Thursday, 08 June 2017 11:50

2017 Festival Guide: A Guide to West Michigan’s Summer Shindigs

Written by  Josh Veal
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Buttermilk Jamboree offers up four stages of music. The festival's open air pavilion is home to the Sugarbush stage providing cool shade on a hot day. Buttermilk Jamboree offers up four stages of music. The festival's open air pavilion is home to the Sugarbush stage providing cool shade on a hot day.

Festivals and summer go hand-in-hand -- no other season can you spend hours in the hot sun with a corn dog (or two) in one hand and a craft beer in the other, listening to a local band jam out while you browse some arts and crafts. And if that’s not up your alley, we have all kinds of festivals; film, cultural, food, sandcastles, art, and so much more. It’s almost too much to keep track of, and that’s where we come in. Here’s our guide to the dozens of festive, communal opportunities this summer.



Art on the Mall
June 2-3.
More than 75 local artists have their works on-hand for this juried show that includes everything from fine art and jewelry to pottery and garden art.


Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Fair
June 2-3.
This annual start to summer in Kalamazoo is back for its 66th year, feauturing the work of nearly 200 artists, music and a Bell’s beer garden filling Bronson Park.

Festival of the Arts
Grand Rapids
June 2-4.
Grand Rapids’ biggest celebration of local art, music, beer and food is one of the longest-running festivals in the state. Completely free to the public, it features six music stages, plus theatre, poetry, dance and much more.

West Michigan Chalk Art Festival
Byron Center
June 16-17.
Turning the streets themselves into art, this fest encourages everyone to get creative. In addition to handing out cash prizes to winners based on popular vote and judges’ critique, the free event also hosts a children’s competition.

Reeds Lake Arts Fest
Grand Rapids
June 17.
Organized by the Grand Valley Artists — one of the oldest art groups in the Midwest — this festival hosts a large selection of artwork from Michigan artists in historic Gaslight Village.

Grand Haven Art Festival
Grand Haven
June 24-25.
Transforming Washington Avenue into a chic outdoor gallery, this art festival connects artists and visitors near the Lake Michigan shore.

Lakeshore Art Festival
July 7-8.
More than 50,000 people come to downtown Muskegon during this annual event featuring a free Community Canvas, as well as other arts, crafts, food and family fun.

South Haven Art Fair
South Haven
July 1-2.
Set in the beautifully wooded Stanley Johnston Park, this juried art fair brings in more than 100 artists from all over the country, as well as right here in West Michigan. Local food vendors will also be on-site for the community-centered, family-friendly event.

West Shore Art Fair
July 1-2.
More than 100 artists fill Ludington’s Rotary Park with work from all types of media including photograpy, glass, fiber, sculpture and more. The show also hosts art demonstrations, performances, food stations and children’s art activities.

Sand Sculpture Contest
Grand Haven
August 12.
Some of the most impressive art of all time is made from sand. Head to the beach and watch as participants shape the shoreline into castles, dragons, famous landmarks and more. Or dig in yourself and compete for one of several prizes.

Art on the Riverfront
Grand Haven
August 19.
Located on the boardwalk of Grand Haven’s municipal marina, this show displays works from regional artists right alongside the water.

Grand Rapids
Sept. 20-Oct. 8.
One of the biggest art events in the world, with nearly half a million visitors and more than 1,500 entries every year, ArtPrize has revolutionized art in West Michigan. The fall event awards more than $500,000 in grants and prizes, while welcoming artists and art lovers from around the globe to our community.

Beer & Wine

Brews, BBQ and Bourbon
Grand Rapids
June 23-25.
There’s a new holy trinity in town. Beer, barbecue and bourbon? Honestly, what more could you ask for. How about bands, games (lawn Jenga, cornhole, arcade basketball, etc.) and moscow mules galore? This new festival is taking over Ah-Nah-Awen Park for a wild weekend in June.

Hatter Days Street Party
June 10.
New Holland Brewing is celebrating its 20th anniversary with yet another street party in downtown Holland. Except music, food, a daredevil circus, and of course kegs and kegs of beer, including some throwback brews from years past. Admission is free!

