It’s time to fall for VillageFest

Annual festival brings post-Labor Day food, fun and family-friendly activities to Village

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 3, 2013

 Jessica Gustafson, of Grosse Pointe Farms, took daughter Tatum, 2, on a thrilling ride down the giant slide at VillageFest last year in the Grosse Pointe City shopping district. This year’s festival is Sept. 7-8.

Jessica Gustafson, of Grosse Pointe Farms, took daughter Tatum, 2, on a thrilling ride down the giant slide at VillageFest last year in the Grosse Pointe City shopping district. This year’s festival is Sept. 7-8.

File photo by Roy Feldman


GROSSE POINTE CITY — The summer festival season may technically be over, but VillageFest carries those beloved festival staples — from live entertainment and art, to food and activities for the kids — into the start of fall.

Sponsored by Beaumont Health System and produced by the Grosse Pointe Village Downtown Development Authority, VillageFest takes place in the Village, between Neff and Cadieux, on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 8, from noon to 5 p.m. Kercheval will be closed in the district to make room for pedestrians and tents, but parking areas will remain accessible using adjacent side streets.

Formerly known as Grosse Pointe’s Greatest Block Party, the seventh annual VillageFest typically attracts about 12,000-15,000 into the district over the two days.

Grosse Pointe City Manager Pete Dame — who’s also the City’s DDA director  — called VillageFest “a celebration of what a great place we have here” in an email.

Live entertainment each day from noon-5 p.m. will engage and delight audiences. Groups slated to perform include Grosse Pointe Theatre, Stewart Francke, Metro Jazz Voices, The Jukes, Sweet Adelines, Crossroads, Efficiency Jazz Combo and Terry “Thunder” & Thunda Express with Carolyn Crawford.

Village Association President Mike Kramer, a DDA Board member, said in an email interview that one of the weekend’s many highlights should be the ever-popular Sun Messengers, who’ll perform a dynamic set during the Saturday Night Dance Party from 7-10 p.m. Sept. 7.

Entertainment and educational programs for kids, sponsored by Macaroni Kid Grosse Pointe and Grosse Pointe MomPreneurs, includes a sign language demonstration by Momcat’s Signing Academy and a Music Together demonstration by Hummingbird’s Music Together. El’s Boutique is producing other activities for kids, including a bounce house, carnival games and a giant slide.

The family’s four-legged friends can get in on the action, as well, with a Pooch Parade — produced by the Michigan Humane Society and sponsored by Camp Bow Wow — starting at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, when leashed dogs will walk through the Village.

Dozens of local artists will have work in a juried art fair, and visitors can get creative, themselves, with activities by Upcycle Art and a coloring contest, along with an appearance by the interactive Art Road vehicle.

As part of VillageFest, the Gearheads — FIRST Robotics team 1189 — will be demonstrating the work of their robot, which can lift itself off the ground and toss Frisbees. The team is made up of students from Grosse Pointe North and South high schools. Their demonstrations will take place on Kercheval, near Trader Joe’s, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

The Village Car Show, sponsored by Ray Laethem, will feature more cars than ever, said Kramer by email. Visitors can expect to see antique, classic and exotic vehicles, along with hotrods.

Since all of these festivities are sure to work up an appetite, visitors will be happy to learn that besides the many restaurants already in the Village, other popular local eateries will be setting up shop to serve some of their most tempting treats to hungry customers. The Dirty Dog Jazz Café, located just down the street from the Village in Grosse Pointe Farms, is sponsoring A Taste of Grosse Pointe, featuring food samples from many restaurants, including Blue Bay Fish & Seafood, Blue Pointe, Bogartz Food & Spirits, Cleopatra, Jet’s Pizza, Pierogi Gals, Red Crown, Salvatore Scallopini and, of course, the Dirty Dog.

If you overindulge or just can’t get your regular workout in because you’re at VillageFest all weekend, no problem: Yoga Shelter will be holding Grosse Pointe’s Largest Yoga Class at 2 p.m. Saturday, while Pointe Fitness will be leading a massive Zumba class at 2 p.m. Sunday, both of which are free and open to all ages and skill levels.

The health-conscious trend continues with demonstrations and healthy living advice sponsored by Beaumont, including sleep evaluation, blood pressure checks and parenting tips.

Sponsored by Clarkson Law, Community Corner, at Kercheval and Notre Dame, will feature community groups offering services such as education, health and outreach.

Visitors are being encouraged to recycle their beverage containers at designated areas, and proceeds from this will benefit local student groups, according to organizers.

Ed Nakfoor, the Village’s recently hired marketing consultant, said events like this “bring vitality” to the business district.

“VillageFest provides an opportunity for engagement,” he said by email. “Residents connect with neighbors, visitors are introduced to Village businesses — especially new shops such as El’s (Boutique) and the expanded Village Palm — and (it) builds anticipation for soon-to-open establishments like Marais (and) the new bar at City Kitchen. And it builds camaraderie between the greater business community. It’s this esprit de corps that makes for stronger cities. In that sense the Pointes, in general, and The Village, in particular, are so fortunate to have traditions like VillageFest.”

Lot 2 — located between Notre Dame and St. Clair — was being rebuilt this summer and is expected to be closed as that project continues, but VillageFest organizers say there are still plenty of nearby parking options. Kramer suggested that visitors check out the new Lot 3 — behind the closed Ace and Borders stores, between St. Clair and Neff — or the parking structure next to Trader Joe’s. In addition, he said other lots will be open and “the adjacent streets can accommodate a lot of cars.

“Or, leave the car at home,” Kramer continued. “A lot of people live within a short walk of the Village. That is one of the blessings of living in a walkable community.”

This is the first year VillageFest is being organized by the DDA and not the Village Association, and Kramer said visitors will notice new graphics and a consistency in the naming of various components — for example, the art fair is now the VillageFest Art Show instead of Art on the Block or Art & Sole, both of which had been used in previous years.

“We believe that this event has the potential to be a scaled-down Arts, Beats & Eats benefiting this entire area,” Kramer said. “It makes a difference (for the Village) because any proceeds from the event help fund marketing efforts for downtown Grosse Pointe.”

Kramer is a longtime Village retailer, and he said VillageFest is a plus for the community and its businesses.

“The restaurants and stores benefit directly from the traffic drawn to the event,” Kramer said. “Long range, it creates an awareness of the shopping, dining and fun available in the Village.”

He said it’s no surprise VillageFest is something local residents look forward to.

“It’s fun and it’s free, and the quality of the components is exceptional,” Kramer said by email. “It provides an opportunity for the community to gather and enjoy each others’ company as we enter the fall season.”

For a full schedule and more information, visit