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Spring Revival: Get trail schooled at this women-centered mountain bike clinic

For the longest time in Grand Rapids, when a bike event was hosted, it seemed to be a male-dominated field. Lucky for us, with the advent of many groups in our community like She Rides Her Own Way and other female-focussed biking clubs and groups, we are seeing a major cultural shift as women take to pedal power. 

On Sunday, April 15 starting at 1 p.m., the Spring Revival event debuts at Cannonsburg with a mountain bike skills clinic that is sure to help those looking to get motivated in a female-centered education event. Spring Revival is a basic mountain bike skills clinic and no drop ride held just a short drive north of the city of Grand Rapids.

This experiential, hands-on education event is presented in collaboration with Liv Cycling, Moxie Wild, and Village Bike & Fitness, and is free to attend. (You must register in advance as space is limited for this event.) 

The mountain bike clinic will focus on the cycling needs of the beginner as well as those seeking to brush up on their trail skills after our very long Michigan winter season. 

The "no drop" portion of this clinic means that no rider is left behind on the trail and has an experienced rider who stays with the group. These kinds of rides remove the fear of being alone and being stranded by oneself. Besides riding is much more fun together with a group of friends. 

And while some guys might howl that it is exclusionary, this is women/trans/femme only clinic is a wonderful addition to the many mixed gender cycling events happening all the time here in our region. 

Organizers remind folks attending that they will want to bring a working mountain bike, helmet, appropriate footwear, hydration, and a smile (if you like). You can register in advance at this link.

Treasures of Your Library: A white glove event for history buffs and Grand Rapidians

History nerds of Grand Rapids, you have waited a long time, but finally an event tailored to your desires for all things in the past is arriving in your present with the Grand Rapids Library Foundation’s Treasures of Your Library: A White Glove Event. 

Staring on Wednesday, April 18 at 5 p.m., our downtown library will open up vast pockets of their diverse collection at this very unique fundraiser for the foundation. 

This year’s theme celebrates women’s contributions to Grand Rapids past, present, and future.  Coming off of Women’s History Month, I know many are still seeking spaces and events that celebrate and center on women. 

Some of the areas highlighted are: 

- The Grand Rapids women doctors who discovered the whooping cough vaccine.
- A sneak peek at the landmark project surrounding World War I Women's Defense cards, which provide fascinating insights into personal lives of women from the early 1900’s.
- Browse Grand Rapids Chicks baseball team memorabilia from the time during World War II when GR had a national women’s baseball team. 

And like every good charity event, there are plenty of craft beers, ciders, wine, and appetizers, as well as really cool auction items like a private dance party by DJ AB, a Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island getaway package, a curated dinner with artfully selected wine pairings from Noco Provisions, and a historical framed print of Grand Rapids titled "Turn of the Century" by Nancy Clouse. 

Libraries have evolved plenty over the years, but honestly I believe the best of times is now. Please consider being a part of the White Glove Event and celebrate our women’s role in history by investing in a ticket to attend this special event to benefit our area’s Grand Rapids Library Foundation. (Image from the Grand Rapids Public Library.) 
 

Celebrating All Walks of Life Traditional Pow Wow: Native Pride celebrates 20 years

There are many reasons to attend a Pow Wow celebration of our American Indian culture, but nothing is more compelling than the chance to witness the awesome pageantry of the Grand Entry that will kick off the 20th annual Celebrating All Walks of Life Traditional Pow Wow at the Fieldhouse on GVSU Allendale Campus.

The university is expecting hundreds of people from Native American communities in the Great Lakes region, traveling as far away as the Upper Peninsula.

The famed Grand Entry performances will commence at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on April 7 and at noon on April 8 with doors opening at 11 a.m. on both days to allow you plenty of time to scout a location to watch this festive event. 

This year the co-coordinator of the very first Grand Valley pow wow in 1998, Scott Herron, will return to attend the area’s prized cultural celebration. Herron is a Grand Valley alumnus and biology professor at Ferris State University.

In addition to the presentations of Native American culture, attendees will have a chance to purchase handmade crafts, as well as samples of what the food vendors will be serving.

