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Generation Yum: So much more than just avocado toast

It seems that every generation has an item or three that defines them. For those boomers in your life, it is most likely connected to the Summer of Love and loads of drug culture experimentation. For Gen X, most likely our legacy is a string of contact work and a fascination with the film “Reality Bites.” 

But for the Millennials, they clearly own avocado toast, which in my opinion is quite delicious, and for Gen Z it will mostly be their every growing fascination with YouTube videos. 

If we have learned anything from the past, it is that experiences made in one’s youth often shape our future.

And so for Millennials and Gen Z, trends that cross their taste buds today will power as well as reshape tomorrow’s food, according to Eve Turow Paul, author of “Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation's Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food,” who will be speaking at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market’s Culinary Conversations speaker series.

Turow Paul, a journalist and researcher, has spent nearly decade writing about food culture and the many innovations of the 21st Century with an emphasis on how Millennials and Gen Z are reshaping how we approach food.

“On the surface, Millennials and Gen Z are filled with apparent contradictions. While many struggle to pay the rent, they frequently invest in food experiences and consciously spend more on organic, local and non-GMO food,” said Turow Paul. “The challenge for restaurants and food producers is to harness this and create intimate connections between people and their food while marketing to these groups without losing authenticity.”

Ideally with all the attention placed on starting something in Grand Rapids, if you have wondered if a career or any food-related pursuit is for you, then this inspiring Culinary Conversation with Turow Paul is just the ticket. 

Culinary Conversations stands out as a speaker series since it is harnessing another generation’s innovation, the Meetup, as the preferred format to attract and facilitate peer-to-peer collaborations and networking opportunities for our food (and food curious) industry professionals, including growers, producers, chefs, bartenders, restaurant owners, and entrepreneurs.

The series is brought to our Downtown Market via the partnerships between Start Garden, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), and Michigan State University Extension. The lead sponsor for February’s event is Spartan Nash and the supporting sponsor is Experience Grand Rapids. This Meetup costs $20 to attend and includes both networking and educational opportunities. Please register at this link to attend. 

 

Taste of Soul Sunday: GR's popular Black History celebration expands opportunity

There are many ways to celebrate Black History Month locally, from lectures to special guided tours, but by far the one event that is at the top of everyone’s list who seeks to honor African American history and culture is the Grand Rapids Public Library’s annual Taste of Soul Sunday

This event often attracts a lot of folks who want to sample any one of the many culinary treats being served at the event, but it is so much more than that. 

Attendees at this free event will have a chance to listen to great music, learn more of Black history via storytellers and poets, and create something inspired by an African American potter. 

And lest you think the GRPL is resting on their laurels after all these years, then we are happy to report that they are doing things a little differently as they double down by adding even more activities for families. 

In the past, Taste of Soul Sunday only had one or two offerings geared towards children, but this year they have three more in addition to their traditional craft activity.  

This year they present Let's Move Dance Party — a movement-based activity rooted in Michelle Obama's initiative to get kids moving and adopting a healthy lifestyle. 

Secondly, they have added an African American Pottery Workshop, where kids can learn about potter David Drake and make their own pottery. 

And finally, kids can learn about Sankofa: Black History through Storytelling. This is a workshop with Shano and Jamari Womack, who will inspire families to discover ways to share their own stories. Families are encouraged to bring a meaningful item with them.

And while this event is brought to us through grants from areas organizations and foundations, this year’s Taste of Soul Sunday will also partner with New Hope Baptist Church. In the past, Grand Rapidians may recall that this church group presents their annual living museum at Woodland Mall where significant people from African American history come to life and share their stories. This year, New Hope Baptist Church brings its enthralling program to the 2019 Taste of Soul.

In addition to all the activities and food, there is an exhibit called “Postmarked,” brought to us from the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. This is the first traveling exhibit from the Detroit-based museum and features notable African Americans who have appeared on postage stamps.

So while you have a lot of choices as to how you will celebrate Black History Month locally, to miss this year’s Taste of Soul Sunday would be a real missed opportunity to experience so much in one stop. 

Get Sad Volume 2 Emo Night: It's singles who mingle night on the Westside

Valentine’s Day is nice … if buying expensive roses and eating a quiet meal with your special someone. But when you consider the unbelievable odds of a relationship making it these days, well, why bother, right?

