Top 20 festivals in Ann Arbor
ANN ARBOR – If there's one thing Ann Arborites can agree on, it's their love for festivals.
This town knows how to throw down and have a good time, whether for a celebration of music and culture, or raising funds for a local nonprofit.
While there are plenty of events going around the clock rain, snow or shine, we've narrowed down the most popular festivals and annual events in town.
Ann Arbor Folk Festival
This longstanding music festival has been put on by The Ark for nearly 42 years as a celebration of folk music and community. More than 400 performers have played at the festival, which is held at the University of Michigan's impressive Hill Auditorium.
Joshua Davis performs at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival (Photo: Andrew Rogers)
2018 dates: Jan. 26-27
Dates for 2019 are Friday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Jan. 26.
Ann Arbor Film Festival
The oldest avant-garde film festival in North America, the Ann Arbor Film Festival is known around the world for showcasing experimental films. The six-day event is jam-packed with screenings, keynote speakers and presentations, awards ceremonies and after-parties.
The majority of the filmmakers showing at the festival travel to Ann Arbor, and often attend happy hours and after-parties to chat about both their and other filmmakers' work.
(Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
2018 dates: March 20-25
See our 2018 Essential guide to the Ann Arbor Film Festival
Put on by WonderFools Productions, this nighttime procession in downtown Ann Arbor is one of the most unforgettable events of the year.
As a lead-up to FestiFools (read below), members of the public bring homemade luminaries (light sculptures) that are based on a theme -- this year was FishTaFools.
A luminary parade kicks off the night, which includes a live DJ, beer tent, fool certifications, live performances, laser shows and interactive installations. This is a night you don't want to miss!
(Photo: WonderFool Productions)
2018 date: April 6
Read our story on this year's foolish festivals.
Also a WonderFools Production event, Festifools is a daytime parade that takes over a portion of Main Street downtown for one hour. It is a public event and anyone can participate. The only rule: Be as foolish as you can.
Paradegoers and participants dress up in foolish costumes and admire the displays of public art, most notably giant papier-mâché made by University of Michigan students under the guidance of Mark Tucker, who founded the event.
(Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
2018 date: April 8
Earth Day Festival
Some would argue that Ann Arbor played a critical role in the shaping of Earth Day observances, when Doug Scott held a teach-in on campus in 1970 that was attended by students from across the country.
These days, the Leslie Science and Nature Center has taken on the festivities.
Every year, the center holds Ann Arbor's Earth Day Festival. It includes live animal demonstrations, live entertainment, hands-on activities for kids, presentations from dozens of environmental, governmental and nonprofit organizations, and much more.
2018 date: April 22
Watch our segment on Live in the D about this year's festival.
Cinetopia International Film Festival
Each year, films are handpicked from the world best film festivals including Cannes, Sundance and SXSW to be shown at this unique southeastern Michigan film festival.
Audiences can enjoy the best feature-length documentaries, comedies and dramas all screened in the metro Detroit area.
This year, films will be shown at both the Michigan Theater and the newly renovated State Theater in downtown Ann Arbor.
(Photo: Cinetopia Film Festival)
2018 dates: May 31-June 10
African-American Downtown Festival
Beginning in 1996, this daylong event celebrates African-American culture in Ann Arbor at North 4th Avenue and East Ann Street.
The area was once a thriving African-American business district and the festival's late founder, Lucille Porter, wanted locals to remember the area's vibrant history each year with a day of bright, fun-filled festivities.
Featuring live music, food and retail vendors, kids activities and more, the AADF is intended for all ages.
2018 date: June 2
Taste of Ann Arbor
Modeled off similar taste-of events in bigger American cities, Taste of Ann Arbor showcases the best dishes from around 40 local restaurants in downtown Ann Arbor.
How it works: Purchase tickets ($1 and $4) to use to pay for small- to medium-sized dishes.
Guests also enjoy live music put on by Sonic Lunch and kids activities sponsored by the Ann Arbor District Library.
For more details, click here.
Fish tacos (Photo: Black Pearl Ann Arbor)
2018 date: June 3
Shakespeare in the Arb
What's more magical than Shakespeare performances in the lush, blooming Nichols Arboretum at University of Michigan?
According to its website, "There is no fixed stage -- instead, the audience follows the action through different locations in the Arboretum. The staging takes advantage of the vistas and valleys, the special arrangements of the natural settings."
(Photo: Shakespeare in the Arb)
2018 dates: June 7-10, 14-17 and 21-22
Read how it all started here.
Mayor's Green Fair
The Mayor's Green Fair first kicked off in 2000 and celebrates all things green in town.
