June 19 2013 12:00 AM

Annual festivals welcome summer to Old Town

Courtesy photo

Summer calls for lemonade and an iPod full of beach tunes, but Old Town is putting its annual spin on those traditions at this weekend’s Festival of the Moon and Festival of the Sun. Instead of lemonade, the historic Lansing district is rolling out the beer and wine, and instead of mp3s, mid-Michigan revelers get two days of live music.  

The annual twin celebrations are the largest fundraisers for Old Town’s revitalization project. When combined with proceeds from the fall Oktoberfest event, the festivals account for about 70 percent of annual budget for the Old Town Commercial Association. The group works to bring new life into Old Town while maintaining deep roots in local heritage. 

“This is the first experience with Old Town for a lot of people,” said Louise Gradwohl, executive director of OTCA. “The better it is, the more people will be able to appreciate Old Town’s importance.” 

She said the funds raised maintain the aspects of the neighborhood that aren’t self-sufficient, including buying flowers, financing new initiatives, buying public benches and funding public murals. In addition to its contributions to the area’s appearances, the Festival of the Moon and Sun also provides the financial backing for many of Old Towns free attractions. The money raised helps make this historic district a destination district, and including Chalk of the Town, Dickens Village and the Turner Street Outdoor Theater. 

“Essentially, it helps make Old Town the beautiful and vibrant community that it is,” said Shelby Robinson, festival director. 

The Festivals of the Moon and Sun brought in 4,000 people last year and accounted for $40,000 in funds, which continued the upward attendance trend that’s been happening since the festival’s debut in 1999, which had an attendance of 500. 

The 2013 festival hosts several new activities, including the Capitol Mile and 5K Run which will culminate in the Festival of the Moon. Although this will actually be the 10th anniversary of that race, this will be the first time it will be paired with the festivals. Robinson said she thinks this will attract a larger and more diverse demographic. 

“The 5K also raises money for nonprofits in the area and helps engage Lansing area residents,” she said. Last year, more than $67,000 resulted from the event. 

Saturday’s Festival of the Sun will host a couple new events as well. The popular wine pairings from previous years will now be supplemented with beer ones sponsored by I’m A Beer Hound. Lansing homebrew supply store That’s How We Brew will provide free brewing demonstrations. Photo booths and psychic readings are also new activities that will be available throughout the festival. 

Of course, some old favorites aren’t going anywhere. Twelve teams had two weeks to build a sculpture in the 5th annual Old Town Scrapfest competition, each using up to 500 pounds of scrap metal collected from Friedland Industries, a nearby recycling and scrap processing company in. The final masterpieces will be displayed, judged and auctioned off in a live auction on Saturday. 

And what’s a festival without music? This year, the moonlight will welcome the folksy rock ‘n’ roll of Langhorne Slim, and Lansing’s natives Billiards Music and Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers will also perform Friday night. The Festival of the Sun takes an even more local spin. With acts such as Taylor Taylor, the Whiskey Pickers, Summer of Sol and the Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle, the day will be a mixed up, mashed up blend of blues, funk, R&B, folk, “Michigan Grass” and a handful of other genres. 

Festival of the Moon
6 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday
Cesar E. Chavez Plaza, Old Town, Lansing
$15/$12 advance (21 and over only)
Performers include Langhorne Slim, Billiards Music and Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers

Festival of the Sun
2 p.m.-11 p.m. Saturday
$20/$17 advance (21 and over after 7 p.m.)
Performers include Taylor Taylor, Summer of Sol, The Whiskey Pickers and The Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle

Tickets for both festivals are $25