The Thornapple Plaza in downtown Hastings will have a Grand Opening Thursday, April 28 at 12:45 p.m., with its first performance by the Hastings High School Steel Drum Band at 1 p.m.
The Grand Opening is a way to officially thank the Baum Family Foundation for its generous contribution to the community and begin the 2016 Thornapple Arts Council’s Jazz Festival.
Hastings Mayor Frank Campbell, members of the Baum Family Foundation, the Hastings City Council, Downtown Development Authority, Thornapple Arts Council and Barry County Chamber of Commerce will all be part of the official opening of Hastings latest entertainment attraction.
The new 700-seat amphitheater will open with a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by the Steel Drum Band kicking off the three-day Thornapple Arts Council Jazz Festival.
This summer, on several nights a week from June-August, the Plaza will be home to a wide variety of musical entertainment.
What follows will be years of free musical entertainment for Hastings residents and visitors in a growing, culturally-vibrant downtown.//
Hastings Mayor Frank Campbell said it all started when a prospering business moved to a bigger space in downtown Hastings and the city saw an opportunity to purchase the vacant property and an adjacent house lot.
The concept for a large band shell on the Thornapple River was the vision of Hastings business owner and 30-year city council member, the late Dave Jasperse, Campbell said.
Jasperse thought the river-front property was the perfect spot for such a cultural gathering place. After several discussions between Hastings City Manager Jeff Mansfield and local manufacturer-philanthropist Larry Baum, the concept took shape and the Baum Family Foundation agreed to fund the entire project.
“It started as just an outdoor amphitheater, but with all the interest from area organizations, it was clear Thornapple Plaza will be used for a lot of things,” Baum said. “We wanted it to be a whole community asset that helps make Hastings a regional destination.”
“I see the Thornapple Plaza impacting the Downtown in several ways,” Mansfield commented. “First, we fully anticipate that larger events at the Plaza will bring visitors to Hastings from all over Southwest Michigan, benefiting not only the downtown merchants, but businesses throughout the broader Hastings community.
“But, the Plaza’s key location on the east end of Hastings’ traditional downtown will also serve to draw event attendees through our downtown, bringing much more exposure to the businesses located along the way.”
The inaugural event for the Plaza is a three-day, educational and multi-generational Jazz clinic and celebration.
“The Thornapple Plaza provides a large-scale outdoor facility that we don't have anywhere else in Barry County,” said Thornapple Arts Council Executive Director Megan Lavell.
“It's a beautiful facility that puts the Arts in the public's eye as they drive by, use the Riverwalk Trail, or meander through downtown.
“It allows organizations like the Thornapple Arts Council to host big names in an outdoor setting during warm months. Large cities throughout our region host big outdoor performances, and now we can do the same right here in Barry County,” Lavell said.
On opening night, April 28, Andy Narell and the Mott Steelheads will take the Thornapple Plaza stage at 5 p.m. The United States Navy Liberty Call Big Band is the Jazz Festival’s top headliner and will perform Saturday, April 30 at 5:30 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.
The Thornapple Plaza is at 301 East State across from the Hastings Public Library.
The public can enjoy the Hastings High School Band concert on May 19 at 7 p.m., and the Hastings City Band will perform every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. from June 15 – July 13.
Thursdays from June 9 – Aug. 25 will feature local musical groups in a variety of musical styles. Friday Night Features, at 7:30 pm, will welcome special headliners: Jr. Walker’s Allstar Band on June 17, country artist Matt Williams on July 15, and beach/surfing music band West Side Soul Surfers, on Aug. 12.
For more information on events in downtown Hastings and the Thornapple Plaza visit www.DowntownHastings.com. For more on the Jazz Festival, visit www.thornapplearts.org/jazzfestival.
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