Don't miss out on Detroit's homegrown events this summer

OK, it's fine to mourn the loss of Cityfest and Detroit Festival of the Arts, but remember that plenty of provocative entertainment awaits you this summer at Detroit festivals and events. In fact, what's left standing proudly in the glistening carnage of the big ol' favorites are smaller local events that have survived, blossomed, even materialized during the toughest of years.

Events like Dally in the Alley, Jazzin' on Jefferson and People's Art Festival are largely driven by people's passions, neighborhood collaboration or community activism. And these home-grown festivities – some fledgling, others proverbial institutions – are making their own imprint on the city's cultural scene, leaving you with enticing reasons to get out and play.

Most events are cheap, some are free, and all have a vibe that will leave you feeling connected to the city, to your neighbors or to something relevant, be it a genre of music, a love of outsider art, or an attraction to the quirky and irreverent.

Take a peek at what we suggest you fill your calendar with over the next three months, and we'll see you out and about!

Detroit River Days, June 18-21
Amongst the crazy hodgepodge of goings-on at this annual festival, be sure to catch the Pooch-a-Palooza dog activities, gawk at the tall ships, lollygag in the kid zone, and groove to music by national acts, including Blues Traveler, and your local favs. The festival runs between Atwater Street and the Detroit RiverWalk from the Ren Cen to Milliken State Park. Admission is $3 to support the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, but check out the website for tips on getting in free.

Wayfarer Roots & Bluegrass Festival, June 18
Join Detroit's roots music revival. From dusk to the wee hours of the next morning, savor  traditional music from Detroit, and see a few national acts too. Feast on bluegrass, blues, old-time country, folk, swing music and other styles that fall in the sweet realm of American roots music. No dust will settle as two stages host more than a dozen acts at the Magic Stick. Guitars, fiddles, doghouse basses and accordions will be flying at this first-time event. Tickets $15 in advance; $20 at the door.

International Tug Boat Races, June 19
Up to 30 tug boats turn up the horsepower and churn up the Detroit River at this annual race. Starting southwest of the Ambassador Bridge, the tugs charge, bow-to-bow, heading east along the Windsor waterfront and ending across from the GM Renaissance Center at Windsor's Dieppe Park. You might get better views from the Windsor side, but the tug boats' victory lap loops in front of the Ren Cen. With a history of tug racing on the river dating back to the 1950s, you'll enjoy both the nostalgia and excitement of this diesel-spewing event. Race starts at 1:00 p.m. Free.

Hart Plaza ethnic festivals
On July 24-25, the plaza is home to the Arab Chaldean Festival, featuring food, music, cultural performances and children's entertainment. Then again, August 20-22, the plaza will be home to more cultural fun, with the African World Festival, sponsored by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The event celebrates the richness, diversity and worldwide influence of African culture with entertainment, food, exhibits and more. Both are free.

Jazzin' on Jefferson, June 26-27
The 7th annual Jazzin' on Jefferson calls East Jefferson Ave. (at Chalmers) home. Among the neighborhood's vibrant businesses and beautiful homes, will be two music stages devoted to jazz and its close cousins, blues and gospel. You're sure to hear something that suits your fancy. Sunday morning starts with a service by Hope Church followed by gospel music. This year's line-up includes the Joe Krown Trio from New Orleans and local gypsy jazzers Hot Club of Detroit. Window shop through the artist gallery tent between tantalizing tenor sax solos. Or escort the kids to the children's area for pint-size activities, art and entertainment. Free.

4th Street Fair, July something, we think
Unless you know someone who lives on this tiny stretch of 4th Street, south of Holden and abutting I-94, you'll be kept in the dark until days before when word leaks out. The mystery date and mystery line-up adds to the intrigue of the 4th Street Fair. It's a neighborhood block party (out of a Jarmusch film) that gathers eccentrics, students and bohemians to partake in the combination music festival, junk sale, and anarchist hobnobbing. You're not "not invited." Fourth Street residents are friendly and welcoming to all who visit. They've had some snarls with the city over permitting, etc., and there's an effort under way to save the event and raise funds to get it running. Follow it on Facebook here. The fair is free. There is a benefit show planned for June 18 at PJ's Lager House in Corktown. Info is here.

People's Art Festival, August 28-29
Snuggled in the shadow of the Kahn-designed architecture of Russell Industrial Center, People's Art Festival is an exemplary display of what art and artists can do to turnaround a city's industrial decay. During this fourth annual art fair, you'll run into friends and neighbors admiring the works of both the artists in residence at Russell as well as other aspiring painters, photographers, jewelry makers and handy-crafters. A rocking line-up of music is part of the action. People's Art Festival claims to be the largest free art festival in Detroit, last year drawing 15,000 visitors. Free.

Dally in the Alley, September 11
North Cass Community Union never fails to disappoint us at the annual Dally in the Alley. While some yearn for the days when the Dally was smaller, it's still smashingly well put together, always offers awesome Detroit-conspired music, and features tons of art, most of which you'd be glad to cart home. After 32 years in the alleys between Hancock and Forest, and Third and Second streets, the Dally has become a Detroit institution for area music lovers, families and other hipsters. There's nothing like grabbing a beer and bobbin' to impeccably selected live bands in the warm September sun, pretending that summer is not near over. Free.

Melinda Clynes is a freelance writer and the creator of one of Detroit's newest and coolest events, the Detroit Wig Out, June 12-13.  Saturday, June 12, features a mish-mash of entertainment, from Detroit born and bred soul, garage rock and funk -- and an all-women's barbershop quartet. Sunday afternoon is the Wig Out Family Hootenanny -- a wiggy kid gathering. Both events benefit charities and take place at the Majestic Theater complex. Detroit Wig Out tickets $10; Family Hoot tickets free for children and $10 for adults. More info here.

Did we miss your event or do you have other feed back? Drop Model D an e-mail here.

Read more articles by Melinda Clynes.

Melinda Clynes is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Model D. She is the statewide project editor of Michigan Kids, a series of stories that highlight what’s working to improve outcomes for Michigan children. View her online portfolio here.
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