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Salsa Dancing 101: The Armentality way

We all face moments of uncertainty in our lives and the times we most often feel this paralysis is right before we make the leap into something new. So I’m hear to say, “Make a leap because it is good for the soul.”

And that is exactly what I am encouraging you to consider this week, right as we start our weekend.  

On Thursday night, you have an opportunity to add a few new moves to your dance floor repertoire as the Armentality Movement Arts Center invites folks to attend its Salsa Dancing 101 class. 

Salsa, with a history stretching way back to the 19th Century, is a mix of different cultural moves rooted in the Caribbean region. From this humble start it gave birth to the dance forms of Son, Son Montuno, cha cha cha, Mambo, and Puerto Rican bomba and plena.

Your teacher for this introductory Salsa 101 class is Laura Amenta, a dance instructor who is sure to get even the stodgiest of non-dancers up on the floor. 

Amenta reminds us that previous dance experience is not necessary. She encourages you to bring a friend or just arrive solo for the class. Either way is fine, since I know from personal experience with Amenta that she has one of the most loving and encouraging souls I have encountered in this city. 

Cost is just $35 but the ability to learn some sweet new moves that you can bust out on the dance floor is truly priceless. 

Sunset Cruise w/ The Bootstrap Boys

While the city is packed with tourists looking at art in every nook and cranny of downtown Grand Rapids, you have a chance to escape it all…and this Saturday your ticket out is a riverboat docked in nearby Jenison. 

On Saturday at 5:30 p.m., The Grand Lady Riverboat will begin boarding passengers for a special 6 - 8 p.m. sunset dinner cruise with special guest musicians, The Bootstrap Boys. 

The Bootstrap Boys are a popular four-piece country band rooted here in Grand Rapids.  As described on their website, “They’ve been laying down country-fried originals and well curated covers that run the gamut from classic outlaw hits to old cowboy songs, gospel to pop, all in their own Up-North-Down-South style since 2015.”

Admission to the concert on the The Grand Lady is just $15, but if you want to enjoy the dinner being offered on board, it is an additional $13. 

The dinner menu includes grilled beef or veggie burgers, bratwurst, BBQ pulled pork, and hot dogs. They even have a kids menu offering. 

Also on board is both nonalcoholic and alcoholic service for your enjoyment on the river. 

We strongly recommend reservations since this special concert event looks to sell out. Follow this link to book your passage for an inspiring night of music from The Bootstrap Boys. 

Blue Bridge Music Festival: Bringing back the beautiful noise

ArtPrize has plenty of things that you can enjoy at a strolling pace, but sometimes you want to really cut loose. And for those moments there is the return of the Blue Bridge Music Festival held on Friday and Saturday on the historic Blue Bridge.

Like last year, the festival will feature artists from all over the country (as well as many locals) who are competing in ArtPrize Nine via this free festival. 

Sure, most times when you think of ArtPrize, it is natural to pigeonhole it as a festival for what one might call traditional fine art, but as this festival reminds us again in a bold way, music is an art form, too.

Each of the acts are eligible for the ArtPrize Nine public vote competition in the time-based category with the public also invited to cast a vote to award an additional prize: ArtPrize Song of the Year and a $1,000 cash prize courtesy of HopCat.

Here’s the lineup for the Blue Bridge this year: 

4 p.m.  Live broadcast on WYCE w/ Quinn Matthews
5 p.m.  yolonda Yogi lavender
7 p.m.  The Bootstrap Boys
9 p.m.  Michigander

12 p.m. Live broadcast on WYCE w/ Quinn Matthews
2 p.m.   Brad Fritcher's Moods
4 p.m.   Asamu Johnson and The Associates of The Blues
5:30 p.m. Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish
7 p.m.   Watching for Foxes
8:45 p.m.  The Great Ones: JROB & Lady Ace Boogie

For more details, visit artprize.org/music.

Oktoberfest West Michigan 2017: Chugging towards Munich

Grand Rapids may be Beer City, USA but if my Instagram feed of my friends living now in Munich is an indicator, then Munich is Earth's Oktoberfest City.

But since a trip to Munich may not be in the cards this fall season, you can enjoy the next best thing at the city’s only Oktoberfest held at the westside’s John Ball Park. 

This German-styled "Volksfest," brought to Grand Rapids by our local Edelweiss Club, will feature specialty imported beer on draft, as well as many other German beers and wines. 

Dance to a variety of live acts, from traditional German musicians to modern German pop, featuring special guest artists Ein Prosit German Band, the Oktoben German Band, and many more.  

And if dancing is not your scene, then enter your name in the hat for the various contests of  feats of strength with a stein holding contest (for men and women) or the beer keg toss. Both of these events should be a blast to witness live at the park. 

