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  • Writer's pictureRuss Macklem

Letter to Mayor Dilkens & Windsor City Council Regarding Proposed Canopy @ Riverfront Festival Plaza

Dr. Russell A. Macklem

463 Cameron Ave

Windsor, ON

N9B 1Y9

October 2nd, 2021

Mayor Drew Dilkens and Windsor City Council

350 City Hall Square W.

Windsor, ON

N9A 6S1

Dear Mayor Drew Dilkens and Windsor City Council,

I am writing you in order to voice my vehement opposition to the proposed Riverfront Festival Plaza canopy project. As a musical artist and educator that works in this city and in Detroit, I can tell you that this project is out of touch with both Windsor’s rich history and with the city’s current residents, especially the city’s artists and musicians, whom this project might supposedly benefit.

Windsor’s abundant history in music and arts come in large part from our city bordering on one of the world’s most important music cities: Detroit. This history is not actively promoted by the city, as evidenced by the historic Jackson Park Bandshell left rotting, fenced off from the public. The Bandshell hosted luminaries such as Martin Luther King Jr., and Eleanor Roosevelt, and musicians such as Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, and The Temptations. It was home to massive Emancipation Day celebrations that drew thousands from all over North America. The Bandshell should be a sacred site in our city. In art, you cannot know how to move forward without knowing the traditions of your artform; your work as an artist will lack direction, connection, and meaning. Without highlighting our history as a city we’ll go nowhere, languishing as a cultureless swath.

The proposed canopy was designed by a Toronto firm; why not pick a local firm or a firm from Detroit? How could one expect someone from Toronto might know anything about our city? If someone from the area had designed the canopy, then at least there would be a reasonable argument that they cared about this city and had a vision for what they thought would be best for it. The city needs the blessing of people like Nancy Battagello, the widow of Roy Battagello, the man who made the riverfront we enjoy today possible; instead she calls the proposed canopy “a monstrosity”.

During the Pandemic, the city was so concerned with saving money that they cut maintenance staff, even trying to get rid of unionized workers in order to hire a firm that would supply workers for near minimum wage. How can we trust then that the city will build this massive structure and complex grounds, and then allocate the funds necessary year after year to maintain it? Or will it also rot like the Bandshell? And how long will construction take? Will musicians not be able to perform at the Riverfront Festival Plaza for years and miss out on more work than we’ve already lost because of the Pandemic?

If the city really wants do something big that will unite us all, promote our history, and mark the end of the Pandemic, then fix the Jackson Park Bandshell. Host a Motown styled Music Festival and let the people of this city hear great artists from Detroit that they haven’t been able to for almost two years now, with Windsor bands on the roster also. Let the many immigrants to our city that are not allowed to cross into the United States even when the border is open because of their country of origin, experience the history of connection between Windsor and Detroit. Fix the Bandshell so that Emancipation Day Celebrations can take place there once again. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on that stage and spoke, can you think of anything more powerful than that?


Dr. Russell A. Macklem

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