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Be the Astronaut: Cheaper than the real thing and just as challenging

Be the Astronaut is an exciting new exhibition at the Grand Rapids Public Museum that seeks to provide an exciting experience all the while exposing kids (and adult kids) to  STEM-infused content via the marriage of an physical exhibit with cutting edge video game technology. 

Guiding the visitors on this journey is a crew of virtual experts who help deepen the space exploration experience throughout every stage of the exhibit. 

Guests learn what it takes to fly a spaceship, pilot a lander, or drive a surface rover. After this brief training, you are ready to jump into a simulator that takes you on a virtual journey of the universe. 

“Through STEM based hands-on activities that are scientifically verified by NASA experts, this exhibit lets our community travel to space from right here at the Grand Rapids Public Museum,” said Dr. Stephanie Ogren, Director of Science at the GRPM.

In each space capsule, a monitor serves as the ‘windshield,’ giving visitors a first-person view of their adventures. Touch-screens and an industrial-quality joystick put visitors in command. 

According to the museum, the entire cockpit comes alive with animated lighting effects, game visuals, and sounds that make visitors believe they are astronauts. To add more excitement to the event, special companion robots move about the hall and interact with guests.

This traveling exhibition seeks to recreate those concepts common to all space flights, inviting patrons to imagine themselves in this futuristic storyline. 

And lest you think the experience is reflecting the imaginary space of a software designer with no real space experience, then you’ll be happy to learn that the cockpit is scientifically verified by experts at NASA for accuracy and feasibility.

And as we learned from the staff at the museum who have already tried their hand at landing the capsule, this is challenging stuff to navigate. 

Be the Astronaut opens on June 16 and runs through September 16, 2018.  Tickets to the exhibition can be purchased here.

Drink + Draw: GRBC's Studio Night partners with AIGAWM (again)

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of our design community of West Michigan simply because so many here are creating some truly remarkable designs. Don’t believe me? 

Then check out this article on a project that showcases our history and the women devoting their lives to make sure we know this legacy.

So if you are looking to stretch creatively or just want to doodle the night away this Monday night, then head downtown to the Grand Rapids Brewery Company (GRBC) for the return of AIGA West Michigan’s community-building Drink + Draw event.

Whether you work on a laptop, tablet or sketchbook, bring them to work on at this special partnership edition of GRBC’s free-to-attend Studio Night and get 25 percent off your tab.

And if you need something to prime your imagination, the folks at AIGAWM will have materials available to decorate lunch bags for local nonprofit Kids' Food Basket. 

If you do attend, event organizers ask that you tag your photos from the event with #AIGAWMcraft.

1968 Tribute Show: A modern take on music from 50 years ago

Friday, June 8, 8:00 p.m. (doors), 8:30 p.m. (showtime)
Typically when a nostalgia act arrives in town, I am the first to head for my headphones to drown out the noise. But one revival trend that keep reappearing here is the tribute show series hosted by downtown entertainment venue The Pyramid Scheme.

For the latest installment of the Tribute Show, music artists from a variety of local acts have come together to form pop-up acts recreating their versions of classic albums released in 1968.

Featured at this one night only performance will be four albums released in 1968: “Folsom Prison” by Johnny Cash, “Dance to the Music” by Sly & The Family Stone, “Cheap Thrills" by Big Brother & the Holding Company, and “Creedence Clearwater Revival” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. 

Some acts will attempt faithful recreations of these popular albums, but others will perform modern tricks of pure sonic pleasure, producing moments of unexpected joy. Scheduled to tackle these four albums of distinction from 1968 include The Bootstrap Boys, Hey Marco!, Oracle, Afro Zuma, Bello Spark, Hazy Past, The Outer Vibe, and many others.

Grand Rapids has been home to tribute shows from Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” to Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew,” to the memorable 2016 all-star musician tribute to David Bowie. With that much history to guide us and with such star power on one stage, why miss a chance to relieve these classic albums performed for our modern era?

Friday's 1968 Tribute Show benefits the Well House.

Movies on Monroe: Double your fun with The Greatest Showman & Big

It used to be when Movies in the Park was debuting in the area, the social media spaces would be filled with folks debating what flick they felt should be included in the summer lineup of films screened free for the public.

