Grand Rapids welcomes first-ever Halloween on Ionia

By Kari Norton | 10/23/13 6:24pm

After seeing McFadden’s Irish Saloon’s St. Patrick’s Day street party, Irish on Ionia, grow from 1,000 people in attendance its first year to 14,000 by its third, BarFly Ventures has decided to bring a similar festival to Grand Rapids for Halloween.

Event coordinator Shane Philipsen has taken some of the most popular aspects of Irish on Ionia and added in a costume contest and an Electronic Dance Music lineup to create the first-ever Halloween on Ionia.

“We’re known for throwing awesome parties downtown in the street. We have been very successful,” Philipsen said. “A lot of people like to be partying outside under the stars.”

Although the St. Patrick’s Day street party has always incorporated live bands, he said it was the realization of how much people enjoyed the DJ that came on in between each set that made them decide on an EDM lineup for this festival.

“We had more people get into the street and dance and party when the DJ was on rather than the bands that we pay big money for,” Philipsen said. “People are just really receptive to that kind of party music and we decided, ‘OK, we’re going to skip the whole band type deal and go with a good DJ program.’ It seems to be like the winner.”

The lineup includes Anthony Attalla, Kalendar, Mixin’ Marc and Alex Peace, along with several other local and regional artists.

A lot of money was put into setting up the production side of the festival, Philipsen said.

“The staging, as well as the props and the setup of the stage, as well as all of the lights and the sound, are top notch,” he said. “I think people are just going to be blown away. We’re going to exceed a lot of expectations when it comes to the productions.”

In addition to that, a total of $6,000 will be given away for the costume contest.

From 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., one winner will be called every hour on the hour, each receiving $1,000. At the end of the night, the five winners will take the stage and one will be awarded an additional $1,000.

Registration to compete will take place from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. People at the festival will be able to vote at various stations or by downloading the mobile app.

“It’s a popularity contest,” Philipsen said. “It’s a free-for-all and it’s all based on crowd vote, so no panel of judges, you know, judging who has the best costume. We’re allowing the people at the festival to make that call.”

Although people who purchased general admission tickets were originally supposed to be allowed in at 2 p.m., Philipsen has decided to make the V.I.P. party at noon open to all ticket holders.

“I was giving away 1,000 wrist bands for Marc and Adam Peace, but these guys are so huge that I’m going to allow anyone that has purchased a ticket into the festival starting at noon,” he said. “For the pre-party, we’ve got a lot more room than we thought we would, so we’re able to fit a lot more people.”

The first 300 people in line at noon will get a free 22-ounce mug that can be filled up for $3 to $5.

To keep up with the ever-changing Michigan weather, the festival will have heated tents to keep people sheltered. There will also be food, water and other non-alcoholic beverages to keep people hydrated throughout the day.

“There’s nothing we can’t offer that’s not going to be the same in a bar. I think people are sick of the bar scene on Halloween, they’re looking for something different and they want to get out of their house or Halloween party.This is something different,” Philipsen said.

Halloween on Ionia will take place on Oct. 26 from noon until midnight on Ionia Street between Weston Street and Oakes Street.

Tickets can be purchased for $10 in advance or at the gate for $15. For more information, visit

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