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LocalMotion Awards: Locals wanted/celebrated

The new year is a time of creating fresh pathways, of integrating ways of working, and for placing a will to resolve that which might have troubled us in the past. This time of the year is a time to also celebrate what we already have, as evidenced by this year’s LocalMotion Awards from Local First

Our LocalMotion Awards is a chance for our city’s residents and businesses to celebrate those organizations within our community who are taking bold steps as they seek to improve our region through the intelligent leveraging of our local supply chains, the establishment of sustainable practices, and enacting smart neighborhood revitalization efforts, and dedication to the power of the triple bottom line that Local First imparts here. The triple bottom line refers to companies’ emphasis on the social, environmental and financial bottom lines.

The event also follows Local First’s mission with a strolling dinner provided by members of the organization and is a chance to network with others looking to celebrate and learn more about this exciting movement that has brought so much positive change to the region. 

Before and after the awards ceremony, guests can also enjoy the music of Desmond Jones and a live art painting demonstration by artists from Picardo Art, Sanctuary Folk Art and The Collective Artspace.

This is a fundraiser for Local First, and the perks of attending are incredible -- but the real pinnacle is that you get to meet so many folks who are committed to making their contribution to Grand Rapids extend beyond just padding their bottom line. These are the people and businesses who are truly changing so much of our region for the better through their example. And that, my friends, makes all of them local heroes.

So, why not join this tribe who are sure to inspire each and every attendee?

Admission: $40 - 50; see event details and purchase tickets here.

New Urbanism Film Festival: Short films to spark community dialogue

A few things happen locally now when you remark in a conversation that you would like to attend a “new urbanism” event. Either folks look at you with a vacant, “I-don’t-know-what-you-are-saying” blank stare, roll their eyes large, or get so excited they nearly spill their craft beer on your artisan cheese board. 

But you’d be wrong to roll your eyes or look confused when you consider how incredibly cool it is that the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) is bringing to Grand Rapids a program of short films from the New Urbanism Film Festival (NUFF), held in Los Angeles each year since 2013. 

The NUFF L.A.-based event is known for its immersive experiences created around the topic of new urbanism, like walking tours, bike rides, art strolls, and foodie stops, but also for the thought-provoking films that it screens.

Keeping in line with the festival’s vision that dialogue on new urbanism topics needs to be happening outside of places like the classroom, developers’ offices, or city hall, the New Urbanism Film Festival has been taking the best of the festival on the road to communities around the nation in the hopes of sparking local dialogue around the issue.

New Urbanism’s short films program will continue the festival’s mission to present emerging themes like the merits of creating walkable neighborhoods with tree-lined streets, as well as looking into topics like mixed housing neighborhoods, parks and green spaces, and how architecture and good design play into what works…and what may not.

This night’s diverse program will address in this bite-sized format a host of topics that only a short film can deliver with insights on density, design, walkability, urban cycling, displacement, public art, and even parking. 

This ICCF event is co-sponsored by the Michigan chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism.

Admission: $3

Sibeliusí Symphony No. 5: Grand Rapids Symphony to perform 20th century masterpieces

On the first of the year, everyone sets the bar quite high for creating new pathways via those pesky resolutions we all set for ourselves. But they don’t have to be seen as a chore. 

In fact, I would guess that if you have been wanting to add a bit of a cultural kick up to your New Year, why not select the thrilling and perfectly timed Grand Rapids Symphony’s (GRS) concert this weekend?

Your local GRS welcomes to the podium the youthful Teddy Abrams, the music director of The Louisville Orchestra who will conduct an eclectic and, in many ways, a contemporary  program of 20th century masterpieces that originate in three different countries but ring familiar to our modern times. 

This weekend’s program is filled with powerful music created during a time period in our world when the upheaval of societal systems were drastically shifting, the world was warring with one another, and the arts were attempting to connect with their audiences as music composers sought to produce new works under hostile  governments. (Dare I say that our world history is often a document of repeating cycles.) 

The night’s clear stand out is Jean Sibelius’ “Symphony No. 2” -- a powerful and (still) very modern piece that will put any orchestra through a thrilling ride of an ambitious score. Sibelius is so beloved as an artist that in his homeland they have a national holiday named in his honor. The closest the U.S. has got to this is Easter, when a few folks quietly celebrate the creator of the Peeps. 

