Book Signing at Artworks

Join Artworks this Friday, July 6 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. as they host Lara Alspaugh, author and Big Rapids native, as she returns home for a book signing celebrating her first novel, Last Turn Home. A limited number of books will be available at the event for purchase, books may be purchased HERE prior to the event.
About the author:  Lara loves to use words to make sense of her boy crazy world on her blog, Confessions of a Daughterless Mother. She is a retired registered nurse and figure skating coach who enjoys walking with her husband and Labrador Lulu, reading, writing, traveling, music and being at the beach. She is Momma to three boys and has been happily married for nearly 22 years. Last Turn Home is her first novel. Lara is originally from Big Rapids & daughter to Mike Cooper and Ginna Crowe.
About the book:
A dream job, a loft apartment all to herself and a relationship with one of Chicago’s favorite sons is all Tessa Wallace thinks she needs to be happy. Life is moving along exactly how she planned it. When a phone call from her hometown comes with news of her estranged grandmother’s passing, Tessa is faced with a decision she never thought she’d have to make.

Going home was never an option, until it became the only one.

Tessa finds her way back to Chapel Corners, the small town in Michigan she left over a decade earlier without a plan, or a suitcase. Using her instincts, her love of Lake Michigan, an old friend and a few new ones, Tessa works to uncover the truth about her past. Will revelations about her mother, her estranged grandmother and her beloved Grandpa Henry teach her what it really means to be comfortable in your own skin? Or will discoveries about her past cause Tessa to run away again, giving up on finally making peace with her past and plans for her future?

Capitalize on Trail Commerce

trails.jpgBy Jayna Wekenman, Adventure Coordinator at Ferris State University

Summer time is the perfect time to take advantage of trail-based commerce.  Trail-based commerce equates to money spent on services, fees, gear, transportation, lodging, food, and other amenities of trail users.  In the greater region, land-trail users might be cyclers on the White Pine Trail, backpackers on the North Country Trail, hikers out in Hungerford Recreation Area, and/or motorized trail users.  Water-trail users might be paddlers of the Little Muskegon River, boaters on Muskegon River, or anglers of the Pere Marquette River.  In preparation for the summer recreation and tourism season, here are a few tips on how to capitalize on trail-based commerce of trail users:


Carry recreation—related products.

Place a bike rack near your business.

Post easy-to-read hours in your storefront.

Be open when trail users might be traveling through or in/out of the area.

Offer shipping for purchases.

Post banners or create window displays featuring Welcome Cyclists (or walkers, dogs, anglers, etc.)

Have dog water & shaded tie area near your business.

Be dog friendly.

Lend out bike locks, repair tools, and bike pumps.

Accommodate for helmets, bags, and other gear.

Create an unique photo-opportunity for visitors.

Offer cell phone charging stations.

Advertise in publications by trail-based organizations.

Collaborate with other trail-based businesses or services for marketing and events.

Offer discounts for attendees of outdoor-based MeetUp groups or events.


Specifically for restaurants:

Post menus outside.

Expect patrons dressed in recreation apparel or gear.

Deliver to lodging, parks & campgrounds.

Utilize eco-friendly containers.

Have protein-rich vegetarian options available.

Host recreation-themed events & specials.


Simply having trails will get people outdoors.  Catering to the needs of trail users will get people outside AND bring trail-based commerce into our region.


For more trail updates, follow The Mecosta County Trail Alliance on Facebook at

FSU Community Summer Band Concert #5


SUMMER BAND CONCERT #5: “Summer in the Shell!”

 Featuring The Ferris State Community Summer Band in it’s 53rd Annual Concert Season. Directed by Dr. Richard Scott Cohen.

Wednesday, June 27, at 7:00 p.m. at the Big Rapids Band Shell (River Walk @ Hemlock Park, behind Big Rapids Middle School). RAIN LOCATION: Big Rapids First United Methodist Church, 304 Elm Street.


