Grand River gets reimagined as entertainment focal point instead of backdrop
by Allan I. Ross
Between now and Labor Day — affectionately known in mid-Michigan as either “mosquito season” or “three months of bad sledding,” depending on who you talk to — Lou Adado Riverfront Park will host no shortage of festivals and events. But a debut event next week, the Grand American Fish Rodeo, promises to go somewhere with the waterfront property few festivals have dared tread — actually into the water.
“What I’d like to do (is) to get you hooked on this idea,” Terry Terry, event co-founder and president of the Michigan Institute of Contemporary Art, told the weekly Lansing Rotary Club meeting last week. Terry introduced the audience to several of the Fish Rodeo’s scheduled events: A fishing competition, a maritime-themed tattoo contest, a mechanical bull in the shape of a fish (called the “bucking bass”), a rubber duck derby and a fashion show that requires clothing made from — what else — fishnet.
“We have more than 100 ideas, but we can’t do it all at once,” Terry said. “This year we’re getting our feet wet, testing the water.”
Terry said he hopes to attract national attention to the festival — think of Lollapalooza with less noise-induced hearing loss and more fish puns. Live music will range from nationally touring country artist Clare Dunn to local jazz guitarist Elden Kelly. There will also be food vendors and a beer tent called, fittingly, the Watering Hole. Terry thinks 5,000 people will make it over the event’s three-day run, and he anticipates luring up to 50,000 people downtown if this takes off.
“The Grand River is an under-utilized resource, and it’s high time we highlight it and show it off for all it can offer,” Terry said. “It’s going to be a grand summer on the river.”
April’s inaugural Microbrew and Music Festival, which, like most Adado events, merely used the river as a backdrop, was almost moved to Old Town for fear of getting revelers’ feet wet because of potential spring flooding. (Did they really think a little mud would hinder a beer-and-music bash — hasn’t anyone heard of Woodstock?) The last local event to highlight the Grand River was the Dragon Boat Race, which used to take place Labor Day weekend as part of the Michigan Mosaic Music Festival. After attracting passionate rowers in 2011 and 2012, the boats took a “hiatus” last year, but they’ll return Sept. 13-14 — a long way off, but still technically summer.
Local businesses are also picking up on this idea. The Grand Fish, launched by Ken and Giselle Settimo in 2010, has built up a steady clientele base of aquaphiles who rent the business’ canoes and kayaks and lounge in the outdoor seating area across from River Street Park. The Settimos also provide water taxi rides between their dock, just south of the Kalamazoo Bridge, and the Lansing City Market.
The Power of Water, an aptly named new Lansing business, takes the Grand Fish’s affinity for playing on the water one step further — owner/operator Trey Rouss wants to see you get in over your head.
“A lot of people look at the Grand River as something to be avoided, but most communities would kill for a resource like this,” Rouss said. “There are so many bad misconceptions about it. The money that’s been invested into getting it clean has worked. It’s in really good shape. I’m in it all the time.”
Rouss leads weekly water polo games in the river every Tuesday. He’s also a certified paddleboard and kayak instructor. And playing in the water isn’t just a good way to blow off steam — it’s a way to get to know your city a little better.
“With increased use comes an increased connection with it,” he said. “We want people on the river so people start caring more for it and embracing it.”
So if you think you’ve been exploiting every facet of entertainment the capital city has to offer, think again. The Grand River finally gets a chance to move from the background scenery into the spotlight this year. There’s a whole other dimension of recreation waiting to be explored.
Summer 2014 is a good time to dive in.
There are enough festivals, concerts, run/ walks and gizzard-eating contests to keep you busy until it’s time to stow the sandals for the season. Here’s a list of the best of the season’s activities, as well as some select summer reading, camping and theater options.
June 7: Mayor’s Family Riverwalk
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero leads a three-mile walk, from Potter Park Zoo to the Turner-Dodge House. Free shuttle back to the zoo. First 1,000 walkers get a T-shirt. 9 a.m. FREE. lansingmi.gov.
June 6-8: Gizzard Fest
Activities include a gizzardeating contest, 5K run/walk, car show, fishing tournament, parade and fireworks. Live music featuring Double Wide Ride, Good Times and Hot Eraser. Noon-midnight Friday; 7 a.m.-midnight Saturday; 9 a.m.- whenever Sunday. Potterville High School, 422 High St., Potterville. (517) 927-7912, gizzardfest.com.
