Summer in the City

While living in New London, Connecticut, one of my favorite things to do was go to the Wednesday night movies at the Hygienic Art Gallery. The Hygienic had a beautiful little courtyard space and made use of it on summer weeknights by screening an eclectic variety of films. We watched everything from “The Muppet Movie” to “Rebel Without a Cause.” We’d go across the street to Thames River Wine and Spirits, pick up a bottle of something (usually rose, since it was summer), grab a hunk of stinky cheese from Brie & Bleu, and settle in for the evening.

The Top of the Park movies at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival are not quite the same thing. For one, the summer festival is a large, three-week event that includes live music, performers, and DJs – not just movies. Also, the Summer Festival takes up the better part of a block and most of Ingalls Mall (over by the Rackham Graduate School building) – a far cry from our little “art park.” Visitors to the summer festival are discouraged from bringing in their own food and drink – local restaurants have food for sale, and the festival itself sponsors several concession and beverage tents with all proceeds geared toward keeping the festival free of charge.

As long as I can see a classic (I’m using the term fairly loosely) movie under the stars for free, I’m happy with almost any format.

Photo from

The Summer Festival movie line-up this year – my first summer back in the area – has not disappointed. The other night, Rose, Amelia, and I watched the Alfred Hitchcock classic “The Birds”and coveted Tipi Hedren’s classic look and style. An eclectic line-up of movies is still to come over the next two weeks, including “Casablanca,” “(500) Days of Summer,” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (have I mentioned that I am totally in love with Indiana Jones?)

Tipi Hedren in "The Birds" - stylish even under duress

While I used to go to the Summer Festival strictly for the movies, I have grown to appreciate the other parts as well. The music represents a variety of styles, ages, and genres. Rose and I danced barefoot in the street to the sounds of the Kielbasa Kings, a polka band, and I hope to make it downtown on Sunday night for Greensky Bluegrass, a (duh) bluegrass ensemble.

Dancing in the street

While I wish it were permissible to bring your own food and beverages, when it comes down to it I don’t really have a problem shelling out five bucks for a glass of drinkable Sauvignon Blanc if it ultimately keeps providing me with three weeks worth of free entertainment every summer. I miss the Hygienic, but I can’t deny that it’s good to be back in Ann Arbor.


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