Make Your Fourth of July Pop

Every Fourth of July seems to be the same fireworks, parades, and patriotic apparel. This Fourth of July try taking things local and participating in community events that help support our local folk. There are a variety of events that are located in and around the Grand Rapids area that provide an incredible amount of events that uplift and support the community around us.

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Start off the holiday weekend at the Lakeshore Art Festival in Muskegon. This begins on the 3rd and boasts nearly 250 art vendors and food festivals. You could also take advantage of the Reeds Lake Trailblazer Run. Run with friends, family, or solo and start the morning off right.  Afterwards, peruse the Fulton Street Farmers Market for the freshest ingredients to grill up at cookouts later in the evening.

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Take a break from all that walking to watch the parade in East Grand Rapids at noon. Afterwards, bring the whole family for a party in John Collins Park on Reeds Lake. Kids of any age will enjoy games, balloon animals, concessions, and watching a water ski show on Reeds Lake!

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For evening festivities, many local businesses are supporting fireworks shows around the area. Don your most patriotic apparel and grab a blanket to sit front row for the Amway Family Fireworks show, which includes not only fireworks, but also musical entertainment like the Tyler Howe Band and Pop Cult. Hit up one of the many food booths at the Holland Fireworks Celebration or enjoy watching fireworks on the harbor in Saugatuck. With all these wonderful patriotic festivities, you’ll have no problem finding something to do this holiday weekend!

Lessons on Community Food Systems from Burlington, Vermont

Last week I traveled to Burlington, Vermont to participate in a program called Breakthrough Leaders in Sustainable Food Systems. This program brought together 20 participants from across the country to discuss the social, environmental, economic, diet, and health impacts of our food system. While in Vermont we toured several food businesses and organizations and spent time engaging these issues with leaders from a wide range of disciplines and viewpoints. This gave us a deeper understanding of the climate of the local food system in Vermont and got us thinking through the lens of different stakeholders. In order to relay some of the insights I gained during the program, I wanted to share some key takeaways that we can use when approaching food systems here in West Michigan.

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Find Your Voice

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    Leadership is about the capacity of people and communities to shape the futures they desire. To create change in our own lives and throughout our communities, we must first identify our individual strengths and passions and then find ways to act on them.

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Understand Your Assets

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    All of our farmers, stores, restaurants, and community centers can be considered assets in our food system regardless of their current practices. As consumers, we have the ability to shape these practices as long as we build relationships with these entities and articulate our needs and desires.

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Cultivate Support Through Relationship Building

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    To make a positive impact on our community, we need to be present during all of our interactions and meet people where they are at. We should create space and time for the purpose of listening and understanding one another in order to gain insights on how we can best serve our community.

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Establish the Vocabulary

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    We have yet to establish widely accepted definitions for terms like local and sustainable. With fluid definitions, it is easy for these terms to become co-opted. We need to define these terms in order to encourage businesses to be transparent about their practices.

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Make an Impact

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    It is important to listen and be open to ideas that conflict with our own. We should strive to be holistically conscientious of how our privilege and power play into our role in the food system and use our leverage points to amplify the voices of those who do not have a voice in our food system.

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So, how can we create change here in West Michigan?

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There are many ways to help create a more equitable food system. You can join a CSA, buy from one of our many farmers markets, support local grocery stores, grow your own garden, support the restaurants that support our farmers, and simply connect with neighbors to gain a deeper understanding of one another. We have a beautiful community here in West Michigan and supporting our local food system is our opportunity to strengthen this community by creating a more resilient local economy while ensuring that we have meaningful, honest jobs available to our residents.

Don’t Fumble This Father’s Day

With Father’s Day just around the corner, it's a good time to start making plans for how to treat your good ol' dad. We have the inside scoop on how you can keep both gifts and events local, right here in West Michigan!

