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Caribbean Summer Jam III: Caribana style invades downtown and the dance floor

If you are walking around downtown on Saturday and wondering where all the folks adorned in bright colors and the sweetest kicks are heading, you best believe it is the parade of ready-to-dance attendees advancing to the third annual Caribbean Summer Jam

Held at 20 Monroe Live, this celebratory event has grown to become the largest annual summer party in Grand Rapids celebrating Caribbean culture through music and dance. 

And with every year there will be a little bit of something for everyone at the Caribbean Summer Jam III. 

For starters, those who enjoy dance music should prepare for a solid night of afrobeats, bachata, dancehall, reggaetón, dembow, hip hop, trap Latino provided by West Michigan Disc Jockeys DJ Sanjay, DJ Tony Banks, and PJ DA DJ.

Also appearing on stage will be these music acts: Bersachi (reggaeton), Deeclef (dancehall), Whisko (dancehall), Jamar The Prince (r&b), and Illvibethinny (r&b). 

Celebrity appearances at the event include Erica Mena of VH1’s Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta; Christian Keyes of BET’s In Contempt & Supernatural; and Geraud Sing, a Grand Rapids Native making culture pop whether as an actor, model, or industry influencer. (Author’s note: Sing’s mother is a friend and has served the disability community with me over the years at LaughFest and Disability Advocates.)

Since it is the 50th year anniversary of the Caribbean Carnival and the Jam is centered on this festive occasion, many of the guests will be decked out in the most beautiful Caribana style. 

If you are unfamiliar with Caribana style, then expect to see the most enthusiastic attendees adorned with bejeweled faces, the sickest footwear on men, and lots of feathers. The heat of downtown under summer’s warm glow will only spark the imaginative to bring their brightest A-game out on this special night.

All of this is brought to Grand Rapids through 616 Grand Productions’ SHE-E-O Angela Nelson, who invites folks to come out and experience an uplifting and celebratory occasion in our city where love and happiness can blossom through dance and music.

Purchase tickets in advance here or at the door on Saturday night.

Madcap 10th Anniversary Bash: Local coffee shop startup hits a milestone in making good for all.

Over the years, we have celebrated those large corporations that make a lot of good happen here through economic development. And the list of good is truly notable, but there are those who quietly go about their business of doing good that extends beyond our city limits. 

One firm that is making an impact on our community through the delivery of their amazing, international award-winning coffee is Madcap—a (once) tiny startup in the heart of downtown that over 10 years has grown to three local locations and loads more of vendors clamoring for their fresh-to-ship coffee beans. (Their Fulton location also sports one of the regions best murals by Pat Perry.

To celebrate their growth and advancement of coffee culture here in our region, Madcap, a coffee business that began with a friendship and a commitment to excellence, will celebrate ten years this Saturday with a special one-day bash complete with live music, activities for all ages, and of course, lots of great coffee to sample. 

Performing on this day will be acts Timbre, Lady Ace Boogie, Shamar Alef, and Tom Hymn, but your paid admission also includes a tea tasting with Peter from Song Tea, and access to Food Trucks and limited edition Madcap merchandise. 

Since Madcap is committed to the welfare of others in their supply chain, they have made equitable partnerships over the years that improve the wages of the people who supply their beans to them. As an added bonus Madcap’s partners from Guatemala (Finca de Dios), El Salvador (El Porvenir) and Peru (Rivera) will also be attending this festive coffee bash. 

Tickets are available online here for pre-sale for $15 and at the event for $20. Kids under the ages of 12 and below are free. Each paid admission includes a delicious scoop of Love's Ice Cream. 

Fun Home: Graphic Artist gets personal in this tender look at family

Growing up has a lot of benefits, but none is greater than our ability as adults to begin to see life through our parents’ eyes as we age. Over the next couple weeks, Grand Rapids’ musical theatre fans will have a chance to experience “Fun Home”, a fresh, new musical making its local debut at Circle Theatre of Grand Rapids.

“Fun Home” is the winner of five 2015 Tony Awards including Best Musical, and is a one-of-a-kind production that introduces us to its protagonist Alison at three different ages. 

Alison’s story moves seamlessly between the past and present, along the way revealing just as much about her as it does her uniquely dysfunctional family.

Adapted to the stage by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori from Alison Bechdel's 2006 graphic memoir of the same name, “Fun Home” is a delight because it warmly reminds the audience of the opportunities we have as adults to see the child we were and our parents’ secrets. And again, this moving story is conveyed through song and dance. 

“Fun Home” is directed and choreographed by Jolene Frankey with musical direction provided by Scott Patrick Bell, and stars local actors Eirann Betka (Alison), Kobe Brown (Roy), Caitlin Cusack (Helen), Madeline Jones (Medium Alison), Ethan Mathias (John), Jason Morrison (Bruce), Drake Selleck (Christian), Katie Tamayo (Joan), and Evangeline Vander Ark (Small Alison).

