The following events require zero dollars. So keep that wallet right in your jeans or purse. OK, you might incur some parking fees at the library or drop cash for popcorn at the movies but for the most part, our free April event round up provides a group of activities sans cover charge. It feels good to say you took the kids out, had fun and still have as much moolah as when you left the house. It feels good to be free—with your children, your emotions and your time. This month's lesson is in: zilch!
SPEED PAINTER MARTINA HAAN
Herrick District Library
300 South River Ave., Holland
April 2, 2-5 p.m.
herrickdl.org, (616) 355-3100
Spring Break programming is here with a visit from speed painter Martina Haan. Her theme is Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar. "We try to be cutting edge," said Youth Services Manager Molly Rios. "We have to keep it fresh with kids. We have to be the public place where everybody wants to go. We have to be relevant." At no cost and for those small ones interested in art, this event featuring a beloved author's work is all about transformation and children "won't know what to expect until they see the finished product." This live painting demonstration is a huge something for nothing (and speedy too). Also slated for the spring break slump is a Pete the Cat character visit on April 4 at 10 a.m.
GREENATHON EARTH DAY FESTIVAL
7335 Garden Lane, Portage
April 27, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
portagemi.gov, (269) 329-4512
Just bring your enthusiasm for being green as your ticket of admission to the Greenathon Earth Day Festival at Celery Flats. The event includes live music, games, activities and exhibits for children that provides education about environmental ideas to use at home and opportunities to volunteer for "green" causes. Kids are able to meet other individuals who are committed to a clean environment and all of this costs a big, whopping nothing. "Younger children really love getting their free tree," says Sujay Dewan, chairperson of the Portage Youth Advisory Committee. "This event allows the youth to grasp the concepts of being green in the community." Another big hit with the kids is Portage mascot, Mr. Crispy, a large animated piece of celery that entertains. A little education goes a long way and this celebration shows how being green can be useful and fun for all ages. The City of Portage Youth Advisory Committee—appointed by the city council of Portage, sponsors the event. The committee is made up of youths serving a one-year term, representing the voices of youths in the community and exposing them to local government.
SPRING BREAK FUN: GEODES
Grand Rapids Public Library Van Belkum Branch, Grand Rapids
1563 Plainfield NE
April 5, 2 p.m.
grpl.org, (616) 988-5410
Rough and tumble boys get permission to break something at the Grand Rapids Public Library. Join geologist Steve Tchozeski of Great Lakes GeoScience to learn about the mysteries of geodes. "Geodes are fascinating," said Communications Manager Kristen Krueger-Corrado. "They look like a rock and you crack them open and there are beautiful crystals inside." Participants will select a geode, break it open, explore inside and take it home with them. "You learn how they're formed and how to find a geode when you're on a walk." This hands-on activity is a fun way to educate children about environmental science. Dates are also available April 2 at 2 p.m. at the West Side Branch, April 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Madison Square Branch and another timeslot for April 5 is at 10:30 a.m. at the Ottawa Hills Branch. For kids 12 and under.
FREE SPRING MOVIES: PARANORMAN
Grand Haven 9
17220 Hayes Street, Grand Haven
April 20 & 21, 9 & 10 a.m.
gqti.com, (616) 844-7469
Pop in a movie and you can get some peace and quiet. Parents, am I right, or am I right? Round up your brood and take them to the Grand Haven 9 so the littles can catch a good show (while you secretly pin on Pinterest or sort through e-mails on your phone). This free movie service is provided "To get families to come in that might not be able to afford a movie," said Manager Dusten VanZyll. "We want families to come in and enjoy a good adventure." ParaNorman is an adorable, animated zombie comedy that even parents can appreciate. Other movie features include Hotel Transylvania on April 6 and 7, Pirates! Band of Misfits on April 13 and 14 and The Lorax on April 27 and 28. Tickets are first come, first serve so get them while you can because everyone loves movie time.
