People gathered for the 59th Farmington Founders Festival, which took place July 20-22. At the festival, children had the opportunity to play “Gel Blaster.”

People gathered for the 59th Farmington Founders Festival, which took place July 20-22. At the festival, children had the opportunity to play “Gel Blaster.”

Photo by Donna Dalziel

Thousands gather for Farmington Founders Festival

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published August 4, 2023

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FARMINGTON — Thousands of people gathered into downtown Farmington for this year’s version of the Farmington Founders Festival.

The festival was held July 20-22 and featured events such as a parade, a 5K color run, live music, a kids zone, the Farmington Fido Fest, vendors and food trucks.

It was the 59th year of the event.

“By all accounts, it seemed to be a success,” said Farmington Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kate Knight. “We had thousands of people downtown, and reports indicate that it was a successful event.”

Knight said that there were a little over 80,000 visitors last year.

“I anticipate that the numbers this year were the same or greater,” she said.

Farmington Mayor Sara Bowman said the festival was an “unequivocal success.”

“The fact that Farmington Road was open again and we were able to return to our previous setup really makes it a cohesive festival,” she said. “The last few years, due to construction and things happening, we had to move some of our events to different locations, and it worked great, but having everything back, in my mind, where it belongs, it had a nice flow to it, where you started in Riley Park and had all the dog events, and then moved into the parking lot area where they had Fido Fest, and then over to the food court, which was expanded with substantially more options this year. We were happy to get so many of the food vendors that we hadn’t been able to for the last few years. And of course the live music and tent right there at the heart of the festival flowed right into our vendors, which we almost doubled this year.”

Dan Rickard, of the Farmington Hills Fire Department, attended the festival with his daughter.

“I like the kid area,” he said. “She had a bunch of fun over there, (with) the bounce houses and stuff. … It’s been a few years since I’ve been out here, so it’s nice to come back.”

Being local residents, Tony and Lynn Fanelli have attended the festival in the past and decided to spend part of a Saturday afternoon taking in the festivities yet again this year.

After arriving, Lynn’s mind drifted back to one of the appeals of last year’s festival, which would also be an option later that day.

“It was fun to see the dogs jump in the water last year,” she said. “It’s just nice to have something to do downtown.”

As for Tony, he discussed his favorite part of the festival.

“Usually, the food for me — I like the food,” he said. “It’s nice to have people come out — see your neighbors, I guess.”

Although in the past Bowman’s favorite part of the festival had been the parade, this year she had a personal reason for another event sticking out to her.

“The color run was extra special this year,” she said. “My sister was in from out of town. It brought back great memories for me of when we used to run this together when we were kids, and so, running through town with her and getting to wave to our neighbors, (and) the fact that she got to see so many people that she hasn’t seen over the years since she’s moved away. … Everything went really well.”

Farmington Mayor Pro Tem Joe LaRussa also weighed in on the festivities.

“Founders Festival 2023 was once again a great event for Farmington, its residents, and visitors,” LaRussa stated via email. “More than 43,000 attendees had the chance to enjoy summer nights in Downtown Farmington, and that speaks to the attractiveness of our community and the skills of all the event planners, volunteers and talented people who contribute to this festive weekend.”

The opportunity for thousands of people to see some of the work that has taken place in Farmington stood out to Knight.

“It was a really nice chance to show off our brand-new streetscape on Farmington Road,” she said. “The flowers are blooming and the trees are lush and brand-new. It was kind of an unveiling to the community. … It was a good chance to welcome everyone and show off that public investment that was an important project for the city.”

Bowman acknowledged volunteers, as well as Farmington Public Safety and Department of Public Works workers, for their roles in the festival.

She received a positive report from the city’s public safety director and DPW director.

“I’m pleased to say that we were incident free,” Bowman said. “There were no reportings of anything out of the ordinary, and to me, that’s really important, to make sure that we provide a safe environment for people to enjoy.”

The Farmington Founders Festival can be an excellent way of attracting former residents back to town.

“Some of the comments I fielded were from sort of homecoming visits — people who had grown up in the area and were delighted to revisit and connect with friends and family, and were taken back and delighted with all the change that’s happening,” Knight said.

Although this year’s event is now a part of history, for those who enjoy the Farmington Founders Festival, Bowman shared a reason to be excited.

“This was year 59 for the Founders Festival, and not even 24 hours after the conclusion, all of the activities are already focused on the 60-year anniversary next year, and it’s going to correlate with the 200-year bicentennial celebration of the city of Farmington’s founding, so I can only imagine that next year is going to be bigger and better,” she said.