By Jenelle Franklin
For days leading up to Ypsilanti’s first YpsiGlow Festival, businesses like Beezy’s Cafe and others along Washington Street, between Michigan Avenue and Pearl Street prepared their storefronts.
For a month preceding YpsiGlow, the community was engaged with half a dozen local businesses making DIY projects, including floats at Riverside Arts Center and glow clothing and shoes at Ypsilanti District Library.
On Thursday Oct. 27, the event came together; including a luminary march, a DJ with a blacklight dance area, catering to the neon accessories, detailed paint and costumes.
Bona Sera was set aglow, their windows lined with pumpkins carved by WCC art students.
“We did this for Downtown community and economic growth,” Julie Palmer, volunteer event planner, said.
Palmer, owner of Jewel Event Management, worked on behalf of Festifool Productions to get Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor businesses, colleges and community members involved.
“Early in the planning process, I was moved by the intention with which they engaged many different community members, including arts organizations and WCC. I watched with pride as our community rallied around themes that included safety, a family-friendly atmosphere, celebrating the arts and good old fun,” Palmer said.
“This event was done with zero staff, all volunteers donating their time and resources,” Palmer said.
Mark Langlois, 21, of Ypsilanti, is a WCC student who was mostly impressed with the live art installation in Mix Ypsilanti’s storefront.
A woman called Oona by spectators, was posed behind glass at Dreamland Theater and was unable to confirm her name, but her presence drew large crowds. With subtle blinks, or a swivel of her head, her poised manekin like stature would shift, causing children to shriek about her being alive or a robot.
“No way! I haven’t ever seen anything like this before,” Langolis said, jumping a little at the surprise of her movement, “She kind of looks like my old French teacher from Ypsilanti High.”
Langolis, a pre-med student and musician saw the 6:30-9 p.m. event as a great last minute happening in nearby downtown to attend with a friend.
As a native to Ypsilanti, he hasn’t noticed an event quite like this before and hopes to see DJ Fame, an up and coming artist perform next year.
Mark Tucker, faculty from the University of Michigan filled the Ypsilanti Experimental Space with glowing gadgets from yesterday and today, paired with stories of a failed human existence, written by U of M English students.
“Our things destroyed the world,” Tucker said of the neon painted display of everyday items and the effects that will never be heard about.
Artist, Scott Wedemeyer, prepared the window display for Beezy’s Cafe along with an interactive art display.
“Three separate people draw three separate parts of the body, the head, torso and legs,” Wedemeyer said, “then they get put together and the art happens.”
The draw and contribute station was a six-paneled monster of a laugh. With combinations like a dragon’s head on a set of hairy legs, the artists and onlookers chuckled with each swap.
Belinda Mcguire, WCC art instructor hosted a pumpkin carving workshop for students at Cultivate Coffee and Tap House days prior to YpsiGlow, announced via WCC’s Orchard radio.
“Whatever we needed, Cultivate provided, including the use of their beer garden,” Mcguire said.
Students brought family and friends, some who had trained skills and some who never had carved pumpkins before helped to individually hand craft the decorations.
“We had 30 signed in, students from 2D design, 3D design, painting, drawing classes. They came and carved the 83 pumpkins we had donated,” Mcguire said.
The students did the lion’s share of the work, and enjoyed themselves carving and messy but entertaining clean up before heading to Sidetracks to laugh about the earlier creations, Mcguire mentioned.
Mcguire worked with Palmer, event organizer Shary Brown and other Festifool Productions members to achieve the first of what they hope to be many more events in Downtown Ypsilanti that combine community, art and economy.
WCC staff and faculty, alongside local businesses, worked together to create the event and community experience of YpsiGlow.
“As a volunteer and professional event planner, I can’t think of a better way to dedicate my time and talent to my beloved city. I am even more excited about what is coming in 2017. YpsiGlow is an annual event and we’ll have more time to work on YpsiGlow 2017. Our community can watch the YpsiGlow Facebook page for more information,” Palmer said.