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Grand Rapids Riverfest Takes a City-Wide Collaboration to Pull Off an Event This Awesome

Grand Rapids Riverfest
The Grand Rapids Riverfest is Saturday, September 10th and is made possible by a city-wide collaboration between government, businesses, and media.

Ashley Brubaker, owner/manager/stylist at True North Salon in Grand Rapids, has been working with a city-wide team to help make the Grand Rapids Riverfest a successful event. Brubaker stopped by the KAXE/KBXE Morning show to chat with Kari and Heidi about what it takes to pull of an event of this magnitude. Click the "Listen" player above to hear the full conversation, including some behind the scenes info about the fest from Kari.

Grand Rapids Riverfest kicks off on Saturday, September 10th with doors opening at noon. When fest-goers walk through the gates, they'll see the results of a huge amount of labor and collaboration from many different groups around Grand Rapids. But an event this awesome is worthy of this much effort.

This event is important just simply shining a light on our downtown is so huge," said Ashley Brubaker, owner of True North Salon in Grand Rapids. "I really think it points us at how much potential we have for a super-vibrant downtown. I think that bringing traffic into our downtown area is huge and showing people not to underestimate us. We're a small town but we're finding our voice, I think."

"We're really going for it," she said. "I had no idea until I got involved this year what went into this and I am blown away by the effort that is happening and I think that once people come they're going to be blown away too!"

Ashley is part of a group of local businesses and municipal government entities that are making a world-class event to draw people to the area.

"It's been so fun," Brubaker said. It's been fun getting to know Kari and our designer, Emily. We've got this girl-boss thing going on and meeting with them every week and going through this experience with people really care, it's just been really fun and I think this festival is going to be an awesome experience. And knowing that I had a little hand in it is going to be really special for me."

Brubaker has been leading the digital marketing strategy for the Riverfest, but that doesn't mean that social media is the only thing she's been contributing to. "I'll be thinking of something, 'oh my gosh, what about this?' But it's all good because Kari has thought of it because she's thought of everything."

With a talented social media presence working to attract people to come for the Grand Rapids Riverfest, the scope of the event has grown since its inception last year. "For sure it has grown, and that's not a brag." Brubaker said. "It's a testament to how awesome this event is. People are excited for it. People want something like this to do and they especially want something like this that feels big and exciting in their backyard."

And that feeling of having something special to look forward to in northern Minnesota is something that resonates out beyond city limits. "So capturing those local people, but also letting the Metro area know that we're here. Letting Duluth know that we're here. And showing them the things we have to offer," Brubaker said.

Those people who come to see the indefatigable Jeff Tweedy and Wilco, might just notice something else special about this town. "Yes, come for the concert," Brubaker said, "but also check out our bike trails, check out our shopping and our dining. We have a lot to offer here."

Brubaker has had a direct role in growing the festival from its new roots last year, but last year's event was something special to behold, a feeling that Riverfest 2 will be chasing as well. "We were blown away last year. I think it was the special circumstances to have this community event where we just felt safe to let your hair down. Everyone was either vaxxed or had a negative test and it was so freeing and so magical. I think the energy was almost indescribable."

"It just captured this crazy moment with music and reconnecting with friends and poeple we hadn't seen in forever, so it was really special."

This year's Grand Rapids Riverfest will bring its own category of magic to festivarians in attendance. And there's only one way to find out what it will be. Tickets available at the Grand Rapids Riverfest website.

See you On the River!

Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.
The music director at KAXE since 2014, Kari (pronounced Car-ee) Hedlund reviews music on the daily. She also hosts New Music every Wednesday (2 and 10 p.m.) and Sunday (noon), along with the KAXE Morning Show on Thursdays.