MLIVE | By Shandra Martinez
CASCADE TOWNSHIP, MI -- If you want to see the first phase of Gerald R. Ford International Airport's $45 million transformation without spending money on a plane ticket, here's your chance.
The Grand Rapids area airport, at 5500 44th Street SE in Cascade Township, is opening its doors for a rare open house from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. on Dec. 16. During the four-hour event, the public is invited to see the new shops, restaurants and other amenities added during the first phase of the Gateway Transformation project.
But there is a catch.
Anyone can attend, but they must register on the airport's website by Dec. 14. After receiving a checkpoint pass, guests will go through security and have a chance to shop at the new retail stores, grab a bite to eat at one of the new restaurants, and explore the new business centers and kids play areas in the redone post-security area.
A walk through the renovations at Gerald R. Ford International Airport
"We've heard so many wonderful compliments about our new space from our regular travelers, but we know there are many who haven't seen the new renovations and want to," said Airport CEO Jim Gill in a statement. "This will give them the opportunity to check out the offerings, even if they aren't flying."
There has been lots of request to see the new Prospect Hill Brewhouse.
As part of the open house, Santa Claus will return for a fifth year to the airport. He'll be listening to children's requests, and passing out treats with Mrs. Claus in the Airport's Grand Hall in the pre-security area.
The event is free but the airport is asking each guest to bring two non-perishable food items that will be donated to Mel Trotter Ministries.
The food collected will supplement the Grand Rapids homeless shelter's pantry through the holidays and the surplus will be given to Feeding America West Michigan and other area food pantries, said Dennis Van Kampen, CEO of Mel Trotter Ministries.
In addition to Santa's appearance, the Airport's traditional Holiday Music Festival is running the week of Dec. 4-8. The 23nd Annual Holiday Music Festival brings in a dozen middle and high school choirs from around West Michigan singing a variety of Christmas carols. Daily performances run from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., but a full schedule is available on the Airport's Facebook page.
"Our airport is extremely busy around the holidays, but it is important for us to reflect upon what this season is all about," Gill said.