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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.”

Tour of Hidden Downtown Gardens: Get in on the secret!

While many visiting the city will want to visit places like the Grand Rapids Art Museum for a concert or an art exhibition, or maybe sit along the banks of the Grand River for a movie in the park, but for others, they seek a different path that is to many, hidden.

Rapid Growth recognizes that there are hidden gems all over the city and on Friday, downtown’s Dwelling Place invites you to tour four hidden gardens of downtown at this special one night only event.

This free event (that you must RSVP to attend) starts at the Avenue for the Arts office at 120 South Division and features a walking tour to four distinct hidden gardens in the neighborhood. There will be two groups with one departing at 5:30 p.m. and the other at 7 p.m.

At these mysterious venues, you will meet the residents who tend to these gardens and might even be invited to try your hand at gardening as well. 

After you are done with this insightful tour, you’re invited to join others for a neighborhood happy hour complete with music and libations.

The best part is this is a wonderful opportunity to connect with your city in a truly unique manner while also gaining valuable insights about how sweet life can be in the city for those with an urban green thumb.

5th Annual Midtown on Tap 2017: Nosh with the locals on the Midtown Green

There seems to be no shortage of events that happen in our more developed areas of the city like East Hills or the new westside district. However, don’t discount many of our tiny neighborhoods who are hosting an array of small-ish events with big impact on their communities.

One such event is the annual Midtown on Tap held each year since 2013 on the expansive Midtown Green park, which often has the feel of a sheep’s pasture given its natural rolling landscape. 

At this years 5th annual event, you are invite to try the hand crafted goodness of many of our state’s craft brewers including Brewery Vivant, The Peoples Cider Co., Farmhaus Cider Co., Arcadia Brewing Company, Shorts Brewing Company, and Pux Cider.

Looking to get an edge on your friends who might be in search of the next great brewer? Then attendees will enjoy the chance to meet and sample the entries from our local home brewers, who will be competing on that afternoon.

There will be plenty of good eats from food trucks as as well as a festive afternoon and evening of live music will make this a perfect day in the Midtown neighborhood. 

German Beer Night: Doppelbock, lager, and weiss, oh my!

German beers are an art. And the folks at Midtown’s 7 Monks Taproom on Michigan Street have a special night devoted to this delicious craft of brewing these unique beers.

For starters, it is summer, which makes many of the six different styles on tap at German Beer Night that much more inviting, since many of these beers taste (in my opinion) best on a hot summer night. 

Jumping on tap at 7 Monks Taproom this Thursday will be German lagers, Weiss bier, and Kolsch served alongside a special night of German menu items.

The published tap list includes: Schneider Aventinus, Sunner Kolsch, Ayinger Brau Weiss, Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Weihenstephan Original Lager, and Kulmbacher Pils.

If you are confused about all these names, then use this handy German beer guide from Kegworks to help you navigate this tap takeover event like a pro.

7 Monks is also offering on this night a German pretzel knot with mashed potatoes, hops mustard, and mettwurst—a raw pork cured and smoked sausage. 

If you feel like noshing with friends over a Deutschland beer, then order the special sausage board, which Thursday includes a variety of authentic German sausages from Kerns with pickled vegetables and nutrient-rich sauerkraut.

You have a lot of extra sun during the summer, so why not squeeze in a stop at 7 Monks Taproom to enjoy this special night of beers. It is a hellavah lot easier than grabbing a flight to Germany or a drive Frankenmuth to replicate this taste experience. 

For a complete look at all the taproom events that 7 Monks of Grand Rapids has on deck these next few months, please check out their website for an impressive list of festive beer-focussed activities.

GRABB Sankofa Mix & Pop-up Marketplace

It is inspiring to see so many movements at work in our society, and one locally that is garnering attention is the Grand Rapids Area Black Business (GRABB) organization’s annual Sankofa Mix & Pop-up Marketplace at East Hills’ Richard App Gallery. 

Sankofa is from the Twi language of Ghana and has been described as a method through which we must venture back to our roots in order to move forward. 

And like so many other ancient cultures, this Akan belief provides a rooted vision of the  steps necessary for us to advance as we harness our past to help us plan the future. To the Akan, this is the beginning of wisdom.

For the Sankofa Mixer & Pop-up Marketplace, GRABB seeks to elevate as well as celebrate the emerging black entrepreneurs of West Michigan at this one night only event. 

Local vendors will have on display fresh product lines that include everything from artisan candles to handmade soaps to delicious baked goods and other handmade wares.

As with every GRABB event, you will have a chance to hear first-hand from this entrepreneurial-focused organization who will showcase their vision in a “Past (what we have done), Present (what we are currently doing) and Future (what we have in the works)” presentation. 

War On The Catwalk: The Queens are back in town

It says a lot about the nature of our evolving culture when a show devoted to drag queens competing are in the running for seven Emmy’s this year! 

But if you are one of the millions who have been enjoying RuPaul and the queens on any one of the past 11 seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, then you are in luck. he touring show, War on the Catwalk, will soon strut onto Grand Rapids’ DeVos Performance Hall’s stage.

War On The Catwalk features the contestants from Season 9 of VH-1’s RuPaul’s reality show performing live on stage and rocking the catwalk with glitz, glamour, and a whole lot of award-winning attitude.

The Queens arriving in Grand Rapids are Season 9’s winner Sasha Velour, with Shea Couleé Farrah Moan, Alexis Michelle, #teamkimora, all hosted by Trinity Taylor.

So dress to impress and sashay your way downtown to this special touring event on Saturday night.
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