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G-Sync: I Want To Go To There

Tommy Allen

After Lonely Planet's announcement that Grand Rapids is one of the top 10 U.S. destinations for 2014, Lifestyle Editor Tommy Allen, along with others from Rapid Growth's editorial staff, gathered at The Broadway Bar to imagine with a wink and a smile what this year could hold for our region.
At the end of 2013, Rapid Growth’s editorial team, including newly hired Managing Editor Stephanie Doublestein and one of our most tenured members Development Editor Deborah Johnson Wood, all gathered to celebrate some holiday cheer at The Broadway Bar.

This west side venue has greatly benefitted from a more plugged-in social media culture and in the wake of another "balls-out holiday decorator" The Kopper Top’s closing, it is no shock how large the crowds have become here. 

For many, the Broadway Bar is just one of the numerous tiny venues that make our city a wonderful place to call home. As we sat there and enjoyed a few drinks, we began to make predictions that later would become the basis of a very lively broadcast at the start of 2014 on WGVU-FM’s The Morning Show with Shelley Irwin.

During the broadcast, Jeff Hill and "Swami Allen" mused about 2014. Walt Whitman said, “Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!” and, like that, we unleashed our unfettered predictions, essentially kicking open the door of what is in store for Grand Rapids over the next 12 months …with a wink and smile.

It is not a secret that over the years Rapid Growth has been at the forefront of trying to change the tone of dialogue about our view of Detroit. We have created opportunities for greater understanding. As a result, we have seen others venture bravely forth to produce many exciting new collaborations, that continue to appear to this day.

In the area of art in 2014 -- and in keeping with our desire to be better neighbors -- Grand Rapids’ arts leaders will begin to meet in secret to determine what to do about the potential auction of the Detroit Institute of Art’s master works. Many folks in this circle (including me) feel these are Michigan's cultural treasures and worth protecting at all costs.  

After one local member’s Thomas Crown Affair idea to create exact replicas of the works of art being considered for auction is rejected, GRAM's Dana Friis-Hansen, working with a map by former Detroiter and WMCAT Executive Director Kim Dabbs (along with a lively bunch from our arts community) descend upon the DIA under the cloak of night, lifting the works and transporting them to an undisclosed location until their safety can be guaranteed.  

In other art news, ArtPrize finally grabs the international headlines they seek when their 2014 winner of the PublicPrize as well as the Juried Award goes to the same artist who performs a live birth. LaughFest, another of the more than 100 festivals that dot the calendar of our city, gains a restraining order against all media outlets, asking them to please stop comparing it to ArtPrize. When asked to comment, both parties simply hang up the phone -- but only one is laughing when they hang up.  

Festival of the Arts attempts to follow suit, asking the Calder Foundation to please stop implying that without them none of these festivals would have happened here. The injunction is held up since they probably are right and Festival responds by selecting David Dodde's version of the Calder complete with flowers as its poster artist for 2014.

Even Rapid Growth will get in the innovation game as G-Sync will declare in 2014 that the weekend officially begins immediately after your post-church nap on Sunday afternoon. The Rapidan's Editor Holly Bechiri rejoices since this is just the validation she has been seeking, clearing the way for her to insert seven days of events into her "weekend section." She celebrates by sharing a very personal publishing story at the SpeakEz's MartiniMoth. (She wins the giant wine chalice that month and all the wonderful benefits it contains.)

As we look at development news in Grand Rapids, Grand Valley State University continues to feed its appetite for land. The university performs an about face by purchasing all the land between their medical mile on Michigan Street/Belknap Lookout Hill location and the west side campus, thus essentially buying all the land downtown except Ionia Avenue south of Fulton Street. These locations were previously secured by the “most interesting” resident of downtown and namesake of the newly minted Mark Sellers Avenue.

And in keeping with their mission to be more open and transparent, City Manager Greg Sundstrom suggests that Mayor Heartwell get the residents’ approval of our name Grand Rapids, after our newly elected City Comptroller determines that we never officiated our city's name. After hackers from The Factory, a co-working space, crash the system, we wake up as HappyTown, causing crazy problems for the Grand Rapids Whitewater people, who are looking to continue to get local buy-in and funds to restore the Rapids to the Grand.

Taking a cue from the Grand Rapids Whitewater marketing team, a quick move is made to make Grand Rapids the first city in the nation to add liquid hemp to the water supply. As a result, in November 2014, the Restore The Rapids millage easily passes with a margin of 100% in the affirmative of those who actually are able to find their way to the polls.

