While some of Washtenaw County may be planning their final getaway of the summer, the Ypsi community is all abuzz with plans of staying in town for Labor Day weekend. And for good reason. The evening of September 1st marks the 5th annual Festival of The Honey Bee. For 2017, the festival has partnered with the First Fridays Ypsilanti crew for what is sure to be an incredible event, and a very good reason to consider an end of summer stay-cation – or at least postponing the trip ‘til Saturday.
The Festival of The Honey Bee began in 2012 as a little known celebration of all things buzzing in Ypsilanti. It has since grown to something much bigger and well-attended with the work of its founder and the committee behind it.
“New for this year is the festival’s full partnership with First Fridays for all festival activities,” says Jamie Berlin, Founder and Co-Chair of The Festival of The Honey Bee. “What was a three-day event with arts and music, education, and a vendor fair is condensed into one big block party (and) city-wide celebration… I’m really excited about this because it allows us to marry all aspects of the festival for all attendees to experience, it means working with an awesome team of people; it means increased visibility and it means that the festival is joining an existing structure.”
Co-Chair and First Fridays of Ypsilanti Program Director Elize Jekabson says, “First Fridays has always been a main component of the festival, even before we officially became an organization… Until this year, Festival of The Honey Bee on FFY was organized separately from the Saturday and Sunday portion of the three-day festival. This year, the event is entirely held on FFY, and Jamie and I invited a committee of talented community members to get it done.”
The Block Party
That talented group did exactly what they set out to, beginning with the first-ever block party. While the block party, referenced by Berlin and Jekabson, is only a portion of the city-wide event, it is assuredly one of the biggest spectacles. The party will be held from 5-10 pm on Washington Street in Downtown and features live music, a craft vendor fair, honey tasting, a live art contest, and the annual art exhibition. It will be emceed by the infamous Tedi Rhinestone. Which is… pretty freaking awesome.
The entire block will be shut down from car traffic to make way for the stage, vendor tents and tables, and art – did we mention there will be a live art competition? So do yourself a favor and check it out.
The Bar Crawl
Take a few steps down Michigan Ave and you’ll find that the awesome continues throughout Ypsi. Next on our list of Honey Bee-centric fun is the fourth annual bar crawl. Guests of this good time are recommended to dress as bees in honor of the celebrated insect – and because when else do you get to dress like a bee as an adult?
The crawl runs 7 pm-12 am and five of the town’s arguably coolest spots will be participating. Participants will begin their shenanigans at Tap Room and then mosey to Bona Sera, Ollie Food & Spirits, Aubree’s, and finally Cultivate Coffee & Taphouse for the venue’s own celebration featuring custom cocktails with Schramm’s mead.
“We’re excited to be part of the annual Festival of The Honey Bee,” says Bekah Wallace, Director of Community and Connection at Cultivate. “As a community space, we love to be part of the monthly art walk and are looking forward to celebrating bees in creative ways all around the city.”
Another stop worthy of noting is the newly re-opened Ollie Food & Spirits. The cool cats behind the bar at this Depot Town destination will be rocking a Michigan honey (Ypsi honey if they can get it in time) specialty cocktail for Festival of The Honey Bee, according to Bar Manager Brian Guerriero, which you know is going to be killer if you’ve ever tried a B.G. beverage.
Get you some noms
Many venues will be offering activities that are more family-friendly (or just less boozy) and food-centered earlier in the evening. A prime, delicious example is Go! Ice Cream. The popular craft creamery has mystery plans in the works that will include, according to Owner Rob Hess, “a sundae that is a bit of a tribute to pollinators – things sweetened by honey, floral flavors and maybe even some bee pollen!”
Other notable mentions include Bona Sera who will be featuring honey bee art and a honey bee-inspired small-plates menu to pair with a special featured beer from Short’s Brewing Company. And Ziggy’s, on Michigan Ave, will have honey lattes available.
If you’re not hungry
For those interested in attending Festival of The Honey Bee who don’t have digesting honey in mind, a number of local shops will feature honey items for sale. The Eyrie, known for its unique wares, will offer guests the chance to sample and buy raw wildflower honey and honeycomb from a local apiary, as well as yummy natural beeswax products including candles, lip balm, and mustache wax, plus other bee-themed goodies! There will also be artwork from over 200 local artists on display in addition to wine (to drink – not just for display).
It all starts Friday, September 1st, at 5pm!