Founders Fest
Grand Rapids
June 17.
Every year, Founders Fest overflows with thousands of beer lovers packing the street on Grandville Avenue right in front of the popular brewery. This is the 10th annual Founders Fest, and the brewery’s 20th anniversary. With live music on two stages, this year’s lineup includes: Umphrey’s McGee, Blues Traveler, Leftover Salmon, Mustard Plug and more.

Lake Michigan Shore Wine Festival
June 17.
This coastal festival on Weko Beach brings award-winning wines and live music right to the Lake Michigan shore.

New Belgium Brewing’s Tour de Fat
Grand Rapids
July 29.
New Belgium Brewing, the maker of Fat Tire and so many other delicious brews, is bringing its craft beer carnival to Grand Rapids. Expect artists, cirque performers, buskers, Nick Waterhouse, and of course, endless amounts of beer. They’ve been at it for 18 years, so you know it’s down to a (fun, eccentric, wild) science at this point.

America On Tap Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids
July 15.
A nationwide traveling fest featuring more than 200 craft beers from across the country with live music and food vendors. Michigan microbrew purists should come celebrate as many area staples will be representing.

Traverse City Summer Microbrew & Music Festival
August 11 & 12.
The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, Traverse City
This year marks a well-deserved 10th anniversary of the TCSM&MF, as we like to call it. How does having more than 300 beers, ciders, meads and wines in one place sound? How about more than 100 musicians playing across three stages? Yeah, that’s what we thought.
Brewers, vintners and cider-makers from all over the state will be bringing their very best to Traverse City, including all kinds of especially rare beers, along with the mainstays you know and love. If you make your own beer, this is the place for you too — throw your hat in the ring of the Homebrewer’s Challenge and win the chance to brew your recipe at a local brewery.
Maybe you’re more there for the music, in which case get ready for a massive Silent Disco tent (2,000 people!) and loads of bands, from a killer Led Zeppelin tribute band to May Erlewine & The Motivations, Heatbox the champion beat boxer, Brotha James and so many more. You’ll also get to ride a ferris wheel and take in the Flam Chen New Circus, with stilt performers, silk aerial artists, and a brand-new visual light show. Then you also have all the amazing food and comedians performing.
Basically, it’s everything you could ever want in one place. Get your tickets while you still can.

Suds on the Shore
August 19.
A place for craft beer and wine connoisseurs to mingle and share flavors, this event benefits the United Way of Mason County.

Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival
Paw Paw
Sept. 8-10.
This three-day wine fest has something for everyone, from grape stomping to fireworks, classic cars to carnival rides, and so much more.

20th Lemon Creek Winery Harvest Fest
Berrien Springs
Sept. 9.
In this festival’s 21st year, Lemon Creek Winery will welcome fall with wine tasting, hay rides, live music and a farmer’s market.


Buttermilk Jamboree
June 16-18.
A three-day showcase of regional musicians, Buttermilk benefits the Circle Pines Center, a nonprofit working towards peace, social justice and environmental cooperation. This year’s lineup includes such local favorites as Hannah Rose & the GravesTones, Megan Dooley, The Mainstays, The Moxie Strings and Channing & Quinn, all performing across four stages, with food and libations to boot.

Carnival of Chaos presents Rock Fest
July 13-15.
A gathering of rock, heavy metal and EDM fans, this annual music and camping event also includes body suspension, pillow fights, burlesque shows and more, with “The Music Made Me Do It” as a motto.

June 16-18.
Free spirits and chill vibes coalesce at Elderberry Farms for this jam-centric affair. Bands this year include Chachuga, Spread, Funk Vendetta and many more.

B-93 Birthday Bash
June 17-18.
Sponsored by popular radio station B-93.7 FM, this two-day festival brings some of the biggest names in country music to West Michigan. This year’s lineup, now in its 25th year, includes Big & Rich, Jake Owen, Brooke Eden, Luke Combs and many more.

Electric Forest
June 22-25, June 29-July 2.
Heralded across the country as a festival experience unlike any other, this massively popular event always sells out quickly, hence a second weekend this year! The four-day (times two) mecca for electronic music fans features the likes of Bassnectar, Odesza, Flume, and dozens of other acts.

