The annual Ann Arbor Summer Festival kicked off June 12 on North University Avenue with various activities and live musical performances.

Established in 1984 by microfilm pioneer Eugene Power, in collaboration with the city of Ann Arbor and the University, the festival is known for its performances by eclectic groups of domestic and international artists.

The festival is open six days a week and reins in close to 80,000 attendees each year for simultaneously occurring indoor and outdoors programs. Friday’s activities included entertainment by dancers, musicians, comedians and actors.

Festival activities are made possible each year through the work of volunteers and donations from regular attendees. LSA junior Rob Smith said he enjoys how the event engages the Ann Arbor community.

“It has a vast range of musical talent and is a place for people to gather and just see people that they wouldn’t be able to see throughout the year. It’s a wonderful community event,” said Smith.

Outdoor programs, otherwise known as Top of the Park, make up 90 percent of the festival’s activities and include outdoor movies, concerts, workouts, organized dancing, educational programs and food vendors.

According to Amy Nesbitt, the director of the festival, there has been a steady fusion between the indoor and outdoor programs.

“It used to be segmented between indoor and outdoor programs. Over the years, we’ve tried really hard to braid that experience,” Nesbitt said.

Each year the nonprofit festival’s steering team sends a mass e-mail to Ann Arbor residents to ask about what artists they would like to see perform. According to Nesbitt, this year the team received more than 1,500 responses. Upon processing information about artist preferences, the festival team then collaborates with potential artists, while being conscious of providing a variety of genres for attendees.

“Four hundred artists submit to play Top of the Park. We try to keep a broad mix of a lot of different genres, so its accessible to people — bluegrass, punk, rock, R&B, etcetera,” Nesbitt said.

Ann Arbor residents like Joseph Tau, a rising sophomore at the local Skyline high school, attend the festival as well. Tau said he has partaken in its events for several years.

“I came here a couple times last summer and I went almost every night the summer before that. I like the movies a lot and hanging out with people and listening to music,” said Tau.

The festival also attracts people from outside of Ann Arbor, such as Ferdinand Magellin, an Ohio native who is on a road trip with no final destination in mind. On his exploration through America, he fortuitously stopped in Ann Arbor and spoke of his admiration for the city.

“Ann Arbor is beautiful. It’s very nice — a lot of pleasant people, nice environment, great food, great music. You get the best of everything,” Magellin said.

Magellin said he was particularly looking forward to hearing from “The Appleseed Collective” Thursday because of their “gypsy jazz, swing” genre.

Top of the Park also provides activities targeted for a younger audience in a portion called Kidzone. At the Kidzone Friday, children were able to play orchestral instruments under the guidance of volunteers.

Nick Penizinsky, a violinist from Milford, was one such volunteer, and said he felt nostalgic as he recalled learning to play the violin.

“I liked playing string instruments, so I thought I’d help out, help people learn better. It’s been a lot of fun watching (kids) learn how to play. It reminds me of when I learned how to play,” Penizinsky said.

While not that much has changed about the festival over the years, Nesbitt spoke of the expanding reach of the festival due to technological advancements. As of the festival’s opening night, 27,000 people downloaded the digital app to follow the event.

“So many people are living on their mobile device, there’s so much information,” Nesbitt said. “To rise above that noise, it’s a very different way to figure out what’s going on and engage.”

Although the sights and sounds of the festival can be found on the web, Nesbitt said she is weary of those who watch the fun from the comfort of their own home.

“I’m very about live events — you can download this experience, but if you weren’t there to get the ‘oohs’ and the ‘ahhhs,’ you didn’t get the magic that of the event,” Nesbitt said.

The summer festival is scheduled to open every day, excluding Mondays, from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and will continue until July 5.

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