The Ann Arbor Blues Festival is a blues and jazz music festival that takes place in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is a groundbreaking event that shaped the genre of Blues music as it exists today. The first-ever festival was held in August 1969, making it the oldest electric blues festival in North America.
It was started by a group of students from the University of Michigan who wanted to introduce the music of visionary African American blues musicians to the masses. It was initially called the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, and its name was changed to the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival in 1972.
The event was held on and off in the following decades but was brought back with a bang in 2017. Blues music legends like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Big Mama Thornton, Buddy Guy, Rick Derringer, Count Basie, Miles Davis, and Ray Charles have been a part of the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in the past.
The Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019. Its rich and vibrant history and impact on the musical genre have established its reputation as the premier blues music festival in the country.
Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival tickets can be purchased on the website. Visitors can choose between General Admission and VIP passes. There are one-day, two-day, and three-day tickets available. They have ranged in price from $40 (Advance Single-Day Pass) to $135 (Day of Show Three-Day Pass) in recent years.
A limited number of VIP passes are also available, which will give you access to benefits like separate parking areas and entrances, reserved seating, and complimentary food and drinks. Children aged 12 and under might enter the festival for free if they are accompanied by a ticket-holding adult.
The drive from Detroit to Ann Arbor may take you less than an hour. The festival takes place at the Washtenaw Farm Council Fairgrounds on Ann Arbor-Saline Road. I-94 or US Route 23 might bring you to this area of Eastern Michigan. Before deciding on your route, check if any road alerts have been issued in Washtenaw County by taking a look at the event’s social media pages.
Paid parking for cars and RVs will be available at the venue on a first-come, first-serve basis. Make sure you get there early to beat the crowds and secure your spot. VIP pass holders will have access to an exclusive VIP car parking area close to the festival action in Ann Arbor.
The most cost-effective way to get to the venue from your campsite might be by bus. Buses operated by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority frequently run in the area. The nearest bus stop is about three miles away from the venue. If you’d rather not do much walking, you can take a taxi to the venue or use a hailing ride service.
Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival does not offer onsite camping options. However, the venue, Washtenaw Farm Council Fairgrounds, has a number of campsites that can accommodate large RVs. These come with water and electrical hookups. If you’d like to book one of them, you can contact the venue manager through the website.
You’ll find several options with varying facilities within a 20-mile radius. Bishop Lake Campgrounds at Brighton State Recreation Area is about 30 miles away. The sites are well-maintained and have waterfront access. Another option is Hayes State Park, which is a 30-minute drive from the venue. The sites come with electrical hookups.
You’ll need to get around the venue on foot. The use of ATVs, golf carts, scooters, bicycles, skateboards, and other vehicles will not be allowed. Most parts of the venue are ADA accessible, and there are plenty of pathways throughout the grounds. Patrons with disabilities can get around using wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
The setting and atmosphere of the event are usually relaxed in nature. So, you’re not likely to see fellow festival-goers in elaborate costumes or dramatic outfits. Keep your attire casual, comfortable, and warm-weather appropriate. Layers are a good idea to stay protected against the nighttime chill near the waters of Lake Erie.
Pack a small bag with your daily essentials. If you have a General Admission pass, it’s a good idea to carry a blanket or a low-backed lawn chair with you since seating will not be provided. Small personal umbrellas will also be allowed into the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, so take one to shield yourself from the rain or sun.
Carry a portable charger with you to keep your cell phone charged. If you’re traveling with kids, have them memorize your phone number or give them a piece of paper with your contact information. Alcoholic beverages can only be consumed in designated areas by patrons above the age of 21. Pets, with the exception of service animals, will not be allowed.
Many campsites in the area allow fires unless there is a burn ban in effect. Keep them contained in a metal or stone ring. You may find a small store less than three miles away from the festival venue, but more extensive grocery stores may be easiest to find closer to the heart of Ann Arbor or along your route to the area.
No matter what you’re in the mood for or your budget, you’ll find something in Ann Arbor to tickle your tastebuds. It is an exciting destination for food lovers, thanks to its vibrant culinary scene. The community is also home to some excellent bars, pubs, and lounges where you can grab a drink after a long day at the festival.
There will be food booths set up throughout the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, and vendors may also move their carts around selling tasty snacks and drinks. Patrons with dietary restrictions or preferences won’t need to venture out of the festival grounds to find something to eat. There is usually plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free food available.
Bags will be checked before entry, and random searches may be conducted at any time while you’re on the festival grounds. Security personnel will be happy to assist you if you need support. The venue will be crowded. Avoid carrying any valuables with you and keep an eye on your belongings at all times.
Michigan weather is typically sunny during the day, and the performances take place outdoors. While rain is unlikely, it’s best to go prepared. Carry a small umbrella or a rain poncho with you. Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival also uses several tents where you can take cover. If the weather turns severe, some of the concerts may be postponed.
Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival posts a first aid station at the venue. If you require medical assistance, flag down one of the festival staff, and they will point you in the right direction. Medications that you need to take in with you will need to be presented at the front gate along with a prescription.