After the July 27 Circle Theatre performance, there will be a panel discussion and Q&A that will focus on author Alison Bechdel's contributions to art and society, as well as dialogue on “Fun Home's” central themes of family and LGBTQ.

Kid-Preneur Expo/Expo de Ninos Emprendedores: Tap into your inner creativity (and inner child)

Ever look at a child and wonder where all that energy went that used to so easily flow from your fingertips as you addressed the tasks before you? Well, lucky for us, a new event, Kid-Preneur Expo/Expo de Ninos Emprendedores, is debuting at the Downtown Market and it is aimed not just at children;  it will also provide a fitting reminder of the power of entrepreneurs’ need to creatively express their visions.

Each of the kids, who have pre-registered (registration has already closed for this first time event), will compete for an opportunity to win $200. 

Kid-Preneur Expo/Expo de Ninos Emprendedores seeks to help young entrepreneurs understand the foundational elements of customer service, marketing, selling, and other practical life skills. 

As the event page states, this event imparts concepts like the power of generating ideas, problem-solving, managing inspiration, creating space for interaction and collaboration, the power of creativity, and how to take the initiative. 

Kids participating will have a chance to display for the public their ideas via the drawings, posters, and actual products that they have produced. 

The kids will even have the opportunity to sell their products to the public who will vote for their favorite business idea. And while the organizers will select first, second, and third place, the public will have a chance to submit their favorite choices, too. 

Participating at this first time event is Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), who in advance of this special event, will be conducting mini sessions with those competing.  But unlike adult programming, this one will be in a kid friendly environment and with a vocabulary that is easy to grasp.

Please note: The organizers of this event (Latinas Emprendedoras GR, Start Garden, GROW, and The Downtown Market) insist that if you are a parent or legal guardian attending with your child, you must be present with your kid(s) at all time.

Disability Advocates ADA Celebration: 28 years of creating access for others

The story of the battle to win the 1990 American Disabilities Act (ADA) is one that if you have never taken the time to read, is well worth the research into this topic. For the winning of the ADA is the story not of one, but of the many who engaged all across the nation in acts of boldness that revealed the very real disparities people with disabilities face every day.

The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

Disability Advocates of Kent County once again will join area agency partners in a community celebration of this historic act that opened not just doors, but new pathways for our disability community. 

This year’s 28th ADA Celebration is once again free and will be held at the Kent District Library’s Kentwood branch. This commemoration will feature live entertainment, delicious food, and a visual art activity led by Artists Creating Together (ACT). 

This event is also a chance for members of the disability community to discover those community partners who will be on hand to answer any questions about their services and the benefits out there for individuals with disabilities.

Since they will be ordering food for this event, please take a moment to pre-register for this free event at this website.

Eat Shop Rock: Uptown invites you back for some summer fun

While some may be jetting off to the beach this weekend in the hopes that maybe Lake Michigan will be warm enough to dive in above the knee, others know that this Saturday, there is a reason to stay close to home as the Fourth Annual Eat Shop Rock rolls back into the city’s Uptown district.

Uptown, a popular region of Grand Rapids, is actually made up of four distinct business districts (East Fulton, East Hills, Eastown, Wealthy Street)  running through the eastern portion of the city. 

This vibrant center is bustling with activity on almost any given day. However on Saturday, Eat Shop Rock will be ramped up the reason to visit with area businesses offering one-day specials. The organizers also will fill the day’s opportunities with plenty of live music, access to delicious food trucks, and even offer beer tents throughout many of the districts.

For a complete list of all the opportunities that await, as well as which stores are participating and their hours, please visit Uptown’s website.

Black Girl Magic: Volume 2 looks to recapture the spark

In January 2016, Julee Wilson wrote of Black Girl Magic (a creation of CaShawn Thompson in 2013) as a way for people to ”celebrate the beauty, power and resilience of black women.” 

And starting Saturday afternoon, you will have a chance to participate in this act of celebration within the North end’s Creston Brewery as they welcome back Black Girl Magic Vol. 2.

Like the last one, organizers Bri Ross’ and Kyd Kane’s Black Girl Magic Vol. 2 will follow the same format as the first with a showcase of black women entrepreneurs and artists market segueing into an evening celebration event. 

The first one was so popular a few months ago that Ross and Kane decided to launch it again with Spoken Word Poetry by Creston Vibes: Open Sessions hosted by the organizers (both poets)  throughout the event. 

When I stopped by the brewery earlier this week, Ross was really excited about the special of the day, which will be Creston’s tasty fried chicken with plenty of delicious sides— a perfect treat on a summer’s day. 

