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14th Annual Mayors’ Grand River Cleanup: Collaborative event for cities on the mighty Grand

There are no shortages of news stories about the topic of water these days, whether it be stormwater management to water rights as it relates to the First Nations’ people concerns. Even locally in a place named after the mighty Grand River that snakes 252 miles across Michigan, Grand Rapids is continuing its push to reactivate the water for a future restoration of our famed rapids (presently missing).

Part of our community’s evolution around water issues and its importance is the many events locally that we host here that present an opportunity for us to learn and grow as we interact with it.

One such event is the brainchild of former Mayor Heartwell and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) whose annual Mayors’ Grand River Cleanup celebrates its 14th year. 

Join fellow citizens, as well as area businesses, organizations, and church groups who descend upon the Sixth Street Bridge Park at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 9 as they prepare to embark on a 40-mile path (broken up into manageable segments) along the Grand River. 

The event runs until 1 p.m. where all volunteers of this event will be treated to a light lunch, Founders beer (21 and over), and the music of Dunegrass. 

This ever-growing crowd of volunteers will bring Grand Rapids, Grandville, Walker, Wyoming and Plainfield township together as these river cities set an example to others about the power of communities coming together to achieve great things.

In addition, because trash sometimes makes its way via stormwater drains to the Grand River, this year WMEAC will be working within a SE neighborhood of Grand Rapids to pick up trash that is at risk for entering the river. 

You might think the best of our hot weather is behind us but with events like this it is easy to keep warm when you see the throngs who show up to ensure our river is getting healthier with each act to preserve it is enacted here.

Green Gala: Be here for our city parks’ future

There is something really cool about a growing gala in our city that encourages you to ride your bike, take a bus, or even walk to attend. And that is one of the joys of the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks annual Green Gala which moves this year across the river from its previous location to the Sixth Street Bridge Park on Monroe.

Each year since it started, this event helps the organization made up of community volunteers to further its mission to protect, enhance, and expand our city’s parks, public spaces, and urban forest.

This year, they change the format and move to different location, adding new elements of entertainment to the mix in a fresh reboot.

With each ticket purchased, you will enjoy locally sourced food, along with a cash bar to enjoy the delicious elixirs produced in our city from Brewery Vivant, Farmhaus, and Long Road Distillery.

So be impulsive and head to the riverbank of the Sixth Street Bridge Park for a wonderful night at our favorite gala of the year.

DJ Shazam Bangles: Grand Rapids Soul Club's evolution of cool continues

There is no shortage of folks asking me these days where the best place to dance in the city. And while the list is getting longer each year, there is one group in town that has the best track record for packed and hot, sweaty dance floor fun: Grand Rapids Soul Club.

Keeping with their mission to invite DJ’s from out of town to take over the decks, Grand Rapids Soul Club welcomes this Friday special guest DJ Shazam Bangles (Boogie Munsters and Cutz on Cutz).

DJ Shazam Bangles’ roots come from an era of Chicago’s underground DJ culture where a future style of mixing would take root before capturing the imagination of the world. Having grown up in a such a sound system culture, he’s able to seamlessly capture Chicago’s own homegrown style of mixing and has improved upon it over his last 20 years in the business.

And while the city of full of young DJ’s doing great things, taking time to hear from someone with such incredible experience on the 1s and 2s means that this Friday you can expect not only a packed dance floor, but an experience that is most certainly going to build on our local Grand Rapids Soul Club brand.

For even more info on this visiting DJ, we hope you will take the time to read about DJ Shazam Bangles on Grand Rapids Soul CLub’s Facebook page.

Beer City Bike Fest: Building bridges, having fun

The Spoke Folks is a gift to this community because they are all about building up our local bike culture as they serve and travel across so many diverse lines of our city.

On Saturday this gem of our bike culture once again hosts a summer festival with their latest edition, Beer City Bike Fest, organizing around two things that often go hand in hand here: beer and bikes.