Well, maybe that came off as harsh or anti-love, but I’m just over a lifetime of hype about this day that gets more and more commercialized with each passing year.

Lucky for singles and all others who often feel left out on February 14,  a newish trend of anti-Valentine’s events are popping up all over the city. But none is going to be more interesting than Emo Night's second installment of Get Sad Volume Two.

Organizers promise the tunes will be louder than version one and will be once again celebrating the greatness of the break-up song with a night devoted to this music composition style. 

And while I realize that this review will in no way diminish your young love’s dream of what makes a romantic night out on Feb. 14, should you find yourself feeling sorry for yourself or just looking to mingle with other singles who like to have alternative fun, then Get Sad is just the ticket for you.

After all, Bernie Taupin and Elton John said it best: “Sad songs say so much.” And judging by playlist available, this is going to be one really amazing night of sad songs. 

Silent Disco: A World of Winter Event

This weekend you have a lot of options to consider if you want to visit downtown’s World of Winter Festival with a long list of activities, but the real winner is the chance to witness a crowd of folks spazzing out in the middle of Rosa Parks Circle.

So if you are downtown on Friday night and you witness erratic dancing and (often) large groups of folks “sanging” one of your favorite dance tracks, then it is the World of Winter Festival’s Silent Disco. 

Silent discos are a unique way to experience live music curated from three different DJs who will be spinning all at the same time but without disturbing the downtown neighbors. Guests attending this event will be able to wear special wireless headphones so that they can tune into any of the different DJs' channels.

For this special free, 18+ only event, DJs Super Future, AB (Adrian Butler), and SuperDre will be your music guides over the course of this three-hour dance party.

And for the slightly inhibited, there are alcoholic beverages for purchase (21+) should you need a shot to get your hips moving. Food trucks will also be on site should you wish to make a dinner and dance scenario occur for you and your friends. 

As a reminder, this is an outdoor event so you will want to dress in layers to adjust your comfort level as the dance floor heats up. For additional info about this Silent Disco as well as all of the activities planned for this year’s World of Winter Festival, please visit this link

Maiden Michigan (Anti-Pageant Extravaganza): Hundo and the heavy metal throw down

This city has plenty to offer when it comes to live music, but for those seeking events that defy definition, well, they are quite rare.

Lucky for those seeking uniqueness in entertainment comes the Maiden Michigan album release party with Hundo as your host of this night of heavy metal music.

And lest you think the fun stops with the metal, then get ready because this night is also the debut of the Anti-Pageant Extravaganza at Creston Brewery. 

This anti-pageant will award points based on actions, answers, and, of course, killer attitude awarded over two rounds. 

In addition to the judges’ point system, which will select the two finalists, the third finalist will be determined using the crowd’s responses in a vote-by-volume process. The final round will be a question round, with the three finalists each vying to take home the sash and the crown, along with a grand prize package.

After the performances and anti-pageant, stick around for an acoustic rock showcase from Alexis Brooke (Red Rio), Patty Pierzchala (Talk Radio), and Erin Lenau (Hollywood Makeout).

Arrive early to meet some local women-owned businesses who will have merchandise for sale at this special night of new music, talented contestants, and a gender blender where all definitions of femininity are welcome. 

Found Footage Festival in Grand Rapids: Laugh out loud VHS fun at UICA

Recently over the holiday break, I discovered a crate of old VHS tapes from the late ‘80s and ‘90s. Not only was I shocked to uncover this treasure trove of motion images captured on magnetic tape, but as they unspooled on a screen in our basement, I roared with laughter at what I would discover. 

This is experience is similar to what it is like to attend the touring Found Footage Festival, which returns to the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts this Saturday night.

The festival is a beautifully odd and downright laugh-out-loud hilarious time as hosts Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett give the Grand Rapids audience a tour of their latest and greatest found videos.

Both hosts have a history of embracing the absurd and funny since they have worked with The Onion and The Colbert Report. This tour also presents their all-time greatest VHS finds from 25 years of collecting into “Cherished Gems,” which is debuting at UICA on Friday, Feb. 8th at 8 p.m.

