Shoreline Jazz Festival proves to be ‘great way to end the summer’ for attendees

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By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle

MUSKEGON, MI — The two-day Shoreline Jazz Festival kicked off on Saturday, Aug. 23 at Heritage Landing.

Thousands were in the makeshift orchestral seating, while a select few hundred paid extra for the reserved seating located in the front near the performers.

Ann Arbor resident Jerry Clayton, along with his wife, was among the spectators who were seated near the front.

The two had never been to any of the jazz festivals that took place in Muskegon prior to Shoreline’s and said they thought they would try their luck at Heritage Landing.

“The first two artists were great and we look forward to Tim Bowman,” Clayton said. “My wife has all the CDs, so we are familiar with all the music.”

After only two performers, Clayton said he and his wife have already talked about returning next year.

As a jazz enthusiast, Clayton said he jumps at the chance to attend any festival or concert that includes jazz.

“It’s a good opportunity to get away from the day-to-day grind that you have to do,” he said. “It’s a great way to end the summer, so we are really appreciative of the Muskegon community for putting this on.”

The couple had learned about the Shoreline Jazz Festival two weeks ago through an advertisement in a magazine and quickly made arrangements in their schedules.

Since Clayton saw his first jazz concert 30 years ago, he hasn’t looked back.

“At the time (of my first concert), my wife and I had actually just met,” Clayton said. “As I’ve gotten older, I have grown to appreciate jazz.”

RELATED: 4-time Grammy nominee Boney James ready to headline Shoreline Jazz Festival

Two hours into the festival, the guitars, saxophones and drums could be heard across the grounds, blending in one uniform sound that produced the smooth and often fast-paced jazz the spectators had come for.

Many came prepared with an array of umbrellas and lawn chairs. One of the avid listeners was Angela Flowers, who was seated under an enveloping umbrella that nearly doubled as a tent.

Flowers, who also traveled from the other side of the state, was there to enjoy every musician. This was evident by her ability to name off all the artists that were performing.

“We’ll be here for both days, but we’re not camping out, we didn’t rough it,” she said.

Under her Sportbrella, the Detroit resident admitted that she, too, was a first-timer for the Shoreline Jazz Festival. However, it wasn’t her first time traveling to hear some jazz.

“Oh, we attend a lot of other jazz festivals around the state,” Flowers said. “We average about five or six a year.”

Tony Wittkowski is a staff reporter at MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at twittkow@mlive.com and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 23, 2014)

Rare motor gliders flown in Grand Haven as tribute to Tuskegee Airmen

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By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle

MUSKEGON, MI — More than 70 years after the Tuskegee Airmen first took flight together, their memory lives on through the fly-in demos that took place on Saturday, Aug. 23 in Grand Haven.

Steve Tupper was one of the pilots who impressed the crowd that gathered at the Grand Haven Memorial Airpark for the fly-in and Dawn Patrol breakfast.

In the air, Tupper and company flew Schweizer TG-7A motor gliders, which are measured at 27.5 feet long, more than 8 feet tall and with a wingspan of 59.5-feet.

Even though the gliders fly at around 95 mph, Tupper said they are much slower compared to the real thing. Despite this, the gliders do hold some advantages over regular planes.

“These gliders tend to be very slow. We flew 500 feet off the ground and 500 feet away from the crowd (this morning),” Tupper said. “This allows us to do dramatic things, like simulate an engine failure and get back around. It’s impressive to pilots because it is not something you do in a regular airplane.”

Tupper, who is a team member of the Tuskegee Airmen national Historical Museum located in Detroit, was surprised to see so much support for aviation in the Grand Haven community.

The main intent of the show was to educate residents about the flying unit known as Tuskegee Airmen, who served as the first African American flying unit to see action in World War II.

Working with the national museum, Team Tuskegee instructs and flies with children from the inner city of Detroit. In a collaborative effort with the national museum, the Grand Haven Memorial Airpark, the Grand Haven Aviation Association and the Loutit District Library came together to bring the show and educational portion to West Michigan.

RELATED: Tuskegee Airmen the focus of fly-in, lecture to be held in Grand Haven

While expecting only a few hundred people, the event saw close to 1,000 attendees, Tupper said.

“The crowd really seemed to like the three aircrafts flying in close formation,” Tupper said. “The big thing was that people who have never been out to the airport showed up and learned a thing or two. Grand Haven is a place where people can learn how to fly the smaller aircrafts.”

