Face Time: Campus Martius Park president Bob Gregory talks street performers, Santa’s Workshop, and designer snowmen

When you think Campus Martius, you probably think Fountain Bistro, free concerts in the summer, and that fun, faux beach. But just because the weather isn't warm doesn't mean you can't enjoy the gorgeous park in the center of the city. While the giant Christmas tree and the outdoor skating rink are perennial favorites at the park, this year their offerings have seriously been expanded. We took a few moments to chat with Campus Martius Park president Bob Gregory to get all the details on what's happening this holiday season.

Metro Times: So I want to talk about all the amenities and attractions that are at Campus Park this season. Have they been ramped up a little bit this year?

Bob Gregory: For the last couple years it's been ramping up. This year it has ramped up even more. The traditional thing that we had was obviously the big 60-foot Norwich spruce that we got from Michigan. It's beautiful and that's there. The rink is there and going really strong. We've added a rinkside bar; that's brand new this year. That's right at the north end of the rink. That's got the wall glass window looking at the rink and the skyline. That's open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights now. Every day for the holidays. That's provided a cool venue to get a cocktail or a spiked hot chocolate and watch everybody skating around.

MT: What else has been added this year?

Gregory: The big, huge thing was the Showcase D'Holidays, the tent over on Cadillac Square, and that runs through next weekend. That's Friday and Saturday nights. In the summer Campus Martius is known for its music and its food. In the wintertime we wanted to provide a place to do that, in a tent. We've got a clear roof and a big stage. We're showcasing, each night on Friday and Saturday nights, four great Detroit bands with one major headliner. We've got four Detroit restaurants that are featured with small plates. This weekend I think we've got Joe Muer's and Andiamo and the Whitney. We've had Mudgie's, Johnny Noodle King. We've got a full bar in there with taps from Atwater brewery. That's been a big hit. In front of that is a really cool igloo that is decorated up with 25 designer snowmen by Somerset. And that's kind of the gateway into the showcase. That's open every day of the week. We take pictures of the snowmen and we tweet them out. So that's all new. The carriage rides we've had every year continue, and they're every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday around the park. That continues to be a big hit. We have a whole range of street performers that are out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday around the district.

MT: And there are street performers! Where are the street performers from?

Gregory: They're all local. They're all from the region. We have a great production crew that puts all that together. They're local, and they do all kinds of things. That's kind of the fun part of it. You come down to Campus Martius and you see the beautiful tree — the great thing about it is the skyline of Detroit when you're standing in Campus Martius. When you see the Renaissance Center and the First National. The Yamasaki, the Penobscot Building. All of that is there as a background for the tree. You don't expect the street performers.

MT: Let's talk a little bit about CityLoft. It has a new home this year.

Gregory: Sure. So they moved into the First National building, literally like 10 steps away from Cadillac Square and the tree. And they got their biggest store ever; they've got over 6,000 square feet. Forty different stores are in there. They're open six days a week; I think 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. They've got a great selection of gifts. Last week I went there and shopped for a couple hours and I found a lot of nice gifts. A lot of it is Detroit-centric, but a lot of it is from great stores at Somerset. They've got mid-price, high-price, low-price — a wide range of stuff if you want to get your Christmas shopping done in one location. You don't have to traipse around the mall. They also have Santa's Workshop for the kids.

MT: Tell me a little more about Santa's Workshop. Parents can drop kids off their to shop, right?

Gregory: Yep. It's right in the First National building and the kids can be dropped off. They're taken care of. The kids can to see Santa Claus and the parents can get a cup of coffee there or do a little shopping. It's all been working out really great.

MT: Great. How long do CityLoft, Santa's Workshop, and the carriage rides carry on until?

Gregory: The carriage rides go through I think December 28 or that weekend after Christmas. All of that is on our website. The carriage rides go almost up to the New Year. The street performers are the same way. CityLoft goes to December 23 and Santa's Workshop as well. The Showcase the Holiday tent ends on the December 20. The tree and the rink and the rinkside bar will go all the way through the winter season.

MT: The rink is open on Christmas Eve and Christmas this year too, right?

Gregory: It is. It's open seven days a week and holidays as well.

MT: Have you guys been inspired during the ramped up season to do anything for next year?

Gregory: We're always looking. The goal is to continue to build activities to bring people downtown, not just the people who live downtown and work downtown but from the whole region. We create these attractions and destinations, so we're always looking at different things. The Showcase D'Holidays is a good example; we know what Detroiters love. They love music, great food. Many of them are coming down to skate or see the tree, so let's give them the kind of things they want. The shopping is obviously important, too. We look around the world. We keep an eye on what's going on. We try to be responsive. There are more and more people coming down. It's not just what's going on in Campus Martius; there are a lot of new things going on, obviously. Restaurants and new bars and things to see. It's all building together.

Alysa Zavala-Offman

Alysa Zavala-Offman is the managing editor of Detroit Metro Times. She lives in the downriver city of Wyandotte with her husband, toddler, mutt, and two orange cats.
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