The Rapidian

Ralston Bowles to play Local First Street Party

Ralston Bowles to perform at Local First Street Party on June 1 from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Underwriting support from:

Local First Street Party

Local First Street Party June 1st 3:00 P.M. to Midnight In Front of Bistro Bella Vita: 44 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503


Ralston Bowles

Ralston Bowles /Sara Quashnie

Ralston Bowles, who will be playing the Local First Street Party on June 1 from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. in front of Bistro Bella Vita, 44 Grandville Ave. SW, sees it as more than just a show.

“I guess I see the event as a way of raising awareness and celebrating local businesses contribution to the community,” says Bowles. “The importance of supporting local business is the impact it has on the local economy as more of the money spent stays here.”

Bowles, who is an icon of local music, sees the relationship that the arts as “an important partner in developing the city’s future.”

“There certainly is a close relationship between the creative [people] and the culture in Grand Rapids which reaches beyond the street party,” Bowles says. “But I guess it can be seen as an entry point for people to know a bit more about certain performers and the projects they are involved in. That spills over in a number of those corners of the city that encourage the arts from local galleries and theater to the various festivals in Eastown or Downtown.”

According to their website, the mission of Local First is to "foster the development of an economy, grounded in local ownership, which functions in harmony with our ecosystem, meets the basic needs of our people, encourages joyful community life, and builds wealth,” and is echoed in Bowles' sentiment.

“It is wonderful to see those businesses grow and succeed beyond Grand Rapids as well, but maintain their roots," says Bowles. "You can sense the element of personal pride that spills over from a number of the restaurants and microbreweries to the specialty shops that are scattered throughout the neighborhoods.”

Just as West Michigan has an impact on the voice and flavor of local music and art, it influences local business.

“I think there is a tenacity of spirit that seems to be rooted in the entrepreneurial mindset and gives a sense of confidence to try new things,” Bowles says. “It has become more apparent in the past ten years, I think, as organizations like Local First have put it out in a more cohesive way.”

Bowles sees it as a “collaborative energy that feeds some of the activity that is happing in Grand Rapids.”

In addition to the Local First Street Party, Bowles is working on future music and artistic endeavors and continues to host the Tuesday Evening Series at Frederik Meijer Gardens in July and August featuring local talent, a showcase that he started a decade ago to, as he phrases it, “raise awareness of the caliber of talent that we have here.”

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