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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.

West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus Concert: The power of lifting one's voice in song to change the world

If you need a little levity to help get you through the holidays this year, then a stop at the annual West Michigan Gay Men’s Chorus (WMGMC) is the best ticket in my opinion to lift your spirits. I mean, gay is in the title.

Not only is the WMGMC a great place to experience live holiday music delivered via our community-based chorus, all the members of which volunteer to put on concerts and appearances throughout the city all year long, but this holiday show is a chance for the singers to reflect on the year we have experienced as society.

As with each concert, the guys invite special guest vocalists to share the stage. For their 2016 holiday show, "A Musical Potluck of Songs," they welcome the festive and feisty Sweet Adeline’s Percolate Quartet.  The chorus even joins Percolate Quartet on a special rendition of "Please Come Home for Christmas.”

Making a debut this year will be a new vocal arrangement of  “Winter Wonderland” by arranger Greg Jasperse.  

For the second act, the WMGMC will revisit Orlando’s Pulse tragedy, when 49 people were murdered and another 53 wounded on June 12, 2016 in a terrorist attack/hate crime inside the popular gay nightclub.  

Holding fast to the theme of peace on Earth that we all sing often during this time of the year, the WMGMC will sing “Child of Peace,” which asks those gathered to commit to the work of crafting peace in our world. 

What makes a WMGMC concerts such a thrill is how these vocalists are able to take us on a musical road trip where somber themes live next door to messages of hope, providing room for lighter, even humorous material to appear.   

Best of all, this year’s holiday concert is free. The WMGMC will be taking a collection, and a portion of the proceeds will be directed to the Grand Rapids Community Foundation's Our LGBT fund. 


Admission: Free

Water Protectors' Benefit: Join The Meanwhile & support the Michigan Host Tent at Standing Rock

This past Sunday, the United States Army Corps of Engineers denied the Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) permit that would have sent a portion of the 1,172-mile pipeline under the nation’s largest fresh water river, the Missouri River. 

This act would have threatened numerous sacred sites, but also, most importantly, the fresh water of all those downriver, including the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation whose sovereign land is dependent on access to fresh, clean water. The DAPL pipeline was originally scheduled to run north of Bismarck, North Dakota, but the residents complained and it was re-routed to Native American land. 

The permit to cross the river was the last piece of the pipeline that the Native Americans going by the name of Water Protectors - as they call themselves - have been protesting since April of this year. 

And while the permit has been denied and the Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II is urging the Water Protectors to leave the Oceti Sakowin Camp, before many can depart the land, which is currently home to 5,000 residents living with up to two feet of snow, it will take some time to disassemble the structures that make up the encampment. 

Rapid Growth is joining East Hills’ The Meanwhile to raise funds to assist with the Michigan Host Tent at Standing Rock, with 30 percent of the entire night's sales to be donated to our Water Protectors.

And while the event is all day, the special reception for this event will take place from 6-8 pm.

If you cannot make it and just want to donate directly to the to the Michigan Host Tent, please click here.

Want more background on the event? Read about Rapid Growth’s Tommy Allen’s journey to Standing Rock in November and why this battle for fresh water will continue in our state -- you can visit our publisher’s in-depth story here.


Admission: Free

World AIDS Day: The living are beacons of hope

The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “Leadership. Commitment. Impact” — three words that, when enacted, honestly can truly change our world. 

And locally you can take those critically important steps by joining others who will be gathering at Fountain Street Church again to commemorate the lives we have lost, as well as provide support for our fellow citizens, friends, and family members living with HIV every day. 

This event is part of a long, local tradition of not letting the memory of those who cannot speak today be forgotten. We all bear witness in music and via the moving testimonies that will be shared on this day devoted to remembrance. 

Scheduled to perform again this year is Grand Rapids’ Vox Vidorra, whose soulful sounds are sure to once again move those in attendance to action.

And while HIV has become a manageable disease to many, it is worth reminding ourselves that pledging to work for a cure is still our goal. 

The worldwide HIV epidemic is not over. But because of the many advances in treatment, we have more people than ever living with HIV than anytime in our history.

Looking to know your HIV status? Please use this site, which uses Google maps to pinpoint exactly where you can receive testing.

If you would like to understand more about those members of our world who are living with HIV and leading through open dialogue, please visit Positive Spin’s site.

Admission:  Free

Holiday Artists Market: The best gifts are those created locally

The city is flush with artisan shopping options, from the house shows of folks like the annual Beerhorst Family Holiday Art Show to the eclectic Vinecroft Artist Market, where Fred Bivens gets to showcase his talents are more than just his work at the Festival for the Arts or ArtPrize.

But no other event can boast more than 72 solid artists who will be a part of Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts’ 28th Annual Holiday Artists Market (HAM), held again this year at the spacious Steelcase Town Hall on the city’s southeast side.

The sale offers so many choices, from the beautifully small gifts like handcrafted jewelry to home goods to the often large, impressive fine art.

This two-day festive HAM event will showcase regional musicians performing live, as well as a host of options for noshing provided by local food and beverage vendors. 

If you want to be hyperlocal this year, please consider adding HAM to your event plate. 

Schedule is as follows: 

Friday, December 2, 2016
UICA Member Preview: 5:00pm—6:00pm
Public Welcome: 6:00pm—9:00pm

Saturday, December 3, 2016
Public Welcome: 10:00am—5:00pm

For a complete list of all the artists showcased at HAM, please visit UICA’s website

Admission: Free
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