Nick and Joe want you to know that if you have seen them in the past, then prepare yourself for a fresh show where highlights of this tour will include: 

•  Excerpts from two ill-advised episodes of a Los Angeles cable show called “Dancing with Frank Pacholski.”
•  An arts and crafts how-to video starring Dee Gruenig, a woman who’s a little too enthusiastic about sponge painting.
•  A montage of unwittingly hysterical exercise videos, starring Angela Lansbury, adult film star Traci Lords, and a bearded hippie named Zar.
•  Highlights from Pickett and Prueher’s appearances on local morning news shows as a fake yo-yo expert, fake celebrity chef, and fake strongman duo Chop & Steele.

Please purchase your tickets in advance for what is certain to be a full house this Friday night for one of the funniest film festivals you could ever hope to attend.

WYCE 20th Annual Jammie Awards: Grand Rapids is so much more than just good beer

We have said it on many occasions in the past here at Rapid Growth, but with each passing year, Grand Rapids’ music scene continues to evolve into some new kind of wonderful.

Not only is our region becoming a draw for musicians, but also an attractant for folks who enjoy not just access to live music but such incredibly diverse musical styles available almost nightly on our scene.

And this year is another milestone for local musicians as it is the 20th Annual WYCE Jammie Awards celebration at The Intersection.

This night is a chance for fans of our community-sponsored and volunteer-DJ radio station 88.5 FM to honor the hard work of our music community with a program jam-packed with an impressive roster of artists. 

And with the recent expansions at The ‘Section, the 20th Jammies grows to become a four-stages experience for the first time in its history!

This means that you will have some choices to make from this impressive list of acts performing at the event. The 2019 line up includes: 

Tunde Olaniran
Luke Winslow-King* 
The War and Treaty*
HEAVY COLOR*
Bedroom Ceilings*
The Bootstrap Boys
Cabildo*
Carrie McFerrin Music*
Chris Cranick*
Cønrad Shøck + the Nøise *
Earth Radio*
FADE*
Ford Turrell*
Fyrrh*
JROB
Jes Kramer
KJ & The Good Time Family Band *
Lady Ace Boogie
Last Gasp Collective*
Lazy Genius
LVRS*
Maddie Jackson*
Mark Harrell*
Michigander*
Molly
North Country Rounders*
Peace to Mateo*
Pink Sky*
Public Access
Rachel Curtis*
Roosevelt Diggs
The Skinny Limbs*
Tom Hymn

(Those acts above marked with an “*” are performing at the Jammies for the very first time!)

Stick around after the show for a special performance from The Hacky Turtles!

The Jammies is an all-ages concert experience. Admission is just $5. (This is a suggested donation event, but do give more if you are able since the funds support an amazing service in our community.)

In conversation with Dr. Randal Jelks: Beloved local author releases third book

Grand Rapidians who recently moved to this place may not have heard of the name Dr. Randal Jelks, but to many of us, he represents so much of our history through the many ways he has intersected with our community over the years. And on Tuesday, February 12, Dr. Jelks will host a community conversation about his newest project at Schuler Books.

Randal Maurice Jelks is Professor of African, African American, and American Studies at the University of Kansas. He holds courtesy appointments in history and  religious studies, and is the co-editor of the journal “American Studies.” Jelks is a graduate of the University of Michigan (B.A. in history), McCormick Theological Seminary (masters of divinity), and Michigan State University (Ph.D. in comparative Black histories).

On the occasion of his third book being published, “Faith and Struggle in the Lives of Four African Americans: Ethel Waters, Mary Lou Williams, Eldridge Cleaver and Muhammad Ali,” Jelks will share insights from this latest book that seeks to frame for a modern audience a journey into the lives of four very distinct African Americans who have each made unique contributions in the 20th Century and beyond.

From the publisher about Jelk’s latest work:

“In 1964, Muhammad Ali said of his decision to join the Nation of Islam: ‘I know where I'm going and I know the truth and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want to be.’

This sentiment, the brash assertion of individual freedom, informs and empowers each of the four personalities profiled in this book. Randal Maurice Jelks shows that to understand the black American experience beyond the larger narratives of enslavement, emancipation, and Black Lives Matter, we need to hear the individual stories. Drawing on his own experiences growing up as a religious African American, he shows that the inner history of black Americans in the 20th century is a story worthy of telling.