After flying a demo at 10:30 a.m. – which lasted a good 10-14 minutes – the pilots met with kids and allowed them to get in and out of the gliders.

What surprised Tupper the most was the reaction they received the day before the fly-in demo. The pilots had completed a fly-over the day before to test the wind conditions, where afterward they were approached by random people on the street that either knew something about the planes or asked intelligent questions about them.

“We fly any number of air shows, but this was one of the best host committees we have ever had,” Tupper said. “We really enjoyed the people. Not that many air shows have that number of people.

“At the end of the day, all the best dreams occur in the atmosphere or above the atmosphere.”

Tony Wittkowski is a staff reporter at MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at twittkow@mlive.com and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 21, 2014)

A strong spirit: ‘Save Our City’ hosts health screenings, prayer sessions in Muskegon Heights

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By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, MI — A former Muskegon resident took the time to visit her hometown to spread the power of both prayer and health.

The First Ladii, who now resides in Atlanta, helped promote the event called A Prayer for Healing and Musk-Care Free Health Screenings that featured 10 services held at Johnny O. Harris Park in Muskegon Heights from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21.

Partnered with the Mercy Health Muskegon’s Wheels of Mercy and Community Health Project, Muskegon Heights city officials and the Smith Ryerson Park community center, the First Ladii joined forces with other religious leaders as part of an 11-day campaign called “Save Our City.”

“A lot of people are ill and don’t know that they are ill because they can’t afford insurance,” she said. “This way, they can find out if they need to go to a doctor right away.”

The event attracted about a dozen people, who had the option of being screened for depression, HIV, AIDS, as well as get vision, diabetes, pulmonary function and blood pressure tests.

According to the First Ladii, God gave her the vision to hold the campaign, as well as the intent to return to Muskegon. The reaction has been anything but a surprise for the Atlanta resident.

“People have been happy about what we are doing,” the First Ladii said. “When we first came, a guy came up and he wanted prayer. He said after we prayed for him, he felt the lift come off of him. That’s what we are doing this for. We want to pray over people.”

Others within the community have begun to see the impact this 11-day campaign has had on willing participants.

Senior Pastor Johnnie L. Brown Jr. of Greater Works Kingdom Church will be taking over responsibilities next year and knows the intent and message behind the Musk-Care Health Screenings has gotten through to the community.

“Even though the numbers were small, you have to think about everything that’s been happening in our city,” Brown said, referencing to the fatal shooting that occurred Thursday morning. “I believe there are a lot of people who are humble for help. Some may not know how to get the help they need. We offer them God, we offer them Jesus Christ.”

The mix of prayer and health screenings has helped serve a duality of purposes for “Save Our City.” Both the First Ladii and Brown know the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

“As much as you want your spiritual man to be strong, you want your physical man to be healthy, too,” Brown said.

Tony Wittkowski is a staff reporter at MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at twittkow@mlive.com and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 21, 2014)

Pound Buddies partners with Raymond James to deliver animal adoption ‘Meet & Greet’

Pound Buddies will be teaming up with Raymond James for a “Meet & Greet” on Saturday, Aug. 23 to help both dogs and cats find a new home. (Madelyn Hastings | Photographer)

Pound Buddies will be teaming up with Raymond James for a “Meet & Greet” on Saturday, Aug. 23 to help both dogs and cats find a new home. (Madelyn Hastings | Photographer)

By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle

MONTAGUE, MI — Wet noses and whiskers will get a second look this weekend.

Pound Buddies is teaming up with Raymond James for a “Meet & Greet” on Saturday, Aug. 23 to help both dogs and cats find new homes. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the grassy park across the street from the Montague Farmers’ Market.

The available animals will be made up of the dogs and cats ready for adoption from Pound Buddies Animal Shelter and Adoption Center in Muskegon. The “Meet & Greet” is being sponsored and staffed by Raymond James as part of national Raymond James Cares Month.

Pound Buddies staff, volunteers and participants in Pound Buddies’ foster dog program will also be there to help and supply information as well as provide pet application forms.

“This fun event will give people the opportunity to meet and play with some delightful dogs and cats and to support Pound Buddies, which does a remarkable job managing nearly 2,000 homeless dogs a year and hundreds of homeless cats,” said Judy Stojak, associate vice president for investments for Raymond James, Muskegon and Pound Buddies board member.

RELATED: U.S. Navy veteran, pit bull from Muskegon help each other through Pets for Vets

Staff from the Raymond James office in Muskegon will be selling homemade treats for both people and pets.

