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TUBACHRISTMAS: Hot brass in the city

It is not just because it is fun to say out loud, but for the last 11 years, TUBACHRISTMAS audiences members can attest that this annual festive and unique holiday music-filled event arrives back in Grand Rapids for a stellar 12th time!

Unlike other festivals that appear each year, TUBACHRISTMAS seems to attract an eclectic set of musicians and fans from all over the state who descend on the stage at Downtown Grand Rapids’ Fountain Street Church. 

One never knows who will be performing according to one local organizer and tuba player extraordinaire Karen Dunham, who has seen everything from junior high students to seasoned classically trained players pimp their hot brass on stage. 

This free program packs in a lot of holiday music favorites, as well as finds ways to debut fresh, new material. 

In addition to the return of the popular TUBACHRISTMAS’ rendition of "Jingle Bells,” which includes an opportunity for the audience to join in the performance, is the debut of "Santa Wants a Tuba for Christmas," with Rebecca Findley Barnhard joining the band on the vocals.

So while locally there are plenty of traditional holiday events to scratch your nostalgia itch, TUBACHRISTMAS, even at year 12, still has the power to feel fresh and new with each and every year it arrives in our city. 

10th Annual Santa Crawl: St. Nick takes a night off to party on the town

It is hard to believe that we are celebrating 10 years of the annual Santa Crawl. 

Each December, the Grand Rapids Bar Crawl (GRBC) hosts a special St. Nicholas edition of their popular pub-hop touring event, where attendees are encouraged to dress up like jolly ol’ St. Nicholas.

What can only be described as part pub crawl/part pure live theatre, this annual GRBC event sets the stage for a night of memory-making as you and your friends tour bars and clubs throughout the city in a festive and fun themed event. 

Over the years, the GRBC has built solid relationships with area venues and watering holes thus creating a no-waiting-in-line experience as you are whisked inside like the VIP Santa truly is. 

And while Rapid Growth has sworn not to reveal what they're planning, since it is a surprise for attendees, one thing is certain: GRBC always find interesting places to land.

In the past, the Santa Crawl guests have ended up on a mechanical bull, roller skating, and even bowling. 

Since you don’t have to drive (because you’re a bus that departs and then later returns to The Rezervoir), your holiday spirit is not limited to just your stops; in between you and your fellow Santas participate in some really festive group games.

If you want to attend, please don’t delay as seating is limited with reservations being secured in advance at this link.

May Erlewine: “Michigan’s Songbird” in Creston on Sunday

While the city has no shortage of brew pubs offering something unique from great tap rooms, to award-winning pizza, to gaming nights, one neighborhood venue has managed to create something truly rich in their expansive, glass-walled space: a pub where you can enjoy a beer while building a connection to a vibrant community.

This is the charm of the Creston Brewery, whose impressive first year has included some incredible nights of original programming in a space filled with local contemporary art. 

One area in which they excel  is their commitment to the arts though the offering of their space to many local musicians and DJs to entertain locals and those who take a walk on the funky side of this Creston Neighborhood gem. 

On Sunday afternoon as the sun begins to hover on the horizon, Creston will welcome singer/songwriter May Erlewine to their tiny stage for an intimate two-hour performance of her music. 

Referred to as “Michigan’s Songbird,”  Erlewine’s songs are intimate and accessible, vulnerable and inspiring, as she taps into musical genres of traditional folk roots, old time country swing, soul, and rock and roll. And her music is always delivered with the warmest of heart. 

Since Creston Brewery eschews distractions like big screen TVs within its brew pub, a different vibe takes over the space as folks freely engage in dialogue. 

Those who venture out this Sunday will be rewarded with a set that is certain to match the fitting beauty of a busy weekend winding down, set to a live performance that is certain to provide relaxation over some incredible beers. 

Joining Erlewine at this intimate, free concert will be Max Lockwood on bass and guitar.

To learn more about May Erlewine’s music and all the incredible musicians at the Michigan-based Earthwork Music Collective, please visit their website.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi roars into Grand Rapids

After two years of waiting, “The Last Jedi,” the newest and 8th installment of the popular George Lucas created “Star War” saga that began 40 years ago, arrives on the big screen.  

