Pamela Mohr 2015-03-12 10:54:12
USA/Canada Lions Leadership Forum: Lions Make a Grand Return to Michigan Once was not enough for Lions. They liked Grand Rapids so much the first time around, they’re coming back. Michigan’s second-largest city originally hosted the USA/Canada Lions Leadership Forum in 2007. This year’s return visit, Sept. 17 to 19, promises to be bigger and better. The forum is jam-packed with nearly 90 seminars, new speakers, useful information and entertainment. Learning leadership skills to successfully steer members through the club, district, multiple district and global levels of Lions Clubs International is a once-a-year experience that no member should miss. There’s a reason—not just one, but too many to list, actually—that Grand Rapids and Michigan’s “Gold Coast” were together named as Lonely Planet’s 2014 top U. S. travel site. Grand Rapids has experienced a renaissance, of sorts, as a tourist destination in part because of its surging arts and creative community. The Gold Coast is a 300-mile stretch of beach towns beginning just 30 miles from Grand Haven northward along Lake Michigan. Another title Grand Rapids wins (two years running) is one of the Top 10 Best Cities for Beer Lovers—no surprise here since the craft beer business is booming. The city is home to at least 12 breweries. Try Founder’s Brewery (foundersbrewing.com) on Route 131. How can you not appreciate a place that hawks Curmudgeon Old Ale as one of its best sellers? If you’re not feeling curmudgeonly, head over to Brewery Vivant (breweryvivant.com), housed in an old chapel with gorgeous stained glass windows and high-peaked ceilings. Whether you want casual or fine dining, the “farm to fork” movement is abundantly visible. Family farms in west Michigan produce locally-sourced food from produce to dairy to free-range beef, and diners reap the tasty, healthy rewards. The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park (meijergardens. org) is ranked in the top 100 art museums worldwide by Art Newspaper. More than 200 large and small sculptures, some by acclaimed artists Picasso, Rodin and Degas, are located on the 158-acre grounds and inside the museum on permanent display. The adult entrance fee is $12; for visitors over 65, $9. Michigan’s only president is honored at the downtown Gerald R. Ford Museum (fordlibrarymuseum.gov), a 54,000-square-foot educational and cultural facility on the banks of the Grand River at 303 Pearl Street NW. You can view permanent displays like the 1970s-era exhibit and view a 6-minute-long documentary on the Watergate crisis that led to Ford’s ascension to the presidency. The museum shop has a great assortment of bobble heads, including many former U.S. presidents, and even Rosie the Riveter, Uncle Sam and Winston Churchill, for those who’d like to see world leaders nodding in agreement, or just plain nodding. They sell for $24.95. This city is simply sensational—and sensationally easy to navigate. There are 120 daily nonstop flights arriving and departing from Grand Rapids. For drivers, there’s reasonably priced parking around DeVos Place, the convention center, but bus transportation is also available. A five-minute walk from the center leads you to a 2.5-mile river walk, four museums, numerous restaurants and pubs, and more than 40 shops. Average daytime temperatures in September hover around the mid-70s in Grand Rapids. Beginning with the first seminars on Thursday morning, the forum promises three exhilarating days with Lions from all over North America. Intriguing, informative new presentations are offered. Learn about the ethics of social media, how to find your “aha” moments, handle conflict resolution, become a better speaker and how to apply for an LCIF grant. There’s also a seminar about one of Michigan’s most valuable resources—Lions leader dogs. Thursday’s Fun Festival, featuring Buckets ’n Boards, a musical with lots of laughs, closes out the evening until seminars resume on Friday at 8:30 a.m. Former child star Lisa Whelchel, who played Blair on the popular ’80s sitcom “The Facts of Life,” and is now an author, will address Friday’s luncheon guests. Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada, slated to lead Lions as the association’s 98th international president during 2015-16, will share his theme and program at Saturday’s luncheon. Saturday evening’s closing presentation includes speaker Wayne Brock, chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America. Meet international Lions leaders and discover how you can play an exciting role in the future of the world’s largest service club organization. Expanded from two days of training to three this year, there are many other changes designed to maximize your forum experience. These include new mobile apps to make it more interactive, a new Lions Club handbook for every attendee, topical seminars and the first Lions Fun Festival. You’ll also see the premiere of “We Serve On,” a documentary detailing Lions’ service for the 100 years in anticipation of our Centennial Celebration in 2017. “These are just a few of the dynamic changes we’re making,” says General Chairman Mark Miller, a Jasper Lion in Georgia. “The core remains the same. Having hosted our forum and the international convention before, Michigan Lions have shown us what Pure Michigan is all about.” Simply put, Pure Michigan is pure fun. To learn more or to register, visit lionsforum.org. Watch a promotional video on Grand Rapids at lionmagazine.org
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