Miles of well-lit booths. The smell of cotton candy, hot dogs, hamburgers, and dozens of sweet treats. People lined up to buy art and listen to all kinds of music–rock, jazz, and whatever else. Or if you want to discuss religion, go to the religious table and pick up a shiny, new Bible, or get your hands on a few Chick cartoon tracts. If you seek it, it is all at the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair. This coming year, it will be taking place on Wednesday, July 20, through Saturday, July 23, 2011.
This year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the event. It is perhaps the largest art fair of its ilk. I spent my Ann Arbor summers looking forward to this event. I would circulate around, hoping to run into someone I hadn’t seen forever, in hopes a chance meeting would result in a happily ever-after wedding story. I would also spend various parts of the fair witnessing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to numerous people, to anyone who would listen.
As I walked down State and Liberty streets, I would see nothing but booths of people selling their wares. I would see hordes of people scrambling around for a place to park, but without a heckuva lot of luck. If you want a place to park, work out those arrangements far in advance, or else good luck.
Driving there is going to be a drag. If you live and work in Ann Arbor, then for the two weekdays the festival is going on, get a very early start as you will run into many detours, as well as angry drivers.
The atmosphere is filled with the smells of summer food, as well as the wonderful music that the mainstream station stopped playing years ago. While the playlists of 2010s radio has little use for the sounds emanating from the indie scene, the Ann Arbor Art Fair is one of the main places to go if you desire any degree of exposure.
One down side: if you are a student taking summer school classes, plan your route ahead. You will be competing with tens of thousands of people for space. Learn the shortcuts to your next class, and once the professor ends the class, make a beeline out of that building.
If you want a place to lay your head, the Oxford Conferencing Center, at Oxford Housing, is by far the best. You get a private room with cable TV, a semiprivate bathroom, and two beds. According to the Sitemaker website, depending on what kind of room you choose, you can expect to pay $45-100, which is reasonable. If you choose the Michigan League, a more exclusive, historic inn with at least one gift shoppe, expect to pay more–to the tune of $100-125 per night. Yet the League, with its beautiful campus scenery and its proximity to the historic bell tower, is your choice if proximity to central campus and not cost is your chief concern.
The key to gaining housing in Ann Arbor is to plan in advance. Don’t wait until Friday, July 1st and ask to book a room at one of these places. You are likely to get an answer such as, “Sorry, we are full.” That is a testament of how popular Ann Arbor is as a tourist attraction.
Sitemaker: Ann Arbor Accomodations