The Dally in the Alley you see today is much different from the Dallys of years gone by. And that’s not necessarily a slam. The event is much more organized than it once was, and the North Cass Community Union does a lot of good with the money they raise with the Dally. The food is better, and the production values are sky-high compared to the old days. And though the festival is better managed, it still doesn’t have the kind of heavy-handed corporate sponsorship that makes so many other festivals dull. (And we’re not expecting a Dodge Ram Dally in the Alley anytime soon!)
All that said, it used to be a wilder and woolier festival that grew out of an informal street party on Prentis Street in the late 1960s. As recently as 20 years ago it still had a hippie vibe, with people setting up card tables and selling eclectic wares that they put some heart into. (And, yeah, more than a few “vendors” just sold mixed drinks.) The performances were stripped-down, and there was none of the flashy stages you see today, and sometimes no amplification.
Of course, these days, the Dally is an official, licensed event, and that’s changed it quite a lot. Nowhere is that change more apparent than in some of the disappointing wares on offer. (At some recent Dallys, it’s felt like every other table was selling sunglasses, belt buckles, or Shea butter. WTF?)
But what’s changed most about the festival? It used to be a street party for the artists, radical activists, musicians, and burnouts who lived in the student ghetto. These days, it’s a party with attendees from all over metro Detroit, a sort of “open house” for “Midtown.”
Since there are so many people new to Detroit attending this festival, now may be a good time to offer a primer on how to best enjoy the Dally for the first time.
• Be careful about parking, because Detroit’s Parking Violations Bureau will be out in force. As WXYZ reported
, Royal Oak issued 1,595 parking tickets during Arts, Beats & Eats, but Detroit will also be looking to cash in on out-of-towners during the Dally for any violation, no matter how narrow. Don’t park within 15 feet of a fire hydrant, more than 12 inches away from the curb, or anywhere near a stop sign, bus stop, or crosswalk. Since parking tickets can be expensive, you might consider it worthwhile to use a paid lot, preferably near the Dally or near a post-Dally watering hole. Union Street and the Majestic have paid lots, and Hopcat has valet service.
• If you’re parking on the street, leave nothing of value in your car. It may be called Midtown, but it’s still the Cass Corridor. Leaving something tempting in your car simply invites people to smash your window, reach in, and take it. And then you may have to pay as much as $100 to repair your window because you left a $20 item that was taken from your passenger seat.
• Be aware of your surroundings. We’ve had some friends who were jumped in the past walking back to their cars. You want to keep your eyes open and be ready for any surprises. Walking alone in the hood at night, while visibly drunk, is a recipe for disaster.
• The central alley between Hancock and Forest is usually jammed with people trying to get from one side to the other. But it’s also where you’re quite likely to see that friend you know, heading the other way. If you want to catch up with your friend, please, find a place off to the side and get out of the way. It’s already hard enough to make it to the beer shed without you and your drunk buddies yakking it up right in the middle of that throng. For the same reasons, bringing baby strollers or dogs may not be a great idea.
• Speaking of the beer shed, you don’t actually need to contend with that crush of humanity to get your beer; there will be beer available on Hancock this year, over by Central Alliance Church. And, though technically not legal, some people do choose to bring along a flask or thermos of their own potations. Just sayin’.