Blue Cap set to rock the rapids

June 3, 2011
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When Blue Cap Entertainment President Dennis Baxter first approached city officials about holding a six-day music festival called Rock the Rapids on two publically owned downtown parking lots in August, he promised them that ticket prices would be affordable.

Baxter not only kept his promise, he established precedent-setting prices for live shows.

An advance single ticket for one of the six shows is $29 and a two-day pass sells for $39. But the real deal is a pass for all six days at $79, or $17.13 per concert. With ticket prices seldom less than $50, especially for widely recognized and established performers, how can Blue Cap offer concerts for less than $20?

“We’ve been working with the right people to find the artists at affordable prices, and after a few years in the business, you get some pretty good opportunities. But these prices are aggressively low because we’re optimistically hopeful that our community will grasp what we are trying to achieve with Grand Rapids’ original music festival and step up and support the event with purchases,” said Dan McCrath, a partner with Baxter in Blue Cap and the firm’s vice president, in an e-mail to the Business Journal.

“We are also hopeful that corporate sponsors will see the value in having an event such as this for their city and will play a role, as well,” he said, while adding that sponsorships are still available and anyone interested should contact him.

Rock the Rapids 2011 will open Monday, Aug. 8, with Lynyrd Skynyrd on stage and wrap up its premiere downtown event with Ludacris on Saturday. The Stone Temple Pilots, Willie Nelson, Alice Cooper and Blake Shelton will fill the week’s Tuesday through Friday lineup, in that order. The event will set up on two parking lots just south of Van Andel Arena on Oakes Street SW.

A cast of hundreds will be needed to pull it off.

“It will take as many as 400 people, and quite possibly more. In fact, volunteer applications are available through the Rock the Rapids website and on Facebook. We’ll have some corporate sponsors who will bring volunteers in with their sponsorship dollars, as well,” said McCrath. Volunteers help with guest services, information and customer services, and in a few other areas.

“We’ll not only be building a stage with full festival light and sound rigs, but a festival village, as well. This village will be a place where pre-concert fun and activities will be introduced, making it more than just a concert each evening, but rather the place to be during August that week,” he said. “We’ll be using several businesses capable of providing us the elements needed to make this village look and feel like a true music festival.”

Rob Bliss, of Zombie Walk and Lip Dub fame, will direct the event’s promotions.

The August event will be the third year Blue Cap has offered Rock the Rapids. The first was a two-day festival in 2009, while the second grew to a three-day event last year. Both were held at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, home to the West Michigan Whitecaps — a single A minor league baseball team that Baxter co-founded with Lew Chamberlin in 1994. Baxter is the team’s CFO.

McCrath said he and Baxter felt the music festival had outgrown the ballpark, so they wanted to move the event downtown. They hope to make downtown the festival’s permanent base.

“If the community supports this in 2011, it would only make sense to continue, and our goal is to do just that,” said McCrath.

So far, the city supports it, as city commissioners and the Downtown Development Authority gave the festival the green light.

“The city and the DDA all voted unanimously in our favor. We’re thankful for that. It sends a message that our leaders feel this festival represents a very positive opportunity for Grand Rapids’ future,” said McCrath.

Blue Cap also sees some possible funding opportunities for nonprofit organizations coming from the event if it proves to be an annual hit.

“There are some great organizations that can benefit from our efforts. The Rock the Rapids board of directors has already begun planning for future beneficiaries beyond those currently involved,” said McCrath. John Ball Zoo is this year’s beneficiary.

“It can also be an outlet for people who are disenfranchised with expensive concert ticket prices. Rock the Rapids provides an opportunity to see great national and international performers at very low prices.”

For ticket prices and availability, go to or to any Meijer store. For more information on the event, sponsorships and volunteer opportunities, go to

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