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Our past, our future.

I felt it last night. It happens from time to time and then and again but last night was an overwhelming bunch of it and while I might have normally come back home and said something quickly, I gave it a sleep to make sure I was feeling it.

I was the emcee last night at Party in the Park and it was perfect. We had a huge crowd, a delightful soul band playing the smell of delicious food in the air people smiling, dancing, kids playing….39 years this has been going on. As I was taking it all in, I thought too about what else was happening in the area and that’s where it really started to come home.

Down the street, the Miss Michigan program was happening at the Frauenthal. Western Ave is lined with open air restaurants now with people enjoying the company of one another and an experience at one time that no one ever imagined. Keep in mind, there were literally tumbleweeds Downtown Muskegon when I first moved here. In Muskegon Heights, there was a kickoff party for the Juneteenth Weekend, there will be comedy and music nightly for the next couple of nights. There are giant powerboats in town this weekend and the crews and fans that follow them. We have giant cruise ships docked with charter busses moving people through our attractions and business. Lakeside too is open air entertainment and a relaxed atmosphere. Earlier in the day yesterday, Consumers Energy supplied a grant for $250,000 to Muskegon Heights to renew Rowan Park. We have major construction going on at Adelaide Pointe and more. We have housing being built. We have an airshow coming back. In a couple weeks, we’ll have an entire regions population of motorcycle folks, after that we’ll see one of the biggest Christian music festivals in the country and then Irishfest.

I harken back to the days of the tumbleweeds. As an event planner and participant, it was a bloody knuckle battle to pick a day to do anything so you didn’t crush someone else’s event. It was a gamble to try to book anything on a day when something else was going on. Western Avenue was a ghost town and the looming idea that your car would get towed or you’d get mugged was all there was. It was hard, but we managed. I too miss the events that we all enjoyed, but….like anything, time moves on and adaptation is a two way street. What was is a great memory, but it can get in the way of what’s to come. Trying to revive the same old thing we once had? It’s a tall order because believe it or not, most of what was didn’t end at the fault of any “one” or any “thing”. The quickness to blame is human nature, but I will ask one simple reality based question. Is a $10 concert like we had at Summer Celebration in any way possible in your wildest dreams? If your answer is yes. Well, it’s time to offer yourself a little reality check, because it’s no longer.

Look at what we did. Look at what we do. Look at what’s to come. Today, to me, this feels like we’re riding a rocket in the right direction. Our ability to host more than one thing….it’s staggering if I look back over my 20 years as boots on the ground here. We’ve tripled or quadrupled our capacity for events and entertainment and from the broadest perspective, the eyes are turning toward Muskegon as the rebirth continues. It’s been a long, and hard road. There’s been the loss of things we loved and there’s also been “new stuff” that takes some getting used to, but the momentum is on our side.

I don’t write this as “Muskegon’s biggest cheerleader” as some have labeled me, which by the way….I’ll take that label any day. I write this as one of Muskegon’s biggest grunts who’s been a part of most of all of this in one way or another and I am hoping that I speak for many who have never given up on “what’s to come”. Because it’s coming. We’re doing it. We have a lot to be proud of and much to be thankful for.

Andy O


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