Later that night, folks are invited to a celebration of Black Girl Magic as they welcome yolonda Yogi lavender to the stage with a real hot dance party mixed by the one and only DJ Sun*Rise. (Here is a video from yolonda Yogi lavender to get you excited about Saturday's celebration.)

Hollyhock Lane Parade: More than 80 years of patriotic joy

Wednesday, July 4, 8:00 a.m. (line up), 8:30 a.m. (parade commences)
For those who rise early on July 4th and head to the intersection of the Calvin Ave. and Franklin Street, there will be a real historical treat that is sure to melt the most cynical of hearts as the annual The Hollyhock Lane Parade arrives back at this southeast neighborhood.

This parade, popular with every politician in our state seeking a vote from the folks in this region, has been happening on these quaint neighborhood streets for more than 80 years. 

The parade winds from the streets of Calvin through the neighborhood before landing at Giddings’ alley where spectators seeking to add to this truly Americana experience can attend an old style political stump rally focussed on the power of democracy. They even have an Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty who join the festivities each year.  

So grab your lawn chair and head to the curb or find a candidate or cause that is marching and join them in the streets for some real patriotic fun this Fourth of July.

If you have just moved to Grand Rapids or are looking to make a great impression with those who are, invite them to the Hollyhock Parade. You'll thank us later. Happy Fourth of July!

100 Ideas Demo Day at 20 Monroe Live: Start Gardenís first 100 lands back in downtown for the top 10

Start Garden’s 100 Ideas began as a call out to the community to submit their best new ideas in the most unlikely of pitch rooms as folks flocked to bars, community centers, and entrepreneurial support organizations. Almost immediately, this movement to change the way we think of entrepreneurial activity was adopted by so many looking to pitch their idea. 

On July 10, 100 Ideas enters its exciting conclusion as this entrepreneur competition in Michigan will narrow the 100 ideas chosen to compete down to the final 10 who will receive another $20,000 to keep their idea moving forward.

All told Start Garden reports that 28 tech companies, 27 physical products, 18 new service providers, 15 food entrepreneurs, seven social impact initiatives, five retail concepts from every neighborhood in West Michigan, and representative of every corner of our state will be in a battle to win a coveted Top 10 slot.  

What made this project unique from others typically held in other communities is just how diverse our top 100 winners are, with 44 percent women, 56 percent men, 47 percent caucasian, 53 percent minorities represented in this group.

Starting at 4:00 p.m. (until 7:15 p.m.), attendees will have a chance to tour the 100 Ideas by watching folks demo their submissions. Immediately after, the awards will commence with ten of our lucky contestants walking away with another $20,000 to make their dreams a real opportunity. 

And don’t worry if you missed the contest earlier this year. It was so successful that it will be back. 

If you would like to attend this free event, please RSVP via this link

Summer SOULstice Gemini/Cancer Party: Starshine time as season kicks off

By the time Friday night rolls back around in the summer months, the city can seem like it is a ghost town as folks head to the big (or smaller) lake(s). 

Lucky for us, on Thursday night there is a Summer SOULstice party brought to us by Grand Rapids Hip Hop Coalition, Totem Soul, The Love Movement Inc. at The BOB.

This soul themed, dressed-to-impress event is emceed by Love Movement’s Governor Slugwell with special guest artist 97.3 FM’s DJ Rush the Guillotine spinning on the 1s and 2s all night.

Did we mention that this solstice-focussed event is also a celebration of the star signs of Gemini and Cancer

The solstice is the longest day of the year, so show up while the sun shines high in the air to celebrate this official kick off of summer at the Summer SOULstice Gemini/Cancer Party.

Tickets can be purchased in advance with ladies garnering the biggest offer with free admission if they enter the club before 9 p.m. on Thursday. 

Best of Creston Street Fair and Festival: Summer is the best time to venture North

For many neighborhoods of Grand Rapids like those of downtown and Eastown, street festivals are a huge part of the summer fun in the city. But some neighborhoods have not enjoyed the decades-long run of such activities. 

One such district that is stepping out more and more with an amazing array of events is Creston, which will once again host their Best of Creston Street Fair and Festival

This newish annual event gives attendees a chance to meet the many local business owners and artisans who hail from this part of the city at this special four-hour street party. 

Held on Plainfield Avenue between Spencer and Lafayette, the event will host street vendors, a kids game area, live music, a beer tent, and even a mini-antique car show. (After all, the North Quarter, which has hosted car shows for years until recently, really loves classic cars.) 

Scheduled to perform this year at the festival’s two stages are Sailing Weather, The Fabulous Vans, The Strain, and the Four Lincolns. 