The event also hosts a silent auction with proceeds going towards the Grand Valley's Native American Student Association. 

This pow wow is a free, family friendly event and is sponsored by the Native American Student Association, Office of Multicultural Affairs, and Division of Inclusion and Equity at Grand Valley. 

For more information, visit There are many reasons to attend a Pow Wow celebration of our American Indian culture, but nothing is more compelling than the chance to witness the awesome pageantry of the Grand Entry that will kick off the 20th annual Celebrating All Walks of Life Traditional Pow Wow at the Fieldhouse on GVSU Allendale Campus.

The university is expecting hundreds of people from Native American communities in the Great Lakes region, traveling as far away as the Upper Peninsula.

The famed Grand Entry performances will commence at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on April 7 and at noon on April 8 with doors opening at 11 a.m. on both days to allow you plenty of time to scout a location to watch this festive event. 

This year the co-coordinator of the very first Grand Valley pow wow in 1998, Scott Herron, will return to attend the area’s prized cultural celebration. Herron is a Grand Valley alumnus and biology professor at Ferris State University.

In addition to the presentations of Native American culture, attendees will have a chance to purchase handmade crafts, as well as samples of what the food vendors will be serving.

The event also hosts a silent auction with proceeds going towards the Grand Valley's Native American Student Association. 

This pow wow is a free, family friendly event and is sponsored by the Native American Student Association, Office of Multicultural Affairs, and Division of Inclusion and Equity at Grand Valley. 

For more information, visit gvsu.edu/oma/powwow

Hamlet: Prince plots his revenge locally

We are a fortunate community for a host of reasons, but the growth of our theatrical offerings here in West Michigan just keeps getting better with each passing year. Evidence of this success can be found simply by visiting any one of the many theatrical venue's websites to see how booked their spaces are these days. 

Opening on Thursday night at the intimate Dog Story Theatre (7 Jefferson SE) is the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company’s (PCSC) production of William Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” …or as modern audiences have shortened its name to simply “Hamlet.”

The Tragedy of Hamlet, the Bard’s longest play, is the tragic story of Prince Hamlet who, upon arriving home to learn of his father’s passing, also discovers that his mother has already remarried as well. In short, not all is well in Denmark and Hamlet will set out on a journey to determine the mysterious series of events surrounding the King’s death.

What makes PCSC productions stand out from the rest is how they honor of the use of this tiny space and how their cast size translates into folks playing multiple roles. 

And while it may be confusing on paper, it is worth noting that this is often how it was handled back when Shakespeare wrote and produced these now classic works. 

The show runs until April 15 and offers evening as well as matinee times to consider attending. Tickets are $14. for adults, $8. for students and seniors. This new production from PCSC is directed by Scott Lange.
 

Going Green: Easy changes impacting our health as well as our community

Last month was the kick off of a series of greening educational events brought to our region by the nonprofit Green Michigan in partnership with the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) and Long Road Distillers. As we witnessed in March for their composting teach-in at the popular award-winning westside tasting room,  these events are very popular with area residents…and tickets often sell out. 

In honor of Earth Day (arriving April 22nd) and also celebrating April as Earth Month, Green Michigan with WMEAC returns to Long Road Distillers with an event focused on the general topic of “How to Go Green.” 

This new Sunday afternoon showcase is a hands-on event with various tips and tricks to assist one in learning to live a more intentional sustainable lifestyle. Topics will include recycling, composting, energy reduction, purchasing habits, and much more.

Green Michigan’s mission is to help people, businesses, and organizations with their sustainability goals. And while they have a comprehensive website with all sorts of environmental information relevant to West Michigan, these workshops led by Angela Fox, the education and community director at Green Michigan, are a relaxing way to learn something new while getting your local drink on. 

But don’t delay registering -- at only $5 per attendee, these greening events do sell out. To gain admission, please visit this evite

Coffee Crawl: Our region never tasted this good

It is hard to imagine a time when getting a good coffee drink was something for the elite as the level of coffee choices here used to be limited to gas stations, restaurants, or your home. That all changed in the late ‘80s locally when Sons and Daughters Bookstore and Coffeehouse opened in the heart of Cherry Hill. 