Since no advance screenings were available at press time, we can share that from the initial reviews starting to trickle out, this one is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Following in the footsteps of episode 7, “The Force Awakens,” in “The Last Jedi” you will experience another journey with familiar characters like Finn, Poe and Luke Skywalker, as they continue on their quest as a battle of good and evil plays out throughout the universe. And as has been the case with the last film, be prepared for heartbreak as well with this one.

Locally you will have plenty of options to as to how to experience this thrilling film from 2D, 3D, D-Box,  and even IMAX (and IMAX 3D.)

However you choose to view this newest film, keep in mind that this series is a huge reason why cinema in America experienced a comeback introducing to modern audiences the concept of the blockbuster - a format that we still enjoy so many decades later as we thrilling escape from our reality.  And a force that continues to inspire even our local filmmakers to attempt bold moves in the quest to tell their stories on the big screen. 

Grand Rapids Grassroots: A Panel Discussion

When we think of the advances to the culture of West Michigan, we often begin with those who have stepped forward to place their names on our buildings and street signs.

But that is only a part of the advances made here over the years and, lucky for us, a new book that Rapid Growth covered in “Voices of the people: New book to showcase Grand Rapids' activist community” last spring is finally completed and is ready for release (and just in time for the holidays.)

This anthology from various points of Grand Rapids' grassroots moments features area activists whose contributions have helped us see who we are but through their actions have enriched our knowledge of others often left out of our vision.

These members of our city featured in “Grand Rapids Grassroots: An Anthology” include activists, community leaders, and neighborhood organizers who have lent their talents to create a more socially just place that so many call home. 

On Thursday, at the Grand Rapids Public Library main downtown location, will be a chance to hear from a few members of the community who contributed to this scholarly work at a special panel discussion.

In addition to learning about the process of creating this new anthology, the event will provide space for us to center on the works and perspectives of Grand Rapids activists Breannah Alexander, Shannon Garrett, Michelle Jokisch Polo, and Jes Kramer, as well as co-editor Dani Vilella.
 
So regardless of where you are in your journey to know your city, the “Grand Rapids Grassroots: An Anthology” is a great way to begin to understand those voices whose contributions have made us truly Grand by advocating for others. 

Stranger Tidings: A Holiday Sketch Revue

When one is thinking of the holidays, these thoughts often accompany a sense of dread. And with good reason.

Amidst the family drama, the political talk (we all try to avoid), and the unexpected dietary matters that pop up at the dinner table more and more and without warning, is the recipe for disaster that we gladly show up for year after year.

But what if we could let a little air out of this season with humor?

Lucky for us seeking a little levity this year, Late Night Grand Rapids (LNGR), a local performance group in our city, is hosting “Stranger Tidings: A Holiday Sketch Revue” at Dog Story Theater on Saturday night.

LNGR presents a fresh sketch show with never-before-seen material. But the night is so much more than just a night of sketch comedy as the performance will feature live music via an onstage band and with a series of fresh videos.

The best part is that the host for this one-show-only event is Grand Rapids’ funniest female comic, Sarah Jean Anderson, who will be the featured host for the night’s festivities. 

It is advised since Dog Story Theater is a small venue to secure your tickets in advance here.

In addition, be prepared to chase your buzz with drinks which act as a great lubricant for your candy cane flavored funny bone (so pack some extra cash).

Late Night Grand Rapids is attempting to bring their comedy to our region via these pop-up performances devoted to the art of sketch, music, film, stand up, and so much more.

West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus: A free holiday concert with community benefits

There is no greater joy in the city than to see artistic community-focussed groups advance. And one group this for nearly 10 years is our West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus, who now joins a long list of area choirs that celebrate the art of song via the performances they deliver to our region. It is nice to have so many options!

On Sunday afternoon, take a stroll downtown to Fountain Street Church for the return of the festive and fun holiday musical showcase from our West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus.

Prepare yourself for classics like “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night,” but also for those comic gems like a new number for the chorus, “The 12 Days After Christmas.”

The songs play off the wintery themes of our season too, with classical tunes lining up nicely alongside contemporary gems like The Beach Boys “Little Saint Nick.”

