One last dance

Becky Vargo • Aug 26, 2016 at 10:00 AM

A breeze off Lake Michigan and the Grand River offset muggy conditions enough Wednesday night to keep a few hundred people Dancing on the Grand.

The local live music event at Waterfront Stadium will happen one more time this summer — on Aug. 31 — with music by the trio called Entourage. Dance time is 7-9 p.m. and admission is $3. 

“This is so unique,” said Gloria Draeger, a member of the event committee. “There’s no other place along the Lakeshore with anything like this.”

See more photos and video from Wednesday’s dance at the Tribune photo gallery.

On Wednesday, The Lakeshore Big Band, the largest band on the schedule for the summer, played a variety of old-time hits that seemed to still appeal to all ages.

While some couples chose to do a traditional dance, others preferred to line dance their way through the night.

Fruitport resident Larry Hewitt concentrated on instructions given by his dancing partners during the line dance.

“I’ve been dancing all my life and I just love this,” he said.

Jessica Zoladz of West Bloomfield twirled around and around with her children: Kara, 5, and Joshua, 3. They were in town for a vacation.

“We were eating ice cream and needed to go for a walk,” Zoladz said. “That’s when we found this.”

Lakeshore Big Band Director Brian Obits and his wife, Karen, who also plays in the band, said they were thrilled to perform at Grand Haven’s waterfront for the second time this year.

“It’s wonderful, as always,” Brian said.

Organizer Grace Stanton had to chuckle at that, noting the last time the band played was during Coast Guard Festival when there was a power outage. But one of the committee members had a friend on a boat at the adjacent city marina, so the musicians who needed power hooked up to the boat’s generator and the band played on.

Stanton said dances at the waterfront venue have been going on for decades, with the Bob Warner Band being the primary performers in the 1980s. The event used to be free, but a nominal fee ($3) is now charged to help cover the costs of renting the facility, paying the bands and paying for the insurance.

“Three dollars doesn’t begin to cover the costs,” said Draeger.

But now that the event is organized under the umbrella of the Tri-Cities Historical Museum, the committee can take donations and apply for grants. A recent grant from the Marion and Ruth Sherwood Fund and the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation is keeping the program in the black this year and next year, Draeger said.

Anyone who wants to donate to keep the dances going may do so by making a donation to the museum and marking it for “Dancing on the Grand.”

Nine different bands, including dance bands from Spring Lake and Grand Haven high schools, performed during this year’s 12-week season. This was the first year that the Grand Haven High School Jazz Band played, Stanton said.

“It’s a way of showcasing local talent,” she said.

Attendance averages about 200 people, but the number was a lot higher during the Coast Guard Festival, Stanton said.

Draeger said the evening is a great experience for entire families, who often stay to view the Musical Fountain after the dance.

“It’s good music, good exercise and socialization,” she said.

You can follow Dancing on the Grand on its Facebook page

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