Festival of the Arts Includes Faith-Based Efforts

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

The Growing Roots 2019Scott and Lisa Barry are The Growing Roots With churches hosting food booths and performances by area Christian music artists, the annual Festival of the Arts in downtown Grand Rapids is sprinkled with the talents of the West Michigan faith community.

The 2019 festival (Fri. June 7 through Sun. June 9) is the 50th year for the event, which has grown from two stages and a handful of food selections to a multi-faceted arts celebration. In years of favorable weather it's drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors over its three-day weekend. (Official lists of artists, food booths, activities and a map are available at www.festivalgr.org. All musical performances are free).

The diversity and curiosity of the casual listeners is noted by the performers – even from the stage. "It's an amazing feeling to see people intent on walking by, and to watch as your music captures them," said Lisa Barry, who with husband Scott comprises a Christian folk/rock/Americana duo called The Growing Roots. "You can see them perk up, stop walking and turn in your direction," she said of new connections to be made with audiences.

The Growing Roots performs at noon Sunday on the "Backdoor Pop Up" stage, just to the south of the Kent County Building on Calder Plaza.

The Alto, MI couple will be performing all original music, including some newer songs written out of their family experiences. (The Barrys have seven children and are expecting an eighth later this year).


Several other artists are claiming time on the four "Pop Up" stages scattered about the festival. These "mini-stages" take advantage of the smaller spaces unreached by larger platforms such as the Calder, Circle and di Suvero.


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Singer-songwriter Jeremy Hoekstra presents original music in an acoustic set on the Backdoor Pop Up stage at 3pm Friday. The local worship leader has made several trips to Nashville working on new music and will be releasing one of his new songs ("I'll Wait For You") on June 28.

Look for the Hark Up Big Band at 5pm Friday on the Calder Stage, while its sister group The Hark Up Choir takes the Calder Stage at 8:30pm Saturday.
Pick your favorite inspirational genre and plan your trip ahead of time.

A fan of sacred instrumental music? The noted ensemble Jubal Brass performs at 1pm Sun. on the Circle Stage. The classic rock-style Carpenter's Cross is up at 4:30pm Sunday on di Suvero.
Local pastor George Davis presents his "straight from the heart" music at 7:30pm Sat. on the Circle Stage.

For something completely different: Did you know there is a Grand Rapids Byzantine Liturgical Choir? Well there is. It performs at 11:15am Sat. on the indoor Classical Stage in the GR Art Museum.

And in a tradition nearly as old as the Festival itself, the gospel choir of One Church Empowerment Center in Grandville (the former Bethel Pentecostal) closes out the weekend performances with a 5pm Sun. showcase on the Calder Stage.


There are fewer food booths this year – only around 16 or so. But with the growth of food truck business in the city, Festival officials have set up a "Food Truck Alley" with eight trucks expected to line Monroe Center near the GR Art Museum.

Meanwhile, nearly all the more traditional food booth outlets are strung out along Ottawa Ave. NW.

Christian churches are running eight of the culinary booths, which serve as fundraisers for their ministries or special projects. Many of these groups are veterans of the Festival food process - knowing well the need for good organization and plenty of volunteers.

It wouldn't be "Festival" without Holy Trinity Orthodox Church's Greek food delights of souvlaki and baklava. And the same with St. George Antiochian Church and its Lebanese shwarma sandwiches.

Journey of Faith Church returns with its American fare of gourmet grilled cheese and the United Church of Wayland carries its desert dishes of pavlovas and lemon pineapple skewers.

Also be on the lookout for:
*Madison Square Christian Reformed Church, BBQ turkey and pulled pork
*Plymouth United Church of Christ, foot-long hotdogs and giant dill pickle
*Georgetown United Methodist, waffle-cones with 7 ice-cream flavors
*Light of the World Church, tamales: jalapeno & cheese, chicken and pork


Xpressions Christian Performing Arts Academy at 10am Sat. on the Circle Stage.

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Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Author: Terry DeBoer
Terry is a journalist/feature writer for newspapers, magazines and websites, with a background in radio broadcasting. His usual beat is arts and entertainment, specializing in Christian/gospel music. A married father of two, he is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan Contributing Writer: West Michigan Christian News August 2011 – Present Feature writer: -Mlive.com (website and various newspapers) 1988– 2016 -Spotlight New Christian Music Magazine 1997-2008 -Church News Editor, Church Herald Magazine 2004-2009

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