Local events aren’t just about keeping people busy but creating a sense of community

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By Kaitlin Petrillo
Living In The Ledge Staff Reporter

Whether it is a warm summer day, or a cold winter night, Grand Ledge is working to bring its community and the surrounding areas together in a fun, interactive way.

Here is a map on how to get to Bridge Street Plaza and the surrounding area where events are mainly held. Courtesy of Google Maps

Map of Bridge Street Plaza and the surrounding area where many events are held.
Courtesy of Google Maps

“It’s that sense of coming together, you may not even know the person, but you come together because that’s what this area is about,” said Jill Russell, the Executive Director at the Grand Ledge Area Chamber of Commerce.

The city of Grand Ledge puts on events through the course of every season, with some of the oldest event traditions dating back to the ‘70s. It’s about more than just keeping people busy; such events are about building community.

“I think community events function in two ways. The more classic way in which it creates solidarity in the community, but also that it is a ritual and confirms a sense of belonging for the residents who attend the events annually,” said Marshall Battani, Professor of Sociology at Grand Valley State University.

“Events such as these, not only help to bring the community closer together but also bring in business. Rather than just building community for the community, it also builds a brand for the town,” Battani said.

According to Russell, Grand Ledge locals are proud of what their town has to offer and the sense of belonging these events bring to the community.

“I feel like I have met and know so many more people who live in the community and who even just work in the community,” said Charles Beagle, a 21-year-old Grand Ledge business owner, and long-time resident. “It really encourages people to get out of their houses and actually meet their neighbors.”

Larry Austin and Marilyn Smith, volunteer their free time to work towards putting together parades, fairs, and other events for all ages.

“Sometimes we even start planning a year ahead, just depends on the event,” said Smith, a long time Grand Ledge resident and community volunteer. “The key is to get promotion out early.”

Smith has been working with the community and its members at organizing all types of events for almost 50 years.

March 2016 Grand Ledge Community Function Calendar, by Kaitlin Petrillo

March 2016 Grand Ledge Community Function Calendar, by Kaitlin Petrillo

Every year there are five different parades that are held in town, many community mixers at local restaurants, weekly story-time for preschoolers, and the list does not stop there.

Every Thursday night in the summer months, Sean Van Steeland puts on a free Thursday Night Music in the Park event that is tailored to all ages, while Friday nights are reserved for a movie at Bridge Street Plaza, right in the heart of downtown Grand Ledge.

Grand Ledge advertises their event calendar and their widespread attended parades on the Chamber of Commerce’s website and in publications such as Pure Michigan, West Michigan Tourist, and Michigan Festivals.

The Annual Fall Color Cruise and Island Festival has been know to bring over 15,000 people to Downtown Grand Ledge over the course of one weekend.

“You really want to draw people into the community. It’s a way to show people what you have, what you’re truly proud of,” said Smith.

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