Nadia Abdallah, 6, dipped her fishing line in a small pool and pulled out a plastic fish, a catch that earned her an inflatable mermaid doll.
Overjoyed with her prize, she was even more excited about her next stop at Ford Arts, Beats & Eats: the Ferris wheel.
“Sometimes, my mom gets really scared,” she said, smiling.
The annual festival fills 18 blocks of downtown Royal Oak this weekend with carnival rides, eclectic food, more than 150 artists and vendors, and music from more than 200 bands.
About 400,000 people are expected to attend. Witz is hoping that number will get a boost by the largely dry, not-too-hot weather forecast.
Fifty charitable and community organizations will benefit from the festival, primarily through admission gate sales. Organizers expect them to receive up to $400,000 this year, putting the total donated since the festival’s inception past the $5-million mark.
People will have the option at the gate to give $1 to the Red Cross to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. The festival runs through Monday night.
On Friday afternoon, visitors enjoyed a cool breeze and bright sunshine. The aroma of dishes such as sausage-on-a-stick, churros, jumbo turkey legs and french fries filled crowded Washington Avenue.
Tao Li, 26, and her friend Quing Wang, 30, both from Canton, shared an elephant ear, ripping pieces from the bubbled, golden-brown disc of fried dough.
“I only added a little butter on it,” Li said.
Shelly Husek, 55, appreciates the mix of higher-end and affordable art.
“I’m not always looking for a $700 picture,” she said.
Business was brisk for artist Corey Bechler, with his ceramic fish and bird creations his hottest sellers.
“People are buying them to take them to their cabins Up North,” he said.
Bechler, a school teacher, is a festival veteran. He lives in a cabin in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.
“There’s a reason I drive five hours to get here,” he said. “There’s almost half a million people, great food and great art.”
If you go
What: Ford Arts, Beats & Eats in downtown Royal Oak
When: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sun., 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Mon.
Admission: 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
More info: artsbeatseats.com
This article was written for the Detroit Free Press here.