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ArtPrize Top 20 and Disco Brunch ft. Pontchartrain: Get down(town)

Sunday, Oct. 2, 1 p.m. Top 20, 2 p.m. Disco Brunch
Part of the fun of ArtPrize is not just the chance to see so much art all around downtown Grand Rapids, but the opportunity to,about halfway through the contest, have the community come to hear and celebrate those artworks that have made it in the public vote’s Top 20. 

When we get to this point of the contest, round two voting becomes fierce, as these 20 works will now be competing to win your single vote and the much-coveted $200,000 ArtPrize Public Vote Grand Prize, which will be broadcast live on WZZM-13 later this week. 

But this special gathering on Sunday is not just exciting because of the Top 20 ArtPrize announcement, but because we welcome Disco Brunch and its eclectic programming to the main stage as your afternoon entertainment.

Disco Brunch — not an actual brunch — will entertain the ArtPrize crowd at Rosa Parks Circle with a DJ-driven dance party immediately following the Top 20 announcement. 

While Grand Rapids’s DJ culture has been making great strides over the years, the chance to hear  guest headliner DJ Pontchartrain (Dustin Alexander) of Detroit live on stage locally after experiencing his electrifying set at Movement Electronic Music Festival’s Red Bull Music Academy stage last May is very exciting for our local audience.

Unlike many of the major brands of DJs that pack massive arenas around the world, Pontchartrain’s arrival here in Grand Rapids, and in such an intimate setting as this park, is sure to turn heads and get feet to moving to his eclectic sound. 

"Electronic music has permeated our culture in ways never before thought possible; often embedded within an auto commercial or at a large scale sporting event, but certainly the art community has had a hand in embracing electronic music artists and the evolution of their sound,” says Todd Ernst co-founder of Disco Brunch with Mike Sayaw,  “ArtPrize is known for providing the framework to incubate new ideas and concepts, which makes (Rosa Parks Circle)  the perfect venue for Disco Brunch.”

Ernst’s belief is that Disco Brunch is not a literal name but an euphemism for dance, with the brunch representing the vast variety of musical offerings dance music is currently exploring in our world. 

In addition to Pontchartrain, Disco Brunch’s Todd Ernst & Mike Sayaw will be spinning throughout the afternoon with local guest DJ Joe Moon of the Vinyl Fetish DJ Collective. 

If you would like to hear a sample of Pontchartrain style, then waste no time loading up his just released remix of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” Other cuts and mixes of his past shows can be found on his Sound Cloud site


Admission: Free

"Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play": The future of "The Simpsons"

It is rare that you get to mix two of my favorite things together, like peanut butter and chocolate, to make something really delicious to consume.  For fans of theater and “The Simpsons,” we have something really incredible that is landing on stage at Grand Rapids’ Actors’ Theatre. 

On September 29, one of the most talked about plays from our last decade, “Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play” by Anne Washburn, will make its West Michigan premiere on Grand Rapids Community College’s Spectrum Stage.

Washburn’s “Mr. Burns” begins as a group of individuals are in the woods, attempting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where all the power has been cut off due to a world-wide atomic plant meltdown in which every facility is taken offline, plummeting the earth into a post-electric era. 

This first act of a three-act play, is devoted to these survivors’ favorite activity: recreating stories of the famous but now permanently dark “The Simpsons.”

To this cast of storytellers, one particular episode, “Cape Feare,” remains a stand out and becomes the thread that will take us forward to act two, which takes place seven years later.

During this act, the group members have formalized their love of this episode and are creating a theatrical group charged with telling this and other nostalgic-rich stories for a generation now emerging without the knowledge of what was “The Simpsons.” 

By the time we get to act three, the audience has been transported 75 years in the future — a full two generations later — and a new mythological society has emerged based on the culture born out of our present. 

“Mr. Burns” is unlike anything we have seen on stage locally and represents one of the best arguments for more story-telling set just a few moments into our future. 

If you enjoyed the dystopian humor and insights of “The Simpsons,” then “Mr. Burns” is just the play for you, as Washburn presents an unflinching look at human creativity and our life wedded to present pop culture. 

