Turn the Beat Around: Grand Haven festival returns with more than 40 acts in more than 20 businesses

After a year off, Grand Haven is ready to take the beat back out for a walk.

On Aug. 10, Walk the Beat is returning — the free, four-hour festival is bringing 46 live bands and artists to 23 different businesses and locations along the city’s Beechtree corridor. 

Started in 2014 by longtime local musician Dave Palmer, Walk The Beat began as a way to celebrate local music, art and small business. The nonprofit quickly drew attention for bringing live music into the community, including some unexpected locations like a heating and cooling business, tire and auto shops, and even some manufacturing spaces.

The event ran for four years, integrating itself and its mission to make music more accessible on all levels — until 2018, when Palmer decided he couldn’t run the event any more.

“He just bit off way more than he could chew,” said Director Bob Moore, alluding to the extensive amount of work it takes to make a massive event like Walk The Beat a reality. 

Now in his first year as director of the festival, Moore joined Walk The Beat as a fan first. Stumbling upon the event while on a bike ride during its first year, he soon introduced Walk The Beat to friends, and decided he had to get involved by its third year.

“(It) is about the coolest thing I’d ever run across,” he said. 

Joining an incredibly small staff of people who work year-round bringing music, lessons and instruments to children in the community who wouldn’t otherwise have access, Moore helped resurrect the annual summer event this year after Palmer abruptly ended it in 2018.

“It was kind of like a death in the family, particularly for a lot of the business people over on the west side of Grand Haven, on the Beechtree corridor where we have our event now,” he said. “They were saying, ‘Oh no, we love this! We’ve got to keep it going!’”

In response, Moore last year organized Keep The Beat Alive, a one-day fundraising concert featuring past Walk The Beat stars Jake Kershaw, Melophobix and Cosmic Knot, alongside Dave Palmer’s band. The event helped give the nonprofit the jumpstart it needed to plan and prepare to make this summer’s return possible.

“Our goal going into this year was to try to have an event that was equal to the last one that we had (in 2017), in terms of the venues and the number of bands,” Moore said.

Attendees can buy raffle tickets with a $5,000 prize up for grabs, all while helping Walk The Beat in its fundraising efforts. 

Meanwhile, performers will compete in the annual Best Band contest for a grand prize of 40 hours of studio time at Grand Haven’s Third Coast Recording. Winners are determined by public vote, with second place finishers taking home $500. 

Walk The Beat’s small staff relies on a huge group of volunteers on the day of the event to make everything happen, so anyone looking to get involved should check out the website.

“Grand Haven is a popular destination and it’s becoming even more so all the time, but people just go to downtown and the lakeshore,” Moore said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but you can do both. You can come check out our event and then go downtown and have dinner and go to the beach if you want. Make a day of it.”

In addition to the Grand Haven festival, affiliate event Walk The Beat Albion — which now operates as its own independent nonprofit — will take place on Aug. 24.


Walk The Beat
Downtown Grand Haven
Aug. 10, 1-5 p.m., free
(616) 268-9346