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Back by popular demand as Grand Rapids Magazine prepares to celebrate its 45th anniversary … Laurels & Hardlies, a less reverent alternative to a year in review.

By Grand Rapids Magazine Staff

2008 has been a remarkable year. So many notable events took place in our city or directly affected it that Grand Rapids Magazine decided to resurrect its Laurels & Hardlies to honor the achievements, both laudatory and dubious, of West Michigan personalities and institutions.

The staff compiled a panel of bad joke experts — most of them from the Coffee Dunkers of America Grand Rapids Chapter — who gathered over pizza and beer to review, discuss and argue over who deserves recognition for their deeds and misdeeds. As the beer flowed, so did the cattiness.

Without further ado, we honor and dishonor the following people, institutions and happenings with our 2008 Laurels & Hardlies awards:

“Happy Birthday To Me” Laurels go to St. Cecilia’s, Grand Rapids Business Journal, West Michigan Environmental Action Council and Alticor for celebrating milestone anniversaries.

A “Who Are We Again?” Laurel goes to Alticor/Amway for figuring out that it is better to have a bad name that is globally recognized than a meaningless name that no one recognizes.

A “Really, That’s What ‘Beaner’ Means?” Laurel goes to Biggby’s Coffee for figuring out that it’s better to have a meaningless name than a possibly offensive one.

A “Don’t Mess With The Hoff” Laurel goes to Barry County’s own Jessica Price for making Michigan proud in this year’s “America’s Got Talent” competition.

A “The Cup Was Raised Here” Laurel goes to Grand Rapids Griffins for contributing to the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup victory with 15 of its former players on the Wings’ championship roster.


Response teams reacted quickly after the helicopter crash at Spectrum Health in downtown Grand Rapids in May.
Photography by Jeff Hage/Green Frog Photo

A “Teamwork” Laurel goes to Spectrum Health, Saint Mary’s Health Center, Michigan State University and Van Andel Institute for bringing the MSU College of Human Medicine here and fostering a climate of cooperation.

A “Captain Kirk” Laurel goes to the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, the city of Wyoming and The Right Place for bringing approximately 600 new jobs to Wyoming for a call center. Will William Shatner attend the ribbon cutting?

A “You’ve Gotta Have Art” Laurel goes to the UICA for finally breaking ground on the new Gallery on Fulton project.

A “Reading Is Fundamental” Laurel goes to Schuler Books for bringing a bookstore back to downtown.

A “Designated Driver” Laurel goes to Rep. Michael Sak for not representing West Michigan at the 2008 Mackinaw Policy Conference.

A “Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste” Laurel goes to Peter Secchia for supporting world-class education through his donations and hard work to bring the MSU College of Human Medicine to Grand Rapids and his support of the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College.

A “How Many Republicans Can We Get In A Room Before It’s A Fire Hazard?” Laurel goes to the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, for establishing the West Michigan Regional Policy Conference — the perfect test event for Grand Rapids to sponsor the GOP convention in 2012.

A “We Don’t Suck” Laurel goes to Bissell Inc. for investing $9 million for an expansion and innovation center in Walker — and for its Pet Hair Eraser Corded Hand Vac, which actually works.

“ Maestro” Laurels go to the Grand Rapids Symphony’s conductors for making the Symphony much harder to sleep through.

A “Roar Restored” Laurel goes to the Lions of Lake Manyara exhibit at John Ball Zoo. After completing this impressive display, all the zoo needs to do now is to put pants on the spider monkeys.

A “Flintstones” Laurel goes to the “Walking With Dinosaurs” show. Finally, dinosaurs and humans will co-exist in the Van Andel Arena, just like Sarah Palin taught us.

A “Blessed Are The Peacemakers” Laurel goes to the Dominican Sisters for their incredible perseverance and longevity, and for applying their faith in the pursuit of peace through their demonstrations, even in the face of jailing and, incredibly, temporarily being labeled “terrorists” in a federal database.

A “Courage Under Fire” Laurel goes to Spectrum Health for sustaining a helicopter crash without casualties or serious injuries.

