The Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park returns

Summers in Ann Arbor are starting to feel normal again as this major festival returns for another year.

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival prepares for another year of cultivating a community of the arts in the city by providing entertainment for all ages.

Top of the Park is making its return to Ingalls Mall after a two year hiatus. Top of the Park, along with other AASF events, are part of many Ann Arbor families’ summer traditions. 

AASF Executive Director Michael Michelon said, “That in itself is really special to us because it is such a gathering place for our community.”

Each June, the AASF attracts an overall audience of about 80,000 people throughout its various concerts and events. Top of the Park, running from June 10 – July 3, 2022, celebrates the arts in many forms including music, film, visual art, contemporary circus, dance and comedy.

During the long duration of this festival, there are some events where people mark their calendars to attend months in advance, while there are other activities which people find as they are wandering Top of the Park with friends or family. 

“There’s the performances and there’s everything we present, but I also think that we are just creating a really great and important public space for a month every summer,” Michelon said.  

During Top of the Park, live performances begin at 5pm Tuesday through Friday with multiple acts each night. 

This year there will be several international and national acts featured in Top of the Park at the Rackham Stage.

Among these talented acts is singer songwriter Natu Camara who will perform on June 11, the second day of Top of the Park, at 8:30pm.

Following this big act is ADG7, a Korean folk-pop band. They will be playing the Rackham Stage on June 12 at 8:15 p.m. 

Latin alternative LADAMA consists of four musicians from four different countries including Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela and the United States. They will play at Top of the Park on June 25 at 8:30pm. 

Another national artist will perform on June 16, Devon Gilfillian. This Nashville based soul singer songwriter will perform on the Rackham Stage at 8:15pm. 

In addition to the international and national acts, there will be local musicians performing for the community including London Beck, Chris DuPont and Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful

At the end of June AASF will be holding a paid and ticketed event. Pink Martini will be coming to the Power Center on June 29 at 8pm. 

Formed in 1994, Pink Martini is a Portland, Ore. with an eclectic and multilingual repertoire. Their unique sound blends classical, pop, latin and jazz.

Movies 

One of the most popular family events run by AASF is the Top of the Park movies. Not only is it an opportunity to watch a diverse series of movies for free, but it is an excellent excuse to spend a couple hours relaxing under the stars. 

Bring chairs or blankets to lay out on the grass for you and your family. The greenspace fills up quickly so try to get there before it gets dark. Movies will start at 10pm. 

The Top of the Park movies will kick off on June 12 with a family favorite, Encanto. There is plenty of room for the kids to dance along to their favorite songs. 

Award winning films Selma and Minari will play on June 14 and 15 respectively. 

More animated movies will follow including Detective Pikachu on June 16, Soul on June 19 and Raya and the Last Dragon on June 21. 

A League of Their Own will play on June 22 and Spiderman: No Way Home on June 23, followed by classics including Clue on June 26 and Casablanca on June 28. 

The last three nights of Top of the Park movies will be filled with variety including My Octopus Teacher on June 29, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on June 30 and West Side Story rounding out the festival on July 3. 

They ask that no outside food or beverages is brought into the event space to encourage the support of local vendors on site. There will be a wide range of food and beverage options available at the festival each night. 

Live Here Now 

One of the AASF’s efforts towards adapting to the pandemic was the Live Here Now concert. This series started in 2021 as a way to continue to bring pop-up concerts throughout Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti parks. Instead of replacing it with the returning events, they decided to hold on to this series as a new Ann Arbor tradition. 

Throughout May and June, AASF will present six pop up concerts during the Live Here Now series. 

“Those are really special because they are in neighborhoods and public spaces. They are a little bit smaller format and they are usually in fun parks with a lot of space for families to come and hang out, picnic and enjoy our music,” Michelon said. 

Live Here Now 2022 will kick off at South Maple Park in Ann Arbor on Friday, May 20 with a performance from The Heather Black Project. The next day on May 21, Monique Ella Rose will fuse the genres of gospel, soul jazz and rhythm and blues at West Willow Park in Ypsilanti Township. 

For a weekday performance on May 26, Laura Rain and the Caesars will perform her retro modern soul music at Arbor Oaks Park in Ann Arbor. On the weekend, Salmagundi on May 27 at Heritage Park in Ypsilanti Township.

The final two performances of this series include the Katie Stanley Band at Recreation Park in Ypsilanti on June 3 followed by the Gabriel Brass Band on June 4 at Fireman’s Park in Ypsilanti. 

All performances for Live Here Now start at 7pm. except for the June 4 show which starts at 6:30pm.

Other community activities

One of the main attractions that AASF is bringing to the city is Canopy by Pneuhaus and Bike Powered Events. This captivating art exhibit lets audiences bring illuminated trees to life by pedaling on stationary bikes. 

The power of green electricity generation is taught to audiences through this visually interesting and interactive installation. 

A variety of different activities are available in the KidZone tent at Top of the Park. Temporary tattoos, creating handmade instruments, music and storytelling are among the nightly entertainment at Top of the Park for kids and their parents. The KidZone tent opens at 5pm. each night of Top of the Park. 

“Something that’s so special with the festival format is just a variety of ways that the community can interact with it,” Michelon said. 

On June 14-15 from 5:45-8:30pm, circus performer Jonathan Rinny will be performing one of the most difficult circus acts to master, Rolla Bolla. Rinny will be balancing on stacked cylinders and rollers up to 15 feet off the ground. 

Another circus act, Bobby Cookson will be at Top of the Park on June 14-15 from 6:45- 10pm. performing his act, Simple. This 15 minute act involves a simple wheel and three juggling clubs. 

For guests who fancy the finer things in life, all night on Tuesday and Wednesdays of Top of the Park, there will be tastings of wine, craft beer and more. 

Tuesdays are also Bike Night at Top of the Park. The community is encouraged to ride their bikes into town for the night. AASF will offer a free valet service and bike tune-ups for people who participate in Bike Night.  

Each night at 5pm, relaxing community fitness classes will be free for anyone interested in winding down after a long day. Local experts will be hosting sessions of yoga, Garba, Capoeira, Zumba and more on the Power Center lawn. 

How to donate 

Most AASF events are free, but there is an opportunity to donate at Top of the Park to support AASF. They encourage people who come to enjoy any of the arts, performances and activities the festival has to offer to make a donation of $5 per person or $10 per family each visit. 

Since they value keeping their events free and accessible to everyone, they express their gratitude for donations. Audience members who donate will receive an “I Gave” sticker to show their support. 

Donations can also be made to AASF on their website