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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

1st Assured Bail and Investigations Hosting a Run for Kids Food Basket August 5th

We've tried to highlight the people and business that do extraordinary things in the community to help where there is need and to be more than honest with ya, we're LONG overdue to get caught up with 1st Assured Bail and Investigations.  Tony Laskowicz is a local guy who got into the bail game a while back and has grown his business all over West Michigan.  As it's grown, he's also maintained the mindset of making sure he uses his platforms to help the communities he serves.

Muskegon's 1st Assured location opened a couple years ago down on Terrace street.  It was an area like many in Muskegon.  Kind of forgotten and unless you had business to do at the courthouse or the city offices, you probably were not heading down that way.  Tony also has a pretty keen eye for what's next so he put down his stakes and got the place opened up.  As Downtown Muskegon has continued to grow, his early vision has paid off.  He's now got a full staff in the place and the work goes on in Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Ottawa, Oceana....the list goes on an on.
KFB Run on Facebook

Early on, 1st Assured was in to help the Flint water crisis.  They have also been known to stock up some food pantries for pets when the need was there.  Some of the giving has been pretty loud, and I am willing to bet knowing them the little I do....more giving goes on quietly.  For our case here today's time to make some noise to raise a few bucks for the Kids Food Basket of Muskegon.

August 5th there will be an all vehicle poker run to benefit the Kids Food Basket of Muskegon.  The numbers of kids that need that essential third meal daily is staggering in Muskegon and the need continues to grow.  The run kicks off at the 46 Bar and will take you on a fun excursion up and down the lakeshore while raising a few bucks and some awareness.  It's a $10 donation to participate and the money goes to make sure that the recipients of the sack supper's in Muskegon don't have to worry about where dinner is coming from.  Games, prizes and fun of course but most importantly another step in the direction of making sure that the most vulnerable in Muskegon are taken care of.

I had a chance to catch up with Tony Laskowicz and Stephanie Kerr Cathey to talk about all of it, take a listen.

Making sure our kids are fed properly, I can't think of a more important cause.  I also cant applaud the work that Stephanie does to keep the Kids Food Basket Enough and Tony is always on the scene when the need arises for a good cause.  Enjoy the fun of the run.  If you'd like to know more, you can click on the image of the event above.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon - Where Friends Help Friends

I try to keep it well hidden, because let's face it, the whole world knows that I am a big tough guy who doesn't fear much and kind of refuses to grow up, but...if you can keep a secret, I'll let you in on a little part of me not many get to see.

Believe it or not, I have a very soft spot for those among us who are very fragile.

I can't explain where it comes from, but instinctively, I can usually pick out those who don't share the jaded view on life so many do and through the different slip and falls of my own life, I identify with them pretty easily.  You have hopefully by now heard my story enough to know that there were a few dark days in the past and that life today wouldn't be the amazing endeavor it is had they not happened.  Part of making sure you don't return to those the willingness to give back freely what you have been given and I try to do just that, but in all of my efforts...none can come close to what Judie Pratt has done in 18 and a half years at The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon.

Some of the people at The Lemonade Stand
People struggle.  People have a hard time mentally and some fight things like bi polar disorder, depression, loneliness, schizophrenia,  PTSD and worse.  Some seem trapped in their own minds while others might have not gotten the ability to interact on a day to day level.  No matter the cause...sometimes life is too much to handle and there is nowhere to turn.  Nowhere except The Lemonade Stand.

Free of judgement, free of people talking behind your back, The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon is a 100% volunteer group of people who take care of each other and allow each other to heal naturally with assistance from the group.  The chores to run the home are divided up, the conversation is real and the feelings shared are sacred.  Today, there was a young woman who had just lost her brother to suicide who was sitting down to have lunch.  She began to tremble, and cry and in a matter of minutes, she was cared for, listened to and brought back to earth all by people around her.  She later shared in the group that she comes to The Lemonade Stand so she can feel like she has a family.  Some others shared that they come so they can have structure in their day,  others like the fellowship and others..they just like to have friends.   Talking with the people in the group, they were all gentle, welcoming and peaceful.  One guy was even a little surprised that "You are the guy on TV with Lauren Stanton once in a while aren't you" to which I said "Yep...I sure am".  It sure seemed like a big deal to him!

Judie wanted me to come see how everything worked before we sat down to talk, and even invited me to lunch.  Wednesday is the day for the "big lunch", with Sunday being the big traditional family dinner you'd expect put on by Curtis who takes great pride in the spread..  It was a ham dinner with all the fixins this Wednesday and after the short meeting, we headed upstairs to chat about her work and these remarkable people.  Take a listen to our chat below.

