December at a glance


Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is full of the magic of the holidays – and 400,000 twinkling lights! We have a lot of fun events to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.

  • Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World:
    • Ring in the holiday season with our most beloved winter exhibition. We’re taking a new look at stories of old, with an intriguing exploration of the folklore and traditions that shape holiday celebrations around the world. Honoring holiday cultures around the world, Meijer Gardens focuses on the authenticity of holiday traditions: Germany tree, adorned with handmade glass ornaments and homemade springerle cookies, the England tree with antique Christmas cards and mistletoe, and the beautiful Eid ul-Fitr display, which celebrates the end of Ramadan. The companion Railway Garden exhibition is a unique horticultural display that incorporates garden design, miniature buildings made from natural materials, and model trolleys and trains.
  • Santa Visits:
    • All visitors are welcome to share their holiday wishes with Santa. Remember to bring your camera for a Santa selfie or a photo with him on his sleigh. Santa will be in the Cook Entryway Tuesday evenings (December 6th, 13th, 20th) from 5:00pm – 8:00pm.
  • Winter-Time Walks
    • Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays Winter in the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden can be chilly, but fun! Bundle up and join us on an outdoor interactive discovery walk (Tuesdays & Thursdays at 10:15am and 11:15am and Saturdays at 11:15am) to investigate the Children’s Garden in new ways. We’ll explore different winter themes, each with kid-friendly conversation, stories and finger plays.
  • Rooftop Reindeer
    • Reindeer will be on-hand near the entrance to the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden on Saturdays through December 17th from 1:00pm – 4:00pm. Guests can visit the reindeer, get an up-close look and maybe even pet them.
  • The Original Dickens Carolers
    • They’re a holiday tradition at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Hear from this wonderful troupe of strolling singers as they perform holiday favorites. They perform Tuesday evenings (December 6th, 13th, 20th ) from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.


Hope to see you before 2017!

Why I Volunteer: Bob VanBragt

Written by Nancy Crawley

Dirt. Digging in dirt. Planting in dirt. That’s what Bob VanBragt wanted to do when he retired.


Bob VanBragt

It was natural, really. He grew up on a tulip farm in Holland, the West Michigan town famous for its annual Tulip Festival. He had learned how to grow all kinds of bulbs, but once he went to work in an office, he missed spending time with a spade and shovel.

So Meijer Gardens was on Bob’s to-do list when he retired 10 years ago. Attending one of the volunteer orientation meetings, he met horticulturist Ian Warnock. who gave him a tour of the Children’s Garden. It was clear they would find a common bond in their affinity for dirt.

“He has a Scottish accent and a great sense of humor,” Bob said of Ian, whose impressive resume includes the H.M. British Embassy garden in Washington, D.C.

Soon, Bob was a Monday morning regular at the Children’s Garden, tending the ever changing landscape winding through places like the sensory garden, butterfly maze, and the Great Lakes ponds.

“We’ll pull mums, plant bulbs and pansies, do a lot of weeding and pruning. You never know with Ian,” he chuckled.

Bob, 81, has gained many friends during his 1,500 volunteer hours. “I love being outside, with all the kids.” And, besides, at the Gardens, there’s always plenty of dirt yet to be dug.

To explore volunteering, visit, or contact Tom Hoving at or 616-974-5221. Volunteer orientation sessions are set for Dec. 7, 2016, and Feb. 7 and April 11, 2017, starting at 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Why I Volunteer: Chantra Laninga

Written by Nancy Crawley

Smiling faces, happy people. That’s why Chantra Laninga is quick to volunteer for all kinds of special events at Meijer Gardens.

For nine years, the Grand Rapids resident has been wrapping presents at the holiday gift show and hanging shiny bobbles on Christmas trees, checking visitors for stow-away butterflies at the Butterflies are Blooming show, tending blossoms in the orchid room, and lending a hand at the Farm Garden and Japanese Garden.

