Giving and putting others first: That’s the focal point of this annual benefit concert that takes place at Old Dog Tavern in Kalamazoo on Saturday night.
Harry Stout would have turned 25 this May. And for the 13th straight year since complications from an enlarged heart resulted in a sad, sudden and shocking death, his life and legacy will be celebrated with music.
The one-night celebration, Harry Fest 25, is slated for Saturday at the Old Dog, and will feature not just music, but a live auction, chock-full of everything from a brand new Mapex 6-piece drum kit to a four-night resort stay in Curacao to Michigan golf getaways and Western Michigan University football tickets.
Following the live auction, attendees will be treated to a reunion show from The Erj, a band that used to pack ’em in from wall to wall in the ’80s and ’90 at Club Soda — the former club that in its heyday was the premier music venue in Kalamazoo.
All proceeds from the event — held in previous years at Otsego’s Bittersweet Ski Resort and at Blackhawk’s Stagecoach Barn in Richland — will be distributed to five area youth causes: Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Wes Leonard’s Heart Team, First Day Shoes and in the form of scholarships to students from Plainwell and Otsego High Schools. Last year, these causes amassed $8,500 from the event.
A LEGACY OF GIVING
“Everything about this event is done in grass-roots fashion, everyone performing and helping out does so on a volunteer basis. All the money goes to the charities,” said Joe Stout, Harry’s father and executive director of the Harry Stout Foundation, formed in the wake of his son’s death. “That really is the spirit of what Harry was all about.
“Despite being only 12, Harry was an old soul, he put things in such a beautiful perspective that no adults I know do, he got it. He was a very helpful kid, would protect the kids who got picked on and was always the first one to offer up his help.”
An example of the kindness Harry put out into the world, at age 9, he took half the money he had at the time to buy a struggling classmate a new pair of shoes, placing them in the child’s locker anonymously and foregoing any recognition that would have come to him for the gesture.
“That’s just the type of kid he was,” his father said. ““Harry Fest is just about keeping him in people’s minds and passing on that legacy to others. We only had 12 years with him, but it was an amazing 12 years.”
And while Harry’s life and legacy is the driving force behind the event, Joe Stout wants everyone who has not attended a Harry Fest in the past to know there is absolutely nothing somber about the festival: Old Dog will be filled with nothing but revelry, laughter, good music and good times.
“The way Harry approached life, he was always smiling, always happy, it becomes something you aspire to,” Joe said. “It’s nothing I would ever want anyone to experience, but what we’ve learned is the greatest thing you can do in life today is to make sure the people you love know it and that you take your best step forward.”
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