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8th Annual Recycled Art Market: Gift ideas for those you love and your planet, too

While I know Christmas is so much more than just a season devoted to the act of giving, it is, to many, a time when the purchasing of stuff can produce stress for folks who are concerned about our over-consuming culture. 

Luckily, for those who are seeking a more interesting gift-giving path this year, one of my favorite events is happening again in Creston.  

This year the Recycled Art Market will see more than 75 artisans set up their booths devoted to those unique and truly one-of-a-kind items for the perfect gift-giving experience that is easy on the environment as well.

Items at the Recycled Art Market include home decor, garden art, jewelry, natural bath and body care items, and even clothing. The best part of this annual event is that for an artisan to participate in the market their booth offerings must demonstrate how much of their product is being created from items that might have been destined for the landfill. The result is a room full of eclectic gift-giving ideas that ensure that your holiday present will be truly a one of a kind moment but also does not create any harm to the environment. 

This is the 8th Annual Recycled Art Market and is a City PTSA fundraiser, which benefits Grand Rapids Public School’s City High students in grades 7-12.

Admission: $2. (Proceeds from the door support the CityPTSA) 

American Idiot: Rock concept album becomes rock opera

It is hard to fathom that it has been 11 years since Green Day appeared in 2005 at Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Arena in support of the band’s culturally significant “American Idiot” release. 

If you were at this concert then you can attest to the rawness of this production, as well as its rich theatricality with a picture-perfect ending as the band selected one of the greatest rock anthems — Queen’s “We Are The Champions” — as one of their final songs of the night.

Fast forward four years and you quickly see the audience was not the only one thinking this album clearly had another channel of opportunity, as “American Idiot” the rock opera began its first run at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2009 before debuting on Broadway in April 2010 and is soon to be the subject of a new HBO film adaptation. 

This concept album seamlessly transferred to the stage, with a few tweaks, into a full-blown rock opera that centers around three young people, Johnny, Will, and Tunny, and their quest to discover some meaning in their lives and, along the way, become more awake during a time when everything seems to be in flux around them in America. (It sort of sounds familiar to now, right?) 

Finally, this rock musical is being made available to communities around the nation, enabling local voices to put their spin on this energetic production that not only includes the many great songs from the original recording, but also songs from Green Days’ album “21st Century Breakdown” and an original piece “When It’s Time.”

This musical could not be timed better, as it lands right at the end of our 2016 Presidential election campaign, providing the perfect escape from those seeking something loud and challenging  from a punk rock trio — who I can honestly say I would have never expected to release a Broadway musical had you asked me during their “Dookie” (1994) years. 

Admission: $22 - 28.

Corgis In The Park: This city has gone to the dogs

Some folks in the fall live for Christmas, with all the shiny lights and the presents under the tree. And others for a chance to over-consume at Thanksgiving and spar with an always-disagreeable relative before finally taking a nap before waking up to begin a round of eating seconds (or thirds).

But, for me, this fall has been more than the cooked carrot of turkey day and the lure of colorful wrapping paper. This fall, since laying eyes on the Corgis in the Park event, all I could think about as we marched ever closer to Oct. 29 is how many Corgis will actually show up this year at Riverside Park.

As I sought out more information as to why I was so enamored of this breed, I discovered they originally were bred as a cattle dog and are popular not only in their homeland of Wales, but are one of the preferred breeds of the Queen of England.

As the weeks rolled by, the numbers of attendees both interested and attending crossed over into more than 3,000 looking to participate and celebrate as spectators of this special costume themed event in Grand Rapids’ Riverside Park.

So, if the endless news cycle has got you down, no worries, the Corgis are sure to chase away your anxiety as this dog costumed event takes over the park. 

If you have a Corgi and plan to participate, be sure to tag your photo of your dog for us to see on Instagram and Facebook with #rapidgrowth. 

Admission: Free

Saved by the 90s: Sure smells like teen spirit (again)

If you live long enough, you will be able to enjoy the best of your decade become the subject of a revival of sorts to a new generation of music fans. 

We have lived for some time in the shadows of the 80s revival, with musical acts and tribute bands all vying for your attention at local events like Mega 80s. 

But lucky for those fans of the 1990s, this often overlooked decade, with its low unemployment to the launch of the dot-com era, is about to get really hot locally this weekend as The Intersection presents Saved By The 90s. 

This touring band promises a 90s themed night that will usher in the excitement and energy of hearing your favorite acts’ songs all over again. 

