Category Archives: Events

Bernie Sanders Rally Draws 7,600+ to Calder Plaza in Grand Rapids

The Crowd

A sizable and energetic crowd gathered in Calder Plaza on Sunday afternoon for a “Get Out the Vote” event to rally with 2020 presidential democrat candidate Bernie Sanders. The crowd in the packed plaza looked a lot like Bernie’s support might be expected to based on turnouts around the country in 2016 and the 2020 race thus far: generally young and predominantly urban white. The vast majority of the crowd appeared to fall in the 30 & below demographic, unusual for a standard political gathering (we estimate a staggering 70% of those in attendance fell into this general age range), though Sanders has proven to be anything but the standard political figure.

There also seemed to be an additional smaller chunk of Sunday Sanders congregants hovering around the 50-60 year old demographic. While the vast majority of those in attendance were young white Michiganders (there was a decent contingent of minority support in the 7,600 attendees), polling and recent voting results were validated with most minority supporters falling into the 30 & below crowd.

The demographics in yesterday’s gathering should not go unnoticed. Bernie has connected with many who are just beginning their careers as well as those just beginning to wind them down and the crowd on Sunday afternoon reflected that very consistently. While his fellow democratic candidate, Joe Biden, has seen sweeping victories among older racial minorities – thanks in no small part to standing as Vice President for Barack Obama – Sanders has just as impressively and emphatically garnered support among the younger generation in those communities.

While the attendance breakdown on Sunday should hardly be surprising, as Sanders has routinely reached out directly to younger voters with calls to get engaged, the sheer turnout of so many young people for a political rally the morning after a Saturday night in the city was staggering.

“Bernie represents so many people that I feel he is our best choice.”

Of the dozen people we spoke to before events kicked off, only one had ever attended a political rally previously, a hopeful sign for Bernie’s prospects in Michigan’s primary this Tuesday. His repeated calls for a new generation of voters to get involved in the process have yet to materialize in the primaries in large enough numbers to swing results his way thus far, a realization he made in a recent interview. However, yesterday’s rally shows that there are some signs that a change in that trend may be coming his way in Michigan.

We spoke to two older Bernie supporters, Michelle & Daniel Benningfield, as the plaza began to fill about why they came to the rally and how they interpreted Sanders’ support among the younger generations.

Michelle was the only attendee we spoke with that had ever been to a political rally before Sunday. Michelle has seen Bernie speak before, but wanted to make it out to see him with the full momentum of the presidential primary underway. She explained why she supports Sanders, “I think Bernie is the best person to help lots of people,” explaining that his message reaches beyond the rich to the mass of everyday people that Sanders has argued are often overlooked by the political establishment. Daniel agreed, “Bernie represents so many people that I feel he is our best choice.”

Before interviewing some of the younger attendees in the growing crowd, we also asked them what they felt was at the root of so many young people turning out for a political rally on a weekend. Michelle said, “I think (young people) are sick of the status quo, like many people in my generation. It hasn’t change yet and now we’ve got a chance to change things. Vote for Bernie!” Daniel put it simply, “The change that needs to occur is what Bernie represents.”

“The environment is more open than if we went to a different type of rally.”

Those sentiments were validated when we headed off to interview other attendees making up the largest swath of the crowd: young people.

Shelby Denhof described what motivated her to attend her first political rally on Sunday and what she finds so appealing about Sanders, “I appreciate how Bernie amplifies the voices of underrepresented people in our communities.” She also appreciated Sanders’ direct appeals to young people, specifically in the realms of college tuition and student loan debt, as well as Sanders’ unique positions on US/Israel foreign policy.

Brothers, Gabe and Zach Stepanovich, each had their own reasons for attending as well. Gabe told us, “I think it’s just good to see all the political candidates,” while Zach specifically liked Bernie’s consistency in speaking to the issues of healthcare and economic justice in the United States over the course of his political career.

We asked another group of friends (last names withheld) what appeal Sanders had with them. Daniyelle told us that his policy of decriminalizing marijuana on the federal level and its impact on the current and future prison population was important to her. Emily doesn’t intend to go into education, but nonetheless found Sanders’ attention to the issue important. She explained that his calls for raising teacher salaries was one of the issues that most intrigued her about Bernie and thought it was necessary to reward the profession, which routinely covers classroom necessities out of pocket. Nile explained that she loved how passionate Sanders was about climate issues and most impressed by the way he has put his climate plans and strengthening of governmental agencies like the EPA at the forefront of his campaign.

