rebound that has made Detroit one of the most compelling and interesting places on earth,” said VanTil.

Prospecto was born last fall in Grand Rapids as an accompanying event to ArtPrize, the acclaimed fine arts exhibition. Featured musical acts included George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, The Walkmen, The Pharcyde, Lee Fields & the Expressions, Trans Am, Future Islands, Stardeath & White Dwarfs and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

The growth of summer music festivals in the U.S. can be traced to the granddaddy of them all, the Woodstock Folk Festival, which burst on to the rock music and cultural scene in August 1969. Musical acts like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Joan Baez, the Who, Country Joe & the Fish and Arlo Guthrie gained global prominence after 400,000 people streamed to Max Yasgur’s farm near Monticello, New York, for “three days of peace, love and music.”

(Personal note: Yours truly, having just finished my freshman year of college, attended Woodstock. Woodstock was everything you’ve seen, heard or imagined and more.)

The selection of historic Ft. Wayne, rather than a more conventional setting such as Hart Plaza, could give Prospecto a distinctive feel that blends the history of the mostly ruined military installation with the bucolic splendor of the view across the Detroit River to Canada.

Ft. Wayne is an important relic of history largely unknown to many Detroiters, apart from those who come to see the museum of the Tuskegee Airmen or to historical re-enactors who use the grounds to stage mock battles. The city’s recreation department also has used the fields for soccer games and practices.

The original fort was built in 1845 to protect against a possible British invasion, which never came. The reason for the fear of invasion was caused by Canadians and Americans who were trying to foment a breakaway of Canada from Great Britain, the little known Patriot Wars of the 1830s. Later the property became a U.S. military installation where U.S. troops were mustered before going off to war.

In some ways historic Ft. Wayne looks like an ideal place to stage a music festival: river view, grassy open spaces and historical buildings that stand as a reminder of the country’s long history – plus a shelter for the musicians (at least) in case of rain.

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