In other development news, Grand Rapids gets the world’s first community urban organ farm, where you can plant your own stem cells in a dish and grow your parts for use later when you need them (and it is covered under Obamacare).

Even the online group The Salon, still struggling with Facebook to switch back to “open” status after closing the group last year, and with their newly minted 750th member, will perform a random act of improvisational community action in 2014. In a bold departure from simply reposting every single article ever written on bike lanes and softball league real time sessions, its members will without any notice take to the streets and single-handedly begin to dismantle 131 in downtown… but will sadly walk away mid-demo at 4 p.m. to take advantage of the many too-good-to-be-true happy hour specials at our local craft breweries.

GR loses Beer City USA to Anchorage in 2014 – a place even we all agree had nothing else going for it like we did a few years ago. The drinking public make no attempts to restore the title either, saying, “Who needs validation when we know it is THAT good here?”

Former Downtown Alliance’s oft-mocked “Keep It A Secret” campaign finally gets a revival … and just in time, as huge population shifts from the new transplants arriving daily impact the city for the better in every way, causing some former power brokers to wonder what happened after the steering wheel was removed from their hands.   

The next movement to emerge here is born because of the demise of available tennis courts that are threatened when a long time local sports complex’s ability to attract and retain talent is plowed under. When the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) Society forms to protect their heritage sports, they also include their tender dietary needs of “not too spicy” and “on the side.”

Our city decides that culture and heritage authenticity could actually be a draw for new residents, so plans are scrapped to rebuild roads, moving instead to roll us back to Heritage Streets as they remove the asphalt and return us to dirt roads. In doing so, the city is able to build the country’s first horse lane and Experience Grand Rapids quickly moves to annoint us Horse City USA!

While we're on the topic of boosterism, a new city law is enacted after area residents grow weary of the constant need to reprint a week’s worth of news stories based simply on a blogger’s mention of the city. After we win the Best Bathrooms award from AARP, the residents revolt. A smaller provision of this new law, besides the section where the newly unleashed Experience GR CTA (Certified Tourism Ambassadors) pins are banned inside area churches after being labeled a cult, is that if you are person who constantly jams your Facebook feed with updates of how great we are without backing it up, you must disclose your financial attachments to said statements. You will also be required to wear a suit -- a cheerleading suit. The city suddenly has its first official cheerleading squad that proves shockingly that these folks are quite limber, have real rhythm, and a much-needed sense of humor, too.

In other lifestyle news, area farm-to-table restaurants, still fuming over the loss of our farmland preservation program at the county level, take a cue from the soon-to-launch “neighbors only” parking program; they install toll booths at the main arteries to the city. With the money earned, they buy back Egypt Valley Golf Course and return it to farming.

Because of all of these changes, when Lonely Planet's visitors do finally arrive, well, they will never leave. If you were thinking of buying a house, now is the time to do so. Whether you can use said new home as an Airbnb rental is still unclear.

Maybe these predictions seem a bit out there -- and maybe they are. But we really are a community that is in for big changes in 2014. So, if we are going to make the leap, we are going to have to take ourselves a little less seriously. We will need to be open to the changes that involve everyone. Most of all, if we are to become a modern international city, we must be comfortable with the diversity that comes with it.

We must be a city that is willing to enact diversity not as a form of tokenism or getting our card punched but rather because we're creating a place where it feels organic or natural, like the act of breathing. Only then will people who are different begin to feel welcome here.

Grand Rapids over the last two years has been experiencing its first positive "migratory" growth since 1996 – a time period also overseen by a democratically elected president of a certain party and a Michigan governor of the other.  

Ready or not here we go: 2014 - one Grand city under a groove, moving on for the funk of it*. In 2014 we funk it up for good…and good is actually great for our city’s health and advancement. Here's hoping that at the end of 2014 we will have plenty to talk about with a lot more people as a result of what we create this year.

Most of all, remember to laugh more at it all. I know I will try to do so...and more often.

The Future Needs All of Us (to lighten up a bit in 2014.)

Tommy Allen
Lifestyle Editor

2014 start is very exciting and so are the original and fresh entertainment options found this week in G-Sync Events: Let’s Do This!

*Nod to George Clinton’s One Nation Under a Groove.
All Photography: ©Tommy Allen of Allen + Pfleghaar Studio at Tanglefoot, 2014.

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