Attendees are encouraged to dress up in their favorite tribute wear, and given that it is Halloween weekend, you won’t get people taking a second look — unless, of course, you dress up like Cher from her “Believe” video. 

So fans of Beastie Boys, Lisa Loeb, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Naughty By Nature, and Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath, get ready to dance all night long to the best of the decade at Saved By The 90s.

Admission: 18+ show, presale $5 - 7. 

Dia de los Muertos: Honoring Day of the Dead in Grand Rapids

It is hard not to fall in love with the Grand Rapids Public Library’s programming throughout the year as it conducts some of the most diverse and culturally important work of any institution in our city.

And while the library focuses on a host of culturally significant holiday celebrations observed by so many groups in our city, it is the Día de los Muertos (translation: Day of the Dead) observation that takes its community-engaging programming to new heights. 

When folks attend this year’s Día de los Muertos at the main branch of the GRPL, they are in for a special treat because of how expansive this presentation is becoming each and every year. 

For this special Day of the Dead celebration of this wildly popular annual Mexican holiday invites not only Latinx family and friends to share their tribute altars with the public, but the GRPL has also invited non-Latinx community members to contribute as well. 

What makes Día de los Muertos at the GRPL so wonderful is this event honors the tradition of this special day as a time for us to celebrate the life and memory of the dead. 

Having attended this event in the past, I can say it is a thrill to see so many altars uniquely presented for our community to enjoy and ponder long after the event is over. I can still recall the year I stumbled upon my friend Roberta King’s altar that she erected in tribute to the life of her son Noah, who had died a few years ago.  

Having space to honor life deepens the cultural connections of our city and thus deepens the points of entry where empathy can take hold in the viewer. 

But do not delay since these community altar tributes will only on display Thursday, October 27 – Tuesday, November 1.

On the closing day of the event, the library will host a family day during Día de los Muertos on Sunday, October 30 from 1:00 – 5:00 pm.  In addition to educational activities for families, including a bilingual storytime, live music, sugar skull decorating, face painting, and crafts, there will also be traditional food items provided by El Granjero and Pan de Muerto provided by Panaderia Margo. 

Admission: Free

Grand Rapids Comic Con: Cosplay in the city

If suddenly you stumble upon a superhero or a furry creature as you walk about downtown this weekend, have no fear because it is the sign that Grand Rapids Comic Con is back in town.

And, just like with every passing year that Comic Con is celebrated here in our city, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

This year, in addition to the 100,000-square-foot DeVos Play vending hall, which will be host to scores of small businesses devoted to the art of the comic and illustrated novel, Grand Rapids Comic Con is also hosting a car show, a film festival, an art show, an anime screening room, a pop-up museum, and more than 100-plus hours of programming crammed into one weekend. 

More than 25 comic artist guests will be appearing this year, including Kevin Eastman, the co-creator of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles;” Jae Lee of “Batman/Superman;” and “Ren and Stimpy” creative writer/director Bob Camp.

In addition, there is a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1990) cast reunion, as well as more than a dozen live action celebrities from popular shows, like Wil Traval from “Jessica Jones,” Denise Crosby of “The Walking Dead,” Bruno Gunn of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” and Conrad Brooks -- the last surviving cast member from “Plan 9 From Outer Space.”

For a complete look at all of the events scheduled to take place in Grand Rapids this weekend, please visit www.grcomiccon.com for all the details including the special admission offers. 

Grand Raggidy Roller Derby vs. The World: Plus a superhero afterparty

There are only a handful of home game matches left for this year for our Grand Raggidy Roller Derby. 

This weekend, our girls hit the rink at Grandville’s Rivertown Sports to take on the Brighton Roller Dollz of Brighton, Michigan and Killamazoo Derby Darlins’ from Kalamazoo, Michigan.

This double header starts off with our junior team, the Grand Raggidy Attack, going up against the Brighton Roller Dollz’s C and B teams. If you are a betting person, then you will be happy to know that the numbers have been crunched and our Attack team is favored heavily with a 94 percent rating to win this match. The last time these two teams went up against each other was in 2014, and we beat them at that time.

After the Attack’s match is the main event with our Grand Raggidy’s All Stars taking on the Killamazoo Derby Darlins’. And while we have a history of playing Killamazoo often, it has been a year since we last saw these two popular teams from our region of the state go head to head in the rink. 

Statisticians rank the Grand Raggidy favorably to also win this game with a 90 percent chance of victory. In layman’s terms, this matchup has the predictable potential to become a high stakes scoring event, with our All Stars landing 34 to every 19 points Killamazoo scores.