With the following LaughFest artists and events taking over the month of March, the mood lightens, we forget our troubles and we give in to that funny feeling. If you're looking to involve the kiddos, you've come to the right place. Follow the sound of laughter and join in. Smiles are free, cost nothing and do wonders for our attitudes—not to mention our faces.
STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE: FOLLOW YOUR BERRY OWN BEAT!
DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids
March 17, 1 p.m.
Tag along with spirited red-haired girl Strawberry Shortcake in a live theatrical production at DeVos Performance Hall. She brings along her best friends Orange Blossom, Lemon Meringue, Blueberry Muffin, Raspberry Torte, Plum Pudding and Cherry Jam, as well as the Doodlebops, who hit the stage before the show. Strawberry Shortcake will appeal to little girls and grown up girls because, "She's an all-American girl that has so much sweetness and love—plus she lives in a berry patch," said Show Director Patti Caplette. The high-energy show features songs such as "Dressing Up is Hard to Do" and is loaded with a personal empowerment message, letting little girls know they can do very big things. The storyline follows all the friends in Berry Bitty City as they prepare for their moment in the spotlight at the Glitzy Glaze Talent Show. "Introducing kids to things they're very familiar with, expressing it theatrically, entertaining them through a whole other medium," is Caplette's goal. Isn't it sweet how humor, fun and friendship can mix so well?
SECRET AGENT 23 SKIDOO
Crush at The B.O.B., Grand Rapids
March 9, 1 & 3 p.m.; March 10, 1 & 3 p.m.
If you get the chance to attend a straight up hip-hop dance party with your kids, you should go. Clean enough for the littles but funky for the whole family, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo is the King of Kid Hop and positive half-pint party music. The show, held at Crush inside The B.O.B., will combine wordplay, storytelling and pure positivity all on top of thumping drums and sophisticated multi-instrumental pieces. After the show, kids probably won't stop talking about, "how seeing live music is even more fun than going to the movies or playing video games," Secret Agent 23 Skidoo said. Songs like "Gotta Be Me" speak to the fact that "everybody in the world rocks their own style," and to be true to your funky self. This old-school dance party speaks straight to the experience and lives of children while not dumbing down the music or going the sugary, sweet route. "We rocked a show one time so hard that we made a kid poop his pants from dancing so much—and he stuck around for the rest of the show!"
SATURDAY NIGHT TEEN ZONE
GRCC Ford Fieldhouse, Grand Rapids
March 16, 7-10 p.m.
The GRCC Ford Fieldhouse opens its doors for teens to come and enjoy laser tag, inflatables (fun at any age), a mechanical bull, a live DJ and dancing. "We wanted to create something that really hit that demographic," said Joanne Roehm, LaughFest festival director. "I like to think of it along the same lines as a prom after party." Try your hand at tie-dye pillowcases and spin art shutter shades. You can also belt out a few tunes with live band karaoke. It takes regular karaoke further and will appeal to teens into "Glee" and "American Idol." The teen zone is in its second year and still offers fun, out-of-the-box activities and the perfect way for teens to let loose with their friends in a safe, Saturday night experience.
Knickerbocker Theatre, Holland
March 16, 7 p.m.
Just say the word "magician" and a hush falls over the room—when it's filled with kids. TV-personality, actor and live entertainer Justin Willman is sure to wow the family friendly crowd at the Knickerbocker Theatre in Holland. He's the host of the hit shows "Cupcake Wars" and "Last Cake Standing" on the Food Network and is known as the witty correspondent on the Rachael Ray talk show. He's been on "Ellen" and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Kids will be impressed with his appearance on the Disney sitcom "The Suite Life on Deck." Television gigs aside, his magic and card tricks will delight audience members bringing a fresh, funniness back to magic shows. Even The Los Angeles Times calls Willman, "a new breed of magician who's making magic cool again for grown-ups." If both parent and child can stomach a magic show, you know this performer is top-notch.