Every year, Main Street between Huron and William closes for the fair, and along with live music and family-friendly activities, leaders in local sustainability set up booths to engage the community in their environmental initiatives.
Read our story and interview with Mayor Christopher Taylor here.
2018 date: June 8
Ya'ssoo Greek Festival
Another local favorite is the Ya'ssoo Greek Festival. All the good food, music and entertainment will have you saying "hopa!" in no time.
Celebrate all things Greek at this three-day festival at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at 3109 Scio Church Road.
World famous musical guest Enigma will be performing this year.
2018 dates: June 8-10
Ann Arbor Summer Festival & Top of the Park
For many locals, Top of the Park is synonymous with summer in Ann Arbor.
The monthlong festival features free nightly musical performances, kids activities, outdoor movie screenings and wellness classes on the U of M campus.
Its ticketed Main Stage performance series also draws big artists each year and takes place at Hill Auditorium.
(Photo: Ann Arbor Summer Festival © Myra Klarman Photography.com)
2018 dates: June 8-July 1
Grillin' for Food Gatherers
Every year, on the second Sunday of June, Food Gatherers hosts this daylong event to raise money to end hunger in Washtenaw County. The ticketed event takes place on the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds.
This year, guests can enjoy live music, food provided by a variety of local restaurants, live music, beer from local Michigan microbreweries and wine at a cash bar, kids activities by the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, a photo booth and free massages by Body Wisdom Massage.
Ann Arbor's 107one Morning Drive host, Martin Bandyke, is the Grillin' Master of Ceremonies.
(Photo: Food Gatherers)
2018 date: June 10
Ann Arbor Restaurant Week is perfect for foodies wanting to give new restaurants a try at a good price.
More than 50 restaurants are participating this year and will offer fixed-price lunch and dinner menus for a truly one-of-a-kind culinary experience.
For more information, click here.
2018 dates: June 10-15
Rolling Sculpture Car Show
Ann Arbor's signature brick buildings downtown make the perfect backdrop for a car show.
Luckily this one rolls in to Main, Liberty and Washington streets each July boasting 300 vehicles.
Anyone can exhibit their exotic, one-of-a-kind, classic and antique cars. Registration is $20.
Guests can enjoy live music, kids activities hosted by the Ann Arbor District Library and an awards ceremony.
(Photo: Main Street Area Association)
2018 date: July 13
Townie Street Party
It began as a gesture by the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original, to appease locals before the art fair took over downtown for several days (the event draws 300,000 people annually).
According to the event's website, "Townie Party celebrates all things local and is our way of thanking Ann Arbor residents for so graciously hosting the Ann Arbor Art Fair each year."
Now it is a fixture of art fair week and is the kickoff of the world-famous fair.
Enjoy live music, the Townie Pub, eats from local vendors, youth art displays, kids activities and a competitive fun run all on North University and Ingalls Mall.
(Photo: Townie Street Party website)
2018 date: July 16
Ann Arbor Art Fair
The Ann Arbor Art Fair is one of the main reasons people from around the country -- and the world --descend on Ann Arbor each summer.
It is four fairs combined into one and takes over the downtown area for four days.
Showcasing artists from near and far, fairgoers can expect to find one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, photographs, sculptures, clothing items, paintings, pottery and much more.
Alongside the fair are food trucks, live performances sponsored by The Ark, street performers, kids activities and more.
We got a sneak peek into the jury selection process for The Guild's fair. Read about it here.
(Photo: Ann Arbor Art Fair)
2018 dates: July 19-22
Ann Arbor Pride
Formerly known as Outfest, Ann Arbor Pride is a weekend festival that celebrates the LGBTQ community, its allies and its history in Ann Arbor.
The festival is hosted by the Jim Toy Community Center named after the University of Michigan alum and gay rights activist.
Festival-goers can enjoy live performances, food vendors and community, kid-friendly activities.
All proceeds benefit the JTCC.
(Photo: Jim Toy Community Center)
2018 dates: Aug. 3-5
Dancing in the Streets
One of the more "moving" events in town, this festival features free music performances and instruction for one fun-filled afternoon.
The public can wander the Main Street area and find jazz, swing, Irish, French country dancing and more.
It's fun for all ages!
(Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
2018 date: Sept. 3
The Kerrytown BookFest is a celebration of books -- a suitable festival for one of America's most well-read cities year after year.
Located in the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, it features a variety of vendors from illustrators to bookbinders and impressive author panels.
With a series of educational hand-on experiences and live entertainment, this festival is one not to miss!
Read about its writing workshops here.
(Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
2018 date: Sept. 9
Which festivals are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!
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