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Posted on Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

FestiFools takes over April Fool's Day weekend, adds new benefit show

By Jennifer Eberbach


FestiFools 2011

Melanie Maxwell | file photo

Springtime foolishness returns to the streets of Ann Arbor this April Fool’s Day weekend. The sixth annual giant puppet parade FestiFools and related events happen March 30 through April 1. For the first time, there are three different events where you can join in or just watch others act a fool.

Locals and University of Michigan students have been hard at work creating huge papier-mache sculptures—larger-than-life puppets and big, colorful masks—that will dance up and down the streets of downtown during the main FestiFools parade, on April 1 from 4 to 5 p.m.

FestiFools could not happen without the help of volunteers from the community and U-M art students who construct and paint the massive puppets. Anyone can stop into the FestiFools studio space to help papier-mache and paint during their open studio days. The studio is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. leading up to the big events. It is located in the U-M Campus Safety Services Building, at 1239 Kipke Dr., Room 1309. The doors to the building are locked over the weekend, so call the studio ahead and let them know you are coming, at 734-763-7550.

The whimsical festivities actually begin on March 30 with the 2nd annual installment of FoolMoon, an additional parade featuring handmade “luminaries.” Participants will walk with paper and wire lanterns, from dusk to midnight on Washington Street.

After a highly successful debut last year, FoolMoon is now a huge part of the event weekend. Last year, its first year, thousands of people showed up to watch and participate in the parade. Just like with FestiFools, anyone can join in the fun by making their own luminary and dancing it down the street.

Do-it-yourself luminary kits are available for purchase at local stores (Ace Barnes Hardware, Downtown Home & Garden, Sweetwaters on Washington). These have everything you need to make a speech-bubble shaped lantern, which is lit from inside by an LED. You can decorate yours however you want. “You can even put shadow puppets inside, which is really playful,” Tucker suggested.

FoolMoon begins at 5 p.m. with “5 o’clock shadow,” a pre-party with DJ music and Salsa dancing in the street before the parade kicks off. Also at the parade, the Third Coast Kings will fill the air with music. Grizzly Peak brewers are making a special Fool Brew for the event.

Local performance art collaboration Spontaneous Art, which is lead by Chris Sandon, Trevor Stone, and Natalie Berry, has been commissioned to perform “Robot Games” at FoolMoon and FestiFools.

Ann Arbor’s Downtown Development Authority commissioned FestiFools to make luminaries for all of the parking meters around the event, which Tucker is excited to see. “They will frame the event with light,” he says.

For the first time ever, there is a third event, Foolish Acts. This new benefit concert will feature live music, performances, and crowd interaction at the Blind Pig, on March 31 (18+; doors at 9 p.m.). The new event is their first indoors. Appleseed Collective,Third Coast Kings, LMFA20 and Funky Farmer will perform the benefit.

Orbit Hair Design and Massage will come out again to do flamboyant makeovers in the street during the parades. And they might make up some “luminescent ladies” to attend the Blind Pig benefit show.

Theater club students in the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program are planning to “attack” attendees with face makeup, so that as many people as possible will be foolishly made up by the end of the night. “They are going to surround people and do their faces up,” Tucker explained.

Tucker is excited to have events going on all weekend. “We’ve been looking for meat to go in the sandwich we’ve created with FoolMoon on Friday and FestiFools on Sunday. We’ve got the bread on both side, be we didn’t have Saturday covered. Now with three events, we’re taking the whole April Fool’s Day weekend and making it about FestiFools,” he said.

Upon a visit to the FestiFools studio, volunteers working away had many stories to tell about what the event means to them.

Retired hotel interior designer and artist Peggy Arden, from Ann Arbor, worked on a couple of eagle masks, a tiger's head, and a large claw. "Last year, my grandchildren and I participated in the FoolMoon luminary parade. We made a seahorse, dragonfly, fish, robot, and I still have them hanging up at home. This year, I decided to volunteer my time to work on some FestiFools puppets. And I'm also helping one of my grandsons build a Chinese dragon with lights in it for FoolMoon," she said.

Pat DeLamielleur of Ann Arbor, who has been oil painting since her retirement, remembered her first exposure to FestiFools six years ago: "I was the parade's first year. I went to the old warehouse on Felch with my mother, who is now in her 100th year. She was 94 and in a wheelchair, but they said she could be in the parade. They gave her a mask and she joined the parade in her wheelchair. She looked at me and said, 'And I thought I'd done everything!'"