This fills my heart.  I absolutely love the work that's going on at The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon and I also believe that what we need to heal lies within all of us.  We need to take better care of people in our society who are fragile souls and we also need to learn from them.  I got about an hour and a half today and left feeling better than I had felt in months, all because I knew that the safety net of humanity is still there.  We define ourselves by how we take care of each other...and to know that Judie has dedicated her life to making sure that those who struggle have a safe place to feel at home and cared for, this is truly what Positively Muskegon was started for.  She isn't here for the accolades but every award I've been given should probably have her name on it instead....there are truly angels among us...and you met one today.  My thanks to Judie who also wanted special mention made about Rodney and the rest of the gang who handle most of the day to day operations,  and the good people of The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon.  To follow them on Facebook, click on their logo below!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Heykoop Veteran Memorial Car Show and Benefit July 8th in Muskegon

I am a big supporter of anyone who can take a tragedy and turn it in to something amazing and when I heard from Natasha Heykoop about a car show she was putting on to help raise awareness and a few bucks to help veteran suicide awareness and prevention I thought there might be a little more to the story.

So, I agreed to meet up with her to hear a little more about it and her reason for putting it on and what I found was a touching story of someone wanting a better outcome for others than she had.

Natasha lost her brother to suicide after his time in the service.  It's something that we're all becoming painfully aware of as it's happening more and more every day.  They say, that there are 22 soldiers a day taking their own lives due to the repercussions of war and the PTSD that follows.  You may have seen the 22 push up challenge on your social media feeds.  You've seen how some have gone on long runs to raise awareness about the issue and there are those too who sit and silently suffer with the never ending replay in their own mind.  It's a hell I don't think I could even imagine.  For Natasha and her family, it's left a pretty empty spot in their lives.
Heykoop Car Show On Facebook

In the wake of the loss however, like many others, Natasha wants to do what she can to protect others from having to live through what she is.  Education, awareness and even just the knowledge out there that if there is a hand to reach out for to ask for help, our soldiers can do just that.  Men and women who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice should never have to come home to a life of suffering and anguish.  If they need help, it should be immediate and without question and of course that takes some help from all of us.

Turning a tragedy into a triumph doesn't have to be a downer.  In fact, with Natasha's brother's love of cars, they thought that there would be no better way to honor his memory than with a car show.  The car show will take place at 3500 S. Getty in Muskegon July 8th.  You'll find plenty of cars, food, music, raffles, a silent auction and more.  You'll also find the spirit of a family wanting to make sure that their loss isn't experienced by another family.  It's a first year event on a piece of property that was once celery fields, right out behind Babbit's Sports Center on the corner of Airline and Getty.  That's where I met up with Natasha to talk about the event.  Take a listen.

I can't imagine the pain, but..I also can't imagine sitting there and doing nothing.  I am so proud that Natasha trusted Positively Muskegon to tell this very personal and very touching story.  I hope from the very bottom of my heart that something like this never has to happen again, but I also am willing to bet we have not seen the last of the losses when it comes to our nations greatest hero's and their struggles post war.  The best we can do is be there for them and support grass roots efforts like Natasha's car show.  Please, find a few minutes in your Saturday to stop by and offer your support to this wonderful family.  This is exactly why Positively Muskegon was started and we're honored to have Natasha here sharing her desire to make our world a better place.

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Importance of Muskegon's Rockstock - Andy O Editorial

Muskegon has seen it's fair share of good times and bad.  We've also seen some things come and some things go as we've discussed here a multitude of times.  Ya, I am probably waving the flag again, but I happen to LOVE this community.  I love it for who we are, what we can do and through the good and the bad, we're still standing.  Muskegon is a lot of things, but one thing we are a community of quitters.

I know that there is a LOT of pride in Muskegon.  A LOT of it.  I know too, that for the last bunch of years, it's seemed like we've had more taken away than we've gained.  But follow along here for a few and hopefully, you'll see where I am going with this. I am going to use Rockstock as an example.

Rockstock got underway 10 years ago with some bar bands playing in Hackley Park.  A chance for people under 21 to get out and see some cool live music, parents and kids to get together to enjoy some noise and you know...what can it hurt to have another event in the park any way.  As a whole though, Muskegon was still contracting a little.  Brandon Baskin had a small event, with low prices and local people willing to pitch in to get something going.  Family and friends all pitched in, they still do, bands played..things were learned and step by step the event grew.  No one was biting off more than they could chew, slow and steady wins the race.

