John Pincumbe Named 4th of July Parade Grand Marshal

pincumbe 4
John Pincumbe celebrates the track he helped to construct.

By Sue Moore

John Pincumbe is the epitome of serving his village of Schoolcraft, said Virginia Mongreig, who has chosen him to be the grand marshal of the 4th of July parade in Schoolcraft.

“He has been selected for his service and dedication to Schoolcraft schools as a booster and all of the years of involvement with the athletes and students at SHS. He is the voice of the Eagles. He is a sheriff’s reserve officer and a member of the Masons,” she pointed out.

“I was shocked,” Pincumbe said when he was notified. “I haven’t done anything special.”

“That’s debatable,” said Mongreig.

Pincumbe’s first volunteer gig in Schoolcraft was in 1984, when he teamed up with Roy Davis and John Coates to build the high school track and football field. For six or seven years, he would go straight from work at Consumers Power Company to help Davis construct the track. Pincumbe had become the track announcer in 1980, using a bullhorn.

The track had no bleachers; spectators sat on the hillside. His daughter, Jane, was a senior in 1984 when Davis pledged that she would be able to run on her home track as a senior. She managed to set a state record in the 100-yard dash that year. “We worked most every night and on Wednesday I’d go to the middle school and call bingo for the Boosters,” Pincumbe said. “Roy might sneak out and go bowling.”

“Davis was a hard taskmaster. He would tell me what to do and how to do it as he was a construction foreman and had built lots of buildings and tracks. He had his own backhoe on this job and I was the only one he trusted to run it. He would yell at me ‘tongue-in-cheek’. I vowed I’d never again work for him, yet there we were every night,” Pincumbe said.

“For the homecoming football game in 1985, we erected the scoreboard the night before. The field was named after Roy Davis and I got to flip the coin against Marcellus in that game. Jack Tully had been the football announcer but he got stranded in St. Louis on a Friday night and called Loren Warfield, the superintendent, to say that I would have to do the announcing for him. That was fall of 1980 and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

1980 was another big year for the Masonic Temple in Schoolcraft Lodge 118. Pincumbe’s dad had bragged about being a Mason, so John asked about joining and worked his way in. ”I dearly loved it but now I’ve kind of faded into the woodwork.”

Pincumbe joined the Sheriff’s Reserve in 1994. He became a lieutenant, as executive officer the second in command, until January 2017.

Then the bottom fell out for Pincumbe when he and wife Linda were traveling in Pennsylvania and crashed into a dump truck at 75 miles per hour. “My wife and I were busted up so bad that we were in the hospital for nine months. It seemed like a lifetime. All the bones on my right side were broken, my right arm crushed.” His wife, Linda, suffered too and was diagnosed with a brain tumor in October 2016. She died February 5, 2017.

Pincumbe grew up in the Flint area and went to Michigan State University in 1962 for a year to play baseball. He decided college wasn’t for him and quit as a sophomore to get married and find a job with Consumers. That meant the couple moved around a lot, so after 20 years, he agreed with his three children, Jane, Greg and Dennis to stay put in Schoolcraft when Consumers wanted to move him once more.

He went to work for Fruitbelt Electric, which wanted him to become a manager. The job required a college degree. The company financed his education at the University of Nebraska by flying him out for weeks at a time. He ended up with a business degree.

Pincumbe has nine grandchildren and is mighty proud of each of them. They will be cheering him on as he rides in the parade in a shiny yellow corvette, compliments of Cole-Krum Chevrolet.

Sara Taylor Kowalski Sings the National Anthem

sara & reviewing standBy Sue Moore

The Schoolcraft 4th of July parade comes to a full stop in front of the reviewing stand to hear Sara Taylor Kowalski belt out the National Anthem, heard up and down Grand Street. She’s been doing her rendition for 13 years, when Jon Krum listened to her sing in church and asked her to kick off the parade.

She sings the Star-Spangled Banner without accompaniment over the sound system used to announce the floats as they pass by. This year, Skip Fox will take over announcing duties from Doug Flynn.