The first two acts make for a wonderfully rich springboard into Washburn’s future, where her plausible narrative of what could lie ahead for a society without electricity — a place where digital domains would be left buried like the tomb writings in Egypt — is not so far-fetched under her pen.

Again, “Mr. Burns” is not your parents’ theatre. And lucky are we for it. 

Admission: $28, adult; $22, senior/student; $10 student rush (available one hour before performance)

Visiting Artist Jen Delos Reyes: Open Engagement founder in Grand Rapids

In 2015, I made a road trip to Pittsburgh to experience Open Engagement — a conference devoted to looking at the ways that art can intersect with society outside of the gallery walls. In other words, where can art live if it is not in a studio, corporate collection, or on your home walls?

Little did I know at the time, but Open Engagement’s yearly eye-opening event was the creation and under the direction of Jen Delos Reyes, who will be the first guest speaker at the 2016 - 2017 Visiting Artist Lecture at Grand Valley State University (GVSU).

In keeping with the 2016-2017 lecture series theme of “Art and the Radical,” Reyes — a dynamic artist, educator, writer, and radical community arts organizer — will lead the audience through a series of examples of how one can create, support, and ultimately sustain an artist-led culture. 

Reyes recently released, “I’m Going to Live the Life I Sing About in My Song: How Artists Make and Live Lives of Meaning," a new book that details how art can merge within everyday life, and how doing so can shift power structures all around us.

Reyes was with the Portland State University from 2008-2014, where she created the first flexible residency Art and Social Practice MFA program in the United States and later devised a curriculum that focuses on place, engagement, and dialogue. Currently, she lives and works in Chicago, where she is the Associate Director of the School of Art and Art History at the University of Illinois Chicago. In 2017 Open Engagement will arrive in Chicago for its yearly conference after being in Oakland in 2016. 

According to GVSU, Art and the Radical’s focus this year features creative workers whose projects seek to deepen our understanding of the world by revealing alternate histories, highlighting marginalized communities, and challenging widely held beliefs and traditions.
 
Upcoming artists include Nicolas Lampert (Nov.7,) Jeanne Vaccaro (TBA), and Beatriz Santiago Munoz (TBA.)

Admission: Free

Blue Bridge Music Festival: Live acts and a pop-up record store

Friday & Saturday, Sept. 30 & Oct. 1, see schedule for details
So much of the public perception about ArtPrize is often devoted to the art we hang on our walls or the 3-D works that adorn the public spaces, but there is so much more to art than that. You can see that again this year with the expanding programming that continues to push other forms of art, from music to cinema. 

This year we get to see the return of a music event, Blue Bridge Music Festival, which is tied to ArtPrize.

What makes this event stand out to me is how this event, happening over two days, is a chance for visitors or lovers of music to explore the diverse sounds being created in our state, as well as locally. 

In addition to an all-star line up of acts with an equally vast array of music genres, from classical to jazz to rock to bluegrass, this weekend’s festival will feature many of the record labels of our state at a pop-up record store open on Friday and Saturday. Such labels as dizzybird records, Hot Capicola Records, Hear Drums, Grand Rapids Soul Club, Friends of Sound Records, 1980 Records, and Grandville’s Corner Record Store all will be participating in this special local music-positive event. 

If you are curious about who is performing, please check out the lineup below. 


Friday, September 30:

2:30 p.m.: Grand Rapids Symphony: Susan Mora and Friends – Country Fiddling
4:00 p.m.:  Edye Evans Hyde Jazz
6:00 p.m.: Heaters
8:30 p.m.: Go Rounds


Saturday, October 1: 

12:00 p.m.: Andy Akiho and Grand Rapids Symphony Friends – Composer, percussionist and steel drummer Andy Akiho plus GRS musicians on cello, electric bass and drums
2:30 p.m.: Kari Lynch Band
4:30 p.m.: JRob & Friends
7:00 p.m.: Mark Lavengood Bluegrass Bonanza
8:45 p.m.: Flint Eastwood

The above musicians are eligible for the $500,000 in ArtPrize Awards in the Time-Based category, but these musicians also are eligible to win $10,000 in independently organized awards as well. The Blue Bridge Songwriters Awards includes 10 $1,000 cash prizes—five of which will be decided by public vote and the other five by expert music-based jury.

