The Rapidian

[MIDTOWN] Celebration on The Green a chance to meet neighbors and win prizes

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/Denise Cheng

Not too deep in the recesses of Midtown is a green space that, although open and undefined, residents intuitively know what to do: Kids play soccer and tag, yogis unfurl their mats, teenagers clump up by the trees in deep conversation, owners play catch with their dogs and neighbors meet up to chatter.

Every year on the third Tuesday of August (Aug. 17), the space is transformed for a community celebration that has occurred for at least ten years. Celebration on The Green is Midtown's annual festival to bring the neighborhood together.

"If you know your neighbor, you're going to create safer neighborhoods, and so the idea is to get people out so they can have a fun experience together," said Amy VanZoeren, Midtown Neighborhood Association's neighborhood organizer.

Since the festival's first year, it has attracted between 150-300 people annually. The Salvation Army will be handing out hot dogs and lemonade and the SWAT team, police and fire departments will all be present with equipment for a show-and-tell.

"Kids definitely do not get bored at the festival. We have face painting and there are several activities where the kids can play games and win prizes," Amy said. A sampling of activities include balloons, ring toss, bean bag toss and ducks in a pond. "The prizes we get for the games and raffles come from Midtown business and residents."

Among the raffled items are ten $25 gift certificates to Nantucket Baking Company, bicycle helmets from Safe Kids of Greater Grand Rapids, t-shirts from Fulton Street Farmers Market and Farah's Bar, backpacks brimming with school supplies, and CFL light bulbs from West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

"I was so amazed to see people who attend the celebration every year call and ask, 'how many backpacks you need?' and they'll just donate it," Amy said.

In addition to plenty of useful giveaways, entertainment abounds for residents of all ages. Among the performances lined up for the evening are a Brikyaat resident's Mexican dance troupe and rockabilly-blues band The Bean Diddlers, headed up by Christian Borg who is an administrative analyst for the City of Grand Rapids. City officials have also traditionally attended the event.

"Get to know the people that live on your street or within your larger neighborhood so that when things are suspicious in your neighborhood, you can recognize it," Amy said. "Come down, bring a picnic, eat with your neighbors."

Celebration on The Green will take place this year from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 17 at the Midtown Green (735 Fountain NE).

 

Compiled by Denise Cheng, MNA board member

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