Vicksburg Community Pavilion project’s lead instructor details the process

Insights from Rick Collins, the project’s lead instructor and founder of Trillium Dell Timberworks, based in Illinois.

Vicksburg pavilion

The community frame for the people of Vicksburg will be an important landmark for years to come. It’s an expression of Chris Newman’s vision. (Chris is their local timber framer.) Michigan, like much of the rest of the U.S., is a melting pot of cultures, ideas, and people, and so will this frame be. Built entirely of local materials, it’s got a variety of wood from a whole host of folks around the country and in the community itself.

vicksburg pavilionWoods used in this frame: cherry, black locust, white oak, red oak, white ash, white pine, and yellow poplar. All of this material was sawn, locally, just weeks before. Today we are in full swing laying out and cutting the timber frame. We’ll be building the first of 11 trusses in our assembly area on cribbing.

Multiple species in a single frame can be a challenge, but this too is an expression of the local woodland. Tom Nehil and Ben Trojniak did the engineering for this project, and engineered the wood as well to place species in specific locations throughout the structure.

Using a variety of species is an excellent way to sustainably harvest timber that is not grown in a monoculture. It also promotes healthy forests and ecosystems by providing a variety of habitats, and it guards against the multitude of diseases that monoculture crops are subject to. Certainly this vision is the future of timber framing.

Then we’ll bring all of these pieces together for fit up in an assembly area separate from the cutting stations. Cutting 29,000 bd.ft. in a few short days is a challenge; this method will allow us to accomplish it quickly and accurately.

vicksburg pavilion

Feeding the “Lumber Jacks” of the Vicksburg pavilion

vicksburg pavilion

By Kristina Powers Aubry as posted on the Timber Framers Guild blog site

It’s amazing what one can learn about complete strangers in a very short time. As one of the three women who have tried to make a campground and building site homey and comfortable for the framers while they spend their days diligently chiseling, sawing, hammering and winching, we have learned a lot about the gang.

There are the early risers. Those rare few who stir before we drive in at 5 a.m. to get the coffee perking. They move slowly but deliberately through the dark, getting things started. And the late risers. We know that until we see the slowly ambling stride of the only one who just can’t hear the “dinner bell” ringing right near his tent, it’s not time to clear up the breakfast yet.

We know who, in spite of the near freezing temperatures overnight, comes to the table in flip-flops, bare footed, or in slippers; who likes quiet and soft conversation first thing in the morning; and who hits the ground running and ready for life with a roar.

We’ve learned how nearly everyone likes to arrange their food. Some are “all-togethers” who dish up everything in their own dish, making interesting combinations of flavors and textures; some the separate, tidy “no touching” arrangement of selections. There are the loaders whose economy of energy won’t require a return trip to the buffet; and the one-at-a-timers who like to savor each item on its own and make return trips.

We have learned that not only models are vegetarians. The mountains of fruits and vegetables that have been consumed in the past 10 days would make the Department of Agriculture and the FDA giggle with glee. One afternoon a local stopped by to see what was going on and noticed some bananas on the table. He asked if we picked them up at the local grocery in the mornings. When we told him we did, he understood why, when he went in to buy his, they were all gone. He left and returned with 7 bags of bananas to keep us supplied and he was able to buy a few of his own for a couple of days.

vicksburg pavilion

We know the milk-drinkers, the coffee-holics, and the water- onlys. We know that even as produce-conscious as the framers are, sweets are part of the picture, too.

I’d estimate over two thousand cookies of all shapes and sizes have passed through the dining tent with only a few crumbs remaining. The nine home-made, fresh Michigan fruit pies for dessert at lunch will go down in TFG food history. So many residents have taken the project to heart that they started dropping by with unsolicited trays of cookies and baked goods.

Of our 50 participants, to whom 10 days ago we were just being introduced, we have learned many things. We now think of ourselves rather like the sisters who know a lot, wouldn’t tell a soul about the private things, but know how to make things “right” when we see the gang heading to the dining tent. We’ve met artists, poets, philosophers, and kings, white collars, blue collars, and no collars from all over the world here in our little corner of it.

We have also decided two things.

First, it will be tough to have to go back home and start cooking just for ourselves and our families after 10 days of exceptionally good, brought to the tent, meals.

And we will miss every one of our new timber framer family when they go back to their homes.

Many Hands and Hearts Feed the Pavilion Work Crew

vicksburg pavilion

By Sue Moore

It is said that an army marches on its stomach. In Vicksburg last week, an army of volunteer carpenters marched to work each day after being fed by community volunteers. The workers have built a towering pavilion in a unique style that will stand as a testament to timber-framing construction.

They have been fueled by the generosity of the many Vicksburg area residents.