But this year, the questions has shifted from talk of movie titles to whether one would sit or not on pavement as the popular event moves kitty-corner across the river to the site of a new park in the process of being developed.

Personally, I am used to events shifting over time in the city, so while I will miss the old location, I understand that this is a leap to a new location that will, with time, become a more solid choice for a host of developing reasons. (See GR FWD Plan. LINK) 

Sure, we will miss the cushy grass under our butts, but with an extra blanket or a portable chair, you should be back in the spirit of the night as you and thousands flock to catch a film with friends and fellow citizens.  (Hint: This year you can rent an affordable chair for watching the featured film from Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.)

As with every year’s series, you can expect plenty of pre-movie entertainment with photo booths, food trucks, balloon animals, musical entertainment, and even special guest hosts. 

Kicking off the summer 2018 Movies on Monroe (formerly known as Movies in the Park) series is a true blockbuster of a double feature with “The Greatest Showman” (sponsored by The KnottyBits Sideshow) and “Big” (from Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.) debuting at the new location on the banks of the Grand River. 

Movies on Monroe Star Partners include Linc Up, the Latino Community Coalition, Disability Advocates of Kent County and the Grand Rapids Pride Festival 2018.

The #MoviesOnMonroe series is produced by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. in partnership with MSU Gran Fondo, Studio C - Grand Rapids, Driving Change - Grand Rapids, Mobile GR, The City of Grand Rapids, The Rapid, Local First West Michigan, Monroe North Business Association - Grand Rapids, MI, Grand Rapids Community Media Center, Charlesbrook Protection Services, Grand Rapids Food Truck Association, Kent County Health Connect-Tobacco Free Parks, WYCE and LiveSpace. 

And remember: if it rains, the show is cancelled. There are no rain dates. For a complete list of the films being screened this, summer please visit this link.

Creston Brewery Street Party: Local neighborhood gone to the dogs

Forgive me, but the Creston area is going to the dogs as the Creston Brewery presents the first of a series of summer events geared towards celebrating in the streets the joys of urban living via communal gatherings. But on Saturday they invite the community to celebrate the joy of dogs at the Creston Brewery Street Party: Doggos.

For one day only, they will close down Quimby Street to welcome you and your fuzzy friend to join you for a day devoted to drinking, entertainment, and all things dogs.

While the event will feature area businesses and organizations who work with our furry friends, this new event, hosted by the Grand Rapids dog walking company Nature of the Dog, will be inviting folks to join them later in the day on a neighborhood dog walk starting at 4 p.m.

Highlights of the day include Fido & Stitch offering a"fur friendly" tattooing station at 2:00 p.m.; A Pleasant Dog will teach your pup tricks and host a kissing booth; and Greendog Photography will capture all the fun with stellar candids. You can even learn more about the area’s popular Shaggy Pines Dog Park—one of the top ten dog parks in America.

You can even dress up your four-legged canine and enter them in a costume contest at 3:30 p.m. First and Second place prizes total more than $200!

This street fair vibe will include live music starting at 2:00 p.m. from Sailing Weather complete with local DJ's spinning serious classic vinyl to keep you and your pet dancing throughout the evening.

See you out in the streets …with treats this Saturday!

39th Annual Homecoming of the Three Fires Traditional Pow Wow

With the mighty Grand River in sight, the 39th Annual Homecoming of the Three Fires Traditional Pow Wow returns to Grand Rapids Riverside Park, offering an opportunity to experience and learn about the rich, cultural heritage of our first people's lives.

And while you will have plenty of opportunities to mingle and query folks about the meaning and cultural impact of our local Pow Wow, nothing is more visually compelling visually than watching the awesome pageantry of the Grand Entry. 

During this portion of the program, an Eagle Staff guides the Grand Entry, which is leads to the presentation of flags, dancers, as well as drumming. 

This year’s Pow Wow will once again feature three Grand Entries with two on Saturday ( 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.) and one on Sunday (noon).

In addition, the Three Fires Traditional Pow Wow booths provide space where folks can grab a bite to eat or purchase something from an approved Native American vendor.

If you have missed this riverside Pow Wow in the past and had hoped to attend, please set aside time this weekend to learn just a bit more of the history of this place from the people who have been telling our region’s story long before most arrived here.  

