9.2.15:  Festival of laughter in western Michigan set for 6th season



GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — An annual festival of laughter in western Michigan is set for its sixth season.

Organizers of Gilda’s LaughFest say Wednesday that the event will take place March 10-20. Details on headlining performers will be announced later.

The festival honors the memory of comedian Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. Proceeds and donations from LaughFest support free emotional health care programs offered for children and adults living with cancer and grief through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids.

This year, more than 45,000 people attended LaughFest’s 270 ticketed and free events at 49 venues in Grand Rapids, Lowell and Holland.


9.2.15:  Meijer Gardens reports busiest summer in its 20-year history



GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in western Michigan says it had its busiest summer season for attendance in its 20-year history.

The Grand Rapids attraction announced Wednesday that it had about 280,000 visitors in total in the months of June, July and August.

Meijer Gardens says the opening of its $22 million Japanese garden after years of construction and the acquisition of “Iron Tree,” a large iron sculpture by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, were among the reasons for this summer’s spike in attendance.

Joseph Becherer, chief curator and vice president of Meijer Gardens, says in a statement: “In this, our 20th year, it is extraordinary to see the development of Meijer Gardens from a regional institution to a cultural organization on the global stage.”



9.1.15:  2 houses damaged in Sparta fire



SPARTA, MI  (Mlive)- A garage was demolished and two houses damaged after a fire sparked early Tuesday morning, Sept. 1.

Flames were initially reported in a garage just before 7 a.m. at 173 Anderson St. Arriving firefighters reported the structure was fully involved and flames were quickly spreading to the attached house and another house next door.

A neighbor said when he came outside around 7 a.m., he could see flames shooting from the house.

Sparta Fire Chief Jerry Bolen said both houses had two residents each, all of whom were safely evacuated.

Neighbors lined the street watching firefighters put out the flames.

Hudson Miller, a resident of the second home that caught on fire who was sitting on a lawn chair in his driveway watching the firefighters, said he was sitting on his couch when there was a sudden flurry of activity.

“It was startling,” Miller said.

Bolen said there were issues with the insulation smoldering in the second house.

Firefighters remained on scene cleaning up and looking for smoldering remains at 8 a.m. Sparta Fire Chief Jerry Bolen said one person had to be carried from a next door home because of breathing issues but there were no reported injuries.

Several area departments responded for firefighting assistance.

A cause for the fire remains under investigation, Bolen said.


8.31.15:  Jury selection to start in murder trial of 13-year-old boy



GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Jury selection is scheduled to start in the trial of a 13-year-old boy accused of fatally stabbing a 9-year-old boy at a western Michigan playground.

The boy, who was 12 at the time, is charged in the death of Michael Verkerke a year ago in Kentwood, near Grand Rapids. His trial starts Monday in Kent County court.

The teen is designated as an adult in the juvenile court system. That means he would be sentenced as a juvenile if convicted of murder, then resentenced as an adult at age 21.

The Associated Press isn’t naming him because of his age.

Experts have told a judge that the boy is competent to stand trial, although his lawyer has challenged that conclusion.


8.31.15:  7 vehicles damaged in Ford airport parking garage fire



GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A parking garage fire at a western Michigan airport has left seven vehicles damaged.

A preliminary investigation shows the blaze started Sunday night in the engine of one car and spread to other vehicles at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport near Grand Rapids.

The fires were put out by 9:40 p.m. Sunday. One person was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

Two of the vehicles damaged suffered total losses, while another was heavily damaged. Four suffered minor damage.




8.28.15:  Area moms organize community march for Saturday



A group of mothers from Grand Rapids are planning to hold a “Stop the Violence” community march, Saturday, August 29th.

They will gather at 3 p.m. at Martin Luther King Park.


The group  says they are fed up with the violence in the city and that guns and violence are not a solution to problems.  There have been a number of shootings over the last few weeks.

They are holding the march in an effort to spread a message of peace and unity.

8.27.15:  Ford Airport records busiest month in airport history 



Grand Rapids, Mich. –  July 2015 was the single busiest month in Gerald R. Ford International Airport history.


July passenger numbers were up 9.4% year-over-year; resulting in the busiest July ever, and breaking an all-time monthly record from March 2015.  It goes down as the busiest July on record, surpassing July 2011 by nearly 6%.


“Month after month our numbers are increasing, and we could not be more thrilled by the support from our area passengers,” said GFIA Executive Director Brian Ryks.


“As a result of this growth, our airline partners are taking interest by investing in more seats through the introduction of larger aircraft and additional nonstop routes to and from Grand Rapids, which is good for our entire region.”


GFIA is on pace to break its annual passenger total, already 9.6% ahead of passenger totals from 2015.

8.27.15:    Judge rules against putting Grand Haven cross back up 



GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (AP) — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit over the city of Grand Haven’s decision to remove a 48-foot cross from city-owned land on Dewey Hill sand dune.

The judge determined Tuesday that the city has the right to do what it wants with its own property. He disagreed with the argument that the cross should continue to be displayed as a matter of free speech.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this year by a group of residents who claimed removing the 50-year-old cross was unconstitutional. An attorney representing the residents tells the Grand Haven Tribune that they’ll appeal.

A similar lawsuit was thrown out in June after the judge ruled that another group of residents, whose names were kept anonymous, didn’t meet the criteria for an “unincorporated voluntary association.”


8.27.15:  2 vehicle crash involving teens in northern Kent County



Early Wednesday evening, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office responded to a two car injury accident on Myers Lake Road and 13 Mile Road in Courtland Township, Kent County.
A 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer driven by 17-year-old Matthew
Gorkowski of Sparta, was traveling westbound on Myers Lake Avenue and did not stop for the stop sign at 13 Mile Rd.
Gorkowski’s vehicle was struck in the passenger side by a south bound 2003 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck driven by 18-year-old Andrew Rotunno of Cedar Springs.
Neither driver was injured, however a 15-year-old female passenger in Gorkowski’s vehicle sustained life threatening injuries.
She was transported by Rockford Ambulance to Spectrum Downtown and then to Helen Devos Children’s hospital where she remains in critical condition.
All occupants were wearing their seatbelts and alcohol was not a factor. The accident remains under investigation.

8.26.15:  Scholarship honors Grand Valley alumnus killed in wildfire



ALLENDALE, Mich. (AP) — A scholarship has been created at Grand Valley State University in memory of an alumnus who died battling a wildfire in Washington state.

The university says the scholarship was formed in honor of 31-year-old Richard Wheeler, who was one of three firefighters who died last week when flames consumed their crashed vehicle. Wheeler is from South Haven and graduated from Grand Valley in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in natural resources management.

The scholarship will be open to students who are dependents of fallen first responders, including firefighters, paramedics and police officers.

Grand Valley says a memorial service for Wheeler is being planned.