Each year, the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority (CAA) presents an award on the Opening Night of the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival to an outstanding individual or organization that has played an integral part of the establishment and growth of the event. This year, that award was presented to Darius Quinn as he retires at the end of 2019 as Chair of the Community Inclusion Group.
With a passion for community engagement, diversity, equity and inclusion, Darius became involved in the CAA’s diversity initiative in February of 2009. The following March, CAA Board Chair Steve Heacock tapped Quinn for his expertise in leading successful diversity initiatives by appointing him as Chairman of the Diversity Committee.
“Darius’ dedication to the CAA, its venues and our efforts to be more welcoming spaces has been exceptional,” says Rich MacKeigan, Regional General Manager of ASM Global (overseeing DeVos Place, DeVos Performance Hall, and Van Andel Arena). “We are so pleased to have him involved over the years and know his contributions have played a major role in the progress we have made.”
One of Quinn’s first acts as Chair was to expand the then primarily African American group by including influential business and community leader from the Asian and Latino communities. He also added members to the committees who represented some of the CAA’s closest business partnerships such as Experience Grand Rapids and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. It was also at Quinn’s request that the committee be renamed to what is now the Community Inclusion Group (CIG), to be more representative of the team’s work.
Over the past 10 years, Quinn and the CIG have been instrumental partners for ShowSpan, working to broaden the audiences who attend their various consumer shows. One of the group’s favorite events to support has been the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival, now in its 12th year.
“It has been a pleasure for us to be intentional and authentic in our engagement with the various communities that call West Michigan home,” says Quinn. “We are proud of the visible diversity that we have partnered with ShowSpan to create within this event specifically. Ensuring that the community is included in this Festival is very important to us.”
Although the CAA and ShowSpan have been a focus from the work that Quinn and the CIG have done, the entire community, venues and downtown as a whole have also benefited and will continue to do so under the auspices of the CIG’s future leadership.
Past recipients of the Chairman’s Award, which was first presented in 2011, include West Side Beer, Meijer, Gemini Publications, Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council, Ferris State University; Chef Angus Campbell-retired from the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College; Daryl Delabbio, retired Kent County Administrator / Controller; Greg Sundstrom, retired Grand Rapids City Manager; and Gerhard Schmied, Vice President of Food & Beverage at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
DeVos Place Convention Center is owned and operated by the CAA, a Michigan statutory authority, which is governed by a seven-member board of directors appointed by the County of Kent, the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan and the private sector. In addition to DeVos Place Convention Center, the CAA owns and operates DeVos Performance Hall and the Van Andel Arena. Kent County and the City of Grand Rapids established the CAA to encourage economic development and job creation in downtown Grand Rapids. The CAA has contracted with ASM Global, a private management company, to run day-to-day operations of the facilities.
The 12th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival is expected to draw more than 18,000+ people throughout its three days. With more than three acres (120,000 square feet) of tasting experiences and more than 1,800 beverages for sampling, this one-of-a-kind Festival is the largest culinary celebration in the entire Midwest and earlier this year was recognized by Forbes magazine as one of a dozen “Fall Wine Festivals in North America You Don’t Want to Miss.”