'FESTIVAL OF ALL FESTIVALS' KICKS OFF SUMMER| 5/20/12 11:19pm
Courtesy Photo / Eileen Schwarz-Duty
Photo from last years Festival of the Arts.
The 43rd-annual Festival of the Arts in downtown Grand Rapids will kick off the summer on June 1, with opening ceremonies at noon featuring Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, local band Genetics and much more.
The Festival of the Arts is one of the longest running, all-volunteer, all-local festivals in Michigan, which began in 1970 and is considered the traditional start of summer in West Michigan. The event is expecting to host approximately 500,000 people this year with the theme of “The Ideal Collective.”
Co-chair Vance Fennell has been participating in events for more than 15 years, while co-chair Andrea Scheckel has been participating for more tha 20 years. Fennel said the organization believes the goal of the festival is to support the arts and to provide an opportunity for artists and art organizations to showcase their talents to a wide public audience through a free admission event.
The Festival of the Arts is a self-funded, nonprofit organization supported by Kent County and generous donations from businesses and people in the community, Fennell said.
Some of the core values of The Festival of the Arts include the belief that the goal of festival is to build a public appreciation for the quality of life provided to the greater Grand Rapids area by local cultural organizations and to also affirm the commitment of the arts to Grand Rapids by holding the festival in the downtown location.
The festival takes place on June 1, 2 and 3 — Friday from noon to 10 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
The festival is the largest volunteer-driven arts event in the nation and the most popular of all local arts event in the area, Fennell said.
This year’s poster for the event, which shows the theme of the event, will be used to design and create bracelets as part of the collaborative bracelet project. The bracelets will be made directly from the poster, and attendees can take bracelets home.
“Usually the artwork is expensive, but this is a way for a lot of people to be able to bring home a piece of history,” Fennell said.
The festival features more than 100 artists all with locally-made artwork, with a wide variety of pieces available for purchase. There will be 30 food booths featuring Vietnamese, Italian, Bosnian, American, Asian, Lebanese, Greek, Australian and Mexican cuisine.
“We’ve got it all,” Fennell said.
There are numerous activities for both kids and adults, all of which are free.
Kid’s activities include: “Kids Art Zone”, where kids can make art; “Mat Hatter,” where kids can create their own hats; “Art on the Spot”, a place for kids to create kites and much more.
There will be a Michigan child ID booth where parents can register their kids for an ID. Adults can also participate in storytelling and creating swinging art.
The festival will feature six stages with a full variety of visual arts including ballet, children dancing, theater and local music.
“This is the festival of all festivals,” Fennell said.
Visitors can find more information about the festival at www.festivalgr.org. The site has a visitor’s guide with maps, directions and a list of activities, food, entertainment and more that will be available over the course of the weekend.