Near-record crowds at Festival of the Hills

More than 40,000 people gathered to watch fireworks in Rochester Hills.


The 21st annual Festival of the Hills saw near record-breaking crowds at last week’s fireworks show.

Approximately 40,000 people visited Borden Park on Wednesday, June 26, to watch Michigan’s second largest fireworks display, according to Rochester Hills Director of Parks and Natural Resources Ken Elwert.

“And that’s just in the park,” Elwert said. “It’s easily double, the number of people who watched.”

Thousands packed into the park and the nearby parking lots to watch the dazzling pyrotechnic display. Temperatures were comfortable in the low 70s and the sky was clear.

Rochester Hills City Councilmember Ryan Deel was in Borden Park for the show.

“We had a wonderful time at Festival of the Hills tonight,” he posted on Facebook. “The weather was fantastic, and the show was amazing.”

The nearby Rochester Auburn Plaza parking lot was full of people who brought camping chairs and snacks to enjoy the show. Some people turned on their car radios to accompany the fireworks and danced, while others were happy to sit back, look up, and enjoy.

The fireworks show was a half-hour long in total, with a booming grand finale.

“We really made it a point to work with the vendor to make the finale special,” Elwert said.

At this year’s festival, vendors were moved from the grass to the cement because the recent rain made it too wet of the tents to be set up. the city was able to adjust, though, and Elwert said that he’s heard good feedback about the event.

“It worked out really well,” he said.

Overall, the festival ran smoothly, with good coordination between the city, event sponsors, vendors, and the police and fire departments.

“I think it was probably as close to a flawless event, that I’m aware of,” Elwert said. “There’s always things to improve, though.”

Elwert said that he appreciated the patience of the neighbors and the help of everyone in the city.

“It’s truly a community partnership,” he said.

This year, the mayor’s office secured $90,000 in sponsorship money for Festival of the Hills. The city works almost year-round to plan the even and will start planning for the 2020 show sometime in September.

In a few weeks, festival planners will meet to debrief on this year’s event. Elwert said that the Parks and Recreation office is taking feedback calls, and that the city is always happy to hear from residents about things that worked and things that need improvement. To contact Rochester Hills Parks and Recreation, call 248-656-4673.