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Community updates: Tuesday, Aug. 18

MHSAA moves Michigan high school football to spring; Grand Rapids' Blue Bridge getting upgraded lighting system; Vertigo Music record store reopens downtown; Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council hosting downtown event to celebrate 19th Amendment; and more.
Crescent Park in Grand Rapids, overlooking downtown.

Crescent Park in Grand Rapids, overlooking downtown. /Experience Grand Rapids

MHSAA moves Michigan high school football to spring

The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) announced Friday it will move the 2020 fall football season to spring 2021, due to football's higher risk for spreading COVID-19. The move impacts over 70 high, middle, and elementary schools in the Grand Rapids area.

Other fall sports, such as volleyball and soccer, are still on as planned, unless alternate decisions are made by the MHSAA or through Gov. Whitmer's MI Safe Start Plan.

The decision to move football to the spring was decided by the MHSAA in consultation with state health department officials and feedback from MHSAA member schools. More than 1,500 schools across the state are members.

"At the end of the day, we did everything we could to find a path forward for football this fall," MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. "But while continuing to connect with the governor’s office, state health department officials, our member schools’ personnel, and the Council [of the MHSAA], there is just too much uncertainty and too many unknowns to play football this fall."

The MHSAA considers football a high-risk sport for potential spread of COVID-19 because of its level of player-to-player contact. Volleyball and soccer are considered moderate-risk for virus spread, while cross country, golf, tennis, and swimming are considered low-risk.

Volleyball and swimming can currently only be played outdoors in the Grand Rapids region and most of the state, however, in light of all but the Traverse City region currently being in phase three of Whitmer's Safe Start Plan.

Details for the spring football season, including a specific schedule, will be announced by the MHSAA over the next few months. The association will be working to limit overlap of spring football and the traditional spring sports season.

"While this is tremendously disappointing, we will do everything possible to provide the best possible experience in the spring while adding football into the calendar," Uyl said.

Updates on the status of sports for Grand Rapids' 71 MHSAA member schools will be available on the MHSAA's website.


Grand Rapids' Blue Bridge getting upgraded lighting system

The historic Blue Bridge in downtown Grand Rapids will soon brighten up the night once again. Local contractors began installing new customizable LED lights on the bridge this week, the City of Grand Rapids announced.

The installation of the new lighting system comes after the Blue Bridge's old lighting fixtures became inoperable over the last year. The bridge was often lit up at night in past years with adjustable colors to commemorate everything from special events to holidays to even the death of a music icon.

Hint: the departed musician commemorated through the bridge in 2016 wore lots of purple. So did the bridge that week.

53 decorative lighting fixtures will be replaced and 11 LED pedestrian walkway lights will be installed for public safety. The City of Grand Rapids and Downtown Development Authority funded the project, with a $80,000 price tag.

"Special nighttime lighting on the Blue Bridge promotes the City of Grand Rapids, its civic institutions, state and federal holidays, and other public events," said Evette Pittman, the City’s Special Events Supervisor. "We’re thrilled that this project will again allow us to accept community requests for special active lighting. The community appreciates this feature on the bridge."

Lighting installation will take place weekdays through August 28. The bridge will be closed August 24-28 from 6am-5pm each of these days.

The City’s Office of Special Events manages the Blue Bridge's lighting schedule, with an online application for special active lighting opening up September 7 on its website. Organizations can request special active lighting for up to five business days. Their staff also can create customized light schemes upon request.


Kent County announces first round of Small Business Recovery Program awardees

Kent County and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce announced on Tuesday the first round of small businesses to receive financial relief through its COVID-19 recovery program.

Through the Kent County Small Business Recovery Program, 721 businesses and business owners in Kent County have now been mailed checks totaling $5.9 million in grants. Grants range between $5,000 and $20,000 per business or business owner.

Over $19 million is still on the way for more local applicants, as $25 million in federal CARES Act dollars was approved by the Kent County Board of Commissioners for the program in June.

"Our small businesses are struggling through no fault of their own as a result of the pandemic," said Kent County Board of Commissioner Chair Mandy Bolter. "We worked quickly to get aid into their hands to help keep the economy moving and protect the jobs of our friends, families, and neighbors."

In June, the Kent County Board of Commissioners also brought on the Grand Rapids Chamber to administer the program.

Both Kent County and the Grand Rapids Chamber are encouraging local businesses that've financially suffered from the pandemic to apply for aid through the program. Businesses can apply on the Grand Rapids Chamber's website.

A regularly updated list of businesses receiving aid through the Small Business Recovery Program is also available on the Chamber's website.


Vertigo Music record store reopens downtown for in-person browsing

Grand Rapidians and visitors to the city have a familiar space available again to explore physically-packaged music. Downtown's Vertigo Music reopened for in-person browsing on Tuesday, with public safety measures in place.

The record store offered vinyl, CDs, and cassettes of local to international artists through its space since 2000, until it closed its doors in March due to the pandemic. Since March, it was selling records online-only through its website.

"Be safe, wear a mask, and stop down to browse and say hi!" Vertigo Music said in a Facebook post announcing its in-store reopening.

Only 15 customers are allowed in Vertigo Music at one time. It's open daily from 12-7pm, with Saturdays closing at 6pm.


Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council hosting downtown event on Thursday to celebrate 19th Amendment, dressed as "suffragists"

Those following American fashion trends may find Grand Rapids a bit dated if they're strolling through downtown Grand Rapids this Thursday. 100 years dated.

There's a reason: Members of the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council (GGRWHC) will be donning suffragist-style garb around Rosa Parks Circle on Thursday afternoon in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

Passed in 1920, the 19th Amendment declared American women the right to vote. The amendment advanced a movement which eventually led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, declaring voting rights for women and men of color.

Between 12-1:30pm on Thursday, passersby can stop by the Grand Rapids Art Museum terrace facing Rosa Parks Circle to learn more about the suffragist movement in Grand Rapids from Council members. The event's in conjunction with the Relax at Rosa entertainment series happening at the same time at Rosa Parks Circle.

"The struggle for women’s right to vote was long and difficult," said Susan Coombes, a GGRWHC board member. "A number of Grand Rapids women were at the forefront of the suffragist movement, and this is an opportunity to recognize their contributions."

Council members will also share details at Thursday's event of the "Here Lies a Suffragist" event happening on August 26, which will see selected graves of suffragist women decorated in honor of their work. The departed women hail from Grand Rapids, with their graves residing in the Fulton St. and Oakhill South cemeteries.

More details about the GGRWHC's August events are available on its website.


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