For some time now, the song competition has been a part of ArtPrize, but this year with help from a local business, AMI Entertainment, they will have their juke boxes placed all throughout Grand Rapids so you can enjoy listening to the music created locally as you decide which one deserves your vote. And sharing with your friends while out having a drink how great our local musicians sound makes all of us winners in the long run.  

Play on, GR! 

Admission: Free

ArtPrize: People get ready...vote!

What can you say about an event that takes over the city, inspires lots of walking (as well as traffic), and has folks talking to one another as they stare in their phone?

No, I am not talking about Pokemon Go but the return of ArtPrize 8 — a radically open international art event where the public and curatorial gatekeepers of art get to weigh in, and sometimes even agree on, who should be awarded the top prize monies totaling more than $500,000. (See ArtPrize’s history for the year when both the public and jury agreed. It is surely an answer within the ultimate GR trivia game.) 

Before arriving at ArtPrize it is advisable to download the app on your smart phone, and then activate it once you get downtown. After that, all you have to do is look at art and start voting. 

Since this event attracts more than 400,000 people each year, frustration is understandable if crowds are not your thing. But, rather than just beat up on the local festival that seems to some to never end, please venture out into Grand Rapids neighborhoods and not the social media boards. Many of Grand Rapids’ neighborhoods are a great place to grab a fabulous meal without the crowds and enjoy the local art that often is on these walls. 

Just remember that while there is a lot of really bad art in this world, you don’t have to like it. In fact, don’t vote for it. Instead, with a little advance homework you might actually discover something truly remarkable across an ever-expanding array of art styles touching on fine art, sculpture, theatre, dance, and music. This is the power of art. Sometimes, the most amazing experiences or discoveries are the ones right at your city's doorstep. 

So, love it or hate it, here comes ArtPrize. And no, before you ask, I am not tweeting your entry out of respect for the thousands who have arrived in our city seeking an equal chance to be discovered this year. 

Happy ArtPrizing. You have an impressive 170 venues to explore this year. The city will return to normal on Oct. 10. 

Admission: Free

Oktoberfest West Michigan: The only bier fest in the city

It used to be that Grand Rapids was a place with a church on every corner. And while sometimes it still might seem true, it is becoming ever more clear that, as Beer City, USA asserts its hops-fueled muscle, we are soon to add a craft brew pub to that popular saying.

And while we have a host of beer festivals that pop up around the city, this bier merrymaking with a nod to the German’s traditional celebration of Oktoberfest returns to John Ball Park on Friday and Saturday, September 23 & 24 from noon to 11pm. 

This German-styled "Volksfest," brought to Grand Rapids through our local Edelweiss Club, will feature specialty imported Erdinger beer selections 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 Box On and Pieptones! And if dancing is not your jam, then enter your name in the hat for the stein holding contest or beer keg toss — all activities that will count as “steps” on your Fitbit. Come to think of it, lifting a stein to toss back some suds will also count this weekend.

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.


Admission: Free / $5 for a wristband

National Museum of African American History and Culture Dedication: Front row seating to history

The hardest ticket to get in the District of Columbia is the grand opening celebration of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). But, no worries, since on Saturday before the crowds descend upon downtown for ArtPrize, you will have a chance to see firsthand this historic moment at Grand Rapids’ Calder Plaza.

As part of a special arrangement with the Lift Every Voice Campaign, our local Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives (GRAAMA), along with a host of other sites around the U. S., has been granted permission to live stream for the public this historic event from the Smithsonian Institution.

This grand opening of the NMAAHC is a celebration of our nation’s 19th museum at the Smithsonian Institution and is located at the foot of the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. 

