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Art & Entertainment are Alive at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival

By: Toni Cunningham | June 11, 2014

In case you missed out on my previous article, there are countless festivals and art fairs taking place all throughout the Metro Detroit area this summer. From the beginning of June through Labor Day weekend, you’ll likely find a Ferris wheel to ride and/or corn dog to snack on at any given moment.

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is an international celebration of the performing arts that takes place in downtown Ann Arbor beginning on Friday, June 13 and runs through Sunday, July 6.

“For 21 nights, we turn downtown Ann Arbor into a vibrant celebration and community gathering place, offering dozens of performances, activities, exhibitions and screenings representative of the best in music, dance, comedy, film, street arts and family entertainment,” Amy Nesbitt, executive director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, said.

Ninety percent of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s events are free of charge and take place at Top of the Park, the outdoor festival site located on U of M’s campus green. The festival Mainstage is indoors and includes ticketed performances to talent like comedian Lily Tomlin, alt-rock band CAKE, singer-songwriter Andrew Bird, blues musicians Mavis Staples and Robert Cray and more.AASF1

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival has been around for more than 30 years, and this year there will be over 140 different events and performances to discover throughout the 21 days of festivities!

This year, one of the festival’s main goals is to reduce waste and be more sustainable. A few years ago, the festival adopted an environmental initiative and this year they’re kicking it up a notch, according to Nesbitt. That means partnering with restaurants and distributors that use biodegradable and compostable packaging, source products locally, offer organic and vegan options, and more. The festival has an extensive recycling program, and there are receptacles all throughout the grounds where patrons are reminded to reduce, reuse and recycle.

“Each year, over 75,000 people come to enjoy the festival. Since we have a convenient downtown location, we encourage festival-goers to take mass transit, walk, carpool and especially bike,” Nesbitt said. “This year, we’re launching Tuesday Bike Nights. Patrons biking to the festival on Tuesday nights can enjoy a free bike valet service and tune ups on site.”

Additional sustainability efforts put forth by the Ann Arbor Summer Festival include printing marketing materials with soy ink on recyclable paper, selling organic festival merchandise, using digital press kits instead of paper and physical CD mailings and more.

In addition to being environmentally sustainable, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival also incorporates Michigan-based acts. Each night, two sets will be performed on The Grove acoustic stage, and of those 42 artists, approximately 95 percent are Michigan talent, according to Nesbitt. AASF3

“This season, many of our special attractions feature local artists, like chalk art created by Ann Arbor’s David Zinn, a photography exhibit, ‘Lights Up,’ by local photographer Myra Klarman, and roaming performance art by Ypsilanti’s Spontaneous Art,” Nesbitt said. “In the past, we’ve featured many special attractions artists from Detroit, which has a vibrant street and circus arts scene. There’s so much great talent in Michigan, we are fortunate to be able to showcase so much of it in one month!”

Retreat mind and body sessions (which include yoga and Pilates), the KidZone activity tent and food producers are all local as well. Plenty of Michigan microbrews will be on tap, including beers from Griffin Claw Brewing Company, Right Brain Brewery, Kuhnhenn Brewing Co., Latitude 42 Brewing Company and Dragonmead Microbrewery.

Culinary Row will feature local food vendors including Chela’s Taqueria, Stucchi’s Ice Cream, Sugar Shack Treats, Pizza House, Satchel’s BBQ and more.

The diverse, local talent taking the stage at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival includes acts like The Kickstand Band, Third Coast Kings, Keri Lynn Roche, Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas and more. The festival is proof that our region is vibrant, vital and a great place for the performing arts to tour, according to Nesbitt.

“Visitors can discover street dance parties with free salsa lessons, late night DJs, roaming artists and captivating street art; local food vendors, free yoga and wellness classes, a beer garden with Michigan microbrews, weekly wine tastings; movies under the stars on weeknights, and dozens of different hands-on activities for kids,” Nesbitt said. “Just by showing up, you can connect with friends, neighbors and the greater community.”AASF2

Whether you’re looking for live music, outdoor cinema, comedy, circus acts or family fun, the Ann Arbor Summer Art Festival has something for you. For more information on the festivities, including a performance schedule, visit the festival’s official website or Facebook page.

If you really want to stay up to date with the latest, download the free 2014 festival mobile app, which allows you to find performances by date, genre or venue, read and share artist bios, create your own calendar of events to attend, get directions and more.