Having already performed this season at the Big Rapids Old Jail, Big Rapids Band Shell, the Canadian Lakes Castle, and the Triangle Park by the Hospital, the Ferris Community Summer Band returns to the Big Rapids Band Shell for its fifth summer concert of the season. These concerts are part of the series of free outdoor concerts sponsored by Ferris State University that features an enjoyable variety of musical styles performed by local talented musicians.

This week’s concert includes a wide variety of musical styles including:  Movie Music, Marches, Bulgarian Music, the music of George Gershwin, Polka Music, and the Swing Band favorite, “In the Mood.”

These concerts will also showcase the talents of several musicians, including Mollie Weber (euphonium), and Maria Borton (vocals).  FSU Pep Band Director Dale Skornia will also be featured as an alto sax soloist and guest conductor.


The Black Horse Troop March

Bulgarian Folk Dance

Clarinet Polka

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

In the Mood

On the Mall March

Rhapsody for Euphonium


What a Wonderful World


Sponsored by Ferris State University as part of its “Music for Life!” initiative, the Ferris Community Summer Band is celebrating its 53rd year of bringing the campus and the community together through music.  It is open — at no cost — to all area adults, college students, high school students, and advanced middle school students with band experience.  In order to perform in a concert, musicians should attend the rehearsal beforehand.  Musicians are invited to perform in as many concerts as they can that fit into their schedules.  Musical friends and relatives visiting in town this summer are also welcome.  To participate, either contact director Scott Cohen in advance (231-591-2484 or, or simply come to the next rehearsal!




Weekly Ferris Community Summer Band Concerts are presented outdoors throughout the greater Big Rapids area, including the new Big Rapids Band Shell, the Canadian Lakes Castle, and local parks.  All of them support local community activities and organizations such as the Roof Replacement Project at the Big Rapids Old Jail, the annual Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital Community Block Party & Health Fair, the Canadian Lakes Association, and the annual Big Rapids Band Shell Concert Summer Series.


June 27 (Wednesday)

*Big Rapids Band Shell, Big Rapids


July 3 (Tuesday)

*Big Rapids Band Shell, Big Rapids



First United Methodist Church, 304 Elm Street, Big Rapids





July 2 (Monday)

7:00–9:00 p.m. @ Ferris State University’s Music Center, Room 108



Scott Cohen has just completed his 16th year as Director of Instrumental Concert Ensembles at Ferris State University, where he directs the Ferris West Central Concert Band, the Ferris Symphony Band, the Ferris Community Summer Band, and the Ferris West Central Chamber Orchestra.  He also teaches piano and courses in classical music and film music. Locally, Dr. Cohen has served on the boards of directors of Artworks, the Festival of the Arts, the Tuba Bach Chamber Music Series, the City of Big Rapids Park & Recreation Board, the Big Rapids Band Shell Development Committee, and the Big Rapids Band Shell Programming Committee.  He is also a board member of the Rotary Club of Big Rapids. A native of Chicago, he is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar from the University of Illinois, a doctoral conducting graduate from Northwestern University, and a Fulbright Scholar to Spain.  He remains active as a conductor, trombonist, composer, music adjudicator, researcher, author, translator and lecturer throughout North America, Europe and Asia.



Anyone with a disability who needs special accommodations to attend this event must contact 231-591-2484 or at least 72 hours in advance of event. Ferris State University is an equal opportunity institution. For information on the University’s Policy on Non-Discrimination, visit


The Cran-Hill Ranch 10th Annual Golf Fundraiser


We just finished a wonderful Week #1 of Summer Camp here at Cran-Hill Ranch – and that means that it’s time for me to get going on the 10th Annual Golf Fundraising Event.

This is our major annual fundraiser. Our goal is $50,000 and we really need to reach that goal again. It helps summer camp happen in so many ways, from paying summer staff to covering expenses for every aspect of transforming lives into the image of Christ.

Would you join me this year in one of three ways?