Also performed this evening is Sergei Prokofiev’s “Violin Concerto No. 1,” which was created right before the turbulent years of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Rounding out the program, Abrams brings it back to our American soil with Samuel Barber’s “Medea’s Meditation” and “Dance of Vengeance” and Aaron Copland’s music used in the iconic Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.”

A word of caution: when you get to the end of the thrilling Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5, be sure to count the final six chords signaling the end. This ending has tricked many a concert-goer over the years who have been known to clap prematurely thinking it is over after the first of the final chords has been struck.

Admission: Tickets start at $18; students with a valid ID $5.

Rap for a Stack (The Short Stack Edition): Next gen hip hop voices live on stage

Everyone likes a good competition, and on Friday night fans of rap music are in luck as the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grille -- a unique and gem of a watering hole on the west side of the city - will host the Rap for a Stack contest.

A stack is a pile of cash, and, in this case, a $500 short stack for which area rappers, who have pre-signed up in advance of the event, will battle the night away in this High Rise United & Screaming Needle Tattoo & Body Piercing Studios joint production.

Hosted by local entrepreneur and MC performer Ajax Stacks, Friday’s Rap For A Stack has been created as a way to expose emerging artists to our music scene while also building up our local hip hop community.

The competition is three rounds and will only involve eight MC/groups in a single elimination format. What makes this event a thrill to behold is that Rap for a Stack will see performers bringing their A-game in this winner-take-all thrilling format set in one of my favorite venues in the city.  Arrive early and enjoy a bite to eat from the bar’s kitchen. 


Admission: $10 in advance, $12 at the door

Common Ground: Race & the American Dream panelists reflect on MLK

This year Grand Valley State University is hosting a series of events commemorating the life and legacy of civil rights champion Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK).

Over the decades since King’s assassination, Americans have been engaging around the topic of race at the national and community levels.

As we look at his life and meaning of his message, it is clear that even after all the dialogue we still in our very fractured nation have a lot of work to do around the topic of racial inequality. 

However, while this issue may be polarizing to some, it is a conversation that we need to have as we seek to repair our past and move forward together as a people into the future. In my opinion, we need to embrace these commemoration events as they bring us into a dialogue on MLK’s mission for humankind.  

GVSU’s Hauenstein Center in partnership with the college’s Division of Inclusion and Equity are hosting a special MLK public event on race and the American Dream at the Eberhard Center. 

Jason Riley, columnist and editorial board member at The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times Magazine’s award-winning staff writer Nikole Hannah-Jones will be a part of panel examining the progress made during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as looking at our present day and future as we seek to build a more equitable (and fair) society.

Given the level of public discord on this topic even after MLK’s death, it is critically vital that we listen to history as we move forward to ensure we do not repeat the mistakes of our past. 

Admission: Free

Mustard Plug: 25th anniversary & annual holiday show

It is really hard to imagine that Mustard Plug is 25 years old. But this locally formed ska band that took the world by storm in 1991 is still performing strong after all these years. 

Of course, the city was different then, as I recall one or two shows in unsanctioned venues because we simply did not have a lot of options in those days for that style of music.

Fast forward to the present and after many years of performing on the road, Mustard Plug has,for as long as I can remember, played a special holiday show for us locals.

What makes this one stand out is that while their fans have gotten older, these former kids of the 90s are now the parents of the new millennium and will be bringing their children to this all ages show so that they too can enjoy the joys of ska music in a big open venue where wild dancing is encouraged. 

Bandmate Jim Hofer says, "We may have some messages in our music, but essentially we just do this because we love it and we want people to lighten up and have fun."

So, grab the kids and come out for this festive and always fun night devoted to a band whose legacy in music is truly unmatched locally.

This all ages show will also feature bands Koffin Kats, PotatoeBabies, I Believe in Julio, and All Night Tigers.

Admission:  $10 in advance, $12. day of show. 

The Roast of Monica Parker: One of Grand Rapids' best deejays gets hers

The city may have fewer and fewer dance clubs, but the amount of deejays is not declining anytime soon. 

In fact, one local is about to get her moment in the spotlight as she becomes the subject of a roast held at Rumors Nightclub in the heart of the Avenue for the Arts on Division Avenue.

DJ Monica Parker is no stranger to the dance scene of our city, as she has played for many years as the house DJ at Rumors and also has popped up at events like the annual LoveWins at the Rainbow Bridge party in June.