If four hours of street partying is not enough, then head on Saturday to Eastown for the return of Bizarre Bazaar! This annual neighborhood association-led festival is held on Wealthy Street on Saturday, June 23 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Grand Rapids Water Festival: Music and the environment get a moment in the park

There are two things that go hand in hand with summer: music and water. And lucky for you, a fix for both is available in one spot this Saturday as Riverside Park welcomes the return of the annual Grand Rapids Water Festival.

Presented by the Grand River Watershed Arts and Music Council, the Grand River Water Festival is a one-day music event where local and regional music talent share the stage with inspiring environmental speakers.

This day long, free event features local vendors as well as nonprofit organizations who are committed to environmental services and will be providing engagement opportunities for attendees. They will have a story tent again this year where folks can record their reflections about water and its meaning in their lives.

The Grand River Water Festival kicks off with a Native American blessing and runs with an alternating schedule of speakers and musicians on stage until 9 p.m. 

The festival uses performers to lure in folks to attend and, between acts, guest speakers share inspiring information and insights on environmental issues as they relates to water quality, its importance, and preservation. 

Scheduled to perform this year at the 2018 Grand River Water Festival will be Evolucion, Hawks & Owls string band, Fauxgrass, Dede and the Dreamers, Seth Bernard, Molly, Yolanda Lavender, Peter “Madcat” Ruth, and Aspen Jacobsen.

Family Frolic at The Zoo: Seeking to end homelessness, one area agency gets creative

Thanks to the generous support of Eastbrook Homes, on Sunday night you will have a chance to take the kids (ages 16 and under) to the zoo for free at the Family Frolic at the Zoo.

This very special, first time event benefits our local Family Promise of Grand Rapids. It is also unique because at most fundraisers, parents often have to leave the kids at home. 

This is not the case at the Family Frolic at the Zoo; this event allows parents wanting to be a part of the homelessness solution in our city to enjoy a night out with the kids in tow at our local John Ball Zoo (and during a time when the zoo is typically closed).

The night will include raffles, game prizes, a scavenger hunt, as well as lots of animals. The night’s festivities are hosted by WOOD TV8’s Emily Linnert. 

To entice folks to come out to support this brand new event, Family Promise of Grand Rapids, in addition to offering free admission for the kiddies, has secured a generous match for the first $20,000 raised on this night. 

So bring the whole clan out to the Family Frolic at the Zoo this Sunday, June 24 from 6:30 - 9:00 p.m. for a chance to have some fun while doing the most good. 

Loving Day Celebrations: A community picnic, dance, and stage play

The Ebony Road Players are once again producing a series of events to commemorate Loving Day with a Saturday community family picnic/dance and then on Sunday at Wealthy Theatre the play "Neither There, Nor Here." 

This annual observation is held to commemorate the victorious Loving vs. Virginia Supreme Court case of 1967 in which the Supreme Court of the United States struck down state laws that sought to ban interracial marriages.  

At Rosa Parks Circle on Saturday, attendees of the Loving Day Community Family Picnic and Dance will enjoy food merchants, local vendors, and musical acts to encourage folks to mix and mingle at this celebratory event. The organizers even invite you to dance as a community to the music provided throughout the early evening. 

At this family-friendly affair, you will have a chance to participate in a dance lesson, hula-hooping, sidewalk chalk drawing, and even temporary hand-painted designs for your face.

On Sunday “Neither There, Nor Here”—an original, multimedia, interdisciplinary memory play-meets-cooking show—will take to the Wealthy Theatre stage. 

The play focuses on the experience of people with liminal identities of race, gender, culture, and sexuality who live between so-called traditional binaries in order to create their own cultures that move beyond more typical either/or identities—all through the lens of a live televised cooking show. 

As the performers tell their stories, family photos will be projected onto the set, allowing each story to spill into other more theatrical modes, from table-top theater, to strange dances, to a pop song sing-along. This is sure to be a lively, fun, and insightful night of theatre.

Grand Rapids Pride: 30 years of celebrating our city's LGBTQ

Every year and traditionally during the month of June, cities all over the world celebrate their community’s LGBTQ citizens. Grand Rapids is no different and on Saturday, our local Grand Rapids Pride will celebrate 30 years of providing space for our LGBTQ to celebrate their accomplishments but also reflect on the road ahead. 

Pride began as the Christopher Street Liberation Day on June 28, 1970 and was created to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots in 1969. 

At our local Grand Rapids Pride, you will have a chance to meet area organizations and businesses seeking to connect with attendees, as well as a lively stage program from our area drag queens, big entertainment acts like En Vogue, David Hernandez, Betty Who, and of course, lots of icy, cold beverages to quench your thirst on this traditionally hot June day.

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