Lions Club Summer Festival Opens on July 25 at the Historic Village

By Sue Moore

It’s a social happening with family activities, several bands playing, games such as volleyball, horseshoes and even corn hole to challenge contestants agilities while quaffing a Miller Lite or Coke a Cola, claimed Doug Stafinski ,the long-time chairperson of the Summer Festival or B & B as it was originally known.

“We started with two barrels of beer in 1973 and our distributor said it would probably be too much as they didn’t think there were any beer drinkers in town,” Roland Peach related. “They had to make a run back to the warehouse to bring more.” His wife, Shirley Peach saw to it that the tables were cleared and the pitchers quickly filled. “She was a whirling dervish when it came to taking care of the customers,” he said.

These days, about 40 barrels of beer are consumed during the three-day stretch of the festival that will take place on July 25, 26 and 27 at the Historic Village, beginning at 4 p.m. on Thursday and 11:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. A new menu addition this year will be a cup of shelled peanuts for $1.00. These have been donated by Logan’s Steak House and the Texas Road House.

Thursday Family Night highlights include clowns, a raffle, games for kids with prizes, and nobody loses from 6-8 p.m. If the kids don’t like brats, there are hot dogs instead at a special of $1.00 each or cans of pop at $1.00, Stafinski said.

The adult volleyball competition gets going on Friday and extends into Saturday with the championship team determined by early evening. A cornhole tournament is scheduled for Friday from 6-9 p.m. Live band music takes over from 9 -1 a.m. with no one under the age of 21 admitted.

The click, clang of horseshoes gets the Saturday tournament off to a ferocious start at 1 a.m. as devotees practice their pitching prior to the draw to determine their partner. Three-time champions, Tim Kudary and Scott Haines will be challenging all-comers this year, said Brett Grossman, the horseshoe tourney chairperson.

When these guys get warm, they tend to drink a little more beer which also helps the bottom line, Grossman chuckled. It gets pretty intense with the only prize being the bragging rights for another year.

Miller Lite, Miller Hi-Life and Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy are for sale along with Seagrams wine coolers and non-alcohol drinks. “Miller has proven to be more popular in Vicksburg, plus their distributor takes really good care of us during the festival,” Stafinski said.

Tickets are purchased upon entering the grounds at 50 cents, $1.00 or $5.00 which can be spent for food or drink. There is a cover charge of $5.00 beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Nellie Pierson is in charge of ticket sales and sets up the schedule of volunteers to sell tickets. They did experience some counterfeit tickets one year and so she is meticulous about how this is handled. A bracelet must be worn by anyone entering the festival grounds. The security is tight but not invasive, Stafinski acknowleged. “We do appreciate the help we get from the local police, the Sheriff’s department and the Sheriff’s

Who Benefits From the Funds Raised by the Lions Club?

By Sue Moore

Part of our mission is sight related, explained Doug Stafinski, the chairperson of the Summer Festival. “We provide glasses, screening and pay for exams for children in the Vicksburg School District who can’t afford this service.”

Dr. Maria Davenport has been a big help as she does the work for half price so we can afford to help more children, Stafinski said.

The Leader Dogs for the Blind and the Mid-West Eye Bank also receive the Vicksburg club’s support along with Lions International and the District charities that are sight related.

The club also splits the cost with Rotary for the Honors Banquet in May for the many seniors who receive recognition on this particular evening. We offer two $1,000 scholarships.

Last year the club donated $5,000 toward the building of the pavilion that will be built in 2013 and pledged another $5,000 this year.

Monies have also been appropriated for rocket football and little league, and this year, $500 has been designated to purchase defibrillators in the three elementary schools.

Many other community service projects are part of being a Lions Club member. Katie Grossman chairs the village clean-up in the spring. In 2013 this included painting inside at Sunset Lake Elementary School, putting a fresh layer of sand down on the Sunset Lake beach that the club has maintained as a large project throughout the 59 years of its existence

Otto Kaak Founder and Guiding Light for the Lions Club Summer Festival

By Sue Moore

The Vicksburg Lions Club was looking around for a better fundraiser, something like a community picnic in 1973 when one of its members, Otto Kaak, suggested what he knew so well in his native Germany, a Biergarten.