And while guests of this dedication broadcast in Grand Rapids will not be able to enter the new museum, view the collection or participate in any of its hands-on programming on this special opening day, the live stream provides our locals a chance to celebrate this event together while also offering an opportunity to interact with members of GRAAMA.

For more on the emerging GRAAMA in our city, please visit www.graama.org.

Admission: Free

International Day of Peace Walk in St. Francis Sculpture Garden: All peaceful people welcome

At the start of a video commemorating the St. Francis Sculpture Garden at the Dominican Center at Maywood are the words “walk, breathe, sit.”  Three very simple words but powerful reminders to all of us that sometimes these simple acts are all that is required of us. 

This garden located on the city’s northeast side was designed by architect and master gardener Bill Cox, whose firm brought to our city the main greenhouse at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, and was created through the collaboration of landscape designer Skip Herrema to bring to West Michigan a space where people and animals could be take a break and reflect on our existence in this beautiful world.

The bronze sculptures within are of St. Francis of Assisi — a saint known for his silent message of living by example — and were created by local artist Mic Carlson. (Carlson’s art work was recently added to the permanent decor at the brand new HopCat Chicago location and featured rock and roll icons.)

To commemorate the International Day of Peace ( also known as Peace Day), the local nonprofit Instruments of Hope invites the community to join them this Sunday, Sept. 25, from 1-1:45 p.m. in front of the St. Francis International Peace Statue for a “Peace Walk” through the St. Francis of Assisi Sculpture Garden.

Once you arrive at the place where St. Francis is perched on the top of a globe semi-submerged in the earth, guests are encouraged to take pieces of colorful chalk provided by IOH to write their wishes for peace on the sculpture’s base. Those who are adventurous with their evening walks will equally enjoy viewing the Saint’s patched tunic, which radiates a brilliant glow at dusk.

Peace Day, traditionally celebrated on Sept. 21, was founded in 1981 and is a day for all of humanity to commit to peace above all differences and to contribute to building a culture of peace.

After the walk, guests are encouraged to join IOH inside the Dominican Chapel from 2-3 p.m. for an interfaith service sponsored by Institute for Global Education. Immediately following, light refreshments will be provided along with fellowship with attendees. And it should go without saying, but in keeping with the message of inclusion and interfaith, all are welcome in this reflective space, which we recently featured for their blessing of the animals event.

Admission: Free

'Good People': The arts' ability to mobilize change

Recently the New York Times ran an insightful piece that looked at the meaning of disability. Call it a unique sense of timing, but as this international paper was inviting the world to consider the meaning of the word, people in Grand Rapids will have a chance to engage a few ways on this topic at the local level, with the arts playing a key role in the conversation.

Locally, those first two opportunities to deepen your intellect on the topic of disability will be via a panel discussion being held the morning of Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s (GRCT) debut of “Good People,” a new play opening on Friday, Sept. 9.

The Friday morning panel, put together by Disability Advocates of Kent County (DAKC), will be held at GRCT’s theatre and feature a panel made up of experts and advocates who work with the disabled community. 

Unlike most panels in our city, this one is being structured to be a dialogue around the question: “How can we make Grand Rapids a more inclusive place to live and work?” (Rapid Growth also recently delved into this question.)

DAKC estimates that more than 70,000 self-identified people are living with a disability in Kent County. When you factor in the reality that four out of five people at some point will be addressing a disability — whether from a life shifting experience or simply due to aging — then the topic becomes one of a community necessity before we reach this life-changing event. Call it a coming out period, but the need to be addressing this topic is now if we want to create a region that is truly good for all people to age in place — another topic making waves in the public sphere as an economically smart goal for an aging urban population.

This panel will provide those who want to broaden their knowledge on the topic of disability in advance of the opening of this Tony Award-nominated play that addresses the themes of fate versus free will with the stark realities of providing for a disabled family member. 

And, of course, with all good theatre there is a hefty social punch packaged within this production.

“Good People” is written by David Lindsay-Abaire and secured a Best Leading Actress in a Play Tony Award for Frances McDormand as Margie.

