Music, Art and History Sprout on Fertile Soil

By Pamela Coyle on April 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm EST
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Try strolling through downtown Grand Haven, Holland or their waterfronts and avoiding outdoor events and festivals.

It won’t be easy; both cities are packed with arts, culture, music and history.

Local musicians perform for free at Grand Haven’s Central Park every Tuesday. Thursday night the action moves to Millpoint Park in Spring Lake, where families spread out on blankets and lawn chairs and munch on free popcorn. Grand Haven Waterfront Stadium hosts $2 dance concerts on Wednesdays with everything from big band to country music.

History takes center stage at several venues that showcase the region’s rich Dutch culture. The Holland Museum is a great place to start. It retells the tale of the arrival of the Dutch in 1847, their struggle for access to Lake Michigan, a raging fire that destroyed the town in 1871 and a community that pulled together to rebuild.

Pillar Church, dedicated in 1856, was one of the few buildings that survived the blaze. The Greek Revival building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The city's namesake Dutch heritage is also celebrated each year with the Tulip Time Festival, which features parades, Klompen dancers, carnival rides and much more. Live music also plays a big role, with past performers as diverse as Christina Aguilera, the Oak Ridge Boys and Johnny Lang. Reader's Digest named it the best small town festival in the nation, so don't miss the 2009 event – the 80th annual festival – which will take place May 2 through May 9.

In Grand Haven, the Tri-Cities Historical Museum gives visitors a look back in time, too, with exhibits on the region’s logging industry, pioneer life, an affiliated train depot and rotating exhibits that have included vintage toys and “The Magic of Magic.”

Contemporary culture and art get their due. Gallery Uptown in Grand Haven showcases the work of award-winning Michigan artists. Central Park Players, a community theater group in Grand Haven, has been entertaining audiences for more than 45 years.

The Holland Area Arts Council has workshops, classes and other events. Hope College has the DePree Art Center and Gallery as well as the Knickerbocker Theatre, which features a film series and hosts the Hope Summer Repertory Theatre.

Cold and snow don’t stop the festivities. Grand Haven hosts an Ice Festival each February, when downtown fills up with ice sculptures. Winterfest takes place in January, with human dog sled races, a photo and poster contest, cardboard sled races and, of course, ice sculpting.

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