That seemed to hit a cord with the club and oh, so incidentally, son Howard was in the club to help get the event, soon to be called Otto’s B&B, organized. “We started out in the old Helms building (where Frederick Construction is now located) by opening up the big garage overhead doors, setting up tables outside and cooking brats prepared by the Vicksburg Locker Plant,” the young Kaak recalled.

“We found a beer distributor that was in awe of how much beer we sold,” remembered Lions club member Roland Peach, and “the party was on!” It was certainly a community event and it got bigger and bigger each year, finally we needed to move it to a bigger place so we bought a former slaughter house out on W Ave., Peach said. In fact, Howard Kaak was the president that year and remembered signing the paperwork to buy the building to use for the B & B in 1975.

A parade became a part of the festivities in the ‘70s, so that people would come downtown and then move on out to the new location. The building tended to eat into the profits, for which the club donated back to the community so they started thinking about moving back into the village to be more visible. A location on the north side of what is now the Family Fare market was rebuilt expressly for the B & B with Jack Fryling and his crew donating a lot of their labor to get it in working order.

Sometime in the ‘90s the club again sought a better location and found what is now the Historic Village to be just right. A cement floor was soon necessitated for dancing, so an investment of $7,000, was made to build a 40’ x 80’ base for the large tents that were rented each year.

In 2007, the event was required to move again when the village installed a new lift station adjacent to the site and land was found to pitch the tents at the new recreation park off of Sprinkle Road that the village owned. It was a great expansive area but as the years went by, people forgot we were there, claimed Doug Stafinski, who by that time had become chairman of the event. Others who have served as chair to the B & B include Wayne Smith, Greg Russell and Roland Peach.

A new pavilion was suggested by then Village President Dan Pryson for the Historic Village. He saw that the Farmers’ Market also needed a permanent home and thought the two could work together with the Historical Society to build a structure to suit all three entities. Thus, the club moved back to 300 N. Richardson Street in 2012 as an experiment to see if the site would be more attractive to the community. Finally, in 2013 it appears that the pavilion will be built and the Lions B & B, or Summer Festival as it has come to be called, will once more have a permanent home.

Piano Concert Launches Local Artist

By Sue Moore 

Matt Weddon, a 2013 graduate of Vicksburg High School, played a piano concert for 100-200 of his closest friends on Saturday, June 29 at the Performing Arts Center as a payback to the community for its support of his musical endeavors over the years.

This summer he is planning to study in Poland to enhance his experiences before he heads to Western Michigan University in the fall to study music performance.

He’s been performing at various community events for many years and studying with WMU professors Sylvia Roederer and Lori Sims who are world renown teachers and piano performers. “There is always more to improve upon,” according to Weddon who has always loved music. He is proficient on the saxophone, flute and upright bass and can even sing, according to his childhood buddy, Michael Pierluissi. “This concert showed how much he grew musically throughout the year.”

“He started with classical pieces and ended with jazz, covering the whole range, moving around the stage showed the whole crowd his love and passion for performing,” Pierluissi stated. For several numbers he partnered with his teaching professor, Roederer which were a real treat. “He will go far in the musical world. I’m just proud to call him my friend.”

It Won’t be Breakfast at Tiffany’s But it Will be an Outpouring of Food for the Timber Framers Builders

By Sue Moore

“This community is so generous,” exclaimed Karen Hammond as she continuously dialed up food contributions for the “lumberjacks” (as she calls them) who will be helping to build the pavilion at the Historic Village from September 12 through the 22nd.

Churches, individuals and local restaurants have all pitched in to provide 60 builders with breakfast, lunch and dinner during their ten-day stay in Vicksburg. The early morning repasts and noon meal and will of necessity be served on site, but the dinners can be anywhere as a change of pace, Hammond said.

“I’ve called the many accomplished bakers I know to contribute and no one has turned me down, so that was a good start. Then the committee members started to query the churches, grocery stores and restaurants and again, no one has turned us down. It’s just so fulfilling to know how much people care about a project that in the end will benefit the whole community,” Hammond enthused.