"David Lindsay-Abaire pays his respects to his old South Boston neighborhood with this tough and tender play about the insurmountable class divide between those who make it out of this blue-collar Irish neighborhood and those who find themselves left behind,” Variety writes. “The scrappy characters have tremendous appeal, and the moral dilemma they grapple with—is it strength of character or just a few lucky breaks that determines a person's fate?—holds special significance in today's harsh economic climate." 

To register to attend the panel visit GRCT’s Eventbrite page.

Tickets for “Good People” can be secured via GRCT’s website. This production runs from September 9 - 25.

Admission: Panel is free, performances $16-$30

Eastown StreetFair: 43 years and no sign of midlife crisis!

One of my first neighborhoods that I explored when I moved to Grand Rapids in the 1980s was Eastown and instantly I fell in love with this area of the city. 

For one, this southeast neighborhood business district was so unique because of the many mom and pop shops that populate their main arteries of Lake Drive and Wealthy Street. And the second reason was because no matter what time of the day I arrived to walk their streets, it was always a different experience. 

Thankfully that uniqueness is still alive today many decades later 

On Saturday, Sept. 10, the neighborhood’s annual event, the 43rd Eastown StreetFair, welcomes families of all sizes, colors and definitions to return once again for a celebration of the arts, more than 150 vendors, ethnic and American food from restaurants and food trucks, live regional musicians, and of course, the famous Eastown locals who provide so much of the eclectic flavor that makes this area of the city such a delight.

This year also will welcome back the popular 2015 debut of the Sidewalk Chalk Art Battle hosted by Joe Parsaca (Paintings By Tubes).  For the 2nd Annual All Ages Sidewalk Chalk Art Battle at the Eastown StreetFair, Parsaca is offering a slew of new prizes and opportunities to win big at this year’s competition. Visit his Facebook event page to get more details on the contest and for a complete list of prizes that are being added all the time.  

Main Stage Acts: (Family friendly stage hub lot next to Eastown Cafe)

11 - 12 p.m.Triumph Music Academy
12 - 1 p.m.  Bootstrap Boys
1 - 2 p.m.    Olivia Mainville
2 - 3 p.m.    Cardboard Swords
3 - 4 p.m.    PotatoeBabies
4 - 5 p.m.    The Legal Immigrants 
5 - 6 p.m.    Valentiger
6 - 7 p.m.    Brother Adams
7 - 8 p.m.    Lady Ace Boogie


Billy's Stage Acts: (Family friendly until 8pm and inside Billy’s)


12:30 - 1:15 p.m.  Kathleen & The Bridge Street Band
1:30 - 2:15 p.m.    I Believe In Julio (with special guest Jonny Bruha)
2:30 - 3:15 p.m.    Silverstiles
3:30 - 4:15 p.m.    Lipstick Jodi
4:30 - 5:15 p.m.    Moto
5:30 - 6:15 p.m.    Red Legs
6:30 - 7:15 p.m.    Paddlebots
8 - 9 p.m.              Sound Check 
9 p.m. - Close       GR Soul Club


Admission: Free

Tribute on the Grand: All that's left is free

While the Celebration on the Grand is no more, the good news is that another group has emerged to present a new event, Tribute on the Grand, that is sure to fill the hole the old festival left in your fall schedule.

Founders Brewing Company along with television’s FOX17 are partnering to present Tribute on the Grand — a brand new community-building event created to support the fundraising efforts of the Grand Rapids Whitewater, a local nonprofit working to improve the Grand River.

Projected to attract as more than 6,000 people to Ah-Nab-Awen Park in downtown Grand Rapids, the Celebration on the Grand is a free public event…unless you want to be a part of the sit-down dinner scheduled to take place on Ah-Nab-Awen Park’s adjoining Gillette Bridge, which spans the mighty Grand River. 

The bad news is that the dinner is sold out…that is, unless you have a connection to someone with tickets. (Don’t ask, I don’t have tickets either.) 

But that should not stop you from joining the evening’s festivities, which include Grand Rapids favorite craft brew from a local beer hero.