Since that time, getting a good cup of coffee has not been a problem as everyone from locals to national chains have invaded the cityscape to offer a coffee revolution with a dizzying array of options and styles for locals who will venture beyond Starbucks or that cup of Joe at Speedway. 

To celebrate this advent of so many choices comes the return of the 2018 Coffee Crawl hosted by GR Now where, for a little cash, one can be treated to a weekend of the best coffee our region has to offer. 

Each ticket to the 2nd annual Coffee Crawl includes (1) 4 oz. sample of coffee (or alternative beverage) at all coffee shops participating in this weekend’s three-day event. Attendees will also receive an electronic guide that will help them locate all of the participating coffee venues.  

The coffee shops for 2018’s event include these 16 local brands: Corridor Coffee, Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. (Westside and Downtown’s Trust Building location), Jam’n Bean Coffee Company, Lantern Coffee Bar & Lounge, Mayan Buzz Cafe, Bitter End Coffeehouse, The Sparrows Coffee & Tea & Newsstand, Bagel Beanery, Brown Butter Creperie & Cafe, Go Java Coffee, PaLatte Coffee & Art, Squibb Coffee & Wine Bar, Global Infusion, Deja Brew, and of course all three locations of the award-winning Madcap Coffee Company. 

And while it is a crawl, you are free to try and visit all 16 in one day, or purchase a weekend pass and visit all of them at a more leisurely pace. Either way, why sit at home with your Mr. Coffee when you can let someone else do the brewing this weekend. 

Proceeds raised by GRNow’s ticketed event will benefit the Heartside Gleaning Initiative.

Building The Wall: Live theatre as a window to our times

Several years ago, playwright Robert Schenkkan came across “Into That Darkness” by Gitta Sereny. While seeking to showcase a period of time when Nazi horrors ran rampant in the world, “Into That Darkness” did something remarkable: it narrowed the focus to telling the story of one ordinary man who for a brief moment, found himself possessing unlimited power.

This experience would go on to inspire Schenkkan’s newest stage work, “Building the Wall,” which is produced by Actors' Theatre of Grand Rapids and is in its final week at Dog Story Theater. This contemporary work that appears to be ripped from the headlines echoes Edmund Burke’s famous quote on unchecked power: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Schenkkan, already an award-winning Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner for works like “The Kentucky Cycle,” “All the Way,” and “Hacksaw Ridge,” transports the audience to an imagined time about 20 minutes into the future in which the Trump administration has carried out their campaign promise to round up and detain millions of immigrants. 

In this intimate, two-person dramatic work, a writer interviews the supervisor of a private prison as he awaits sentencing for carrying out federal policy that has escalated into unimaginable acts. 

“Building the Wall,” like George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” reminds us that democracies are not always a constant in this world. This ripped-from-the-headlines play is alarming, riveting, as well as enlightening and joins a long list of other literary stories of authoritarianism. 

Schenkkan, in this fresh, new work asks us to consider the warning signs of oppression and just like Sereny’s book, to apply a human face to our very inhuman acts. Don’t miss “Building the Wall” which ends on March 31. 

The Bunny Train 2018: Staycation with a stunning passage to the past

While some folks this weekend will begin jamming your social feeds with images of faraway places this spring break, you can keep them guessing by adding an off-the-beaten tracks West Michigan stop to your staycation plans this Saturday at The Bunny Train

This annual Easter-themed event starts at the Coopersville & Marne Railway, but travels quickly back in time once you step on this train engine from the diesel/electric years of the 1950s. 

On cue, the experience kicks off 20 minutes before each departure as the conductor shouts out to the station a hearty, “All aboard!” 

This 90-minute ride through time via the fields of our fertile West Michigan farmscape is the perfect holiday trip setting for you and your guests, which also includes special guests like the Easter Bunny, Quack the Duck, and Bo-Bo the Lamb.

While on this excursion, your kids will have a chance to select a toy from any one of the baskets being presented by a colorful cast of costumed characters. Your special Bunny Train experience also includes time with a story-telling princess who will be reading children’s books to attendees. 

