Have you heard about all the big press our quaint, little town is receiving lately? It’s great publicity for our downtown, and we are hoping this publicity attracts hundreds of tourists to our beautiful town this summer. Right?
In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me fill you in. Grand Haven’s State Park beach was recently named one of the “Top Freshwater Beaches” by USA Today. You may have noticed people sharing the link to vote on Facebook to keep Grand Haven in the #1 spot. As of Tuesday, we have slipped to #2, but the polls don’t close until March 14, so there’s still time to take over the top spot again!
As if that wasn’t enough, the town of Grand Haven was also listed as one of the “Top 10 Places in the World to Retire” by Condé Nest Travel magazine. Wow! It’s quite an honor for Grand Haven to be recognized by the news outlets and highlight what we already know to be true—Grand Haven is an amazing place to live! And, while we appreciate being put on the map, it’s also a little scary.
I’m not sure how many of you remember what a sleepy, little town Glen Arbor, Michigan, was in the 1980s. Have you been there since nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes was voted the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America in 2011? During peak season in the summer, Glen Arbor is CRAZY! You will see license plates from all over the United States, and bus after bus full of visitors from everywhere in the world. While it was an honor to receive such a distinction, it has also changed Glen Arbor’s quaint town status as the place you love to go because no one knows about it.
Unfortunately, Glen Arbor is an example of what commercialization has done to many great places. Remember how quiet Niagara Falls was in the 1970s? It’s not anything like that anymore. Have you been to Traverse City during Cherry Festival in the last few years? Good luck getting across town any time of day during the entire week. And, if you have driven out Old Mission Peninsula in TC recently, you know that it looks nothing like it did 20 years ago. Cherry trees have been replaced by grape vines, wineries, and large homes. I could go on and on about other areas that have been dealt a similar fate after becoming “famous.” You know the old saying, “Watch what you wish for.”
As Grand Haven receives all this great and much deserved recognition, let’s keep in mind what makes it so special. It’s our small town feel, the way the downtown merchants work together to promote one another, the packed football stadium on Friday nights in the Fall, our Made-in-Michigan products on local store shelves, the Lake Michigan cottages, and the many other little things that make Grand Haven unique.
So, if you are lucky enough to vacation here for a week (or longer if you’re really lucky), we are happy to have you in our beautiful city. Come to Grand Haven and meet the locals, experience our quaint shops and eat at our locally-owned restaurants. Just remember to treat it like it’s your own slice of heaven and respect our freshwater beaches. Shh…don’t tell anyone how amazing we are.