Brunches with drag queens and a Rage Room may join the entertainment lineup in Battle Creek if Jeremy Andrews has his way.
Since moving back in 2006 to his hometown from Portland, Oregon, Andrews has taken it upon himself to fill gaps he sees in what's offered in the Battle Creek area. That's led him to work to increase access to fresh, locally-grown food to offering an annual cardboard sled race that takes place in February. After almost 14 years spent working to close his self-identified gaps as a leader with various groups and organizations, Andrews is opting for a more formalized approach to making things happen with the launch of Penetrator Events
His new venture began this past Fall when he made the decision to take his passion and expertise from a hobby to a full-fledged business.
“Penetrator Events is really about placemaking, creating a buzz and excitement, and bringing attention to other local businesses and vendors,” Andrews says.
An axe-throwing league called BTL AXE; a Sock Hop and Prom for Adults; Que the Creek BBQ festival; and a Shop Small Downtown initiative are among the more recent events promoted or organized by Penetrator Events. BTL AXE and the adult prom were ideas that Andrews brought to life while he was still in the hobby phase of his event planning.
Much of what he comes up with is an outgrowth of his own desire to have places to go for fun things to do closer to home.
“I grew up here. I am a Battle Creeker through and through,” Andrews says.
But, like many a teenager who grew up here, he says he couldn’t wait to get out of Battle Creek. His travels took him to different parts of the world like Alsace, France, and cities throughout the United States. He says there’s nothing wrong with that spirit of wanting to leave and explore and he would never criticize a young person for wanting to do that. While some young people who grow up in Battle Creek never return, he did.
His last stop before returning was Portland where he worked as an environmentally-friendly handyman.
“I was doing OK, but I didn’t feel like I belonged and it didn’t feel like home. It was disappointing because I thought (Portland) was the coolest place ever,” Andrews says.
However, the decision to return to his roots was by no means a slam dunk and he thought long and hard about whether he wanted to vacation in Battle Creek once he had children or live in Battle Creek and take vacations elsewhere.
A “great” low cost of living and the untapped resources he saw in Battle Creek factored into his decision to make a life for himself here. He now shares that life with his wife, Erin, and their young daughter who make their home in Pennfield.
“When I decided I was going to come home, I was very conscious that I was going home now by choice and it was time to put up or shut up. I’ve always thought that if you don’t like something, you need to do something about it,” he says.
Drawing on the experience he gained while planning theme parties during his time at a co-op in Lansing, he organized a mini-pub crawls on random Saturdays with different themes, including one where participants dressed in '80s garb. He then put together a mustache and cleavage party which raised money for charity. This led to the formation of the Battle Creek Metropolitan Area Mustache Society (BCMAMS) in 2007 which became a full-fledged organization that now puts on different events that raise money for local nonprofits.
Equally as important is that BCMAMS recruits and works with new leaders in the community to make good things happen, Andrews says.
“I do take some credit and I’m super proud of it,” he says of the BCMAMS. “It was an education for me on how to build events and work with others in the community, find resources, and ways to overcome barriers. It helped me and other people to learn and make this place a place where fun stuff happens.”
Creating and putting on events is an art for Andrews who says he “loves the inventiveness and matching up quirky things to create new things.”
The success of Sprout
, the axe-throwing league
and other events, convinced Andrews to take Penetrator Events from a dream to a reality. He says his wife is a major contributor to the business they now own together and helps him create and develop the majority of the events that are put on.
The name of his new venture comes from a 3.4 mile stretch of I-194 the north–south freeway between downtown Battle Creek and I-94 in the southern portion of the city which locals have long referred to as the Penetrator. Andrews says he always found the nickname “silly and a little bit dirty.”
This admission may come as a surprise to those who don’t know him, but Andrews says those who do know him, are well aware that he doesn’t mind the eye rolls or raised eyebrows in response to the ideas he comes up, the majority of which are definitely the result of out-of-the-box thinking.
But, he readily admits that he also has no problem replicating ideas for events that have happened in other cities and is always scouring the Internet or reading alternative newspapers published in “funky, cool cities” nationally and internationally. He also makes a point of seeking out weird events on his travels.
“I look for things that are trending in bigger cities and work to bring whatever that may be here first,” Andrews says. This is how he came up with the idea for the BCMAMS
“In 2004, I was reading about mustache societies around the world that were raising money for charity. I am super-proud to have brought that here. You wouldn’t believe the eye rolls I got, but the more I got from status quo people, the more I knew I was doing the right thing. I look for things that make people feel uncomfortable.”
The list of events and activities that Andrews is working on include: a pop-up rage room where people can smash and break things like plates to get their aggressions out; a citywide squirt gun assassination game; adult recess; and a pool party at an underutilized hotel where people can drink while watching a movie.
But, he also wants to help plan weddings for people who are looking for something different – think Elvis-themed with guests in costumes – and plan spaghetti dinners and pancake suppers with a twist.
“I like inventing something out of nothing and making it happen. I love that challenge,” Andrews says. “I make teaching a part of everything I do, and I’m not interested in hoarding any knowledge. I’m an open-source kind of guy. I like showing people how to start an event or a nonprofit and alleviate their fears of doing something for the first time.
“You have to not be afraid of failure. It’s not going to be perfect which is OK because no one but you will know what your perfect is.”