JuneGrass Festival
June 30-July 1.
Local and regional artists have been plucking and strumming at this festival for more than 20 years. Trinity River Band headlines this year.

Common Ground Music Festival
July 6-9.
Striving for diversity, Lansing’s Common Ground brings several major-label acts to the stage over four days. This year’s lineup includes country superstar Toby Keith, Big Sean, Shinedown, Alessia Cera, Fetty Wap and many more.

Mo Pop
July 29 & 30.
West Riverfront Park, Detroit
Mo Pop is coming up on its fifth year and, predictably, the festival is only getting bigger and better. The event began in an amphitheatre in Sterling Heights and quickly needed more room. Nick Trentacost, a marketing coordinator with AEG, said Mo Pop began looking for a spot “where you’d like to spend a Saturday afternoon regardless of what’s going on” and found those qualities in Detroit’s West Riverfront Park, which grew capacity from 6,000 to 15,000.
The festival’s laid-back atmosphere, beautiful site, local food/beer and unique lineup have attracted more and more visitors every year. On top of that, you have the Food Truck Rally Alley, Mo Arcade, Riverside Biergarten and Craft Bazaar, which are all exactly what they sound like.
But most important, of course, is the music. This year’s lineup includes Foster the People, hip-hop supergroup Run the Jewels, Solange (Knowles), electronic dream pop duo Phantogram, and many more. Jason Rogalewski, talent buyer and curator for Mo Pop, said the English indie-rock Alt-J is one of his favorite bands and his pick for the most exciting act, though Solange will draw a new crowd with her unique modern R&B.
The point is: There’s something for everyone at this year’s Mo Pop — check it out.

Lansing Jazzfest
August 4-5.
This festival fills the streets of historic Old Town with jazz for all tastes and ages, with KidzBeat activities for the kidz, beer for the adultz, and food/crafts for the whole family. Thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people have been showing up for this festival for more than 20 years.

Michigan Bluesfest
Sept. 15-16.
Just like the Jazzfest, this festival draws people from all over the state to Lansing’s Old Town, filling the air with blues music and laughter. Expect great music, children’s activities, food and drinks.

Kalamazoo Blues Fest
July 1-16.
Got the blues? This long-running Southwest Michigan staple has got you covered with three days of guitar licks and good eats.

GRAM on the Green
Grand Rapids
July 6-August 10.
A free Thursday night music series spotlighting the best in local music taking place right outside the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Performers this year include The Crane Wives, The Great Ones, Cabildo, COMPLETE VII and SuperDre, among others.

D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops
July 13-August 3.
Held at Cannonsburg Ski Area on Thursdays and Fridays, this concert series by the Grand Rapids Symphony features its popular classical fireworks show, and features tributes to the music of Abba and female superstars.

Unity Christian Music Festival
August 9-12.
Unity is known for bringing the A-list of Christian music to West Michigan for a weekend of jamming, dancing and worship. This year’s line-up includes Toby Mac We Are Messengers, Casting Crowns, Passion Band and many more.

Hoxeyville Music Festival
August 18-20.
Sprawling across 100 acres of farmland surrounded by Manistee National Forest, this naturally tranquil fest in Northern Michigan boasts some of the best from Michigan’s roots music scene including two sets from Greensky Bluegrass, Billy Strings, Sam Bush and Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires.

Cowpie Music Fest
August 10-12.
This fest takes over a real cow farm with onsite camping, family events and loads of Michigan bands taking the stage, including Hannah Rose Graves, UV Hippo, Delilah Dewylde and Fauxgrass.

GRand Jazz Fest
Grand Rapids
August 19-20.
The only free weekend-long jazz fest in West Michigan. GRand fills downtown Grand Rapids with big band, Latin, contemporary and straight up jazz from its centralized location at Rosa Parks Circle.

Audiotree Music Festival
Branching out as it’s grown, this fast-growing alternative music festival returns for its fourth year. Look out for its lineup announcement coming this summer.

Walk The Beat
Grand Haven
August 19.
Downtown Grand Haven turns into one large, all-day concert with more than 70 local bands playing at 35 different locations. Best Band winners will receive a promotional package valued at $10,000 and Best Song winners receive $2,500 cash.

