Created by Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids as a celebration of “laughter for the health of it”, LaughFest is now in its 4th year of operation as one of the Midwest’s largest comedy festival. A 10-day festival featuring some of the largest names in comedy, it has become the winter edition of ArtPrize in Grand Rapids as a large scale attempt to drive economic growth and community engagement.
This year, the lineup for the week-and-a-half long festival is as impressive as ever. With headliner names like Jim Gaffigan, Chris Tucker, Lily Tomlin, Sinbad, and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, it’s nearly impossible to find an evening without five-star comedic excellence.
But big-name headline shows aren’t the only thing going on at LaughFest that makes it worth adding to your to-do list.
As is with ArtPrize, and really anything else you find in the city of Grand Rapids, LaughFest puts a big dose of family friendly fun into the 10-day festival. At the kick-off event held on Thursday, March 6th, the LaughFest community continued their tradition of breaking world records by attempting to break a Guinness World Record for the number of people wearing sunglasses at night. The unofficial number of 1,675 people wearing sunglasses at the LaughFest kick-off party beat the previous record held by Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
A new event to the festival this year is the Clean Comedy Showcase underwritten by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The clean comedy showcase brings a refreshing cast of comedians committed to making people laugh without vulgar or crude language.
For a complete list of upcoming events, visit the LaughFest events page here.
As wonderful as an entire 10-days committed to fun and laughter is, it is important to remember the root cause of such a fundraiser – that’s right, fundraiser. The LaughFest fundraiser is brought to the community through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, a free
community with a comprehensive educational program, lectures, workshops, and social activities all designed with the intent of helping people deal with emotional health and wellness needs.
Photo Courtesy of Gilda’s Club
The Christmas season simply wouldn’t be the same without it. The sad truth about snow is that as much as we hate it – driving in it, shoveling it, getting it down those unmentionable places – we hate it in the most necessary way possible. We dislike snow the in same way we gripe and moan about going to the gym each week.
Here in Grand Rapids, we have recorded 13 of the last 18 days of significant snowfall! I think I speak for everyone in the metro area when I say it would be super if mother nature could just chill for a day or two!
All of this said, one observation has been made clear to me throughout this unseasonably wintery stretch. The spirit of Christmas is noticeably stronger and more effective when the ground is littered with powdery, white Christmas snow!
It all makes perfect sense. Humans are visual beings, and the more visual support we have for something the easier it is to shift our attitude towards seasonal emotions. Its hard to sing songs like “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” or “Jingle Bells” when its 75 degrees and sunny outside!
In Michigan, we have the great opportunity to experience a season called “Fall”. For those who know what I’m talking about, how inclined are you to go apple picking if it’s 102 degrees outside and it hurts to sit on the leather seats of your car after 10 minutes in the sun? My guess is not very.
Christmas spirit has a snowball effect – pun intended.
One of the beautiful things about living in Grand Rapids is the abundance of seasonal activities to take part in – public ice skating, ski hills, carriage rides, etc. The common denominator to all of these family friendly activities being SNOW! Another holiday necessity that seems to blossom with the presence of snow are all of the holiday decorations. Christmas lights, and lots of them!
I understand that with snow comes a long list of headaches; long lines on the road, time spent scraping cars, even the occasional snowball to the face. But, at the end of the day, take some time to realize the beauty that comes with it as well!
Have a Merry Christmas
- Snowfall Above Average in West Michigan (fox17online.com)
The ELS Experience
It’s been almost a year since I completed the Emerging Leaders Series 2012, a professional development program under the Center for Community Leadership within the Grand Rapids Are Chamber of Commerce. The ELS program is designed for the up and coming young professional who wants to grow professionally and develop a grassroots sense of leadership and community involvement. Now believe me when I say that I never would have expected myself to enjoy a program such as this. As much as I do not particularly love responsibility (but who really does), I seem to do my best work when the heat is turned up and I am just about as uncomfortable as humanly possible.
That being said, I continue to reference experiences and lessons learned from the ELS program in my professional world as well as on a more personal level. Here are some reasons why YOU should join the Emerging Leaders.
Because of the way the ELS program is designed, the city of Grand Rapids becomes the classroom and you are never in the same place twice. Places we traveled to include the Grand Rapids Public Museum to learn about the history of the city of Grand Rapids and how it has developed into what it is today, to Steelcase to learn about new and innovative ways organizations are designing a workplace culture that is beneficial to employee work habits. In addition to on-site learning, key community leaders visit and provide insight into how they achieved success. For me, I was able to relate most to Deb Bailey’s illustration of a career as something that is created rather than one that is decided.
I was the only member still in college, but by having these conversations with key community leaders I was able to relate to the experiences they’ve had and was able to apply them to my own situation.
When 30 driven, young professionals are placed in a room together for 12 weeks the only direction to go is up. On the very first session we were put through an icebreaker/team building session, but due to the outgoing and committed personalities of everyone in the room it was far from your typical icebreaker. More importantly, these individuals represent some of the largest and most influential employers in the area so you never know who is going to end up where.
“It’s not what you know, it’s not who you know, but it’s who knows you.”
One of the unique qualities of the ELS program is its emphasis on innovative community initiatives that help address of the city’s most pressing issues; child hunger, affordable housing, impoverished families etc. These programs would not be possible if it were not for the support of local leaders and the leaders of the future (shocking why we would be introduced to these).
I had the opportunity to meet with organizers from Kids Food Basket, Inner City Christian Federation, and United Way to learn about what they are doing in the community. Having grown up in Grand Rapids, it was a surprise to learn about these organizations and all that they are doing in the community. It helps provide some perspective on what it means to have a community responsibility.
Philanthropy in Grand Rapids is like filmmaking in Hollywood. It’s the one thing that truly has made the city as successful and enjoyable as it is today – except maybe beer but that is for a different day. We have the privilege of being under the direction of many successful and outrageously wealthy individuals to want nothing more than to see their city succeed. One result of this philanthropic culture is the birth of a nonprofit sector that is among the most productive in the country.
The exposure to the nonprofit sector through the ELS program gave me the opportunity to experience the needs of my city. For someone who grew up in this community, it was not uncommon for members of my class to say “we have this need here?” The nonprofit board certification element of the ELS program gave me yet another avenue to focus my efforts on, and moving forward gave me an additional lens by which to see the world. It will be a skill that will prove to be useful as I grow to be a decision maker in my community.