Labor Day in Grand Rapids


Courtesy | West Michigan Labor Fest

Mary Racette, Arts Editor

Grand Rapids residents and visitors are welcomed to another year of the West Michigan Labor Fest held at Ah-Nab-Awen Park to celebrate Labor Day.  This year, the tradition continues Sept. 2 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

Labor Fest is a product of a collaboration between The Labor Day Committee and various community sponsors and vendors. 

Labor Fest Chair John Marcusse said Labor Fest is an event created to provide Labor Day entertainment for inner-city families. 

“The unions set up a party,” Marcusse said. “They call it Labor Fest, and we invite the public to come to that party.” 

Ah-Nab-Awen Park is located along the Grand River and is adjacent to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. Marcusse said Ah-Nab-Awen Park was ideal for its central location downtown Grand Rapids. The Labor Fest organizers also chose Ah-Nab-Awen Park for its monument, The Spirit of Solidarity.

The Spirit of Solidarity is a statue inside a fountain, within a plaza in the park. Each detail of the monument represents a different aspect of Grand Rapids’ furniture strike of 1911. 

Throughout the festival, artists from the local musician’s union in Grand Rapids will be performing. The first act is Mick Lane who will kick off the day with a forty-five minute set.  Following Mick Lane, Mustang Band, Rochelle and the Spoilers, Krystal Kleer and the Steve Talaga Quartet will take the stage one after the other. Marcusse said four different styles of music will be represented at the festival. 

A variety of vendors and food trucks will be selling food during the festival.  All of the food trucks will be locally owned. 

Arts and craft vendors will also be scattered throughout the park, featuring jewelry, candles, wood, clothes and more. 

In addition to Labor Fest’s activities, The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum will be free and open to the public on Sept. 2 for the event. Visitors can view the exhibit “Extraordinary Circumstances: The presidency of Gerald R. Ford.” The exhibit is comprised of photographs taken by President Ford’s personal photographers. The exhibit’s artist, David Hume Kennerly, told Grand Rapids Magazine that the ultimate idea shown by the exhibit was “a close-up portrait of the president’s humanity.”

Marcusse said he expects a good turn out. Last year, 2,300 people visited The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum for free during the festival. 

The family-friendly event features a variety of free children’s entertainment. Kids can compete in the penny throwing contest or create sidewalk chalk art. Free rides will be available for a kiddie ferris wheel, merry-go-round and a bouncy castle. Firefighters will even be at the festival to educate children about fire safety. 

The City of Grand Rapids will be holding the Labor Day Bridge Walk at 10 a.m., which will be happening in conjunction with Labor Fest. Labor Fest will be passing out Ice cream sandwiches to the walkers and children at the festival.