Arts Beats and Eats to pump up downtown Royal Oak

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer
Keeping kids entertained is a priority at this year’s festival.

Dazzling music, a smorgasbord of fabulous local food, and storytellers from the Detroit Institute of Arts will highlight this weekend's Ford Arts Beats & Eats in Royal Oak, now celebrating its 21st year. 

As usual, music reigns supreme at this festival that last year drew 390,000, with some 200 bands -- local and national -- performing through the weekend.

High points on the eight music stages include the Gin Blossoms, Eddie Money and 38 Special, as well as local favorites such as Stone Clover and Roots Vibrations.

"One of our coolest acts this year is AWOLNATION Sunday night," said festival producer Jon Witz. "We're going to have a huge crowd." Fronted by Aaron Bruno, the alt-rock band from Los Angeles released their latest album, "Here Come the Runts," in February. 

Adults may come to groove on the music, but kids will come for the fun at the Kids Zone, sponsored by The Detroit News. 

New this year will be storytellers Judy Sima, Ivory D and La'Ron Williams, who will perform on the Detroit Institute of Arts Kids' Stage. 

Ordinarily the Kids Zone has activities pegged to children 4-12, said Witz. "But this year with the curated DIA performances," he added, "that raises the age bar a little bit."

Also appearing will be award-winning artist, performer, and author Kevin Kammeraad & Friends whose CDs include "The Monkeys Go Marching" and "Spinach Dip Pancakes," both of which received a Parents’ Choice Fun Stuff award. 

And nobody, old or young, will want to miss the Japanese ensemble Raion Taiko with Godaiko Drummers. 

"They're one of the most amazing things we present all weekend," Witz said. "They're synchronized, rhythmic drummers that put on this beautiful show in costumes with traditional Japanese drums." 

Then, of course, there's food to rock your soul.

New this year, Witz said, will be offerings from NARA Hibachi & Stone Grille, Imperial and Eddie V's Prime Seafood. "To get affordable street food from Eddie V's," Witz said, "is just crazy."

Still, he added, "My personal favorite, with the best food for the price, is the Soaring Eagle Cuisine Machine, a food truck with ribs sliders, catfish sandwiches, and grilled-cheese with pears and bacon." 

Even better, you don't have to feel guilty about stuffing your face. Festival restaurants, Witz said, will work with Forgotten Harvest to rescue meals as part of Kroger's Zero Hunger, Zero Waste program. 

"We're excited to mobilize not just festival restaurants, but 30 others in downtown Royal Oak," he said. "We expect to donate not just rescued food, but a minimum of 200 freshly prepared food trays to shelters throughout the weekend." 

Arts Beats & Eats runs Friday through Monday evening throughout downtown Royal Oak.

Admission ranges from $3 to $7 per person, depending on when you arrive. You get in free Friday, however, between noon and 5 p.m. 

For a full schedule, visit

(313) 222-6021 


Ford Arts Beats & Eats 

11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sun., 11 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. Mon. 

Throughout downtown Royal Oak 

Admission:  Fri., free till 5 p.m., $7 per person thereafter; Sat.-Mon., $3 before 3 p.m; $5 from 3-5 p.m, $7 after 5 p.m.