Monthly Archives: July 2014

89th Annual July 4th Celebration Set for Schoolcraft

By Sue Moore

Schoolcraft’s 89th annual July 4th celebration kicks off with a pancake breakfast at 7 a.m. and ends with fireworks at dusk. In between those times, many other activities are in place for people to enjoy.

The pancake breakfast will be served by the Lions Club from 7-11 a.m. at the Upper Elementary School. At 8 a.m., runners can run the Firecracker Road Race, starting at the High School and then head to the Schoolcraft United Methodist Church for the ice cream social from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

At 11 a.m., the annual parade kicks off which will close down U.S.131 from U Avenue to XY Avenue for two hours while the parade travels down Grand Street. This year, Deb Reynolds, president of the organizing committee, is expecting over 110 entries in the parade. And since it is an election year, there will be the usual turnout of politicians.

Hungry parade goers can stop by the American Legion Hall on Clay Street for barbecued chicken and ribs. Visitors can also tour the Underground Railroad house and garden until 3 p.m. Also, fire truck rides for children will be offered by the South County Fire Authority in front of the Upper Elementary school.

Meanwhile, the Antique Car Show in Burch Park runs all day. Food and drink will also be available at the car show.

The fireworks show at dusk caps off the day with onlookers packing the streets and back roads for miles around. Chip Mongrieg, who has engineered the show for the last 17 years, is retiring this year, turning it over to Randy Palmer who will be in charge of next year’s show.

While no one on the organizing committee knows just how the Schoolcraft Fourth of July parade got started 89 years ago, they agree it has been a big bonus economically for the village, drawing over 20,000 people to the community for the parade and all the events throughout the day.

Schoolcrafts 89th AnnualIndependence Day Celebration

Friday, July 4th, 2014

7-11a.m.- Pancake Breakfast-Schoolcraft Upper Elem.-Sponsored by: Schoolcraft Lions Club

6:30-7:30 a.m.- Late Registrationfor Road Race-High School

7:30 a.m.- 1 Mile fun Run/Walk(free-High School)

8 a.m. – 5 Mile Firecracker Road Race– High School-reg.early @-

8 a.m. Old Car Show in Burch Park until 4 p.m.

9 a.m. -2 p.m.- Ice Cream Social – Schoolcraft United Methodist Church

10 a.m.- Parade lineup                                                           

11a.m.- Parade!!!!!! Parade route: Eliza to Grand to Clay Streets

Noon-?American Legion Chicken & Ribs BBQ- Legion Hall, Clay Street

Post Parade Events: Underground Railway House & Garden Tours until 3 p.m., Sponsored by Schoolcraft Historical Society

Fire Truck Rides & Fire Prevention Trailer-Upper Elem. – Sponsored by South County Fire Authority

2-6 p.m.American Legion Dance-American Legion Hall on Clay Street

10 p.m.– FIREWORKSfamous choreographed fireworks show held north of Schoolcraft High School. Parking is available in school lot. Bring your own blanket or seating. Fireworks funded by donations to the Schoolcraft 4th of July Committee, PO Box 231, Schoolcraft, MI. 49087.

Taste of Vicksburg Photos

Highlights from the Old Car Festival

Lions Club’s 41st Summer Festival to Open at Pavilion

John Polasek, Alice Galovan, and Brett Grossman stand at the entry to the new community pavilion where the Lions Club Summer Festival will be held.

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg Lions Club members have found a new roof over their heads for their 41st annual Summer Festival, a.k.a., the B&B (Beer and Brats), in the new pavilion they helped build on N. Richardson Street.

The grand opening in the new venue will be, Thursday, July 24, at 4 p.m. for Beer and Brats, with the emphasis on kids’ entertainment.

Games for children begin at 6 p.m. with lots of prizes for the kiddies, said Mitch Moldovan, overseer of the event. The Kalamazoo Shrine Clowns will once again entertain the children. Free testing of “kidsight” for ages 1-5 will be available. The testing, which provides immediate results, may help to detect any early vision problems.

Of the festival’s new venue, John Polasek, who cooks the brats and sauerkraut, said, “It just seems like we’ve been moving every year. It’s really just the sixth location and arguably the best one.”

Started by Otto Kaak, the festival originally was held in what is now the Dollar General Building on East Prairie. When that space became too small, they purchased a building on W. Avenue, some distance off the road so the noise from the festival wouldn’t bother the neighbors.

From there, it moved to the Harding’s (now Family Fare) parking lot, and then to the Historic Village site next to the Brady Township Hall, and then to the Village’s Recreation Park off of Sprinkle Road. Attendance kept declining at the park, largely due to the economy, according to Doug Stafinski, general chairman for the last 15 years.

“When the idea was broached to return to the Historic Village and build a pavilion, the Club got on board,” Stafinski said. “We pitched our tents last year where the pavilion stands now and had the best attendance in the last six years.”

For over two years, the Lions Club and Polasek worked with the Farmers’ Market organizers to help plan and finance the building of the pavilion.

Polasek now takes pride in what he called the “final resting place” for the festival, because he and the Lions Club helped build the pavilion.

He and several other local men volunteered their time for 10 days, teaming up with the Timber Framers Guild.

Holding the festival at the new pavilion will help the Lions Club in their service to the community.

