After being a great pastime for people of all ages every Tuesday night, the Grand Rapids Original Swing Society, known as G.R.O.S.S., is looking to find a new permanent venue.
G.R.O.S.S. had to move from its normal outdoor venue, Rosa Parks Circle, to various indoor locations in the Grand Rapids area after fights broke out among groups of teenagers hanging out each week during and after the weekly swing dance.
G.R.O.S.S. is led by WZZM13’s Steve Zaagman, and has been an open group for all ages to join for the past nine years. The group has grown significantly in the past few years, turning their weekly event from just a few hundred people in years past, to thousands of people showing up each week this summer. One of the most significant accomplishments of the group was breaking the world record for having the largest amount of people swing dance at once, with 756 dancers participating. This record was set in August of 2012.
Zaagman said the surrounding community has been supportive of the swing dancing organization as it works through this transition period. “Businesses around Rosa Parks are very supportive of G.R.O.S.S., and after talking to many of them about what happened this summer, several of them offered to write any recommendation letters or any other support that they could give us, ” he said. “They are very willing to help because of the great amount of business we have brought downtown Tuesday nights.”
Swing has transferred around Grand Rapids to multiple different indoor locations the past few weeks. Venues include Woodland Skate Park, and this week the Masonic Center. Because it is now indoors, it costs $5 at the door to get in. These are not the only opportunities for social dancing in Grand Rapids during the week. Swing dancing is held at 7p.m. on Wednesdays at the Jam n’ Bean coffee house, 6860 Cascade Road, in Grand Rapids, for $4 at the door, and on Thursdays there is still line dancing for free going on in Rosa Parks Circle.
Currently G.R.O.S.S. is looking for a new outdoor venue for the rest of the summer, as many people, including Zaagman, prefer to have it outside whenever possible. “During ArtPrize the city of Grand Rapids has allowed the use of Rosa Parks Circle on Sept. 24, and Oct. 1 and 8 as long as the money for the very large security fees can be pulled together,” Zaagman stated.
Donations are being collected through the group’s Facebook page. If the donations come in on time for the first dance before ArtPrize, Rosa Parks is a possibility.
The biggest barrier to G.R.O.S.S. getting to use Rosa Parks is the bills that come along with it. In the past, the group has had sponsors for their events. This year they did not have any sponsors. Ultimately Zaagman said his goal is to keep swing dancing outside in the long run, and possibly start bringing it to some middle and high schools. The bigger picture solution to possibly get it back at Rosa Parks Circle could possibly include fencing, higher security, and only 10 swing events instead of 30 outside.
Next week Swing dancing will be held at the Masonic Center, 233 Fulton St., in Grand Rapids Tuesday. This winter swing will be held in the Masonic Center, Woodland Skate Park and the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
To find out more information, visit grandrapidsoriginalswingsociety.com.