Shoreline Jazz Festival
August 24-27.
Smooth jazz meets lake breezes at the Shoreline Jazz Festival, hosted by acclaimed flutist Alexander Zonjic at Muskegon’s Heritage Landing.

Wheatland Music Festival
Sept. 8-10.
For more than 40 years, the Wheatland Music Organization has continued to honor traditional arts and music with this annual summer festival. The nonprofit also organizes a series of music and cultural events throughout the year.


Grand Rapids Asian Festival
June 10.
Rosa Parks Circle, Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids is finally getting its first-ever Asian Festival, and it’s clear that the founders are going all out.
Simply put: It’s going to be a massive celebration of the many, many different cultures that Asia has to offer. Expect dancers from more than a handful of countries: The Philippines, Korea, India, China, Thailand, Vietnam and many more. There will be all kinds of local restaurants serving up festival food, from meat-on-a-stick to boba tea, fried rice, curry and other festival-exclusive dishes. Of course, you can wash that all down in the beer tent with both local and Asian beers.
Also keep an eye out for the myriad performances, including martial arts demonstrations, lion dances, various live bands and singers, and a dance party with DJ Ace Marasigan.
This event runs all day (11 a.m. to 9 p.m.), it’s completely free to attend and it’s going to be huge. Don’t miss out.

Black Arts Festival
July 13-16.
Support black art, literature, businesses and people with this celebration, full of music, dancing, food and so much more.

Danish Festival
August 17-20.
Celebrate all the things Danish with the Danish Festival Queen pageant, a hot air balloon show, Danish foods, beer gardens, arts and crafts, Danish music and dancing, and more.

Kalamazoo Island Festival (Canceled for 2017)

Irish Festival
June 23-24
Now in its 17th year, Irish Fest will take over Kalamazoo’s Old Dog Tavern yet again, featuring live Celtic music, step dancers and more on both indoor and outdoor stages.

Michigan Irish Music Festival
Sept. 14-17.
Everyone and everything is a little bit Irish here. Indulge in Irish cuisine, shop Irish goods and learn about the culture. Performers this year include: We Banjo 3, The Elders, Lunasa and The Moxie Strings.

Yassou! Greek Cultural Festival
Grand Rapids
August 18-20.
Rejoice in all things Greek, from food and wine to music and dancing at this event held outside the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.


National Asparagus Festival
June 9-11.
Want a reason to eat more vegetables? Come out to Oceana County and see why they celebrate this delectable seasonal crop with food, music, arts, crafts and even a beauty pageant.

Cereal Festival
Battle Creek
June 9-10.
Eat at the “world’s largest breakfast table,” meet Tony The Tiger and other lifesize Kellogg’s mascots, or taste new flavors from Cereal City USA. It’s the best way to start your day — and your summer.

Taste of Muskegon
June 16-17.
All the best food and family fun will fill Muskegon’s Hackley Park. Also look out for the Powerboat Showcase making waves on the waters of Lake Michigan during the party.

National Cherry Festival
Traverse City
July 1-8.
Half a million people visit every year to experience the air show, parades, races, concerts and a whole slew of cherry-centric games and activities during this week-long festival.

National Baby Food Festival
July 19-22.
Known as the Baby Food Capital of the World, this city is home to Gerber Products Company. Highlights include baby-inspired activities such as a baby crawl and baby food eating contest, as well as music, food and family activities.

National Blueberry Festival
South Haven
August 10-13.
Celebrate all things blueberry with blueberry pies, live music, kid-friendly activities and an epic tractor pull. Sounds like a pretty sweet way to spend a summer weekend.

Kalamazoo Ribfest
August 3-5.
For more than 30 years now, this showcase of some of the best ribs and barbeque sauces from local and national BBQ masters has brought in big name musical acts En Vogue and Vince Neil to headline its evening concerts.

Restaurant Week GR
Grand Rapids
August 9-20.
Try a new taste with special deals at area restaurants during this week-long celebration of the art of fine dining.

Grand Haven Salmon Festival
Grand Haven
September 15-17.
This event honors the annual salmon migration through local waterways, with a gourmet cook-off, wine-tasting, fishing contests, nature-themed kids’ crafts and more.