The variety delights her. “I never knew there were 20 kinds of tomatoes,” she marveled after working one of the Farm Garden shows.


Chantra Laninga

Chantra’s journey to Grand Rapids and eventually the Gardens’ volunteer ranks started on the other side of the world.

She was born and raised in Thailand. There, she taught lab sciences to medical students before coming to the United States at age 29 to accept an internship at Mercy Health St. Mary’s hospital.

She made Grand Rapids her home, working for 38 years as a St. Mary’s medical technologist. “I was a life scientist, doing all kinds of lab tests, whatever the doctors requested,” she said.

It was challenging and fulfilling work, but, like any busy hospital, the atmosphere was intense. Often, “people had sad faces,” she recalls. So nine years ago, while still working full time, she began volunteering, relishing the cheerful people in the beautiful Gardens.

Now 76 and retired, she still savors the same joy.

“When you walk in, you feel different,” she said. “You see people smiling, having fun,everything fresh. It’s hard to find that in this world.”


To explore volunteering, visit, or contact Tom Hoving at or 616-974-5221. Volunteer orientation sessions are set for Dec. 7, 2016, and Feb. 7 and April 11, 2017, starting at 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Why I Volunteer: Daryl Mick

Written by Nancy Crawley

The Chinese vase artfully displayed next to a silk scarf and handmade beads. Holiday cards and bonsai plants set to catch your eye.

Daryl Mick, 66, helps craft those oh-so-tempting displays at the Gardens gift shop. Twice a week, he’s there, unpacking boxes and ringing up customers, all to make sure the shop is revenue-producing hit with visitors piling off tour buses and local families looking for unique gifts.



Daryl Mick

It’s all old hat for Daryl who’s spent his career in merchandising. After 44 years with retailer giant Meijer Inc., the Grand Rapids native retired in 2013. Shortly after, he found his niche in a way that so many others have – through another volunteer encouraging him.

He was helping at the Gilda’s LaughFest fundraiser when a friend working with him suggested he’d be a natural for the Gardens gift shop.

She was right. “It’s good fit for me,” he said. “I like working with the people, setting up displays and helping with the pricing.”

He also pitches in on special events like “Butterflies are Blooming” and the holiday gift show – “I worked 25 hours in two and a half days,” he marveled after the gift show.

Now, he’s the one encouraging friends and family to join the Gardens’ volunteer ranks. “I plan to be here as long as I can.”

To explore volunteering, visit, or contact Tom Hoving at or 616-974-5221. Volunteer orientation sessions are set for Dec. 7, 2016, and Feb. 7 and April 11, 2017, starting at 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Why I Volunteer: Edie Marion

Written by Nancy Crawley

You’ll find Edie Marion at the steering wheel of the Gardens’ tram twice a week, making sure guests get just the right views of the American Horse and the rest of the Sculpture Garden – “Neuron” and “Listening to History” are among her favorites. Then she pilots the 42-seat, diesel-powered tram on winding paths next to the Japanese Garden, Michigan Farm Garden and Woodland Shade Garden.


Edie Marion

No, she’s not a professional driver, though she is known to hop on her motor scooter for a spin at home.

Edie, 66, was a registered nurse for 32 years, caring for patients at Mercy Health St. Mary’s hospital in the intermediate cardiac and later the psychiatric medical unit.

She has been volunteering since shortly after retiring in 2012, though her ties to the Gardens go way back to its construction when she was an early donor.

“It’s an organization I believe in,” she said. “It fills a big niche in Grand Rapids, and it’s nice to be part of it.”

She’s also been a volunteer for Wyoming city elections and the Wyoming Police Department’s RSVP program handling jobs like parking lot patrols and inspection complaints.

She’s a firm believer in the payback that comes from volunteering. “I tell people it would be so good for you to get out, help people and do something with your hands and your mind.”

