The new Director of Ypsilanti’s Heritage Festival, Andrew Clock, on the future of the event

    As I believe most of you know, word went out a few months ago that the group of individuals behind Ypsilanti’s annual Heritage Festival were looking, after several years, to hand the reins off to a new generation of leaders. There were a few open meetings, that interested individuals were encouraged to attend, and, ultimately, word went out that, in addition to needing volunteers, they were also looking for a part-time, paid director. Well, it would appear that they’ve made their selection and offered the position to Andrew Clock, who many of you probably know as the guy who’s been leading efforts to see a permanent path built through the City’s Water Street property, thereby tying together existing legs of the Border to Border Trail. Well, as luck would have it, I had an opportunity to ask Andrew a few questions this evening. Here’s our brief interview.

    MARK: OK, I know that your perspective is likely to change as you get farther into things, but, as of right now, what’s the situation relative to the Heritage Fest? Do we have the money, and the people we need to make it happen this summer?

    ANDREW: I haven’t been given any of the festival documents as of yet, as this just became official Tuesday night, so I have no way to talk dollar amounts at this time. What I have been told is that there is enough money to at least pay all of the basic expenses – park rental, police, permits, etc – and that’s a lot of money. So, I would guess that we can cover the biggest expenses, but again, that’s without seeing the numbers. And there’s a certain amount of income that we know will come from vendors as they make reservations. As for people, we can always use more! While the old group of directors stepped down, they haven’t walked away, and are still giving a lot of help, especially while we’re getting reorganized. There are already many new and returning people in place, and we will have our first steering committee meeting next week, so I will have a much better idea of what positions we need help in after that. I also haven’t even begun to tap into my network from the Jamboree or Water Street Trail. The short answer though, is that we will need more money and more volunteers.

    MARK: Clearly, bringing you onboard is a big change. At least, my sense is that the same group of people have been running the event for years, and that you’re a relative outsider? Why is it that you think they chose to go with you? Were they looking for a complete break with the past?

    ANDREW: I don’t think that it’s about making a break with the past, but it is about making a change. I have a lot of connections around town, and I represent a younger demographic, and if the festival is to endure, we have to start bringing in new faces. A lot of the people who are stepping down now were around our age when they started 10 years ago. Some have been around a lot longer than that. It’s our turn now. Of course the festival will change because of this transition, but I think that it will be a reflection of how Ypsi has changed.

    Another factor is that I have a unique skill set. I’ve produced a large scale festival in Ypsilanti before, and, while I didn’t manage all the details, as I will here, I’ve been in the position to direct a couple hundred volunteers, take care of vendors, deal with equipment failures, work with the police, city and sponsors, handle fundraising, and everything else that comes along with producing a large scale event. That’s not to say I don’t have a steep learning curve, but I think those are experiences that not many people can claim.

    MARK: So, what are your big ideas? What’s your vision for the future of the event? I know you’ve talked about bringing in more food, and moving it somewhat in the direction of Arts Beats and Eats in Royal Oak? Is that still on the table? Are there other ideas that you’d be willing share at this point?

    ANDREW: Right now, all of this is coming off the cuff. I can’t say that, “this is the plan”, but I do have some ideas. There will not be any over-all major change… there’s not going to be a cover… we’re not going to have open beer sales. That’s just not realistic in this time frame, and its probably not a direction we need to go in.

    My first priority is to examine how we can better focus what we do on what people in the community want. We know we want family activities of course, and we want to keep those new and fresh. I hope to be able to build partnerships with groups like Community Records, 826 and the Neutral Zone to include older kids as well. History is going to be making a comeback in a big way, too. I haven’t had a chance to meet with the Heritage committee yet, but they have been the most active of our committees so far. James Mann is heading it up, so I’m fairly sure that base is covered.

