A Two-Block Ride Down A Huge, Inflatable Waterslide

fromWGVU

Tens of thousands of people in Grand Rapids, Mich., are enjoying a free ride this weekend on what organizers are calling the "world's largest" inflatable waterslide.

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RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Tens of thousands of people in Grand Rapids, Michigan are enjoying a free ride this weekend on what organizers are calling the world's largest inflatable water slide. Lindsey Smith of member station WGVU took her turn and has this report.

LINDSEY SMITH: Lyon Street cuts through the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, and this weekend, the usually sight of window shoppers on an afternoon stroll has been replaced by something a bit more exciting.

Ms. ABBY BROWER: Last night, we wanted to have an adventure. We stayed out all night and we're like, why not just go on the water slide today, you know? We'll tell our great-grandchildren that we've done this.

Ms. LARISSA VAN WYK: And that's really who we did it for is our great-grandchildren.

SMITH: Oh my gosh, we're on.

Pardon the interruption - these girls 20-year-old Abby Brower and 19-year-old Larissa Van Wyk have been waiting four hours for the rain and technical difficulties to subside so that they can tell their grandkids they rode on what's being called the world's largest inflatable water slide. I caught up with them at the end.

How was it?

Ms. BROWER: It was totally worth it, for sure. It was so fun.

SMITH: The blue and yellow vinyl slide stretches for two whole city blocks down a steep hill on Lyon Street. It's sort of a cross between one of those bounce houses you'd find at a child's birthday party and a 500-foot-long slip and slide.

(Soundbite of yelling and splashing)

SMITH: Oh my goodness.

It takes me over a minute to splash into the pool's icy cold water at the end. The event is the brainchild of 21-year-old Grand Rapids native Rob Bliss. His nonprofit organization, Rob Bliss Events, is known for putting on family-friendly, free, fun events that attract thousands downtown.

Mr. ROB BLISS (Rob Bliss Events): We're really trying to do, I guess, sort of forward-thinking type of stuff. Like, you know, reimagining, you know, how a downtown space can be used and trying to bring people together and just have a lot of fun in ways that people aren't used to.

SMITH: In the last year, he's staged massive pillow and water balloon fights, flooded the streets with sidewalk chalk and launched thousands of paper airplanes off of downtown skyscrapers.

Ms. JODY RINGNALDA: He deserves a lot of credit for what he pulls off. It's just good, clean fun.

SMITH: Jody Ringnalda has been in Grand Rapids 25 years.

Ms. RINGNALDA: When I moved to Grand Rapids, I was from a big city - Cincinnati - and I thought Grand Rapids was a little bit hokey, you know, not a lot to do. And look at what has become of Grand Rapids.

SMITH: Bliss says any money he raises from the project will ensure the giant waterslide returns for decades to come.

For NPR News, I'm Lindsey Smith in Grand Rapids.

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