The Rapidian

Flannel-fledged heroes: Local bar helps revive festival from hiatus to support local radio

How and why SpeakEZ Lounge wound up staging an event that resurrected a beloved fall festival, and how it relates to your favorite turkey-tinged holiday.

When to go, where to go, and what to bring:

When: November 28th, 2017 5:30-9:30

Where: SpeakEZ Lounge 600 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

What: A $10 donation, an appreciation for good folk music, and your best flannel!

After stuffing yourself on Thanksgiving and scoring some major deals on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you may find yourself wanting a break: some sort of escape from the commotion that the beginning of the holiday season brings with itself every year. Thankfully, SpeakEZ Lounge, in partnership with the recently-revived Fall Flannel Folk Festival, is providing you with that escape, in addition to giving you a chance to do a little giving now that a lot of the getting is out of the way.

On November 28th, local Grand Rapids artists including Olivia Rivera, Lucas Wilson, Benjamin Riley—one of the founders of the Fall Flannel Folk Festival— and many more will be playing music in the spirit of “Giving Tuesday,” a national social media campaign that aims to encourage generosity and promote the theme of giving back to community.

The lighting from this corner of the room can only be described as warm. A humble stage sits beneath a widescreen television streaming a Liverpool vs. Manchester United game, and a family donned in what I can only assume are Liverpool jerseys, cheers when Liverpool scores. On that tiny humble stage, there will be men and women with acoustic guitars dressed in their best flannel serenading generous bar-goers with Grand Rapids-grown folk music on Tuesday, all in support of local public radio.

The manager of SpeakEZ, Calin Skidmore, was kind enough to spare some time away from the bar to tell me about how the event came to pass.

Skidmore tells me that Heather Duffy, a friend of his who works at WGVU (the local NPR-affiliated broadcast group that the event will benefit) came to him in October about an idea that would both promote the “Giving Tuesday” campaign and also revive the Fall Flannel Folk Festival which had last been celebrated in 2015.

He reassures me that “there is no cover, no charge” only a “suggested donation of ten dollars going to WGVU.” I ask him why he thinks it’s important to support local radio and artists.

“SpeakEZ [has] always been a supporter of arts in general in Grand Rapids.” (some of which include Actors’ Theatre, Circle Theatre, and the Grand Rapids Pride Center.) He shares some words of wisdom: “Good food, good drink, good culture, good music—it all works together, it’s all a part of the same fabric.”

The event begins at 5:30 and goes until about 9:30. SpeakEZ encourages that event-goers give a $10 donation to support WGVU, and promises that those who do donate will receive a $5 voucher for the bar. And of course, it is highly suggested that you put on your best flannel.

For anyone looking for more information about the “Giving Tuesday” event itself, visit:

For anyone who wants to donate to WGVU or who just wants to check out some good local folk music, but cannot attend physically, WGVU will stream the event from their website here:

For those interested in more of SpeakEZ’s artist spotlights, head over to the events page on their website here:

I had to ask one more question before I let Skidmore return to his bartending duties. It arguably may have been the most important question of the whole interview. He laughs, then answers. He says (and I am paraphrasing) that with such a fall-themed event, you can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned whiskey cocktail.

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