A Summer Tradition: Festival of the Arts

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Every year, on the first Saturday in June, I get ready early and head to downtown Grand Rapids at 10 a.m. for Festival.* Why get up early on a weekend and immediately head to Festival? Because as soon as Festival opens, the musicians and dancers start performing, the food booths start cooking and the artist tents open for business. Because I want to avoid large crowds, long lines and getting slammed into by wayward strollers. So I get there at 10 a.m. and head directly to the food booth that sells coffee and grilled cinnamon rolls – something that has become my annual Festival breakfast.

Not everyone loves Festival – a concept I find hard to understand. What’s not to like about a weekend of free entertainment, art exhibits and craft stations? When I ask “Why don’t you go to Festival?” these are the most common excuses I hear (and why they’re all negated by going at 10 a.m.):

  • The excuse: The weather’s too hot.
    At 10 a.m.: Even the hottest June days aren’t yet unbearable at 10 a.m. And if you arrive early in the day, by the time you’re melting and craving air conditioning, you’ll be ready to go home (or head inside to check out the annual art exhibition).
  • The excuse: The streets are too crowded.
    At 10 a.m.: Everyone’s still asleep. Or sitting on their porch drinking coffee. Or running errands. Or watching their kids’ little league games. The point is – they’re not at Festival. The streets don’t fill up until lunchtime.
  • The excuse: There are always long lines for food booths/kids craft areas.
    At 10 a.m.: No lines for the craft areas. No lines for food booths. I actually got a cheer from food booth volunteers this year who were excited to get a customer.
  • The excuse: There’s no parking and/or it’s expensive to park.
    At 10 a.m.: Lots of free parking within walking distance of Festival is still available. On Saturday I found free on the street parking available 2 blocks from one of the Festival stages.

If any of these excuses sound familiar, mark your calendar for Festival 2013. I invite you to head downtown at 10 a.m. that weekend and discover a peaceful, wait-free Festival.

*Festival of the Arts (a.k.a. Festival) is one of the largest all-volunteer arts events in the nation. It takes place annually during the first full weekend of June in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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