Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a five-part series on the Best of Grand Rapids Readers’ Poll results.
Best Male TV Personality: Mike Avery, FOX 17
Mike Avery has been at FOX 17 for the past 15 years, keeping audiences entertained and informed as a morning news anchor. Originally from Savannah, Georgia, Avery moved his family north to Grand Rapids in 2005 and has been here ever since.
GRM: What makes FOX 17 stand out from other news networks you have worked at?
Mike Avery: I have worked at several news stations around the country as a young sports reporter and news anchor; moving around is part of the business. When I started here at FOX 17, it felt different, it felt more like home.
GRM: How have you connected with the Grand Rapids community?
MA: The sense of community, the culture and the people made my wife and I decide we wanted to raise our family here. Our daughter was born and raised right here in West Michigan; she and my son are proud West Michiganders. Over the years, we have had many opportunities to meet new faces at Tulip Time, the River Bank Run, Kids’ Food Basket, ArtPrize, March of Dimes and the list goes on and on. I do not take what Grand Rapids has to offer for granted. Meeting people and getting to know them is the best part of my job.
GRM: What do you think makes a great news anchor?
MA: In my experience, I have found being a good news anchor comes down to one thing: being authentic. Like my dad used to tell me, “You put your pants on like everyone else.” Building trust with viewers is earned, not granted. When people tune in to watch the news, the hope is they will welcome you into their homes like a friend stopping by for a cup of coffee. I believe talking with people instead of ‘talking down’ to them makes all the difference. Listening to people’s experiences is key. Everyone has a story to tell and they are all unique and fascinating.
Annual Festival: Festival of the Arts
Creativity is celebrated at Festival of the Arts, held in downtown Grand Rapids each year. Local artists, performers and food booths display their masterpieces and work for residents to admire and be inspired by. Every purchase goes back into the West Michigan community, too.
Female TV Personality (tie)
Terri DeBoer, WOOD TV
You might recognize this familiar name. Terri DeBoer often is found on most Michiganders’ television screens in the morning as WOOD TV’s meteorologist. Her smile is famous on the television screen and she makes every morning better when she is predicting a sunny day.
Deanna Falzone, FOX 17
This Central Michigan University alum can be spotted on the screen as an anchor for FOX 17. She is a dedicated host who reports hard-hitting news with integrity and dedication to the story. Watch her on the evening news at 6 p.m.
Golf Course: Thousand Oaks Golf Club
Fore! Here you will find aspiring golfers, good-timers and obsessed golf connoisseurs. The beauty of the grounds alongside the greatness of the game create the ultimate golf experience. Watch as your golf balls disappear into rolling greens, oaks and maples that brighten with the autumn air. This place truly is a hole in one.
Hike/Bike Trail: Fred Meijer White Pine Trail
Take your outdoor activities to the next level by enjoying the scenery along the White Pine Trail. It is a 92-mile trail that extends from northern Grand Rapids to Cadillac. This trail is a rail-trail park and encompasses Pure Michigan vibes with every step you take deeper and deeper into the Michigan wildlands.
Local Music Series: Frederik Meijer Gardens Tuesday Evening Music Club
Beautiful scenery provides a relaxing backdrop for talented musicians ready to entertain. Enjoy an evening camped out on the terraced lawn seating and surrounded by perennials, canopy trees, tropical plants and beautiful sculptures. This event is perfect for anyone into a casual night out listening to local music under the stars.
Local Radio Show: The Free Beer and Hot Wings Morning Radio Show, WGRD 97.9
Hosted by former Central Michigan University roommates Gregg “Free Beer” Daniels and Chris “Hot Wings” Michels, The Free Beer and Hot Wings show is a West Michigan favorite.
The pair discuss everything under the sun and keep their audience laughing.
Local Visual Artist (three-way tie)
Chelsea Michal Garter
A Grand Rapids native, Chelsea Michal Garter’s vibrant and abstract art has drawn the attention of many across West Michigan. She has painted pieces that can be found hanging
at Linear restaurant downtown and she’s been featured in ArtPrize.
After graduating from Kendall College of Art and Design, Erica Lang used her artistic skills to create the popular art and clothing brand Woosah. Her nature-inspired carvings and prints are all featured in her store Woosah Outfitters on Wealthy Street.
Kathleen Kalinowski is an award-winning contemporary impressionist located in Comstock Park. Her landscapes are inspired by the natural beauty of Michigan and often are painted
DJ: Adrian Butler
DJ Adrian Butler (known as DJ AB) has been bringing creativity and energy to Grand Rapids
stages for 13 years now. With an extensive background as both a DJ and hip-hop vocalist, DJ AB has played events such as ArtPrize, the Grand Rapids AutoShow and the Green Gala.
“The first thing that comes to mind about Grand Rapids events is the number of personal
connections that I have with the audience; every event seems to be a chance to talk and connect with people before we even start to
really party,” he said.
