Things to Do: Fall Festivals Spotlight Arts, Culture, and Music in Washtenaw County


Totally Awesome Fest event poster

Ypsilanti's Totally Awesome Fest is a free, family-friendly, all-ages, and all-species event that has become an annual “carnival” since 2004. Artwork taken from Totally Awesome Fest's Facebook page.

This fall brings plentiful opportunities to celebrate local arts, music, and culture through several Washtenaw County festivals. Peruse our list of fun things to do with family and friends in September and October.

WCBN Fundraiser
September 9
The Blind Pig, Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan student-run radio station, WCBN-FM 88.3, is hosting a fundraising show at The Blind Pig with two Ann Arbor bands—no-wave duo Lunch and hardcore quartet Tried—along with Lansing alt-indie rockers Harper. You can purchase tickets here.

Groove on Up
September 15-17
South Lyon

The South Lyon-based jam music festival is back for the first time in four years with several local acts, including Rik Strange, Scüter, ChirpStormy ChromerViolet Sol, Liquid Thickness, Ma Baker, Pajamas, and more. Tickets range from $75-$260 and are available here. Attendees will receive the festival address once they purchase tickets.


Ann Arbor Django Reinhardt Festival
September 16
The Ark, Ann Arbor

Hosted by Djangophonique guitarist Andrew Brown, the inaugural festival spotlights some of Michigan’s premiere players in the hot-club style: Third Coast Swing guitarist Andrew Plummer; The Hot Club of Detroit guitarist Evan Perri; Djangophonique clarinetist Tyler Rindo and bassist Jorian Olk-Szost; guitarist David Bendina; trumpet player Brad Fritcher; and vocalist Katie Smith.

The all-star cast will collaborate and improvise as they pay tribute to legendary guitar innovator Django ReinhardtAnn Arbor Django Reinhardt Festival tickets are $20 for general admission seating and $28 for reserved seating. For details, visit The Ark’s website.

Totally Awesome Fest XIX
September 21-24

Totally Awesome Fest is a free, family-friendly, all-ages, and all-species event that has become an annual “carnival” in Ypsi since 2004. The event celebrates the city’s arts, culture, and music scene and features fun events at local venues and businesses. Details TBA.

Freak Fest
October 6-8
Ziggy’s and Other Venues, Ypsilanti 

Ziggy’s night club, Wyrd Byrd records and books, and Wee Wah Productions are bringing a weekend of indie, underground, and experimental music to Ypsi with Freak Fest. The three-day event features Black Jake and the CarniesJim CherewickZZVaVaDr. Peter Larson, and nearly 25 other acts performing at Ziggy’s, The Regal Beagle, and outside on Washington Street, which they are also closing down for DIY vendors to sell their wares. Tickets are $25 for a weekend pass or $7 for an individual door charge at each venue. Wyrd Byrd events are free.

A2 Jazz Fest
October 6-8
Various Venues, Ann Arbor

Back for the first time since 2019, this year's Ann Arbor Jazz Fest (A2JF) will be spread across four venues and feature acclaimed national and local jazz artists as well as high school and college musicians. A few highlights include organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein, and drummer Bill Stewart, which The New York Times once called “the best organ trio of the last decade,” headlining the fest on October 6 (Blue LLama Jazz Club); Detroit trumpeter and U-M grad Allen Dennard bringing his quintet to perform on October 7 (LIVE Nightclub); a Jazz Symposium Workshop with Detroit-area drummer Sean Dobbins and a performance by Grand Rapids pianist Lisa Sung and her quartet on October 8 (Kerrytown Concert House); and a jam session led by Ann Arbor drummer Jesse Kramer on October 8 (Raven’s Club). All the October 7 and 8 events are free; tickets for Goldings, Bernstein, and Stewart are available here. For details, visit the A2 Jazz Fest website.

October 18-21
Kerrytown Concert House, Ann Arbor

Edgefest returns to Ann Arbor for its 27th year to celebrate all kinds of exploratory jazz and improvisation. The festival features a roster of local and international artists performing at Kerrytown Concert House as well as the everybody-is-invited-to-play Edgefest Parade in the Farmer's Market area and a massive closing-night concert at Bethlehem UCC featuring Tim Berne’s Oceans AndThe Forest Percussion Ensemble, and the Michael Malis Ensemble premiering a new composition written specifically for Edgefest 2023.

Other highlights include Ann Arborites Tim Haldeman and Jesse Kramer paying tribute to the late Barbara Kramer, a longtime supporter of local artists and Jesse’s mother, on October 18; Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Tomeka Reid trio on October 19; the Luke Stewart Exposure Quintet, Jason Kao Hwang’s Human Rites Trio, and Alexander Hawkins/Joe McPhee/Tomeka Reid trio, and James B. Lewis/Chad Taylor duo on October 20; the Kaleigh Wilder and Ben Hall quartet with Jaribu Shahid and Ken Vandermark as well as the Tomeka Reid-led Hemphill Stringtet on October 21 honoring the music of Julius Hemphill.

Full-festival and day passes range from $60-$350 and are now available while single concert tickets go on sale in September. For tickets and festival details, visit Kerrytown Concert House’s website.

Lori Stratton is a library technician, writer for Pulp, and writer and editor of