A tradition is born! The first Margarita Fest — not just in Lansing but in the state — brought out a sellout crowd of about 700 people to downtown Friday night.

They lined up for tacos at Maria’s Cuisine and barbeque at the Smoke N’ Pig food trucks. They danced to the tropical music of Don Middlebrook and Jammin’ DJs. But most of all they sampled margaritas prepared by 12 area bars and restaurants.

Then they took to their phones and text-voted for their favorites.

And the winner is: MP Social, the brandnew Gillespie Group eatery in phase II of the Marketplace Apartments next to the City Market.

The winning recipe: Fresh lime, lemon and beet juice with orange-infused simple syrup.

“We’re thrilled!” said Pat Gillespie. “Our team jumped at the chance to take a risk using ingredients that are unique to a margarita but would provide a great presentation and, in the end, flavor. The response was incredible!

“Many were shocked — including a few of us — at how great a mixture including beet juice would turn out. Hoping a lot of people will stop in for a taste while it lasts!” Gillespie added.


The competition Line 1 (left to right): Acapulco, River Street Pub, Grand River Distilling, La Señorita. Line 2 (left to right): Spiral Dance Bar, Houlihan’s, American Fifth, Bordeaux. Line 3 (left to right): Champps, Nuthouse, Radisson.

Another highlight of the five-hour event along the Grand River on the Lansing Center’s terrace: a marriage engagement. Kyle Anderson proposed and Shelby Bush accepted.

City Pulse and the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority, which operates the Lansing Center, staged the event, with the support of Foster Swift Collins & Smith law firm, Joyride Pedal Tours and ACD.net.

“We’re very gratified by the turnout and the cooperation of the participating bars and restaurants for getting this off to a great start,” said Berl Schwartz, editor and publisher of City Pulse.

Schwartz brought the idea to Scott Keith, president and CEO of LEPFA, who ran with it.

“Scott and his staff truly knocked themselves out to make this a success,” he said.

“We also want to thank the staff of the state Liquor Control Commission, who embraced the concept and helped us get over a number of hurdles to make it possible.”

Schwartz said he expects the event to grow next year.

“We kept the size limited this year to make sure we got off to a good start,” said Schwartz. “Look for an expansion next year.”

Lansing Center was host to the first Margarita Fest and its 700 attendees. Live music from Don Middlebrook and Jammin’ DJs was featured in the gazebo.

Alexis Leskela found her dress and hat at a local Salvation Army and took this opportunity to dress up and sample drinks from around Lansing.


Edward Schroeder went all out with his headgear for Margarita Fest, donning a flamingo cap.


These ladies had custom shirts saying “Margaritas with the Señoritas.” Many people were dressed up for this fun late spring event.


Kyle Anderson and Shelby Bush used this festive event to get engaged!


Freckles the rescue dog made friends at the Margarita Fest. Proceeds from the event went to support the Ingham County Animal Shelter.


(Right) Left to right: Laura Gjidoda, Ladosha Washington and Letieka Comer found a picturesque spot by the Grand River to enjoy the Margarita Fest.