As in the past, FestiFools and FoolMoon have a suggested theme. As always, it complements U-M’s College of LSA year-long theme. This year’s theme is language.

Tucker thinks this year’s theme is a fun challenge. “Language doesn’t evoke any certain image. It’s pretty abstract. It’ll be challenging to put the idea into visual form. We’re looking forward to seeing what people come up with,” he said. Some of the things people have been making so far include a gramophone, a carrier pigeon, cell phones, iPads, hieroglyphs, brail, and letters. “People are interpreting it as any form of communication.”

That does not mean that puppet and luminary makers have to follow it. People come up with all sorts of wild ideas. The theme serves as a source of inspiration for those who need it.


Rufus T Firefly

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 10:29 p.m.

I guess every Christmas needs its Grinch. Enter Alan Goldsmith -- what, exactly, is your objection to Festifools **hypothetically** receiving percent-for-art funding, Alan? For a minimal, largely donor-driven, investment, Festifools affects thousands of Ann Arbor community members, not just in the viewing of an spectacular annual art event, but also in the collective spirit of that goes into building it. This event – designed and created in community workshops, classrooms, art studios and campuses – summons original artistic contributions from every possible background, engaging local families, Detroit teens, University arts students, fine art puppeteers, sculptors and musicians. Festifools provides a galvanizing focus and an open door for literally thousands of people to come together and build something that is unique, complex, and visually and sonically rich. It is public art in the truest sense: art BY the public rather than just for the public. This is without even mentioning the proven positive economic impact of a three day celebration that draws thousands of people to AA's businesses. But perhaps, Alan, you would prefer your percent-for-arts dollars to fund a big bronze statue on a roundabout or steel-girder monolith in a park instead? I'll take a living, evolving event over a hundred-thousand dollar chunk of metal any day!

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

"But perhaps, Alan, you would prefer your percent-for-arts dollars to fund a big bronze statue on a roundabout or steel-girder monolith in a park instead? I'll take a living, evolving event over a hundred-thousand dollar chunk of metal any day!" I'd prefer you write a check to any Festival or art project you want. And I'd prefer the Ann Arbor City Attorney issue a written legal opinion of tax dollars for city construction projects going to paying for 'art'. I'd prefer fixing roads and not letter road turn into a fiasco like Dexter between Maple and Jackson. AND I'd prefer to have people who always seem to never use their real name grasp the concept the just because you don't want The Mayor and his political buddies ripping off taxpayers for every half baked piece of junk they thing is 'art', that somehow you are AGAINST art. I love puppet heads and parades. Don't ask my tax dollars go towards paying for it when the AAPAC is a joke.


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 9:36 p.m.

Another well-written article by Jennifer Eberbach!


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.

Who is "Tucker" who is referred to in the 6th and following paragraphs?


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

I would certainly rather have AA put money toward this event than spend another $750K for the "finger" in front of the City Hall.


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

Better then a fist on the riverfront in Detroit.


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

This is another good reason to live in A2!!! Yay! Ann Arbor!!

A Voice of Reason

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

This is a great event and it would be nice for Ann Arbor to be known for something besides the Hash Bash on April 1st. I think the anti-drug groups should be supporting this effort financially! Mark Tucker and all the volunteers. It is our ArtPrize.


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

We have our Festi Fool T shirts ready and waiting. This is a great event and can't wait for Sunday to see it again.

A Voice of Reason

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

Congratulations Mark Tucker and all the volunteers!


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 10:39 a.m.

This is an awesome event -- Thanks to Mark Tucker for starting this several year back at the warehouse on Felch--many volunteers make it happen. Looking foward to some Foolish in downtown Ann Arbor.

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 10:38 a.m.

"Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority commissioned FestiFools to make luminaries for all of the parking meters around the event, which Tucker is excited to see. "They will frame the event with light," he says. "Commissioned? No they asked for this because they gave the Festival a 'contribution' for parking fees for closing off parking meters--which other nonprofits have to pay when they are holding downtown events. Guess last year's Giant Mayor Puppet Head really paid off big time.

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 10:35 a.m.

Just so we put this on the table. There should be NO City of Ann Arbor tax dollars ala the Per Cent For Art program ever paying for this program or others like it in the future. I don't care if the group kisses up to the Mayor and makes yet another giant puppet head of him again. It's a nice project but the City shouldn't even THINK of paying for it from the money skimmed off the top of construction projects.