Pow Wow organizers remind Rapid Growth readers that this is a strict drug- and alcohol-free event, so arrive sober please. They also ask that you do not bring your dog(s) to the event and under no circumstances should you leave them in the car. Service dogs are always welcome at the annual Homecoming of the Three Fires Traditional Pow Wow.

Realm of Flight: Crowd favorite migrates back to Grand Rapids zoo

Opening Saturday, May 26 (through Sept. 3, 2018)
Migrating back to the city this summer is the return of the exciting crowd-favorite exhibition, The Realm of Flight. This live bird show returns to John Ball Zoo for a second summer starting on May 26 and will run until September 3, 2018.  

Realm of Flight is exciting live bird theatre and features 10 incredible bird performers who will showcase their distinct talents at this zoo summer series. 

Folks who attend will be treated to a story-telling parrot, a recycling raven, and even an eagle that will fly over your head.  

Added to the show this year will be an Eurasian Eagle Owl, a green-winged macaw, and an Abdim’s stork. 

The Realm of Flight bird show comes to the Zoo from the World Bird Sanctuary, known internationally as a first-class bird conservation organization. The WBS is dedicated to the propagation, rescue, rehabilitation, and preservation of birds—especially birds of prey.  

“I hope guests take away a new appreciation for birds and how to help the environment,” says Realm of Flight supervisor, Kate Burkman. “A big point of our show is conservation and we want to make sure people know how easy it is for them to help the environment at home.” 

Realm of Flight is presented three times a day in the amphitheater in the Forest Realm (and close to the Amur tigers.). Tickets for this special show are just $2.00 with each paid general zoo admission. For more showtime info, please visit the zoo's website for performance dates/times.

Egyptian Lover: From mixtapes to center stage, a legend of electro and hip hop arrives in GR

Like many teens of his era, Egyptian Lover (aka Greg Broussard) started his early days in electro and hip hop by creating mixtapes. His love for remixing spanned across many techniques from his early days of live rhythming over radio broadcasts that he would turn into recordings to his triumphant hit singles “Egypt Egypt” (1984) and “Freak-A-Holic" (1986).

"Growing up in the 'hood, the first thing you want to do is to get out of there. In my mind, I took myself out of there, just took myself to any place I could find, which was probably Egypt at the time," he says. Egyptian Lover used the name long before he started DJing. "All my friends were gangsters, and they had their names on the backs of their jackets. You had Mr. Guns and you knew that he was the guy with the guns. I had Egyptian Lover on the back of mine. I ain't no gangster, but the women liked Egyptian Lover, so I stuck with the name.” (from "7 Things You Should Know About Egyptian Lover.")

Once Egyptian Lover joined famed Los Angeles Uncle Jamm’s Army, an American hip-hop crew, his years of touring with this icon act would go on to solidify his reputation as one of the greats from this era of music.

On Friday Egyptian Lover, one of dance music’s most innovative performers/producers from that (now) classic, old-school/electro era, will roll in to The Pyramid Scheme for Grand Rapids Soul Club (GRSC). This show is sure to kick off your Memorial Day Weekend with a real bang.

“Egyptian Lover is a pioneer in Electro from his early days with Uncle Jamm’s Army to present day he keeps the freaks moving,” says Mike Saunders of GRSC, “We are fortunate to see him perform [locally].”

Purchase tickets in advance here.

Festival of the Arts: Music, dance, art, and meat on a stick

Festival of the Arts arrives back into downtown with all the boldness of Alexander Calder’s La Grande Vitesse that inspired it.

However, it was not always love at first sight. In 1969 when La Grande Vitesse was installed in front of City Hall in downtown Grand Rapids, it was thought by many to be a waste of money or ugly. 

This 43-foot-tall, vibrant red stabile over time would melt locals’ hearts as the city would come to adopt the symbol, adhering it everything from street signs to taxi cabs, and even the city flag. 

In fact, I am fairly certain that this warming up to love “the Calder” (as locals call it) has a lot to do with Festival organizers, whose labor each year centers on the sculpture. They even produce an annual event poster that is beloved by many visitors and residents ever since. (The poster pays homage to Calder each year by including a reference to the artist or his work.)

This three-day community event features several stages of performances for music and dance, a juried Regional Arts Exhibition at KCAD, and too-many-to-mention food booths run by non-profit organizations, with a few offering meat on a stick.

