Ann Arbor Summer Festival to expand programming to Ypsi this summer

Among other changes for 2021, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival (A2SF) will offer programming in the Ypsilanti area for the first time in the event's history.

A2SF canceled its traditional in-person programming, including its Top of the Park events at Ingalls Mall in Ann Arbor, for the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the summer festival hosted limited-capacity small concerts, live streaming events, and other alternative events. Top of the Park will return in 2022, says A2SF executive director Mike Michelon.

The 2021 season will boast two series that will reach into the Ypsilanti area: Live Here Now and Tiny Tops. Live Here Now will feature 10 to 15 "pop-up" concerts in Ann Arbor and 10 to 15 in Ypsilanti.

"With Top of the Park not taking place, we're taking elements of that out into the community," Michelon says.

Another program called Tiny Tops will allow Washtenaw County residents to book artists for "intimate concerts for friends and family on their lawn or in the driveway," Michelon says. 

A2SF organizers did a trial run of Tiny Tops last year, but only for two weeks. Michelon says it "got to be a little too much without the infrastructure in place."

This summer, however, he expects at least 200 Tiny Tops concerts to take place around the county. The program not only provides opportunities for area residents to see live residents but will also "pump thousands of dollars in artists fees into our local artist ecosystem," Michelon says.

Michelon says A2SF has always been designed for all residents of Washtenaw County and "our ticketing data shows that's the case." However, festival organizers have been planning more outreach to Ypsilanti for the past couple of years.

"We have been talking about doing work in Ypsilanti for over a year now, with every intention to bring a piece of the festival to Ypsilanti in 2020, but then, hey, there was a pandemic," A2SF Programming and Operations Manager James Carter says. "We had a grand scheme to bring pop-up events to Ypsi and Ann Arbor last year but weren't able to get around to it. That'll be the prime focal point of what we're going to do this year."

The Live Here Now pop-up events in Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, and Superior Township will be hosted in conjunction with a number of community partners, including the Ypsilanti District Library and Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS). YCS will provide meals to children under age 18 at some of the larger community events.

"That's exciting, something we haven't done before in terms of community outreach," Carter says.

The idea for the pop-up concerts came, in part, out of listening sessions and other efforts by the festival's community engagement committee to reduce barriers to participation. The pandemic helped clarify that vision and force the change, Michelon says.

Carter says "crisis equals opportunity."

"We're excited that, in some ways, the pandemic created an opportunity, and we're trying to take that opportunity to transform the organization in a really meaningful way," he says.

More information about A2SF programming is available here.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of A2SF.
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