And lest you think this is like any other festival in the city, then have I got news for you: these events are electric and teeming with life as people ride or drive in from all over to participate in the many activities they will be showcasing on this special day.

First up, it is a free and family-friendly event that takes place on the street and lands just in front of their Logan Street facility. To help families expand bike education with their kids, The Spoke Folks’ Beer City Bike Fest will offer a station for kids to make their own flags or license plates for their bikes. There is even a kids bike parade featuring Bangarang Circus at 3:45 p.m. There are races as well that start at 1 p.m. and continue until 3 p.m.

At 5 p.m., the event kicks it up a notch with the live music portion of the day, featuring also a diverse array of acts including Hannah Laine, Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish, The Hoplites, Bike Tuff, Les Créatif, Lady Ace Boogie, and Cabildo.

Summer might be winding down but that doesn’t mean we can’t still rage for fun in the streets. Get to Beer City Bike Fest for another installment of great fun and education from The Spoke Folks.

Running of the Bulls: Run, chug (repeat)

Each year the Running of the Bulls happens in Spain and each time if you are adventurous like me, you say to yourself, “I would love to do this sometime.”

Lucky for you, there is a way to begin to train for such an international adventure and it happens on the streets of downtown Grand Rapids each year with the Grand Raggidy Roller Derby’s annual Running of the Bulls.

Unlike the famous El Encierro (The Running of the Bulls) in Pamplona, Spain, the only risks here are skinned knees and possibly a hangover the next day as our local roller derby girls take to the streets on roller skates to chase participants at this upgraded beer crawl.

Unlike El Encierro, our Grand Raggidy Roller Derby skaters will be acting as the bulls and those who attend will be the brave souls who venture from bar to bar at this day-drinking festival.

The registration for the event starts at Peppino's Downtown Sports Lounge (130 Ionia Ave. SW) at 11 a.m. and includes stops at Stella's Lounge, Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Gardella's, and the Pyramid Scheme.

After the last stop, you return to Peppino’s for a dance party. And lest you think “bulls” can’t dance, have I got news for you: our local team really knows how to have a good time on the dance floor.

Key Details: registration is at Peppino’s from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. with the Bulls being unleashed at 12 p.m. A small payment of $10 will get you a Running of the Bulls bandana and a wristband that gives exclusive access to discounts, games, and prizes throughout the day’s run.

You have a lot of choices this weekend for sure but come on, none of them can even compare to the chance to run with the bulls (and without the risk of a goring from our girls…unless you are mean. Then in that case, keep your med card handy.)

Yassou! - a Greek Festival to fill up your weekend’s dance card

Each August, the folks at Yassou! begin to tempt the salivary glands of our hungry citizens when their blue and white signs start to pop up all over the city promoting their annual northeast neighborhood-based Greek Festival.

Not only is this a chance to experience delicious and flavorful Greek cuisine, but each year offers an opportunity to join others in dance or just the chance to witness Greek dancing live under the summer sun.

But honestly, a lot come just for the food, which includes freshly made Moussaka, Galaktobourikou, Spanakopita, and a host of other traditional dishes. The festival boasts that 85 percent of the food prepared for your enjoyment is created via the parishioners of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. 

One year, I took my parents who were visiting from out of town to Yassou! and they talked about that experience for years after. My folks and I really loved all the families who participated, taking time to answer questions about the traditional attire and dance. 

Yassou!’s friendly atmosphere is why I am a huge fan of this annual festival. It is educational, as well as a tasty and visual treat whether or not you are Greek. 

So let’s eat, drink, and dance together at Yassou! as a community that celebrates the diversity of our city.

Sixth annual GRandJazzFest presented by DTE Energy Foundation: Free jazz in the city

For those seeking a most chill time in the center of downtown, we can’t think of a more fitting festival in the city than the sixth annual GRandJazzFest presented by DTE Energy Foundation.

