Livernois festivals highlight Detroit corridor's re-emergence

The next few months promise to be a lively time along Livernois. Not only is summer in full swing, but there's a trio of events and festivals slated for the Detroit corridor that are sure to be a good time for residents and visitors alike. 

Market on The Ave

For starters, the Market on the Ave is back for it's second season. Located across from the University of Detroit-Mercy on a lot on Livernois between Florence and Grove, the event is a biweekly farmer and artisan market sponsored by the Live6 Alliance. It kicked off this year's season on June 9. 

"I view it more or less as a block party," says organizer and Live6 arts coordinator Ajara Alghali. "We showcase Detroit artists, Detroit vendors, and produce grown in Detroit. It's really a place where individuals can showcase their work and artistry. Also, its a place to socialize."

Kids craft at Market on the Ave - photo courtesy Live6 Alliance
The setup at the market is attractive: a grassy lot full of tents, picnic tables (many sporting umbrellas), and a soundstage up front. Vendors offer a wide assortment of products, including food, mementos, art, and health and beauty products. As for activities, in addition to music, there's also games like Uno and Jenga, and kids activities like hula-hooping and face-painting. 

"It's very interesting," says Shiron Walker, who was visiting the market with her mother on July 14. "I like the vendors. They're selling their own goods and fresh produce. I think it’s very nice for the community."

Live6 hopes the market will bring help connect neighborhood residents and give local entrepreneurs a platform to launch local businesses.

"It's a way for people to get out of the house, come and spread their knowledge and spread their products to a wider audience," says Alghali.

Market on the Ave takes place the second and fourth Fridays from noon to 5 p.m. through September 22.

Jazz on the Ave

Jazz on the Ave is an annual tradition that's been energizing Livernois each summer for almost a decade now. Always scheduled for the first Saturday in August, the festival takes place on Livernois' four-block Avenue of Fashion district, located between Seven and Eight Mile roads, and features three stages of music, contests, kid-friendly, activities, contests, and more. Local businesses contribute to the festival by offering sales and giveaways.

This year's headliner is Lord Yancyy, an internationally-renowned saxophonist. Deon Yates, Athena, Cartel, Deblon and Mark Mixx & The Street Jazz Cartel are also scheduled to perform at the event.

Rydell Chavez plays at Jazz on the Ave - photo courtesy of AFBA
In addition to music, Mike's Market will be providing free food, and there will be a classic car show.

According to Michael Dolphin, director of the Avenue of Fashion Business Association, Jazz on the Ave got started around eight years ago by the University Commons nonprofit. But things really picked up five years ago when local businesses got involved, adding a second sound stage and aligning the event with its customer appreciation day. Last year, the festival attracted 8,000 people to the Avenue of Fashion — up 5,000 from 2013. 

Dolphin compares the event to Black Friday, noting that it's the biggest payday of the year for businesses on the strip. But beyond that short-term financial boost, he says it also encourages folks from around and outside the city of Detroit to check out what Livernois shops have to offer. 

"When people actually come to see the specialty boutiques we have, we always get the wow effect," Dolphin says. "'Wow, I didn't know that this was here!' 'Wow, this is great!' I think economically it has a great impact on the avenue and long-term it just gets us to show off the Avenue of Fashion."

Jazz On The Ave takes place this year on Saturday, August 4.

Light Up Livernois

This September, Livernois will be hosting an event that's all about accentuating what the strip has to offer with a healthy dose of design know-how: Light Up Livernois

Tied to Detroit Month of Design, formerly known as the Detroit Design Festival, Light Up Livernois is essentially a big open house for different shops and spaces along the corridor that features musical performances, design installations, a fashion show, and other special activities. In the past, that's included pop-ups and even a special putt-putt game put together by local designers. 

Fashion show at Light Up Livernois - photo by Desmond Love
Melinda Anderson, who coordinates Light Up Livernois for Detroit Month of Design, didn't want to give away too many details, but did offer a taste of what people can expect this year.

"I'll say it in a way that wont let it totally let it out of the bag, but we're working to activate a huge brand in experiential marketing. And then there's some local celebrities that own businesses on Livernois and we're going to be working to pair them within the community," she says. "The activation that's coming to Livernois is going to be very family-friendly and encompass America's most beloved sport."

Now in its fifth year, Michael Forsyth of Revolve Detroit, a DEGC-linked program that encourages business development in local neighborhoods, kicked off Light Up Live as a way to help temporary businesses along the strip become permanently established. The name is a call back to a time when businesses along the strip were struggling to get more lighting installed. 

According to Anderson, Light Up Livernois draws thousands of people to the Livernois strip each year, represents one of the busiest sales days of the year for the area, and has begun to attract the attention of investors. Beyond that it's also a model for other neighborhood-based clusters participating in Detroit's Month of Design.

"The great thing about Livernois, what's different than Eastern Market After Dark, is you're pulling from around the surrounding neighborhood. It's inspired this concept of a festival that's decentralized," says Anderson. "It's pretty amazing; the synergy that it's naturally capturing to highlight design and how it can improve our lives and our communities."

The entire Detroit Month of Design runs Sept. 1 through 30. Light Up Livernois takes place Sept. 29. 

This article is part of a series where we revisit stories from our Live6 On the Ground installment and explore new ones in the area. It is supported by the Kresge Foundation.

Read more articles by David Sands.

David Sands is a Detroit-based freelance writer. He's covered the news for Huffington Post Detroit as an assistant editor and worked as a staff writer for the transportation news site Mode Shift. Follow him on Twitter @dsandsdetroit.
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