1st – Come and Golf. Please consider joining us this year for the outing or even bring a foursome. The Scramble starts with a great lunch at 12:00 PM.We really want you to come. It wouldn’t be a golf event without golfers. So please put it on your schedule and join us.

2nd – Be an Event Sponsor. Perhaps you own a business, or you would just like to help by being a hole sponsor. That is a huge blessing to help cover costs for the day and help campers come to know Christ this summer.

3rd – Sponsor me in the President’s Club Special Event. In the morning, prior to the scramble, me and some friends of Cran-Hill will golf as many holes as possible to raise extra funds for the day. You could give a per-hole amount or a flat amount. It all goes to help kids and families. If you would like an invitation to this portion of the day, email me at

No matter how you choose to participate, I ask that you pray for this event. Pray for our fun and safety. Also, pray for it to be productive, so we can continue to effectively fulfill our mission.

For more information or to register, go to:

With your help, this will be a great event.

Scott Barger
Cran-Hill Ranch

Director’s Letter: Summer Business Strategies

Jennifer Heinzman, Executive Director

For some small businesses, the summer is the busiest time of year. For others, it’s the slow season. Regardless of what time of year it is for you, there are things all small business owners can do this summer to be proactive and productive.

Whether you’re taking advantage of the extra foot traffic in your store or a quiet space in time to reflect and think about your future goals, these tips can help you make the most out of the next few months. Tomorrow’s success really does start today, so it’s important that no matter what season you’re in, you are thinking ahead and getting ready.

As temperatures rise, your customers will be hitting beaches, pools, and vacation spots. While the summer months are good for tourist-focused businesses, downtown retailers and other companies may need to work harder to get noticed. Even businesses set up on boardwalks need strong summer marketing campaigns to keep up with competition. Targeted messaging, community events, contests and discounts are summer marketing secrets that you can deploy for increased success.

Make your summer marketing message fun and relevant – If you don’t have an appropriate message for the summertime that will appeal to customers, you might want to scale back your marketing for the season. For example, a boutique specializing in snowboard accessories isn’t going to hit record sales during the warm months regardless of marketing efforts; save your advertising budget for a more appropriate time. If you offer products relevant to summer or any time of year, spread the word with fun messaging. Many retailers use window paint or sidewalk chalk to capture consumer attention with seasonal drawings that include messages about discounts. You can incorporate the same light-heartedness into your direct mail and email messages by leveraging whimsical images and text.

Summer sales ideas – One of the easiest summer marketing ideas is to offer special discounts or sales. People are naturally drawn to a deal, but you can enhance your sale by linking it to the weather or the community. If the local little league team wins the championship, offer a discount — even better, offer 1 percent off for every run the little league team bats in during Saturday’s game (with an appropriate limit, of course). Some companies offer 10 percent off purchases anytime the day’s temperature rises over 100 degrees – this might be one of the best marketing ideas for theaters, ice cream shops and other businesses that offer relief from the heat. Get the word out on your special summer promotion with dynamic printed flyers.

Hold a contest – summer marketing that creates excitement and fun is likely to engage more of your customers. Host giveaways and contests to drive foot traffic or Internet interest. You don’t have to offer a large prize to get people involved – a coffee shop might offer a daily chance to win a free drink for anyone who shares or likes the company’s Facebook page, for example. To get people inside your store, offer a larger giveaway for those who sign up in person. Tie in poolside fun by inviting customers to pull a rubber duck from a wading pool to earn a discount or small prize – you can print the prize or discount information on the bottom of the duck.

Bring your business to the community – Small businesses can find numerous free or low-cost marketing opportunities in their communities. Summer event planners love when businesses agree to sponsor activities, and a donation usually gets you listed in event advertisements and programs. Try to add at least one booth to your summer marketing plan. Booth space is often available at 5K runs, park concerts and other warm-month venues. Make sure your booth is attractive and your message is clear to consumers at the event. Consider custom-printed signs, banners and promotional items to spread awareness of your brand.