Additionally, a photo studio will be set up for people who would like to have their picture taken with their current pets, and live music will be provided by Montague residents, Karen and Eric Smith.

Donations of dog and cat food, kitty litter and office supplies are welcome by “Meet & Greet” attendees. All goods and money raised will be given to Pound Buddies.

Pound Buddies has been taking part in animal rescue in Muskegon County for more than 16 years. Since 2010, it has managed Muskegon County’s animal shelter where it has developed adoption and foster care programs.

For those seeking information about Pound Buddies or hoping to fill out a pet application prior to the “Meet & Greet,” visit their website at www.poundbuddies.org.

Tony Wittkowski is a staff reporter at MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at twittkow@mlive.com and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 21, 2014)

Former stripper to visit Muskegon to promote novel that contains ‘morality lessons’

By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle

MUSKEGON, MI — It took more than 20 years, but Louis Agnello finished his novel.

Agnello, who is known as Cousin Vinny, will be at the Barnes & Noble located on 5275 S. Harvey St. on Aug. 22 from 5-8 p.m. to sign copies of “The Devil’s Glove” and to discuss his own personal story.

His novel is about a minor league baseball player who seeks help from the Devil to play in the majors. The idea came to him in a dream.

The book cover of "The Devil's Glove."

The book cover of “The Devil’s Glove.”

The book has garnered national attention and led to a book-signing tour with stops at multiple U.S. cities.

He began working on his novel in 1991 and put it aside two years later with approximately 80 percent completed. Twenty years later, Agnello revisited his work and not only finished the last portion, but retooled his previous progress.

“The first 80 percent was completely rewritten,” Agnello said. “All the life experiences I had come across in my very colorful life added some wisdom. When I did the last 20 percent, it was so much better I had to rewrite the rest.”

The life experiences Agnello referred to were in connection to his time in New York. In his heyday, Agnello was called the “Stripper King of New York.” His 13 years of stripping led to the stripper-gate scandal, which eventually put him on the path back to his manuscript.

In 2009, while escorting some strippers to a bachelor party, Agnello was shot twice – once in the thigh and another in the chest. Luckily, one of the .32 caliber slugs was stopped by a stack of credit cards that were in his breast pocket.

The shot that nearly ended his life jumpstarted his renewed effort toward finishing his writing.

His novel, which was originally called “The Magic Glove,” became popular enough to catch the attention of Tate Publishing, a Christian-based publisher. From there it went through changes that included the title.

The entire process of getting to know his characters has provided Agnello the chance to take a look in the mirror.

“I had to go through the wash, rinse and spin cycle to wake up and realize that there are more important things than having a good time,” Agnello said. “I was a hedonist all my life.”

The man once known as the “Stripper King of New York” has been touring the country, offering advice and letting his readers know the message of his book.

He also is scheduled for a book-signing event 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23 in Grand Rapids. The event is set for Barnes & Noble, 3195 28th St. SE in Grand Rapids.

Tony Wittkowski is a staff reporter at MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at twittkow@mlive.com and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 21, 2014)

Local Beats: HDOE performs in front of rain-soaked crowd aboard the USS LST-393

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By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle

MUSKEGON, MI — When the rain came down harder, the music got louder.

Jose “Jodi Dro” Loera and Jaron “Pape” Loera performed aboard the USS LST-393 on Saturday, Aug. 16 in front of a thankful crowd. Together, the cousins make up the hip-hop duo HDOE, which stands for “HD over everything.”

Back stage before the show – which is being called the “Showboat” – the Muskegon-native artists contemplate their upcoming performance. The main topic among the group is the stage they are performing on.

Not many people see hip hop and the military in a similar light, but for some it hits home.

“It shows that we can break down any barriers,” Jaron says keeping his arms crossed. “We were excited to play on this ship.”

As the performers continue to ready themselves for the show in the “Ward Room,” multiple people come to the door asking questions and popping in to say hello. The scene is hectic and a bit overwhelming, but that’s all part of the job according to Jose.

“Rapping is my job,” Jose says. The performers seem anxious, but their calm demeanor is yielding. “If we don’t do good, then I ain’t doing too good. This is my life.”

Outside the crowd grows antsy, as the rain begins to fall – slow at first. The “Showboat” kicks off with the National Anthem and is now underway.

Ray Gottie livens things up with a few songs before being relieved by Unkey Fenzarelli. Now the crowd begins to gather at the front of the stage and the rain continues to fall harder.