We asked what inspired them to attend their first political rallies on Sunday. Daniyelle described her reasoning, “The environment is more open than if we went to a different type of rally.” Emily agreed, “The energy is a lot different and more accepting.” Finally, Nile chimed in, “Same. Accepting environment,” before adding, “but also something to do.” That sentiment should not be understated. The notion that a political rally is “something to do” for a young person is definitely a far different vision of passing the time than young people have had historically. However, it has been widely recognized that Sanders rallies often have the appeal and energy of a rock concert; something remarkable for the political scene and a 78 year old headliner.

“We are going to move the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour. We are going to have equal pay for equal work…We are going to make it easier for workers to join unions, not harder.”

March 8, Bernie Sanders in Grand Rapids.

Sanders has undoubtedly tapped into the youthful exuberance and passions of the younger generation and his rallies reflect that. When asked what had them coming out to attend a political rally on a weekend, the overwhelming and succinct initial answer of nearly every one we asked was nearly the same in almost every case: “Bernie Sanders!”

The Event

Things got kicked off with a rock concert in the less metaphorical sense as Grand Rapids punk rock band, Singing Lungs, took the stage. The band played the soundtrack to the steady march of attendees through security and into Calder Plaza. The crowd grooved along to the band’s traditional punk sound for around 20 minutes. Before playing their final song, the lead singer remarked “This song is called ‘Disappearing Act’ and we hope that’s what #44 (sic) is going to do!”

Next up to the stage was the Kalamazoo artist, Michigander. The band departed from the rougher punk sound of the opener and, instead, brought a more ethereal style reminiscent of an amalgamation of the bands U2 and Manchester Orchestra. Michigander played songs from their most recent EP and the crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy their sound. Both bands repeatedly reminded attendees to get out and vote on Tuesday in Michigan’s democratic primary.

After both bands wrapped up their sets and most of Calder Plaza had filled, opening speeches were given by a succession of various supporters, activists and political figures including, most notably, Jesse Jackson, who officially endorsed Sanders at the rally in Grand Rapids.

“In the richest country in the history of the world, we are not going to continue to have three billionaires owning more wealth than the bottom half of American society.”

March 8, Bernie Sanders in Grand Rapids.

After one speaker left the stage, an “Eat the Rich” chant broke out on the risers behind the podium and spread to significant portions of the crowd before staff rushed to quiet it. The chant marked one of only a few occasions that broke away from a largely positive afternoon, aside from the more typical criticisms and attacks on rich Americans, the pharmaceutical industry, health insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry, etc.

Campaign staff and volunteers were visibly frustrated and concerned that the chant would be picked up by opponents of the campaign or cast a shadow over the event as a whole in media coverage.

While certainly not the majority of Sanders’ supporters nationally or in attendance on Sunday, there has been concern about a worrisome segment of supporters that run in the more aggressive and radical lane of his various political positions. For some Sanders supporters, the political revolution is not (or should not be) as much about creating a system of fairness and reform, but levying derision and punishment on the guilty classes at the heart of Sanders’ scorn. Sanders recently spoke out against the more antagonistic rhetoric and vitriol which at times has infected lower levels of his campaign and grass roots support this primary season, though with an addendum that included all campaigns.

While these factions of his movement are surely not the lion’s share of his support, it is an issue that Sanders should deeply consider as he hopes to spin his political revolution into a whirlwind of delegates that can carry him to the nomination. History has shown us this: Revolutions have a nasty habit of first-generation idealists succumbing to the unbridled vitriol and inflamed passions of the next.

His hope for a movement that lasts beyond this campaign season must take into account the unintended consequences of the often unparsed language used by his surrogates and even Sanders, himself.

As Jesse Jackson took the stage, it further underscored the narrow dichotomy attempting to be navigated: attacking the rich, corporations, various sectors of industry and economic power, while attempting to propel a message of widespread unity. Jackson’s “Nobody Out” speech in Calder Plaza called for justice, equality and various other unifying principles for all and with no one left out. However, that message of unity can sometime seem to end for Sanders and his supporters where feelings of anger, resentment and disenfranchisement begin towards the faceless “rich.” If Sanders hopes to broaden his support, it will likely be necessary to modulate the revolutionary tones of his anti-rich sentiments and forward the same policies under a more tempered approach that embraces the contributions of the rich to our society and future, even if he believes they need to take on a larger share of the burden than they do presently.