A “Heroes” Laurel goes to responders to the explosion in Eastown last February, the result of a gas leak that destroyed several buildings. Despite the devastation, only seven people suffered injuries.

A “C-List” Laurel goes to the Michigan Film Office for bringing a galaxy of stars to West Michigan, including Val Kilmer, Eric Roberts and James Van Der Beek, who had not previously been seen outside the clearance bin at Blockbuster Video.


Photography by Jim Gebben

A “Winning Isn’t Everything” Laurel goes to John McCain and Barack Obama for showing that winning a Michigan primary isn’t a prerequisite to a presidential nomination.

A “Seasonal Affect Disorder” Hardly goes to Mother Nature for Winter 2007/2008, which made February the real longest month of the year.

A “We Don’t Even Know Where To Begin” Hardly goes to Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn for learning a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

A “Textual Intercourse” Hardly goes to former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick for making sure Grand Rapidians emphasize we’re from West Michigan.

A “Full Service” Hardly goes to Seyferth and Associates for redefining “crisis communications” by providing Meijer Inc. with both communications — and crisis.

A “Better Late Than Never” Hardly goes to William Clay Ford for taking longer to fire Matt Millen than to develop a hybrid vehicle.

A “Disorderly Conduct” Hardly goes to the Margarita Grill for providing its unruly patrons with free nightly rides — provided by the Grand Rapids Police Department.

Photography by Michael Buck

A “Perfect Spot” Hardly goes to parking commissioners for increased parking rates and fines downtown, giving new meaning to “a small city with a big city feel.”

A “Thanks Anyway” Hardly goes to Gerald R. Ford International Airport for building a new parking structure. Once completed, there will be more parking spaces than travelers, who are increasingly flying out of Lansing and Kalamazoo.

A “Waste Not, Want Not” Hardly goes to infamous germatologist … err, dermatologist Dr. Robert Stokes for bringing the “green” recycling movement to the medical industry.

A “There’s No Place Like Home” Hardly goes to Gov. Jennifer Granholm for missing both the West Michigan Regional Policy Conference and Tulip Time (again). Apparently, her GPS doesn’t function west of Lansing.

An “If At First You Don’t Succeed” Hardly goes to Michael Vorce, who — already facing criminal charges for bank fraud in West Michigan — was recently arrested for defrauding a bank in Wisconsin. Reportedly, he is entertaining an insanity defense in the Michigan fraud case. Insanity, as we know, is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

A “Best Argument For A Part-Time Legislature” Hardly goes to the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Business Tax fiasco. In trying to establish an alternative to the Single Business Tax, the legislature initially floated a tax on services provided by businesses without lobbyists, such as personal escorts, dating services and fortune tellers. Strangely, the psychics never saw it coming. After even more tax revisions, the Michigan Legislature has greatly increased its popularity — in Indiana and Ohio.

A “Haunted House” Hardly goes to Olds Manor for being an eyesore in an otherwise thriving downtown.

A “Can’t We ‘Justice’ Get Along?” Hardly goes to the dispute between Judges Smolenski and Servaas. Allegedly stolen stationery, resignation demands and scandalous doodles? Sounds like a case for Judge Judy.

A “What They Lack In Accuracy, They Make Up For In Sheer Manpower” Hardly goes to the WOOD-TV Storm Team 8 Meteorologists. Really, how many meteorologists does it take to say “More snow expected?”

A “Deathly Hallows” Hardly goes to Muskegon publisher RDR Books and author Steven Vander Ark for taking on J.K. Rowling in a copyright action against his book “The Harry Potter Lexicon.” Unfortunately, Vander Ark’s attempt to invoke the Lawsuitus Shieldus spell was ineffective.

A “I Wouldn’t Belong To Any Club That Would Have Me As A Member” Hardly goes to the Peninsular Club. This posh club is now so exclusive that no one is a member.

An “All In The Family” Hardly goes to former state Rep. Glenn Steil Sr. Disappointed that his daughter-in-law couldn’t win the Steil family seat in the legislature, he plans to run his dog, “Bowser” Steil, in 2010. GR

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