East Lansing Art Festival Returns With Features Aimed at Easing Concerns

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East Lansing Art Festival

This year's festival is built around the theme, "Come as you art!"

After going virtual last year, the 2021 East Lansing Art Festival (ELAF) is coming back downtown this weekend, with some extra spacing due to Covid-19. And the weather is looking reasonably cooperative.

This year’s festival hours will be from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday, August 7, and 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday, August 8. The festival will stretch out from the central intersection of M.A.C. and Albert Avenues, around the Ann Street Plaza.

ELAF Festival Coordinator and Art Initiatives Coordinator for the City of East Lansing Heather Majano spoke with ELi about her excitement for the festival, considering she’s been planning it for years now. Postponing the event from May to August was a gamble, but since most Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, the City is now able to host an in-person event.

Majano noted a few things that are different within this year’s event.

“We wanted to reduce the footprint so that we could have more space to spread out and have social-distancing options. It’s less important now because restrictions are lifted, but we still maintain that smaller footprint so our visitors have room to spread out,” she said.

“We’ll have lots of table areas and EL Fresco will still be open, and we’ll have places to catch up without gathering at the artist booths and blocking the art,” Majano said.

Food trucks will also be present for attendees to taste-test local cuisine.

The festival will feature 85 artists, a smaller number than typical, but designed to ensure enough distancing space is available. In 2019, the festival hosted 150 artists, and Majano said the 2022 event is slated to surpass that with 200 artists. The artist performer and artist demonstration lineup is on the ELAF website.

“We’re really excited we can have this in-person event, but we’re also working to have some virtual offerings so you can still be a part of the festival and not come downtown if you don’t feel comfortable with that yet. We’re looking at having some artist interviews behind-the-scenes, and we have a volunteer who is going to be recording some of the performances and artist demonstrations and livestreaming them to our Facebook page as well,” Majano said.

Typically, the event is organized to take place in-tandem with the MSU Spring Arts & Crafts Fair, but the University made the call in February 2021 to cancel this year’s festival.

The festival is not the only thing happening outdoors in East Lansing this summer – not by a longshot!

This summer, East Lansing has been bursting with free, outdoor events – everything from live music, nighttime movies in the park, children’s events, the farmers’ market, and even outdoor yoga.

Summer Concert Series

The East Lansing Summer Concert Series kicked off July 9 and will keep running through Aug. 27 (excluding Aug. 6) on Friday nights from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in downtown East Lansing’s Ann Street Plaza. Attendees can bring their own lawn chairs or soak up the free entertainment while dining from various local restaurants. The area features tables, rocking chairs, hammocks, large outdoor games, and shaded areas for the daytime and lighting for the evening.

Photo courtesy of the City of East Lansing.

People listen to a concert in the Ann Street Plaza.

The City of East Lansing’s Community Events & Park Stewardship Specialist Justin Drwencke spoke with ELi about the concerts, noting they feature Michigan-based artists.

“It’s really important for us to highlight Michigan-based performers for the summer concert series, and showcase the local talent that we have,” he said.

The remaining Friday-night line-up includes:

Moonlight Film Festival

East Lansing’s Moonlight Film Festival offers residents the chance to see their favorite movies on the big screen while enjoying the open air of Valley Court Park. Movies start at 9 p.m. in August. Chairs and blankets are welcome to this all-ages event.

Photo courtesy of the City of East Lansing.

Movies will be shown this summer in Valley Court Park.

Drwencke notes that the festival uses a built-in stage on the former BWL building that’s right in the middle of the park, and the films are projected on the side of the building.

The remaining film lineup includes:

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse on Thurs. Aug. 12.
  • Jurassic Park (1993) on Wed. Aug. 25.

Play in the Park

This series is especially designed for younger folks and is quickly becoming a local favorite for families with children. Play in the Park is billed by the City as an “interactive children’s entertainment series,” and attendees are invited to bring a picnic, blankets, and chairs to enjoy free, family-friendly educational entertainment in Patriarche Park.

On Aug. 17, starting at 7 p.m., “Play in the Park” will feature Aarin Dokum of the Nokomis Cultural Heritage Center with a presentation about Anishinaabemowin, the language of the First Nations people.

East Lansng Farmers’ Market

A local fan favorite since 2009, the 2021 East Lansing Farmers’ Market season includes a weekly event every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Valley Court Park, now through the end of October. This open-air market features 100% Michigan homegrown produce, fruit, bread, cheese, meat, coffee, flowers, and more.

Hot tip: This week there may be peaches!

Note: An earlier version of this article was posted to ELi on July 13, 2021.

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