Having lived in Grand Rapids for several years now, I have had ample opportunity to explore the City, its happenings and culture. As an entrepreneur and business owner, I am always looking for opportunities to connect with and support fellow local business owners. One of my favorite summer events has become the Local First Street Party. It is a great way to experience some of the food, drinks and entertainment that Grand Rapids has to offer.
As a Local First member, I have been hearing about their “Good for Grand Rapids” campaign promoting social, environmental and sustainability initiatives. With the Street Party being once of their largest events of the year, I wanted to take a different look at it this year. Instead of attending solely as a community member looking for good eats and entertainment, I wanted to see if I could witness Local First putting any of their initiatives into action and hear what other Grand Rapidians thought about the event.
The Street Party drew a crowd young and old, representing various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. New this year, I noticed several event signs in both English and Spanish. The entertainment acts were much more diverse and did a great job engaging the audience. “There’s a quiet area. They have American Sign Language interpreters. There are a lot of resources to make sure that everyone who wants to attend can attend and enjoys it,” local resident and first-time attendee Justin Dailey observed.
“I see a much cleaner environment in terms of what the event looks like. The trash composition is a lot [more pleasant],” says long-time member and local restaurant owner Don Everette.
In line with that, attendee Veronica Kirin noted, “[t]he trash is actually very small so it’s encouraging everyone to recycle or compost…It makes you think before you throw something away.”
As with anything, there are always still more opportunities for growth. For example, one initiative this year was to have Access Assistants wearing red buttons available to help disabled attendees. I did not see any of the individuals during the time I was there and, unfortunately, any attendees suffering from color blindness may have struggled to see the red buttons. Local First also created designated, “reserved - access seating only” sections. Upon observation, these seats were being used by the general public and it was unclear who they were actually reserved for. Another recommendation would be to encourage or assist vendors in providing bilingual signage as well when promoting their offerings.
It is clear that there were significant advancements taken during this year’s event to help improve ease of access, community engagement and green initiatives. Seeing these changes from previous year’s events, I am optimistic to see what else is in store. I will be looking further into the “Good for Grand Rapids” campaign, the Quick Impact Assessment and the other upcoming Local First events focused around these initiatives. Every great accomplishment begins with one action. I look forward to seeing how my company, other local businesses and Local First can continue having an impact here and help take our City from good to great.
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