The Monroe Street Fair will be twice as large this year, said Fair host Charlie Strackbein.
It's no boast- the Fair has doubled the size of the area enjoyed by visitors and vendors. That's big news to those festival-goers who count the Fair as an essential April event in Ann Arbor. Estimates of last year's crowd at the Fair and the associated event Hash Bash ranged from 8,000 - 15,000 people.
"Our Fair extends westward all the way to State Street," Strackbein said. There will be more portable toilets this year, he told TCC, and more than 40 vendors will support the Fair- including Michigan-based companies like the legendary smoke shops, BDT's Pipe and Tobacco; The Grow Show; and Death to Reggies apparel.
Monroe Street Fair's reputation extends internationally, as evidenced by the Tokyo band Mugen Hoso leading the musical lineup, the presence of vendors like California-based Weedmaps, Indiana's 13 Glass Company, and a trimmer manufacturer from San Diego.
The Fair features both music and talented speakers during the six-hour long event, and this year's headliner is once again the iconic marijuana culture figure Tommy Chong.
Chong, who headlined both the Hash Bash and the Monroe Street Fair last year, will pull the same feat off again in 2016. The comedian/actor/medical marijuana patient will give a brief speech during Hash Bash and later deliver a longer time on the microphone during the Fair.
As he did last year, Chong will lead the Fair's attendees in a countdown to 4:20 PM (see the video). The Fair runs from noon until 6 PM. Chong will also have a booth at the Fair where he will be doing autographs, posing for photos, signing memorabilia and selling merchandise.
Tokyo-based rock band Mugen Hoso is the lead artist on the musical side of Monroe Street. The Japanese punk rockers are "kicking off their summer tour season right here at Monroe Street," Strackbein boasted. They should take the stage approx. 3:20, and finish in time for Chong to do the countdown.
Other musicians taking the stage at MSF include Ann Arbor reggae artist King Jazzy; the Bronze Mambas, which Strackbein describes as "a lot like Led Zepplin"; fun rock 'n rollers the Kung Fu Lovers; and Ann Arbor's own Black Note Graffiti.
It's nearly impossible to talk about the Monroe Street Fair without mentioning the Hash Bash. Both events have grown together for more than a decade: this is the 15th anniversary of the MSF, and Hash Bash celebrates their 46th year in 2016.
As with Chong, some of the speakers on stage at the Diag during the Bash also speak during intermissions at Monroe Street. The events work well together, are extremely close to each other, and attendees of the Bash flood the Fair after the microphones are turned off.
"The emergence of the Monroe Street Fair as a major event has helped to launch Hash Bash into the event it has become," Strackbein said. "Every year we get more and more press coverage. We expanded this year to double the size of the Fair. That'll make it easier for people to move about and enjoy everything we have to offer."