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Summer fest had record year

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Summer fest had record year

Same location next year? Maybe


News Arts Writer

If you thought the recently concluded Ann Arbor Summer Festival looked like a hit, you were right.

The three-week festival, which wrapped up Sunday, had the highest-grossing season ever, according to director Robb Woulfe, selling $773,776 worth of tickets, an approximately 10 percent increase over the previous record of $706,197, set in 2004. Last year $615,437 worth of tickets were sold.

All in all, 14,917 people bought tickets to the festival’s 16 paid-admission performances, Woulfe said - 1,653 fewer than last year, when there were 19 ticketed shows.

Top draws were the k.d. lang and Lyle Lovett double bill, two performances by dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and his Hell’s Kitchen troupe, and political satirists Capitol Steps.

“When (lang) sang Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah,’ you could have heard a pin drop - there was absolute silence in Hill Auditorium,” Woulfe said.

Almost as popular were the hip jazz band Pink Martini and 7 Fingers Circus, he added.

However a couple of shows, especially the dance troupe Momix and the taping of the radio show “Mountain Stage,” didn’t fare as well.

“A lot of the (“Mountain Stage”) performers had had recent engagements in Ann Arbor - people had already seen Duncan Sheik or Jeff Daniels. It was a fine collection of talent, but the market was very familiar with them,” Woulfe said.

Top of the Park, the Summer Festival’s free outdoor component of music, movies and more, also fared well. Although it is difficult to judge attendance since no tickets are sold, Woulfe said that by his estimation 2,000 people packed Ingalls Mall for the June 22 performances by daredevil aerialists Strange Fruit. 

"Seeing the lawn filled with the community, all looking up... we realized we had found something special," Woulfe said. Although there are no plans to bring the Australian group back next year, "we are working on a project of a similar nature to celebrate our 25th season" next year, he added. 

Total beverage and merchandise sales at Top of the Park were $166,692, compared to $142,182 in 2006 and $157,341 in 2005. A pass-the-hat collection and income from donation kiosks earned $18,192, up from $12,127 last year and $5,218 in 2005. 

None of the TOP nights were rained out, although on movie had to be canceled due to inclement weather, Woulfe said. 

This year, as last, Top of the Park was held at Ingalls Mall on the University of Michigan campus, while its traditional home atop the Power Center parking structure is rebuilt. Woulfe said he plans to meet soon with Ann Arbor and U-M officials to explore keeping the event at the popular Ingalls Mall location.

"I would really love to stay on that site," Woulfe said. "Our biggest concern is the financial component - it's about $40,000 extra to be in that space." Costs include increased security and equipment rental. 

Roger LeLievre can be reach at 734-994-6848 or by e-mail at

Summer Festival numbers 

Main Stage Tickets sold: 14,917.

Sales: $773,776 (highest-grossing season to date). Best-selling shows:

■ k.d. lang and Lyle Lovett (3,157 tickets).

■ Mikhail Baryshnikov/ Hell's Kitchen Dance: (2 shows -1,194 and 1,200).

■ Capitol Steps (1,123 for the 5 p.m. July 4 show). Other popular shows:

■ 7 Fingers Circus (2 shows (- 843 and 724).

■ Pink Martini (856).

■ The Second City (821).

Top of the Park Beverage, merchandise sales: $166,692. Donations: $18,192 from pass-the-hat efforts and donation kiosks.

Number of rainouts: None (although one movie was canceled due to bad weather).

Source: Ann Arbor Summer Festival