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.
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?)
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.
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.