Michigan Gets Ready to Laugh Out Loud

Gilda's LaughFest brings thousands of visitors from all over the country to Grand Rapids

Mar 01, 2011, 15:29 ET from Gilda’s LaughFest

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., March 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Nearly 27,000 tickets have already been sold to the nation's first-ever community-wide festival of laughter, Gilda's LaughFest. Thousands of travelers from outside of Michigan have purchased tickets to see some of the headliners coming to participate in LaughFest. Tickets have been sold to guests from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Carolina, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, California, Washington, Texas and Canada.

Gilda's LaughFest will open in Grand Rapids, Mich., March 10, 2011; the 10-day event is designed to engage people throughout the region and beyond in all aspects of laughter. Created by the team at Gilda's Club Grand Rapids in celebration of its 10th anniversary, some of LaughFest's headliners include comedians Bill Cosby, Betty White, Margaret Cho, Mike Birbiglia, Kathleen Madigan and Gabriel Iglesias.

Gilda's Club, is named after Gilda Radner, an original cast member of Saturday Night Live. Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989. In her book, It's Always Something, Radner wrote, "My job was to find what was funny about whatever was going on. So I began to think that I should do the same thing with cancer."

"Planning for LaughFest began 20 months ago," said Leann Arkema, president and CEO of Gilda's Club Grand Rapids. "Since Gilda's gift to those on a cancer journey was permission to laugh, we wanted to pass that permission along to people in our community and beyond through Gilda's LaughFest. Our goal is to show how laughing together can lift the human spirit in life, work and play. It's about laughter for the health of it."

LaughFest includes more than 60 headliners and 110 free events at nearly 50 venues and restaurants in Grand Rapids. Individual event tickets range in price from $7 for family-friendly events to $77.50 for premium seating during top headliner and comedian Bill Cosby's shows. A full schedule of events can be found at www.laughfestgr.org and tickets for all Gilda's LaughFest events can be purchased at ticketmaster.com (search LaughFest) or by calling 800-745-3000.  

"Grand Rapids is prepared to handle the thousands of visitors who are making the trip for Gilda's LaughFest," said Doug Small, president of Experience Grand Rapids. "Many of our restaurants and hotels are offering special discounts during LaughFest's 10-day run, which spans two full weekends. Grand Rapids is experienced with handling large events that attract visitors from all over the country, and we welcome all to come visit this seriously funny event."

To celebrate the kickoff of LaughFest on March 10, visitors are invited to Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids at 7:30 p.m. to join in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the number of participants who toss rubber chickens at one time. Special guest Michael Radner, Gilda Radner's brother, will take part in LaughFest's opening celebration along with other surprise celebrities.

LaughFest will hold a free dance party and concert on Saturday, March 19, beginning at 9 p.m. at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel featuring local band Mid-Life Crisis. Calder Plaza will host festival-goers at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 20, as an aerial photograph is taken while participants hold up placards to form a huge smile, a visible symbol of the laughter centered in the mid-West region of the country.

"I'm so excited about what Grand Rapids is doing to pass along the gift of laughter to everyone," said Michael Radner. "My sister, Gilda, loved to laugh, and after she was diagnosed with cancer, she found out that finding the funny, even in a cancer journey, was so important.  I applaud all – community investors, volunteers, ticket-buyers and even the comedians who are coming in – who are helping to celebrate laughter for the health of it."

Visit www.laughfestgr.org or call 616-735-HAHA (4242) to learn more about Gilda's LaughFest.

SOURCE Gilda’s LaughFest