By Hillary Crawford, Staff Reporter
Published August 2, 2014
In anticipation of Saturday’s Manchester United vs. Real Madrid soccer match at the Big House, fans and Ann Arbor residents alike came to Main Street Friday to celebrate the event during an afternoon music and street festival.
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The sold-out match, one part of the International Champions Cup tournament, is expected to draw more than 100,000 attendees. The International Champions Cup Celebration downtown Friday brought over 10,000 people, both local and visiting, downtown to enjoy music from 14 different groups, shop, and check out the restaurant scene.
The event hosted two stages — one at Main and Washington and the other at Ashley and Liberty — and lasted all day from 3 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. The second stage, which was run from 5:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. by DJs, focused on electronic music. The main stage hosted various performances from a variety of genres every hour.
Coordinated by the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the festival was modeled off of the New Year’s Eve Puck Drop, held before the NHL Winter Classic hosted in Michigan Stadium earlier this year, which brought 20,000 people downtown.
Maricat Eggenberger, the bureau’s communication manager, said the hope was for a similar turnout to the Winter Classic kickoff.
“We’re excited for people that are just normally here, but also the fact that the players have been in town for days — there’s a lot of excitement in the area,” Eggenberger said.
Matthew Altruda, who hosts the Tree Town Sound program on Ann Arbor 107.1, engaged the audience as master of ceremonies and coordinated the entertainment-related aspects of the events. He also hosts the Sonic Lunch series in downtown Ann Arbor each week, as well as last year’s New Year’s Eve Puck Drop.
“There are people coming here from all over the world,” Altruda said. “I want them to come to Ann Arbor and see how our city loves the arts and knows how to party and have fun. And giving the opportunity to showcase that is a dream come true.”
The event also gave shops and restaurants a chance to display their contributions to the bustling Main Street atmosphere, with some expanding into the streets and setting up tents.
Caroline Kaganov, general manager of Conor O’Neill’s, said attractions such as the festival attract people downtown and encourage them to notice shops and restaurants they may not have otherwise. The pub itself has been engaged in excitement over soccer throughout the summer and was one of the restaurants that expanded its outdoor seating into the street.
“We’ve always been a soccer bar,” Kaganov said. “We had people from every nationality here for the World Cup, so it was like the United Nations.”
University alum Albert Yu, who came from Chicago this weekend to attend both the kickoff event and the soccer match, said he was especially looking forward to seeing Frontier Ruckus perform later in the night.
“It’s definitely adding another aspect to [the match], especially because it’s the day before,” Yu added. “You might not be able to go to the game tomorrow but because of the game, you can do this, so that’s fun.”