City of Big Rapids Recreation Programs

Thursdays January 10th—April 25th 5:30 pm—6:30 pmbigrapidslogo.png
Cost: $2 per participant
Big Rapids Middle School Cafeteria
(No class March 21st or March 28th)
Instructor: Janitza Sawyer
Zumba® Gold is perfect for active older adults, as well as those just starting their journey to a fit and healthy lifestyle, who are looking for a modified Zumba® class that recreates the original moves you love at a lower intensity. The design of the class introduces easy-to-follow Zumba® choreography that focuses on balance, range of motion and coordination.

Sundays Scrimmage: January 13th League Games Begin: January 20th
Cost: $300 per team
Big Rapids Middle School Gym
Games are played on Sundays starting at 1:00pm and ending as late as 9:00pm. 10-week season. Ages 18 and older. Registrations due by January 4th.
To register for programs please fill out form and return to: City Hall Recreation Department 226 N. Michigan Avenue, Big Rapids, MI 49307 OR fax to 231-592-4059 Forms and further information can be found at or by calling 231-592-4038.

For updates regarding the status of the ice rink please visit our website and click “Winter Activities.”
Winter 2019
October 1st—May 1st Mondays and Wednesdays 5:00—7:00 pm
Cost: $5 per participant
Ferris State Racquet Center
Coordinator: Gary Lenon
No need to have a paddle, all new players are welcome! All players must wear tennis shoes in the facility.

January 14th—May 10th Monday, Wednesday, Friday 8:30 am—9:30 am
Cost: $4 per class or $40 for punch card (12 classes)
Ferris State Recreation Center Pool
(No class March 4th—8th & March 29th)
Instructor: Sherry Williams
Low impact exercise offered for adults. Beginning in the shallow area and progressing to the deep water to allow for a full body workout.

January 7th—May 8th Mondays & Wednesdays 12:00 pm—1:00 pm
Cost: $2 per participant
Instructor: Mary Loesch, Certified International Instructor
An ancient form of exercise originally developed in China as a martial art. This exercise has benefits to allow participants to improve muscle tone, flexibility, balance and coordination. Newcomers are always welcome!!

January 7th—April 25th Monday—Thursday 4:00 pm –8:00 pm
Cost: FREE
Big Rapids Middle School Hallways
(No walking January 23rd, February 18th, & March 25th—March 28th).
To register, please call or stop in to City Hall. A map of the facility with distance is available.

January 3nd—April 25th
Cost: $2 per participant
Instructor: Diane Jones
Come join choreographed line dancing while increasing your heart rate for a great cardio workout! You can select the class that best fits your needs.

Tuesdays and Thursdays 8:00am-9:00am (Step instruction and easy beginner dances)
9:00 am—10:00 am (Intermediate)
Learn coordinated steps to a variety of music. A social and aerobic activity. Bring a friend!
Artworks, Dance Studio
To register for programs please fill out form and return to: City Hall Recreation Department 226 N. Michigan Avenue, Big Rapids, MI 49307 OR fax to 231-592-4059 Forms and further information can be found at or by calling 231-592-4038.

January 3rd—April 25th Tuesday: 4:00 pm—5:00 pm Thursday: 3:00 pm—4:00 pm
No Class (Feb. 25-Mar. 6th)
Cost: $2 per participant
Style Station (1619 Catherine Street)
Instructor: DeMar Hatchew, Certified in Senior Fitness
A senior fitness class geared to get those in need of a low impact routine emphasizing cardio, balance and muscle stretching. The class will get you feeling energized and active! Bring a mat, water bottle and personal weights.

January 3rd—April 25th Thursdays 1:00 pm— 2:00 pm Cost: $2 per participant
No Class (Feb. 25-Mar. 6th)
Style Station (1619 Catherine Street)
Instructor: DeMar Hatchew, Continuing Education in Parkinson’s Disease Training Methods
A fitness class designed to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. No matter what stage of the disease you are battling—it’s never too late to start exercising! The class will incorporate a variety of chair exercises, stretching, balance work, strength training, and vocal and facial exercises. Caregivers are welcome to join participants.

Friday, February 15th 7:00 pm—9:00 pm
Cost: $7 per person pre-registered OR $10 per person at the door
Big Rapids Middle School
Attention all dads, grandpas and uncles! This is the event you’ve all been waiting for! Grab your favorite little lady and get ready for a night you’ll both remember forever. Enjoy a night of dancing, refreshments, photos, and crafts! Create memories that will last a lifetime for you and the most important girl in your life! All ages welcome.
Follow us on Facebook @BRParksandrec!


MOCC Culinary Students Win Chili Cook-Off

IMG_5263Members of the Big Rapids Downtown Business Association presented a trophy to Mecosta-Osceola Culinary students, winners of the 2018 Fall Fest Chili Cook-Off. MOCC presented a white bean chicken chili that proved to be a big hit at this year’s event. Congratulations to the students of MOCC on creating an award-winning dish!