Summer can be a great time to boost your sales. Use fun summer marketing ideas to engage customers who might otherwise be busy with warm-weather activities. Incorporating colorful advertisements, contests and community events into you marketing strategy can help you develop affordable seasonal marketing that’s good for your bottom line.

As always, if there is anything we can do to help you improve your bottom line, please do not hesitate to ask!


“A Patchwork of Colors” A GFWC Garden Tour

flowersThe General Federation of Woman’s Club (GFWC) Big Rapids is pleased to present its fifth annual garden tour – “A Patchwork of Colors” on July 17, 2018 from 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (rain or shine). The gardens this year include two by a lake, one on the Muskegon River, and two countryside properties. In keeping with Artworks’ current exhibit, quilts from local area crafters will be on display at each garden.

Tickets are $15 per person and can be purchased at Patterson’s Flowers, Artworks, and from any GFWC Big Rapids club member. Tickets can also be purchased at each garden during the tour. All money raised at this event is distributed back into the community with one half going to Open Arms Child Advocacy Center.

Be Engaged

By Megan Eppley, Programming and Events Coordinator


The past year has been full of change and progress for the chamber. The staff of the chamber, myself included, is pleased to have relocated to our fabulous new work space, which was made possible by the generosity the community. We feel quite privileged to be a small part of this big project, so we thank you!

We would like to introduce a couple of things we have been working on this year.  I am really happy to be a part of one of our new initiatives, our Be Engaged plan for member engagement.  You may have heard the phrase regarding the chamber, “you get out of it what you put into it.”  But what does that mean? How can you be more involved with the chamber?

With that in mind, we created the 8-4-2-1 plan, to give you a little bit of a road map for engagement.  We think that if you can try it out, and commit to these opportunities, your community connections and engagement will give you a better appreciation for all that the chamber can do for your business. There are four parts to the plan: Attend, Vocalize, Volunteer, and Invest.

Attend: 8 Times.

The chamber hosted over 60 events last year.  From our big events like the Holiday Gala

to our monthly Business after Hours and Rise and Shines, there are many opportunities to interact with your fellow members and the community at large. This year we have expanded our Lunch and Learn series to take place monthly for even more educational opportunities. But we realize that attending every event that the chamber puts out is nearly impossible: even when you work there. But, if you can commit to attending just 8 of these events, many of which are free of charge, you really will appreciate the chance to grow your network and relationships within the community. Take advantage of these opportunities.

Vocalize: 4 Times.

Our electronic newsletter reaches nearly 1,100 inboxes weekly and our monthly print newsletter is included monthly in the Big Rapids Pioneer, reaching all subscribers, chamber members and the community at large. How do we pick what news and events are included in these outlets? They are submitted by you: our members! If you have any news or events coming up regarding your business, share them with us! We can help spread the word. Put your events on our online community calendar, so visitors to our web page know what you have coming up. You are able to access your chamber page and create events yourself, but if not, give us a call and we can help you. We also can, when

appropriate, help you to share big news via e-blasts and social media. You are welcome to share more often, as many of you do, but if you are just starting, aim for 4. If you share just 4 times a year, it will help to keep your business’ name at the forefront of the community’s mind.


Volunteer. 2 times.

The chamber is staffed by four people: your Executive Director, Jennifer Heinzman; myself, Megan Eppley, Programming and Events Coordinator; and our Administrative Assistants, Jayna Wekenman and Whitney Buffa. As I said, we create and host over 60 events a year, and as much as we love it, it can be a lot for three people! We absolutely could not do it without our volunteer committees! We have many opportunities for volunteers: help us plan an event, join one of our advisory committees, be an ambassador, or if you can’t commit to that, offer to volunteer at an actual event. There is always something to be done, so join us and volunteer at least 2 times. It is an easy and fun way to interact with the chamber and your fellow members.

