Ann Arbor’s Summer Events Return With a New Look

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Every year residents of Washtenaw County look forward to the eventful summers in Ann Arbor. With the Ann Arbor Summer Festival bringing in over 80,000 people and up to 400,000 people attending the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair, these events attract people from all over the state and play important roles in Michiganders’ summer plans. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, these events were canceled during the summer of 2020, but with more vaccine distribution and lower national covid rates these famous Ann Arbor summer events will return in 2021 with new plans to implement safety. 

The annual Ann Arbor Summer Festival has been a part of city culture for decades. Starting in 1984, it began as a nonprofit organization to support the performing arts. In recent years, the four week long festival has been split into two parts. The first part contains indoor ticketed performances across the University of Michigan campus and downtown Ann Arbor where many famous artists perform across a multitude of genres. The second part, known as Top of the Park, is outdoors, free to the public, and is located at Ingalls Mall on the University of Michigan’s campus. Every year, Top of the Park offers live music performances, outdoor movies and booths from local restaurants making this event fun for everyone. 

“I look forward to going to Top of the Park every summer,” said Pioneer junior Caroline Thomas. “I love the music and the food, and it’s a great way to be outside in the summer and hang out with people.” 

Many people were sad to hear that the festival had to be canceled last summer. “Although it was for a good reason, I was still really bummed when I found out Top of the Park was canceled last year,” said Thomas. This year, the Summer Festival has announced that they are coming back but with different types of events to minimize crowd sizes. 

According to a season update posted on the Ann Arbor Summer Festival website, Top of the Park and indoor ticketed events will not be happening this summer. However, two new programs will be implemented to bring the festival “on the road.” The first program is called “Tiny TOPs,” which are intimate concerts that can be reserved for a small group of people. Anyone can choose from a list of 20 artists, select a time and an outdoor location and have their own private concert. The second program that will be a part of the 2021 Summer Festival is called “Live Here Now.” This program contains small pop-up concerts that will take place outdoors in multiple locations throughout Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. 

“Organizing experiences throughout Washtenaw County will allow us to better manage crowd sizes and safety protocols while bringing arts experiences to more members of the community,” said the update. 

People from all over Michigan also look forward to attending the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair, which is a four day event that takes place in downtown Ann Arbor during July. This event had to be canceled last summer due to Covid as well. 

The Art Fair first began as a small arts and crafts market in the 1960s, but has since grown into one of the largest outdoor art festivals in the country. Today, the Ann Arbor Art Fair consists of three separate non profit fairs that join together every year to create one big event, organized by The Guild of Artists and Artisans. Every year over 1,000 artists participate in the event with all types of visual art such as jewelry, paintings, photography, ceramics, sculptures, and much more.  

The Ann Arbor Art Fair has become a large part of life for artists in the Ann Arbor community. “Every year I am involved in some way, either as a seller, or as an artist observing others’ work,” said head of the Pioneer Art department, Helen Bunch, who often sells her own handmade jewelry at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. 

This summer, the Ann Arbor Art Fair is planning on coming back on July 15, with some new Covid safety guidelines. 

According to an update on the Ann Arbor Art Fair website, plans have been put in place for a socially distant Art Fair. “Of course, our future depends on the virus and what State and local safety protocols are in place in July, but we are cautiously optimistic we will be able to hold the Art Fair,” said the update. 

In an interview with MLive, the director of the Guild of Artists and Artisans, Karen Delhey, said the Guild is working with local officials to plan safety measures for the Art Fair. “We know how important this event is for our community economically, but our first priority will be the health and safety of everyone,” Delhey said. 

The cancelation of the Art Fair last summer caused many artists to struggle since a lot of them depend on these big events to sell their art. “I think canceling the art fair was necessary. However, it left many artists scrambling,” said Bunch. 

The Guild of Artists and Artisans have been trying to help artists through this difficult time by organizing fundraisers and resources for freelance artists on their website. 

Although the Ann Arbor Art Fair will look different this year, many people still want to come and show their support. “I want to support the returning artists to the Ann Arbor Art Fair. I plan to walk around with a mask on, though I am vaccinated, and I plan to avoid the bigger crowds,” said Bunch. “I am looking forward to welcoming this year’s artists back.”

Even though big events like the annual Art Fair and Summer festival will have to be different this year because of Covid, many people are still looking forward to attending them.  

 “After being trapped in my house for over a year, I’m really excited to actually get outside and have fun this summer,” said Thomas.  

“The Ann Arbor Art Fair has certainly been an annual highlight for me ever since I was a kid and hopefully, that tradition will continue,” said Bunch.