Several weeks ago while at a professional organization luncheon, I heard Grand Rapids native Brian Weaver refer to Grand Rapids as “our sleepy little town.”
At first I was a bit stunned. With the recent memories of Rob Bliss events, downtown revitalization, and our world renowned Art Prize, “sleepy” is hardly the adjective I’d choose to describe Beer City USA.
Even as a “boomerang” (being someone who was raised in Michigan, chose to live elsewhere for a few years and has since returned) I found my Michigan pride taking a pretty big hit. Sure when my wife and I left for North Carolina in the fall of 2009 Michigan was being hit hard from all angles. The economy was tanking, the housing market was underwater, and the overall scene was far from “exciting.”
I don’t remember Stella’s, Pyramid Scheme, the medical mile, or the breweries. I don’t remember the concert series, UICA, and the local artwork plastered everywhere. I don’t remember the hip coffee shops with crazy artwork on the walls or the infinite beer selections. I guess in a way, when I left it was sleepy.
Perhaps this is the way Brian remembered Grand Rapids as well. So despite my initial reaction, in some small way I had to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he had left years ago for New York City to work as the head photographer for fashion designer Kenneth Cole.
Perhaps Brian hadn’t been back in a while. Maybe he only saw the Newsweek article and not the lip dub video response.
The people of Grand Rapids brought me back. Not just the positive, no quit attitudes but the way the people stayed in the fight and rallied together to make West Michigan something special.
Nonetheless, if you are feeling a bit sleepy, wake up. Go out and experience the awakening that is happening all over western Michigan, and before you call Grand Rapids “sleepy” perhaps you’d better wake up and smell the coffee shops.
–Matt Wish, Contributing Writer