Arriving Labor Day Weekend is Ford Arts, Beats & Eats’ biggest festival yet, featuring big-name music headliners like the B-52s, 311 and George Clinton, plus an array of new experiences and features.
The family-friendly, four-day event that highlights art, vendors, music, food and games is a longstanding tradition that takes place in downtown Royal Oak. Now in its 20th year, Arts, Beats & Eats features 75 vendors, 135 artists in a juried fine art show, 31 bars (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), more than 200 local and national musical acts, plus food options from more than 40 restaurants, caterers and food trucks. Whew.

There’s something for everyone, says festival organizer Jon Witz. “It’s definitely something to bring an open mind to,” he describes. “You’ll get fulfilled for sure.”
Here are 10 things not to miss at this year’s Arts, Beats & Eats:

1. National music headliners: The Michigan Lottery National Stage will host multiple headliners every night of the festival, including 311, Dwight Yoakam and George Clinton. Closing out things on Friday night is none other than legendary new wave group the B-52s, known for its funky and super groovy smashes like “Love Shack,” “Roam” and the (slightly) peculiar “Rock Lobster.” More than 40 years after the band’s formation, the group is said to still have it. It’s one of the festival’s biggest bookings yet.  (See the full music lineup here.)

The B-52s (Photo: Vector Management, Vector Management)

2. Local music galore: Of the approximately 200 musical acts playing across the fest’s nine stages, the vast majority are local. On Saturday night, catch the colorful Detroit pop-rock band Kaleido headlining the Ford Alternative Rock Stage. Kaleido does an amazing cover of Guns N’ Roses’ “Rocket Queen” that’s not to miss. Engaging and entertaining, the band is known for putting on a rockin’ performance. (Here are 10 more top local music acts playing the fest.)

Detroit-based rock band Kaleido performs on the Alternative Stage during the Arts, Beats & Eats festival in Royal Oak on Saturday, September 3, 2016. (Photo: John Froelich, Special to the Free Press)

3. Carnival fun: For kids – and adults – there will be 13 carnival rides (including a Ferris wheel) and six carnival games, plus a moonwalk. Go on, win yourself a stuffed Minion. You deserve it.

4. Lyft discounts: The festival has partnered with ride service Lyft for discount rides to the event. Be safe, don’t drink and drive and take advantage of this service.

5. Jan Kaulins: Jan Kaulins, a Manitou Beach-based photographer, has been displaying her work with the festival for 20 years. Kaulins is known for her coverage of Detroit sports and historical images, and, according to Witz, is always a crowd favorite.  (See work from the fest’s 135 artists here.)

The 19th annual Arts, Beats & Eats festival kicked off in downtown Royal Oak on Friday, September 2, 2016. (Photo: John Froelich, Special to the Free Press)

6. Jim Drysdale: The artist behind Detroit Shirt Company, which makes all sorts of Detroit merchandise and clothing, will have his products up for sale at the fest. Be sure to stop by his booth on Washington between Sixth and Seventh and scoop up a unique Motor City shirt or mug.

7. ABE Veggie Cafe: Located in a parking lot off of Sixth and Washington, this new addition to the festival will feature vegan and vegetarian food provided by the Nosh Pit Detroit food truck and Ferndale’s GreenSpace Cafe. While you’re there, try Nosh Pit’s Kaz Burger, a veggie burger topped with your choice of dairy or vegan cheese, granny smith apples and homemade vegan aioli. If veggie fare isn’t your thing, there will be a wide variety of offerings among the 40 restaurants, food trucks and caterers serving on the fest grounds.  (See the list of restaurants here.)

The 19th annual Arts, Beats & Eats festival kicked off in downtown Royal Oak on Friday, September 2, 2016. (Photo: John Froelich, Special to the Free Press)

8. New signature drink and bars: Scoop up America’s Lemonade, available throughout the festival grounds at every bar. It’s made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka and lemonade. For whiskey lovers, check out the Whiskey Bar put on by Traverse City Whiskey, a new festival partner this year. It’ll be located on Washington between Sixth and Seventh.

9. Culture on 4th: A new interactive exhibition produced by Garage Cultural, a southwest Detroit arts and education collective, will feature muralists and arts and crafts for kids. There will be a second location for children’s arts and crafts sponsored by Kroger (called Arts & Scraps) where kids can make projects out of recycled material.

10. Soaring Eagle Gaming: Another new addition to the festival is an interactive gaming experience provided by Soaring Eagle Casino where you can play games without gambling any money at Sixth and Center Street. But you can still win big: This free experience offers prizes such as trips to the casino.
Ashley Zlatopolsky is a Detroit-based journalist. Follow her on Twitter at

Ford Arts, Beats & Eats

11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sun., 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Mon.

Downtown Royal Oak


Fri.: Free until 5 p.m., $7 after 5 p.m.  

Sat., Sun. and Mon.: $3 before 3 p.m., $5 from 3-5 p.m., $7 after 5 p.m.

Active duty military and veterans with ID get in free

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