Members of the Timber Framers Guild who volunteer for training in erecting a joint and tendon pavilion will camp on the site at North Richardson and Spruce streets. They will work all day and be offered copious amounts of coffee during breakfast, lunch and dinner to keep them going. All of this will happen through those in Vicksburg who are donating food and their expertise to prepare it, said Hammond, who is heading up the committee for the Historical Society consisting of Margaret Kerchief, Bob Smith, Tonya Nash, Lupe Smith and Sue Moore.

“The logistics of feeding and caring for our visitors is a challenge but the willingness to help has been heartwarming,” Kerchief said. “We are trying very hard to keep our costs down so the money donated to build the pavilion can go to the actual structure. Having the Timber Framers Guild help us build it in the old-fashioned method will save us money and give us a finished product that will serve the area for years to come,” she said.

To cap off the entire ten days of building, an invitation to the entire community is being extended for a “barn raising” potluck dinner on Saturday, September 21 to celebrate the frame being built and thank those who have helped over the ten days. The Village of Vicksburg, which will own the structure once it is complete, plans a pig roast for the last day of construction to accompany the potluck dinner.

The participating church groups include Lakeland Reformed, Chapman Nazarene, St. Martin’s, Vicksburg Bible Church and the United Methodist ladies. Restaurants which have volunteered food and cooking expertise include Apple Knockers, Rise ‘n Dine, Erbelli’s, etc. Individuals who have come forth to plan potluck dinners include Evie Hall, Nancy MacKenzie and Carol Meyer-Niedzwiecki.

Something For Everyone at the Vicksburg Library

By Children’s Librarian Kristy Zeluff

Summer at the Vicksburg District Library always means lots of kids and fun with Summer Reading, but we have events and activities for folks of all ages.

On the first Thursday of each month, we have an adult book discussion that meets from 9 to 10 a.m. by the fireplace. Come enjoy coffee and Rachel’s excellent baked goods on August 1st, when we will be discussing the works of Mary Kay Andrews.

On the third Thursday of each month from 9 to 10 a.m., a crafting group affectionately known as the “Knit Wits” meets by the fireplace to chat and create. All hand-crafters are welcome. Come in and show off your latest project, and catch up on all the local news.

Our library hosts an active quilters group, which meets twice a month. On Monday, a new technique is demonstrated, and on Saturday, the group meets for most of the day to work on projects or practice the new technique. If you are interested in joining this group, contact the library at 649-1648 and we will put the organizers in touch with you.

In addition to our monthly computer classes for adults, we are trying out a drop-in tech tutoring session on the first Monday of each month. If you are having trouble with your laptop or eReader, stop in and we will try to be of assistance. We certainly don’t know everything about every device, but we are pretty good at figuring things out. Watch our website, Facebook page and newsletters for the dates and topics of the adult computer classes and tech tutoring sessions – the next tech tutoring is Monday, August 5, at 10:30 a.m.

Kids, kids and more kids! We’ve had a great year so far for Summer Reading! Our teens enjoyed a Zombie Prom to kick off the summer, created Magic 8 Balls, and became Fruit Ninjas for an afternoon of culinary creativity. Our younger kids have been busy too, with visits from the Binder Park Zoomobile, magician Alan Kazam, local musicians BenJammin and Analisa, and story teller Robin Nott. They also enjoyed making terrariums and very hungry caterpillar crafts, where we released our beautiful butterflies into the “wild”.

The Summer Reading Contest ends Saturday, July 27. All forms must be turned in by the 27th to be considered for the grand prizes! The teens will celebrate another successful year on Tuesday, July 30 from 3-4 p.m. Come join the fun as we make the most of the warm weather with a festive luau, featuring tropical food and beverages, and luau-themed games and prizes. Our younger kids will have a ball at our-end-of-the-season carnival. Play crazy games! Win lots of prizes! We’ll have tons of things to do and prizes to win, and a treat to take home. Join us on Thursday, August 1, from 2 to 3 p.m. for the “we did it” celebration.