And should you get hungry, grab some schnitzel and wursts as you enjoy this two-day festival.

The event is free to attend, including access to the festival grounds, music tent, and food vendor area; however, there is a $5 cover for an "over 21" wristband which will be required to drink alcohol at Oktoberfest West Michigan. Proceeds raised this year will be shared with Kids’ Food Basket. 

ArtPrize Nine: Ready or Not….

Wednesday - Sunday, Sept. 20 - Oct. 8
Love it? Hate It? or just ambivalent? Either way, it doesn’t matter because ArtPrize Nine arrives in Grand Rapids from September 20 through October 8 and this year it is bigger than ever.

ArtPrize, an open and independently organized international art competition taking  place each fall in Grand Rapids, awards more than $500,000 in prizes each year.

But ArtPrize is so much more than just the prize money as the city rolls out the red carpet to artists, venues, curators, and educators to welcome their contributions to this annual art competition. 

In addition, ArtPrize offers music events, performance art, a movie series, and a Critical Discourse speaker series, which brings art experts to Grand Rapids to share insights and enable discussions all about art. 

There is even an series of education days where nearly 19,000 PreK-12th grade students from 203 schools in 59 school districts across Michigan attend ArtPrize for field trips and additional learning experiences.

All told since 2009, more than 2.9 million visitors have cast 3.2 million votes as artists from near and far around the world have received $4.1 million in prize money.

So however you choose (or not) to experience ArtPrize this year, just remember there are no shortages of events to sample the many diverse offerings of ArtPrize Nine. 

SiTE:LAB: Opening preview party at their new space

While everyone is dashing around downtown this Friday night, art insiders know that on Friday night is a special kick-off party from one of ArtPrize’s most popular destinations, SiTE:LAB.

But unlike in years past, for 2017 this popular space-bending traveling art event will be sitting out this year’s ArtPrize 9 as they prepare their latest space for their big return in 2018. 

To introduce the public to their new space—a former school and later government facility—  SiTE:LAB is welcoming the public to see the raw space before they embark upon the major work to overhaul this old gem of a building.  

This kickoff party will have plenty of Brewery Vivant beer that you can enjoy as your socialize and dance to the soundscapes crafted by DJ’s SuperDre and the Grand Rapids Soul Club.

For those seeking to drive to the location versus using Uber or Lyft, free parking is located in the NW corner of Madison Ave and Franklin St.

Last month, Rapid Growth celebrated SiTE:LAB’s release of a new book examining the two years they inhabited their Rumsey Street Project, an endeavor made possible through their connection with Habitat for Humanity of Kent County. You can read the essay, “Encounters at Rumsey Street,” by Art Critic Gregory Volk, here.

Landslide: The Music of Fleetwood Mac

Friday - Sunday, Sep. 22 - 24, 7:30 p.m. (doors), 8 p.m. (showtime)
A few years ago, area musicians performed a tribute concert based on the popular album “Rumors” by Fleetwood Mac. Having attended it (and as someone who has seen Fleetwood Mac perform numerous times,) I can with confidence say it was one of my favorite musical experiences in the last decade. 

For starters, this band (and subsequent solo music projects) has not only produced more than 50 Billboard 100 charting songs, but 45 of those songs charted within the Top 40.

And while Fleetwood Mac may have formed in 1967, they are still capturing the imagination of audiences around the world with their music.

On Saturday night comes another opportunity for fans of Fleetwood Mac’s distinct musical style to experience a special concert with tribute band Landside as they take to the DeVos Performance Hall stage with our Grand Rapid Symphony. 

So if you are fans of classics like "Over My Head," "Say You Love Me," “Rhiannon," “Landslide,” and “Tusk,” then get tp this special Pops Concert Series happening Friday through Sunday.

Fiction440: It's F***ing Fall

Looking to brush up on your writing skills but not willing to take on the annual National Novel Writing Month challenge that happens each November, then maybe Fiction 440 is just what you need.

Started in Lansing in 2010 by Ivy Hughes, Jeff Grabill, Suban Noor Cooley, and Aaron Matthews, Fiction 440 has enjoyed a long and festive run in Lansing and has expanded earlier this year to include a new Grand Rapids chapter meeting at Creston’s Reservoir Lounge. 

The rules are quite simple: bring with you a completed work of fiction created around their supplied theme that is less than 440 words and be prepared to read it for the audience. 

And while the word count rules are simple to remember because it is embedded in the name of the event, organizers of Fiction 440 are quick to point out their most important rules about your submission: “No excerpts, No poetry, No exceptions.”

This month's writing prompt theme picks up on the emotion many of us are experiencing as Summer 2017 is passing: “Its F***ing Fall!”