Kowalski is a soprano who is a native of Schoolcraft and a Western Michigan University music graduate. She operates Hair-N-Things Salon during the work week but is often asked to sing at weddings, baby dedications and plenty of church related gatherings. She can sing southern gospel and sings with Kids for Christ. While in college she was in Sing Out Kalamazoo for teens.

She met her husband Alex Kowalski while attending a karaoke session at Bud’s Bar in Schoolcraft some eight years ago. He works for Metal Mechanics in Schoolcraft as a control engineer and IT administrator. “He can sing, but not to me,” Sara joked. She likes to do competition shooting in her spare time – which isn’t often, as she claims to be a workaholic.

92nd Annual 4th of July Parade Winds Down Grand Street

By Brian Freiberger

Schoolcraft will be celebrating its 92nd annual Fourth of July parade, headlined by one of the best firework shows in the state. This event attracts an estimated 20,000 people to the village, according to Fireworks Director of the Schoolcraft Fourth of July Committee.
The parade will begin lining up at 10 a.m., an hour before the 11 a.m. parade start time, at the railroad tracks on Eliza Street which will be closed to through traffic for several hours.

The parades route begins on Eliza, then turns right onto US 131. The parade travels along US 131 before turning right again onto Clay St. by the elementary and middle schools, where it will end and rides on fire trucks will be offered. Only walkers in the parade will be allowed to throw candy, according to a flyer released by the Schoolcraft Fourth of July committee.

It’s unusual for US1 131 to be closed, but the Department of Transportation and the State Police have given their blessing to this closure for the last few years, making the parade much more expansive. Both northbound and southbound traffic will be diverted west from US 131 at U Ave. and US 131 at XY Ave. to Eighth St. “Those traveling on US 131 during these times are encouraged to seek alternative routes, and attendees are encouraged to arrive early,” according to a statement by Schoolcraft Police Chief Bryan Campbell.

There will be plenty of activities before and after the parade.

From 7-11 a.m., Schoolcraft Lions Club will host a pancake breakfast at Schoolcraft upper elementary school. A mile-long walk-run will start at 7:30 a.m., followed by the five-mile Firecracker race at Schoolcraft High School beginning at 8 a.m. The annual Fourth of July Car show at Burch Park will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., an ice cream social will be held at Schoolcraft United Methodist Church located on US 131.

After the parade, the Schoolcraft Historical Society will give tours of the Dr. Nathan Thomas house and garden, a stop on the underground railroad, until 3 p.m. Also, The Schoolcraft American Legion, located on Cass St., will be having a chicken and ribs barbecue through the day, with live music and other family activities.

Fireworks will begin at 10 p.m.

The fireworks will light the night sky with about a thousand shells from 3, 4, 5 and 6-inch mortars, according to Fireworks Director Randey Palmer. “This is better than the South Haven fireworks show minus Lake Michigan and a pie,” he explained.

The fireworks will be displayed north of Schoolcraft High School. Palmer said over the past several years that they are gradually making the show bigger.

Estimated cost of the fireworks is $10,000, and is funded by donations from the village of Schoolcraft, Schoolcraft Township and local merchants. Donations will be accepted during the Fourth of July festivities as well, according to Jon Krum.

For the past 24 years, Krum, who has been volunteering for the Fourth of July committee said, “I think it’s great for a small town to have an event like this.”

Three people volunteer their time through the year to gather and build the fireworks display. Randey and Rod Palmer and Chip Mongrieg put in approximately 400 hours to make sure the fireworks are ready for the event. “This is something I like to do to give back to the community. I’ve lived here my whole life,” said Palmer.

Free parking will be available at Schoolcraft schools for the parade and fireworks. Last year’s fireworks show can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch.

Chicken BBQ at Legion Hall

july 31Schoolcraft American Legion Post 475 at 425 E. Clay Street will be expanding on its 4th of July BBQ event with live entertainment in the afternoon, according to Dan Vansweden.