What makes this train trip unlike others they offer in Coopersville is that these vintage train cars are decorated for Easter holiday, adding to the air of getting away if even for an hour and half. This vintage form of travel includes a chance to wander the many coaches with some as old as a 100 years.

Ticket prices are $19.75 for adults, $18.75 for Seniors 60+, and $17.75 for kids aged two to 12.

Children under two years old ride for free. Online sales are found at www.MItrain.net. Phone orders are taken Mon through Fri from 10:30 am until 4:00 pm at 616-997-7000, Ext. 3. Some tickets will be available at the ticket station on the day of departure, but if you want to be guaranteed passage on this special holiday express then don’t delay purchasing a seat on the Bunny Train. 

Transgender Day of Visibility: Trans Art Showcase and Stories of Truth, Power & Positivity

Last year during the last week of March, the city of Grand Rapids was suddenly bathed in more than 100 flags celebrating the International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), which happens each March 31.

One bold moment that stood out to me of our community’s evolving acceptance via these flags that were flown from small businesses to corporations, was the first ever community celebration of our area’s trans community at the popular eatery, the SpeakEZ Lounge.

Over the course of the event, one by one members of our trans community would step up to the microphone to share a personal narrative with the packed standing room only crowd that gathered to laugh, cry, but, most of all, support one another through the time honored gesture of being real.

This year the celebration of TDOV: Trans Art Showcase and Stories of Truth, Power & Positivity event moves to the spacious University Club in downtown Grand Rapids. 

Not only will you have a chance to meet some of the artists of our city whose work will be on display this TDOV, you will also be treated to an afternoon of inspiring stories from our transgender community.  

The event also allows folks a chance to learn in this comfortable and visually rich setting about the positive work happening in the community. This year’s special guest speaker is Rachel Crandall-Crocker, Executive Director of Transgender Michigan and founder of TDOV! 

And while this is a family inclusive event, please note that due to the theme and emotions that may be in play at times during the story-telling portion of the event, use your discretion when inviting children.
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TDOV bonus event: 

On Friday, March 30, at 3 and 6 p.m., there will be free showings of the documentary "Real Boy: A Son's Transition. A Mom's Transformation” at Celebration Cinema North with a special reception with stars Bennett Wallace and his mentor Joe Stevens immediately after each showing at the Wave Room. 

The story follows 19-year-old Bennett Wallace as he navigates sobriety, adolescence, and the evolution of his gender identity. In addition, the doc illustrates how his mother also makes her own transformation from resistance to acceptance of her trans son. Along the way, both mother and son find support in their communities, reminding us that families are not only given, but chosen.

This is a free event from Spectrum Health, in collaboration with Healthy Pride, LGBTQ Employee Resource Group, and tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Leaning into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy returns to the big screen

Opening Friday, Mar. 30 - April 11, see website for show times
It is hard to imagine that is has been 17 years since the visually-arresting art documentary film “Rivers and Tides - Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time” was released.

Since that time, Goldsworthy has grown in importance via his very ethereal and often temporal installation works. In fact, one of his arch works can be viewed locally at The Meijer Gardens

Teaming up again with “Rivers and Tides” director Thomas Riedelsheimer, Goldsworthy is once again the subject of  new documentary “Leaning into the Wind” that opens at UICA this weekend.

In this film, we see the artist out in the natural landscapes as well as gallery spaces that attempt to hold his vision, even if only for a moment. Goldsworthy as an artist is a fascinating subject for folks curious about the expansive definition of art.

And with success come many fresh opportunities to achieve a new and bolder vision of one’s life’s work. But true to Goldsworthy’s past projects, this documentary, which covers four years between 2013 and 2016, illustrates how even with all the successes in the world that the artist presently enjoys, these works are not any less risky or contingent on factors beyond our physical control. 

As with all his works, Goldsworthy raises questions about how we react to his work as well as struggle to reconcile our own desire for permanence as the artist juggles a set of variables in the pursuit of delivering a successful and often jaw-dropping, stunning work of art. 