This is the second year that Rockstock was held at Heritage Landing.  Not to diminish what Summer Celebration was or what Coast West tried, they were both incredibly awesome events, but Rockstock has taken the same simple approach,  Keep prices low.  Make it affordable for families, offer things for kids to do as well as adults and find enough diversity in the music to please just about any palate.  If you saw Let There Be Rock and Crazy Babies on Monday there was plenty for the loud crowd.  If you were there for Echoes of Pink Floyd, the more cultured music palate was taken care of with one of the most incredible tribute acts I have ever seen and I don't mean maybe.

Rockstock Fans Enjoying Echoes of Pink Floyd
Tickets to get in were only $5, beers were $3 and like always, people came in droves both nights to enjoy the scene....but there was more.  People came out to be together.  People come out to be part of that Muskegon togetherness.  In or out of the festival site, Shoreline Drive was filled with people all coming together for the celebration.  We have proven once again that nothing stops Muskegon.   We might get knocked down....but you can bet we're getting back up and dusting off and going at it again.  This is an awesome community, and if you have not noticed, those "knock downs" are becoming further and further a part.  We're seeing in ourselves just how much we can just takes being together.  It takes willingness to be try new things and adjust to make them fit.  We are seeing a better side of all of ourselves and in return...we're being seen differently through the eyes of the rest of the area.  Watch Us Go they keep saying... one by one....and in groups....we're giving them all something to watch and we're growing closer and closer as the truly great city we are.

Rockstock filled the most important need.  Be it music of fireworks...Rockstock brought us all together.  Muskegon is unstoppable as one.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Lakeshore Art Festival Downtown Muskegon July 7th and 8th

In case you have not noticed, Muskegon is on a bit of a roll.  Events are picking up steam and the outlook of many has turned to an optimistic viewpoint.  It's taken a while, and there are those yet to be convinced...change never happens over night, but it's also a great thing to have some staples stick around and grow.  Staples like the Lakehsore Art Festival now in it's 55th year!

July 7th-8th Downtown Muskegon once again comes to life, wait...what am I talking about "once again", this summer seems to have been busy non stop with things to do Downtown.  Let's try that again.  July 7th-8th Downtown Muskegon continues to surge with the Lakeshore Art Festival.  Boasting 300+ booths with a very unique blend of arts, crafts, food, brews, wines, interactive elements, kids activities, family participation, street performers and more.  Hackley Park is the center point but the sprawl covers most of Downtown up to almost the Muskegon Farmers Market.  If you're looking for fine art, they will have plenty.  If you are in the market for something for the cottage that will make it feel a little more like the weekend get away spot, they have that too.  Maybe your kids want to get in and get involved and this time it doesn't involve finger paint and your carpet....hey....that's the time to get them in to art.  You can even take time to be part of "Chalk the Walk" where all you have to do is grab the chalk provided and leave your artistic impression right there for the world to see.
Lakeshore Art Festival on Facebook

This really is an event for everyone.  If the "artsy" stuff isn't your thing, there is plenty of music and food and if you're not in to music and artisan food...we've got plenty of establishments that would be happy to have you pop in and have a cold one while the rest of your party shops and walks around.  If you've not been Downtown Muskegon in a while, now's the time to come see what's going on and how the atmosphere has changed.  If you are a frequent "Downtowner" come on out and show the visitors a good time.  The more events like the Lakeshore Art Festival Succeed the more will come...and I don't know anyone who's not excited about seeing more happening in Muskegon.

Carla Flanders is with the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce who organizes the event,  We had a really nice video done at Hackley Park, but some dummy ran out of room on his video we met up again at the Chamber office and had a chat about all things Lakeshore Art Festival.  Take a listen to the details below.

It's a great time to be in Muskegon!  Our idea to Watch Us Go is getting some legs under it and it's up to us to own it!  Be part of what's going on and be a part of the future.  Your presence is all that's really requested, but if in the meantime you find yourself in need of a beer, soft drink, elephant ear or maybe some new decor for the home, the Lakeshore Art Festival is for you.  You can link right over to their site by clicking on the photo below and we'll plan on seeing you Downtown Muskegon July 7th and 8th!

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Quintessential Vibe of Electric Forest

I have preached.  I have begged.  I have even gotten involved and decided the the only way that I'll ever really know what's really going on at Electric Forest is to be part of it.  So, I threw my hat in the ring last year, dusted off the bar-tending skills that sat idol for 20 plus years and got back to work.  It was a good time last year and I learned a lot, but year two, is showing me a little more.

