It’s been only a few weeks since students arrived at Grinnell College for the start of the school year and it is likely many freshmen are still familiarizing themselves both with campus and the town. To help first-year students become more familiar with Grinnell’s downtown and what its businesses have to offer, the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Student Government Association (SGA), will be running an hour long walking tour of downtown Grinnell every Friday in September at 3 p.m. All Grinnell students, however, are welcome to attend.
The walking tours depart from the Chamber’s office at 833 Fourth Ave., which is at the corner of Broad Street.
T-shirts common throughout the College’s campus comedically ask, “Where the hell is Grinnell?” But the town’s downtown actually contradicts its middle of nowhere reputation with a sizeable number of shops and restaurants catering to many different tastes.
“Our concept for the tours is to help students be aware of things they can do beyond campus … whether they are first-years or upper-years, [they should] feel welcome in Grinnell, especially downtown,” said Emily Counts, Director of Tourism at the Chamber, who is leading the tours. “We try to point out places with Wi-Fi and good study spaces. … We did a trial run of [the program] last year and it was really well-received.”
“SGA, this year, really wants to get more students out into the community,” said Isabel Monaghan ’16, Student Services Coordinator for SGA. Monaghan met Counts at the start of the school year, and they decided to work together to promote the tour program. “In the past it was attended by first-years and this year we really wanted to make a push for upperclassmen to go on the tour,” Monaghan said. “There are new businesses that pop up every year that most of us don’t know about … I see my role as … making sure that students get out into the community.”
The first tour this past Friday, Sept. 4, saw a slower start.
“It was a lot of fun, but we’re still getting the word out. I expect to have a higher turnout the next few ones,” Counts said.
The Chamber of Commerse has invested in making the tour worthwhile. In addition to stops at businesses like Bates Flowers by DZyne, McNally’s Foods, Ballyhoo in Ink and Awards Unlimited, Inc. among many others. Everyone who attends will get a free “swag bag” with coupons and freebies from businesses, according to Counts.
“I think we become confined to this idea that everything we need is on campus,” Monaghan said, reflecting on her own experience over the past three years at the College.
“I hope that beyond the tour, [students] will go downtown often and frequent the businesses,” Counts said. “It’s one thing to be a part of a college community, it’s another thing to be part of the overall community.”