This annual event seamlessly blends groups of all ages, races, and even musical ability in the audience to line the line Rosa Parks Circle’s bowl with blankets, chairs, and even long boards for a two-day festival devoted to live jazz music.

This year, they welcome 11 acts over the weekend, ranging from the local to international as a diverse lineup of musicians perform at this free event.

The headliner this year is Scottish-born saxophonist Richard Elliot who will perform the closing 8 p.m. slot on Saturday night. Since Elliot’s 1986 debut of “Initial Approach,” he has released more than 15 recordings and is beloved over the decades since for his infectious melodies and smooth grooves. 

This is the perfect summer weekend to get to know your local jazz scene as well as enjoy some deliciously cool live music in our downtown. 

We are quite certain live jazz is just what we need to take the edge off of a very long work week. 

Best of Creston: A new festival where you can dance in the street, too

It is not uncommon to hear of a new event popping up in the center of the city, but festivals in neighborhoods are a bit rarer. So you can imagine my excitement when I learned of the Creston neighborhood’s brand spanking new “Best of Creston” event.

This new Best of Creston is a hybrid street fair and music festival inviting neighbors and the Creston-curious to tour these area businesses and eateries that have been popping up here at a very organic, healthy pace. 

I have personally enjoyed how they handle growth up here on the north side because it does not overwhelm the community as many of these businesses are great neighbors, too, many offering programming year round in our community. 

The event runs along Plainfield Avenue at Leonard all the way north to Lafayette. If you are hoping for a good starting point, Rapid Growth recommends that you begin at  Graydon's Crossing which will have not just an obligatory beer tent, but will also host a special Moscow Mule tent, too. They will have walking Indian nachos, The Jake and Jimmy Band, a bounce house, and an inflatable maze for kids (and kids at heart.) They will even have Catherine’s Care Center representatives to share their history in the neighborhood and how they are meeting the needs of our city’s citizens in need of medical assistance. 

As you walk along Plainfield, be sure to visit any number of the businesses from Central District Cyclery to Stonesthrow to a photo booth at the Bradley Salon. Children are encouraged to stop by Glamour and Grit to make their own fresh flower crown. 

Rounding out your time in Creston means that you must stop by and help Creston Brewery celebrate their one-year anniversary in the neighborhood. This popular north side brewery known for its beers named after historical events and figures of the city will feature the music of Cabildo, Lady Ace Boogie, Rick Chyme, and Peace to Mateo.

There is even a paint-by-number community mural project underway at gallery Lions & Rabbits where you can work alongside members of our city’s art community on this project while enjoying music mixed by CRAFTY.

So while you have a lot of options this weekend to consider, if you have ever been curious about what is happening in Creston, then the Best of Creston debut event is just the ticket this Saturday.

Grand Rapids Drag Race: Season three live on stage

If 50 years ago was the Summer of Love, then this year in Grand Rapids it is the Season of Drag as everything from festivals, arts centers, and even the recent RuPaul’s Drag Race stage tour has been a colorful and creative addition to the city’s entertainment landscape.

On Tuesday night, eleven girls will battle it out over the next few weeks in pursuit of the crowning title at this year’s Grand Rapids Drag Race (GRDR).

Celebrating their third season at Rumors Nightclub on South Division Avenue, each Tuesday the contestants perform a special theme or task as they compete in the hopes of avoiding elimination each week.

The sharp-tongued and fabulously festive Batty Davis will return as host of season three with main judges Dymond Denae and DJ Monica Parker. 

An added bonus of GRDR is that each week a different special guest judge from the community to join the other Dymond and Parker in selecting the winner each week. Past guests have included Well House's Tami Vandenberg and Rapid Growth's Tommy Allen.

Each night, there are two rounds of challenges with a winner and then a grueling but lively bottom two, who will have to perform a lip sync battle for their lives. 