In addition the “boys” will be welcoming Lady Oak, a local choir that is an offshoot of our Grand Rapids Women’s Chorus, who will be performing a set during this special, free holiday show. 

And while the event is admission-free, the West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus asks that, during their intermission, to please consider a donation to the Grand Rapids Community Foundation's Our LGBT Fund.

We have plenty of ways to celebrate the holidays, and we at Rapid Growth are pleased to witness the ever-widening acceptance of people who were once marginalized but now are such a beautiful addition to the fabric of our city. 

‘70s Punk Night: Power to the raging voice of rock and roll

Rock and roll is a powerful force for change with roots that stretch over time but also to those pockets where the human voice often struggles to be heard.

One movement of rock and roll—punk—is a reaction to the status quo as it sought, through this music form, to have its point of view heard via the bands who perform it. And on Wednesday night, punk will be—for the first time in my memory—performed at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

This powerful form of music, showcased on Wednesday evening at ‘70s Punk Night, has always emanated from the subculture, challenging the dominant status quo to consider the other in our society.

For this concert event tied to the Ford’s “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics” traveling exhibition from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame now on display, area musicians from Mustard Plug, Lokella, Shoebox, and Triumph Music Academy will form two musical supergroups, The Young and The Savage for a night of punk rock.  

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Foundation’s partnership with the traveling Rock & Roll Hall of Fame exhibition explores how rock and roll has helped shape our views as well as change our attitudes about topics of patriotism, peace, equality, and freedom.

This energetic and informative exhibition explores how rock and roll artists exercise their First Amendment rights as they challenge societal assumptions and cultural beliefs as they usher  fresh voices that often lead to real change. 

It is nearly impossible to not think of music when we think of the momentous civil rights movements of the last decades from marches on Washington to protests moments like the Vietnam War and so this exhibition is sure to delight as well as challenge the viewer.

“Louder Than Words” highlights how artists have used their craft as a platform to express their views and shape public opinion,” said Greg Harris, president and CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

This special concert event is free with refreshments and of course, ear plugs should you need them. (And you will need them if the bands are true to their roots.)

“Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics” will be open to the public during this special  Ford After Five evening event and runs from November 7 to February 11, 2018.

Register to attend '70s Punk Night here

Christmas for the Animals: A community celebration for our furry and scaly friends

There are no shortages of fun holiday themed events in our city that range from holiday artists markets to special dining opportunities with million dollar views. But what if I told you that there is an event in the city where the celebration involves characters who are known for wearing furry coats year round or for diving into chilly waters in search of a meal? 

Well, that is just part of the fun in store for folks who will venture to the Westside to visit the John Ball Zoo for their annual Christmas for the Animals.

True to the name, this holiday event focuses on providing space for the community to to return to the zoo and celebrate with a gift for the animals before the worst of West Michigan’s winter weather hits our city.

At this one-day only event, you will have a chance to see Santa and pet his reindeer, observe a thrilling ice carving, learn what animals like which enrichments in their treats, but also experience a thrilling exhibition of Santa’s aquatic diving elves!

Timed events include:
11 a.m. Tigers with a paper mache moose in the upper habitat
12 p.m. Otters “preparing” a meal of fish
1 p.m.  Bears unwrapping paper to get to their treats
2 p.m. Spider monkeys wrapping gifts

It is also a great time to make Christmas for the Animals really special via a host of ways.

One way is to support the zoo directly through a donation made at the event or consider sponsoring an animal at the Zoo. Both options are available at this link to their site.

However you choose to celebrate the animals of our zoo this holiday, just don’t forget to place them on your list to visit this weekend. It is also one of the last times to visit Amur tigers Yuri and Kuza who are slated to ship to another zoo in their quest to help propagate this endangered species. (We will be getting a couple “teenager” tigers in 2018 to replace our Yuri and Kuza.) 
 
John Ball Zoo is the fourth most attended cultural institution in the state, serving over 530,000 guests in 2017. 

1997 Tribute Show: Twenty years to this moment

If you live long enough you will soon  watch your childhood tunes become the stuff nostalgia shows re-discover and (often) repackage for a new generation.

