In an effort to make the 2014 Taylor Summer Festival a fun event for all ages, the festival committee has added two youth-friendly features to the usual array of outstanding concert and fireworks entertainment. The festival is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, through Sunday, June 29.

While Elliott's Amusements will again return to handle the carnival midway along Pardee Road in front of the Sheridan Center, a "Family Fun Zone" will extend between the carnival location and the Heritage Park Petting Farm, thanks to the addition of MotorCity Moonwalks this year.

MotorCity Moonwalks plans to bring in at least 10 adventurous inflatable bouncies, which will be housed just north of the Petting Farm location. For the first time ever, the Heritage Park Petting Farm will be open (June 26, 27 and 28, but not on Sunday, June 29) to the public during the festival, which means mom and dad will have plenty of places to find some family fun while they attend the Taylor Summer Festival.

"It's important to have activities for everyone at city festivals, and the Taylor Summer Festival is no different," Mayor Rick Sollars said. "It never made sense to close the Heritage Park Petting Farm during our summer festivals -- after all, it's one of the biggest 'destination attractions' we have in this city. My wife and I have small children, so we know that they need a place to have fun during these types of events. We're happy to have MotorCity Moonwalks as a partner."

MotorCity Moonwalks will offer a daily armband pass. The price of the armband will be $10 on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Armbands will cost $15 on Saturday, which is the night of the Masco Fireworks Display. Meanwhile, just steps away from the moonwalks will be the Petting Farm. The carnival, moonwalks and Petting Farm will all be open on Thursday (4-11 p.m.), Friday (noon-11 p.m.) and Saturday (noon-11 p.m.). The Petting Farm will be closed on Sunday, June 29, but the carnival and moonwalks will remain open from 1-8 p.m. (June 29 is the fireworks' rain date, so those Sunday hours might change if weather becomes a problem.) 

Tickets for the Petting Farm are $5. Entry to the Petting Farm will be on the NORTH END only during the festival. The Petting Farm parking lot located at Northline and Pardee will be used during the festival as handicapped-access only, so families attending should park at any of the surrounding lots, which cost $5 per car.

Armbands for the carnival are $20, but various discounts are available through www.elliottsamusements.com.

This year's Taylor Summer Festival should be the best it has been in some time.

On opening day, Thursday, June 26, the carnival, moonwalks and Petting Farm will all open at 4 p.m. The beer garden, located outside the north end of the Sheridan Center, will open at 6 p.m. Everything will remain open until 11 p.m. The garden will feature a DJ and sponsor Eastown Distributors will be featuring Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy, Coors Lite, Miller Lite and various Mike's Hard Lemonade products, all for $5. ID will be required to enter the beer garden.

Friday, June 27, the carnival, moonwalks, Petting Farm and beer garden will open at noon. Gates open at 6 p.m. for the Friday night concert inside the Sheridan Center, which will feature The Rock Show at 7 p.m. and Satisfaction at 9 p.m. Tickets are just $5 for the concert, and can only be purchased at the gate. The Rock Show and Satisfaction are two of the better tribute bands in the country, with The Rock Show specializing in Journey and Satisfaction focusing on The Rolling Stones.

Saturday, June 28, promises to be the premiere day of the event.

Again, the carnival, moonwalks, Petting Farm and beer garden will open at noon. The gates to the Sheridan Center open at 5 p.m. for the festival's main concert, which will feature country recording icon Phil Vassar, Detroit up-and-coming grassroots sensation Ty Stone and folk and Americana specialist Joe Jaber and the Last Divide. Tickets for June 28's concert are $10 in advance and $15 at the gate, and are available only through www.etix.com.

A Lynchburg, VA, native, Vassar has released eight albums during a storied career that has seen him claim ASCAP Songwriter of the Year, Billboard County Songwriter of the Year, countless hits as both a singer and songwriter and a load of awards that enabled him to launch his own Rodeowave Entertainment label.

He’s hit the Top 5 seven times including memorable songs like “Carlene,”  “Last Day of My Life,” and “American Children.” He topped the charts with “In A Real Love” and everyone’s favorite, “Just Another Day in Paradise.” 

In addition, Tim McGraw’s “My Next Thirty Years,” Alan Jackson’s “She’s Right On The Money” and Jo Dee Messina’s “Bye, Bye” and “I’m Alright” were written by Vassar. New artist David Nail’s hit, “The Sound of a Million Dreams,” also penned by Vassar, was named the No. 1 song in Billboard’s Top 10 Country Songs of 2012.

Taste of Country.com said last year that Vassar’s knack for finding irresistible hooks is as sharp today as it was a decade ago and offered that his new song, “Love Is Alive,” finds Vassar returning to a familiar formula for success.

For Vassar, his philosophy about songs has never changed during his time spent writing hits for himself and other artists, it’s important for a song to carry a message and make the listener feel something. 

“Songs should evoke something, whether it makes you happy and puts you in a good mood, or makes you cry and feel desperation…you know, whether you’re going through a marriage, or a divorce, or you’re in love or you hate somebody, or whatever it is… songs should evoke something,” says Vassar. “And if it’s just having a drink with your friends in the hot tub, that’s just as good as any song for me! I mean, I’ve had hits with every kind of song – ballads, mid-tempos, up-tempos and silly kinds of songs.  You can’t save the whales with every song you write, that’s too heavy for me,” he adds, laughing. “I honestly don’t think I’ve written my best songs yet,” he added.

Joining Vassar on the Sheridan stage will be Stone – a self-proclaimed “powerhouse singer in an unprettified package” who combines the everyday with a chainsaw for a voice. A Detroit native, Stone motored onto the scene with “American Style,” his Top Dog/Atlantic Records debut, which was executive produced by his close friend, Kid Rock. Roughstock.com said that “there are few singers in the music world as gifted as Ty Stone.” The opening act Saturday night will be Detroit-area rock/folk Americana band Joe Jaber and the Last Divide, famous for his wondrous new CD “Both Sides,” a savory blend of rock, folk and Americana with a dash of folk stirred in.
Saturday will be capped off by the Masco Taylor Summer Festival Fireworks Display, which promises to be bigger and better than anything in the recent past. Sponsored by the Masco Foundation, a major sponsor in the festival, Mayor Sollars remarked that the fireworks display promises to bring you out of your seat.

"Taylor has always had the reputation of great fireworks displays," he said. "At one time, we had the reputation of having the most impressive fireworks display outside of Detroit's Fourth of July performance. Frankly, I was never convinced that Detroit's were better -- and this year's Masco display will be outstanding. I promise you that."

The Taylor Summer Festival will wind down on Sunday, June 29, with the beer garden opening at noon and the carnival and moonwalks opening at 1 p.m. Barring a fireworks rain out, the festival will close around 8 p.m. June 29.

For more information, click on the festival website www.taylorfestival.com; Facebook at Taylor Summer Festival; or the events' portion of the City of Taylor's Website, where all four dates offer detail.

The Taylor Summer Festival is presented by the City of Taylor, Meridian Entertainment Group and CBS Radio, which includes 99.5 WYCD Detroit’s Country and 104.3 WOMC Detroit’s Greatest Hits. Joining Masco as a sponsor of the Taylor Summer Festival thus far are The News-Herald Newspapers, Michigan CAT, Taylor Ford, Vibra Hospitals of Southeastern Michigan, Fritz Enterprises, Eastown Distributors, Taylor Chevrolet, McKinley Properties, Shwedel Dental, DTE Energy, MI Custom Signs, Trinity Transportation and Vicar's Trailer Sales.