Movies in the Park
Grand Rapids
June 2-August 18.
Taking place every other Friday, this summer series brings free films to a giant outdoor screen at Ah-Nab-Awen Park on the banks of the Grand River. This year’s movies include Zootopia, Pan’s Labyrinth, Forrest Gump and many more.

Japanese Animation Film and Art Expo
Grand Rapids
June 16-18.
JAFAX is back this year with cosplaying, board games, guest artists from the fantastical worlds of anime and manga, and more.

Traverse City Film Festival
Traverse City
July 25-30.
Co-founded by Academy-Award-winning filmmaker — and Michigan native — Michael Moore, this film festival brings more than 200 movies from around the world to Northern Michigan every summer. It also hosts free showings of classic films on a giant inflatable screen overlooking the scenic Grand Traverse Bay.


Local First Street Party
Grand Rapids
June 3.
Presented by Founders Brewing Co. this one’s all about keeping it local. From the food to the music to the beer, it’s all Michigan. The party starts at 3 p.m. outside Bistro Bella Vita and goes until midnight.

Kalamazoo Pride
June 9-10.
Promoting diversity, understanding and equality, Pride is the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center’s annual summer event. It features live music, DJs, drag performers, specialty brews and more.

South Haven
June 9-11.
A hybrid evolution of electronic music fest, car show and full-blown motorsports competition, this three-day event takes it all to the limit. Watch drift track and other racers duel by day, and rage all night with high-profile DJs like Manic Focus and rappers like Keys N Krates.

Freedom Cruise
Grand Rapids
September 23.
This five-day celebration raises funds for Grand Rapids veterans with a variety of happenings. The event features an honor ride, golf classic, some muscle cars and live music from the 97 WLAV-FM Blues and Cruise Series at the Deltaplex.

Greater Grand Rapids Pride Festival
Grand Rapids
June 17.
Celebrating the LGBTQ commnity, this year’s Pride will have all the music, performers, rainbows and other fun of years prior, with bands like Lipstick Jodi performing.

South Haven
June 16-18.
Celebrate historically nautical Southwest Michigan at a maritime festival hosting a beer garden for the adults, a craft and food fair for the entire family, and plenty of children’s activities.

Wizard of Oz Festival
June 17.
Ionia transforms to the magical land of Oz yet again, complete with full Technicolor. Meet Dorothy and the crew while browsing the yellow brick road for local art, antiques and movie memorabilia.

Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival
Battle Creek
June 29-July 4
Dozens of hot air balloons from around the world join forces with hypersonic jets, food, fair rides, and other family fun.

Riverwalk Fest
July 6-8.
This year’s event stands by tried and true festival activities: arts, crafts, motorcycles, kayaks, duck race, fireworks and more.

Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival
Grand Haven
July 28-August 5.
Honoring the men and women of the United States Coast Guard, this festival celebrates with ship tours, live music, food, a carnival and street dancing throughout Grand Haven.

Michigan Pirate Festival
Grand Haven
August 7-11.
The largest event of its kind in the state, this all-ages swashbuckling soiree puts visits face-to-face with buccaneers, mermaids, minstrels, merchants, and even hidden treasure.

Red Barns Spectacular
Hickory Corners
August 5.
This massive auto spectacular hosts well over 1,000 vehicles. From classic hotrods to antique campers and wooden boats, its a truly diverse show.

Michigan Fiber Festival
August 16-20.
This is one of the Midwest’s largest fiber festivals and hosts an array of shows, competitions, workshops, animals, shopping and more.

Arts and Drafts Festival
Norton Shores
August 18-19.
This fest is host to the Arts & Dash 5K Run, arts and crafts section, children’s activity area and a beverage tent with live music.

Hastings Summerfest
August 25-27.
Fun in the sun gets active with the Backwoods Triathlon, roller hockey tournament, soap box derby and other outdoor events toasting to the end of summer.

Tribute on the Grand
Grand Rapids
August 19.
A newer addition to the festival season, this one-day event, sponsored by Founders Brewing, will feature special beers, a beer tent, and a beer dinner, as well as local, regional, and tribute bands. 
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