In honor of Grand Rapids Comic Con, this year’s roller derby match is tipping its hat with a Comic Con themed night, so be sure to dress up as your favorite comic book character. 

Stop by the bomb-squad table and pick up a few comic-related props to have your photo taken at the booth. And, as always, the girls will have plenty of fun-filled activities for adults and kids to enjoy while our two teams seek to bring home a victory.

Immediately after, the girls will invite the visiting teams, along with their fans, to join them at the Rezervior Lounge (1418 Plainfield NE) for their afterparty, which this time is following the Comic Con theme into the late night with a dance floor full of roller derby rowdies unlike any other event in our city. 

Those attending the afterparty in their favorite cosplay costume are free to enter the costume contest for a chance to win some terrific prizes!

Admission: Ages 6-11 - $8, Ages 12 and over - $12 prior to game day or $15 at the door

Grand Rapids Feminist Film Fest: Feminism for all ages; an inclusive look at gender

For the third annual Grand Rapids Feminist Film Fest (GRFFF), the organizers will be offering so much more than just a chance to screen more than 40 short films as a part of their annual event at Wealthy Theatre.

This year, the upgrades include more seminars and workshops devoted to all things cinema -- and this year they will be programming two blocks of films that are free of triggers that could set off children. This is a huge upgrade for families who want to attend but might have concerns about the content of some of the films being screened this year. These blocks of films can be located on their schedule and fall earlier in the day, with evenings being reserved for more adult themed programming. 

This year’s programming came about after the festival committee screened hundreds of submissions from all over the world, including France, Thailand, Sweden, Korea, Germany, and the United States. You can see a complete list and synopsis of all the films screening this year at the GRFFF website.
All films at the GRFFF are 20 minutes or less in length and and will be screened in Wealthy Theatre’s main auditorium, with the Dirk Koning Micro-Cinema and the Annex reserved for the many panels and workshops that include topics like “Dissecting Feminist Films,” “Gender Performance: CIS Playing LGBTQ,” and my favorite, “Analyzing Beyonce's Lemonade: black feminism and pop music” with Breannah Alexander, founder of women reVamped. For all the workshop and panels, visit this link for all the details on the topics covered and guest speakers.

All of the films and events at the GRFFF are free, and this is in part due to the generous sponsorship of our area organizations and businesses.  

Admission: Free

Dietrich Klinge: American debut at Meijer Gardens

One of the art world’s most elusive of modern sculptors will be making his United States speaking debut at our Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Up until now, the chance to hear artist Dietrich Klinge has been a rare treat and something that has never happened in the country.

Meijer Gardens, which owns numerous graphic works and models by Klinge, will be the setting for this special lecture. Along with the Grosser Trefree sculpture, Meijer Gardens is proud to showcase two outdoor bronzes in the permanent collection from Klinge. 

Many may be familiar with his colossal Model for Big Sculpture II (2004), a gift from Fred and Lena Meijer, as it is often the first piece of art that greets visitors at the edge of the Tassell English and Perennial Bulb Garden right at the main entrance. Meijer Gardens recently added Stele Garuge (2000) to the Woodland Shade Garden as a gift to the East Beltline collection from Hank and Liesel Meijer.

Since this is Klinge first speaking engagement in the U.S., we feel especially fortunate that he has selected Meijer Gardens for this intimate and personal talk to take place. Joining Klinge on stage will be Joseph Becherer, Chief Curator and Vice President of Collections and Exhibitions at Meijer Gardens.

An Evening with Dietrich Klinge is a part of the annual Charles Schoenknecht & Ward Paul Sculpture Lecture series.

Admission: Free for members, and complimentary with paid admission for non-members

The Alchemist Cookbook: Indie spirit is contemporary art

Ever since the democratization of digital filmmaking tools, Grand Rapids has been flush with creative minds showcasing their visions via our local screens. 

On Friday, Grand Rapids’ filmmaker Joel Potrykus (“Buzzard,” “Ape”) will debut locally his latest film, “The Alchemist Cookbook,” at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts for a two-week run.

This film arrives here after being invited as an official selection at the 2016 South by Southwest Film Festival.

“The Alchemist Cookbook” is the story about a young outcast, Sean, who has isolated himself in a trailer in the woods, setting out on alchemic pursuits with his cat Kaspar as his sole companion. 

Filled with disdain for authority, he's fled the daily grind and holed up in the wilderness, escaping a society that has no place for him. But when he turns from chemistry to black magic to crack nature's secret, things go awry and he awakens something far more sinister and dangerous.