As an added bonus, while the main outdoor aspects of this weekend event happen June 1-3, the juried Festival Art Exhibition opens early on Wednesday, May 30, from 5 to 9 p.m. at The Fed Galleries at KCAD. The opening night artist reception will feature all the winning and juried artworks on display as well as a chance to meet the artists attending. This special art exhibition will run through June 23.

GR Asian-Pacific Week: Expanded programming for 2018 makes this a donít miss affair

No one can say for certain if it was the exciting Taiko drumming,  the rhythmic Lion and Pacific Island dancers, or even DJ Ace Marasigan (GR Asian-Pacific Festival’s director) mixing Asian dance music. But regardless of the reasons why you and others loved the 2017 Asian-Pacific Festival, it is back. And this year contains a full week of activities centered around the celebration of our Asian-Pacific members of our society.

The annual Asian-Pacific Festival seeks to embrace the rich traditions and culture of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans with a week of activity to is certain to inspire, educate, and celebrate this community.

Events planned for this week include: 

Monday, June 4: Kick off the festival week with stop at the Asian Art exhibition and reception at DeVos Place.

Tuesday, June 5: An Evening of Bangladeshi Dance and Music at the UICA.

Thursday, June 7: At noon, you can Relax at Rosa as this summer music series welcomes Kevin Michael Jones with local food trucks, including the locally popular with foodies Sanse Filipino Cuisine truck.

Also, on Thursday, June 7: Grand Rapids Art Museum extends free admission from 5 to 9 p.m., where guests can see featured art by Pakistani-American Anila Agha, former ArtPrize winner. 

Friday, June 8: The downtown JW Marriott welcomes Real Sumo at this special Asians Night Out After Party with DJ Ace Marasigan and DJ Bobolai (Brian Lai). Purchase tickets in advance here.

Saturday, June 9: At Rosa Parks Circle from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., the second annual Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival 2018 presented by Old National Bank and West Michigan Asian American Association begins. For a complete listing of performers, visit their website.

The city may be growing larger with each year, but it is thrilling to see with all the expansion that we still are making room for members of our society to feel welcome here. Don’t miss out on all the fun heading to Grand Rapids for the 2018 Asian-Pacific Festival.

Tour De Quarter: Oui. Oui. Numero deux delices.

Roaring back into Grand Rapids’ Creston neighborhood is the Second Annual Tour De Quarter held on May 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at City High/Middle School (1720 Plainfield Ave. NE).

This event seeks to share with the public information on rider safety, provide local businesses exposure, and demonstrate just how rideable all three of the business districts of the North Quarter truly are. 

Returning as sponsors of this annual event are The North Quarter Corridor Improvement District Board, community members, Creston neighbors, and many wonderful, local sponsors who ensure this event remains free.

The Tour De Quarter is a family-friendly bike event to showcase the changing landscape of the North Quarter: Cheshire, Creston, and Monroe North. 

Cider Tour: Gluten-free freedom

Everyone loves choices. Just go to a big box store sometime and you’ll see what I mean.

But for a lot of folks with dietary concerns related to gluten, well, Beer City, USA used to be a tough town.  Lucky for those who are gluten-free, we are starting to see more and options increase just as fast as our growing cider scene.

Grand Rapids Beer Tours are offering a break from the brews to welcome you to a special tour of area ciders, regardless of your gluten tolerance. 

For this special afternoon tour, you will tour Vander Mill Ciders, The Peoples Cider Co., and Farmhaus Cider Co.

Vander Mill seems appropriate as a stop since their ciders are impeccable and crisp. This venue/production facility also has an impressive lunch/dinner menu of delightful food options for everyone’s taste.

The Peoples Cider Co. is a tinier facility but don’t let that fool you. For what they lack in space, they make up with amazing taste you won’t soon forget. 

Rooted in Hudsonville, the last stop of the tour will be Farmhaus Cider Co. Their success is attributed to the five generations of family members who’ve worked the farm. Traditional ciders are on tap, but these folks are pushing boundaries with distinctly unique flavor profiles that are making fans along the way. 

This gluten-free tour includes 10 samples of cider and 1 full pint, a souvenir snifter glass, a private behind the scenes tour at Vander Mill & Farmhaus Cider Co., and transportation to and from the cideries with a knowledgeable tour guide.