N1NO & Franchi$e were next and with them came the towels. A look out from beyond the stage and the duo can see umbrellas and trash bags being put to use halfway through the third set.

With five opening acts, the HDOE presented other Muskegon talent as well as groups from Grand Rapids and Traverse City.

Throughout the show Jose is seen talking up the performers and acknowledging some of the crowd as the show progresses. The rain picks up even more, but the performers remain on stage.

The deck becomes slippery as spectators continue to dance, while others run to their cars for shelter. But they soon reboard the ship when HDOE takes the stage ahead of schedule.

In the dark, with a drummer seated above them, the duo opens with “What I’m Worth” and gives the crowd what they came for.

With a towel in hand, Jose thanks the crowd and tells them, “We don’t care about a little rain.”

The crowd gathers around the stage in a “U” formation and discards the bags and umbrellas. Jose and Jaron spit and rhyme as their clothes begin to collect water.

From a bird’s eye view, the only lights on the main deck are behind the two dancing figures. As the lights behind the stage change colors, HDOE is illuminated in both light and rain.

After they finish their set – with the juices still flowing – they realize it will all come full circle when they leave the stage.

“I forgot to eat today,” Jose admits. “It will all wind down for me once we get home.”

Tony Wittkowski is a staff reporter at MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at twittkow@mlive.com and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 17, 2014)

Beer as a form of art: Beer-tasting event with artwork returns to Whitehall

The Arts Council of White Lake announced its second Artist-N-Beer event in Whitehall on Saturday, Aug. 23. (MLive File Photo)

The Arts Council of White Lake announced its second Artist-N-Beer event in Whitehall on Saturday, Aug. 23. (MLive File Photo)

By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle

WHITEHALL, MI — Both art and beer will be on tap in Whitehall on Saturday, Aug. 23.

The Artist-N-Beer event is coming back to the White Lake area, but in a new venue. From 4-8 p.m. on Saturday, residents have the opportunity to buy artwork and wet their whistle behind the planned site of Fetch Brewing Company, located on 100 W. Colby St.

Kim Harsch, the executive director of the Arts Council of White Lake, said this will be the second time the Artist-N-Beer event will take place in Whitehall, as it has been one of the few events that has been focused around both beer and art.

“It’s going to be unique. There are a lot of beer-tasting events, not many focus on the art of beer-making,” she said. “Combining artwork with beer is a little bit of a unique experience, so we’re glad to have an event like this.”

Along with the craft beer, attendees will be able to browse artwork provided by ACWL artists and the Nuveen Center, as well as musical performances.

The new location is more equipped to host a beer–tasting event, as the council first held it in front of its office two years ago.

The event will include music from local musicians and is expected to be held every two years alternating with the area’s wine-tasting event.

“The last time (we had this event) was two years ago,” Harsch said. “We’ve been rotating it with a wine-tasting event. Two years ago we had about 140 attendees, but this year we are shooting for at least 200.”

Tickets can be purchased ahead of time for $30 in advance, while increasing in price to $35 at the gate. Harsch said tickets can be bought online at artswhitelake.org, where there is a limited amount of 200 tickets that will be sold.

Since grant funding doesn’t always cover costs for nonprofit groups, the money raised from the event goes toward supporting the Arts Council of White Lake operationally.

“We are really fortunate the committee is made of all volunteers from the community,” Harsch said. “We are really, really fortunate to have such support.”

One of the main intentions for this year’s Artist-N-Beer will be to educate the public on the process of making beer. Additionally, the beer selection will not be something the ordinary shopper would find at any local store.

Jennifer Hain, who runs the Fetch Brewing Company with her husband, Dan, is a member of the committee and is known for her extensive knowledge of beer.

When bringing this type of event to the public, Hain strategically handpicked people who were familiar with craft beer.

“There are actually quite a few beer connoisseurs in this area,” Hain said. “They are working directly with distributors to bring in unique styles and tastes. It will all be Michigan beer.”

Since their initial plans to open a brewing company in Whitehall, Hain became very familiar with the Arts Council of White Lake and decided to throw her hat in to helping with the community-wide event.

“They were looking to do an event that had been done two years ago,” Hain said. “With their art knowledge and our beer knowledge, it was a good pairing. Beer is a form of art, and bringing the artists into where you are doing the sampling of beers was a solution for raising funds.”

Tony Wittkowski is a staff reporter at MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at twittkow@mlive.com and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 17, 2014)