On Tuesday night, DJ Monica Parker will take over the hot seat that Batty Davis inhabited last year as Rumors’ first person to be honored at this now annual roast.

This year’s roast will be hosted by the witty and towering Jasinya Sanchez and will feature a cast of Grand Rapids’ most bad assed drag kings and queens, including Batty Davis, Anna Mossity, Tequila Sanchez, Evelyn Forest, Reba Rose Rau, and Harold Sanchez.

Fans of roasts will no doubt enjoy this one because, just like “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” you never know what is going to pop out of these roasters’ mouths -- so it is best to be there to see it revealed live than hear about it later. There’s never buyer’s remorse when considering a roast ran by some of the best drag queens and kings of our city. 

Holiday Hoedown with Delilah DeWylde & the Bootstrap Boys

There is nothing like a little honky-tonk country, the raw sexuality of rockabilly, and the warmth-inducing surf music to chase your winter blues away on the Friday before Christmas.

And, luckily for you, on Grand Rapids’ westside is a tiny little bar that is committed to showcasing the best sounds of this style of music.

Taking a break from their more straightforward performances, Delilah DeWylde and the Bootstrap Boys invite the public to join them for a Holiday Hoedown at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill. 

The Bootstrap Boys, made up of Big Jake, Nicky, Clyde, and Jake Bootstrap, are a four-piece country outfit whose brand of country-fried original music is performed neatly situated next to some of the greatest covers of all time, from outlaw to old-time cowboy to even pop all being on deck -- including a few holiday gems at this lively and very alt-Christmas event.  

Also appearing on stage is the always energetic Delilah DeWylde, whose concerts defy convention, as this duo made up of DeWylde on the big ol’ bass and Lee Harvey on the electric bass delivers their take on the best of American roots music. 

This brand of music is not only famous for its devotion to a life in song told via the hard-partying honky tonk country with a hefty portion of hillbilly twang and gutbucket blues, but it’s so smoking intense that Delilah has to mount the bass to hit all the right notes in a style of performing that is her own. 

Yes, you have a lot of choices in the city, but if you are seeking that little watering hole on the edge of a neighborhood where you can loose yourself for a few hours, then get to Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grille Friday.
 
Admission: $5

Throwback New Year's Eve: Party like it is Y2K!

I will admit that one of the joys of New Year’s Eve is, after so many of them, they begin to all blend into two categories: those we like; those we don’t.

Looking at the spectrum of offerings in our city, it was easy to land at SpeakEZ’s celebration for a host of reasons.

One, SpeakEZ’s past events have always delivered on the best of our local talent in an intimate setting where happy memories are recorded often. Need proof? If you were at the Adele tribute concert with vocalist Noddea Moore Skidmore then you know what I mean. This venue attracts such amazing talent on a regular basis. 

Secondly, while I typically loathe theme parties, SpeakEZ doesn’t fall into the trap of overworking a concept, instead keeping things light and accessible. This year, with a theme of partying like it is New Year’s Eve 1999 on the eve of Y2K, we can just see the revelers anxiously sipping cocktails nervously as the clock inches towards midnight. Will the big ball drop, or will it be a errant satellite instead that descends upon our partying revelry is all part of the fun of reliving this moment of time.

Lastly, while you enjoy the music of the 90s under the direction of band director Scott Patrick Bell, you can expect for the low cost of only $55 per person admission to the party, which includes live entertainment and a three-course meal with a midnight champagne toast. 

Reservations are available from 7:00pm – 9:00pm and can be made by calling SpeakEZ NOW at (616) 458-3125.

We understand that in featuring one event to consider attending this New Year’s Eve that we will most certainly be avoiding the other options to engage in locally. The key is that if you want to attend a festive occasion this year, please seek one out because, for the first time in our history, we have more events than we have space to feature them all here in Rapid Growth. The trick is to not sit at home this year. Get out and experience your city as you welcome in the new year.


Admission: $55 per person

I-96 Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament: Reboot of a sporting classic

The holidays are the best time to openly flaunt your nostalgia flag since the entire season is devoted to such outbursts of joy. 

Luckily for those who like their nostalgia with a healthy portion of good old-fashioned sporting glory, the Grand Rapids Public Schools Athletics (GRPSA) are bringing back their popular  East vs. West Battle of the Best of I-96 Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament.