“We are going to move this country to public funding of elections so all people can vote.”

March 8, Bernie Sanders in Grand Rapids.

Sanders’ speech highlighted all his familiar issues and had the crowd cheering most of the afternoon. Among those issues were campaign finance reform, a rise in the minimum wage, increasing labor union formation, removing government restrictions on abortion, raising taxes on wealthy Americans, upending the healthcare industry and replacing it with “Medicare for All” and so on.

While many of the issues Sanders discusses are handled with the height of seriousness, not all disagreements were handled in the absence of a little humor. Sanders joked about the hard undertaking he has endured in congress over the course of his career of listening to the conservative republican speeches of his colleagues, which drew chuckles from the candidate and the audience.

The Test

The test will be whether the excitement and enthusiasm among Sanders’ most devoted supporters will generate the necessary turnout to win or if the movement he has worked to build represents as big a portion of the electorate as Sanders and his supporters believe. In short, are Sanders and his policy proposals as popular on the scale necessary to win as his supporters and the candidate believe them to be.

That differential, voter enthusiasm vs. voter plurality, has left similar political movements on the outside looking in: George McGovern & Ron Paul come to mind. While Sanders has seen more success than most could have predicted when he announced his initial run for the nation’s top office in 2015, whether that passion can hand him the presidency is yet to be seen. Sanders’ two rallies in Michigan on Sunday (Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor) netted an impressive 17,000+ ardent attendees, but that number pales in comparison to the over 1.2 million Michiganders that voted in the 2016 Democratic primary.

Sanders won that primary over the eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton, in 2016, and he hopes to do it again on Tuesday, but he will have to lock down several other states with progressive-leaning democrats at their core and likely expand his base if he hopes to gain the nomination.

You can check the status of your registration, find your polling place and even preview your precinct’s ballot using the State of Michigan’s voting tool here: https://mvic.sos.state.mi.us.

Contact jszetela@miheraldtribune.com with any comments/questions regarding this article or to purchase event photos from the rally.

Calvin University Short Film Showcase

Calvin University will be hosting the bi-annual showcase of films produced by the university media department on Monday, December 9. The event is open and free to the public in the Covenant Fine Arts Center with refreshments to follow.

This year’s themed attire for the event is “the Oscars,” so attendees are encouraged to dress their absolute best.

The showcase will present various projects of all genres produced over the last few months, including: The Monster Under the Bed, The New Blood, and The Hooded Man Downstairs.

The Monster Under the Bed tells the story of a young girl whose mother is away, and her father tells her it’s due to a monster. The film is directed by Zachery Renauldo and inspired by the story of Dana Drosdick.

The New Blood is the story of a young woman bringing her boyfriend home to meet her father, but with a different twist to it. The film is directed and written by David Swartzentruber.

The Hooded Man Downstairs is based on a true story written by Shi’Anna Whitman and directed by Alexis Bonner. It is the story of a young woman who stands up to her abusive step-father while coping with an immense loss.

The show will be held in the Covenant Fine Arts Center and will begin at 7 pm. Reservations are not required, though attendees are encouraged to arrive early as seats are limited and expected to fill quickly.

This Week in Michigan:

With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, here are a few quick reminders of fun to be had around the state this week!

Sports

Monday – Virginia Tech at Michigan State Men’s Basketball (5pm)
Wednesday – Michigan at Eastern Michigan Women’s Basketball (2pm)
Thursday – Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (12:30pm)
Friday & Saturday – MHSAA Football State Finals at Ford Field
Saturday – Olivet College at Davenport Women’s Basketball (1pm)
Saturday – Ohio State at Michigan Football (12pm)

Family Events

All Week – Molecularium at UofM Dome Theater in Ann Arbor
All Week – Wonderland of Lights at the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing
All Week – Santa Gets a Pink Slip at Cornwell’s Turkeyville House in Marshall
Wednesday – Disney Junior Holiday Party in Detroit (6pm)
Friday & Saturday – The Illusionists: Magic of the Holidays at Fox Theatre in Detroit

