Fireworks and mariachi wrap up Grand Rapids Symphony's 2017 Picnic Pops with two one-night only special events

The Grand Rapids Symphony’s D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops, since its debut in 1995, has drawn more than half a million people to Cannonsburg Ski Area.

The summer series’ latest fans include Grand Rapids Symphony Music Director Marcelo Lehninger and his wife and children, who took in a Picnic Pops concert for the first time last month.

“We had a wonderful time,” said Lehninger, who was in the audience for The Musical Legacy of Chicago featuring Brass Transit on Friday, July 21, with Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt on the podium.

This week Lehninger, who recently moved to the Grand Rapids area with his family, will make his podium debut at Cannonsburg Ski Area, 6800 Cannonsburg Rd NE.

Not one but two special events this week cap off the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops.

Classical Fireworks, an audience favorite at the Picnic Pops for more than 22 years, welcomes Music Director Marcelo Lehninger to the podium at Cannonsburg Ski Area for the first time on Thursday, Aug. 3.

Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán joins the Grand Rapids Pops with traditional Mexican folk music on Saturday, Aug. 5 for the final concert of the 2017 D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops.

Lehninger, who was named Grand Rapids Symphony’s Music Director last summer, will lead the Grand Rapids Pops in music by Aaron Copland and George Gershwin as well as in tangos by Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla on Thursday, Aug. 3.

Classical Fireworks begins with Morton Gould’s American Salute, a set of variations on the theme, When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again. It ends with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture followed by a spectacular, grand finale fireworks display, sponsored by Lacks Enterprises.

Tickets in advance for Classical Fireworks start at $19 for adults, $16 for college students and seniors, $5 for ages 2-18, and free for children under age 2 for lawn seats for the concert underwritten by Chemical Bank, Fox Motors, Universal Forest Products and United Bank as Benefactor Sponsors.

Tickets for reserved chairs are $30. Single tickets for general admission chair seating are $30. Single tickets for an individual, reserved table seats are $51 or $408 for an entire table for eight.

Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, dubbed “the best mariachi band in the world,” appeared with Linda Ronstadt on the Mexican-American singer’s1986 album, Canciones de Mi Padre (Songs of My Father), which won the Grammy Award for Best Mexican/Mexican-American Album at the 31st Grammys in 1987.

The Mexican folk music ensemble founded by Gaspar Vargas traces its origin back to the 1890s and the city of Tecalitlán in the Pacific coastal state of Jalisco, the region in Mexico that gave birth to mariachi.

Today, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán is the star attraction of the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, a seven-day music festival, held in San Antonio, Texas. The 22nd annual festival, held last December, drew more than 1,000 mariachi musicians for three national competitions, community events, and a culminating concert by Mariachi Vargas.

The musical style of Mariachi usually features at least two violins, two trumpets and at least one Spanish guitar. Mariachi Vargas’ 13 singers and musicians include six violins, two trumpets, two harps and one guitar. The group also includes one vihuela, a high-pitched, 5-string, round-backed guitar that plays rhythm; and a 6-string bass guitar known as a guitarrón.

Guest conductor Natanael Espinoza, artistic director of the Orquesta Filarmonica del Desierto or Philharmonic Orchestra of the Desert in Mexico, leads Mariachi Vargas and the Grand Rapids Pops at 8 p.m. Saturday,

Tickets in advance for Mariachi Vargas start at $24 for adults, $22 for college students and seniors, $5 for ages 2-18, and free for children under age 2 for lawn seats for the concerts underwritten by Steenstra’s as Benefactor Sponsor, Macatawa Bank as Patron Sponsor, and GR Outdoors as Series Partner. All tickets are $5 more on the day of the show.

Single tickets for general admission chair seats are $34. Single tickets for an individual, reserved table seats are $51 or $408 for an entire table for eight.

All tickets for all seats are $5 more on the day of the show.

Tickets can be purchased through the GRS box office by calling (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 weekdays or (616) 885-1241 evenings; or in person at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100; or online at

Tickets also may be purchased through Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787, or at Ticketmaster outlets at select D&W Fresh Markets, Family Fare stores and Walmart. Tickets purchased at these locations will include a Ticketmaster service fee.

Gates at Cannonsburg Ski Area open at 5:45 p.m. each night for picnicking and pre-concert entertainment, including free, kid-friendly activities such as face painting, crafts, and a musical instrument petting zoo.

Pack your own picnic baskets and coolers or purchase food from the grill at the Cannonsburg concession stand. Alcoholic beverages are permitted on the grounds, and parking is free for concertgoers.

Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at 10:00 AM
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