The film features a black cast and is a break from Potrykus’ previous trilogy of films which all featured primarily caucasian actors. “The Alchemist Cookbook” feature stands out in his filmography for its director’s ability to deliver on the psychological horror film genre while still maintaining his indie street cred with the critics and his fans.

Admission: UICA members:$4, public: $8

Tunde Olaniran + ConvoTronics + Britney Stoney: Michigan's triple play day

A few weeks ago we featured the Blue Bridge Music Festival because we wanted to bring to light not only the many acts that would be performing but to showcase this region’s and our state’s ability to produce so much wonderful talent via the music labels popping up here.

One such label, Hot Capicola Records, will present a music showcase of three of its acts at the Pyramid Scheme. It is shaping up to be a dream ticket for your Friday night out on the town.

The headliner on Friday is Tunde Olaniran, a native of Flint, Michigan who has been described by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the 10 new artists you need to know.  With an electronic beat and lyrics richly alive with a social consciousness, Olaniran has been described by Rolling Stone as “a self-sustaining multi-disciplinary force that can sing empowerment anthems with passion, spin party raps with confidence and humor, and produce his own dance tracks. He also choreographs his performances, which often involve costumed dancers moving in unison to the beat.”

Also performing is Grand Rapids’ ConvoTronics — a hip hop act compared to Wu-Tang, Beastie Boys and Slaughter House who traveled on the Vans Warped Tour Bring it Back Stage — and Britney Stoney — a producer, singer, songwriter, and guitarist born and raised in Detroit. Stoney is a 2014 Kresge Foundation music fellow. 

To read more about the launch of Hot Capicola Records, be sure to check out John Sinkevics look at the new label via Local Spins.

Admission: $10 in advance. 

Women Who Write Author Showcase: Be there for our Sistas

Search any major city for a book event and you will be blown away at how many are out there. But when you seek to narrow your focus to other areas of diversity that include women, you might be surprised at how few there really are.. 

Lucky for us, we are doing our part locally by way of our Hook a Sista Up (HASU) 2nd annual Women Who Write Author Showcase, which returns to the south side’s Kroc Center on Saturday, Oct. 15.

This unique community event follows HASU’s mission to help area women authors gain visibility and recognition in their community.

This literary showcase enables folks hoping to connect with local women authors and writers to interact with the more than 15 authors scheduled to appear this year. 

In addition, this year HASU presents a writer’s workshop before the marketplace opens.

The workshop titled “Getting Going, Getting Started,” will be led by author Anna J. Small Roseboro, who will share actionable ideas for budding writers or those simply wanting to know more about storytelling to get started on your new manuscript. 

Small Roseboro is a published author and veteran teacher whose workshop will help writers focus on their audience and personal goals enabling them to take those confident steps towards completing a work of fiction or non-fiction. You must pre-register for this workshop event and the cost is $20. 

Hook a Sista Up’s mission is to help women entrepreneurs by bringing awareness to their businesses, promoting their work and providing a supportive relationship with other women entrepreneurs as they launch and sustain their businesses through collaboration and mentorship.

Admission:  Showcase free, workshop $20.

Fork Fest: Carving delicious dialogue

The 2016 Local First 6th annual Fork Fest, presented by Brewery Vivant, has so many delicious reasons why you should attend this year, but it is the chance to see a live demonstration unlike anything I have ever witnessed at a food-themed event that is sure to be the talk of the town the following morning. 

While this event will feature dozens of food and beverage providers from our region (see list below), as well as great music from returning act Fauxgrass, it is the butchering demonstration that has my interest.

Louise Earl Butcher — which is provide this butchering demonstration — believes in sourcing its meats from area farms as much as its possible and ensures the quality of their offerings by insisting on visiting those area farms to ensure they uphold the standards their clients have come to enjoy.  Owner Matt Smith hopes that this Fork Fest butcher demonstration will enable guests to connect to the food system in a meaningful manner by creating community dialogue about how our current system works or doesn’t. 

Fork Fest is a popular event, as it enables the hundreds of the public who attend each year to directly talk to the food entrepreneurs who play key roles in our local food system. The addition of a live butcher demonstration adds another critically important layer to the education opportunities of this wildly popular event.

“Food is such a communal thing; it’s something that naturally brings people together,” says Elissa Hillary, Executive Director of Local First. “Fork Fest expands on this bond. It builds our connection to place, contributes to the uniqueness of our community, gives people the opportunity to see our agricultural abundance, and makes it easy to support local food entrepreneurs.” 