Cover is $3 for this 18+ event. (Photo courtesy of GRDR and Tim Motley) 

Ends of the Earth: New work by Todd Freeman

Opening Friday, Aug 11, 5 - 7 p.m. (through Sept. 10, 2017)
Looking to explore the depths of our city’s illustration community? Then head to Madcap this Friday as they welcome artist and illustrator Todd Freeman to this popular downtown coffee shop.

Freeman is known for his inquisitive just off of center design approach to common imagery that under his hand becomes alive with intrigue.

With his latest art exhibition of watercolor drawings, “Ends of the Earth,” Freeman guides  us through a sort of time travel via a series of new images that evoke the joys of exploration.

Freeman remains one of the most interesting artists of our city and of my favorites, too. His growing resume of shows from Grand Rapids Ortega y Gasset Projects in Brooklyn, NY (2016) illuminates the growing audience about such a thoughtful artist from our city. 

If you have even enjoyed the pleasures of exploration whether it is wandering the lakeshore for fossils or the joys a few branches of green from a hike can produce, then this is the art exhibit that will connect with your explorer soul. 

The show runs until September 10, 2017. To learn more of his work, please follow him on his Etsy site or via Instagram

Diane Patterson: “a young Pete Seeger”

People may vote and sway opinion about who is best in "_____" but most critics like me can agree that one of the most interesting people in our city is Hugo Claudin, who has continued to evolve our city’s counterculture street cred one invite at a time.

And given that he has a couple decades of practice now, the acts just keep coming with such ease.

This Friday, Claudin welcomes musician Diane Patterson to his Avenue for the Arts Mexicains Sans Frontieres.  Patterson is on the last leg of her third nationwide tour with a stop in Grand Rapids to play at this intimate performance space on Division Avenue.

Billed as a "folkgoddess," Patterson of Williams, Oregon, is out performing in support of her latest release, “Teach, Inspire, Be Real”—a collection of songs composed to awaken the mind. 

In fact, her style of blending insightful (and singable) lyrics with her equally strong voice, guitar, and ukulele is why percussionist and composer Geoffrey Gordon claims she is a young Pete Seeger. And as you listen to her vocals it is easy to draw comparisons to other folk goddesses Joni Mitchell or Beth Orton. 

Patterson is a seasoned performer whose career has spanned nearly three decades. To become familiar with the music in advance of her stop in Grand Rapids, here is a link to her Soundcloud page.

Joining Patterson at this show is Maggie May who also sports an ukulele and presents a live show peppered with lovely lyrics bordering on the humorous to the heartfelt. 

You can always expect a memorable night of entertainment at Mexicains Sans Frontieres. Cost for attending this special concert is suggested donation of $10. (As always, G-Sync recommends with suggested donations that one considers giving more if you are able to afford the investment in our community.)

SuperPartyWonderDay: Beyond books is an adventure debuting here

If you have not been to a library in the last decade, then you have missed how libraries all over the world are shifting our views of what a library can be in a very digital world. 

And who would have guessed back then that the place known for “shhhh” noises is becoming so much more lively. (It is a good thing.)  

The Kent District Library invites locals to join them on a journey beyond books and the walls of their institution to very special SuperPartyWonderDay.

This special event features so much of what we love about our region as good beer, tasty BBQ, local bands, and bikes are featured prominently in this great outdoors summer activity for the whole family. 

This event also enables KDL to help Kent County show off its newest outdoor music venue, the Meadows at Millennium Park (across Maynard from the Beach area).

The day’s activities include bands Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish, Conrad Shock + the Noise, and Brother Adams with a menu of delicious goodies from food trucks A Moveable Feast, Patty Matters, and Moochies Dream Cream. 

The event also features a diverse array of unique beer, wine, and cider selections from Railtown Brewing Company, Cedar Springs Brewing Company, Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery & Supply, Kayla Rae Cellars, and Cascade Cellars Winery.  Having these options for beverages would be awesome after wrapping up a bike ride in the park hosted by Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition and BikeKDL.