Grand American Fish Rodeo Boat parade, rubber fish derby, fishing tournament and more. 4-11 p.m. Thursday; noon-11 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday. Adado Riverfront Park, Lansing. FREE. grandamericanfishrodeo.com.
June 14: Oldsmobile Homecoming Car show and swap meet hosted by the Oldsmobile Club of America R.E. Olds Chapter. State of Michigan General Office Building, Dimondale. (517) 290-7455, reolds.org.
June 15-21: Red Cedar Jubilee
Live music, parades, craft shows, an enduro derby, lawn mower races and a food and beverage tent. FREE. Various locations and times throughout downtown Williamston. (517) 655-3831, facebook.com/redcedarjubilee.
June 19-21: Lansing Juneteenth Celebration
Music, dancing, and educational and health fairs commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. St. Joseph Park, Lansing. (517) 394-6900, lansingjuneteenthcelebration.org.
June 19-22: Yankee Doodle Days
Music and activities, featuring Root Doctor and Global Village. Downtown Grand Ledge. FREE/$5 for some entertainment events. (517) 627-2383, grandledgechamber.com.
June 21: Dam Festival
Celebrating Eaton Rapids’ history and culture featuring a craft show, Civil War display, blacksmith, handson activities for kids, concessions and an ice cream parlor. FREE. 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. (517) 663- 3288, damfestival. net.
June 28: Lansing Beer Fest
Craft beer and live music in historic REO Town. $30-$35/$5 designated driver. Washington Avenue, Lansing. (517) 331-0528, lansingbeerfest.com.
June 28: Delta Rocks! Family Festival
Featuring a live petting zoo, trackless train rides, arts and crafts booths and inflatable attractions. FREE. Noon-6 p.m. Sharp Park, Lansing. (517) 323-8555, deltami.gov/parks.
July 7-12: Eaton County Fair
Includes team penning, endure and motocross races and truck and tractor pulls. $5/$25 week pass/5 and under FREE. 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Eaton Country Fair Grounds, Charlotte. (517) 543-4510, eatoncountyfair.com.
July 8-9: Potter Park Zoo Dollar Days
One-dollar admission to the zoo with a voucher and free parking. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Potter Park Zoo. 1301 S. Pennsylvania Ave., Lansing. (517) 483-4222, potterparkzoo.org.
July 8-29: Play in the Park Series
July 8: “The Joel Tacey Variety Show.” Magic and goofy stunts, including an audience levitation trick.
July 15: “Cirque Amongus. Juggling, balancing, audience participation.
July 22: Impression 5’s Giant Trebuchet. Hurling things through the air via medieval catapult-like device.
July 29: Zumba Kids with Becky Newcombe. Latin rhythm exercise for all ages.
All events FREE. 7 p.m. Valley Court Park, East Lansing. cityofeastlansing.com.
July 19: Taste of Downtown
The diverse cuisine and wine of downtown Lansing restaurants. $20/$15 before July $18/$5 children/children under 2 FREE. 3-8 p.m., Washington Avenue, Lansing. tasteofdowntown.org.
July 26: Car Capital Auto Show
Judged show with 74 vehicle classes, 16 motorcycle classes and prize giveaways. $30 registration/ FREE to attend. 7:30 a.m. -10:30 p.m. Capitol Building, downtown Lansing. reoldsmuseum. org.
July 28- Aug. 2: Ingham County Fair
4-H horse and livestock exhibition, food contests, rides and entertainment shows. 8 a.m. gates. $8/$5 children and seniors/ children under 2 FREE. Ingham County Fairground. Mason. fb.ingham.org.
July 30: East Lansing Aquatic Center Birthday Party
Games, prizes, cake and pizza. 11 a.m. -8 p.m. (517) 332-4420, cityofeastlansing.com.
Aug. 2: Island Art Fair
Over 100 artists, plus food and live music on Second Island in downtown Grand Ledge. Juried show and Princess Laura Riverboat rides. FREE. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 120 S. Bridge St. Grand Ledge. ledgecraftlane.com.