With each paid admission you get to sample a diverse array of food and non-alcoholic beverages from Local First’s partner organizations. If you would like to imbibe an adult beverages, those are available for purchase, including options like Brewery Vivant’s Pumpkin Tart and other of their craft brew favorites, wines from Fenn Valley, and crisp Vander Mill Cider.

Area businesses participating this year include:

Black Heron
Brewery Vivant
Byron Center Meats
CitySen Lounge
Cultured Love
Daddy Pete's BBQ
Donkey Taqueria
Essence Restaurant Group
Fenn Valley Vineyards
Furniture City Creamery
GB Russo
Gilmore Catering
Grand Rapids Cheesecake Company
The Grilling Company
Heffron Farms
Herb & Fire Pizzeria
Irie Jamaican
Lindo Mexico
Louise Earl Butcher
Love's Ice Cream
Madcap Coffee
Malamiah Juice Bar
Masen James Bakery
Nutcase Vegan Meats
Paul's Mom's Cookies
Pietro's Italian Restaurant
Redwater Restaurant Group
Riverside Hostdogs
The Score
Slow Food West Michigan 
Supermercado Mexico
Terra GR
Twisted Rooster
Uccello's Ristorante
The Winchester

Adult beverages available for purchase: 

Brewery Vivant
Long Road Distillery
Fenn Valley Vineyards
Vander Mill Cider

Admission: $30 in advance, $35 at the door

Pulaski Days: Delicious, red, and a good dance beat

There are lots of ways you can celebrate Pulaski Days this year in Grand Rapids.

For starters, there is always the family-friendly Pulaski Days Parade, where not only will the Polish royalty be out en masse, but many organizations and causes loosely associated with this festive annual event will be in the streets celebrating this beloved festival. 

This year’s Pulaski Days Parade begins at 11 a.m. and marches down Michigan Street from College to Diamond Avenue. Immediately after the parade, fans can continue their celebration by landing at the Sixth Street Hall (649 Sixth St. NW), where the 2016 Pulaski Awards will be handed out. 

And if parades are not your jam, no worries since our local halls will be open all weekend to the public, which is invited to join in on this celebration of Polish culture by sampling the many diverse and handmade food dishes presented alongside a cold beer with plenty of live bands cranking out Polish dance music.

And should the “polka” get you in trouble on one of these festive nights, then head out for redemption on Sunday to John Ball Park’s bandshell, where the annual Polka Mass will take place at 11 a.m. complete with a lively music-filled Catholic Mass with celebrant Fr. Pat Grile. If it should rain on Sunday, the Polka Mass moves to the Knights of Columbus (1140 Muskegon Ave NW) at 11:15 a.m.

As an added bonus, if you are worried about driving from hall to hall during the evening hours, don’t fret: Pulaski Days offers three distinct shuttle services to suit your adventurous spirit. On Friday and Saturday these shuttles are offered from 7 p.m. to midnight courtesy of Executive Coach Service and Rockford Construction. See the website for shuttle locations and routes. http://www.pulaskidays.org/

All told, there are 14 Polish Halls participating in this year’s Pulaski Days’ epic event, so there are no excuses not to roll out the barrel and have a barrel full of fun. (Burp.) 

Admission: Free

Escanaba in da Moonlight: Yooper horror story on stage

Opening Friday, Oct. 7, 8 p.m. (runs through Oct. 16)
The University Wits, a local theatrical troupe started in 2014, will kick off their 2016 - 2017 season with what they bill as a “Michigan horror story.”

No, they are not adapting the Evil Dead film series for the stage as others have done over the years. The University Wits’s Michigan horror story is “Escanaba in da Moonlight” written by Chelsea, Michigan native Jeff Daniels.

Wait a minute, you say, I do not recall Jeff Daniels’ story being a horror flick.

Well, it is and it isn’t depending on who you talk to about the play’s premise (that would later go on to become a film). 

The story revolves around the tight and competitive Soady family clan who have gathered for the opening day of deer season at their family's Upper Peninsula camp. 

But the horror begins for this clan when the 35-year-old Reuben Soady is not able to bag a buck, making him the oldest Soady in the history of the family not to kill a deer during deer season’s familia pressure-filled opening day.  

This hilarious tale is a perfect kick-off event for the University Wits since this play brings so much life, laughter, and even a touch of suspense to this heart-felt theatrical script that offers powerful insights into the hunting culture to Michigan. How Reuben gets out of this pickle is best left to the actors on stage to reveal at Dog Story Theatre

Admission: $17 ($12 student rush tickets available one hour before performance with valid student ID) 
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