Post members will still serve the traditional favorite barbecued chicken and ribs with sides from noon-4 p.m. offering both indoor and outdoor dining facilities. This year’s entertainment will be expanded to include two live bands performing outside: Latitude will begin at 12:30 p.m. with Heartland following at approximately 3:30 p.m. Both bands feature a country-blues-classic rock sound.

An outdoor inflatable obstacle course will be available for kids as well as an outside beer tent for the adults. The Legion Post offers two air-conditioned levels with open bars and dining that will be available to the public all day.

Vicksburg Lions Club Summer Festival Has Many Features

club members
John Polacek and other members of the Vicksburg Lions Club gave a special tribute to Ken Schippers, retired village manager, at its 2016 event.

By Sue Moore

The Vicksburg Lions Club has a lock on how the good times roll each year with its Summer Festival, more commonly known as the B&B for beer and bratwurst. It opens at the community pavilion on Thursday, July 27 with Kids’ Night and rolls on through Saturday, July 29, very late in the evening.

Besides all the afternoon and evening activity described elsewhere on these pages, the Vicksburg Community Schools alumni association gathers in the morning on Saturday, July 29 in the pavilion with the Lions helping to facilitate by supplying the tables, chairs and sound system.

Each year, the alumni breakfast honors the class that graduated 50 years ago. Over 250 graduates of Vicksburg High School and their spouses usually attend the breakfast. The 50 year graduating class gets to sit at the front of the table, go through the serving line first, and appoint a speaker who talks about what life was like in the years in school.

It’s a great time to catch up on classmates, with the class of 1966 doing all the organizational work for the reunion. Those who didn’t receive a notification in the mail should contact Carol Silliman Erickson of the class of 1966 at 989-621-4578.

Beer and Brats: The Lions Serve Them Up All Weekend

lions 2
Fred Flegal roasts the brats.

By Sue Moore

Beer and bratwurst go together, they say in Germany. Or Milwaukee. And certainly in Vicksburg.

The Vicksburg Lions Club has been serving them for 44 years at its annual Summer Festival, scheduled this year on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, July 27, 28, 29 at the community pavilion on N. Richardson Street.

“The Lions, a service club, had been raising money in dribs and drabs by selling light bulbs and newspapers in the 1960s,” said Bob Merrill, a member of the club for 55 years. “Otto Kaak, our local baker and club member, came back from a trip to Germany and insisted that we could make lots more money if we sold beer and brats and had a party in 1973. Now we work our heads off for a week, make lots of money, and we’re done. “Kaak also had a secret recipe for the sauerkraut that has been passed down through the ages, according to John Polasek, head of the kitchen operation for the event.

“We go through nearly 1,400 brats and lots of hot dogs too,” Polasek said. “Bob who is 90 years old, loves to do the cooking. He and I love to chide one another about the best way to cook brats. I like to get them nice and plump by grilling them to 150 degrees and then hold them in the roasters to keep them juicy. Bob says I don’t cook them long enough and use too much grilling oil, but that’s not true. He likes to do the cooking and would do it all day and all night if he didn’t get tired. He even bought a new grill to loan to the club this year. Now we can get 60 brats on it at one time rather than the 40-45 we were grilling.”

Soft drinks, water and hot dogs are available in the Lions Club trailer next to the pavilion. The beer has its own trailer to keep everything cold in a tent beside the pavilion. Wrist bands are issued to those over 21 who wish to buy a beer. “Everyone will be there enjoying food and beverages in a wonderful setting at the Community Pavilion,” Polacek said.

Cornhole is Wildly Popular

cornhole 1
Cornhole tournament contestants get in some practice.

The cornhole tournament, in its sixth year, is a family friendly, fun Friday night event which takes place while the Backroads Band hits the stage. There are 10 sets of identical boards to accommodate up to 50 teams at one time.

The last two years there have been 92 participants in the cornhole tournament. This contest starts Friday, July 28, at 6 p.m. and usually lasts at least until midnight. Like the horseshoe tournament, it is double elimination and partners are picked via random draw, with the exception of last year’s winners, Steve Heath and Bill Rager. The number of contestants will be capped in this tournament at 100 and sign-ups ahead of time are requested. Call Ryan Bright – 269-217-7880.