The headliners are national acts L.A. Vation and Free Fallin,’ with our local Jim Shaneberger Band and Friends and  Bowie tribute act The Wolf Pack from Mars acting as openers for the night’s live music entertainment.

Our local Grand Rapids Whitewater, made up of  individuals, rowing and paddling clubs, anglers and businesses, is a dedicated group of citizens who are seeking to return the rapids back to the Grand River. 

The evening’s events include: 

3pm Yoga in the park w. AM Yoga

4pm Beer tent opens

5pm Jim Shaneberger Band and Friends

5:30pm Beer Dinner (Sold Out) 

6:30pm Free Fallin’

8pm Brother Wolf and Wolf Pack from Mars

9:30pm L.A. Vation

Admission: The festival is free, dinner is $150.

OddBall: Upgrade isn't strange at all

A lot has happened since UICA started their annual kick-off event to ArtPrize, Oddball, debuted six years ago. And while the theme of each of the previous five have revolved around a theme, this year’s retooling of OddBall should have a lot of heads turning (and I mean this in the best possible way). 

For starters, OddBall 2016: FUTURE TALK, presented by Meijer, is so much more now than just a kick-off party, as UICA has added dinner and a chance to reveal a new awards program.

This year expect to be pampered with signature cocktails, dinner by Applause Catering and Events, a dessert bar that includes the sweetly creative Cakabakery and deliciously dark Rowster's coffee.

During the sit-down dinner portion of the evening, UICA’s OddBall will debut an inaugural Arts Advocate Award, which will be presented this year to Kathryn Chaplow, Principal and Interior Designer at Kathryn Chaplow Interior Design. Chaplow was the former chair of UICA Board of Directors. 

This first-time award features the design of local artist Tom Duimstra. At each table on this evening will be an original Duimstra sculpture available for purchase, so don’t play since I expect these sell out rather quickly. 

As with every OddBall, the entertainment is fresh, original and totally brand spanking new to our region as a new exclusive performance titled “FOUR SEASONS” will debut from ArtPrize entrant Ritsu Katsumata. Her time-based entry will be performed live and feature original music with Hugo Claudin on the electric violin. Dancer Rachel Finan will joining the musicians as she performs an interpretation of William Duckworth's Time Curve Prelude #6, which is reported to have been the inspiration for this new performance work.  

Later in the evening attendees will enjoy seeing Emma Loo and Sam live as this duo will challenge the eyes and ears, with their multi-instrumental melodies and vocal effects adding to the OddBall knack for providing a touch of an outer world experience via their soundscape and visual experience. 

Guests are encouraged to dress in a futuristic cocktail attire. If that is too scary of a leap, you are always welcome to check out UICA’s event Pinterest page, where in the past they have posted images to help get your creative juices flowing as you seek to create your futuristic outfit.  

OddBall 2016 is a chance for you not only to see the artwork of FUTURE TALK a full 12 days before the ArtPrize public arrives, but this evening will also give you a chance to meet the artists. 

UICA’s ArtPrize Eight exhibition, FUTURE TALK is a survey of recent digital and new media works. FUTURE TALK presents 16 works by 17 emerging, mid-career and established American artists whose media, materials and content are reflective of and responsive to their time.  

While the theme of OddBall is always slightly skewed to the fantastical, the reality is that this is a wonderful event that truly kicks off the fall season in the city.


Admission: UICA Members: $178.28, Public: $197.28

Hispanic / Polish Festivals: West of Division North meets South

We are reaching that time of the year where college students are arriving by the carload and area parents with school-age children begin to worry (or delight) about the long list of back-to-school activities they must engage in before we begin our fall season. 

So much is happening right now that the last thing many of them want to worry about is what to eat.  Lucky for us, over the next few weeks a series of ethnic festivals begin to fill the night air that to stay home would be a crime. 

Kicking off this season of good eats are two cultural happenings in Grand Rapids’ downtown that you simply cannot miss.

