Event series hopes to bring life to downtown GR

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A multi-day, multi-series of events aimed at bringing life back to downtown Grand Rapids kicks off this weekend.

It’s called The Bridge GR, which is a collaboration between the city of Grand Rapids, Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc., the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Experience Grand Rapids.

Evette Pittman, supervisor of the Grand Rapids Office of Special Events, says it is all about unity.

“When you think of bridges, you can use a bridge to cross over, to bring together and that’s what we want to do. We want to bring our community together unified around events and art installations and experiences,” Pittman said.

The series of events kicks off Saturday with the Open Windows event. The event will feature the artists behind the painted boards covering windows of downtown businesses broken during the civil unrest of May 30. Bidding for the art is currently underway online.

“We are doing it because we are looking at our local economy, and we wanted to find a way to stimulate the local economy, our restaurants and bars all throughout downtown and the rest of Grand Rapids as well as we wanted to reactivate our community around unity,” Pittman said.

Swing and line dancing will return to downtown Grand Rapids with families and groups that arrive together, encouraged to dance together and socially distance from other groups.

Socially distanced story times will be held at Roosevelt, Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Garfield parks. Children will all receive a free book.

A live music series will be held at Cherry Park.

Pittman says each event submitted a plan that demonstrates social distancing strategies, ensures attendees wear masks and keep the crowds to under 100 people. The Kent County Health Department is reviewing those plans.

“We are Grand Rapids Strong. We are resilient. We are going to come together, and we are safely and responsibly having some vibrant activity,”she said.

The Downtown Development Authority redirected funds earmarked for ArtPrize — some $50,000 — to support The Bridge GR.