There are many preconceived notions in Muskegon about what this festival is.  I am not sure where some of the ideas are coming from.  A lot of times, people are very quick to judge when something new or different comes along, but you know...the only things new or different going on here are really the mindsets of the attendees.

I have been going to concerts and festivals for decades.  The first major festival for me was Van Halen's Monsters of Rock at the Silverdome back in 1987.  Van Halen, Scorpions, Metallica, Dokken, Kingdom Come.  Huge show, went to both days of it.  I was 17 and it was a spectacle beyond compare.  There were mullets a plenty, lots of people drinking beer, picking fights and yelling "show us your boobs" and forgetting about life's worries for a day or two.

Today, I will be brutally honest...I don't know the first thing about any of the bands at Electric Forest.  But you know, the attendees, they have not changed.  Instead of Metallica shirts, they wear Pokemon or Star Wars shirts.  Instead of seeing who's the toughest and trying to pick a fight, they hug and as far as the boobs...well, some are happy with just some stickers over them. They are pretty free minded.

I saw a sign someone was walking around with that said "This is where I feel alive".  Electric Forest is where they are away from the never ending barrage of slanted news coverage, horrific world views, never ending pressure and the constant search for approval.  Electric Forest is where they can just be them.  No one I know looks down at 100k plus NASCAR fans all dressed up in their favorite drivers gear...why should we look differently at someone in a viking outfit or a fairy costume?  We really shouldn't.  We should realize that what's happening here is a global sigh of relief for a weekend or two.  Trust me when I tell you, they truly come from across the globe for this.

Being there personally I know this now.  While the money is great, I know that there will be my "moment".  That there will be a surprise for me at some point in the day that will completely fill my heart.  Keep in mind too, I am a pretty fortunate guy in the life satisfaction department.  But every year so far it's happened.  This year, that moment came late Friday night.  I had been on my feet for 12+ hours for 2 days and I was tired.  I was cleaning off my little corner of the bar and there was an Easter Egg.   I grabbed it, and went to throw it out, but though "Well, what the hell....I'll look."  I found this...yes..I got a little misty eyed and I knew I was where I needed to be to have my faith in the human race restored.  It made for a very Happy Forest.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Bootsy's Beat Blog - Life in Muskegon From a Kids Point of View

When I was 10 I was riding around on my mini bike, building forts and hoping to be able to spend the night a couple times a week at any friends house that had Cinemax.  That was life in 1980 and good or bad, the average 10 year old today is kind of forced into a little more complicated life.  Computers, phones, tablets, social's all overwhelming enough for me let alone a pre-teen kid.  Do you ever wonder what life in Muskegon looks like through the eyes of a young person?

Well, you may remember Boots, who came on the blog a little over a year ago.  She came on to talk about the Muskegon Dog Park which she was very excited about and doing what she could do to help get the project up and running.  Now that that's underway, Boot's has taken it upon herself to stat her next project and that's to show the world a little more about Muskegon from her point of view.  The Blog is called Bootsy's Beat.
Boots at  yoga

The great opportunity I see here is two fold.  One, I don't ever see a bad time to develop a new talent.  Boots has shown some pretty keen interest in becoming a writer and has some pretty amazingly artful people around her.  The blog, was all her idea and she's being supported in it by her dad Chris Cordle and Sarah Sass who had a thing or two behind bringing us Veda Rooks...who's made a dent in the writing world too.  Secondly, starting as young as she is, 10....soon to be 11 mind you, we're all in for a ride.  This is the chance to watch a young person develop along with the town.  Watch her perspective change as life unfolds and as Muskegon begins to take shape once again.  She'll be on hand to chronicle what matters to her and what impacts her life.  She'll be able to hold the mirror up for us once in a while and show us what's right and wrong and for now...a reminder of what it's like to be a kid.

I took the chance to sit down with Boots now that I have a big boy camera, last time it was still the GoPro and talk about her blog and why she wants to do it.  Take a listen.

I am excited.  Not only to watch a kid take off, but to follow her and help where I can.  As we talked in the interview, the way we're getting our news and info is changing.  People are mobile...and they are adapting.  News isn't at 6 and 11 any more and it's certainly not thrown up on your front porch any more every morning.  You don't need a degree and a cheap suit to repot on things anymore and even if you're 10...soon to be 11 mind you...what you have to say matters and who you talk to can make a world of difference.  If you are so inclined...follow Bootsy's Beat, it's linked in the photo below!

Bootsy's Beat Blog