It may have been many years since the last tourney was staged here, but it has not faded from the memory of those who looked forward each winter to this day-long basketball event at which rival teams get together to raise money for a great cause.

And just like each annual tournament from the past, the Holiday Classic features top ranked teams from both the east and west sides of Michigan who will go head-to-head in a highly competitive, but ultimately thoroughly enjoyable, day of championship basketball.

How they determine the winner is actually quite simple, with each game enabling a team to win a point for their respective side of the state. The winner is decided at the final match, during which the side of the state with the most points earns a year’s worth of bragging rights. There is even halftime entertainment for many of the day’s games, including half-court “swoosh” basket contest where attendees can compete for prizes. 

The best part is that the Holiday Classic raises funds to support GRPS K-12 sports programming to help eliminate any “pay to play” fee students may be facing.  And that is the best win of all in my opinion. 

Holiday Classic Schedule:

12:00 p.m.     Williamston vs. Rockford
1:45 p.m.    Lansing Sexton vs. Benton Harbor
3:30 p.m.    Detroit Henry Ford vs. Wayland Union 
5:15 p.m.    Detroit Community vs. GR Union
7:00 p.m.    East Lansing vs. GR Ottawa Hills


Admission:  $10 per person. Children ages five and under are free. One ticket is good for all five games. 

Mr. & Mrs. Claus: All skate with the first family of Christmas

What is more exciting than sitting on Santa’s lap this Saturday? 

How about a chance to go round and round with the big guy and his main squeeze, Mrs. Claus, at Grandville’s Tarry Hall Roller Skating Rink?

Opened in 1959 with a simple mission to provide a athletic space for families to have fun on eight wheels, Tarry Hall Roller Skating Rink features a booming 5,200 watt sound system for Top 40, pop, rock, hip-hop, country, dance, and religious music for folks to get their groove on under a state-of-the-art light show. 

In addition to an afternoon of hearing festive holiday tunes with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, Tarry Hall will also feature a scavenger hunt, face painting, and the return of the crowd’s favorite, the balloon guy. 

With each $5 paid admission is a free roller skate rental. If you want to upgrade to rollerblades, then add $1.

Guests can also purchase a special $20 ticket that comes with an elf costume complete with a hat and an all skate rental card good for one free admission per month for a year.  (An $84 value!) 

So, get your ugly sweater out and grab the kids as you roll out to Grandville for an afternoon of prime skating time with the big guy from the North Pole. 

Admission: $5.

'Nightmare Before Christmas': New holiday classic and a chance to sing along

The warmth of summer may have departed from our region, but you’d never know it as the “Movies Not In The Park” series from Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. (DGRI) will yet again be screening another film before the end of 2016 at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts.

For its sixth feature in this newly launched series, DGRI offers an opportunity to view for free in the comfort of a warm theatre “The Nightmare Before Christmas” — a musical from the mind of Tim Burton.

This more than 20-year-old musical classic has all the trappings of what makes Tim Burton one of the strangest, and yet most imaginative, filmmakers of our time. And while this story is written (not directed) by Burton, it is the animation work of director Henry Selick that will delight those seeking an alternative to the overt sweetness of the holidays.

The musical centers on the struggles of character Jack Skellington — the Pumpkin King of dreadfully drab Halloweentown — who, while seeking a secret passageway to Christmastown, discovers Santa. Saint Nick then offer Jack something of a life-changing moment of opportunity. 

The film is a delight as this stop-motion animation, which took three years to create, unspools a wonderfully imaginative world where Jack’s drive for self-improvement and best intentions ultimately clash in this inventive and most unlikeliest of Christmas classics.

In short, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” does not disappoint but delivers the perfect present this holiday.

Admission: Free

Bolshoi Ballet: 'The Nutcracker' as larger-than-life

If you had hoped to attend the 2016 Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow to experience its thrilling production of “The Nutcracker,” then if you have not booked your trip to see them plan on dropping more than $3,000 to get there by Sunday.

For those on a budget, and for the seventh year in a row, fans of this world-class ballet troupe can experience the joys of “The Nutcracker” on Sunday afternoon right here in West Michigan and still be home in time for work on Monday morning without the obligatory jet lag.  

For the low cost of just $18 a ticket, you can sit in comfortable seats with a cup holder (not found in Moscow’s  Bolshoi Theatre) and enjoy a larger-than-life dance performance at Celebration Cinema North. 