Entertainment

Tuesday – Ski Mask the Slump God LIVE at 20 Monroe Live in Grand Rapids (8pm)
Wednesday – Edgar Winter Band LIVE at The Crofoot in Pontiac (7pm)
Wednesday – Desert Hearts LIVE at Magic Stick 18+ in Detroit (9:30pm)
Friday – Battery: A Tribute to Metallica LIVE at the Fillmore in Detroit (7pm)
Sunday – Trans-Siberian Orchestra LIVE at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids (7:30pm)

The 100th Birthday of the Grand Rapids Santa Parade

There will be several reasons to celebrate during the Art Van Christmas parade this weekend, other than Santa’s early visit to Grand Rapids. This parade serves as a kickoff to the holiday season, and it happens to be the parade’s 100th birthday.

The parade started in 1919 as the Wurzburg’s Santa Clause Parade on Campau Square. Its main goal was to bring people in and excite them for holiday shopping. The parade was soon taken over by the Grand Rapids Jaycees.

It wasn’t until 2010 when Art Van Furniture joined the board for the parade, bringing a partnership with WoodTV8 to broadcast the event on live television.

The parade is currently the second largest in the state and competes with Detroit’s Thanksgiving parade. The event attracts about 30,000 individuals each year, and even more who watch the parade on live television.

Along with Santa’s early visit, promotions coordinator Wayne Bersano said that Miss Michigan 2019 Mallory Rivard will be making a special appearance.

The event is free for families and individual goers, and there will be time for a meet and greet with St. Nick after the parade. More information about the event can be found at https://www.santaparadegr.com/.

Santa Claus’ Early Visit to Grand Rapids

There is simply no better way to kick off the 2019 holiday season than the annual Grand Rapids Santa Parade. This year’s parade will mark the 100th year in a row that Santa Claus has come to town the Saturday before Thanksgiving and greeted the glittering eyes & bright smiles of children from Grand Rapids and beyond.

The “real” Santa Claus, known to those with the requisite North Pole clearances as Kraig Haybarker, is from Lowell, Michigan and resides there with his wife. His journey started in 2002 when two young kids met him at church and called him Santa because he literally resembled the jolly gift and joy giver.

He was then presented with the opportunity from the director of the Chamber of Commerce from Lowell to be their Santa during the holidays. Since then, he has completed studies at CWH Santa School and continues to spread joy wherever he goes.

When asked what the most rewarding part of his job was, Haybarker said the best part was obviously the kids and celebrating their innocence. All negative thoughts and troubles disappear in the moment when Haybarker meets children and their families, he said.

“Every visit I make is rewarding in its own way,” Haybarker stated. In his time as Santa, he has worked with hospice programs for young children and shared that he has attended funerals of kids he’s met while dressed in full Santa gear.

“It was the best way to honor them,” Haybarker said.

All parade attendees will have the opportunity to meet Haybarker as Santa on November 23 for the Grand Rapids 100th Anniversary Santa Parade. The parade is expected to start at 9 am. More details regarding the parade and tips for viewers and participants can be found at https://grkids.com/grand-rapids-santa-parade/.

“Trent Speaks” Coming to GR

Trent Podskalan is a motivational speaker from Grand Rapids and the founder of the podcast “Trent Speaks”.  He has had a passion for people and hearing their stories since senior year of high school when he became involved in a program called Peer Assisted Listeners (PALS). Since creating his podcast in February of 2018, Podskalan has had people on there to share their stories. It’s become an outlet for everyone to speak, including Podskalan himself.

“Vulnerability is the strength of our weakness.” Trent Podskalan

Podskalan said that while the most difficult part about his career has been starting, the far more rewarding part is the impact he has left and the people he has met along the way. When asked about where he anticipates this journey taking him, he said his goal is to “continue going to high schools and colleges and sharing (his) message with others…to show people it’s okay to not be okay and to be open about the struggles they may be experiencing”.

More information about Podskalan and his podcast and upcoming projects can be found at www.trentspeaks.com/trent-speaks.

Tebow Talk at Calvin University

During his hour visit at Calvin University, ESPN commentator and New York Times bestselling author Tim Tebow spoke little about his time as a professional athlete and more about his path and upbringing. He talked about the difficulties in making decisions and choosing God’s will and way, how he questioned his choices once he made them.