    For the adults, I would like to move our main park stage into the beer tent, and run music as late as the beer tent can stay open. I also want to explore bringing in Michigan beer, and local bands like Black Jake and the Carnies, The Third Coast Kings, Laith Al Saadi, Lighting Love, The Muggs, George Bedard – people that have a real following in our community. I’d like to see if its realistic to say, keep the some of the carnie food in place, but offer some more substantial and local options for meals, maybe even tying in a “restaurant week” kind of thing, because we want our local businesses to prosper too.

    I’m going to be working a lot in the next few weeks to see what is feasible and what is out of reach for this year. But it’s all going to come down to volunteers and money in the end. The more help, sponsors and donors, the better we can make it.

    I do want to make it clear… anyone who’s been going to the Heritage Festival is not going to find themselves asking where their festival went. I hope to have them saying, “wow, that’s a great change/addition”, and the 10 people behind them saying “this is great, I can’t believe we never came here before.”

    MARK: Is the Jamboree officially dead? If not, could it perhaps be rolled into Heritage Fest?

    ANDREW: I can’t speak for the Jamboree in any capacity at this point. The Jamboree as it existed under the DTCDC is dead to my knowledge, but that doesn’t mean that some of the core group isn’t planning on going forward with another festival. While I do want to focus on local beer and music, I would want the music to skew to a broader demographic. I want to bring in younger acts, but I don’t want to cut out all of the acts that appeal to an older crowd, or try to appeal to a certain genre over another either. I’m hoping to be able to get a blend that will appeal to as many residents and visitors as possible. Oh, and one thing I left out concerning entertainment – the casino will be back, set up right next to the beer tent, where it belongs.

    MARK: Have you talked with local business owners about how something like a Restaurant Week might work for them?

    ANDREW: I have not yet explored the details of how to tie in local food, though I believe there are some volunteers already looking into it – assessing what’s feasible, either in the park or as an added attraction. It’s one of the first things I want to tackle, because those food vendors want to have their plans for the summer done in the next few months, if not weeks. I would also like to approach the DDA or CVB about coordinating with local businesses to have sales or specials for Heritage Festival, to take a little pressure off of our organization. A shopping guide or coupon book like the holiday guide you used to produce would go a long way when you already have the people in town.

    MARK: Are there any other things you’d like to say? Is there a date and time that people can show up if they’re interested in volunteering?

    ANDREW: Just that I really hope to be able to build on the traditions of the Heritage Festival, while making it more relevant and entertaining to an even broader group of residents and visitors. I’ll be looking for media partners and sponsors that want to be a part of growing the festival and spreading the word right away.

    I don’t have anything specific for people who are not yet involved in the festival, but I will within the next week or two. In the meantime, anyone interested in getting involved can contact me at yhfdirector@gmail.com, or they can get in touch with any of the dozens of volunteers already working, and give them some help. Chances are, everyone knows someone already involved.

    [note: for those of you who are curious as to what Andrew looks like, an older video interview that I conducted with him can be found here.]

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      16 Comments

      1. Mr. X
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

        If he reads this, I’m curious to know, specifically, how he’d like to better incorporate history into the proceedings. I know he says that James Mann is working on it, but I’d like to hear his thoughts.

      2. Michelle Shankwiler
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        There is a “keep Heritage in the Heritage Festival” Committee that has been meeting pretty regularly working on ways to Bring Heritage Back, specifically incorporating History. With a large concentration on the bicentennial of the war of 1812 and local history as well as History of the Heritage Festival Itself being the main topics of consideration. All Ideas are certainly welcome! I know he plans to meet with us as a group soon and I am sure he will be happy to share the ideas he has as well as the group’s ideas and projects in the works.

        Just a few thoughts :)

      3. Burt Reynolds
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

        Please make the Heritage Festival less “Heritag-y” and more “party-y.” Thanks.

      4. K2
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        I can’t recall what they called it, but I have a vague recollection that there was an event on the centennial of Ypsilanti’s founding, which included a parade through town in which people dressed like pioneers. I believe there may have even been a photo of someone pulling a log cabin down the road on wheels. I could go for something like that.

