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Renovated Monument Park dedicated

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- One of the oldest parks in Grand Rapids has been dedicated again, following its renovation this summer.

The city, area businesses, historic preservationists, and veterans all worked together to renovate Monument Park.

Organizers held a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon.

Mayor George Heartwell says the park is a great tribute to those who fought in the Civil War and also signifies a lot about the people living in Grand Rapids today.

"It shows the way the community can come together, public and private sector working hand-in-hand, to take something that was at best old and stale, and turn it into something that's beautiful and usable by the public," the Mayor said.

Some of the changes made to the Monument Park include new walkways, furniture, landscaping and the refurbishment of the park's Civil War monument.

Austrian mayor: G.R. lip-dub inspired ours

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- The mayor of an Austrian city is thanking Grand Rapids for inspiring his city's lip-dub video.

It's 14 minutes long, a new world record. More than 6,000 people danced for 10 hours to make it happen.

The mayor of Kapfenburg, Austria, posted a video Wednesday, thanking Grand Rapids, the site of a 2011 lip-dub that drew international attention.

"It's my big pleasure for me to send back our best wishes and compliments to Mr. Heartwell and the citizens of Grand Rapids, USA," said Kapfenberg Mayor Manfred Wegscheider. "Watching your great lip-dub has always been our motivation and inspiration."

The song heard in the Austrian lip-dub is "Live Is Life," a 1984 song by the Austrian pop rock group Opus. See Kapfenberg's lip-dub at this link.

G.R. planners OK new parking lot, brewery expansion

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- The Grand Rapids Planning Commission on Thursday approved putting up a new parking lot on Market Avenue, in what now houses empty buildings.

The 276-space lot still needs funding approval from the full City Commission, which will be asked to spend $1.5 million to tear down the buildings and put up the surface lot across from the Showgirls Galleria adult club.

The 5-4 vote came after a member of the city's Parking Commission, Andy Guy, urged planners to table the idea.

"Surface lots are not the land use we are trying to expand in the downtown - in fact, we're going the other way," Guy said.

Pam Ritsema, the city's parking director, said the new lot, which would open a year from now, would provide a "relief valve" since it's likely several lots behind the arena will go off line in the years ahead to accommodate development there.

Group gathers in G.R. to watch partial solar eclipse

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- A rare phenomenon is darkening the sky Thursday afternoon, and a group has gathered in Grand Rapids to celebrate the occasion.

The gathering on top of the Grand Rapids Public Museum parking deck is to watch the partial solar eclipse, in which the new moon hides part of the sun from view. The eclipse unfolded slowly following its start near the Kamchatka Peninsula in far eastern Russia.

The northwest United States and northern Canada, especially Prince of Wales Island, are getting the best views. New England and the Canadian Maritime provinces are missing out.

In the eastern half of the U.S., the eclipse is happening about the time of sunset.

Sky gazers are urged to protect their eyes with special filtered glasses. Regular sunglasses are not good enough.

Thursday's event makes for two solar and two lunar eclipses this year.

My First Visit to the Blue Dog Tavern

My First Visit to the Blue Dog Tavern

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to visit the Blue Dog Tavern, formerly the Kopper Top Bar, for the first time. The tavern is located on the corner of Stocking & 4th St. NW in Grand Rapids, MI.

What a change from the former bar. I never knew there were windows on the side of the building but now those have been opened up to let the outside in. It is so wide open and inviting. The barback is especially neat; it looks like metal but I was told it is wood. Tables have receipts under glass from way back when, from years of 1936 on up, that the waitresses actually wrote out for customers orders. These were found when the new owner/owners started cleaning out the upper floor in the building.

Aquinas hosts Grand Rapids Area College Fair

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Teenagers looking ahead to the next step in their education will be able to go to a College Fair in Grand Rapids tonight.

Aquinas College is hosting the Grand Rapids Area College Fair. More than 70 institutions from around the nation will be represented.

Students and parents will be able to meet with people from the schools and get information on educational programs and admission deadlines.

The fair is open to West Michigan high school students from 12-2 p.m., and the general public from 6:30-8:00 p.m.

The free event is at Aquinas' Sturrus Sports & Fitness Center, 1580 E. Fulton St.

Festival of the Arts organizers unveil 2015 poster

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- It's never too early start thinking about summer 2015 -- and what better way, than talking about Festival of the Arts.

Festival is held every June in downtown Grand Rapids, and celebrates the arts.

Wednesday, we got our first look at the Festival poster created by Pete Kemme. It shows a crowded downtown street, with a mix of people, vendors, and music.

Festival is always held during the first full weekend in June: the 5th, 6th, and 7th this coming year.