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Before Father’s Day actually arrives, prepare for the best day ever by picking out gifts that are sure to wow dad. For the younger bunch, start the weekend off by inviting dad to participate along with the kids in building and decorating his very own window box at the Downtown Market from 12-1pm on Saturday, June 20th.

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Still haven’t found the perfect gift for dad? For the outdoorsy type, think about perusing the local favorite, Grand Rapids Bicycle Co, during their annual Father’s Day sale. Pair a gift from here with a surprise, family camping trip and purchase the essentials from outdoor specialists, Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus.

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If your dad is more of a foodie, consider checking out Grand Haven’s Chocolates By Grimaldi. They will be hosting a Dear ‘ol Dad event on Saturday, June 20th from 10am-1pm which is full of locally made chocolates from their store and chocolate factory. There will even be a card making station—consider this your one stop shop!

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Early summer is the perfect time to spend some time in downtown Grand Rapids with the whole family. The Grand Rapids Museum of Art is offering free admission to all dads from 12-5 on Fathers Day. After a fun-filled day at the museum, treat dad to a family style meal at Mangiamo! From 4-9 pm. The chefs create a special meal prepared with seasonal and local ingredients to serve small groups at a discounted price.

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With these helpful tips, we hope you’ll find the perfect way to show your dad you care not just on this special day, but on many days to come.

Relationships Matter Most

That idea is one of the fundamental values that BALLE holds dear and something that was on display at their annual conference last week. It was my second time attending and I was again inspired, delighted and given hope that the work Local First, and other entrepreneurs  around the country are doing is important, and making a difference.

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My biggest takeaway from the conference was how important our relationships are. Recognizing that we are all in relationship, not only with each other as humans but with the place we live and the environment as a whole. What happens to one of us, happens to all of us. We all feel the ramifications. The conference highlighted the work that so many people are doing to build and cultivate those relationships. Our relationship with the soil which provides the food that nourishes us daily. Our relationship with our local businesses owners who are creating a unique and sustainable economy and our relationship with our oppressed brothers and sisters around the country who are fighting against injustice for the rights so many of us enjoy.

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Building relationships is the most important part of my job at Local First. The conference helped me not only recognize where critical relationship building needs to take place, but also ideas on how to engage and a glimpse of the beautiful world we can create when we do.

Local First Street Party Sets Attendance Record

More than 16,000 people attended Saturday’s Local First Street Party, marking the highest attendance rate in the event’s twelve year history.

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The free annual celebration of local beer, music and food in front of Bistro Bella Vita in downtown Grand Rapids broke the old attendance record of 12,000 set in previous years. Visitors sampled cuisine from eight different restaurant vendors, while enjoying Founders beer, wine from St. Julian, family art activities, giant lawn games and local music from bands like The Concussions, Seth and May and The Accidentals.

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This was also the first Zero Waste event for the Street Party, which means more than 90{6be771524f35e681d5eb1711abbe9ad08f29540a742404ae9fff00be7e8f65de} of trash went to compost and recycling and less than 10{6be771524f35e681d5eb1711abbe9ad08f29540a742404ae9fff00be7e8f65de} was diverted to landfill waste.

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“The Street Party is a huge opportunity for us to showcase local businesses and talent, but it also really demonstrates the relationships that make our community so strong,” said Elissa Hillary, executive director of Local First. “We’re proud of the individuals and vendors that helped make this the largest waste-free outdoor festival in Michigan. We hope people will head the same direction in their homes and businesses.”

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Read original story here.

Sustainability a Priority for Local First Street Party

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) — Thousands of people packed Grandville Avenue Saturday, downtown Grand Rapids.

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This is the 12th year for Founders' Local First Street Party. New this year, are some family friendly activities including games of giant Jenga, and places to decorate the street with sidewalk chalk.

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In an effort to build a local sustainable community, organizers are trying to make the party 90{6be771524f35e681d5eb1711abbe9ad08f29540a742404ae9fff00be7e8f65de} waste-free.