One area of this revival trend that has roots in other cities as well as ours, is the tribute show. 

For the 1997 Tribute Show at the Pyramid Scheme our area’s performers from a variety of music acts have organized into popular acts. All told nearly 30 local music acts have contributed their talent to this night’s line up. 

Featured on Friday at this one night only performance will be the albums released in 1997 and will include “Spiceworld” by The Spice Girls, “Third Eye Blind” by Third Eye Blind, “Homogenic" by Bjork, “OK Computer” by Radiohead, and “Dude Ranch” by Blink 182. 

And while it is true that some will attempt faithful recreations of these popular albums, these tribute events often produce unexpected joys as modern advances in our sonic revolution opens new ways of sharing these classic albums from 1997. 

In between acts will be 1997-themed DJ sets spun by Scintillate, which is sure to include Hanson, so you will never have to leave the dreamy period of this year until the last act has finished around 1 a.m.

As someone who has attended numerous tribute shows from Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” to Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” to the memorable 2016 tribute to David Bowie, don’t miss this opportunity to see so much good music in one place this Friday night. 

Friday's 1997 Tribute Show benefits the United Way of West Michigan.

Found Footage Festival: At the intersection of strange and LOL

As an avid fan of discarded media, I find a lot of pleasure and joy in its reinvention and exhibition like one can see at the Found Footage Festival, which rolls back into Grand Rapids at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts.

Hosted by creators Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett, whose credits include The Onion and The Colbert Report, UICA is once again the setting for the return of a brand new tour of fresh material, but also a few fan favorites.  

It works like this:  the curators of this festival scour the country in search of cast off videos or obscure programing that can be showcased in this one-of-a-kind motion picture event.

The festival is a chance for the curators to share a bit of background on the material via this live program, which also includes a where-are-they-now update on some of their funniest clips.  

For a sample peak into a few of the items they have shown in past events, please follow this link.

This event is not for the easily offended, so consider yourself warned. But for those with a slightly twisted filter willing to venture on the dark side of humor, this is one of those great events where the belly laughter starts at 8 and runs until the final clip is unspooled.

Pitch Night: Neighborhood voices rise up

The city is flush with many ways to showcase an idea and (hopefully) if it connects with an audience or gatekeeper, it will become a business reality.

But what about those whose ideas are not something that cannot be monetized because they are driven by a different criteria for success?

The City of Grand Rapids presents a pitch night on the Southeast side of the city where folks can showcase an idea aimed at reducing neighborhood violence. 

Now before you get all defensive and shoot down the idea, here me out.

While violence in our cities (as well as suburban and rural committees) is a matter of concern, when sourcing solutions we often do not hear from the communities impacted where, in my opinion, sometimes the kernel of good idea can struggle to be given a voice to lift it from a concept to a reality. 

Nonprofits and individuals are asked to pitch ideas aimed at implementation within youth ages 15 to 24. Submission of these ideas must be completed before December 2 and can be easily be added to the list for consideration by visiting this website. All pitches must be made live and be less than five minutes in length. A panel of up to five judges will review proposals and applications. 

City of Grand Rapids 3rd Ward Commissioner and SAFE Taskforce Chair Senita Lenear will oversee the event where nonprofits will compete for up to $5,000 to support their violence reduction efforts. In addition, individuals from the community are also eligible to participate as they jockey to win $500 to support their concept. 

All told over the course of this night, the Taskforce will fund up to three organizations and three individuals. The ability of a city to host space for citizens where we can collectively listen and share ideas is ultimately the biggest winner of the pitch night. 

Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer and Food Festival: Celebrating the goodness of the earth

With the holidays just around the corner—and because we know our city truly loves a festival where beer and wine (and cider and spirits) freely flow—comes the Tenth Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival to DeVos Place. 

This is a great opportunity to learn something new while also discovering new beers and wines alongside a long list of artisan products to add to your holiday gatherings. 

