Grand Rapids Public Museum hosts Ethnic Heritage Festival


GVL / Rachel Slomba

Allison Rafferty, Staff Writer

The time finally came for the Ethnic Heritage Festival to make its annual return to the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM). 

GRPM has hosted this event for more than ten years and on Saturday, Nov. 13 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., members of the Grand Rapids community were once again invited to learn about the varying cultures in West Michigan. 

The festival celebrated more than 45 cultures from around the globe that call West Michigan home, through visual presentations, food, music, art and more.

From sharing their traditions and backgrounds to performing native dances, those in attendance were presented with an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the unique beauty of each culture. 

Every year, the participants and performers consist of a variety of organizations from around the area. For this year’s festival, the museum hosted approximately 20 clubs, organizations, and individuals of Scottish, Irish, Korean, Polish, Chinese, American Indian, and German culture. 

Director of Marketing and Customer Service for GRPM, Christie Bender, said the overall goal of the event is to increase awareness and knowledge of the varying cultures within the community. 

“It is incredible, the diversity that can be found right here in the community,” Bender said. “We hope that all ages participating in the festival will learn something new about our community.” 

GVL / Rachel Slomba

Eight performances took place in the museum’s Meijer Theatre throughout the course of the festival. The performance schedule began at 10:30 a.m. with “Motherland Cultural Connections” and ended at 4:15 p.m. with a performance by “Bluewater Ramblers.”

Bender said the performances offered a very important experience for guests in terms of cultural celebration. 

“Dancing, singing and music all play major roles within cultural traditions, rituals and celebrations,” Bender said.

In addition to the performances, the Museum Café featured a menu of ethnic food selections. 

Bender said that events like the annual Ethnic Heritage Festival are important for the Grand Rapids and West Michigan community because it serves as a way to bring the community together. 

“West Michigan is home to people from around the world, and the Ethnic Heritage Festival is a great way for the community to come together and share what makes each group unique, in the richness of each culture,” Bender said. 

GVL / Rachel Slomba

Tickets could be purchased in advance through the museum’s website. The Ethnic Heritage Festival was included with general admission to the museum. Kent County residents also received free general admission for children 17 and under, and reduced admission of $5 for Kent County adults. 

Bender said the annual hosting of the Ethnic Heritage Festival allows for GRPM to serve their role in helping the West Michigan community through educating residents on prevalent cultures. 

“The museum takes pride in valuing, honoring and celebrating the unique cultures, characteristics and perspectives of our community and beyond through engaging in community-oriented programming,” Bender said. “We proudly serve as a central hub, bringing culture to life within our spaces through community members who are deeply connected to their own culture and are eager to share their history, experiences and traditions.”