Upcoming Events for Summer Reading:

Teens: Tuesday, July 23, 2-3 p.m: MythBusters – Join us for the library’s take on the popular science experiment-based TV show. Help us look deeper into popular urban myths to prove if they’re fact or myth once and for all while we blow some things up along the way!

Wednesday, July 24, 1:30-2:30 p.m: Kalamazoo Nature Center’s “Our Earth – Can You Dig It?” program. Open to all ages. Dig deep into the world beneath our feet in this program presented by the KNC.

Tuesday, July 30, 3-4 p.m.: End of Summer Reading Prize Party – Luau! Come join the tropical fun.

Kids: Monday, July 22, 2-3 p.m.: Dig In! Make a snack from things that grow and enjoy nutritionally amusing stories.

Thursday, August 1, 2-3 p.m.: End of Summer Reading Prize Party – Carnival

Ann Maltby Travels Back to Bolivia for Six Months as a Clinical Nurse

Editor’s Note: This is a series of stories about Vicksburg High School graduates and some of the interesting jobs they now perform in the outside world. 

By Sue Moore

Always searching for a way to help people, Ann Maltby of Vicksburg returned to Bolivia, the long-ago site of her three-year stint in the Peace Corp, to spend the last six months as a clinical nurse helping indigent families with their health issues.

A 1997 graduate of Vicksburg High School, Maltby started her career in the Peace Corp in 2002 as an agronomist since she majored in agriculture in college. Seeing the dire need for health care in the villages of Bolivia, she returned to the states and entered nursing school at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Upon graduation, she settled in Vicksburg with husband Wally, who she had married in Bolivia, to begin a stint as an ICU nurse at Bronson Hospital.

Because she is a runner, she and her family organized the very successful Frostbite 5K race in 2011 as part of the Chamber’s Ice Festival. Two years ago, she also joined the Navy Reserve as a nurse, spending one weekend per month and two weeks annually doing training exercises, physical health assessments for sailors in the reserves.

Then the itch to help in Bolivia returned. She found a spot as a volunteer with Centro Medico Humberto Parra a free clinic in the rain forest area of the country and joined other doctors and nurses from the U.S. who were just as committed as Ann to treat Type II diabetes and parasites among other chronic and acute illnesses which can ravage the poorest people of Bolivia.

Here is a sample of Maltby’s notes to family and friends about her experiences through – January 3, 2013.

“After a couple of weeks with Wally’s family in Villa Esperanza for Christmas and the New Year, I have arrived at the clinic where I will be working for the next few months. We are about 70 km from the city of Santa Cruz and then about three miles down a bumpy muddy road from the community of Palacios (about 300+ people). The clinic is surrounded by thick brush scattered with palm trees, wild boars, snakes, lots of birds and the occasional monkey, which I have yet to see. Most of the land around the clinic was thick forest that was deforested for cattle and has started to fill back in where the cattle or farming hasn’t been able to keep up with the natural growth. There are really no other houses or buildings anywhere near the clinic; it’s a strange location to provide free healthcare in, but it works.“

“People come from the outlying communities to the clinic from Wednesday through Saturday. They come mainly for management of their chronic diseases. Diabetes is especially prevalent here as well as high blood pressure. Treatment is free or a very minimal fee. We mostly see adults because children can receive free treatment up until they are 5 years old at any hospital in Bolivia.

“I am teaming up with super nurse Maria, who basically ran the clinic single handedly when it first started. We help take care of any patients who need more immediate attention at the clinic like those who come in with really high blood sugars or are extremely dehydrated and need IV fluids. We are also going to organize the health education program and hopefully get out into the communities to do some parasite education and treatment. Maria has a lot of work for me. “

Now back at her job at Bronson as a bedside nurse in the medical ICU unit, Maltby specializes in cardiac and surgical patient care. The South County News will continue to publish some of

Bob Wagner’s Journey to Early Retirement

By Sue Moore 

For Bobby Wagner, a guy who has five million frequent flyer miles on American Air and one million on United, you might say he gets around a lot. Now that he is retired, he still enjoys the travel, especially with his wife, the former Deb Northrup, both graduates of Vicksburg High School Class of 1978.

