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Last year, after several weeks of volunteer hours, the organizers behind the Lansing Harmony festival had prepared for everything, except the weather. Jason Wilkes, the president of the Lansing Neighborhood Council, remembers the cold, windy opening day. The inflatable projection screen was canceled and food vendors were getting anxious. Mike Redding, president of the Churchhill Downs Community Association, remembers standing onstage and hearing the slow crescendo of Everett High School’s marching band as they entered Benjamin Davis Park — signaling that the show was on, no matter what.
Despite the ominous weather, the inaugural Lansing Harmony event drew a crowd close to 1,200 people, Redding said. Saturday marks the second year of the free-entry festival, and will feature four food vendors, as well as several artists and performers, from the previous year. Representation of Burundi, Scotland, Native American and Tejano culture will be a fixture at the festival, among others. According to the festival’s architect, Larry Grudt, an art festival in south Lansing is “long overdue.” He said in a survey distributed to residents, the largest demand was for a festival.
“The festivals are in Old Town, Downtown and REO Town, but there is no love given to south Lansing,” said Grudt, who co-managed the mid-Michigan BluesFest for five years. “The rebranding of south Lansing is an essential part of that.”
The organizers echoed a similar message of wanting to shift the culture of local art-oriented festivals. They forewent a beer tent and banned smoking in favor of more emphasis on youth activities. To cater to younger audiences there will be inflatables, puppets, a magician, petting zoo and hands-on art workshops. Wilkes, who has lived in the south Lansing “off and on” for 20 years, said the festival is an attempt to create more “intergenerational” events in the area. Grudt, who is directing the art market and who was the director of the Keys to Creativity gallery in the Lansing Mall, said he aims to reverse the trend of paying onstage talent while making art vendors pay to participate. Instead, he is rewarding art vendors that arrive on time and stay till 7 p.m. by reimbursing them for the application fee.
With large sponsorship from neighborhood committees and the success of other south Lansing-based festivals, Adam Hussain, the 3rd Ward councilman, said some residents want to make steps towards modeling the infrastructures present in other sides of town.
“It starts this conversation of having an entity that brings Andrew Brewer of Men Making A Difference, the Lansing Harmony groups and the Cristo Rey groups, and really start making a concerted effort to do things in South Lansing and market our community.”
(Those interested in volunteering or selling art at Lansing Harmony contact Larry Grudt at email@example.com.)
Saturday, Sept. 14, Rain or shine
Benjamin Davis Park
5500 Pleasant Grove Road
Full activities schedule available at lansingharmony.org
Glen Erin Band
The Music Lady – Beverly Meyer
Tejano Sound Band
Magician Brad Lancaster