This morning we attended the 2019 YpsiFest. Previously, YpsiFest was called the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival. With busy schedules, it has been about 5 years since we attended.
YpsiFest is held annually in Ypsilanti’s Riverside Park. It brings together local community organizations, arts and crafts, music, and fun family activities.
YpsiFest Pancake Breakfast
The Rotary Club of the City of Ypsilanti holds a pancake breakfast each year. This was our first time attending, but we had seen the tent at the corner of Huron and Cross St in past years. This year’s breakfast was held in the Community Tent inside the park.
Breakfast was $7/adults and $5/children (age 10 & under). This included your pancakes, sausage, beverage, and pancake topping bar. They started us with 3 pancakes each fresh off the griddle. Rotary Club volunteers walked around delivering additional pancakes as you wanted. We each got a refill – and were offered more.
The highlight of the breakfast was the topping bar. In addition to syrup, they had chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and unicorn (vanilla) chips. There was also cherry or apple topping and whipped cream. I really liked adding chocolate chips between two hot pancakes and they melted nicely. I was not a fan of the apple topping. The sauce was too thick and sweet for me.
The available beverages were orange juice, milk, water, and Biggby coffee. The orange juice servings were pretty small – just 4 oz cartons.
I was surprised how sparsely attended the pancake breakfast was. Of course, it received little publicity. It was not mentioned at all on the YpsiFest website or Facebook page. We only knew about it because our neighbors had attended in the past and then saw a sign this year. Then, we were able to find it on the Rotary Club’s Facebook page.
I’d also like to see the pancake breakfast be more environmentally friendly. They could use compostable plates/utensils or encourage people to bring their own from home.
Kids Activities at YpsiFest
The Kids Tent used to be the highlight of the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival. There was always a section of pre-school climbers (like the Little Tykes playgrounds or slides), playhouses, and ride-on toys available. The tent would have kids entertainment and crafts. None of that was available this year.
Riverside park has a new playground, so there is no need for them to bring in other play items.
The YpsiFest website says that the Kids Area included bounce houses, pony rides, crafts, and games. I did not see pony rides, although we were there fairly early on Sunday. Maybe they arrived later in the day.
Many of the activities were provided by different groups. The National Guard has an inflatable obstacle course. The U.S. Army had a tractor trailer with Virtual Reality experiences. There was a fire safety house. The Ypsi Police and Fire departments were there, but we did not walk up to their vehicles.
My daughter and her friend raced through the National Guard obstacle course. He came out ahead. She seemed to take a really long time – mostly because her phone fell out of her pocket and she had to stop and look for it.
Activities offered by US Army
The activities inside the Army’s truck were a big hit. Before entry, they do ask you to fill out an electronic form that includes contact information. My husband filled out the form, so I’m not sure exactly what it asked beyond email, age, and phone number. I have since received an email, but I just unsubscribed from the mailing list.
My daughter loved Virtual Reality Parachuting. Kids do need to be tall enough to reach the handles, so this is not an option for younger kids. For reference, my daughter is 5’5″ and can easily reach the handles
There was also a VR drone game, a VR roller coaster, and a humvee driving experience. Our teens tried everything except the humvee which they didn’t see until we were walking out the door.
The surprise hit (even among two 13 year olds) was the sand table. It went beyond a typical sand table. A virtual topographic map was overlaid on the table and updated in real time as you moved the sand around. The kids were trying to get a 1000 foot deep ravine, but the sand kept falling back in. They gave up at 991′.
Just outside of the truck, they had two cornhole games setup.
Ring of Steel
Ann Arbor’s Ring of Steel was a big attraction. First, we stopped at their table to explore all of their replica weapons and armor. My husband and the two teens spent at least 30 minutes at the table. Staff was on hand to explain all about the different weapons and armor.
Just beyond the table, was their stage. I wandered over to see some of their “Circus” show featuring aerial silks, fan dancing, and more.
Ring of Steel also had an interactive section where you could test out some of their equipment. They had the option to try throwing stars or knives or to try archery. My daughter is experienced at archery, so she decided to try the throwing stars & knives first. She hit the fence each time, but did not get any to stick in the wood.
They were not crowded, so she joined our neighbor on the archery course next. She is used to a compound bow instead of the single bow that they were demonstrating. She said it was a little harder than her usual bow.
YpsiFest is a free outdoor festival in Ypsilanti’s Riverside Park. Aside from the breakfast, everything we did was free. I would bring cash if you want to shop from the art vendors or purchase food. There was a BBQ competition with competitors selling their dishes, Kona Ice, Lemonade, and more. Since we had breakfast, we did not eat any other foods.
We parked in the public lot south of Michigan Avenue between Washington and Huron St. Parking was free there. From there, we walked to Michigan Avenue and you can enter either by the stairs or by the bridge further down Michigan Avenue. After using both, I recommend the bridge. We also considered parking in the lot across from the Ypsi Alehouse by the bus station. Parking in Depot Town is another option. I know in past years that some lots in the Depot Town charge for parking as fundraisers for various groups.
We had a good time this morning at YpsiFest. Sunday morning was a perfect time to attend because it was not crowded. We will definitely be back next year.
Information on YpsiFest was severely lacking this year. Their website had no schedule of activities. This year there was a BBQ Competition which was listed on both the website and Facebook. However, no where online did it list the competitors. Even the pancake breakfast was not on the YpsiFest website or Facebook.
I hope they improve the available information to increase attendance.