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by Audria Larsen | Swimming, Hiking and Necking

stereotypically associated with disc golfing, parks are fantastic places for surreptitious pleasures as well as wholesome family fun. Often taken for granted, the city of Grand Rapids has been diligently acquiring and preserving these public spaces since the 1800s. Since April, the Grand Rapids Public


Library’s main branch has featured an exhibit detailing the history of the parks of Grand Rapids and surrounding areas, which will be on display through October. “[It’s] an overview of the history of the

parks,” said Tim Gleisner, manager of Local History and Special Collections. “[Hopefully, visitors can] come away with an appreciation of the efforts of the past [and] preserve the green space within our community.” Generally, most citizens experience local

parks as places that have always been and will always continue to be. However, the exhibit not only details the shifts and dramatic changes these spaces have undergone over the years, but is also a call to action, reminding us that, as Gleisner said, “once you don’t have it, there is no way to bring it back.” John Ball Park is one of the most iconic

parks in Grand Rapids that has also undergone a variety of transitions. “It was originally part of the city park sys-

tem,” Gleisner said. “The park that we know today is very diminished from what it was. Much of that changed due to a highway system.” John and Mary Ball donated the initial 40

acres of land in 1869. It boasted the earliest swimming pool, duck pond and dance pavilion and in 1891, the John Ball Zoo was founded.

ARKS AND GREEN SPACES ARE lovely, often densely foliated spots that serve social purposes. While not originally intended for necking or the side activities


But the park has gone through changes that even a younger generation can remember. In the early 2000s, there was a call to move the zoo in favor of a proposed Elephant ex- hibit that even elicited potential backing from Frederik Meijer of the locally based grocery store chain. In the end, the public voted to maintain the historic location of the park and the zoo. Another popular spot for dog walking

residents, lounging students and scofflaws alike, Wilcox Park in Eastown has been dra- matically altered over the years. Originally a gravel quarry in the 1920s, the park featured a popular bath house and a full-size pool. In the 1950s, the space was revamped to contain a simple shelter and a modest wading pool.

According to the exhibit, the city of Grand

Rapids currently owns and operates 71 parks and public spaces totaling 1,210 acres and also manages 387 acres of parkland outside of the city limits. This includes locations like Calder Plaza, the Fish Ladder and Rosa Parks Circle. “It’s really a celebration [and sends the

message that we need to be] ever vigilant in protecting those lands,” Gleisner said. n


Through Oct. 31 FREE!

Other Eclectic Events | by Audria Larsen Tin Can Tourist and Boats at the Barns:

31st Annual Red Barns Spectacular Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners August 6, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. $9, Children under 11 Free, (269) 671-5089

Get your retro-nerd on and start lusting after your dream, vintage airstream trailer. Hailed as “West MI’s ‘Grand Daddy’ of antique, classic and special interest car shows,” the event is featuring a special display of antique boats and campers. Enjoy rides in antique vehicles, food and even a swap meet. The People’s Choice and judged Car Show add competition to this nostalgic event.


Danish Festival 2011 Downtown Greenville Aug. 18-21

Let Aebleskivers guide you to Greenville’s annual Danish festival. These delectable treats are round pancake balls served with powdered sugar and raspberry jam, purportedly invented by the Vikings! I guess even bad asses like sweets. For the 46th year, about 80,000 people flock to the city for hot air balloon rides, live entertainment, family activities and a parade, as well as a bevy of contests like the cutthroat Lego Masterpiece competition. And Aebleskivers.

Salsa under the Stars CJ’s on the Beach Pere Marquette Park, Muskegon Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m. (231) 755-1555

Summer is the perfect time to shake it. And the hottest way to shake it is Salsa style. Add the romance of a gorgeous sunset and the inhibition-lowering effects of stiff cocktails (and satisfying foodstuffs) and you’ve got a sultry night of fun. Don’t know how to dance, let alone Salsa? Free les- sons and the lure of the music will get your hips swaying., (616) 988-5400


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