For the eighth year, Ann Arborites experienced a case of Déjà Fool Sunday afternoon, University students and locals alike gathered along Main Street to watch a parade of puppets as part of FestiFools, a free public art spectacle.

This year’s theme was “Déjà Fool,” a play on the French phrase Déjà vu, or the feeling of having already experienced a present situation. Retro toys, such as Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots, were given life in the form of giant puppets held by participants.

Numerous musical groups were part of the puppet procession. These included the Detroit Marching Band, local funk band The Macpodz and University ensembles including Brazilian percussion band Vencedores and GROOVE.

FestiFools is organized annually by WonderFool Productions — a nonprofit organization which, in addition to hosting the art parade, hosts workshops for the general public and works to teach art in K-12 schools.

According to the WonderFool Productions website, FestiFools was inspired by cartapesta, paper-mâché art of the Italian Carnevale di Viareggio.

Prior to the FestiFools parade, a similar procession of illuminated puppets and sculptures inhabited the same space on Main Street for FoolMoon, which took place Saturday night.

Among the numerous community members who contribute to FestiFools are University students in the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program, who create puppets through an LHSP-centric course called Art in Public Spaces.

Mark Tucker, FestiFools founder and creative director, is also LHSP’s art director and teaches the Art in Public Spaces course. Subsequently, students in the course helped create this year’s theme.

LSA freshman Michelle Belgrod, an LHSP student taking Art in Public Spaces, said she and her classmates took the somewhat “nostalgic” FestiFools theme to create pieces that reminded them of childhood. As a result, she decided to create “a giant baby.”

“I had friend volunteers help animate the puppet,” Belgrod said. “What Mark (Tucker) says is that if you’re on a parade it’s a stage. Each puppet has a message, and so you’re supposed to animate it, make it come to life with the help of people. I was the base, so I kind of hid in the diaper of my baby. It was just a giant, 20-foot baby with his eyes closed.”

Belgrod added that her favorite part of both the class and the parade was interacting with fellow students as part of the artistic process.

“Usually when I create art, it’s very independent and unsocial,” she said. “Traveling to the studio, helping each other out and goofing off — the people and the energy that they brought to the class made everything just so fun. It was also really great to see how people would react to my own piece and those of my fellow classmates.”

Ross Huff, an Ann Arbor resident, said he enjoys FestiFools because it’s an opportunity for all members of the community to convene.

“Like, this is what we should be doing in our streets,” Huff said. “It’s the community getting together and bringing it out just for the sake of having a great time. It gets people out of the house and together. It gets you to remember who your neighbors are.”

“It’s one of our favorite annual traditions with the kids,” said Shannon Johnson, who brought her kids from Brighton, Mich. to the festival. “It’s just a great chance for them to see some fun, creative things.”

Lori Beth, another Ann Arbor resident, recently moved into town from Lansing. She attended the event with a small group of people, all of whom were also relatively new to Ann Arbor, as a way to familiarize herself with her new hometown. Her favorite puppet was a huge, paper-mâché puppet of arcade game character Pac-Man.

“I’ve never been to a parade of puppets before,” Beth said. “I really like the Pac-Man one. I’ve never been to an event where they’ve had art on display in this way. It’s just so much fun.”

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