But 9/11 screwed up a good thing in air travel, he laments, as he remembers fondly just getting on a plane almost the minute it was set to take off. “I’ve been so many places and only seen the business office and the airplane and Deb didn’t get to go. Now we can see all the places I missed together,” as he took early retirement at the age of 50. “Hanging around with Deb is the greatest thing about retirement,” he says.

Bobby Wagner has degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California/Berkley, which he earned while an employee of General Electric for five years. He worked in design of nuclear reactors as a project manager and noticed guys walking around in suits and wanted that kind of job he says. So, he moved to Applied Materials, a company that makes the machines that make the chips to sell to manufacturers such as Intel.

After five years at this company he became employee #50 at a start-up called Novellus Systems, Inc. They had a different concept for the time in the process of making wafers which promised better quality in computer chips. For the next 22 years, from 1987 to 2009, he moved from being a salesman to vice president of customer satisfaction, vice president of operations in Japan for two years, and finally vice president of sales in North America.

“I majored in ‘Bobby Wagner’,” says wife Deb as she reviews her years at Michigan State while spending each weekend in Ann Arbor. They had dated while in high school so this was a natural extension of their affection. When they arrived in California she held a series of jobs but really wanted to stay home with their three daughters, who are now out on their own in the work world. Allie works for a start-up called Bright Edge in Mountainview, CA; Jennifer is at CNBC; and Lindsey is in sales at Linked In.

David and Diane – bookends of the family

Following in his father Don’s footsteps, David went to work at Miller-Davis Construction Co. just after high school, beginning as a union ironworker, then went to work for Austin Co. for the rest of his career as a foreman and retired as superintendent at the age of 55. He married Connie Jones, a VHS graduate in 1970 who attended the University of Michigan and came back to her home town to teach social studies at VHS for many years. They are raising all of their own food and live on a property on 30th street, south of Vicksburg. They have a son David II., who is a sheriff’s deputy in Kalkaska County; and a grandson David, III affectionately called Tripp. They also have a daughter Katie who is married and lives in the Kalkaska area.

Diane is an RN at Borgess Hospital doing special procedures in radiology. She lives with husband Steve Hunt who owns a concrete company and is a 1976 VHS grad. They farm in East Leroy and raise breed goats. They have three offspring and one granddaughter.

As all the cousins were growing up they would get together each 4th of July and Christmas back in Michigan. “They thought it was a big party for a week and that everyone in Vicksburg and Schoolcraft lived like this all the time,” Deb commented. “It’s the tradition that we all

The Wagner Family Tree

Editor’s Note: This is a series of stories about Vicksburg High School graduates and some of the interesting jobs they now perform in the outside world. 

By Sue Moore

There’s David, Bob, Mary and Diane Wagner, Vicksburg High School graduates from 1971,‘73,‘76 and ‘78 respectively, the offspring of Don and Betsy Wagner, who have made a name for themselves both far away and close to home.

This is a story about the two who left home to follow their star while David and Diane did the job locally.

Mary Wagner Rafferty spent her summers as a teenager life-guarding at the beach on Sunset Lake and as the activities director for South County Community Services. A degree from Michigan State University in therapeutic education returned her talents to the community center in Vicksburg where she met and married Rick Rafferty from Schoolcraft.

That might be the end of story, in truth, it was just the beginning. Rick landed a job after graduation from the College of the Ozarks where he had a full-ride tennis and academic scholarship, teaching middle school in Cincinnati, OH. Mary joined Rick six months later and went to work as director of volunteer services at St. Luke’s hospital in Fort Thomas, KY. She bounced around from Good Samaritan hospital in Cincinnati and St. Luke’s, where she found herself in development, which is a euphemism for raising money – Big Money! She first became director of Planned Giving, then vice president of the Foundation and COO and now serves as president/CEO of Good Samaritan’s Foundation, a part of Catholic Health Initiatives out of Denver, CO.

She found out she was good at development and started traveling the U.S. giving speeches and talking to potential donors. “Good Sam”, as it is called, is a large research and teaching hospital (over 600 beds) with capital needs each year which can exceed $40 million, she says.