      5. anonymous
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        If there’s no more Jamboree, does that mean that we can ritually execute JamboMan (again)?

      6. Annie P
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        The WWII historical tent at last year’s fest was really fantastic, as well as the old-timey baseball games in frog island park so I’m personally hoping more stuff like that will be part of Andy’s “history making a comeback” plan. Excited!

      7. Eel
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        I like the idea of historic reenactments. A few days ago, in the Michigan Under the Radar segment, the owner of the Tap Room mentioned stories of little people (who worked at the bomber plant) getting drunk and dancing on the tables. I’d love to see that happen again. Do we have little people anymore? Could we use kids?

        And what about an Occupy encampment for the duration of the event?

      8. Star Child
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        Why no Jamboree? Was it loosing money? Bummer.

      9. Eel
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        How come you didn’t have Andy say anything provocative, like “the older folks have run their course”, like he did over at AnnArbor.com? Or was there lots of euthanasia stuff that you edited out?

        http://annarbor.com/news/michigan-roots-jamboree-co-founder-andrew-clock-named-ypsilanti-heritage-festival-coordinator/

      10. Elvis Costello
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        The big celebration was for the Sesqicentennial in 1973. It was a very big deal in the city and Township residents were involved as well. The Ypsi Press, which I delivered, had an edition of 150 pages. It really was a very cool thing.

      11. Posted January 27, 2012 at 6:31 am | Permalink

        Sesquicentennial time capsule (at the base of the bust of Gen Ypsilanti in front of the water tower): http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/19/Ypsilanti_sesquicentennial_time_capsule.jpg/800px-Ypsilanti_sesquicentennial_time_capsule.jpg

      12. Eel
        Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        You shouldn’t have told people were it was, C. Now someone will dig it up to sell it for scrap, for sure.

      13. Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        Promoting Heritage for us this year would be sharing our new music on steel drums written
        by several family musician members of our group. 2 are on Itunes
        Pans to The East and Final Razor by our 16 year old.
        In addition to some Under the Sea for the little / big ones and other island favorites,
        The Gratitude Steel Band who both play and sing will be a hit in the family settings and among quality original music lovers. Please note Sundays are booked up. office 248-681-3100

      14. Andrew Jason Clock
        Posted August 8, 2012 at 12:29 am | Permalink

        So, I’m glad I found this post, because the things I said on the earlier post about the Heritage Festival, before I got hired, are a little hard to live up to. And maybe a little embarrassing.

        Anyway, we have a whole lot of fun cooked up for this year’s Heritage Festival, August 17, 18 & 19, including a totally revamped music lineup and format, now with two stages. Our main stage is in our all ages welcome until 9pm beer tent (must have proper ID or be with a parent, we will be wrist-banding and marking hands. Think Corner Brewery) and the tent will feature beer from Arbor Brewing, Wolverine State Brewing, Miller Lite, Mike’s Hard and PBR. We will also have blackjack and poker in a separate tent in the beer garden. Bands include Laith Al Saadi, George Bedard, Third Coast Kings, End Times Spasm Band, The Ben Miller Band, Hulaballoo, and many, many more.

        On the Gazebo, we’ll have local bands as well as music and dance from WCC and The YHS Jazz Band. We will also have a performance from the French Dukes African American Drill Team Friday in the picnic pavilion.

        We brought back many of your favorite children’s performers, including the Kerfuffles, Colors the Clown, Gemini, and many more. For the older kids, Saturday will feature a performance in Frog Island from the Ozone House’s PHD Program, with support from Community Records Lc3 (who helped coordinate this year’s events) and Ann Arbor’s Neutral Zone. The activity tent and tot lot are back as well, though the whole operation is moving under the big oaks at the South West side of the park.

