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LaughFest wraps another successful year | News

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LaughFest wraps another successful year

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- It was fun while it lasted, but LaughFest 2012 is officially over. The event, which benefits Gilda's Club Grand Rapids, had another successful run with the final events, including Sinbad and Rodney Carrington shows, taking place this weekend.

For a week and a half, LaughFest energized the city in such a way it's hard to believe this was only the second year of the festival.

"Our goal was to create a dialogue about emotional health and the role that emotions and importantly, laughter plays. At the end of the day, Gilda's Club is about being a cancer and grief support community of programs for people. We value laughter in what we do and we wanted to deliver that experience to the entire community," said Leann Arkema, President and CEO of Gilda's Club Grand Rapids and a LaughFest organizer

For 10 full days more than 60 comedians tickled our funny bones but before the first curtain call LaughFest organizers had something to prove.... a world record.  649 people wearing chicken beaks filled the streets around Rosa Parks Circle making history as the largest group to assemble wearing animal noses. They even performed a chicken dance.

Grand Rapids was the place to be if you wanted to see top notch and big name comics like Whoopi Goldberg, Patch Adams, Martin Short, Kevin Nealon and Jim Gaffigan. And that is just to name a few.

More than 60 artists performed at dozens of venues. Some events, like Baby Loves Disco and The Laurie Berkner Band, catered to those who are young as well as young at heart.

"Just being here in the city and seeing LaughFest everywhere felt like it was a giant community of joy and support," said Berkner.

And, whether you like comedy tailored to an adult crowd, clean comedy, or maybe even Christian comedy, LaughFest had 200 shows to pick from.

"You are going to get every emotion touched. See I'm the carnal part of the show. Then you are going to have the spiritual and the sanctified. We have to have a balance. With me you don't know what you are going to get but it is going to be classy and be clean," said Christian comedian, D.L. Henry who performed during the Out of The Box Comedy Showcase.

As an added treat this year, LaughFest offered events like the film showcase and laughter yoga.

Laughter Yoga Teacher, Sue Ansari, says laughter yoga is a great way to reduce stress and naturally heal the body.

"That just tells my body to relax. It shuts down the cortisol. It increases the endorphins and when it's doing all that my blood pressure is going down," she said.

Minnesota native Chad Daniels was crowned the winner of the LaughFest Stand Up Competition. He walked away $10,000 richer.

He came to town saying I think I am going to be eliminated in the first round. He was so humble when he won this award. what a great human being and he values laughter too for the health of it. we are really excited that Gun Lake Casino supported that and we happy to award him our seriously funny comedian of the year

And this weekend West Michigan heard "LIVE FROM GRAND RAPIDS... IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT" during a special SNL themed fundraising event. Short, Nealon, and special guest Alan Zweibel, an original SNL producer and writer and close friend of Gilda Radner performed.

"At the end of the day it is about creating awareness about emotional health and contributing to our mission of gathering people together. We've actually had a 20% increase in people in people coming to our programs. We need each other when we are going through big things in life. Laughter plays a role in there. We are accomplishing that and yes, all the dollars that are raised during LaughFest at the end of day 100% of that stays in this community to support our free programs," says Arkema.

In just 2 short years, LaughFest has delivered on its promise to make us smile and "celebrate laughter for the health of it."

"Laughter bonds us together as human beings so if we want a more emotionally healthy community laughing together is a great thing," Arkema said.


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