REVIEW: FestiFools

Festifools has established its place in Ann Arbor’s Art scene.

Minnie mouse dressed in fancy orange!

Even before the official starting time of the festival, the east side of UMMA was filled with Trucks, student artists, puppets, and fascinatingly dressed volunteers. There was a call for volunteers to gather 1 hour early before the start of the festival, and many had risen to the call. It looked almost like Halloween, but a more jolly version-I saw at least a handful of red queens, Alice, clowns, and people dressed in colorful gowns, sashes, and laces. People should definitely have more change to dress in those cool clothes. What a waste that they were stuck in the drawers throughout the whole year! I was also one of the people who volunteered to help carry the puppets. Student artists and Mark Tucker, the founder of the Festival and the instructor of the Michigan Learning Community(MLC) course at U of M where students create the puppets throughout the semester for this festival, were busy bringing the puppets to life with cable ties, bamboo poles, and iron bars. Student artists explained how they wanted the puppets to move, and some volunteers embraced themselves for the big march with drums in hand. Then the game was on!

The festival took place starting in front of State street in front of Angell Hall until the diag. The crowd was lined up on either side of the street. I was honestly surprised at how many people had shown up – there were triple lines of people on either side of the street from the starting point of the march to the end. Toddlers, children, adolescents, grown-ups, and elders all gathered to have fun, laugh at the jolly movements of puppets, and especially the youngsters had the privileges of occasional high-fives with the puppets. Although the puppets were certainly a grandeur, they were not the only thing to see at the Festival. Student organizations and local communities have come to join the fun! There were people marching while playing percussion(Groove-y!), an actual marching band, people dressed up as clowns that played tricks in the march, a cool belly-dance club dressed in red and black, and other amazing people. The march went on for about an hour. I and the person behind me who were helping the carry different parts of the puppet came to a consensus-it was a workout, but definitely a fun one.

Puppets loaded off the truck, ready to come into life!

I really enjoyed how the whole community, whether they took the role of the audience, artists from the university, or performers outside the university, came together to have a festive afternoon. The festival was truly a community event in the sense that it could not have been as festive without any of the groups. Also, I really appreciated the atmosphere of the day where a father and daughter can casually wear jocker hats, matching rainbow ties, and banana Hawaiian shirts together and take part in a festival in a local area. It’s not a scene that can be found everywhere, but something that a lot of people can benefit from having in their lives at some point. So thank you, Mark Tucker, for founding this lovely community event!

PREVIEW: Festifools


Ever been walking in downtown Ann Arbor in April and all of a sudden been accosted by a horde of gargantuan, raging puppet heads? That would be FestiFools— unless some other wild force is taking the town that we don’t know about.

“FestiFools is a non-profit production of the STARTProject, a University of Michigan LLoyd Hall Scholars Program initiative.” Several years ago, professor Mark Tucker incorporated the age old idea of puppet theater into his LHSP class “Art in Public Spaces,” in which 20 non-art majors crafted gigantic puppets and took them to the streets of Ann Arbor. Today, other departments of the university and townies of all kinds are invited to work in groups or individually to craft puppets for the parade (specific qualifications for entry enumerated on the website). Now, the community event has an affiliation with the city of Ann Arbor beyond the boundaries of the university.

Inspired by Italy’s Carnevale di Viareggio,the parade makes political and social commentary through the use of puppetry. According to their creed, “FestiFools brings students and community volunteers together to create unique public art that is free and accessible to everyone. Specifically, we make huge-mongous papier-mâché puppets and march them around downtown Ann Arbor on a Sunday early in April.”

Last year was FestiFool’s sixth year running, but it was the first year they included FoolMoon. Puppets take the street by moonlight. In Keeping with LSA’s Winter 2012 theme semester, the theme of this year’s FullMoon parade is “Language.” Every Sunday for the past month, build-your-own Luminary workshops have been taking place at Workantile on Main St in preparation for the midnight promenade. On Sunday March, 25th, the UMMA held a workshop as well. There are instructions on how to make a luminary as well as info on the closest spots to town to buy a kit- if you feel inspired to get crafty- on the Festifools website.

Don’t miss this whimsical, comical, fantasmic parade of art and joy that is unique to Ann Arbor.

Click here to get to the Festifools YouTube channel and watch some funky videos from last year’s parade.

And check out the FestiFools website for more information, and some light comedy. They’ve got a pretty decent sense of humor.