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Posted on Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 9:19 p.m.

Annual FestiFools parade attracts hundreds for communal 'TimeFoolery'

By Kody Klein

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?"

They declined.

"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.

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Kody Klein is an intern for Reach him at



Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 4:14 a.m.

Looks like a good crowd this year. Please explain the purpose of this event and how it relates to spring.


Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

When the Gregorian calender was being rewritten, April 1 was originally New Years Day. New Years is now as we know January 1. So who ever celebrates New Years Day on April 1 is considered a fool. As for spring? Heck, after the March we had? I would celebrate anything that did not have to with cold weather and snow.

Bob Needham

Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

The purpose is just to have fun. It's always held on the first Sunday in April -- the name comes from April Fool's Day. Here's how founder Mark Tucker put it in this year's preview article: "Ann Arbor) is just a really smart town. So when you can go out for even an hour and make fun of yourself—dress up and show your foolish side—I think it's liberating. And I think that resonates with this town. We can be really serious and smart, and we also know how to have a good time."

Bob Needham

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 3:57 p.m.

Another great FestiFools. Thank you, Mark Tucker and everyone involved. As amazing and impressive as the big creations were, the one thing that made me laugh out loud was the guy dressed up like Van Gogh and holding a picture frame around himself. Genius! And he was so nice about posing for photos every couple yards.


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 2:35 p.m.

Thanks, Kody, I couldn't have said it better. You even spelled my name right! warm regards, Madeleine Baier a.k.a. Mady

Dirty Mouth

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

How appropriate that our Mayor is part of the festivities.

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 12:01 p.m.

"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!"" Intriguing: a puppet head of the Mayor and a Mayor who is a puppet of out of town developers together at last.


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

Kind of goes hand in hand with the AAPS superintendent. Both are out of town when needed.

Homeland Conspiracy

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.



Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 11:42 a.m.

Thank you for these great pictures!

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 11:14 a.m.

My family and I enjoyed Festifools tremendously! I am no expert on crowds but it's guess there were a few thousand people there to watch. Great job everyone!


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

To be clear: My family and close friends were not just there but were IN the parade. We love it. We love Ann Arbor and love events like this. We just don't have to brag about it because we are not trying to run for office through the comments section, and wish others wouldn't use this forum in that manner.


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

When does the official mayoral campaign start?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 11:16 a.m.

Sorry, should read "I'd guess"... Sigh.


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 11:14 a.m.

Glad to se hizhonor was represented leading kind...

Hugh Giariola

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 11:01 a.m.

A little history of the purpose or theme of this parade would be a nice addition to the story.

Jenn McKee

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 4:25 p.m.

That's something we definitely try to work into event previews, like this one:


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 11:40 a.m.

If you click on the "behind the scenes" story, there is more info about it there.


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 10:42 a.m.

What fun -- love them. Best wishes for another fun-filled event. See ya next year.


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 5:11 a.m.

What a great alternative to the Hash Bash!


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

hey, I went to both. Phffffft.


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

Get a natural high from just being at a parade. Everyone loves a parade. Never made it down there though, sad, maybe next year.

Ryan Munson

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 3:46 a.m.

Hundreds? The mayor says several thousand!

Homeland Conspiracy

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 3:04 a.m.

Looks like a lot of fun. But why so many pix of people & so few pix of the puppets


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

Here are my images from the 2013 Festifools ... mostly of puppets...

Homeland Conspiracy

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 2:19 p.m.


Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 12:13 p.m.

If you're craving more pics, Myra Klarman does a great job of capturing sights from the parade every year. I believe she'll be posting them soon here: And I snapped a few of my own for fun: