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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.

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