Multi-instrumentalist Dave Bennett will be playing a variety of music when he performs during SummerFest with his band Aug. 6 at The War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Multi-instrumentalist Dave Bennett will be playing a variety of music when he performs during SummerFest with his band Aug. 6 at The War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Photo by Inner Circle Photography, provided by The War Memorial

The War Memorial’s SummerFest serves up free family fun in the sun

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 16, 2019

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Summer is synonymous with outdoor concerts, and The War Memorial is again inviting metro Detroiters to see music on their lakefront back lawn.

The fifth annual SummerFest will take place from July 22 to Aug. 6. Family-friendly double feature films will be shown inside the renovated Patriot Theater, while concerts will take place on the lawn, weather permitting.

Grounds will open at 6:30 p.m. for all events, with movies starting at 7 p.m. and concerts starting at 7:30 p.m. On July 22, families are invited to see “How to Train Your Dragon” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” while on July 29, “Brave” and “Moana” will be screened.

Michigan Opera Theatre Studio Artists — Angela Theis, Olivia Johnson, Dorian Dillard and Harry Greenleaf — will perform July 23. The eclectic global folk-rock of The Ragbirds will fill the stage July 24. Mainstreet Soul will get the crowd on its feet with danceable hits by artists like Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera, Adele, Chicago and more July 30. Jimmy Buffet tribute band Air Margaritaville will entertain Parrotheads of all ages July 31.

The series will close Aug. 6 with Dave Bennett and his band, who’ll play swing era jazz, country, rockabilly and more.

“The War Memorial’s summertime festival of family-friendly fun is a highlight of our programming, filled with live performances and films guaranteed to inspire,” said War Memorial President and CEO Charles Burke in a press release. “Seeing the metro Detroit community come together on the grounds of the historic Alger Estate, enjoying the simple pleasure of summer on the lake, reminds us just how special a place The War Memorial is; our SummerFest motto is, ‘Our backyard becomes your backyard,’ and it’s truly an honor to produce this festival.”

The War Memorial has been offering outdoor summer concerts and arts programming “for decades,” but SummerFest started in 2015, said Brooks Hoste, vice president of community engagement and programming.

“Being able to offer it for free makes it a really great outreach program for us,” said Hoste, who noted that they welcomed more than 3,500 people from across metro Detroit in 2018 — a 10% increase from 2017. He said they hope to increase attendance again this year.

This year’s two major sponsors are Ascension St. John Hospital and Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe. Other sponsors are also covering festival costs.

After several years of food trucks, The War Memorial’s culinary staff is preparing hamburgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, walking tacos, chips and cookies for purchase this year, Hoste said. Captain Kool Ice Cream, one of SummerFest’s sponsors, will sell frozen treats, and a full bar with beer, wine, liquor and soda will be available as well.

“We hope to provide the magic of a classic American picnic — with a little bit of that War Memorial flare cooked in!” War Memorial Executive Chef Natalia Tarnavsky said in a press release.

Hoste said people can also bring their own food and beverages, but outside alcohol isn’t allowed because it violates The War Memorial’s liquor license.

Hand sanitizer and insect repellent will be provided, said Hoste, along with beach toys. Kids can pose in a photo booth.

A limited number of chairs will be set up, but for concerts, attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs or blankets.

All events are rain or shine. In case of inclement weather, Hoste said, a concert would be moved into the Patriot Theater. He said those decisions will be made and announced on The War Memorial’s social media platforms by about 2 p.m. the day of the event.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed for good weather,” Hoste said.

For people with mobility challenges, Hoste said The War Memorial has a golf cart to transport them. While it isn’t mandatory for people to call ahead, it’s recommended that anyone needing assistance from the parking lot to the lawn or theater call in advance.

“One thing I routinely hear when people bring family or friends who have never been to The War Memorial before is, they are always impressed,” Hoste said. “So I would say, invite (newcomers) and make lasting memories.”

The War Memorial is located at 32 Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Farms. For more information, visit or call (313) 881-7511.