Hospital Tree Lighting Ceremony November 26

Community leaders Dee VanHorn and Bruce Fredrick chosen as honorary tree lighters

Carolers and tree-4861

The 21st annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, November 26,

The entire community is invited to enjoy the lighting of the huge tree at the corner of Oak Street and Winter Avenue. The festive and family-friendly atmosphere will include a visit from Santa, horse-drawn sleigh rides, holiday carols by local students and refreshments for all.

Dee VanHorn and Bruce Fredrick, partners in marriage and community leadership, will be the honorary tree lighters this year in recognition of their many contributions to the hospital and the larger community.

“We are so proud to honor Dee and Bruce at this year’s Tree Lighting Ceremony,” said Mary Kay VanDriel, president of Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals. “Dee’s invaluable community service includes her role as past president of the foundation for our two area hospitals, and her service on the committee for our annual Festival of Trees Fundraiser. She has served as chair of the committee for the past two years.”

Community leadership

Dee VanHorn
Dee VanHorn

VanHorn’s extensive involvement with health care extends beyond the hospitals. She is currently president of the Meceola Human Trafficking Task Force, and has done various presentations to educate the community about this serious issue. She is also an active member of General Federation of Woman’s Club Big Rapids, the Big Rapids Lions Club, board of directors for Project Starburst, and other community organizations.

Fredrick leads the local free tax preparation program, which focuses on helping senior citizens and people with low income. He is also active with the Lions Club at both the local and regional levels. He is past chair and member of the Morton Township Planning Commission and member of the Morton Township Zoning Board of Appeals.

Both Fredrick and VanHorn are active members of the United Church of Big Rapids.

“We invite the community to come honor Dee and Bruce, and kick off the holiday season with us as they light our holiday tree,” VanDriel said. “You can also enjoy a sleigh ride or have the kids visit Santa. It’s always a great family event.”

Santa greets young visitors-4912The holiday celebration will include hot chocolate and cookies with Christmas carols. The Big Rapids Public Schools Choir Carolers will perform, led by Katie McInnis. Children can have their photo taken with Santa at the conclusion of the ceremony. Families can go on a sleigh ride around the parking lot, provided by Dr. Wendell Weber, weather permitting.

In addition, those who attend will receive a special keepsake ornament.

The Salvation Army Needs Bell Ringers

Salvation Army LogoThe Salvation Army of Big Rapids is once again sharing the Christmas tradition of giving to families in need through the Red Kettle Bell Ringing Campaign. Beginning Thursday November 15, the red kettles will be located at businesses throughout Lake, Mecosta, Newaygo and Osceola counties. The Salvation Army is asking for the public to please give generously to these kettles, assisting programs that provide free music lessons, free camp registration for kids, utility assistance, baby items, character building in our after school program, and much more throughout the year. 

So the time has come to ask the community to help The Salvation Army give back. They have an urgent need to fill hundreds of volunteer bell ringing slots at these kettle stands outside of businesses. Shifts are available on both weekdays and Saturdays from November 15 – December 24 . The Army cannot raise the funds needed without the support of the area’s community partners, coming for a couple hours or a whole day, to ring the bell as an individual, family, business, or community organization. Positions are being filled slower than expected and The Salvation Army could use the extra support from the area.

If you are able to be a volunteer bell ringer, please register for a shift at Simply use the zip code 49307 in the search box and choose one of our cities and locations to fill shifts. If you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to call us at 231-796-5597 and leave a message for Aurelia who will call you back to assist. If you prefer, you may email

Stop the Harm: Remove the Steel & Aluminum Tariffs

Submitted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

November and December AMVETS events

Saturday, November 17th—Son’s DinnerFB_IMG_1536613399763
Swiss Steak, mashed potato, green beans, dessert
5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. $8.00
Saturday, December 1st—AMVETS/Bar Dinner
Glazed spiral ham, au gratin potato, vegetables, roll, and dessert
5:30 to 7:30 p.m. $8.00
Saturday, December 8th—Ladies Auxiliary Dinner
Janet’s burritos served with chips, salsa, and sour cream
5:30 to 7:30 p.m. $8.00
Saturday, December 15th—A Full Day of Fun
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Breakfast with Santa. Register by 12/5/18
1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Chili Cook-Off. Spicy and Mild Entries. Both will be judged separately by those here. Cannot vote for your own. All must be homemade entries. 1st and 2nd prizes for both brackets.

Muskegon River Voyage

by George Heartwell

Director, MRWA

“Let’s take this one to the left, Papa.”image001“OK.”
“Wait, wait! Maybe right would be better.”
“No! Wait! I think we can just squeeze under through the middle.”
“Uhhhh….too late!”

