Gilda’s LaughFest, the nation’s only 10-day community-wide festival of laughter, attracted 50,000 attendees from across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom during its fourth annual event. LaughFest officially kicked off on March 6 when 1,675 people broke the Guinness World Record for the most people wearing sunglasses in the dark.
Preliminary numbers indicate that nearly 50,000 individuals attended LaughFest’s 278 events (66 ticketed and 212 free) at 54 stages in Grand Rapids, Lowell and Holland. A total of 30,517 tickets were sold and visitors traveled from 593 U.S. zip codes across 35 states, and Canada and the United Kingdom. Attendances at the free events totaled 19,380.
In addition to the attendance figures, LaughFest officials are estimating the fourth year of the festival will have net proceeds of $235,000, bringing the four year total to $1,061,000. The money raised will support free emotional healthcare programs for children and adults living with cancer, grief and loss through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids (GCGR). Proceeds from LaughFest 2014 account for about 15 percent of GCGR annual operating budget.
“The community continues to come out and support the festival, and the important role laughter plays in emotional health,” said Wendy Wigger, president, GCGR. “Without their continued support, Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids would not be able to provide quality programming and care. We look forward to continuing to spread the word about Gilda Radner’s vision, while raising the visibility of Grand Rapids and West Michigan on a national level.”
Almost 900 artists appeared at LaughFest, with 170 headliners and artists who participated in the ticketed events during LaughFest, and a total of 729 people from 27 states such as Arizona, California, Florida, along with Canada performed during the free showcases.
Artist Michael Gehl, of Milkshake, noted LaughFest provides a positive experience for those who perform. “We came to Grand Rapids as strangers and felt like we left with many new friends,” he said. “The audiences were enthusiastic and open-minded, folks on the street were friendly and helpful and the LaughFest staff was wonderful. It felt like an event and a city with a strong sense of purpose and positivism.”
“Without the amazing staff, volunteers, talent, community partners, sponsors and community support we would not be able to put together such an amazing event year-after-year,” said Wigger. “We are grateful to everyone who supports this event and cause, including our 370 sponsors and partners, 1,200 volunteers and all who attended LaughFest 2014. Together we’re able to build the success of the festival, bring dollars into the local economy and share a collective laugh while enjoying a wide variety of all things seriously funny!”
Call 616-735-HAHA (4242) to learn more about Gilda’s LaughFest.
Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids provides free emotional healthcare to children adults, families and friends on any kind of cancer journey or those grieving the death of someone in their life due to any cause. The comprehensive program, delivered by licensed healthcare professionals includes education, structured sharing times, networking, lectures, workshops and social activities. Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids is one of the largest and busiest of the 52 affiliates in North America. The organization runs entirely on charitable donations and currently serves more than 10,000 individuals each year at its clubhouses in Grand Rapids and Lowell, Mich., in various schools and in five community centers. For more information, visit www.gildasclubgr.org.