The Polish Festival, happening again at Rosa Parks Circle, is a wonderful stop for authentic Polish cuisine - and not that frozen stuff you see at your local grocer that, in my opinion, should only be used in a pinch.  

Not only can you enjoy your pierogis, kielbasa, and kapusta out in the summer air as you chase it with a cold beer, but when the music of the many polka bands hits your eardrums, it will be difficult to stand still. So get in the mix and do your best to keep up with some of the most liveliest of dancing you will see outside of our swing dancers who typically fill this space during throughout the summer. 

Also this Friday through Sunday is the 36th annual Hispanic Festival at Calder Plaza, where you will be amazed at the carnival-like atmosphere as the crowds wander about at this spacious downtown park.  

Challenging one’s view of what is real Hispanic cuisine will not be hard to experience here at the Hispanic Festival as your palate is treated to more than just Mexican as food and beverage vendors bring the diversity of this area to City Hall’s square. 

In addition to the diversity of food is the types of live music one can expect to hear at this event where the infectious beats of salsa, bachata, merengue, and cumbia fill the air.  

Last year I actually watched a man on a horse ride into the event to kick off his performance. Let me tell you that outside of Opera Grand Rapids’ production of Aida at Van Andel Arena — where they had live animals in their production — there has not been another memorable entrance with an animal until last year. It was thrilling.

In addition to these two festivals downtown is the return of the Grand Rapids Yassou - our annual Greek Festival held on the northeast part of the city. For information on their event, please visit their site.  

While you might be busy with wrapping up your summer, to miss these festivals, which are hallmarks of our local society, would be a real shame. Be sure to add one or two…or even all three to your weekend plans. 


Admission: Free 

Music for Miles: Pedaling Change

Grand Rapids in our quest to become a more bike-friendly city has a host of partners working to make sure this happens in a safe and sane manner.

But one group in our region that really stands out to so many as one of the most equitable is The Spoke Folks -- our local bicycle co-op with a mission to provide bikes to everyone who needs one.

This weekend is the return of their music festival, Music for Miles, where area bands play and folks on bikes zip to this warehouse street location to enjoy some grub as they chase it with a beer, cider, or soft drink.

Taking to the stage this year is an eclectic mix of local acts, including BELVE, The Bootstrap Boys, Coffin Problem, I Believe in Julio, Jes Kramer, Joe, and Lambo. 

Immediately after the event closes, folks are encouraged to ride over to the Pyramid Scheme bar downtown for the official after party, where they can dance the night away at this special edition of of Retro D’Luxe.

Admission: $8 in advance, $10 day of event

Mr. Spookity's Summer Bloodbath Triple Feature: A thrill with a chill beverage service

Saturday, Aug. 27, 6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. showtime
Baxter  
From the mind of one of the co-creators of our former Thriller! Chiller! genre film festival (on hiatus) comes a triple feature that is sure to delight, as well as scare, the pants off thriller movie fans.

Mr. Spookity will guide those attending this micro cinema triple feature program with screenings of “Grizzly,” “Night Train to Terror,” and “Last House on Dead End Street.”

“Grizzly” is a bloodthirsty 15-foot-tall grizzly bear who terrorizes a national park and the only person who can save those trapped within is a park ranger. 

“Night Train to Terror”  is the story of a rock band whose final concert is a one-way ticket to hell, including an appearance by Satan - further proving that South Park were not the first folks to cast this player in a feature. 

“Last House on Dead End Street” is a rarely-screened shocker that you have to see to believe that they actually made this script into a film. It is the story of a young gangster released from prison who goes on a vengeance trip as his way of punishing society.

In addition, Mr. Spookity brings his unique charm to the event as he introduces the films and showcases a host of trailers he has hand selected for the evening.

Also remember that Wealthy Theatre’s micro cinema is a smallish venue with big comfortable chairs and is one of only a few movie theater programs where you can enjoy an adult beverage with your movie. But in order to drink here you will need a membership to the “club,” which is so incredibly cheap considering what it opens up to you and your friends. (Do buy a membership here. It is good neighborhood karma to do so.) 


Admission: $10
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