Weekend fairs and festivals offer last hurrah of summer
Robert Spann was clinging to summer at Arts, Beats & Eats on Sunday. He found it at the end of a stick.
Spann is a man of style and distinction, the dean of student services at a campus of Oakland Community College. He is cultured enough that minutes later, he would be dining on Spanish paella.
But first, on a day that felt like an adios to warmth and sunshine, he ate a corn dog.
Arts, Beats & Eats continues through Monday in Royal Oak. In downtown Detroit, there's the Detroit Jazz Festival. Also running through Labor Day: the Michigan State Fair at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, and the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival exactly where you'd expect.
The forecast for Monday is encouraging — a high of 80 through most of Metro Detroit, a few clouds, no precipitation. Sunday was less welcoming, with varying levels of rain and temperatures maybe stretching to 70.
Beneath a yellow canopy at Arts, Beats & Eats, bundled in a sweatshirt, Spann stayed mostly dry and enjoyed a delicacy he hadn't sampled for several years.
"It felt like summer," he said. "You're never going to see corn dogs in the winter." So he struck while the fryer was hot.
Steve and Shannon Fisher of Roseville had considered hitching up their camper trailer Sunday. Instead, the prospect of a looming fall and glowering winter sent them art shopping.
"We might buy a little something," said Shannon, 48. "Maybe a picture for the bathroom in the camper."
They agreed that they wouldn't mention the specific wall space to whatever artist they purchased from. They also agreed that if it were up to them, summer would continue indefinitely.
"I don't like it," she said, with a nod toward the gray surroundings. "It smells like back to school."
She's 23, a singer and keyboard player who's pursuing songwriting at the Detroit Institute of Music Education. Before an audience of six or eight people wearing ponchos or carrying umbrellas, she was shivering.
"As a musician, it's what you have to do," she said afterward. "Playing is playing. That's how you get better."
In fairness, others were enjoying the prospect of fall, even if the rain was a wet blanket.
Frank Hritzak, 75, was crafting ice cream sandwiches at the Cool Jack's booth, layering locally made ice cream between fresh-baked cookies.
He's theoretically semi-retired. The reality is that he's working a heap of hours for a close friend, standing on one knee that needs to be replaced and another that already has been.
Come winter, he'll mostly work bar mitzvahs and weddings in a food truck, which is an easier load.
"We need a break," he said.
Artist Tonya Butcher won't slow down anytime soon, but she'd like to cool down.
Based in Virginia, she sells hand-painted silk clothing at art fairs 12 months a year. Her next stop will be the Arts & Apples Festival Friday through Sunday in Rochester.
"It's been miserably hot," Butcher said. A taste of fall will be a relief, and maybe a boost for business, "if it gets people thinking about the holiday season."
At Hart Plaza and Campus Martius in Detroit and along the few blocks between them, thoughts were largely devoted to music — but not necessarily jazz.
On the main stage at Campus Martius, a performance from a band called Red Baraat included a tuba solo, a conga player with blue hair, and a trumpeter in a turban. Definitely jazz.
Only steps away, though, Hare Krishnas were dancing and singing outside the Shake Shack.
As they moved south on Woodward, they were joined in their bouncy exuberance by a street character wearing a long, gray, curly wig, and by Vivian Shallal of Rochester Hills, who was handing out promotional oven mitts and backpacks for DTE Energy.
Just out of earshot, two dozen people watched a saxophonist in a red shirt and a drummer beating on plastic buckets play Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," about the city boy from south Detroit.
With Thornetta Davis starting her set at Hart Plaza, Mike Prentice of Grosse Pointe Shores started strolling back to his seat from a concession stand.
Prentice, 53, was wearing shorts and a satisfied smile.
"When you get old, summer's summer," he said. "It's summer until you have to wear long pants and a coat."
In his right hand, Prentice held a beer. In his left, he was three bites into a corn dog.