This book explores the faith stories of four African Americans: Ethel Waters, Mary Lou Williams, Eldridge Cleaver, and Muhammad Ali. It examines their autobiographical writings, interviews, speeches, letters, and memorable performances to understand how each of these figures used religious faith publicly to reconcile deep personal struggles, voice their concerns for human dignity, and reinvent their public image. For them, liberation was not simply defined by the material or legal wellbeing, but by a spiritual search for community and personal wholeness.”

Jelks has already released two award-winning books: “African Americans in the Furniture City: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Grand Rapids” and “Historical Society of Michigan and Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement: A Biography.”  

His Furniture City book is often referenced by local historians as a critically important work of literature because of Jelks’ handling of this vital time in our local history that many may not be aware was a part of our evolution as a city.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The Grand Rapids Symphony brings local magic to the stage

There is something really wonderful about how fandom evolves over time, revealing itself within the culture via the many forms it can take.

For fans of Harry Potter’s universe, we have witnessed everything from fan fiction (including erotica) to musical acts, to even the series creator’s eventual stage play of the cast much later in life. It is exciting, to say the least, to witness how Harry has stayed with us for so long and in so many variations over time. 

Folks who are fans of the film series are in for a treat as our local Grand Rapids Symphony under Conductor John Varineau’s baton will perform the cinematic score as the fourth film movie in the series, “Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire,” unspools on a giant 40-foot, high-definition screen at DeVos Performance Hall. 
 
Most know the story by now of the boy wizard, Harry Potter, trying to navigate his mysterious past while attending the magic prep-school Hogwarts. 

In “Goblet of Fire” (episode four) Harry has been mysteriously entered into the Triwizard Tournament, a grueling contest among three wizarding schools in which he will eventually confront a dragon, water demons, and an enchanted maze only to find himself in Lord Voldemort’s deathly grasp.

“Goblet of Fire” is at a unique junction within this popular series where the soberness of their futures begins to reveal itself in greater detail for the main characters of Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they put to bed their childhood years and they prepare to enter into the darker recesses of the seven books that make up the rest of the series. 

Bob Marley Birthday Bash: Reggae’s favorite son warms up Eastown

After this week’s polar vortex, who can blame you if you are seeking warmer shores? 

But recognizing that not every budget will accommodate a fast pass to the warm shores of Florida, might we suggest a different passage that is a bit more realistic and just as hot (on the dance floor).

Once again, Billy’s Lounge will be cranking up the heat as they host their annual birthday party to honor reggae’s legendary Bob Marley.

Scheduled to perform at this year's Bob Marley Birthday Bash are Universal Xpression with special guests King Jazzy and DJ Sanjay.

This annual event is also produced to support the upcoming Caribbean Festival, which arrives in Battle Creek on July 20, 2019.

So if you are over the cold snap, then get the annual birthday bash for reggae’s greatest musician Bob Marley, who believed in the power of community. 

For more info, please visit their event page.

Comedian-In-Chief: American politics still needs comedy

In an era of few smiles as you scan the news, it is hard to imagine humor having a purpose or need. But looking over history, if that view was true, then it would be a terrible turn of events. 

However, according to The Hauenstein Center, “Humor, a widely misunderstood and underappreciated component of American civic life, often feels in short supply amid the hyperpolarization, loneliness, and resentment presently afflicting our polity.”

H.W. Brands, the Jack S. Blanton senior chair in history at the University of Texas at Austin, will present at the Eberhart Center insights on joke-telling American presidents, Americans, and the serious role of humor in American democracy. 

This informative Hauenstein Center event is held in partnership with the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum.

You can RSVP here for this free event until February 7, 2019.

Old school console night: Bringing your best game to Creston

Winter cabin fever setting in? Tired of playing video games with your friends connected to the game only by way of a broadband line? 

If you answered “Yes” to both, then Monday nights at Creston Brewery should be the ticket as they present this season their Old School Console Night once again. 

The community tap room recently underwent at the first of the year a slight reorganization of their space, placing a higher value on creating more space for folks to just hang while enjoying a freshly made craft beer. 

