Photo essay: The faces of FestiFools 2024

As we explored Ann Arbor's annual springtime puppet parade, we asked volunteers, participants, and onlookers, "What do you love about FestiFools?"
This story is part of a series about arts and culture in Washtenaw County. It is made possible by the Ann Arbor Art Center, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Destination Ann Arbor, Larry and Lucie Nisson, and the University Musical Society.

FestiFools came back with a bang this year, with Ann Arbor and surrounding communities coming out in full force for the beloved puppet parade after it briefly went on hiatus in 2023. Many attendees (including University of Michigan (U-M) students in FestiFools founder Mark Tucker's class) created large papier-mâché puppets before parading their creations up and down Ann Arbor's Main Street on Sunday, April 7. The event also featured a DJ, bubble-blowing, and other forms of tomfoolery.
We asked volunteers, participants, and onlookers, "What do you love about FestiFools?"  
Nina O’Connor 
O'Connor said she made a FestiFools T-shirt into a skirt so she could wear a moon across her butt. She said she loves the event's "bringing together of community" and the "purposefulness of joy."
Nina O'Connor (L) at FestiFools 2024. 
Quinn Strassel and daughter Marion Strassel 
Ann Arbor-based teacher Quinn has helped out at FestiFools in various ways for years. He calls it "one of the most important traditions in Ann Arbor" and was happy to bring his youngest daughter, Marion, for her first-ever visit.
Marion Strassel with father Quinn Strassel at FestiFools 2024.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell
"FestiFools brings people together and makes them smile and laugh, and we don’t smile and laugh enough," Dingell said.
U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell at FestiFools 2024.
Ahnes Kim
The U-M freshman, who’s studying economics and pre-law, designed a nine-tailed fox puppet, a figure from Chinese, Japanese, and Korean mythology meant to represent a shape-shifter.
Ahnes Kim at FestiFools 2024.
Dominique Witten
A volunteer with FestiFools, Witten, also a poet, said she loves the event because it’s a "time to be goofy" and because she otherwise "never get[s] to walk in the street without getting honked at." Has she ever written poems about FestiFools? "No, but I should have."
Dominique Witten at FestiFools 2024.
Michigan Sen. Jeff Irwin
"FestiFools is the event of the year," Irwin said. "It’s silly, it’s springtime, and everyone’s getting out, being silly and foolish — I love it!"
Michigan Senator Jeff Irwin at FestiFools 2024.
Gabriel Biber
Biber, a Lansing resident, visited FestiFools for the first time while his daughter appeared in the parade. He said he appreciated the "variety of creations" and the "different groups of people" he observed in the crowd. "I like the ambiguous meaning behind a lot of the creations — it’s kind of poetic," he said.
Gabriel Biber (R) with his daughter at FestiFools 2024.
Jeanne Mackey and Pattie Postel from A2 Bubbles, which does pop-up bubble events
"We’ve been coming here for many years," Postel said. "FestiFools brings together campus, community, and general public — both the quirky and the bizarre." Mackey added, "I don’t wear this very often."
Jeanne Mackey and Pattie Postel from A2 Bubbles at FestiFools 2024.

Curtis Pigneguy
Pigneguy said FestiFools has "great energy, is a lot of fun, and very creative. I was sorry when it disappeared." Pigneguy adds, "When I retired, I was tired of wearing what everyone wanted me to wear. I said I’d wear whatever suited the occasion from then on."
Curtis Pigneguy at FestiFools 2024.
Annette Tomasello of Tree Town Ukes
For the past 16 years, Tomasello has been getting together to play music with the monthly meet-up group Tree Town Ukes, who joined her for FestiFools. She said she’s "so happy the parade is back." "I love how unorganized and chaotic it is and how it makes everyone happy!" she says.
Annette Tomasello with Tree Town Ukes at FestiFools 2024.
Tadd, Nayiri, and Lilo Mullinix
Tadd and Nayiri Mullinix brought their daughter Lilo to the parade because Lilo loves music and percussion in particular. Nayiri said Lilo seems especially "taken by being part of a group — almost like she feels like she’s part of a gathering."
 Nayiri, Lilo, and Tadd Mullinix at FestiFools 2024.
Brittany Tobias
Tobias told us she loves FestiFools because "you can wear anything, be anything, and have fun at a city-wide party where anything goes. … It’s a new way to see your own city."
Brittany Tobias (back right) with her family at FestiFools 2024.
Keith Orr and Martin Contreras, founders of Aut Bar 
"There’s nothing polished about FestiFools," Orr said. "People just make fun stuff. Anyone who knows Mark Tucker knows he just exudes this energy." Contreras added, "You know it’s spring when FestiFools arrives — it brings out the kid in you!"
 Aut Bar founders Keith Orr and Martin Contreras at FestiFools 2024.
Problematic Black Hottie
The Ann Arbor-based DJ performed at FestiFools, a first for her. "I don’t usually play for families and kids, so that was different for me," she said, adding that she loved how the children danced without inhibition. "They don’t know the song or the words — they just dance!"
 Problematic Black Hottie DJing at FestiFools 2024.
Cynthia Huang 
Huang was Tucker's student when her class with him was interrupted by COVID-19. "I was going to make a sculpture of a huge, giant baby," she said. She had just about completed the sculpture when the 2020 pandemic forced U-M's campus into lockdown, and the FestiFools parade was canceled. Huang came to help out this year to make up for that experience. She said it "transported [her] back in time."
Cynthia Huang (center) at FestiFools 2024.

Natalia Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and others.

Photos by Doug Coombe.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.