And while you could always wait to watch this film in the comfort of your own home, this is a documentary made to be seen on the big screen and with an audience so bring a friend or two with you to Goldsworthy’s “Leaning into the Wind.”

The Big Gig: Next big discoveries live on stage

Saturday, Mar. 24, 5:45 p.m. (doors), 6:45 p.m. (concert)
Baxter  
Everyone loves a good “I remember when” story that they can pull out to showcase with friends as they reflect on a past event long gone from our present. 

Locally, our live music scene is one such arena where there are plenty of performance-based acts who may have started small, but went on to become a big deal over the course of their careers.

I am not trying to say that if you attend Triumph Music Academy’s The Big Gig, that one will see the birth of a new talent that years from now will be rocking concert halls and stadiums. But if you do, then you will understand the pure joy of exploring fresh, emerging talent in our region.

The Big Gig is Triumph Music Academy's annual celebratory all-ages stage show that is inspiring audiences each year. 

Arranged like a concert, The Big Gig features performers, bands, songwriters, and even electronic-based artists who will showcase what they have created. 

This is also a fundraiser for the area’s highest rated music school, specializing in private music lessons for all ages, live performance, artist development, and recording technology. The Big Gig helps them raise funds for new equipment, renovations, and new programs!

You can even be a part of the show’s excitement by participating in their contest to win a guitar by tagging #BigGigGR in your pictures and videos of the event. The winner will be chosen after the show.

By purchasing a Triumph Music Academy T-shirt, you are entered automatically for the raffle, which includes an acoustic/electric guitar, ukulele, a month of free music lessons, and other exciting prizes. 

Triumph is a collective of professional performing musicians who act also as instructors at this popular music school in our community. Come out and discover the next big act or musical star from your city. 

6th Annual Chilly, Blues, & Brews East

It is hard to recall if you just arrived here, but The Gilmore Collection of Michigan and Colorado humble beginnings started with the 1978 Thornapple Village Inn in Ada, MI. And since that time they have grown steadily in our community with a series of popular eateries including their downtown signature property, The B.O.B. (or Big Ol’ Building).

And while they have hosted more events than we can print, their annual Chilly, Blues, & Brews East is arriving this weekend for their sixth outing of this popular chili cook-off and hot pepper eating contest set in the heart of downtown. 

For this special event, more than 50 teams—made up of professionals and amateurs—will compete at The B.O.B. for the 2018 bragging rights of best chili at the Chilly, Blues, and Brews East, which is presented in collaboration with WLAV FM and MSU Gran Fondo. 

This is a free, family-friendly event that will include the afternoon chili cook-off and hot pepper eating contest, which includes a day of live blues and Michigan craft beer flowing into the early hours of Sunday. (The event wraps at 2 a.m.)

The runs are fairly simple: each chili entry must involve a Michigan craft beer as an ingredient. The $1000 prize and Golden Ladle Trophy will be awarded to the best professional and amateur chili aficionados who will compete for the grand prize. Last year, Team Voodoo won first place for Judge's Best Overall Chili using Bell's Best Brown.

Other teammates can also win in other food categories such as Best Vegetarian/Vegan Chili, Spiciest Chili, and Best Dressed Team.

A portion of the day’s proceeds will benefit skin cancer research via MSU Gran Fondo. 

Here is the schedule for the 2018 Chilly, Blues and Brews East:

1:00 p.m. Chili tasting (open to the public)

3:00 p.m. Hot chili pepper eating contest (Must be 18 years and older)

12:00 - 2:00 a.m. Live music at H.O.M.E., B.O.B.’s Brewery, Bobarino’s, and Eve

For more information on Chilly, Blues, and Brews East and other upcoming events at The B.O.B., visit their website

Composting 101: Sustainability series returns to Grand Rapids

As we finally say farewell to the winter of 2018 and welcome spring, we enter a period where we, if you are like me, find ourselves looking over the backyard imagining the greening plans of our upcoming growth season. 

And as anyone will tell you, having a strong fertilizer game plan will ensure your efforts blossom into something truly remarkable…and maybe even tasty. 

