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Hit the roof: Food, film and a chance to dance put the groove in Top of the Park

Hit the roof: Food, film and a chance to dance put the groove in Top of the Park image Hit the roof: Food, film and a chance to dance put the groove in Top of the Park image
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Personal technology, E3

Jane Brody, E4

Carolyn Hax, E4

Hit the roof

Food, films, and a chance to dance put the groove in Top of the Park

By Marianne Rzepka

News Staff Reporter

Summer Festival kicks off its 22nd season Friday with free concerts at Top of the Park and a comedic evening at the Power  Center.

This year, the festival will stage 62 performances at Top of the Park and the University of Michigan's Power Center and Hill Auditorium.

Ticketed performances in the two venues include national and international musicians, singers, dancers, comedians and actors. The free events at TOP include 16 movies, as well as music performances each night of the week. And though the headliners at the ticketed performances attract thousands, for many community members Summer Festival really means Top of the Park. 

Convened on the roof of U-M's Fletcher Street parking structure, TOP is a temporary town square - a place to meet friends and neighbors and to socialize

There's beer and wine on sale for adults, and food from Tios Mexican Cafe, Zingerman's Bakehouse, Stucchi's, Shehan Shah Indian Cuisine, Cottage Inn Pizza and Rendez-Vous Mediterranean Cafe. 

For the past few years, the outdoor Top of the Park kicked off the Summer Festival a day or so before the first Power Center performance.

This year, the festival gets a big kick-off with both venues going full steam ahead.

"It's going to be a very, very busy Friday evening," says festival director Robb Woulfe. 

Rachel Denny Clow, The Ann Arbor News

Ann Guttman of the Sugar Shack bags cotton candy prior to the start of Top of the Park.

How sweet it is

Paul Diez has head nearly every band and seen nearly every movie at the TOP in the past five years from the beverage stand under the projectionist booth.

"I like the music, I like the atmosphere, and it's fun to be around people," says Diez, by day a pharmacist at Foote Hospital in Jackson. "It's as much fun as it is a job."

Another reason he likes his job at the stand is because he works next to his 22-year old son, Aaron, a student at Eastern Michigan University, who started working at the Sugar Shack food booth at TOP when he was a teenager.

"I was dropping him off (at TOP) and picking him up," says Diez, "One thing led to another."

The booth sells mostly beer and wine, is tiny and the two have developed a system, which helps when things get a little busy. "He and I read each other," says Diez. "We don't even have to say anything." 

Same for the regular customers. Even before they order, Diez says he'll know just what to serve up.  

Rachel Denny Clow, The Ann Arbor News

From left, Teresa Dezazzo and Irena Dezazzo, 5, Ann Arbor, stayed up for "Stepping Into Liquid" at Top of the Park. 

A reel attraction

Once the sun goes down, the films go up at TOP.

Movies start at 10 p.m., a little late for people who have to get to work the next day (films show every Sunday through Thursday), but it just can’t be helped, says Scott McWhinney, stage manager and audio engineer for TOP.

“We’ve tried talking to the sun and we’ve tried talking to the solar system, and that’s the way it’s going to be,” he says.

Most of the free movies are recently released, with classics like “Rear Window” and “E.T.” sprinkled in.

All of the films will be either PG or PG13, says McWhinney. After all, TOP is nothing if not family friendly. And even if your kids are asleep by 10 p.m., you might want to bring your mother.

For those filmgoers who want to immerse themselves in movies, this isn’t their kind of venue, says McWhinney. “At the Top of the Park, you’ve got lights, you’ve got people, you’ve got a beer tent,” he says.

As a result, you’ve got films that are light, comedic and with action sequences.

''Speaking for myself," says McWhinney, "I think it's good that we have stuff that’s painted up there in bold colors.”

Ready to rock, by George

After nearly four weeks of music at TOP, the festival always ends with George Bedard and the Kingpins rocking the audience.

Bedard says his group has been the closing act for about 15 years. If you ask why, he’ll tell you it’s because “they keep asking us.”

Although the TOP entertainers are local or regional, some performances will connect with shows scheduled for the Power Center.

For example, Like Water Drum and Dance, an Ypsilanti African drum group, will perform at TOP on July 6, and two days later, Nigerian musician Femi Kuti’s Afro-beat band will take the stage in the Power Center.

See Summer, E2

Leisa Thompson, The Ann Arbor News

George Bedard, bottom, and Randy Tessier of the group George Bedard and the Kingpins perform at Top of the Park.