Aug.1-2: Bath Days Festival
Bathtub races, parade, car show, food, music entertainment and fireworks. FREE. 2 p.m.-dark Friday; 8 a.m.-dark Saturday. bathdays.com.
Aug. 14-16: Renegade Theatre Festival
Theater productions in unconventional locations around Lansing’s Old Town district. Genres include comedy, drama, musicals, children’s theatre and original works by local playwrights. FREE. Times and schedule to be announced. Old Town, Lansing. renegadetheatrefestival.org.
Aug. 14-16: DeWitt Ox Roast
Festivities include a parade, car show, carnival, music and food. FREE. 3-11 p.m. Thursday; 2-11:30 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Saturday. Downtown DeWitt. dewittoxroast.net.
Aug. 23: Michigan Pride March, Rally & Festival
Statewide celebration of the LGBT community. 1 p.m. parade, ending with a rally at the Capitol. Festivities continue at various bars and restaurants in Old Town 2 p.m-1 a.m. FREE. michiganpride.org.
Summer Theatre Guide
by Alexa McCarthy
Riverwalk Theatre will hold a free summer workshop for young actors interested in getting involved with theater. The Young Artisan Workshop will also stage “Peter Pan” July 24- 27. riverwalktheatre.com, (517) 482-5700.
Michigan State University Department of Theatre will host its annual Summer Circle Theatre in its new outdoor theater on the banks of the Red Cedar River. The shows are thematically linked by a sense of looking toward a brighter future. The schedule consists of the coming-of-age tale “What I Did Last Summer” (June 11-14); a backyard party gone wrong in “Detroit” (June 18-21); a campy musical, “Ruthless” (June 25-28); a charming comedy, “The Summer Circle” (June 13-28); and a collection of six, short, creepy, pulpy plays, “The Weird” (June 13-28). theatre.msu.edu, (800) WHARTON.
Lansing Community College Department of Theatre also takes to the outdoor stage in its Summer Stage series. It will feature “Fools” (June 25- 29), followed a month later with “In a Grove: Four Japanese Ghost Stories” (July 23-27) lcc.edu/cma/events, (517) 483-1546.
Mid Michigan Family Theatre offers production geared toward the younger set. In June, the theatre will stage Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant” (June 13-22). In August, it will perform the historical musical, “The Castaways” (Aug. 1-10). freewebs.com/midmichigantheatre, (517) 339-2145.
Over the Ledge Theatre Co. continues its summer season with “In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play).” Based on the bizarre historical facts that doctors used vibrators to treat “hysterical” women, the play centers on a doctor and his wife (June 19-29). Next is “Married Alive,” a series of comical vignettes about the ups and downs of marriage (July 31-Aug 10). overtheledge.org, (517) 318-0579.
Williamston Theatre started its summer series with “Old Love” (May 15-June 15). It will wrap up its season with “The Big Bang” (July10- Aug 17). williamstontheatre.com, (517) 655-7469.
Renegade Theatre Festival will finish out the summer season in Old Town Aug. 14-16. The festival will take place in a variety of occupied and vacant office spaces throughout Old Town, as well as in outdoor areas. Scheduled for the festival so far is “With One Little Stone” by Michigan playwright Conor McShane; “The Human Behind the Image: A Matter of Life and Death” from the MSU Theatre Department; “Cock” from the Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.; “North Gier Street,” an original one-man play by Raymond Goodwin; “Just Wanna Dance” from Riverwalk; and “Campfire” from Williamston Theatre.
by Eric Finkler
There’s a lot to do in Lansing, but as summer wears on you may want to escape the city living hustle for a brief vacation in the woods. With multiple campgrounds just a short drive from downtown Lansing, you may find the perfect outdoor environment that complements your city-slicking existence.
