GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Larger dragon boats will be floating on the Grand River this summer as Global Water Fest GR returns to Grand Rapids.

On Wednesday morning, the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority approved $35,000 to sponsor Global Water Fest GR.

Ace Marasigan helped launch the free festival in Canal Park last year. He said Global Water Fest GR celebrates water and showcases the city’s diversity.

“Last year we brought in so many different cultures. We started out with the Natives blessing the water. And we want to do the same thing (this year). We want to honor the people who first, you know, whose water it is,” he said.

The first Global Water Fest GR took place in late September. This year, organizers have bumped up the celebration to July 30 to take advantage of warmer conditions on the water.

They are also bringing in bigger dragon boats for racing. These boats will seat 20-person teams compared to the 12-person boats from last year.

Marasigan said they’ve thought about how restoring the rapids could change the dynamics of dragon boat racing on the Grand River, but he is confident they will still be able to find a 300-meter section of calm water needed to keep the competition alive.

“I’m just excited about the possibilities,” he told the DDA.

This year’s Global Water Fest GR will again include international food, local artisans and live entertainment. Marasigan said he dreams about one day adding a floating entertainment center to the festival.

“Everybody is talking about water now and I can just see this going on for many years and slowly once we’re more self-sustaining, I think this is going to be a fantastic addition to the city of Grand Rapids,” Marasigan said.

The DDA on Wednesday also approved a three-year agreement and $50,000 sponsorship for ArtPrize, which will go toward supporting larger experiential art installations.

“I just wanted to nudge us again in the direction of encouraging ArtPrize to work on bringing a more diverse crowd into downtown for ArtPrize. That’s one of our priorities at DGRI and DDA,” said commissioner Jim Talen. “We have some really good experience with the work we did years ago with Movies in the Park… I’d love to see us apply some of that and use some of these dollars for ArtPrize support to bring a more diverse community to downtown for ArtPrize. I recognize we have what we have now, but moving forward in future years maybe we can emphasize that.”

ArtPrize Executive Director Craig Searer said ArtPrize is partnering with Steelcase and a couple other sponsors to focus on building relationships. He said ArtPrize will start with each of the three city wards “and branch out from there.”