Before the madness, locals enjoyed a pre-Art Fairs revel at Monday night's Townie Street Party
Credit townies for knowing — and throwing — a good party.
Although impossible to determine exactly how many people were there (an estimated 10,000 people were expected), suffice it to say that Ingalls Mall was packed, from Rackham Auditorium on one end to the Natural Sciences Building on the other. The steps of Hill Auditorium proved a popular place for dining and people-watching, while many folks brought blankets and spread them out on the lawn.
The event was presented by the folks at the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, one of four fairs that comprise the ginormous entity known as the Ann Arbor Art Fairs.
A kids’ art fair seemed bigger than it was last year (more than 70 young people in all), in keeping with the event’s growing popularity. The kids’ section encourages young artists (ages 6-14) to make art and look toward careers in art.
Jennifer Lynn, who described herself as “a townie, born and raised,” said she loves the Townie Street Party, now in its sixth year.
“I know everybody here. Everybody,” she said, calling greetings to a seemingly endless stream of friends strolling by. “The kids had Top of the Park last month. Now it’s time for the adults to get a party.”
The weather was perfect, with a light overcast keeping the sun off the crowd. Rain was in the forecast but no one seemed worried. And everywhere you looked, there were townies.
There was Tim Seaver, owner of Tio’s restaurant, dishing out Mexican delights. WEMU’s Linda Yohn was on stage introducing the musical acts, such as Ypsilanti’s Danny Kline. Domino’s (“the original pizza townie since 1960,” proclaimed a sign) was among the food vendors, which also included Ahmo’s, Stucchi’s, Damon’s and Ray’s Red Hots. One of the entertainers attempted a Townie Street Party rap, with limited success. Still, it was fun to listen to him try.
“It’s nice to see all the people smiling on a summer night,” observed Ray DeYoung, spread out under a tree for a picnic with his wife Noreen, his son Josh and Josh’s fiancÃ©e, Nicole Premo.
“I love the kids’ art fair this is just such a good community event. It makes the Art Fairs tolerable,” Premo said.
The line was long for the Townie Pub.
“I could go get a six-pack and we could drink it before we got up there,” one waiting customer grumped good-naturedly.
Representatives were on hand from a number of different local organizations, ranging from the Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau to the Ann Arbor Skatepark, the Ann Arbor Film Festival and the Ann Arbor Art Center, all more than happy to talk about their group’s activities.
Adults were also able to try on silk screening for size, make tile art and participate in a community art project built around the ecology of the Huron River, while kids got their faces painted and learned how to make a Japanese Carp Kite from recycled materials.
Besides being a fun revel for locals, the event also served to raise funds for the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair.
Kevin Keeton — surprise, another townie — was on hand to support the Art Center, where he is an intern. He said the Townie Party is a good way to get locals involved in the Art Fairs. “I feel a lot of the townspeople avoid the Art Fairs,” he observed. “This is a good way to get people to stay around.”
Beatrix Dergis, age 9, was selling her watercolor-esque photographs at the kids’ fair ($20 framed, $16 unframed, tax included) and estimated she had sold 11 prints by 7:30 p.m. “She had a bunch of ideas, she started drawing as soon as she could hold a pencil,” her father, Mike Dergis said. “It was juried, but everybody got in, which is nice,” he added.
Meant as a prelude to the Art Fairs — or maybe as a distraction from the madness about to descend on town over the next few days — the main event wasn’t far from anyone’s minds.
Carol Keeton (yes, Kevin’s mom), a veteran of the Art Fairs, said she takes it in stride.
“It’s a given. Everybody complains about it, but we come down every year to see what’s new,” she admitted.
And although she loves the Art Fairs, Lynn had one wish.
“I think we should give free Art Fairs parking if you were born and raised here and can prove it with a birth certificate,” she suggested.
Hmmm. Sounds good. Are you listening, Art Fairs organizers?
Roger LeLievre is a free-lance writer who covers entertainment for AnnArbor.com.