If there’s one thing Ann Arbor-ites love, it’s a weird event. I imagine it would be difficult in most other small cities for an art professor to launch a large-scale papier-mâché puppet parade and see it thrive as FestiFools has in Ann Arbor. FestiFools has only been around since 2007, after University of Michigan professor Mark Tucker returned from a trip to Italy with a big idea—to get art students and artsy locals to build their own oversized puppets and parade them around town on an early spring Sunday afternoon. The FoolMoon luminary parade is even younger—in 2011 festival organizers added the luminary parade on the Friday night before FestiFools. And it’s not just luminary parade, it’s a block party complete with live music, snacks and performance art.
It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for night-time performance art, so FoolMoon is my favorite half of the event. But that’s only by a small margin. What I love about both events is how wide the local participation stretches. There are puppet and luminary workshops for children and adults leading up to the event. And the mayor even walks the parade route alongside his papier-mâché likeness.
I’ve never participated in the event, but there’s not much of a barrier to entry. Just show up with your puppet or luminary and you’re in the show—no matter how masterful or how silly your creation is. And for that reason it’s always an interesting mix of people at the event, from small children in robot costumes made from cardboard boxes, to artists with their intricate living sculptures. Apparently there’s a “Grand Fool” trophy given out each year to an especially impressive creation, but I’ve never seen it awarded. Maybe it’s a myth.
Bravo, Mark Tucker.