Annual FestiFools parade attracts hundreds for communal 'TimeFoolery'
Jan Onder had lived in Ann Arbor for years but had been unable to attend the FestiFools parade until Sunday.
"It's everything I imagined it would be," Onder said. "I just love it."
The seventh annual FestiFools parade flooded a stretch of Main Street with street performers and huge papier-mache puppets. Hundreds of people lined either side of the street, watching in awe as the procession circled over on itself in a jumbled chaos of sights and sounds.
"It's the best example of sensory overload I've seen in some time," said Madeleine Baier, a woman from Ypsilanti who was also attending for the first time. "Next time, I'm gonna bring my camera!"
The event is produced by WonderFool Productions with help from community volunteers and students of the University of Michigan.
The street performers included stilt-walkers, a ragged Dixieland jazz band and a drum line comprised mostly of empty five-gallon buckets.
The procession of performers and puppets was quite unconventional. There was no strict order to any of it. Things flowed and evolved unrestrained. A papier-mache dragon darted through the street, zigzagging around other puppets and performers, pretending to breathe fire at all passersby — which alarmed some of the dogs along the street.
The theme for this year's parade was "TimeFoolery" and each puppet's artistic statement was supposed to be loosely related to it. Some puppets had a clear connection, like the multiple-piece puppet based on Salvador Dali or the dark-humored caricature of Marie Antoinette carrying her own head. Others were more loosely related, but still visually stunning, like the anglerfish that had an enormous functioning jaw and CDs for scales.
"I thought it was very impressive," said Essie Shachar-Hill, a sophomore at U-M. "I enjoyed the puppets. It looks like a lot of hard work was put into them."
Some of the puppets had socially conscious themes, like one that featured a black man imprisoned behind bars, with his arms desperately reaching through them. The people carrying the piece wore duct tape over their mouths.
Carisa Bedsoe, a junior at U-M, said her group spent two weeks building their environmentally conscious papier-mache puppet called "Mother Earth."
"We love the Earth and we think people should appreciate it more—including ourselves," she said.
Along the side of the procession, Mayor John Hieftje led a man wearing a large papier-mache caricature of his head, introducing him to children, saying, "This is the mayor of Ann Arbor!"
"We don't stop playing once we get old, we get old once we stop playing," Baier said.
At the end of the parade, the puppets filed back to the alley where the parade began, but one puppet stayed behind — an enormous pinata that took two people to carry.
Nearby children became excited, wondering aloud whether there was candy inside the pinata. The people carrying it played coy until a man carrying a toy butcher's cleaver ran up and pretended to cut open the pinata's stomach. Out tumbled papier-mache pinata organs and long thin pink balloons tied together to look like intestines.
The man who had opened the pinata's stomach grabbed the pinata's heart and asked the children, "Do you wanna pretend to eat the bloody beating heard of a pinata?"
"This is what Ann Arbor needs—events to make people come to town and think it's a really fun and happening place," Onder said.
Kody Klein is an intern for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org