Take Kids to Parks Day: Three green-spaces, three choices

Three neighborhood city parks are inviting locals to come out to observe through active participation in the 8th annual Kids to Parks Day — a national initiative organized by National Park Trust “to connect kids and families with their local, state, and national parks and public lands.”

Locally, these three parks have three distinct offerings to consider:

The Midtown Neighborhood Association is hosting a get-to-know-your-neighbor event through its debut of the Midtown Green-Up! It is more than just a clean up day as the park will be featuring a perennial plant exchange and a series of kids activities. For complete details, visit their site.

Garfield Park is turning up the energy at this Friends of Grand Rapids Parks event where you can participate in a tug-a-war, disc golf, kids Zumba, or just find a shady tree and plop down to read a book. Complete details can be found here.

Martin Luther King Jr. Park will host an outdoor event that takes us back in time to a period in hip hop when kids practiced their dance moves and rhymes at the Baxter Neighborhood Association, who are co-sponsors of this event along with the Grand Rapids Hip Hop Coalition. Kids of all ages will enjoy live music, a dance contest, plenty of kid's games, free food, and lots of room to roam. Check out their most up-to-date performance times at this link

Art Bash for Creston: Rebirth of the familiar yet new

After 11 years, the Creston Neighborhood Association (CNA) will seek to transition to a brand new neighborhood fundraiser on May 24 with Art Bash for Creston {formerly known as Art Battle} debuting at the Creston Brewery’s Golden Age special event space.

Replacing the “battle” with a “bash” is cue that this event designed to engage neighbors through a positive and energetic vibe will continue to attract an engaged group of the city's movers and shakers who support the work of the CNA.

Art Bash will still include the signature activity of witnessing art being created live over the course of the evening. Works completed that night will be auctioned off to benefit CNA. They will also have many silent auction items donated by the Creston business community. 

New this year: small artworks created prior this event will be available for purchase from participating artists. The event also includes a collaborative art piece facilitated by Lions & Rabbits where you get in on the action. It is also the debut of Taste of Creston featuring tasty fare from CNA’s favorite neighborhood restaurants.

This year's event will be hosted by Grand Rapids' Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and Rapid Growth Media's Tommy Allen, and is presented by Grand Rapids Public Schools! Art Bash is also the first event to be hosted in Creston Brewery's brand new Golden Age special events space.

Advance tickets can be purchased for $12 here or at the door for $15.

Hip Hop Appreciation Week: Diverse festival focuses on edutainment and how it enriches community

With a theme of Edutainment, this year’s Hip Hop Appreciation Week (HHAW) is really busting out an amazing lineup of events from panel discussions to insightful lectures to even a fundraiser, creating a lot of buzz in our city as a result of their contributions. 

Edutainment, as defined by the HHAW, seeks to use education through entertainment starting on May 13. 

According to HHAW, “Since the beginning of Hip Hop Kulture, Hiphoppas have used edutainment as a strategy to express ourselves [and] the elements and teach people about Hip Hop Kulture. The term was popularized by Hip Hop pioneer and legend KRS-ONE, the Teacha, in the late 80’s.”

This year’s HHAW seeks to acknowledge the original intent of Hip Hop of embracing peace, unity, love and safety, all the while have a great time. Think of this as a family and you are more than halfway there in your mind. 

The big event of the week is The Black Tie White Sneaker Benefit Gala at Eve Nightclub on the 4th floor of the B.O.B. in Downtown Grand Rapids. 

This ticketed event will feature the music of DJ Rush The Guillotine and a festive and fine Classic Hip Hop Karaoke! 

The gala has special VIP packages still available to purchase at press time with funds being raised via local nonprofit The Love Movement Inc. to benefit the Grand Rapids Hip Hop Summer Camp. 

Other highlights of our local HHAW happenings this week include Who Shot Ya Lecture with Hip Hop Photographer Ernie Paniccioli, a ladies symposium featuring the film and a panel discussion of Netflix’s “Roxanne, Roxanne,” and The Impact of Hip Hop Entrepreneurship held at Start Garden. 

For a complete look at all the activities including a MLK Park public celebration, please visit the HHAW website.
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