Fiction 440 is open to everyone 18 and older. Organizers ask that we mention that this is not a contest—so there will be no judging.

Most of all, this is a great way to meet up with other writers in your community who are looking to spark some creative flow in a space where the community has been welcome for more than a decade in the heart of the Creston neighborhood.

city/hacks: #HackIsTheNewHustle

The city is growing. It is expanding. And hopefully, if we can continue to expand access to opportunities, then we can find a way to hack our way to a more equitable future. 

This weekend is a chance for those with an idea or just curious about starting something to attend the debut of city/hacks—a free tech-focussed and inspiring event starting on Thursday and running through Sunday with special panels, guest speakers, networking socials, and, of course, a winner's ceremony. 

Here is a sample of the many options this weekend offered at city/hacks from Midwest Tech Project and & Ken Miguel-Cipriano of Theta Ventures:  

Thursday, Sept.14, 6 - 8 p.m.
GRMI Still The Furniture City? Or America's Next Tech Hub Forum
Location: Start Garden 40 Pearl St., Suite #200

Panel participants: Mike Morin (President & CEO Of Start Garden), Aaron Schopp (Founder & CEO Of The Factory, Elevator Up, & CoLearning West Michigan), Meredith Bronk (President & CEO Of Open Systems Technologies), Luis Perez ( Founder Of Loop Coding Center), Mary O’Neill (COO & Managing Partner Atomic Object).

Friday, Sept. 15, 6 - 8 p.m.
GR's Tech Night Out Technology Fair & Keynotes Ellell & Co from Detroit
Location: Grand Rapids City High School, 1720 Plainfield Ave NE

Saturday, Sept. 16, 1 - 3 p.m. 
Fabian Elliot Keynote Address
Location: The Factory, 38 Fulton St W, Suite #400

Sunday, Sept. 17, 2 p.m. 
City Hacks GR Winners Awarded
Location: Grand Rapids City High School 1720 Plainfield Ave NE

Event organizers want to remind those curious about city/hacks that this is a family-friendly weekend designed for all ages to connect with the various communities and companies in West Michigan who are helping solve the diverse and complex tech gap in our city. #HackIsTheNewHustle

For all the events happening this weekend, please visit Midwest Tech Project of Grand Rapids, an organization whose goal is to goal is to expose students to the various content areas such as coding, cyber security, web design, etcetera to ensure skill development and access into the tech industry to create a livable, lifelong career.

GRAM After Dark: Silent Dance Party

As the temperatures drop in the evening and fall’s chilling air makes you think it is time to just head for your couch with a blanket, there are other ways to keep warm this Friday.

Billed as a way to start your ArtPrizing entertainment early this year comes the Grand Rapids Art Museum’s (GRAM) After Dark series with a silent dance party. 

Unlike other DJ events where the music is pushed to ear-splitting heights through the aid of tweeters to bassbins, a silent dance party is a headphone-driven experience perfect for those seeking to tailor the volume of their music while enjoying the joys of dancing with the community.

The night’s beats are curated by some of the area’s most exciting DJs, including Everything AB (AB), DJ Monica Parker and COMPLETE VII.

It is also a chance to score a special preview of the GRAM’s ArtPrize 9 exhibition. 

Admission to this 21 or older event is free if you are a GRAM member, or just $12 in advance and $15 at the door. The only way to guarantee a set of headphones is to pre-register, so do not delay. If you arrive at the door without pre-registering, headphones left are on a first come, first served basis. 

This event is powered by Quiet Events. Reserve your ticket online today at this site

Talking Dreads: This “is” the place

Saturday, Sep. 16, 7:30 p.m. (doors), 8 p.m. (showtime)
As I was scanning AppleTV to find some new music videos (because MTV doesn’t show them anymore), I landed on YouTube where I would stumble upon the entire concert film from Director Jonathan Demme: The Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense.” 

Over the course of the next 90 minutes I was just as enthralled from the couch with this infectious live concert performance as when I first saw it debut at the Goodrich Quad Cinema on 29th Street in 1984. 

So you can imagine the excitement when I discovered that a former singer, Mystic Bowie of the Tom Tom Club, which is composed of The Talking Heads’s members Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth, would be in Western Michigan this weekend.

Mystic Bowie is the Jamaican-born ringleader of the band Talking Dreads who will be at the Park Theatre this Saturday for a special concert of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club hits reimagined in all their glory via the bands heavy reggae/Caribbean rhythmic style.

So if you want to sing along as you dance to the infectious popular songs like “Psycho Killer,” “Burning Down the House,” “This Must Be The Place,” and so many more re-imagined in a joyous and sunny performance on stage, then make the drive to Holland this weekend.