Hundreds of people whipped up delicious food for volunteers from the Timber Framers Guild who began work on Thursday, September 12 and finished their part of the project on Sunday, September 22.

Between 50 and 60 workers were fed three meals a day, along with snacks between times and lots of coffee to keep everyone awake, according to Karen Hammond, the food committee chairperson. Initially, she made numerous calls to food purveyors, community organizations and bakers who annually help with the Historical Society’s Christmas bake sale, to supply the meals and snacks. It was a task that took over three months of planning in anticipation of the buildout dates along with help from her committee members.

Hammond and Margaret Kerchief, president of the Historical Society, were on site every morning at 5:00 to get the coffee going and assist the many organizations bringing food for breakfast at 7:00. They stayed until after lunch, and dinner was served at 7:00 p.m. each day to coordinate the serving and cleanup efforts, even to the point of Hammond taking the silverware home each night to wash up for the next day’s meals. They were assisted by Kristina Powers Aubry on many of the days.

The carpenters, or “lumberjacks” as Hammond fondly referred to them, showed their appreciation by thanking everyone profusely and eating most everything in sight. They often remarked that they usually come to these build-outs to lose weight and now were gaining weight instead. Some of the meals were served off site at area churches along with showers at Lakeland Reformed Church and Chapman Memorial Nazarene Church.

These accommodations were most appreciated by the builders after a long day of toil and sweat. One of the builders brought his dog “Scruffy” who also appreciated all the handouts from the cast and crew.

Click the picture for a larger size image.

Volunteers for the Community Pavilion Project
Volunteers for the Community Pavilion Project

My Experience as a Volunteer on the Vicksburg Community Pavilion Project

By John Polasek

vicksburg pavilionWhen I signed up on-line at the Timber Framer’s Guild (TFG) website as a volunteer on the project, I really had no idea what to expect.

I had been on the initial planning for the Pavilion project as a member of the Vicksburg Lions Club, but there’s a big step between preliminary planning, sketches, and the assembly and constructing of this amazing structure.

I thought I would be picking up trash and/or in some way taking care of the needs of these expert Timber Framers so they could complete their work.

But I was able, as were a number of other volunteers, to learn about the craft by actual hands-on work. The TFG is dedicated to the propagation of the art of old-time mortis and tenon framing. It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget, and I feel I have made friends for life with people I worked alongside during this project.

Local volunteers working with the timber frames include, from left to right, Jim Bird, John Polasek, Hisko Timmermans, Richard Barnes, Chris Newman, Bob Smith, John, Woflgang Lugauer
Local volunteers working with the timber frames include, from left to right,
Jim Bird, John Polasek, Hisko Timmermans, Richard Barnes, Chris Newman, Bob
Smith, John, Woflgang Lugauer

I was humbled by the dedication of the Timber Framers to this project, and their knowledge of their art. I was humbled by the organization skills, and patience to teach others their craft. We worked 10-hour days and at times they also worked into the evening. The Timber Framers had such a passion for their work that they frequently did not want to stop for meals. They were just so focused on their work and did not want to leave something undone. For me, it was so motivating that I tried to stay with them as much as I could. But I was 30 years older than most of them, and not used to this kind of physical work.

I learned so much about the craft because they wanted me to learn and develop the same passion they have.

I can look, as other volunteers can, at that structure and know what braces I made, what posts I did joinery on, what pegs I drove in, and especially the assembly of the trusses. Our community’s response to this project was amazing. Not only because of the wonderful meals (the crew said they have never eaten so well anywhere), but by the way the Timber Framers were recognized by folks in the community.

The framers said they have never been thanked so much by folks passing by, and people on the street.

It really meant a lot to them, and it made me even prouder of our Vicksburg community. This was truly a special project built by special people for a wonderful community. Thanks.

vicksburg pavilion

Day Six of the pavilion construction

A few words from Tom Haanen:
Tom Haanen is an engineer with Hilti in Tulsa, OK and a participant in the pavilion project

Tom Haanen
Tom Haanen

The bell rings for breakfast at 6:45 and we crawl out of our tents, the third or fourth time since 2 a.m. we’ve been roused by a loud noise. This time the promise of food awaits. It’s in the mid 30s when we wake up but a pristine 65 to 70° F during the day. After egg casserole, Maxwell House, and fruit, a briefing by Rick Collins, and roll call by Alicia, the crew of 51 continue the work at hand.

At this point, we are a mostly welloiled machine and march into cutting. Twenty-nine thousand board feet and over 500 pieces. As of Tuesday, about 65% of the timber has been cut. Fit up is under way and four of the 11 trusses are assembled.

Lots of community support. These people are really excited. We mostly eat dinner off site. Couple of churches, the Vicksburg Community Center, and in a park by the lake. Lots of comfort food and desserts.

Tomorrow, we will start putting up sticks. We anticipate cutting through the weekend and will probably raise the last stick just sometime Sunday. Ten forty-five and my buddy Don Seela is sawing wood. We are enjoying the last Bell’s Porter before hitting the tent.

Fundraising Still Needed for the Vicksburg Pavilion

Screen shot 2013-10-06 at 12.47.55 PM
The frame of the pavilion begins to take shape.

By Sue Moore

Pegs for the building of the pavilion were being sold by the Vicksburg Historical Society to help defray the expenses in a small way plus give the public a way to have their name inscribed in the historic building. It is the pegs that hold the construction together in the mortis and tenon pavilion.

Purchasers were able to write their names on the peg with indelible ink but then had to give the peg back for it to be hammered into the building according to Kristina Powers Aubry, who headed up this fundraising effort.

pavilion pegsOver 600 pegs were sold of various sizes at a cost of $5, $10, $15, or $25, raising approximately $6,000 toward the construction project. The ultimate cost of the pavilion is likely to exceed $250,000 according to Aubry, with $201,000 raised before construction began and another $50,000 needed to bring it to completion.

A pavilion advisory committee has been working on this final part of the drive to build by approaching individuals and organizations to dip into their pockets one more time.

Hosing down the construction site.
Hosing down the construction site.

The money is needed to make sure a roof is built for the winter, electrical is installed, and concrete is poured around the perimeter. Also, the landscaping needs to be done to make the building ready for opening in the spring, Aubry reiterated.

Vicksburg’s Scarecrows Scare Up Some Fun

By Dusti Lewars-Morton

Cooler temperatures and a shift in the color of trees, heralds the start of autumn. To welcome in the harvest season, the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce will host its first annual Scarecrow Competition this year.

“I’m very excited about decorating downtown for the Historic Village Harvest Festival and the fall season,” said Tanya DeLong. “We, as a Chamber, believe that decorations and competition will encourage people to venture downtown to check out all of the neat shops and restaurants Vicksburg has to offer. Vicksburg is the best kept ‘secret’ in Kalamazoo County, and we’re trying to spread the word!”

Interested businesses, clubs, organizations, and individual people were invited to come by Tanya’s Girl Garage last week to pick up cornstalks donated by Fritz Farms, to be used in their scarecrow creations. Participants have their choice of any green lamp posts in downtown Vicksburg on Main Street and Prairie Street for placement of their art, with the requests made that everything be up by Sunday, September 29, maintained by their creators, and taken down by Saturday, November 1.

“We’re hoping for about a dozen entries in the contest,” Tanya continued. “Ideally, we’d love to see every lamp post in the downtown area decorated with a scarecrow!” The displays were judged by Harvest Festival attendees, and a special trophy created by Tanya was awarded to the winner.

Curves in Vicksburg to Celebrate Third Anniversary

A Happy Birthday Open House will top off three years of Vicksburg Curves ownership by Bev Birchmeier.

vicksburg curvesIt will be a chance for her to “give back to the community,” as the theme of the day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, October 21 at 124 E. Prairie Street.

They will be collecting donations of food items or money for South County Community Services and Generous Hands all day long, Birchmeier says.

Another donation will be made to the American Cancer Society in the form of a workout $10 punch card anyone can purchase, and the proceeds will go to breast cancer research.

On a less serious note, Birchmeier will crown the “Last Queen Standing” an honor that goes to the patron who has lost the most weight over a sixweek time period during the last year. The 2013 winner is Marilyn Brownell, who shed eight pounds recently. Sarah Bauserman won in 2012 with a loss of approximately 10 pounds, and the big winner in 2011 was Carol Doxey, who slimmed down by 14 pounds in six weeks and 130 all total over the year. Doxey is now the assistant manager of Curves.

Healthy snacks, door prizes and a tour of the facility will be available all day to anyone interested, Birchmeier says. “We are honored to be part of a program that can help the women of our surrounding community lead healthier lives,” she reiterates. “It has been gratifying to see members boost their self-confidence, drop dress sizes and even reduce medications, cholesterol and high blood pressure as well as make amazing connections within the Curves community.”

For more information, call 649-9004 or email


Electronics Recycling Saturday at Schoolcraft Township Hall


By Sue Moore

“What’s in your deep storage unit in the way of electronics?”

If you have been hiding those old ‘boat anchors’ of computers, screens, TVs and other oddball items, you now have a place to get rid of them….for free! Schoolcraft Township and the other area municipalities have joined together to support a free electronics recycling event on Saturday, October 5 from 9 a.m. to noon at the township hall.

