Calvin College's 50th
The year was 1965, the US space race was on, the war in Vietnam occupied the news, the Rolling Stones were on a world tour and the St. Louis Arch was completed. It was also the year that Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL) kicked off “Passport to Adventure” in the 4000 seat Civic Auditorium, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The local Kiwanis Club had been sponsoring a very successful travelogue film series at the Civic auditorium for a number of years. Besides being an excellent fundraiser for the Kiwanis, the series was offering armchair travelers a view of the world via the filmmaker and his or her film destination.
Witnessing the huge success of this travelogue series, speculation has it that four men from the Millbrooke Minute Men decided to do the same thing, in the same auditorium. They would start a new film series. But, misfortune stepped in shortly after starting. One of the men passed away, another moved out of town and the two remaining found it too difficult and turned the series over to CALL’s newly formed Passport to Adventure.
In 1973 Anna Sietsma became their program chairperson. She would book the five show series for the next 37 years, searching for the top filmmakers and films she knew her audience would enjoy. “I loved what I was doing or I wouldn’t be doing it.” Anna said.
The series, with Sietsma booking, would continue at the Civic Auditorium until 1990, when Passport to Adventure moved to Calvin College’s new, thousand plus seat, Fine Arts Center. Always with patrons wants in mind, Anna said, “Parking was so much better there.”
Each season Anna would select filmmakers and subjects. “It wasn’t easy booking the five show series then,...We didn’t have any VHS tape or DVDs to preview the film… When the Warton Center, in East Lansing started a travelogue series, my husband would take me to the shows. There I could see the speaker and film and it was much easier... As far as the popularity of the series, we always had a full to near full auditorium, for every show.”
NOTE: In 1972, the first Annual Travel Film Festival was held in Palm Springs, California. Anna learned of the event and was in attendance for the second, third, fourth and most every festival thereafter. She loved them! Her one main wish was to bring a travel film festival to Grand Rapids’ Calvin College. That wish was first fulfilled in September of 2007, when she hosted the annual event at the college.
Anna retired in 2010. Although retired, she was in attendance at the last film festival, which was held at Calvin College in June of 2012. In a recent interview she said, “What I now miss the most, is our annual conventions of filmmakers and sponsors.”
Grand Rapids successful series has had an “Official” sponsor for the past 20 years, Witti Travel. The Agency has been a proud sponsor of Passport to Adventure, providing some financial aid and refreshments, “cider and cookies” at each of the film showings.
With Anna's retirement, Carol Rienatra took over the job of booking shows. For Passport to Adventure’s 50th anniversary, Carol booked filmmakers: Tom Sterling with Scotland, Marlin Darrah with Cuba, Gray Warriner with Lewis & Clark, Dale Johnson with Grand Canyon and John Holod with Northeast Coast.
Passport to Adventure’s 2016/2017 season series is booked. They are looking forward to a successful 51st season of shows. In the past 50 years, 250 world destinations have been presented. Next season, those seats will again be filled with enthusiastic armchair travelers.