Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
Candice Risner just wanted her band Bridgewater to play the Michigan Pride Festival last year. So she made phone calls and sent emails and in her words, she “finally” got a return call. She attended a meeting, agreed to book her own band and two others for the festival.
“All of the sudden I became the stage manager,” Risner said with a laugh.
That experience launched the 37-year-old kitchen trainer for Applebee’s, headlong into Michigan Pride. Within months she was the new senior co-chair of the group. And her fire for pride was contagious. She recruited an almost brand new board, including bringing in a certified public accountant to handle the money and act as treasurer. The new board features Lansing resident Deb Harding as treasurer, St. Louis Michigan resident Donna Brown as secretary, Jacob Peabody of Sunfield, Rodger Giessman of Lansing as the youth outreach coordinator, Lance O’Connor of Richmond, Indiana, as director of funding and Dan Grubb of Lansing as junior co-chair.
Along with a new board, come new operational procedures. The board, in an interview with BTL last Sunday, said the group is informed regularly of everything that is going on. Everyone knows about contracts, conversations, issues and plans.
For Risner it was about one thing. “We can’t fall short on our youth,” she said. “We have to support them. It is a rough world out there, as kids they are having a really hard time too.”
As a result, the festival space in Lansing’s Lou Adado Riverfront Park has expanded to feature the entire west bank of the river, across Grand Avenue from Lansing Community College. The layout has been redesigned, creating a dance area over at a structure in the park called the Salt Shed, and the main stage for entertainment will be on the south side of the green area. The alcohol area has been broken into two smaller areas, with one overlooking the dance area, and one to the side of the mainstage. Risner said she wanted the youth and those who don’t drink to have access to watching the mainstage productions.
The group has also expanded from a Friday and Saturday schedule to a full weekend of entertainment and events.
On June 27, the group will host a comedy show at Cadillac Club on S. Washington in Lansing. The show will feature Mimi Gonzalez, Leslie Thompson – yes the CEO of Affirmations Thompson – and Los Angeles based comedian Jason Dudey. On June 28 the group will do the traditional march leading to a rally at the steps of the capitol which will be organized by Michigan Equality. There will also be a mass commitment ceremony, officiated by Rev. Kent Lederer of Unity of Greater Lansing. Following that, the festival will kick off. On Sunday June 28, the festival will continue with a pet and family day.
The festival line up will feature Bridgewater Band from Jackson, Julie Llyod, lead singer of Chicago based Girl Parts, will perform solo, then Parma Michigan based Rockabilly band Kung Fu Diesel will perform. Following Kung Fu Diesel will be R&B/rap artist Goddess and She, which performed live on the third season of “The L Word.” Following Goddess and She will be Gregory Douglas from Vermont
The headliner will be Sister Otis and she will be playing an hour and half set. Risner is gets very excited talking about Otis, and her newly formed New Orleans based band.
“She is smoking,” said Risner. “She is high energy.”
Following Otis will be Barbara Payton and Courday and the G-Strings.
The group is currently negotiating with the City of Lansing to produce a fire works show, and run the festival until midnight in the park.
As with all non-profits, money is an issue. Risner said she had a ton of ideas, however was unable to implement them because the coffers of the organization were low. The event will cost an estimated $65,000 to produce, she said. The group has already raised two-thirds of that money through sponsorships and a grant from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing.
“I want people to be comfortable with us,” Risner said, acknowledging the last several years have been rocky for the group. “I am honored to say none of us gets paid for what we do.”