Celebration on the Grand offers entertainment this weekend

Celebration on the Grand will take place at two venues this year and feature live music, local food and fireworks on Friday and Saturday. The event has attracted crowds for more than 30 years and is the second largest annual event in Grand Rapids, following ArtPrize, which will begin in late September.

Celebration on the Grand (COTG) was first held in 1980 to celebrate the opening of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Since then, thousands of people have come to Grand Rapids for the free event, which celebrates the city of Grand Rapids.

“We want to bring people downtown to see everything there that is so vibrant,” said Jeremy Bakken, chairman of the board for Celebration on the Grand. “We hope to encourage those that wouldn’t typically come downtown to come and see what the city has to offer.”

The main attraction of COTG is the firework show that takes place over the Grand River.

“Before ArtPrize, there were very few events that could draw as many people as the firework show does each year,” Bakken said. “It is always the biggest attraction of the event.”

This year the fireworks will take place on Friday evening at dusk, which will occur around 9:30 p.m.

Bakken recommended staking out a viewing place early, because festival-goers have been known to unfurl their blankets as early as 7 a.m.

“We have really made the Gillett Bridge the best seat in the house this year,” Bakken said. “Gun Lake Casino will be giving away prizes there and people will be able to purchase alcohol while they wait for the show.”

The second-largest attraction of COTG is the live and free entertainment.

“We have quality music across the board; we included local favorites that people are very excited to see,” Bakken said. “We try to get a range of musicians that will appeal to any fan of music.”

On Friday, the Ah-Nab-Awen Park stage will feature music from 5:15 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., while music at Rosa Parks Circle will begin at 5:30 p.m. and run until 11:30 p.m., with a break at dusk for the ever-popular firework show.

The lineup this year includes Serita’s Black Rose, Tetrad, The James Shaneberger Band, The Jimmie Stagger Band, An Dro, The Outer Vibe, The Lazy Blue Tunas and Mid Life Crisis.

The performances will be split between Rosa Parks Circle and Ah-Nab-Awen Park — located right in front of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

The Taste of Celebration will feature food from several local restaurants.

“Taste of Celebration is still relatively new and every year it grows and gets more popular,” Bakken said. “We’re very excited about that; we love when we hear that people are enjoying the event and the changes we are making.”

The restaurants this year are: XO Asian Cuisine, CitySen Lounge, Angel’s Thai Cafe, Vito’s Pizza, Cafe San Juan and Grand Rapids Hot Dog Company, among others.

Vendors will offer food near the Monroe Center from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The festivities on Saturday will feature an outdoor roller skating party at Rosa Parks Circle. The roller skating event will run from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and will be free for attendees that bring their own skates. Rentals will be $2.

“Everyone was very happy about roller skating last year,” Bakken said. “The event was our nod to the people who enjoy ice skating in the winter and want to do something similar during the summer.”

Later Saturday evening there will be a screening of “Despicable Me” on the Movie in the Park inflatable screen.

“We encourage families to come out and enjoy the fireworks Friday night and then return for a full day of fun on Saturday,” Bakken said.

“We have really tried to make sure the event continues to evolve, since it has been around for over 30 years,” Bakken said. “We want to offer things that people want to see and experience.”

For a complete schedule, visit celebrationonthegrand.org.