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LISTEN: Interview with Ann Arbor Summer Festival Executive Director Robb Woulfe




<< Entertainment >>

Local News / Entertainment

Tuesday, 18 June, 2013 10:50 PM

30th Ann Arbor Summer Festival is now underway through July 7


The Ann Arbor Summer Festival returns to Ingalls Mall on the University of Michigan campus.


by Jason Rzucidlo



ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The 30th Annual Ann Arbor Summer Festival (AASF) is bigger and better than ever. It all kicked off on Father's Day weekend with performances by Lady Sunshine and the X-Band, The Sun Messengers and The Macpodz.

Django Django, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Les 7 doights de la main, Pink Martini, Snap Judgment, The Intergalactic Nemesis, Amadou & Mariam, The Capitol Steps and Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo make up this year's mainstage acts at the Power Center and The Hill Auditorium. Free events at the Top of the Park include 91 bands, 13 feature films, eight guest DJs, six wine tasting events and two interactive installations.

"We opened Friday, June 14 and we run for three and a half weeks up through July 7," said Robb Woulfe, the festival's executive director. "It's an eclectic mix of music, dance, comedy, family activities, outdoor spectacles, a little bit of something for everybody as venues that are both indoors and outdoors. You can have free events, ticketed events, events that are happening throughout the downtown Ann Arbor area."

What is being done to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the festival?

"We're doing a couple of special projects this year at our admission-free location called Top of the Park, which happens at Ingalls Mall right in downtown Ann Arbor," he added. "One is a great family attraction called Tangled, which is coming from Australia, which will be with us from June 19 through the 23. Kids are given a roll of elastic and get to create this huge outdoor installation over the five-day period. The other really fun project we're doing is a digital art exhibition called Superhero, which is a 3D mapping project where participants will have their image projected onto the iconic Burton Memorial Tower and they will sort of be transformed into superheroes via digital technology. That's happening June 28 through 30 again on Ingalls Mall."

How would you say this year's Summer Festival will be different from last year?

"It keeps getting a little big bigger, the festival keeps growing," the executive director explained. "This year, we have some more concerts where we launched last year an acoustic concert series on a smaller stage and it was so popular that we decided to expand that series this year. On the Grove Stage, every night from five until seven o'clock, there will be acoustic concerts, soloists, duos, trios. Usually at seven o'clock each night, some of the bigger bands take the Rackham Stage for more of a street dance feeling to it."

Please tell me more about some of the activities that attendees can do for free at the festival.

"Probably about 90 percent of what we do are admission-free events happening at Top of the Park. We have outdoor movies, an outdoor cinema series from Sunday through Thursday and it's a wide mix of titles so everything from cult favorites like 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' to current blockbusters and family movies. The two stages that I mentioned, the Rackham Stage and the Grove Stage, have different music. It really changes. There's rock, there's country, there's jazz/swing, there's latin, it just sort of changes by the hour. Then, we have the KidZone tent, which is family activity area. Every night, we get community partners in there. Then, just all kinds of activities happening in and around the lawn."

What are some of the restaurants that will be on site this year?

"You can get everything from pizza from Pizza House to Rendezvous Café is up there, Sweetwater Café, all kinds of different things," Woulfe said. "I think there's about eight vendors all together. If you want a sandwich, there's a hot dog vendor, it's very summer friendly. There's a lot of kids menus, and things specifically for an outdoor event."

The outdoor movies are my favorite part of the festival. What are you showing this year?

"It has a tendency to be a lot of people's favorite part of the festival," he added. "This year, some of the titles that we have range from 'Edward Scissorhands,' to 'Young Frankenstein,' 'The Hunger Games' is in there, 'Moonrise Kingdom,' 'BIG,' and the classic Hitchcock thriller 'Vertigo.' There's about 13 movies that we show over the three-week period. Folks can find out the full schedule and all of that information on our website at We're also launching a new mobile app this year. It's free and easy to use. It helps them sort of plan what they want to go to, reminders and a variety of features on that."

As you mentioned earlier, the festival keeps growing each year. How do you guys manage to keep outdoing yourselves each year?

"We're always experimenting, we're always trying new things," the executive director explained. "We're seeing what the community responds to and what they don't respond to. Really, the nature of a festival is to appeal to a wide audience and a wide demographic. We really try to mix it up and have a little bit of something for everyone. If you like traditional jazz and that's your thing, certainly within the festival you can find a number of artists, events and experiences to that. If you like hanging out late at night with friends and listening to DJ music or electronica or contemporary indie bands, there's that as well. We present over, I think, 130 events. Hopefully, people can find one or two things that interest them."

I saw on the festival's Facebook page that the Ann Arbor District Library is in the process of archiving some photos. Please tell me more about that.

"They launched an online archive and I believe that online address is It's a great digital resource where you can search all of the archives for the festival for the past 30 years. There's newspaper articles from when the festival started, certainly photos from through the years from the various iconic performers who have played at this festival, the programs, the posters. It's a great resource for us to be able to look at the history of this event and sort of see who's been involved as a board member or the staff and the artists that have played this event over the past three decades."

The 30th AASF is now underway and continues everyday (except Mondays) through Sunday, July 7. For the complete schedule of events, visit the link below.

For more information about the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, visit or download their mobile app here.

Related Story: Ann Arbor Summer Festival offers thrills over opening weekend; PHOTOS: 28th Annual Ann Arbor Summer Festival (2011)


Photo credit: Ann Arbor Summer Festival /

Django Django entertained audiences at the Power Center on June 18.


Photo credit: Ann Arbor Summer Festival /

The Big Easy's Preservation Hall Jazz Band with musical gameshow cabaret New Orleans Bingo! Show will perform on June 19.


Photo credit: Ann Arbor Summer Festival /

Les 7 doigts de la main will perform at the Power Center on June 22.


Photo credit: Ann Arbor Summer Festival /

Tangle, a messy, fun- filled, elastic weaving event created live by children, will take place from June 19–23 at Top of the Park.


Photo credit: Ann Arbor Summer Festival /

Superhero, an interactive projection mapping experience for the kid in everyone, is scheduled for June 28–30 at Top of the Park.



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