“Adversity may take your momentum, but it can never take you passion.” – Tim Tebow

Tebow spoke about what success meant to him, and how important it is to be significant rather than successful. This mindset was the result of his founding of the Tim Tebow Foundation, which strives to provide opportunities for those less fortunate and those with special needs. After his trip to the Philippines with his church, and meeting the boy with his feet on backwards, Tebow was inspired to do more and be more than compete in professional sports and a celebrity icon.

Speaking to an audience of mostly college students and visiting high school students, Tebow spoke about adversity, how people shouldn’t be discouraged by difficulties but rather let them be an encouragement. One’s purpose isn’t tied to anything on earth, Tebow reminded the crowd. “Adversity may take your momentum, but it can never take your passion,” Tebow told Calvin’s audience.

Grand Rapids’ Upcoming Visitor: Tim Tebow

Photo: BRYAN SODERLIND

NFL quarterback and devoted Christian Tim Tebow will be making a visit to Calvin University’s campus on Thursday, October 24. Tebow will serve as the keynote speaker for the Second Global Congress on Sport and Christianity conference, which is being co-sponsored by Calvin University and Hope College. 

While maintaining his spotlight in professional athletics, Tebow also started the Tim Tebow Foundation, with its main purpose to serve children in need in the United States and abroad. He is also an author of three bestselling books and currently pursuing a career in professional baseball; spending the last four seasons within the New York Mets minor league system.

For more information on Tebow’s upcoming talk at Calvin, visit the event’s Facebook page. For information on tickets to attend his talk, visit www.calvin.universitytickets.com

Celtic Festival Comes to Sparta

If you are looking for fun this weekend or something unique for the family, look no further than this weekend’s Sparta Celtic Festival in Rogers Park. This marks the festival’s 10th Anniversary and is sure to be fun for people of all ages.

Events kick off tonight at 5pm for Founder’s Night with music by Lee Mulder, traditional Irish dance performances by Scoil Rince Ni Bhraonain, more live music by the Conklin Ceili Band and Hazard.

The fun begins again Saturday morning at 10am. The day will be jammed packed full of entertainment and fun with Mona Shores Fiddlers, Battle of the Clans, Doubles Cornhole Tournament, the Celtic Soccer Rebellion game, Scottish Heavy Events (Ancient Athletics), Leprechauns, Puppet shows and several more groups of Irish dancers and musical talent.

Go n-éirí an bóthar leat and lead you to this weekend’s Sparta Celtic Festival!

Billy Currington Follows ‘Good Directions’ to 20 Monroe Live

Downtown Grand Rapids was hopping with cowboy boots and laughter the night of August 3rd, as fans started to file into 20 Monroe Live. Billy Currington is an award winning country music performer that attracts all ages to his events. As expected, Currington stole a piece of our hearts.

The night started with a new artist on the country scene, Madison Kozak. Her first EP was just released, as she signed with Big Loud Publishing’s record label. Although fans may not have known who she was when they arrived, she quickly made an impression. Her hit song “First Last Name” was a crowd favorite, and expressed a relationship with her father. After a few songs of her own, and a mashup of Little Big Town’s “Boondocks” and Lorde’s “Royals”, she left the stage for Currington to take.

Grand Rapids exploded as Billy entered the stage with his band and greeted the city. Currington played hit after hit throughout the night, including, “Do I Make You Wanna,” “Doin’ Somethin’ Right,” “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To,” and the heavily award-nominated song, “People Are Crazy.” Currington also played his newest release, “Details,” and his most recent song to reach the top of charts, “Bring It On Over.”

Currington bounced around the stage, with his guitar and signature backwards ball cap, to each song. He threw out multiple guitar pics and laughed with enthusiastic fans. Everyone was singing along and didn’t want the night to end anytime soon.

Currington and his band wished a fun and safe night upon the crowd as they exited the stage, but this did not bode well with fans. Less than a minute later, “Billy” was being chanted until the man and his band took one more stand. Currington, being lured back onto the stage, played three more songs, including the fan favorite “Good Directions”. After the singing had come to an end, Currington stayed on stage and gave high fives and guitar pics out to fans as others began to make their way out of the venue.

Without a doubt, Billy Currington left a positive and memorable impression on country music fans, and would be welcomed to ‘Bring It On Over’ back to Grand Rapids anytime!

Billy Currington performs at 20 Monroe Live.
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