You’ve seen them setting up by the MLB – raising tents and constructing platforms – and this weekend Top of the Park will finally begin. This is Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s 29th season, with events and performances in music, dance, food, film and more. And Top of the Park is packed with diverse entertainment that is free for the community (which includes you, poor college student). Local, national and international performers will grace the stage including returning favorites and many who are making their Michigan debuts.
Ann Arbor Summer Festival
Through July 8, various times
Ingalls Mall and Power Center
Free for Top of the Park events
Prices vary for Mainstage events
“It really defines the summertime experience,” said Summer Festival Executive Director Robb Woulfe.
One new event this year involves gigantic dinosaurs milling around the Power Center lawn.
“This year we’re really excited to have this attraction from Australia called Erth’s Dinosaur Petting Zoo, which is this large-scale puppet exhibition for life-size dinosaurs,” Woulfe said.
Erth Visual and Physical Inc. is an Australian avant-garde theater and visual arts troupe that creates cutting-edge live theater. They have performed internationally, but Top of the Park will be their Michigan debut. From June 29 to July 1, they will perform two interactive shows a night, where the public can meet the prehistoric.
“People will see a lot of families and a lot of curious festival goers coming up for (the troupe),” Woulfe added.
But for many, the live music defines their Top of the Park experience.
“I love that element of surprise,” Woulfe said. “You could be stumbling across the festival and all of the sudden you have this great band from the other side of the world, or you could stumble on the festival, and it’s a local street musician.”
One rock band hails all the way from Pakistan: Noori. Sponsored by the U.S. State Department for their very first tour of the United States, the members aim to promote cultural diplomacy through their original yet communicable Pakistani sound.
“Sometimes even within the same night, you’ll have a variety of music genres playing,” Woulfe said. “I think that’s the texture of a festival, that’s what gives it its quirky personality.”
There are 60 performers over the course of Top of the Park, including Bearfoot, The Infamous Stringdusters, Los Gatos, Charlie Slick and Jennie DeVoe.
The Mainstage events are the indoor component to the festival, mainly showing at Power Center. While tickets are not free, they’re an investment to experience performers such as Rufus Wainwright, Esperanza Spalding, Pilobolus and Cinematic Titanic, among others. Al Green opens the series with his performance this weekend.
Even with all of the exciting acts coming up for Top of the Park, Woulfe still cherishes the outdoor cinema series. These movies, chosen by the community last fall, will play outdoors at Ingalls Mall.
“Yeah, you’re there to watch the movie, but you’re really there to hang with your community … and it ends up being sometimes a bigger social experience than it does a movie-going experience,” Woulfe explained. “But I think those are defining moments in peoples’ lives within this festival. We’re thrilled to be a part of that, if we can help make those kinds of memories.”
This year Top of the Park will feature the films “Ghostbusters,” “Forrest Gump,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “The Big Lebowski,” “Jurassic Park” and “Dirty Dancing” among others.
For more information on the events at Top of the Park, please visit annarborsummerfestival.org.