Residents are encouraged to dig into their garage, basement and other storage areas to ferret out as many old computers, cell phones, monitors, printers, keyboards, cords, cables, modems, DVD and VCR players that they can find, according to Don Ulsh, Schoolcraft Township supervisor. He is enthusiastic about the potential to recycle and has offered the parking lot of the township building at 50 East VW Ave., to Emerald eCycling as a central location in South Kalamazoo County.

Other items that might be taking up shelf space and eligible for recycling include MP3 players, gaming consoles, CD players, radios, stereos, microwaves, calculators, flat screen TVs, remote controls, UPS, test equipment, small motors and most other electronic items, according to Susan Sonday, CEO of Emerald eCycling, LLC. One item that cannot be accepted would be tube TVs.

Her company collects and recycles all of these gadgets, takes them apart for their innards to sell in the “downstream” market, she says. Her company has conducted some “small collection” events since its beginning in May of 2013, but this will be the biggest one she has tried. She plans to pull out all the stops to make it a success.

They will even take hard drives, disable them, shred them at their office following the event and provide a certificate of data destruction for a fee of $10 to the computer owner. Sonday has plenty of experience in this field, having worked for Nokia in Chicago, and before that at Johnson Controls, managing electronic products. She is an electrical engineer, with her jobs requiring her to find a safe way to dispose of older equipment. Her mantra is “reuse, refurbish and recycle,” now that her company has found a home in Kalamazoo.

“It’s important to recycle to keep toxic substances out of landfills, save energy, recover and reuse raw materials,” she points out. It’s impossible for her to know how much will be collected in one Saturday morning, so she is bringing in a 26-foot box truck that will accept 26,000 lbs. of stuff, along with a smaller trailer that can move back and forth to her warehouse on ML Ave., just off Sprinkle Road.

For those who can’t make it to the Saturday morning event and have sufficient amount of inventory, she offers free local pick-up by making an appointment through the web site at or calling 269-978-1914.


Sportsmanship: What is it? How is it defined? The answer is complicated

By Sue Moore

Mike Roy, Vicksburg High School’s athletic director (AD), is bothered by parents who think they can yell and scream at the officials and coaches, since they have paid their $5 to get into the contest. He contends that kids hate it when their parents and other adults in the audience act that way.

What they really want is support in the form of conversation that goes like this, “I loved to watch you play,” and then on to whatever else is happening that day. If parents think their kid is going to earn a college scholarship through their sport, they should think again, Roy contends. A focus on their studies will yield more and better money in the long run with many academic scholarships going untouched every year, he says.

Each year, the helicopter parent seems to get worse, the AD says. He feels that parents should let their kids take risks as it is ok to fail, otherwise, how do they learn to accept failure? If the parent is over protective and overbearing, it hurts the kid and the sport they have chosen. These are key lessons in growing up, Roy believes. A good example of parenting in sports has been Steve Hettinger, who would be what Roy calls a model parent. He is supportive of the coaches and their decisions. He lets his son Chad accept the challenges of playing multiple sports, attends all the games as does Chad’s mother, Gail. Hettinger gives back by donating his time with the youngsters and the high school sports programs, and Chad has picked up that same attitude in his teamwork, Roy says.


Let’s hear it for the parents who do it right. In many respects, consultants Brown and Miller, who are long-time coaches and administrators, say, it’s easier to be an ideal sports parent than a nightmare. “It takes less effort,” Miller says. “Sit back and enjoy.” Here’s what they recommend:

1. Cheer everybody on the team, not just your child: Parents should attend as many games as possible and be supportive, yet allow young athletes to find their own solutions. Don’t feel the need to come to their rescue at every crisis. Continue to make positive comments even when the team is struggling.

2. Model appropriate behavior: Contrary to the old saying, children do as you do, not as you say. When a parent projects poise, control and confidence, the young athlete is likely to do the same. And when a parent doesn’t dwell on a tough loss, the young athlete will be enormously appreciative.

3. Know what is suitable to discuss with the coach: The mental and physical treatment of your child is absolutely appropriate. So is seeking advice on ways to help your child improve. And if you are concerned about your child’s behavior in the team setting, bring that up with the coach. Taboo topics: Playing time, team strategy, and discussing team members other than your child.

4. Know your role: Everyone at a game is either a player, a coach, an official or a spectator. “It’s wise to choose only one of those roles at a time,” Brown says. “Some adults have the false impression that by being in a crowd, they become anonymous. People behaving poorly cannot hide.” Here’s a clue: If your child seems embarrassed by you, clean up your act.

5. Be a good listener and a great encourager: When your child is ready to talk about a game or has a question about the sport, be all ears. Then provide answers while being mindful of avoiding becoming a nightmare sports parent. Above all, be positive. Be your child’s biggest fan. “Good athletes learn better when they seek their own answers,” Brown says. And, of course, don’t be sparing with those magic words: “I love watching you play.”