Pandemic won’t stop some politicians from attending big Detroit music festival

By: - August 13, 2021 2:40 pm

A crowd enjoys a previous Charivari Detroit Festival | Marius Bingue photo

As a popular weekend music festival continues in Detroit, some vaccinated political leaders plan to attend even as the Delta variant is driving COVID-19 cases higher in the state. 

Charivari Detroit will be held outdoors at Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit  Thursday through Sunday. Since its inception in 2014, the four-day electronic dance music festival has featured the house and techno music genres and has attracted tens of thousands of people, including several public officials. The name Charivari refers to a popular group of Detroit-area residents who sponsored social events during the early 1980s.  

Theresa Hill, a founder of the event, said that COVID-19 protocols will be carried out. Masking-wearing will be strongly encouraged and DJ stations will have a protective shield that discourages people from crowding together.

“We just want to keep everyone safe while they have a good time,” said Hill.

The city of Detroit, which issued a permit for the event, recommends everyone, including those who are fully vaccinated, wear a mask indoors in order to maximize protection from the highly contagious Delta variant. As of Wednesday, the city’s COVID-19 vaccination percentage for those aged 12 and older who have at least one dose is 41.1%, which is significantly lower than the statewide percentage of 59%.

Detroit Chief Public Health Official Denise Fair | City of Detroit photo

“We are encouraging Detroiters to mask up indoors out of an abundance of caution,” said Denise Fair, chief public health officer. “We want everyone to stay safe and healthy.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported Wednesday that a total of 916,006 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 19,982 have died from the virus — an additional 2,786 cases and 24 deaths since Monday.

State officials, however, have allowed an expanded number of people who  can attend indoor and outdoor events this summer. The Detroit Tigers, for example, have averaged 11,784 fans this season, according to attendance records. On July 17, the team hosted 31,624 fans at Comerica Park during a game against the Minnesota Twins. There, guests are not required to wear masks in outdoor seating areas within Comerica Park. Unvaccinated fans ages 2 and older, however, are required to wear a mask indoors. Similarly, the annual Detroit Jazz Festival will have public concerts at outdoor venues during Labor Day weekend.

Last month, DHHS announced that it was working with local public health departments on an investigation associated with the Faster Horses Festival, which was held July 16 to 19 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Nearly 100 COVID-19 cases have been reported. 

‘House music can make you feel soulful’

“I do believe that it has been a draw for people of all walks in life, including politicians,” said Hill. “So many politicians come every year. They patronize us. They help us in any way they can. It’s been a blessing. They love the music.”

Bill McConico | 36th District Court photo

Bill McConico, a former state House member and current 36th District Court chief judge, grew up listening to House music in Detroit and plans to attend this year while wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.

“House music can make you feel soulful. It can make you feel joyful. It can give the type of energy that you just can’t describe,” said McConico, who has been vaccinated against COVID-19. “It has been everything to me.”

McConico noted he’s part of a generation of children who grew up during the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s attending House and Techno music parties. Many of whom are elected officials, business owners, and civic leaders. It includes Buzz Thomas, a former state House and Senate member, and current Lansing lobbyist as well as Alisha Bell, Wayne County Commission chair.  

“What’s great to see is that people who were partying together in the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s , went off to school, and still have the love of the music,” said McConico. “I always tell my children: ‘If you hang around good people, have good friends, and it’s a good circle, good things happen.’”

Bell has attended the event in the past and plans to visit this weekend. She believes that the spacious outdoor venue of Fort Wayne will provide for an environment where the people can have a good time and practice social distancing.

Alisha Bell | Wayne County Commission photo

“We enjoy the camaraderie and friendship and music,” said Bell.

State Sen. Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit) also grew up a House music fan and also plans to attend. He said the music helps him to relax during legislative and constituent work. He pointed out that he may or may not wear a mask, depending on the situation. Bullock said that he and his family have been vaccinated and he is comfortable attending the event.

“But I’m conscious of being in a crowded space,” said Bullock. 

Carolyn Burns, Oak Park mayor pro-tem, described the event as a “reunion of sorts.”

“It’s an eclectic crowd. It’s not all Black or all white and over the last few years, the ages vary,” said Burns.

She has attended many years but is taking a wait-and-see approach this weekend. Her brother died from COVID-19 last year and is concerned about the potential for virus spread.

“So, I’m on the fence,” said Burns.

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.