Tyler Sales Inc. played a central role in helping the Muskegon area host a five‐day festival to celebrate July Fourth and honor the nation’s service men and women. Read this MLive report that perfectly captures the excitement of the extravaganza.
Here's to the Heroes marks new chapter in Muskegon's celebration of Independence Day
By Brandon Champion | BCHAMPIO@mlive.com July 04, 2014
MUSKEGON, MI – Peanut butter and jelly, ketchup and mustard, Heritage Landing and the Fourth of July.
Independence Day and Muskegon's signature festival ground have gone hand and hand since at least the 1960s, and probably longer. The names of events held have changed, as have their focus, but the importance of a Fourth of July celebration in Muskegon cannot be understated.
“No doubt about it, it’s a tradition,” said Ellen Berends, Salute Muskegon communications director.
Berends is one of many people who worked to organize Muskegon's newest Fourth of July festival, “Here's to the Heroes,” which was held July 2‐6 in downtown Muskegon and Heritage Landing.
The tribute to Muskegon WWII hero Joe Beyrle and all military heroes took a different approach than previous festivals, putting the focus on veterans rather than marquee musical acts.
“Coming from a family of servicemen, I always believe the focus should be on veterans, especially on Independence Day,” Berends said. “We're very proud to be able to do this event.”
The festival featured several appearances by the world‐famous Budweiser Clydesdales, fireworks, a fly‐over, tributes and memorials to former and current servicemen and the opening of the permanent exhibit to Beyrle at the USS Silversides Museum.
“An event like this is extremely important to Muskegon's psyche,” said Bob Lukens, Muskegon County community development director and head of the Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“The Fourth of July brings out the patriotism from people not just in Muskegon, but across America. There is a huge influence of veterans in Muskegon County, it's very important. People here really realize the contributions that veterans make to our country. Here's to the Heroes is the perfect way to honor veterans and have fun at the same time.
” Muskegon has a long legacy of holding festivals over the Fourth of July holiday; it’s a custom that dates back to at least 1961. In its early days, it was known as the Great Lumbertown Music Festival and before that, the Seaway Festival.
In recent years however, whether or not a Fourth of July festival would happen in Muskegon has been very much up in the air, beginning with the cancellation of the 18‐year‐old Muskegon Summer Celebration in 2012 due to continuing financial losses.
After a year without at festival in 2012, Coast West Music Festival was held at Heritage Landing in 2013, but was cancelled after just one year due to "financial reasons." The cancellation left many wondering whether or not a festival would take place in 2014, but those questions were answered in April with the announcement of Here's to the Heroes.
The festival also serves as the 80th anniversary celebration of Tyler Sales, a major fundraiser for the event and the 30th anniversary of Parties in the Park. Its creation was also boosted by Tyler Sales' beer supplier, Budweiser's support of the Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides scholarships and other assistance to the spouses and children of soldiers killed or disabled in service to our country.
“It fits in perfect with the whole theme of the celebration,” Berends said. “We wanted to downplay the music this year because we want people to know this isn't Summer Celebration or Coast West, this is something entirely different. We've been very deliberate about that.
” Lukens said the festival is a testament to what can be accomplished if a group of people are dedicated to make something happen. He added that he thinks Muskegon’s recipe for success when it comes to festivals are to keep things small and simple and to not let them get too big.
Organizers can't confirm that the festival will return moving forward as of yet, but Berends said she was “overwhelmed and extremely proud” with support Muskegon has given the event.
Only time will tell what future Fourths will bring to Muskegon and Heritage Landing, but Here’s to the Heroes ensured that the Independence Day tradition in Muskegon lasted at least one more year.