If you work or play downtown, you’ve probably at least stumbled upon one of the many events that comprise the “Summer In the Parks” series. The summer-long offering of concerts, movies, fitness activities and more will close in spectacular fashion this weekend in a three-day free event called Detroit SummerFest.

The festival, which runs Thursday through Saturday, will take over all four downtown parks involved in the “Summer In the Parks” series: Campus Martius, Grand Circus, Capitol and Paradise Valley.

“We’ve had 13 weeks now of activities, seven days a week,” says Njia Kai, programming and special events director for Campus Martius. “This just pulls it all together.”

Many SummerFest events function as the final installments of various series that have run throughout the season. For instance, a sunrise “Electric Start” dance party Thursday at 7 a.m. in Campus Martius will both kick off the festival and help to close a recurring series of wellness activities presented by Anytime Fitness. An electronic dance party will close the festival at 7 p.m. Saturday in Capitol Park, wrapping the “Summer Saturday Nights” series.

In between those events are a wide variety of performances, including nationally recognized entertainers such as British reggae band Steel Pulse that will perform at 9 p.m. Friday in Campus Martius. Child-friendly performers are also included, such as Mexican puppet troupe Marionetas de la Esquina, with performances in English and Spanish at 1 and 2 p.m. Saturday on Campus Martius.

And there’s plenty of local talent. The Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit returns to SummerFest to restage its well-received reworking of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” featuring live original music, at 4 p.m. Saturday in Grand Circus Park. Mosaic founder and artistic director Rick Sperling says the company presented a tribute to the funk and soul music of the ’60s and ’70s in its previous outing at SummerFest.

“It became like a street party, a block party, with people dancing in their seats to this great music,” Sperling says.

Although Mosaic has done outdoor concerts in the past, this production of “The Tempest” will be the first outdoor theater presentation in the company’s history. The Michigan Opera Theatre will present a program somewhat outside its usual wheelhouse. Six opera vocalists will present a Broadway revue at 7p.m. Thursday in Grand Circus Park.

Mark Vondrak, MOT’s associate director of community programs, says he “applauds” festival organizers for making it possible for the performers to wear body mics, allowing some choreography and for MOT to incorporate some “major costume pieces” into the show.

Kai says the festival’s diverse and eccentric lineup is designed to truly fit the oft-heard designation “something for everyone.”

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.



7 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday Noon-10 p.m. Friday Noon-11 p.m. Saturday

Campus Martius Park

800 Woodward, Detroit

Grand Circus Park

Capitol Park

Paradise Valley Park


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