To explore volunteering, visit, or contact Tom Hoving at or 616-974-5221. Volunteer orientation sessions are set for Dec. 7, 2016, and Feb. 7 and April 11, 2017, starting at 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

2016 Volunteers of the Year


Volunteers of the Year, Larry and Rita Bashaw

Larry and Rita Bashaw will proudly tell you: When Meijer Gardens calls for help, they can be there in 30 minutes.

Both 81, the Grand Rapids couple pitch in on all kinds of jobs, from helping at concerts to staffing the children’s tram, from greeting the daily parade of school buses to collecting the tickets.

Thursday, Oct. 27, they were honored as the 2016 Volunteers of the Year at the annual Connie Snell Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. Usually bestowed on a single person, the award has only been given to four other couples since the gardens opened in 1995.


The Bashaws accept their Volunteer of the Year Award


Larry and Rita call Meijer Gardens their second home. In fact, they’ve logged more than 4,000 hours each since donning their volunteer polo shirts in 2010.

Larry, a retired accountant, works the monitor desk, taking tickets two mornings a week. A big, friendly smile is essential, he said, his blue eyes twinkling. “I am the first face visitors see after (the cashier) takes their money and it’s important we give the right impression.”

Children get special attention, particularly those celebrating a birthday like Conrad who shared his prized treat, a Thomas the Tank Engine lollipop. Larry still has the memento. “I”m waiting for Conrad to come back!” he says merrily.

Rita, petite and lively, needs to be nimble as the coordinator for the Bus Buddies program. She trains and schedules the more than 20 volunteers who greet students and teachers as their yellow buses rumble up to the front door. They explain the rules to excited children, store mounds of lunch bags and point groups toward their tour leaders. Head Start children, many who have never seen the gardens before, have a special place in her heart.

Rita knows a thing or two about children. The mother of seven operated a licensed day care center for 30 years before retiring. “I love being with the children,” she said “I just love being with all the people who come here.”

Obviously, that affection for both Larry and Rita is returned by visitors, volunteers and staff alike.

Written by Nancy Crawley

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Our 2016 Volunteer Dinner honored the 87,809 hours our volunteers gave to Meijer Gardens last year. Here are some of the awards given for some extra-special service:


Award winners not pictured:

  • Alexandria Mingerink, Sprout/Seedling Award winner
  • Tina Cronkhite, Flower Power Award winner
  • Con and Jan Oswald, Fantastic Award

November at a glance


Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World

While the weather may be getting colder, November brings with it warm feelings of the holiday season. Here is a taste of some of the festivities happening this month:

  • Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World
    • Excitement surrounds the holiday season as the annual Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World exhibition brings the glow of nearly 400,000 lights, strolling carolers, rooftop reindeer and more than 40 international trees and displays. The beloved exhibition begins on November 22nd!
  • Holiday Gift Show
    • The search for the season’s most eclectic gifts is over. Our perennially popular Holiday Gift Show makes an art form out of gift giving—and gift wrapping, which is always complimentary. Members and guests alike come from far and wide to see and shop for treasures collected from more than three dozen regional artists and vendors, each chosen for its delightful distinction. New this year is a sumptuous selection of bottled wines and wine accessories! The show, on November 5th, is free to attend. Members receive a 10% discount when presenting their membership card.
  • Winter-Time Walks
    • Winter in the Children’s Garden can be chilly, but fun! Bundle up and join us on an outdoor interactive discovery walk (Tuesdays & Thursdays at 10:15 and 11:15 and Saturdays at 11:15) to investigate the Children’s Garden in new ways. Then gather by the hearth in the log cabin to learn about winter with stories and kid-friendly conversation. Walks begin on November 22nd.
  • Giving Tuesday
    • There are so many wonderful ways to be a part of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the generous support of our donors and volunteers. This month look for opportunities on social media to get involved by donating your time, talents and resources, in the spirit of Giving Tuesday!


Hope to see you before December!