The Rapidian

So this is Grand Rapids: Summertime

Join me as I explore the newness of Grand Rapids’ summer.
Swing dancing in Rosa Parks Circle

Swing dancing in Rosa Parks Circle /Katie Caralis

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When I was planning this article I thought I’d explore and try to experience Grand Rapids’ summer. “They’ll have forgotten all these great places in town,” I thought. “They’ll love the reminder!”

I figured I’d write inspired lines about the beauty of the Meijer Gardens butterfly exhibit.  I’d play it off as though I went for a peaceful stroll instead of as a frazzled volunteer with a gaggle of small children who preferred running to walking.

I figured I’d write about a relaxing trip to the beach on the first nice weekend of the season ignoring the hour and a half I sat in traffic because everyone else in Grand Rapids had the same idea.

I figured I’d write enthusiastically about swing dancing in Rosa Parks Circle, leaving out the fact that despite my intentions to do so in the future, I didn’t actually dance, but spent some serious time fascinated by people watching.

And while I did in fact enjoy all of these events, I found myself wanting to write about something else. Grand Rapids summer seemed to be more than making sure I made it to the zoo and a Whitecaps’ game.

Last month, I attended my first TEDx conference and while listening with excited attention to Bill Sabram talk, I jotted down a series of questions he asked. Sabram was actually discussing the impact of board games on child development, but I of course took the questions as a reflection on the greater meaning of my life.

“Did you fail?”

“Why did you fail?”

“Do you want to play again?”

And since I also tend to assume all rhetorical questions are directly intended for me, I stopped and thought, “Do I? Do I want to play again?”

Maybe it was the 700 other people in the room, but I snapped out of my self-absorption fairly quickly as I started thinking about Grand Rapids as a whole.

I’ve lived here about 10 months now and again and again, Grand Rapids strikes me as a place that has said emphatically, “Yes, we want to play again.”

Yes, we want open more local restaurants and eco-friendly shops! Yes, we want to create collaborations to tackle our city’s biggest problems! Yes, we want the country to know where we are on a map!

In its second year, TEDx, a conference dedicated to “ideas worth spreading,” is just one example of people creating something new in Grand Rapids.

It seems that everywhere I turn people are starting a new project or building a new movement. They’re working to make Grand Rapids a better place.

A few of my favorites so far this summer have been the new Fulton Street Farmers Market which appears to have doubled in size since I moved to town and the creation of MartiniMoth, modeled after my favorite storytelling series. For every new event or project I find, there seems to be three I’ve missed.  

Of course, I can’t just keep telling you how special you are. After almost a year of living here, you may start to question my lack of cynicism.

So sure, it’s all a little messy. It’s a little disjointed still. Grand Rapids is an old town, but it’s being infused with a newness that is both exciting and confusing.

But in that there is a refreshing admittance that while we don’t know all the answers, we’re going to try anyway.

So, “Yes, I want to play again.”

And in fact, I’ve already started. Thank you Grand Rapids for appreciating that it may be a little messy.


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