Street Talk

Street Talk: We are all pawns in this game of chess

Twister assist.

July 18, 2014
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Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. has put a giant, outdoor chess set in front of the Grand Rapids Art Museum for free public use in an effort to “encourage urban recreation.”

It’s available when the chessmen have been placed outside during open park hours from sunrise to sunset. Instructions are not included.

The purchase of the chess set is part of the plans made by DGRI’s Urban Recreation volunteer group. Last year, the group proposed the purchase of a 50-foot movie screen and a projector for free Movies in the Park each summer.

“It has been great to see the priorities and suggestions of the community come to life,” said Steve Faber, executive director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and a volunteer on the Urban Recreation group. “Additions to urban recreation within the downtown provide opportunities to enjoy an urban landscape in a variety of ways. These programs and investments are designed to activate parks and public spaces.”

Next on the Urban Recreation agenda is a 5K course along the riverfront for walkers and runners. It will include trailhead signage with mile markers and service facilities.

Kristopher Larson, president and CEO of DGRI, said ideas such as Movies in the Park and the new chess set “expand the opportunities for people to enjoy their downtown in new ways. We’re proud to have members of the community engaged in our efforts to add more fun and enjoyment to downtown.”

Incidentally, DGRI and the city currently are conducting a survey to gather public opinion about events occurring in “Downtown.” Find it online at downtowngr.org.

When the DGRI makes a reference to “Downtown” with a capital D, it means the specific area that is DGRI turf. You know: the fun zone with the bars, restaurants, shops and such.

Larson said that “while many of our city’s signature events occur in Downtown, it is important that we engage the whole community to have a voice in this process.” That’s because residents of the entire Greater Grand Rapids area are the “customer base” for DGRI activities and events.

The survey will close Aug. 1.

Your move, citizens.

Lip service

Clark Retirement Community residents, particularly those who starred in an internationally recognized lip dub, are “Feeling Good,” as global singing sensation Michael Bublé has gifted the senior living community with 100 tickets to his July 25 concert at the Van Andel Arena.

Clark and the four-time, Grammy-winning artist became acquainted in 2011 after dozens of residents performed in the six-minute “Grand Rapids LipDub” to Bublé’s hit, “Feeling Good.”

The video was produced by Grand Valley State University students.

The piece has generated more than 1.4 million views and global media coverage ranging from the United Kingdom Press to “Good Morning America” and “Inside Edition.” The “Brett Matthews Show” called it the “best lip dub of all time.”

Fast forward three years, and Bublé and Clark residents will “meet again” at his upcoming concert.

“From music to the arts to theater and much more, our residents enjoy great entertainment either at Clark or out in the community, and our Clark Bublé fan club is greatly appreciative of this incredible opportunity,” said Casey Montgomery, community relations specialist.

“It’s all about vibrant living — and what better way to do that than a Michael Bublé concert?”

Gas bubble

Does anyone else wonder why the price of a gallon of gas can jump 20 cents in one day, but never goes down by more than 3-cent increments?

Well, if you’re seeing a pleasant decrease in the price at the pump, you’re not imagining things.

The U.S. average retail price of gasoline has fallen below $3.60/gallon for the first time since April 10. As of the middle of last week, prices were on an 18-consecutive-day streak where the current price was less than the price of the previous day — the highest number of consecutive down days since the period between April 4 and April 19, 2013, when prices fell 11.8 cents/gallon, from $3.63 to $3.52. The U.S. average, now $3.59/gallon, has dropped by 5 cents in the past week.

“West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for the U.S., traded below $100 per barrel today (July 15) for the first time since April, reflecting a slow but steady decline in recent weeks,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “Over the same period, we’ve seen wholesale crude prices across the country slip dramatically. West Coast wholesale prices have fallen by more than 35 cents per gallon since the beginning of the month, and across the rest of the country wholesale prices have fallen by 15 to 20 cents per gallon.”

So what does the immediate future look like?

“We’re confident that in coming weeks, we’ll see retail prices catch up to the wholesale losses. West Coast consumers will likely see their retail prices slide from 15 to 25 cents per gallon over the next two weeks, and across the rest of the country we can expect prices at the pump to shed from 10 to 20 cents per gallon,” DeHaan said.

Pitching in

No one likes to be caught in a natural disaster, but if it has to happen, West Michigan apparently is a good place to be.

The American Red Cross last week thanked all of its community partners and in-kind donors who responded in the aftermath of the tornado that swept through the Kentwood/Wyoming area July 6. The business community’s assistance was invaluable, as was its generosity.

The Red Cross singled out Kentwood Activities Center and Ideal Park Christian Reformed Church for acting as emergency shelters, then gave a shout-out to the following local businesses and organizations for donating supplies, food and just about anything else that was needed: B&G Discount; China City Restaurant; Family Fare; First Wok Restaurant; Gordon Food Service; Home Depot; Jets Pizza; Jimmy John’s; Marge’s Donut Den; Meijer Inc.; New Beginnings Restaurant; Pizza Hut; Rowland Warehouse Distributors; Zesty Gyros & Deli; The Salvation Army; City of Wyoming Public Safety; City of Kentwood Public Safety; Kent County Emergency Management; Bethany Christian Services; Lutheran Social Services; Grand Rapids International Fellowship; Life EMS and Kent County 2-1-1.

“When disaster strikes, hundreds of people and businesses step up to the plate to help,” said Sam Tidwell, regional CEO of the Red Cross of West Michigan. “We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of these businesses, organizations, and individuals who made significant efforts to help not only people affected by the tornado but also the Red Cross and its volunteers.”

We’ve always suspected the doughnuts from Marge’s carry special recuperative powers!

Tidwell said through July 11, the Red Cross provided the community with 161 meals, 1,269 snacks, 134 clean-up kits, 113 comfort kits and 101 overnight stays at the shelter. Nearly 70 volunteers from Red Cross chapters across West Michigan assisted in the relief efforts.

That’s a significant assist from the West Michigan business community. Nicely done and another reminder that business isn’t all about making a buck.

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