DJ AB has embraced the creative community in Grand Rapids, collaborating in the studio with artists such as Dante Cope, Rosewood 2055, Josh Burge, DJ Snax and Ajax Stacks. DJ AB combines favorite pop hits from artists like Cardi B and ASAP Rocky with classic throwbacks such as Outkast and Missy Elliot to create an energetic and dance-driven atmosphere.
Whether at your wedding or a local venue such as The Pyramid Scheme, DJ AB’s genre-bending and unique sets are sure to please any crowd.
What turns a party into a memorable event? Live music, infectious energy and hip-swaying songs. Brena, a local Grand Rapids party band, brings all that to the table and more. Brena is a talented group that gets people onto the dance floor with classic rock, oldies, country and Top 40 hits. But the band also can bring a romantic atmosphere to a wedding ceremony with a string trio or bring a smooth sophistication to cocktail hour with a jazz quartet.
Brena has been performing since 2007 and continues to bring the fire to every event. You aren’t likely to see the dance floor empty at any point while the band is rocking out on stage. Its energy is infectious, and you can see the members’ passion for their music with every note.
Meteorologist: Bill Steffen, WOOD TV
Bill Steffen has been tracking West Michigan weather for over 45 years now and is
a familiar face around West Michigan. As Storm Team 8’s chief meteorologist, he
currently provides weather weekdays on News 8 at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Museum: Grand Rapids Public Museum
History is given life and form in Grand Rapids’ own public museum. From the Blue Bridge, you can see the historic carousel practically floating over the rushing rapids of the Grand River. The museum offers a wonderful learning experience for anyone willing to delve into stories from the past.
Park: Riverside Park
Off of Monroe Avenue, Riverside Park overlooks the Grand River. Featuring paved walking trails, a disc golf course, boat launches and playgrounds, Riverside is a wonderful place to get outside for some fresh air and family fun.
Performing Arts Organization: Grand Rapids Civic Theatre and School of Theatre Arts
This wonderful theater is home to local performers and artists alike. It’s a place to witness entertaining musicals, plays and inspiring performances. Each year the theater brings
wonderful stories to life. It also has a school — training the next generation of performers to take the stage.
Professional Sports Team: Grand Rapids Griffins
Grand Rapids has its very own professional hockey team. The Grand Rapids Griffins play their home games downtown at Van Andel Arena and are affiliated with the Detroit Red Wings. Even if you’re not a lover of hockey, the games are exhilarating and the energy in the arena is infectious.
Radio Station: 91.3 WCSG
Since 1973, WCSG has been providing listeners with an easy listening escape from the rush of daily life. WCSG is a commercial-free station dedicated to playing Christian contemporary music.
Tourist Attraction: Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
A beautiful treasure found on the outskirts of Grand Rapids is Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. This park is a 158-acre botanical garden, art museum and outdoor sculpture park that is home to colorful tulips and butterflies in the spring. It’s a whimsical place to experience natural beauty and art.
TV Station: WOOD TV
WOOD TV has been one of the best sources for West Michigan’s local breaking news
for years. Currently broadcasting 39 hours of newscasts each week, it is the best source for coverage of everything from high school football to local politics.
Wedding Venue: Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
With a 158-acre campus composed of beautiful landscaping, an internationally acclaimed sculpture collection and large ballrooms, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is the picture-perfect place to hold your special day.
Grab Your Friends
Grand Rapids is bustling with activities to fill your afternoon or evening.
Escape Room: The Ruse Escape Room
The Ruse Escape Rooms are built to promote creative thinking, teamwork and communication using high-energy interactive puzzles. Participants are locked in a room
and have 60 minutes to work together to escape.
The Outdoor Escape is an epic treasure hunt through the heart of downtown
Grand Rapids to find clues, solve challenges and make connections along the way.
Improv Group: River City Improv
River City Improv has been making Grand Rapids audiences laugh since 1993. The team crafts hilarious material on the spot that is appropriate for all ages so the whole family can
enjoy the show.
River City Improv offers private performances perfect for any event you may be hosting. From corporate retreats to retirement parties, River City improv will be sure to entertain
the entire crowd.
Live Music Venue: 20 Monroe Live
Adjacent to The B.O.B, this 2,600-seat theater has been bringing big-name acts to Grand Rapids since 2017. Outfitted with both standing room admission and reserved mezzanine seating, it’s the perfect place to catch your next show.
Not only does 20 Monroe offer live music, it also offers a multitude of other fun events such as a Harry Potter-themed “Yule Ball” and stand-up comedy shows.
Disc Golf: Riverside Park
Riverside Park has an 18-hole disc golf course. With great views of the river and many natural obstacles, this is a terrific course for beginners to advanced disc golfers.
Riverside Park frequently holds local tournaments and open leagues. Check online for details.
Dancing: Rumors Night Club
Rumors is truly a one-of-a-kind, LGBTQ-friendly bar in Grand Rapids. With a large open dance floor and fun décor, it is the ideal place to dance the night away.
Rumors frequently holds drag shows that always are entertaining — complete with skilled performances and intricate costumes.
This story can be found in the January 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox each month, subscribe here.