Here are a few of the key highlights to consider at this annual event:

Enhanced Elite Wine Collection: nearly 50 wines hand-selected by our consulting sommeliers and importing specialists as the “best of the best” top shelf vintages and all with at least a 90-point value. You can sample these delicious wines by purchasing at the event a 10-ticket ($5) tasting fee due to the value of the wines. If this isn’t your speed, then no worries, since their are more than 100 wineries represented at the event with a variety of price points. 
 
Special this year (and because of the timing of this annual event) is the chance to celebrate with the world of wine fans on this third Thursday of November when the international “Beaujolais Nouveau Day” is celebrated with the release the popular vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks before being uncorked. On the fest’s opening day, the Tasters Guild invites you to join them in the tasting of the fresh 2017 Beaujolais Nouveau at a special pouring in the Elite Collection, presented by Wine & Beverage Steward David Stanley of Meijer.
 
Cocktail enthusiasts will want to visit Hemingway Hall to sample award-winning spirits and artisan concoctions created by innovative mixologists. This event is tied to our annual Experience Grand Rapids’ Cocktail Week GR.

There is a Beer City Station as well as a Cider Row where you can enjoy meeting the folks behind some of our favorite brands created right here in our city and state. 

The festival also offers special pairing seatings and also climate dinner experiences that must be booked in advance so visit their site for details on these much-coveted reservations.     

Single-day passes as well as for the die hard fan three-day passes can be purchased in advance here or at the door.    

Joshua Davis: Grand Rapids stop for “The Way Back Home”

I really had thought that the days of seeing Michigan native and musician Joshua Davis in our community’s smaller venues might be a thing of the past after his rocket rise to the finals at The Voice (Season 8). 

As a musician of the Michigan-based Earthworks Collective, Davis has popped up on stages from local venues like Wealthy Theatre to the tiny stage at Short’s Brewing in Bellaire, Michigan. And with each appearance, he has delighted audiences both locally and now internationally via The Voice. 

Davis stops in Grand Rapids as a part of his Michigan tour (and in advance of his west coast tour next month) to showcase the music from his first release since appearing on The Voice with “The Way Back Home.”

This new album was produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin and features Davis reflecting on the time-tested classic themes of family, community, lessons learned, and, of course, love. 

If you would love to read more about the artist, Grand Rapids’ Local Spins recently sat down with Davis to garner insights on the release. You can read their article here.

Saturday night is a great opportunity to see Davis up close in an intimate venue all the while supporting a fellow Michigander who is creating some remarkable music.

For tickets, please visit the Pyramid Scheme's site

Transgender Day of Remembrance: Honoring those lives lost

Unlike the highly visible Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV) where in 2017 Grand Rapidians en force displayed a stunning 100+ transgender flags all over the city at area businesses, nonprofits, and places of worship, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is a more somber occasion as it commemorates the lives of those lost within a  community that has for so many centuries suffered in silence.

On Monday, Nov. 20, the Grand Rapids Pride Center, Grand Rapids Trans Foundation, and the TDoR Committee will once again return to the Goei Center for the 2017 Trans Day of Remembrance ceremony. 

At this event, you can expect what you might at any other vigil as community members mourn, remember, and honor the lives of those members of our community who are no longer with us in this life. 

Hate crimes against transgender people have always been an issue, but over the last two years these attacks have been escalating with Michigan being named as number four in crimes against people because of their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact as reported, in Kent County alone, for all our advances in the region that are worth celebrating, we had 10 hate crimes in 2016,  making us the worst county in the state. (We can and should do better.)

The TDoR event is a time of sorrow and reflection, but also presents an opportunity for our community of transgender and nonbinary folks to gather with other supportive members of our city. Gatherings like this enable these diverse populations to leverage this event to build community and truly inspire others to join them in the  creation of a better, safer region, state, world. 

This year’s guest speakers include:

Jeynce Mizrahi - victim advocate for Equality Michigan, founding board member of the Trans Sistas of Color Project (Detroit), and a member of the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Kyn E. - Grand Rapids Pride Center’s group facilitator.

Maxwell T. Isaac - lead organizer of Black Lives Matter Kalamazoo, and a community organizer who centers racial equity, LGBTQIAP advocacy, stigma reduction, and anti-bias praxis in his work.

For more info on the event, please visit their event page
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