Invest. 1 Time.


s a chamber member, you are included in our annual membership directory, and when people call our office and look for referrals, we always recommend chamber members first. You can enhance that community recognition, by taking advantage of one of our many sponsorship opportunities.  From premium memberships, to event sponsorships, there are a number of chances for you to have your business more prevalently featured in Mecosta County. There is a list of sponsorship opportunities in your Annual Report, but if you don’t see something that seems to fit your business, come and talk to us. We will find something that is just right for you. As previously mentioned, we have a number of Lunch and Learns coming up, and lunch sponsors would really help to make that program a success.

We really think that if you give this plan a try and commit to following this model, we are confident that you will definitely feel a greater connection with the chamber and the community as a whole.

As always, if you have any questions, please contact us at the chamber at (231)796-7649 or via email at

Lunch and Learn: Chamber 101

lunchandlearnAre you getting the most out of your chamber membership? Are you thinking of becoming a chamber member, but unsure of the benefits we have to offer? Do you want to become more active with the Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce, but don’t know how? If you are looking for answers to any of these questions or if you have others about MCACC, then Chamber 101 is the class for you! During this free event, you will learn how to take advantage of all that the Chamber has to offer you and more. Topics will include member benefits, committees, , our Be Engaged program, staff assistance, Hot Deals, Member to Member discounts, job postings, networking opportunities, chamber website and more.
Space is very limited, so RSVP is appreciated. Email to register for this FREE event.

FSU to offer free TIPS training.

TIPS TrainingIn collaboration with the Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce, Ferris State University is once again offering local liquor sales establishments an opportunity for their employees to be T.I.P.S. (Training for Intervention Procedures by Servicers of Alcohol) certified with free training on July 29, 2018, at 12:00 p.m.

TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures) is a dynamic, skills-based training program designed to prevent intoxication, drunk driving and underage drinking by enhancing the fundamental “people skills” of servers, sellers and consumers of alcohol. T.I.P.S. gives individuals the knowledge and confidence they need to recognize potential alcohol-related problems and intervene to prevent alcohol-related tragedies.

Instruction and the booklets will be provided at no cost, compliments of Ferris State University.

Seating is limited and will be awarded on a first come first serve basis with reservations required by calling your Chamber today at (231) 796-7649 or email names of participants to

50th Annual Labor Day Arts and Crafts Festival Seeks Vendors

On Monday, September 3rd, 2018 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., artisans from around the state and country will be convene at The 50th Annual Labor Day Arts and Crafts Festival, at Hemlock Park, located in downtown Big Rapids. The Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce invites all crafters and artists to reserve a booth at this year’s event.

The festival draws over 10,000 visitors to the city annually. This year’s festival will feature art created from various media, such as wheel thrown pottery, hand woven baskets, stained and blown glass, oak furniture, paintings, jewelry, metal work, clothing, lawn ornaments, and a variety of other items. Concessions will also be available, Cran-Hill Ranch will offer attendees the opportunity to test their skills on their traveling climbing wall, and the Friends of the Big Rapids Community Library will host their annual Used Book Sale as well.

IMG_7116-650x433Vendor space is still available at this year’s festival. The application fee is $110 per booth until July 31. On or after August 1, 2018 the fee is $135 per booth. Applications can be found on the Chamber’s website, or by calling (231) 796-7649.

Since it’s the 50th year of the Labor Day Arts and Crafts Festival, the Chamber of Commerce will be hosting the first ever Mecosta County Children’s Business Fair. The chamber wants to give local kids the chance to show their creativity and flex their entrepreneurial muscles. The Business Fair is an opportunity for area children to learn about entrepreneurship in a practical and fun way. The concept is simple: Kids develop a brand, create a product or a service, build a marketing strategy, and finally, open for business at this one-day marketplace, as part of the Labor Day Arts and Crafts Festival.

The Children’s Business Fair is open to kids ages 6 to 16. Registration is free, but the child’s brand/concept must be approved before they will be accepted into the fair. For a complete list of rules, regulations and FAQs, or to register, visit:

For further information about the festival, please call the Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce at (231) 796-7649 or email us at