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A Dam Good Time: A Q&A with Christopher Sell of Lansing 5:01

Above picture provided by James Lenonn.

What is the background of the Dam Jam Music Festival?
The genesis of Dam Jam can be traced back to the summer of 2016, when Lansing 5:01 hosted our first outdoor festival, known as Bridge Fest, along the Grand River in downtown Lansing, adjacent to what is now known as Rotary Park.

Our team at Lansing 5:01 felt — and still does believe — that the riverfront in downtown Lansing is a premium destination location that can be periodically underutilized. By activating the space with a pop- up stage for live music, food trucks, and artists and vendors, we introduced a vibrant location and local artisans to nearly 400 interns, many of whom hadn’t grown up in or visited the Lansing region previously.

In subsequent years, we expanded the footprint of the event enormously, stretching over 1.5 miles from downtown to Old Town, allowing participants to experience the riverfront via kayaks, walking, biking or even the Michigan Princess riverboat. Eventually, we landed on the Brenke Fish Ladder in Old Town as the permanent home of a multiday music festival now known as Dam Jam.

Dam Jam now takes place at a rather distinctive pop-up venue. What makes this location special?
Through the lens of placemaking, we activate unique spaces and destination venues to illustrate our region’s vibrancy to emerging professionals who are considering making Lansing their home. The Brenke Fish Ladder is a unique architectural gem in our community, which provides scenic views of the river and downtown and recreational opportunities next to the bustling commercial corridor in Old Town Lansing.

We are happy that Dam Jam has shown proof of concept for utilizing the fish ladder as a venue for live music, and now there are plans in the works to renovate the park into a permanent amphitheater.

You describe Dam Jam as a concert series and networking party. Could you elaborate?
All Lansing 5:01 summer festivals are open to the public and typically free to attend. We partner with many of the region’s largest employers to tailor our programming so that it’s compelling to college interns and recent graduates.

Many of our employer partners bring their interns and emerging employees to Dam Jam and our other programming to connect them to community assets and other professionals at organizations and companies throughout the area. It’s a great way for young people to meet new friends and establish a foundation in the area.

What does the lineup of performers and vendors look like for this year’s Dam Jam?
Among performers are Joshua Smith, School of Rock and Hannah Rose Graves. Tickets are free, but we ask everyone to register at in advance of the event to claim your free ticket.