Added to the venue on Old School Console Night are stacks of TVs spread throughout the taproom that are hooked up to vintage NES, Super NES, Nintendo 64, and Gamecube systems for you and your crew to play. 

And while the brewery has lots of the classics on hand, should you have a favorite game cartridge from any of the systems listed above, then, by all means, please feel free to bring it with you.

And since this is a community-boosting game night, the brewery will encourage folks to mix it up so that no one person can dominate a game, thus ensuring all who show up get a chance to play and join the fun.

Jefferson, Slavery, and the Moral Imagination: Race and American memory at the crossroads

The Hauenstein Center at Grand Valley State University presents some of the most delightful nights of intellectual curiosity in our city, and as we prepare to celebrate Black History Month, their January panel is sure to ignite a lot of minds as they look at a beloved but equally curious American historical leader. 

Thomas Jefferson — one of our nation’s most revered philosophers of the early republic’s Enlightenment ideals — was deeply involved in the nation’s original sin of slavery. 

History shows us that he was not only a slave owner, but modern DNA testing has strongly suggests that Jefferson fathered five children with Sally Hemings, whom he enslaved. 

From the event site this lecture, hosted by historians Annette Gordon-Reed (Harvard University) and Peter S. Onuf (University of Virginia), attendees will seek to answer this question: “In today’s divisive and distrustful moment, how can Americans grapple productively with the most challenging obstacles to finding common ground for the common good, especially at the troubled crossroads of race and American memory?”

This Hauenstein Center event, "Jefferson, Slavery, and the Moral Imagination" is presented in partnership with Grand Valley’s Division of Inclusion and Equity, and is free and open to the public. 

Knit Night!: Creston Brewery is getting all Hygge on us (and we like it)

As social media luster starts to fade with each breach of privacy, meetups, on the other hand, are roaring back in style (much like podcasts did). 

And while some may say they never went away, their power, importance, and meaning for our culture can be a healing force in a social media landscape in rapid decline as civility dies within our favorite digital spaces.

And since it is very cold outside and, if you are like me, then we all are in search of the warmth of good community interaction that isn’t digitally driven, but reaches back into our analog traditions.

One such meetup happening on Wednesday night has me imaging images of Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) as the Grand Rapids Knitters, a local meetup group of West Michigan, arrive at Creston for a three-hour event that is sure to spark joy as you congregate with some amazing artisans. 

Hygge has often been described as the coziness of the soul and this group is perfect for everyone from the novice to the advanced as they gather around craft brews named after many wonderful aspects of our city’s culture. This group is open to knitting or crochet activities and they welcome new knitters with their projects as they are here to advance comfort in creation at this gathering.

So if you have been curious about your post-Facebook life, then this might be just the thing to keep you in stitches for hours. (Sorry. Sure it is a bad pun, but laughter — even the groaning kind — is better than no laughter at all.) 

In my opinion, humanity needs more meetups to reignite genuine human dialogue and healthy interactions within our physical public spaces. This Wednesday’s Knit Night! is a chance to rekindle the fire of community while you occupy your hands with something other than a keyboard or handheld screen. 

All levels are welcome. To learn more about our local Grand Rapids Knitters, please visit their meetup page here for more details on how to join them. Tiny donations of $1-$2 each are suggested.

 

Control Dance Party: Cold outside? Generate some heat on the hottest, tiniest floor in GR

It is Friday night. The temps are falling but you are not sure where to go.

If this is your predicament, then the best advice to beat the winter doldrums that keep many warm and couch-locked on a Friday night is to venture down to the North Monroe Neighborhood for the city’s best long-running dance party, Control, on the tiniest dance floor in the city. 

The tunes are always hot as DJ Colin Clive (of Mustard Plug) turns up the heat as you sweat away from the troubles of the week.

So if you are tired of freezing, then this Friday night, call a Lyft and head to Control Dance Party at Rocky’s Bar and Grill. 

Rocky’s late-night menu offers a few choice options for those who want to down some bar grub pre-dance party. You might think you don’t need the calories, but honestly, after four hours on the dance floor, your only option to refuel afterward is Grand Coney, so weigh your options carefully … and then get to Control! 

As always, there is no cover for Control Dance Party but you must be 21 or over to attend.
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