With the news of upcoming summer construction, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s “Top of the Park” series may need to change its name to “Top of Something Else.”
The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is a three-week music, art and culture series produced as a joint nonprofit venture between the University and the city of Ann Arbor since 1984. This coming summer, however, the festival’s outdoor component, named Top of the Park, may have to move from its usual location on Ingalls Mall due to pending University construction plans.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the construction plans have yet to be submitted to the University’s Board of Regents.
“To be a good partner for the Summer Festival, we wanted to give them an early alert that this project could go forward this summer and to make sure that they had plenty of time to explore more options,” he said.
Amy Nesbitt, executive director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, said a special search committee is currently evaluating potential alternative locations for Top of the Park. While unable to give specific details, she said three of the four major locations the committee is considering are on-campus.
“Since we are a nonprofit that was co-founded, Top of the Park could potentially have great sites to be hosted on city property,” Nesbitt said. “We are trying to be open-minded about this as an opportunity. But historically, there has been so much support from the University and the University community that has allowed us to do so much that there is a lot to consider. There are many University spaces that really lend themselves well to what we do.”
Top of the Park is known for showcasing local and national music groups, performance artists and screenings of movies such as “Gravity,” “The Hunger Games” and “The Artist.” With a change of location, however, could come changes in programming.
“The move will affect some of the program choices depending on how big a stage we can have,” Nesbitt said. “If we have a smaller stage, maybe we can’t do quite as big of bands or maybe some of our outdoor exhibits will be affected.”
Apart from the potential programming changes, the potential move would also result in an increase in the cost of putting on the event, though admission would still be free. Nesbitt said cost considerations would be a factor in choosing the temporary location.
Additional expenses may include building new structures, rebuilding different booths, altering stage and sound systems and differing power expenses. While festival organizers will not know exact costs until a new location is chosen, they have started a fundraising campaign to help defray any additional expenses should the move in fact occur.
This would not be the first time that Top of the Park has had to change locations. Until 2006, the series was held on top of the Fletcher Street parking structure between the Power Center for the Performing Arts and the School of Dentistry. The festival derived its name from this original location: Top of the Park(ing garage).
Construction on the garage in 2006 forced festival organizers to look elsewhere until they decided on Ingalls Mall as a suitable replacement.
“What we have found since 2006 is that it is so welcoming and expansive in Ingalls Mall with some grass and some trees and some shade,” Nesbitt said. “A lot of people really loved the new location.”
The indoor, ticketed portion of the festival, called the Mainstage, will be unaffected by the construction.
The festival will run from June 12 to July 5, 2015.