Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival returns for 2021

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The festival will include traditional Vietnamese lion dances, Taiko drummers, various singing and dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, and karaoke and pho-eating contests. Courtesy Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Foundation

The fifth annual Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival will take place from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Calder Plaza, 250 Monroe Ave. NW in Grand Rapids.

The festival, which was canceled last year because of COVID-19, celebrates Asian and Pacific Island cultures through a variety of demonstrations, performances and vendors.

“It has been a tough year for a lot of people,” said Ace Marasigan, founder and CEO of the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Foundation. “After being unable to share our event last year, we are very excited to return to downtown and celebrate our rich cultures with the West Michigan community.”

The free two-day event will feature singer-songwriter and California native AJ Rafael, who will headline the event with two performances on Friday. His debut album, “Red Roses,” charted on Billboard and at No. 4 on the Pop iTunes Charts. He has over 1 million YouTube subscribers and 900,000 listeners on Spotify. Rafael was recognized as a Fil-Am Game Changer by the city of Los Angeles in 2017.

The festival also will include traditional Vietnamese lion dances, Taiko drummers, various singing and dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, and karaoke and pho-eating contests.

There will be nearly a dozen food and drink vendors at the festival who will be selling a myriad authentic Asian-Pacific fare ranging from Halo-Halo, which is a Filipino shaved ice dessert, teas, pho and street food like meat on a stick.

The Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Foundation has teamed up with The Mitten Brewing Company and Founders Brewing Co. to create custom Asian-Pacific-inspired beers, which will be available for purchase at the event.

“We’re teaming up with two of Grand Rapids’ most prominent breweries to demonstrate that our Asian-Pacific community members belong in Beer City,” Marasigan said.

The Mitten Brewing Company will create I Dream of Lychee, which is a blonde ale brewed with fresh lychee and cardamom.

“We are proud to release I Dream of Lychee in support of our longtime friends at the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Foundation,” said Chris Andrus, co-owner of The Mitten Brewing Company. “This refreshing summer ale will pair perfectly with the festivities at this year’s event.”

Founders Brewing Co. will create its exclusive GRAPF Mango Passion, a wheat ale with notes of mango and passionfruit.

“Founders is honored to team up with the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Foundation on the production process for this special beer. As a member of the AAPI community myself, I’m extremely proud of this undertaking, and we hope our partnership helps our community recognize the challenges faced by Asian Americans and their vital contributions to our community’s history and future,” said Sandy Anaokar, vice president of marketing for Founders Brewing Co.

The complete schedule of events is available on the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival’s website.

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