In addition, you can help influence the judges attending the rib cook-off by voting for the People’s Choice Award sponsored by The Grilling Company.

If you want to really enjoy the acts and are not comfortable sitting bare-legged on the ground during the concert, please bring your own lawn chairs and blankets.

Everyone is welcome….even your friendly, furry “kids.”

Curse Words Wizard Van arrives back in hometown

In keeping with Rapid Growth’s theme this week of focusing on those locals who are creating an impact on our illustration/art culture of West Michigan and beyond, we are happy to see former Grand Rapidian Charles Soule of Team Curse Words ending their Wizard Van Tour in Grand Rapids.

Soule is traveling with fellow Team Curse Words artist Ryan Browne and will arrive with their special van at downtown Grand Rapids’ Vault of Midnight for a chance for fans to hang with the artists and have them autograph your favorite memorabilia from this popular literary series. 

This summer of 2017 tour ends their 14-city run of 14 unique stores that carry their popular comic series, "Curse Words."

As an added bonus, the tour offers at each stop a limited number of collectable tour merchandise and a chance to encounter rare items at this signing.

After the signing event, ease on down the road to The Pyramid Scheme where Charles and Ryan will hosting an after party in a local bar that has formed a series of partnership events for the illustrative novel, gaming, and comic crowds of our city.

Who knows, you might even see some unique curses performed as well as a touch of real magic, too. 

Celebrate with a local who figured it out but still knows when it is time to return home and celebrate with his fans.

Night of the Living Dead: Movie in a furniture store setting

This is something really intriguing about the Grand Rapids Public Library’s after hours screening of the 1968 classic film “Night of the Living Dead” at Stonesthrow in the Creston Neighborhood.

Personally, I cannot recall another time in our history when a local furniture showroom in the city has hosted a film like this, which makes this event very intriguing. 

But most importantly, it is the selection of Director George Romero’s classic horror film that should have folks lining up out the back door at Stonesthrow to see this original zombie picture.

The story is quite simple according to IMDB which writes, “There is panic throughout the nation as the dead suddenly come back to life. The film follows a group of characters who barricade themselves in an old farmhouse in an attempt to remain safe from these flesh eating monsters.”

The film is an independent film success story, too. “Night of the Living Dead” was made for $114,000 but has grossed since its release $12 million domestically and $18 million internationally. Not a bad return on that investment. 

And because it is a film screening, you can be certain they will have plenty of movie snacks, cold beverages, and the chance spotting of a zombie or two. You might even want to propose a toast to Romero, who died last month at the age of 77. 

This is a free event for those 18 and older and is a part of the Grand Rapids Public Library 2017 Summer Reads program. It is suggested that attendees enter in the back entrance of this Plainfield Avenue store. Free parking, too, in the rear lot.

Food Truck Fridays at Riverside: Dinner with a river view for next to nothing

No plans this Friday night but are itching to get outside? 

Then head north of downtown to Riverside Park on Friday night for their ongoing summer series, Food Truck Fridays at Riverside.

This midsummer series that runs until September 1 brings the best of the area food truck culture to this wooded park set on the mighty Grand River. 

Each week, you can expect a slightly different lineup with August 4 including Blue Spoon, Pizza Parliament, Do Your Wurst, Dalty Raes Great Lakes Ohana, Grand Food Truck, Nordic Grille, Ananda Ice, Mooches Dream Cream, Underground Cookie Club, and LuLaRoe Kaylee Lockwood.

After dinner, take the family on an adventure through Riverside Park, where kids of all ages are free to ride bikes, skateboard, hang in hammocks, or just wander about the grounds marveling at the diverse ecosystem, including lots of native birds and a spring-fed lagoon.

With events like Food Truck Fridays at Riverside, our community is redefining and improving on what it means to “summer in the city.”
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