“My job is to give people an opportunity to do something that could make a difference in someone’s life. The free health center for the working poor is what I am most proud of,” she states. “It’s staffed by volunteer physicians and nurses, all run by philanthropic dollars that our planned giving program raises. The clinic costs about $800,000 a year to run and is a special thing to be a part of in every way. It is part of something that is bigger than yourself.”

She credits her investment team where she believes you make big investments in good people to give them flexibility to keep them on board. Her at home team consists of husband Rick, who devoted himself to raising daughter Dianna while Mary was traveling and working. Also, Mary had to deal with a diagnoses of orthostatic tremors, a rare neurological disease when she was in her forties. It hits her upon standing up where her legs are really heavy and she just can’t stand. There is no treatment known for it and it is considered non-life threatening. “I’m good at covering it up and I have a trainer who helps me with a lot of core strengthening so the disease is manageable.” Daughter Dianna was chosen for the cheerleading squad at the University of Tennessee and now has returned to the University of Cincinnati in athlete sales development. It seems the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Mary notes.

Strategic Planning Raises More Questions than Answers for the Village of Vicksburg

By Sue Moore

Since late April the Vicksburg Village Council has been wrestling with how to move forward and set priorities for the new body that was elected in November of 2012.

To accomplish this, a grant was sought from the Vicksburg Foundation to employ Hoyle & Associates to lead the charge in the person of Kathy Hoyle, the principal of the organization.

Members of the larger community were invited to participate in evaluating strengths and weaknesses and suggest priorities in April. Current staff members met with Hoyle to work through the same and the Council members themselves went through the exercise bringing the ideas into focus through the setting of five identifiable strategies.

Hoyle referred to the Council members as having reached another level in their thinking and planning because the strategies they have selected are very forward thinking and will set a framework for growth in the coming years. “If you don’t dream, it doesn’t happen,” she declared at the most recent strategy session. “The dreaming (focus/concept for the Village in the future) had to do with the vision you developed. Now you are coming up with strategies to lay the foundation to make that vision a reality,” she said.

Thus an in-depth discussion took place at the meeting on July 10, on how to first raise more funds to provide the desired services and second, how to cut expenditures for services deemed less important.

The problem for the Council, is the indebtedness it inherited, which has interest rates, as high as five to six per cent on various loans and bonds. The need to refinance is handicapped by the state mandate that the Village has reached its ceiling for bonding and it is also requesting a plan for paying down debt first before it can re-finance.

Strategies for accomplishing this were discussed with a look toward better controls to be put in place in the central office and with the department managers. This won’t get the job done totally, but it will make for greater transparency according to Jeff Becker, one of the new council members elected in November.

There are some hold-over items from the previous Council that need to be solved before moving forward, President Bill Adams explained. One is to settle a law suit brought by the current owners of one section of the paper mill, so the whole property can be acquired and a decision made on what to do with the abandoned buildings. Most of the 60 acre property has reverted through foreclosure to the county’s land-bank fund with the exception of this central piece of the mill.

A second item the Council has been discussing during the strategic planning work sessions is what to do about charging for sewer and water hookups in the Allen Edwin development. The usual charges had been dropped by the Village Manager some time ago in order to encourage growth in the overall tax base, by more homes being built. However, it has left a large hole in the sewer fund and now needs to be corrected according to Chris Newman, the council member who has headed up this investigation.

Basic charges of $1400 for a hookup have been reinstituted along with the charge for water connection throughout the village by Council action. The members also voted to increase the base rate for all sewer usage. It is investigating whether any cost savings could be realized by having an outside agency take care of the billing and receiving of payment.

The golf course club house came into the strategic planning discussion because the Council is asking how the cost overruns on the building were being accounted for by the auditor BDO and the Village Manager. The new treasurer, Tracy Locey and Richard Dykstra have been charged with tracking down all of these expenditures and informing the Council what the real cost of the building was. This item came under the strategy to develop a business plan for the golf course. Although it is making money, council members believe it could do better if actionable goals were set in place. The course could benefit, as well as the village tax base, when the American Village Builders (AVB) starts building condos on the property they wish to.