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Local First Street Party 2014

Local First Street Party 2014

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A “perfect storm of awesomeness.”

That’s the forecast that Nate Cohn of Local First – a West Michigan nonprofit that promotes consumer support for locally-owned businesses – offered for Saturday’s annual Local First Street Party.

With a stellar lineup of local musicians, including hip-hop’s Rick Chyme and ska punk’s Mustard Plug, food from local vendors such as What the Truck and Twisted Rooster, Founders beer on tap, no entry fee and stellar weather expected, Cohn’s prediction is likely on point.

“The Street Party is one of the biggest highlights of our year,” said Elissa Hillary, executive director of Local First. “Local First puts on this event to showcase local businesses and talented individuals, celebrate the diversity and vibrancy of our community, and kick off the summer right.”

Located in front of Bistro Bella Vita at Grandville Avenue and Weston Street near Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids, the free party kicks off at 3:30 p.m. Saturday with a performance by Nathan Kalish and the Wildfire, an American roots rock and roll band that plans to share a few tracks from Kalish’s upcoming release, “Alpine Way.”

(Indeed, Saturday’s appearance is a de facto CD-release show for the new album, which will be available for sale at the street party when Kalish and the Wildfire – bassist Matt Ten Clay, guitarist Aaron Sandy and drummer Bradley Self – take the stage.)

And while the street party lineup consists entirely of Michigan-based talent, it provides a spectrum of genres that is anything but all the same.

“I think the theme is diversity, really,” said Cohn, a special events curator who books the street party bands. “We’re trying to bring in the best local artists of all different genres for one afternoon and evening. Grand Rapids is made up of a wide demographic, and we want to offer something for everyone.”


Ranging from electro-pop duo Alexis to powerful soul-blues quintet Root Doctor, with Grand Rapids Soul Club spinning R&B and funk tunes in between each set, it seems the festival will manage to reach its target audience, which is, well, everybody.

Last year, Local First’s 10th annual Street Party drew about 12,000 people.

This year, however, the event falls on the same weekend as another annual gathering in downtown Grand Rapids, Festival of the Arts, which could prove to boost Street Party attendance to new heights. Festival has drawn as many as 500,000 people in a weekend to its festive celebration of all things artsy in Grand Rapids.

“We are really hoping that with Festival of the Arts, people will go back and forth between the two during the day and create a bigger impact between both,” said Samantha Vanderberg, communications coordinator for Local First.

Risking potentially conflicting performances and the inevitable, frustrating battle for parking spaces, might Local First Street Party organizers have aimed for any weekend but Festival weekend?

It’s actually quite the opposite.

“It was intentional, and we’ve talked with the organizers at Festival of the Arts and worked things out,” she said. “Both events are going to shout each other out and, that way, people check out both.”

For original news article, click here.

Photo courtesy of M + K Photography.