        For history, we have a double feature. On the grounds of the festival, Native Youth Alliance will be holding a Powwow, hosting games, and teaching about Native American culture. At the top of the stairs, Chautauqua at the Riverside will feature films, lectures, panel discussions, and musical performances from the Ypsilanti Community Choir and Dodsworth Saxhorn Band. All will focus on various aspect of local history, form our involvement in the Civil War and War of 1812, to Willow Run and local architecture. Of course, the museum, home and garden tours will all be a part of the festival as well.

        Added bonus: Michigan Wine Tasting on Saturday in the Huron and Cross Tent. It’s not just pancakes and spaghetti up there anymore (though that’s back too!). The tasting will be hosted by the MI General Store, with each tasting menu priced at $10 for 5-10 samples, depending on the menu. All proceeds go to the festival. Solar Ypsi will also have a working solar panel display near the Green Tent.

        We have some really great T-shirts and Posters designed by Jenny Harley and printed by VG Kids. You can get your shirts now at the Rocket and MI General Store, and limited edition screen print posters will be available at the festival. Again, all proceeds go to support the festival.

        Arts and crafts will be back. Carnival food. Bike valet. Ducky Race. Green Tent. All back. The opening gala will be Tuesday August 14, 7pm at the Convocation Cenenter. Everything you have come to love about this event will be returning, but with a new emphasis on entertainment and history. Yes, there will be fences and limited entry points, by request of the city. Yes, we will have people soliciting donations, though not as pushy as A2 Summer Fest. Yes, there are still areas that need to be improved, like arts and crafts and food. But really, we’ve tried hard to keep the things that people value about the festival and make it more fun at the same time.

        Don’t just take my word for it, please visit the new and improved website: http://www.ypsilantiheritagefestival.com/

        You’ll notice there are both volunteer and donation portals. We need your help. We can’t put on this festival without a few hours of help from neighbors. This festival runs on people. And we’ll give you a snazzy shirt. Volunteer here: http://www.ypsilantiheritagefestival.com/festival-information-2/

        Financially, while we are meeting our exceeding our fundraisng goals, we began this year with less money in the bank than we needed to produce the festival, after cutting nearly $30k compared to last year’s budget. Please, join our generous sponsors to help keep this festival alive and growing. We’ve just now gotten down to trying to make it fun again. Just think what we could do with a little more time and money… You can donate here: http://www.ypsilantiheritagefestival.com/donate-to-the-festival/

        Oh, yeah, and it’s still free.

        One last thing. The theme of this year’s parade, on Saturday August 18 at 10am, is “A Celebration of Ypsilanti”. I am issuing a challenge. You have a few days left to apply, until the 15th. I challenge the residents of Ypsi and readers here to come up with some fun new floats or whatever to march in the parade. Your vision of what life in this city means summed up in a parade entry. The only rules, it has to be positive and it has to be family friendly. Beyond that, let your imagination run wild. Marching puppets, cool cars, moped clubs, Bike Ypsi, I want to see what you’ve got. You can apply to the parade here: http://ypsilantijaycees.com/index.php/Heritage-Festival-Parade.html

        That’s my pitch to the readers of mm.com. Come out and see what we’ve done to make the festival fun again. Give us a hand. Help us put the community back into our community festival.

      15. Andrew Jason Clock
        Posted August 8, 2012 at 12:30 am | Permalink

        Ooops. See if you can find the misplaced sentence. When/if Mark approves my comment.

      16. Bob Krzewinski
        Posted August 8, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

        Don’t forget too that the EMU will be holding an astronomy open house in conjunction with the Festival on Saturday night. Two planetarium shows in EMU’s new planetarium followed by observing with telescopes on the top of Sherzer Hall.

        Details at…. http://www.emich.edu/univcomm/releases/release.php?id=1343834163

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      1. […] position which he’d held for the past three years. As his tenure at the festival started with an interview on this site, I thought it only fitting that we’d speak again now, as he was exiting. What follows is our […]

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