Coast West Fest fills the gap

Mary Mattingly

Finally, a music festival that’s all about, well, the music.

July 1-6 marks the first year for a brand new festival in Muskegon—the Coast West Music Festival. Formed to fill the gap left by the end of Muskegon’s Summer Celebration in 2011, the festival was organized by a board of young professionals and is being promoted by a Grand Valley State University alumnus. The festival promises none of the gimmicks usually associated with summer festivals. No parades, no shoddy carnival rides, just three stages featuring over 38 music acts, with 20 being nationally known.

“The Muskegon lakeshore community has a long history of festivals,” Cecilia Riley, GVSU alumnus and the event’s public relations manager said. “But there’s been a void in true music festivals.”

Coast West is the brainchild of Nick Bessinger and Cathy Cunningham, co-executive directors of the event. For this festival, organizers are taking “a little different approach” by focusing on live music from bands on three stages, two of them devoted to national acts such as Buddy Guy, O.A.R., LeAnn Rimes, Three Days Grace and Polyphonic Spree. Unlike Muskegon’s former Summer Celebration that took place on the same site, there will be no carnival, because this event is billed as a music festival.
“It’s a national music festival,” Riley said. “Muskegon has always had fantastic festivals, but this music festival covers all the genres. There is something for everyone.”

Summer Celebration ended in 2011 and during 2012, for the first time in 19 years, Muskegon was without a summer festival.

“Not having a festival in 2012 definitely was felt across the community,” Riley said.

Luckily, young professionals with a common goal stepped in to fill that void.

“(Bessinger) stepped in to keep the tradition of a summer festival going,” Riley said. “He got together a (group of young professionals) who stepped up to reinvent the festival and bring a music festival back to Muskegon. A good chunk of the volunteers involved are under the age of 40.”

This may be the first year for the festival, but don’t expect it to be its last.

“We’d love for this to be a longstanding event in downtown Muskegon,” Riley said.

The Coast West Music Festival is looking to join the tradition of summer festivals that can be found in West Michigan.

“We are looking to showcase Muskegon’s waterfront,” Riley said. “We want to get West Michigan, the whole state, even the Midwest excited about what West Michigan has to offer.”

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