Green Michigan, a nonprofit in collaboration with the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, will host its first in a series of monthly workshops starting with Sunday’s Composting 101 at the award-winning Long Road Distillery.

Committed to hosting these events that promote sustainable practices in our community in a relaxing and fun environment, Green Michigan will share insights, tips, and clever hacks to get you up and running your own backyard composting operation. 

The event will cover both indoor and outdoor methods along with a variety of composting styles.

According to the Rodale Institute, composting increases overall biological activity in soils, which in turn improves nutrient cycling and boosts plant health. I cannot think of a better time to invest a couple hours in learning how to step up your composting game in your garden this year.

Green Michigan’s mission is simply to assist Michigan residents in their quest to establish and enact more sustainable efforts in their lives. Their informative and exhaustive website offers plenty of info on personal practices, area parks, places to recycle, and local farms complete with a list of CSA locations. If you cannot make the event, you can always hire them for a consult for your area business or organization at greenmichigan.org. 

Space is limited for the presentation that will begin at 2 p.m., so register in advance at the event’s website.

9th Annual Local History Roundtable: Kutsche Office shows how we are better together

It is hard to imagine that it has almost been a year since we lost Paul “Buzz” Kutsche in this world. If you never met the man, then you missed knowing one of Grand Rapids’ most colorful individuals and thoughtful anthropologists whose gift to our community continues to blossom through the work of the Grand Valley State University’s Kutsche Office of Local History.

The Kutsche Office invites locals to gather for their ninth annual Local History Roundtable held at the Allendale campus. This annual event is organized this year around the theme of ”Returning to our Roots: Explorations of Western Michigan’s Diverse Communities” and will include guest speakers, roundtable reflections with members attending, and a very special tribute to Paul Kutsche’s legacy and deep commitment to support local historians and cultural heritage organizations. 

The office seeks to illuminate  history through the sometimes unwritten or undocumented stories of our area as they pay special attention to the dynamic individuals who have called West Michigan home.

The schedule for this year’s event:

8:30 a.m.       Check in and registration

9:00 a.m.       Opening remarks/Welcome

10:00 a.m.     Morning keynote:  Ronald J. Stephens*, Purdue University
                      Entrepreneurial exchanges among African American leaders in WM

11:30 a.m.     Community Collaboration Grant Recipient: Kathryn Remlinger
                      How much Dutch? The linguistic landscape of Holland, Michigan

12:30 p.m.     Lunch

1:15 p.m.       Afternoon speaker: Andrea Riley-Mukavetz, Asst. Prof., Liberal Studies, GVSU
                     Stories for the next generation: an indigenous approach to oral history
 
2:30 p.m.       Tribute to Paul Kutsch

*Ronald J. Stephens is an authority on the African American resort community of Idlewild, Michigan. Stephens’ research focuses on African American rural and urban communities, as well as 20th century African American culture, identity, history, and political thought. He is author of “Idlewild: The Rise, Decline and Rebirth of a Unique African American Resort Town” (University of Michigan Press, 2013); “Idlewild: The Black Eden of Michigan” (Arcadia Publishing, 2001), as well as co-author of “African Americans of Denver” (Arcadia Publishing 2008). In addition to authoring books and articles, and serving as a media consultant on Idlewild and other topics in African American Studies, he is co-curator of Welcome to Idlewild, a Michigan State University Museum traveling photographic exhibition (2003-present).

No Man's Land Film Festival: All genders welcome

Fresh from its Tuesday, March 13 San Francisco debut comes the traveling No Man's Land Film Festival two days later on March 15 to Wealthy Theatre. 

No Man’s Land Film Festival is an unapologetically, all-female adventure film festival with roots in the Rocky Mountains and is committed to showcasing, as well as connecting, women in pursuit of all things radical.

No Man's Land Film Festival tweaks the lens of looking at our known history from a her-story perspective to the topics of adventure and progressive thinking in the hopes of motivating audiences around the county who will venture out to attend. 

On the big screen will be films that range from the rare to the never-before-seen shorts—all created by female filmmakers. You will not want to miss this film devoted to the women in our lives who are attempting to accomplish great things through their contributions.
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