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“Local First is all about building a sustainable local community,” says Local First Executive Director Elissa Hillary, “and part of that is support our local businesses and our local economy, but part of it is also the choices we make in our daily lives. Trying to help people understand how easy it is to recycle and compost even when you're outside at a big party.” Last year the party was 85{6be771524f35e681d5eb1711abbe9ad08f29540a742404ae9fff00be7e8f65de} sustainable.

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Watch news story here.

Festival of the Arts, Local First, Sun of a Beach Turn Downtown GR into Music-Filled Street Party

As if six stages of music and dance performances at Grand Rapids’ 46th Festival of the Arts weren’t enough, downtown this weekend also offered up the separate Local First Street Party and Sun of a Beach festival. It’s a far cry from that first humble Festival back in 1970.

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While emceeing Friday night, musician and well-known former Grand Rapids DJ Aris Hampers recalled that inaugural affair amounted to just two stages and a few food booths on Calder Plaza. And no streets were closed down. Fast forward to 2015 and it seemed like all of Grand Rapids was celebrating June’s first weekend.

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If Friday’s turnout was lighter than usual for a dry Festival kickoff — perhaps the breezy, gray and cool weather kept a few folks away — then Saturday’s gloriously sunshine-soaked Day 2 may have made up for it with perhaps twice as many people enjoying the music and food, along with the addition of a bustling Local First Street Party featuring an impressive lineup of regional artists just outside Bistro Bella Vita west of Van Andel Arena.

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An even bigger throng than last year reveled in beer from Founders Brewing and stellar sets from a top-notch lineup of diverse regional acts, starting with Heaters in mid-afternoon and followed by The Lippies, Molly Bouwsma-Schultz & Friends, The Concussions, Seth & May, The Accidentals (with special guest Rick Chyme) and Hannah Rose Graves, with the final two acts certainly causing a stir with animated performances. In spite of some long lines to get in at times, an upbeat mood pervaded the 12th annual street party amid perfect weather.

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(On Friday night, the Sun of a Beach fest hosted by Channel 95.7 and Classic Hits 98.7 WFGR off Monroe Avenue NW a block from Rosa Parks Circle drew a jam-packed crowd with tons of sand creating an urban “beach” and sets by Parrots of the Caribbean and Zac Brown tribute band ZBTB, with beer and alcohol sales fueling attendance.)

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Rain was starting to roll in on Sunday, but here are just a few highlights from the hectic weekend that preceded that, courtesy of Local Spins writers Taylor Mansen, Jordan McNaughton and Ethan Dombrowski.

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Taking the stage at the Festival’s Outer Fringe around 3:30 p.m. Friday, Blue Disciples brought undeniable passion into their high-energy performance of rootsy blues and rock, getting the crowd screaming for more by the end of the set. Later on the same stage, Olivia Mainville and The King Rats took over the stage around 5 p.m. Friday. Although there was a bit of a delay with set times, the experimental folk rock band played a full set including foot-tapping and “gypsy-swinging” songs off of Mainville’s EP “Full Steam Ahead.”

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The up-and-coming hi-ker delivered a concise performance Friday afternoon. Each song bled into the other with textured synths and pulsing drums leading the way. The group, which found itself slowly amassing a crowd throughout its set, uncorked an explosive rendition of “Quails” from its self-titled EP.

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What acts draw crowds quickly and fill up seats? Most Festival-goers are transient listeners, spending a few minutes at each stage before moving on. But some of the largest crowds on Friday night gathered to see rock acts, including Murder Party, Trixy Tang and Vertical Bridge. Obviously, rock is not dead. Indeed, rock/punk’s Murder Party unleashed a steamrolling set. At one point, an audience member was singled out as “biker” — an older man dressed in leather pants and jacket, spikes, and even a little license plate that proclaimed “IDOL.” The band then launched into its next song, “Motor Psycho,” from a 2013 EP.