3rd Annual VegFest Grand Rapids: Building a better life one bite at a time

A lot of folks are beginning to take control of their diets, and lucky for folks in Grand Rapids, there is no shortage of options for those with special dietary needs to keep them on the path.

Grand Rapids boasts more than 40 identified vegan-friendly restaurants as well as home to numerous food blogs that address the joys and health benefits of eating a plant-based diet.

This weekend is the return of the annual VegFest—a vegetarian food festival held in various cities around the world to promote veganism and vegetarianism.

This one-day event explores these healthy lifestyles, but also asks us to consider the lives of those animals we often consume or how some modern food practices place an undue strain on our environment.

The event features hands-on demonstrations, a marketplace for unique products and a chance to attend any one of the many panels devoted to cooking, animal compassion and personal health with locals like WOTV4’s Wellness Expert Michele Fife and touring guest speakers.

Regardless of where you are on your health journey, you have a lifetime of choices ahead of you to make. VegFest helps you make wise choices moving forward.

Whitecaps $5 Night*: Take them all out to the ballpark

This holiday weekend, why not consider a trip just a few miles north of the city to attend a West Michigan Whitecaps Baseball game as they wrap up their regular season.

And there isn’t a better time than now (Thursday, Aug. 31) to purchase a ticket to attend one of America’s favorite summer activities because admission to the 1 p.m. Labor Day game is a perfectly priced ticket at just $5. 

But here’s the important fine print: in order to take advantage of this special Labor Day pricing, you will have to purchase these specially priced admission by end of the day on Thursday, August 31. Typically, reserved seats to see our local minor league will run you $12.50, so this is a really great offer from the Whitecaps to entice the fans to come out for this final game before the playoffs.

In addition to a battle with the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the stadium will also feature $1 brats, courtesy of Johnsonville.
You can purchase these specially priced tickets at the Fifth Third Ballpark ticket office, by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131, or at www.whitecapsbaseball.com. Note: There is a limit of eight tickets per person.
If you have Labor Day plans, then consider purchasing full-priced tickets to attend one of the final two fireworks shows of the season on Saturday, September 2 and Sunday, September 3.  If you select Sunday, then this is also the last Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Day with the first 1,000 kids 12 and under eating free, along with a host of other family fun activities.
Our local Whitecaps team has secured a Midwest League playoff berth by winning the first half East Division so this is not the end of your chances. It is just the last time you will see ticket admission prices this low in 2017.

Isaac Norris Project: Sax with friends

There are two groups of folks this weekend: those who will race out of the city to places like the mighty Lake Michigan, or those who will choose instead to explore the quiet of an emptied city. 

I, for one, will be part of that latter group and as I surveyed the weekend for places to land, I was happy to see a best bet for a chill brew enjoyed with an equally cool event at The Creston Brewery, who will welcome The Isaac Norris Project to this northeast neighborhood brew pub. 

Known for his jazz compositions released under the name of Isaac Norris, this Sunday’s popup performance in the Creston neighborhood is a chance for Norris, under The Isaac Norris Project, to welcome those musicians who worked with him on the recording of “Something to Say” to the stage for this special concert. 

Joining Norris are Grand Rapids-area musicians, who will be recreating the featured artist’s smooth soul and up-tempo compositions, as they bring to the stage their many influences and styles from the artists’ backgrounds in jazz, gospel, blues, and R&B. Norris’ playful and inventive turn on the saxophone, along with the help of area musicians, is why The Isaac Norris Project is a best bet this Sunday in the city. 

For more information on the artist including where to purchase his latest release, please visit isaacnorrismusic.com.

44th annual Eastown StreetFair: Getting better with age

It is no secret that one of the very first neighborhoods I explored when I moved to Grand Rapids was Eastown, and I instantly fell in love with the welcoming energy of this part of our city.

It is a neighborhood business district that, with all the changes, has found a way to still welcome and balance the new with the old creating a refreshing mix. So many neighborhoods could learn from their embrace of the indigenous culture of this community.

And once again we have an abundance of reasons worthy to celebrate on Wealthy Street and its tiny side pockets on Saturday, September 9 as we welcome the 44th Eastown StreetFair.

This annual street fair is a place where families of all sizes, colors, and definitions return each year to celebrate the arts and businesses of our community.

This year’s fair boast more than 150 vendors, plenty of ethnic and American food from area restaurants and inventive food trucks, and a series of performances from regional musicians.

Eastown StreetFair will take place on Saturday, September 9 from 9 a.m. 9 p.m. 

For a complete list of the musical acts performing on the main stage (with additional acts at Billy's Lounge and Mulligan's Pub) be sure to visit their event page for their start times and locations.
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