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G-Sync: Experience Urban Trailblazing

Square Peg Events

Square Peg Events

Square Peg Events

Square Peg Events

Square Peg Events

Square Peg Events

Square Peg Events

While at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), I wandered off the beaten path and into an area best described as the space between their exhibition galleries and the education center.

I was drawn to a large canvas with bold brush strokes and vibrant colors.

When I finally reached the end of my journey -- which took me past a reflecting pool sans the water (it is winter, after all) -- I spied the name of the artist…er, artists. This piece was the collaborative work of a group of folks who had recently been a part of the GRAM’s Creativity Uncorked, an event that further illustrates the museum’s commitment to opening their doors to activities that foster dialogue around art and its creation.

The GRAM’s Creativity Uncorked really came to be after forming a partnership with Holland’s Cynthia Hagedorn of Square Peg Events. Square Peg Events has been lighting up the West and Southwest Michigan shoreline with its community-building projects, and Hagedorn is on the eve of launching an exciting new line of events in downtown Grand Rapids.

Typically, I will admit, I don't like gimmicks when it comes to certain aspects of art. Never have, never will. It is more about my personal taste or preference than an about an actual opinion. Sometimes a shrug is just a shrug.

But a recent series of events -- the spotting of the aforementioned GRAM painting; the aggressive handgun debate being discussed at City Hall; actions driven by folks who do not live in our city (but feel the need to change our laws to feel safer when visiting) -- has me thinking. How can one who is venturing into our city feel not only safer, but truly more connected to the good so many of us already feel? And NO, guns are not the answer.

Certainly, the next round of events proposed by Hagedorn’s Square Pegs Events, Touring Grand Rapids, is just the ticket to remove some of those fears that make one feel unsure or disconnected.

Starting Jan. 22, guests will have seven opportunities to sample the best of downtown in a series of events that will provide a real benefit for those looking to explore our city.

Each of the seven events, based on a pilot program Hagedorn beta-tested last fall, will boast a distinct theme or adventure where up to 40 people will wander from venue to venue as they are treated to an ultimate insider’s tour.

The first event on Jan. 22 is a Hotel Hop and will feature guest guide Ryan Slusarzyk, Amway hotels’ corporate business travel manager. Slusarzyk will lead the group on a riverfront tour of Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, including the luxuriously designed Lumber Baron Bar, and the JW Marriott Grand Rapids, plus their signature restaurant, six.one.six and mixology lounge.

The tour wraps up at what I think is the best little secret in downtown, The Bistro at Courtyard by Marriott. A massive redesign a few years ago has transformed this once bland hotel restaurant into one of the best and most vibrant destination for folks looking for a modern, open space. It is also a location where you can be the captain of your environment. If you visit, you'll see what I mean.

After the January event and through the end of April, you will have two opportunities each month to become a wanderer of downtown Grand Rapids. There will be a series of tours that include themed events like Cozy Cruise, The Sweet Suite, The Mini Martini, and The W(h)ine Not with My Wine Words co-host Allie Merrick and a return stop to the GRAM.

Two of my favorite events coming up will be the Down Under Gems and the Giggle Groove, a benefit for Laughfest.

Down Under Gems is a chance to really step off the path we create when we only visit those places that offer a breath-taking million dollar view or curbside valet service. These types of establishments are great, but this Down Under tour really delivers an on-the-street or underbelly view of a city from below the sidewalk. You will truly enjoy the change of scenery on this one.

The Giggle Groove will visit area venues that have been big supporters of our local Gilda’s Club of West Michigan and their comedy festival, Laughfest, celebrating its third year in our city. This one promises lots of laughs.

Eddie Tadlock of Grand Rapids and one of the past participants of the fall beta test says, “Each of the participating venues gives a unique insight into the space with a personal touch. It’s almost like being invited into someone’s home. You really get a chance to find out about things in a very intimate setting.”

Hagedorn knows this very well as she has seen this model in other cities. That is the reason why after spending an hour over lunch with Hagedorn the other day, I was able to see firsthand how these types of tours can help change the way people see or utilize a region.

“This is a great opportunity for someone who is unsure of how to navigate in downtown. One main reason is that we do not rely on cars to take us from venue to venue, as we tour Grand Rapids with our feet,” said Hagedorn. “And even better is the opportunity for the hosting location to meet people who are looking to hear personal insider stories often from owners, chefs, sommeliers, and even directors of some of Grand Rapids' finest destinations.”

So while the outside gents who storm City Hall say they need their guns to feel safe in Grand Rapids, the people of Grand Rapids -- and even others on the outside like Hagedorn -- know that the water’s fine, so jump on in and have some fun. No guns required, but comfortable, weather appropriate, stylish shoes most certainly are.  


The Future Needs All of Us.

Tommy Allen
Lifestyle Editor

Visit our top four G-sync events that we think you should really consider attending this week.

Editor’s Note: This new tour series is sponsored in part through a grant from the Grand Rapids' Downtown Alliance. Photos provided by Square Peg Events, JuneBug Photo and Dave Johnson Photography.
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