Kalamazoo Keeps Busy With Performing Arts, History and Festivals
PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Young
At first glance, one might not think that the Caribbean, the Underground Railroad and Broadway have much in common. But these seemingly random references to history, heritage and entertainment are just a few staples of culture in Kalamazoo.
Miller Auditorium on the Western Michigan University campus brings art forms unnumbered to the sophisticated little city. The regulars include the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and the Kalamazoo Ballet Company, but Broadway shows, rock concerts and sundry conventions stop in frequently.
The theater is also a revered art form in the city, which boasts the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, one of the oldest and largest community theaters in the country. Several other acting troupes keep Kalamazoo’s stages full.
The city is also a gem of rich history. The Underground Railway Home just 20 minutes outside Kalamazoo in Schoolcraft was built by the county’s first doctor in 1835 and served as a link in the network of houses that safely hid slaves as they traveled to freedom. The house is now open to the public for tours.
Downtown Kalamazoo is home to the Arcadia Festival Place, where the community gathers for summer festivals and concerts at the state-of-the-art bandshell. Kalamazoo’s festivals include Island Fest, where you can get your hair wrapped and your jerk chicken craving satisfied, the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, which involves more than 100 related events throughout western Michigan, and the Kalamazoo Blues and Scottish festivals.
Sightseers and locals alike also enjoy the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, with its planetarium and space simulator, the 11-acre Kalamazoo Nature Center and Kalamazoo Air Zoo, which displays more than 60 vintage aircraft.
Bronson Park is another cultural center of the city, beautifying downtown with sculptures, war monuments and historical markers. The park is the site of many festivals and other events.