January has that NOW WHAT!? desperation to it. The holiday mania is over and there's a depressing slow creep toward spring. Keep the kids busy dreaming, doing and basking in that New-Year feeling with some activities that get them creating, crafting and experiencing highs. The Grand Rapids Symphony and the Kalamazoo Valley Museum reach those heights with video games set to breathtaking music and the wonders and mysteries of science. And at the UICA, a family time capsule workshop is a great bonding experience and the perfect spot to stick some photos, random items and knickknacks.
PEARL CUFF WORKSHOP
574 Ada Dr. SE, Ada
Jan. 5, 1:30-2:30 p.m.
dreamspunshop.com, (616) 856-5660
Bring some glam to a month that needs a little pizzazz. Part of Dreamspun's Glam Series, the Pearl Cuff Workshop features a tutorial on how to make an item with all the supplies you need. "Instead of running around town gathering all the supplies, we have it all ready for you. You just show up," said Owner Korrie Ottenwess. A fun and fashionable way for girls to spend time with their mothers, this workshop is also a low cost way to create something special. Cuffs are, "super in style and a girly project that's easy to make but really cute when worn." Workshops are geared toward elementary-aged children. In order for girls to be successful, basic craft skills such as making knots and using scissors are needed. Can't make the Jan. 5 date? Look for workshop dates in the future including Rhinestone Barretts Jan. 12 followed by Chunky Pearls Jan. 19 and Pearl Combs Jan. 26. Pre-registration is required.
GRAND RAPIDS SYMPHONY—PLAY! A VIDEO GAME SYMPHONY
DeVos Performance Hall
303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
Jan. 29, 7:30 p.m.
grsymphony.org, (616) 454-9451
The Grand Rapids Symphony brings the dramatic and mystical music from video games and synchronizes it with beautiful digital montages on three high definition screens. "We found the gaming industry really values music and holds it to high quality and standards and has discovered certain names within the composing world," said Jacalyn Wood with the Grand Rapids Symphony. "It includes visuals, which is very important for today's youth, to have that engagement." Music from "Final Fantasy," "Legend of Zelda," "HALO" and "World of Warcraft," combine interests of parents and children, while they take in an inventive and breathtaking performance. "These games are works of art, how they are animated and digitalized, and the music is a big part of that," Wood said. The namedropping fun continues with "Sonic the Hedgehog," "Super Mario Brothers" and "The Chronicles of Riddick."
Kalamazoo Valley Museum
230 N. Rose St., Kalamazoo
Jan. 19, 1-4 p.m.
kalamazoomuseum.org, (269) 772-3370
A fun day of science awaits you at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. Children can enjoy a combination of demonstrations relating to chemistry, biology and physics. This very hands-on event finds kids creating and exploring, making play dough and gak (a slime-type substance) and more. "Winter is always a great time to do science," said Annette Hoppenworth, programs coordinator. "People are looking at ice and cold and there's so much you can do with that in science." The museum also has a science gallery that's divided into three sections: the human body, technology and energy. "Parents get excited just as much as the kids. They remember doing experiments." Take a moment and enjoy all the mysteries of science.
MAKE A TIME CAPSULE
Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
2 W. Fulton, Grand Rapids
Jan. 5, 1-4 p.m.
uica.org, (616) 454-7000
If you cannot bear the thought of another Saturday afternoon cooped up in the house with the kids, here's your ticket to something quirky and different. Bring in the New Year by commemorating the present and crafting up a family time capsule out of clay at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts. Families can explore the idea of building a time capsule together and "brainstorm different words and images they want outside the capsule that's meaningful to their family," said Becca Guyette, director of educational programs. The event ties into the Utopia/Dystopia exhibition, where artists imagine the future. Kids will love the chance (any chance!) to get their hands dirty with clay. "It's a medium that kids really respond to and being in the studio is a good experience too, having the family work together on a project." The big question? When will you open it?
