Grand Rapids is located on the Grand River and is the second largest city in Michigan, with an estimated population of approximately 200,000 (2000 U.S. Census). It is believed that the Hopewell people occupied this area 2,000 years before the Ottawa Indians settled along the river around 1700. Missionaries and fur traders were the first Europeans to settle in this area. They traded extensively with the Ottawa for fur pelts in exchange for European metal and textiles. Joseph LaFramboise, a Metis (Indian and French ancestry) established the first successful trading post. After his death, his wife Medaline merged the business wth the American Fur Company. Louis Campau, official founder of Grand Rapids, built his cabin trading post and blacksmith shop in 1826 on the east bank of the Grand River. Campau bought 72 acres in 1830 that became what is now the downtown business district of Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids is home to several colleges and universities. Aquinas College, Calvin College, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University, and Western Michigan University. As a result, the city's cultural arts scene is vibrant and diverse. June brings ethnic cuisine, free live performances, art demonstrations, and arts activities in Vandenberg Plaza.
During the first weekend in June, several blocks of downtown surrounding the Calder Stabile in Vandenberg Plaza are closed to traffic. This festival features several stages with free live performances, food booths selling a variety of ethnic cuisine, art demonstrations and sales, and other arts-related activities. Organizers bill it as the largest all-volunteer arts festival in the United States. Vandenberg Plaza also hosts various ethnic festivals that take place throughout the summer season. Grand Rapids is the home of John Ball Park, Belknap Hill, and the Gerald R. Ford Museum, the final resting place of the 38th President of the United States. Celebration on the Grand concludes the summer season the weekend after Labor Day with concerts, fireworks, and food vendors.
The Van Andel Museum Center is known as the oldest historical museum in the U.S. Some of its more notable attractions are the planetarium, the Voight House Victorian Museum, and the City Archive and Records Center. The Van Andel has also hosted famous traveling exhibits such as The Dead Sea Scrolls and The Quest for Immortality: the Treasures of Ancient Egypt. Ancient history enthusiasts can find ancient burial mounds, a fish ladder used by the Hopewell people, and a riverwalk.