Day two of a source-to-mouth canoe trip on the Muskegon River. My youngest grandchild, Gabe, and I had already spent more time out of the canoe, it seemed, than in it. Hauling the craft over sandbars; over, under, through…and only when we had to, around…deadfalls that reached from bank to bank. The 14-year-old seemed to be holding up better than the 69-year-old but we were both determined to see this through.

The “Mighty Muskegon” starts as a modest flow out of Houghton Lake and gathers waters from marshes and creeks in what is called the Deadstream Swamp, backed up by Reedsburg Dam. Below the dam it starts to look more riverine, though, as noted above, it was choked with fallen trees and, in drought-wracked early August, would certainly have benefitted from six inches more water. The first smart thing we did was to drop our 100 pounds of gear at White Birch Campground, our first night’s stop, and proceed bare-boat through the first day. Then there was an incredible act of kindness by White Birch owners Dave and Lindsay Howard who Sherpa-ed our gear to Leota; and the gracious act of Susan Heartwell – who reminds me that I owe her big-time – to schlep it from Leota to M-61. From that point on we could carry the gear with us and be dependent on no one.

Well, that’s not exactly true.
At the end of Day 4, feeling strong and having reached M-66, our intended stop, earlier than expected, we pushed on, confident we could find a place to stretch our camping hammocks for the night. The rumble of distant thunder soon came closer and louder and no suitable camp sites presented themselves. We passed a home with a wooded side yard and a man working outside. One look at this bedraggled crew and he said “Sure. Pitch you camp in my yard.” River people are good people! Thank you Noel Senneca!
There were, of course, three major power dams to portage: Rogers, Hardy and Croton and they tested our endurance and commitment. There were the Class II rapids at Big Rapids to navigate. But on the ninth day the river opened into Muskegon Lake. What a sense of accomplishment!
What did we learn?
First, like Brahma of Hinduism, this river-god shows many faces. He is at times wily, serpentine, darting here and there. Then he is raucous, rolling, with one rapid after another. Then he is serene, quiet, lake-like. Just about the time you embrace that serenity he shows a towering dam and, below it a mighty river. One face is solitude, the quiet of the upper reaches, miles and miles of shoreline with no signs of human habitation. Another face is shore-to-shore inner tubes, kayaks; or, on the “ponds”, wake-boats and water skiers, houseboats and pontoons.
Second, we learned that animal life recedes as human activity increases. We kept a tally of Bald Eagle and Osprey, Great Blue Heron and Green Heron, deer, bank beavers and muskrats, and more Kingfishers, Ducks and Geese than we could count. But on Day 7 – Brower Park on Hardy Pond to Newaygo – a hot, sunny Saturday, we saw nothing but humanity! In fairness, everybody was having a good time…and the river belongs to everyone. But still I wonder: what are its limits?
Third, we saw everywhere the fingerprints of history in the life of the Muskegon. Ancient saw logs lay like pick-up sticks on the river bottom and it takes little imagination to see the devastation on the “roll-aways” where logs would cascade down hillsides taking sand and soils that cover gravel spawning beds even to this day. Anyone spending time on the Muskegon has seen the remnants of logging walls built to steer the massive log floats to their destination saw mills. The power dams did their part in changing the history of this river: blocking spawning runs, warming waters, taming rapids. Of course, lumber and electric power both have their roles in building the great nation we know. But still I wonder: is the damage irreparable?
Evident though the past is in the life of the Muskegon River, its future is less clear. This beloved water faces a host of threats: storm run off from agricultural fields and highway parking lots; bank erosion and resulting sedimentation from human activity; invasive species from as far away as the Black and Caspian Seas; and over-use for recreational purposes. Our Muskegon River is “Mighty” but even the mighty can fall.

Seeing the river in its entirety over nine days drove home for me the importance of protecting this natural wonder. Our Muskegon River Watershed Assembly is dedicated to protecting, yes even enhancing, the river. Tree planting to shade the tributaries means cooler water entering the main river. Farm grants to provide buffer zones from fertilized crops means less phosphate in the water, less “food” for toxic blue-green algae production. Soil erosion projects stabilize banks and keep further sediment-wash from the river. Riparian property owner education means smarter use of the border between water and land.
And YOU! You are part of the solution to keeping the Mighty Muskegon majestic for generations unborn to enjoy. We need your help. No…the River needs your help! Your membership in the Watershed Assembly and your financial gifts to our work will go a long way toward ensuring the future of these waters.
I imagine this scene: Gabe (now a 69 year-old grandfather) and his 14 year old grandson; the year is 2073.

“Let’s take this one to the left, Papa.”

For more information on the MRWA, visit them online at and if you would like to subscribe to the MRWA’s newsletter, contact