Lansing Cottonwood Campground. 5339 Aurelius Road, Lansing. (517) 393-3200, lansingcottonwoodcamp ground.com. Featuring horseshoe pits, ladderball, volleyball, a game room, fishing contests on holidays, rowboats, paddle boats and softball. (About 12 minutes from downtown.) A, CK, L, P, SP, R,W,
Sleepy Hollow Park. 7835 E. Price Road, Laingsburg. (517) 651-6217, michigan. gov/sleepyhollow. With hiking, biking and horse trails, a disc golf course, a non-motorized lake, a playground and outdoor recreation area. It also has a lot for organizations to reserve and use. (About 12 minutes.) A, CK, P, R, W
Lakeside Resort Campground. 750 E. Grand River, Ionia. (616) 527-3216, lakesideresortcampground.com. Camping accommodations for tents, pop-ups and RVs with a wide range of recreational activities and hiking/biking trails. Campground store on premises, sells various RV supplies and other camping items. (About 35 minutes.) A, E, L, P, R, W
Maple River Campground. 15420 French Road, Pewamo. (989) 981- 6792, maplerivercampground. com. All campsites are located on the Maple River. Amenities include WiFi service and a rec room. Optional cabin rental. (About 45 minutes.) A, CK, E, P, R, W
Walnut Hills Family Campground. 7685 Lehring Road, Durand. (866) 634-9782, walnuthillsfamilycampground. com. Located near the Shiawassee River. (About 45 minutes.) A, CK, E, P, R
Key: A: alcohol permitted CK: canoe/kayak rental E: electricity L: laundry room P: pet-friendly R: modern restroom SP: swimming pool W: waterfront sites
by Bill Castanier
The best adventure road trip book of all time is probably “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” but what if Huck lived in a post-apocalyptic future and had to wear a blindfold to keep from going insane as he took his epic river trip? That’s the bonechilling premise of “Bird Box,” the stunning debut of Michigan author/ musician Josh Malerman.
“Bird Box” plays you like a well-tuned guitar, which is especially fitting: Malerman wrote the book on the road as he traveled cross-country with his band, the High Strung. “Bird Box” follows a young mother with two children who takes to a Michigan river to escape an unknown “monster” that has the ability to send you into madness if you view it. Everyone is in the dark in this book, wearing blindfolds to block the madness.
Another heck of a summer read is “Pioneers, Reformers & Millionaires,” by Elizabeth Homer of Lansing. It’s about James Turner, one of Lansing’s first citizens and a titan of Midwest industry, and his family. The story she tells is one of an adventurous clan, an epic story that unspools over generations. Homer writes with passion about a family she knows well from her time as the curator of the Turner-Dodge House & Heritage Center in Lansing.
“Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World” is an extraordinary read about the groundbreaking ethnomusicologist who is best known for his 10-year odyssey in the 1930s to collect folk songs. Although he is mostly noted for recording the roots of blues, this book tells about his time in Michigan gathering lumbering and sailing songs.
If your summer vacation takes you to Traverse City, why not read a book about that historic Northern Michigan vacation mecca? Michael Federspiel has a keen eye views from his catbird seat as director of the Little Traverse Historical Museum in Petoskey, and in this new photographic/art book, he shares the history of this resort area. The book is a stunning collection of photographs, both historical and modern.
Speaking of photography, “Detroit Resurgent” is a collection of more than 60 photographs by French portrait photographer Giles Perrin. The book edited by two MSU professors, John Beck and Howard Bossen, who conducted interviews with the subjects. Detroit may be gasping for air, but the people who live there are still as vibrant as ever.
“Canvas Detroit” by Julie Pincus and Nichole Christian, with its hundreds of images of dramatic art dotting the city, elicits a different feel for Detroit, the city that redefined ruin porn. When you leaf through the pages, you can’t help but feel that this is a city where art lives in all its forms. Another Detroit book is Jack Dempsey’s “Capitol Park,” which provides a look at the area in the city that might have been the state’s first capital.
For something a little different, pick up the graphic novels “Bluffton” by Matt Phelan or “March: Book One,” the first of Civil Rights leader John Lewis’ three-art autobiography. Phelan has concocted an unusual coming-of-age story about Buster Keaton who summered in the early 1900s with his family in the resort community north of Muskegon. “March” was selected for the MSU-East Lansing Community Read program earlier this year and details the horrors endured by Civil Rights activists.
And finally, don’t let this summer pass without reading Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Angelou, who died last week, constructed one of the best and most important literary memoirs ever with this book. Her literary legacy will endure in her 36 other works, but “Caged Bird” intricately dissects her childhood, teen years and her coming of age in a world of racism.