You never have to wait too long for a food event to pop up in West Michigan. You just need to know where it's at and what's going down.
Interested in the traditional or maybe the offbeat? Something relaxing or lively? No matter the theme, there are really just two must-haves for a successful food event. It's simple: good eats and a good environment. (And some good entertainment doesn't hurt, either.)
Mark your calendars for the following, taking place in venues around the area this summer and beyond.
Taste of Kalamazoo Festival- July 24-26
Ah, the heavenly "Taste of" category. You know you'll never have just 'a taste' of anything at these affairs. Head to downtown Kalamazoo for this one and sample cuisine from more than 30 area restaurants, among them Jammin' Jerk's Island Grille, Big Moe's BBQ and Africana. There's truly something for everyone—carnivores, vegetarians, dessert lovers and snackers.
The event opens at 11 a.m. each day, and closes between 12:30 and 1:30 a.m. Stay tuned for 2014 admission prices and an entertainment line-up at tasteofkalamazoo.com.
A month later, nibble your way through the 27th annual Taste of Saugatuck, a street festival which takes place in Wicks Park on the last Sunday of August each year (this year is Aug. 31). From 12-7 p.m., a diverse array of fare will be offered by local artisans and restaurants. The Hickory Pit, Mermaid Bar & Grill, and Earl's Farm Market are just a handful of those participating. Pick up your food and beverage tickets, which start at increments of $1 (no food item costs more than $5). Tacos, pies, caramel apples, and more await your selection. Quench your thirst with a microbrew from Saugatuck Brewing Company or wine from local vineyards like Fenn Valley and Tabor Hill. This event's kid-friendly, too, with a special "kids corner" of entertainment. Admission is free.
Kalamazoo Ribfest - Aug. 7-9
The Arcadia Creek Festival Site in downtown Kalamazoo is host to this year's Ribfest, celebrating this popular hearty fare along with live music, an arts and crafts display, rib vendors and a best ribs competition. Drawing more than 30,000 people a year, the fest is also a fundraiser, with proceeds going to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Details for 2014 will be posted on Ribfest's Facebook page.
Silver Lake's Apple & BBQ Cook-Off Festival - Sept. 12-13
Silver Lake Sand Dunes is the ideal setting for some feel-good, American-style fun. This festival presents the Michigan-Sanctioned Kansas City BBQ Cook-Off Competition (if that sounds daunting, not to worry, there's an "amateur" version, too), along with an Apple Pie Contest and a Rib & Apple Pie Eating Contest.
Barbecue enthusiasts will know what this event's all about. KCBS sanctions and judges barbecue competitions across the U.S., and for this one, will provide certified "BBQ judges" trained in judging world-class barbeque. Now that's some serious fun.
Other festival events include a craft show and a classic vehicle and buggy show. Keith Scott and West Side Soul Surfers are slated for this year's live entertainment. Food vendors are TBD for 2014. Visit applebbqfestival.com for more information.
Grand Haven Salmon Festival - Sept. 12-14
It's the 11th year of Salmon Festival, an event that's much more than its name implies. The downtown Grand Haven waterfront is the backdrop for this event, which serves to promote the city as a unique tourist destination and celebrate the region's annual salmon migration. Come for a traditional fish boil accompanied by potatoes, corn, onions and rolls. There's also live jazz music, a wine-tasting pavilion (with grape stomping!), a fine art fair, children's arts & craft activities and more. Check out ghsalmonfest.com for a schedule and other details.
Arts and Eats - Oct. 17, 18 and 19
If you're up for a unique mix of culture, nature and cuisine, you won't want to miss this one. A free, self-guided driving tour collectively featuring more than 60 artist studios, farms and eateries serving locally grown goods, Arts and Eats was conceived to showcase the best in specialty Michigan products. Last year's venues included Tripoli Farms, Glass Creek Winery, Grove Street Café, and Dowling General Store, among others.
Reserve the weekend for Arts and Eats, which will take place from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily at venues throughout Allegan, Barry, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Kent and Van Buren Counties. For more information, visit artsandeats.org. A printed guide of the self-guided tour will be available mid-August.
Stay tuned for forthcoming information about two other notable events this year: Restaurant Week Grand Rapids (Aug. 13-23 2014; expereincegr.com/restaurants/restaurant-week/) and the Grand Rapids International Food & Wine Festival, held at the DeVos Convention Center (in November, date TBD; facebook.com/grwinefestival).