The story is set on Christmas Eve and takes off immediately after Marie’s gift of a wooden nutcracker doll transforms into a towering prince who sweeps up the young woman as they depart on a magical journey told through dances that cover a spectrum of nations. 

“The Nutcracker” is the gold standard of all of the holiday live productions that one can attend each year, and Grand Rapids provides opportunities this year to see two world-class production via two very distinct dance companies: the Bolshoi Ballet on the big movie screen and the Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB), which will be wrapping up its 2016 run of its recently reimagined “The Nutcracker.” (See Rapid Growth’s coverage on GRB's version of "The Nutcracker" here.) 

Admission: $18.

'A Christmas Carol' by Doris Baizley: A comedy for the ages

Opening Friday, Dec. 9, 8 p.m. (through Sunday, Dec. 10)
Once you reach a certain age, it goes without saying that if you get caught rolling your eyes at the suggestion that you must go see another retelling of the 1843 “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, then you are within your right to do so. 

I mean, the body can only take so much sugary holiday cheer before it rots the soul this time of the year. Need more proof? We have a “Bad Santa 2” now playing in the movie theaters. People need a pressure release that a cooked goose and foggy pudding just can’t deliver. 

Luckily, for those seeking a little creative levity this holiday season, our local theatrical company, The University Wits (TUW), will present at Dog Story Theater “A Christmas Carol by Doris Baizley.”

Unlike other stage and screen versions of Dickens’ tale that we’ve witnessed for nearly two centuries now, this new TUW production of “A Christmas Carol by Doris Baizley” has something sweet for lovers of the theatrical but also a gravitational pull of a treat aimed at those seeking something to tickle the funny bone.

This new adaptation still carries the thread of a story about  Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter curmudgeon who is taught a lesson in kindness and love by some unexpected and other-worldly guests.  But what sets Baizley’s version apart from all the others is that we are introduced to this popular story through a cast of traveling actors who are looking to stage Dickens’ story for the audience.

The production has one tiny problem when their lead actors are nowhere to be found, forcing the stage manager and the tiny prop boy to bring the play to life. 

And rather than blowing my perfect record this year by revealing plot points via a leaked spoiler (and thus end my chance at an Apple Watch 2 to be delivered under my tree this year), I am just going to say that “A Christmas Carol by Doris Baizley” is unlike any other holiday production around this year -- so do not miss it. 


Admission:  $12 - $16

'The Nutcracker': Artful ballet with a beautiful opening night party

Opening Friday, Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m. (through Dec. 18)
In 2014 locals were delighted to witness the stage debut of a new re-imagined ballet production of “The Nutcracker.” 

For this new version of this popular Christmas production, Grand Rapids Ballet tapped the enormous talents of former Grand Rapidian and illustrator/author Chris Van Allsburg (“The Polar Express,” “Jumanji”), the Tony Award-winning set designer Eugene Lee (“Wicked,” “Sweeney Todd”) and choreographer Val Caniparoli (San Francisco Ballet), who, through their combined inventiveness, would bring to birth locally a brand new holiday classic.

And while we are all familiar with the dance of the sugar plum fairies, mice that duel and battle with a precision only a dancer could deliver, and, of course, the storybook thrill of the heroic toy soldiers all combined make this enchanting fable one that should not be missed, regardless of where you fall on the kid scale these days.

The magic of the night’s success is brought to life through the dancers who keep the audience spellbound as they perform to music of our Grammy-nominated Grand Rapids Symphony. 

And, as an added bonus on the third year of this new production, the Grand Rapids Ballet’s dancers and company invite guests to purchase tickets for the AfterGlow event immediately taking place following the opening night’s performance at the equally theatrically designed Pantlind Ballroom at Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

The cost to attend this special opening night party is $45 per person. Each AfterGlow purchased ticket includes delicious appetizers, desserts, two complimentary drinks, and a chance to dance in this elegant setting with a room filled with performers and fans of our local ballet.

If you wish to attend this special AfterGlow event, when purchasing tickets at ticketmaster.com for the Friday, Dec. 9 performance of “The Nutcracker” be sure to select the “add  AfterGlow tickets” to your order before checking out.


Admission: Ballet priced from $34 - $83, Friday night’s AfterGlow $45.
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