White Lake Pumpkin Roll
Dowling and Ferry Streets
Oct. 13, 9 a.m./registration
$1 to roll (bring your own pumpkin or purchase one for $1)
whitelake.org, (231) 893-4585
October may just be the "screamiest" month. Find a reason to howl, have fun and let loose by rolling pumpkins down hills and perfecting your best zombie limp. With all that October has to offer in terms of weather and wonder it's nice to know that everyone's inner child gets a chance to stay up late and have ridiculous amounts of candy given to them — all while dressed up in costume as their favorite anything. Power to the creatures!
You had better skip across Dowling Street fast because the pumpkins are rolling here during the White Lake Pumpkin Roll. For every heat there is a winner and blue ribbons are given out. Bring your own lucky pumpkin from home or purchase one for a dollar, slap a number on it and give it your best toss.
"If you get the ribbon, it's kind of your braggin' rights," says Amy VanLoon, executive director of the White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.
Prior to the pumpkin roll, cloggers entertain the crowd but look also for hayrides, pumpkin spitting, pumpkin painting and carving and a contest for the largest pumpkin. A farmers market, operating cider mill and food vendors are on hand as well.
"The streets are closed. There are tons of people that line the streets to see the pumpkins go down. There's a big sense of community."
Grand Haven Zombie Walk
Tri-Cities Historical Museum, Grand Haven
facebook.com/GHZombieWalk, (616) 842-0700
If you're going to join the zombie walk as it travels through Downtown Grand Haven or just watch at a safe distance, there are a few zombie fashion points to consider.
"Usually they have blood. Zombies crawl out of the ground so their clothes are very dirty with pieces of leaves in their hair," says Barbara Carlson of the Tri-Cities Historical Museum's Marketing and Media department.
Last year, a make-up class was held at the museum so participants could perfect their open wounds, lesions and nasty facial features. Central Park Players and Tri-Cities Historical Museum team up to host this event for families and all ages, and word is that zombies ages five to 50 have been on hand. If you want more of this quirky fun, head to the Haunted Museum event before the zombie walk for candy, fortune telling and of course ghosts, witches and zombies just itching to head out for a stroll.
Kids Cook: Harry Potter Hands-On Cooking Class
Family Fare-Spartan Culinary Classroom, Grandville
Oct. 20 10 a.m.-noon
$25 per person (adults attend and participate with kids)
Bring a little magic into the kitchen at the Family Fare-Spartan Culinary Classroom's Harry Potter-themed cooking class. From Hogwarts' pumpkin juice to pumpkin pasties, kids get hands-on instruction while bringing their favorite book to life in a very tangible way.
"Every recipe is referenced in the book," says Instructor Amy Sherman.
There are 20 kids in the class and each one can don an apron and try Hagrid's rock cakes, which are very hard, and inedible cookies in the book but turn out delicious in the class.
"Like any recipe, you get to use math and science. I'm very big on describing the food with adjectives."
This safe place to play in the kitchen might also give kids a boost of confidence on what they can accomplish. Of note, the kitchen staff does all the dishes and clean up — now, that's magic!
Halloween Party: Fantasy Land Theme
Masonic Temple, Grand Rapids
Oct. 27, 5-11 p.m.
$5 adults, $1 kids ages 17 and under
grandrapidsscottishrite.com, (616) 454-9497
If a Halloween party in the rumored-to-be-haunted Masonic Temple isn't the place to break out your best Monster Mash moves, we don't know anywhere better. With plenty of music, dancing and food, the atmosphere is lively with a number of fantasy-themed carnival games to keep kids busy. Of course, there's face painting, a silent auction, a DJ for adults, a movie, storytelling and a dollar auction table for kids. The Scottish Rite Club will be on hand to pass out candy to kids, and door prizes for kids and adults go all night long.
"My theory is if your kids are having fun, you're having fun," says co-chair Susan Minch.
Admission costs also get you one hot dog, chips, a drink and dessert, with proceeds benefiting the Children's Dyslexia Center of West Michigan.