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Some of the most unique acts were found at the Outer Fringe. One such group, Arlo and the Avalanche, featured a member playing what could best be described as a rhythm stick. The wooden post was held upright and adorned with a tambourine, temple block, bell and a set of strings played with a drum stick.

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Original story written by John Sinkevics. Read full story here.

Local First brings Michigan-made Music, Food, and Drink

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The 12th annual Local First Street Party hosted its largest crowd to date as an estimated 15,000 people showed up to celebrate local music, food, and drinks on Saturday, June 6.

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The event featured a wide variety of music. Everything from blues, pop punk, surf rock, acoustic folk, and more took the stage from acts like Heaters, The Lippies, Molly Bouwsma-Schultz and Friends, The Concussions, Seth and May, The Accidentals, and Hannah Rose Graves.

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The all-ages celebration of Michigan products was held in front of Bistro Bella Vita, 44 Grandville Ave. SW, from 3 p.m. to midnight.

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Founders Pale Ale, Red's Rye, and All Day IPA along with St. Julian's red wine, white wine, and Gunga Din hard cider was available for purchase along with Faygo pop. Family entertainment was provided with giant Jenga and Connect 4 games, sidewalk chalk, and an art station. Guests could also hula hoop with Audacious Hoops, dance to music from DJ Colin Clive, or watch 61Syx Teknique dance between music sets.

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For full article written by Todd Chance, click here

Local First produces Street Party

Local First is throwing blow-out block party downtown tomorrow. The Grand Rapids-based nonprofit will host its 12th-annual Street Party on Saturday, from 3 p.m.-midnight, in Grand Rapids outside of Bistro Bella Vita, at 44 Grandville Ave. SW.

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The free event, which is being presented by Founders Brewing Co., will feature music, family friendly activities and entertainment, local food trucks, Founders beer and more. Local First has also teamed up with Uber to provide pick-up stations for attendees.Local First plans to have a giant Jenga and Connect 4 and sidewalk chalk for kids to play with.

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There will also be professional breakdancing from 61Syx Teknique and professional interactive hula hooping from Audacious Hoops. More than 12,000 people attended last year’s street party, according to Local first. Last year’s event was also organized as a zero-waste event, with an about 85.7 percent diversion rate.

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Live music lineup:

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3-3:45 p.m.: Heaters (West Coast psychedelic rock)

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4-4:45 p.m.: The Lippies (pop punk)

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5-6 p.m.: Molly Bouwsma-Schultz and Friends (blues and soul)

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6:30-7:30 p.m.: The Concussions (surf rock and instrumental)

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8-9 p.m.: Seth and May (acoustic folk)

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9:30-10:30 p.m.: The Accidentals (indie folk rock)

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11 p.m.-midnight: Hannah Rose Graves (blues, folk and bluegrass)

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Original article by Mike Nichols. Read it here.

Local First Street Party: Fun For Everyone

There will be plenty to do at this year’s Local First Street Party; kids can enjoy interactive art projects and people of all ages can play giant yard games—all while enjoying live music!

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Join Reb Roberts, founder of Sanctuary Folk Art, as he leads younger participants through the exciting, creative process of making recycled art. Roberts will supply materials used in his own projects as an artist and encourage kids at the Street Party to explore the creative process. His work can be seen all over the Grand Rapids community within restaurants, businesses, and notable murals in the Heartside Neighborhood.

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Children and adults can also join Creative Engineer, Marco Riolo in creating chalk art at the Street Party. Riolo will encourage kids to draw murals regarding local activities through chalk expression. Riolo is an entrepreneur who launched Marco Riolo LLC Creative Engineering to provide services in graphic design, innovations, and resources to make any vision a reality. He plans to bring these skills to the Street Party to continue his mission to make the Grand Rapids area a more creative place.

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Downtown Grand Rapids has granted Local First permission to borrow giant family games to enjoy at the Street Party. This year’s event will have giant Jenga and the family favorite, giant Connect Four. In between dancing to the live music, and eating great local food, enjoy playing and creating art with your family and friends!

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