ArtPrize 2014: Competition kicks off with wide variety of exhibits, food and shopping

Posted at 9:31 PM, Sep 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-25 00:00:01-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- ArtPrize 2014 is officially in full swing.

The three-week art competition kicked off Wednesday in downtown Grand Rapids and will ultimately hand out more than half a million dollars in prizes.

It will also bring some much-needed foot traffic to local businesses.

Visitors from all over are enjoying all the excitement that comes along with the biggest art competition in the world.

Mary Starrs traveled with her husband, who has a conference up the street.

"I decided to come with him at the last minute, and I'm excited because it's really fun for me. It's a great day and I'm really excited to be here, and I found this store that had some really cool things," said Starrs.

Starrs also said that it's lucky timing that her husband’s work obligation occurred at the same time as ArtPrize.

Some of the busiest people at ArtPrize are the volunteers answering all the questions from art lovers looking for the most talked about pieces.

In her fourth year as a volunteer, Susan Miller said that the foot traffic on kickoff day this year is a little less than last year, but tourists are still coming from far and wide.

"Oh my gosh. Florida, Pennsylvania, California. We've had people from all over," said Miller.

Miller said so far, the most common question is people wondering where to get a map. Miller said that after registering to vote in the competition, you receive the map.

The issue of security is also on peoples' minds. With thousands of people flocking to downtown, the people we spoke with said that the presence of police officers puts them at ease.

Grand Rapids Police officers stood at all of the major intersections on Wednesday, directing traffic and making sure no one crossed the street when it was unsafe.

Several officers on bicycles were also riding around downtown, making sure everyone was in line.

The crowds have been calm, with everyone enjoying the family friendly atmosphere.

"Everywhere we go. Every time we turn a corner, they (police) are there. Every time we cross the road, they (police) are there," said parent Courtney Start.

If you are looking to slim down your waist line, ArtPrize might not the best place to be for that, but don’t worry, not all of the food is fried.

Whether you like some french fries topped with pulled pork and jalapenos, or a deep fried Oreo, if you are looking to splurge, you can do definitely do that.

James Reed said that he and his wife make their funnel cake batter from scratch, adding that’s the secret to a quality product. Reed said that he started with a small hot dog stand a few years ago and expanded into making and selling funnel cake.

If you aren’t into all the grease and butter, a couple of entrepreneurs from Kalamzoo are up in Grand Rapids for the competition to offer a healthier solution. The duo offers fresh berries that they farm and pick themselves, blending them into fresh smoothies.

Another crowd favorite are street performers. FOX 17 spoke with two performers who both offered their own magical illusions. The performers said that ArtPrize is an event they look forward to every year, so they can try out new tricks they've learned.