In 1950, a man named Ernest Ellis started a car wash in Grand Rapids. There were no motorized brushes or automated sprays back then; instead, cars would drive through the building as staffers positioned along the route used steam guns, wash tanks, and hand mitts to wipe away dirt and Dewey for President fliers from automotive exteriors. After a name change, a panoply of new locations, and many upgrades to what was often the most cutting-edge wash technology in the country, today's Southland Auto Wash maintains its high-tech approach to cleaning with automated wash tunnels, in-depth detailing, and luxurious extras including its own signature tire protectant. This passion for meticulous care, along with the wash's extensive water-conservation projects, earned the sudsatorium a nod as Grand Rapids Magazine's Best Car Wash for more than 14 years straight.
The staff at Tiki Tan supplies the environment for guests to acquire a deep, tawny hue any time of year. Three levels of tanning beds adjust to different skin tones, and a leg-specific bed ensures limbs stay dark even after shaving. The center also offers VersaSpa sunless tanning, which deepens complexions and moisturizes skin through an even coating of bronzing solutions and hydrating botanicals.
Though all the runners at the 5K Run/Walk Thru Sparta follow the same course—a flat USATF-certified path that starts and finishes in Balyeat Field and slices through downtown Sparta—there are three types of race they can run. Runners can compete seriously by registering in the Individual category; they can join the Run for Rides category to earn a T-shirt and three carnival-ride tickets for Town & Country Days; or if they're of age, they can Run for Beer to collect a T-shirt and two drink tickets for the Town & Country Days Beer Tent. Children 12 and younger can also sign up for a separate Kids Fun Run, which rewards registrants with three carnival-ride tickets and zero cursed goblets. After the race, the top three runners in each age group receive awards.
Part of Sparta’s Harvest on the Ridge festival, which celebrates the township’s colorful crop of fruits and vegetables, the Dirty Apple Obstacle Run sets challengers on a 2.5-mile quest through “applesauce” mud pits, defiantly unflipped tractor tires, hurdles, and other agility tests. Whether participants struggle individually, work together as a family, or construct a mud-proof robotic surrogate, the point of the event is friendly competition and general good times rather than time trials. Afterward, racers gather at the festival downtown, where kids might put together a puppet or two, adults can swap stories and sip Michigan brews, and the whole clan can soak up the classic rock of West Side Soul Surfers.
At Alpine Ridge Farms, riding instructor Rebecca Bradley designs lessons to help students learn and progress at a comfortable pace. Certified by both the United States Hunter Jumper Association and the American Riding Instructor Association, Rebecca aims to instill confidence in her students, boosting their self-esteem and deepening their appreciation for animals. During lessons, Rebecca gives students a solid foundation of riding and horsemanship, and also encourages them to compete. Alpine Ridge Farms' large indoor riding arena allows the instructor to host lessons year-round by providing firm, dry ground in the event that horses refuse to put on their snowshoes.
The instructors at Becky Botsford Show Horses specialize in teaching students the disciplines of Western and English horseback riding. The trainers rely on their extensive experience in the show ring and on the trails, where they've worked with riders of every age and ability level. They welcome beginners into their training programs and instill proper riding technique, which can carry them as far as AQHA shows, Hunter/Jumper competitions, or the nearest drive-thru burger joint.