Community gathers for FoolMoon festival

Sunday, April 9, 2017 - 1:29pm

The seventh annual FoolMoon attracted participants and spectators to celebrate with light, art and creativity Friday evening as the nighttime kick-off event to Ann Arbor’s “foolish weekend.” Community members were invited to create glowing luminary creations and gather at the intersection of Washington and South Ashley Streets for a night filled with laser shows, interactive installations, live dance performances and other family friendly activities.

FoolMoon originated at the University of Michigan, but has grown over the years to be more community centric. Mark Tucker, art director of the University’s Lloyd Hall Scholar’s Program and creative director for WonderFool Productions, told wemu.org in 2014 the event was initially driven by students and the University, but now features significant community participation. Shary Brown, a member of the WonderfoolProductions volunteer board, also told wemu.org community and business support are essential to the success of both FoolMoon and FestiFools.

The festivities began with three ethereal luminary processionals that paraded through Ann Arbor from different starting locations, referred to as “Constellation Stations,” which were Kerrytown Farmer’s Market, the University of Michigan Museum of Art and Slauson Middle School. The processionals then converged and ended at Washington Street so the crowd could admire the luminaries show.

At the UMMA constellation station, drummers entertained the crowd by beating buckets, cans and drums as they waited for the sun to set. One of the parade’s leaders, Jeri Rosenberg, an “o-fool-cial,” guided the drummers and the crowd through the Diag and down East Liberty Street.

“I’ll be leading the march to Washington and Ashley, where there will be lasers, activities and Instagram booths with the theme WishFool thinking,” Rosenberg explained.  

Most of the people in attendance came with their own handmade luminaries or glowing costumes. Free drop-in luminary building workshops were held every Sunday starting March 5 until April 2 for residents who wished to participate in the traditions.

Some University students had their own unique opportunity to build a luminary for the event. The Lloyd Hall Scholars Program — a University living-learning community for students interested in writing and the arts, based in the Alice Lloyd Residence Hall — offers a course called Art in Public Spaces in which students make art that engages with the community outside LHSP.

Every winter semester, students have the opportunity to design and create giant outdoor artworks for both FoolMoon and FestiFools, a celebration showcasing art and business owners.

Art & Design freshman Marjorie Gaber was one of the Art in Public Spaces students who attended the festival with a lantern she made in the class.

“It’s a really fun class and we’ve been working on these luminaries all semester so it’s all been building up to FestiFools,” Gaber said.

FoolMoon took some people by surprise as the procession made its way through campus and downtown.

Ann Arbor residents Eva Jansen and Lily Willatt were unfamiliar with the event, but their confusion transitioned to intrigue and excitement as they watched the processional.

“It’s super cool and super fun,” Willatt said. “It seems like a really fun community gathering and the lights are so creative.”

The parades dissipated at Washington Street as people began to explore the different activities. Performers roamed the street and took photos with spectators and displayed their elaborate costumes.

Entertainers included stiltwalker Courtney Auman, who was dressed as a unicorn and led the Kerrytown procession, belly dancers from Karma, who wore green lights that complemented and illuminated their outfits, and shadow puppet artist Patrick Elkins, who walked through the crowd projecting shadows onto walls and screens.

Other interactive stations, shows and activities were dispersed throughout the festival. DTE Energy Co. provided a black light graffiti wall and a laser show projected onto the walls of buildings by Illuminatus Lasers. Face painting and mask making stations were also popular activities.

Volunteers were present throughout the festival to ensure things ran smoothly. Ann Arbor residents John Wilson and Victoria Dennis were part of a team that was placed sporadically along the procession routes.

“We are first and foremost the crossing guards for the parade that went through and now we’re going to go man some barricades,” Dennis said. “It’s going to be pretty chill, just stand around and dance to the music while helping out.”

Wilson said the event was good for a relaxed, friendly and fun environment.

“This event is one of the more unique volunteer opportunities I’ve seen,” Wilson said. “It’s been really relaxing, everyone who's involved is really friendly. It feels like anyone can just jump in a join the party. I’ve enjoyed it.”