“We can save the cost of the main tent by utilizing the pavilion,” said Stafinski. “That gives us more as a service club, to return back into the community.”

The Lions Club provides eye glasses and vision testing for low income citizens, purchases AED machines for the schools, provides scholarships for high school seniors, sponsors Senior Honors Night at the high school, supports the Generous Hands’ backpack program, and several Lions International eyesight programs.

lions 2
Brett Grossman and John Polasek are ready to greet festival goes to the new community pavilion for the Summer Festival.

Lions Club Summer Festival Activities Line Up

Thursday, July 24 – Opening Night for Beer and Brats at 4 p.m. Kids’ Night; children’s games 6 – 8 p.m.

Friday, July 25 – Open for lunch and dinner – 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Friday, July 25 – Vicksburg Rotary Club meeting in the pavilion – noon

Friday, July 25 – Third annual corn hole tournament – 6 p.m.

Friday, July 25 – Rustic Band – 8:30 to 12:30 a.m.

Friday, July 25 – Volleyball tournament – 6 – 9 p.m.

Saturday, July 26 – Vicksburg High School Alumni breakfast – 9 a.m., in the pavilion

Saturday, July 26 – Open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, July 26 – 8th annual horseshoe pitching contest – 11 a.m.

Saturday, July 26 – Volleyball tournament – 1 p.m. until a champion is crowned

Saturday, July 26 – South County Band – 9 p.m. – 1 a.m.

Festival Events Change But Recipe and Volunteers Remain the Same

doug s
Doug Stafinski is the long-time Summer Festival general chairman.

While events scheduled for the Lions Club annual B&B Festival have changed over four decades, some things have remained the same such as the recipes and longtime volunteers.

The Saturday parade was eliminated years ago because of failing attendance, according to Doug Stafinski, but recent additions include the horseshoe pitching contest and the corn hole tournament have been very successful.

What hasn’t changed since the B&B’s inception is the recipe for the sauerkraut, said main cook, John Polasek. It’s a secret recipe from Otto Kaak, founder of the festival.

“We cooked 1600 pounds of brats last year and those, too, are a secret recipe created by John Fink,” Polacek said.

Since 2011, the beer selection has been Miller along with Leinenkugel.

Four men from the Lions Club were around for the original B&B 41 years ago and also the 60th anniversary of the Club they are celebrating this year. They include Paul Schutter, Roland Peach, Bob Merrill, and Don Ramer.

Others who have served as committee chairs for many years include Nellie Pierson, tickets; Bob Allison, set-up; and newer members Brett Grossman, in charge of the horseshoe tourney; Alice Galovan, publicity; Eric Stafinski, volleyball; Bobby Poveda and Ryan Bright, who are in charge of the corn hole tournament as volunteers even though they are not Lions Club members.

Backroads Band Headlines Friday Night B&B Entertainment

By Nathan Czochara

Playing at Lions Club B&B will be Vicksburg residents Charlie Pritchard and Bob Soter from the Backroads Band. The band has been playing the event for six years and will be on stage again Friday night, July 25th.

The Backroads Band has been around for ten years, playing all over west Michigan. The classic rock/country band consists of John Engle on vocals and rhythm guitar, bassist Larry McKeown, lead guitarist Charlie Pritchard, drummer Bob Sutor. The band has slowed down playing shows in recent years, and always looks forward to the Lions Club annual summer festival.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun. We are looking forward seeing the local people. When we do play out and about it’s not usually around here. So when we come to Vicksburg, all our friends come on by,” says Soter.

The Backroads Band covers classic rock and country. The band has a fun time jamming out country classics from Dwight Yoakum, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr., and rock artists such as The Beatles, CRR, and Bob Seger.

“We are fun with the crowd, we are really known for that,” says Pritchard.

Pritchard, assembler/driver at Houghton Manufacturing, and Soter, working for Greater Kalamazoo Auto Auction, have lived in Vicksburg for decades. The two really enjoy Vicksburg, and think the village really tries to promote events and festivals to bring in visitors.

“One thing about this town is that there is always something going on. More than most towns, Vicksburg has something going on and something to do for the kids,” says Pritchard.

Schlitz Creek Band Brings Back Bluegrass

Schlitz Creek
By Nathan Czochara

Today, bluegrass music is rarely heard. Yet, a band in southwest Michigan is doing something to change that. In fact, the Schlitz Creek Band considers themselves “Kalamazoo’s Ambassadors of Bluegrass Music.”

Mandolin player, John Speeter; acoustic guitarist, Derek Dekema; stand-up bassist Nick Griffith; and banjo player Nick Deaton convert classic rock and pop songs into bluegrass renditions. Their repertoire includes covers of artists such as The Beatles, Cheap Trick, Simon and Garfunkel and Bob Seger.

The Schlitz Creek band started when Deaton was learning to play banjo, and needed someone to play with. He found Griffith, who was playing rhythm guitar at the time, and the two started jamming together just for fun.

Speeter got into the mix a year later. The trio, interested in playing traditional bluegrass, started jamming at Deaton’s father’s house in Cooper, Michigan.

“[Deaton’s Dad] said why don’t you come out every week?” said Griffith. “So we did. Before you know it we were attracting a crowd. Folks started coming out. The neighbors started coming out. Even the mechanic from across the street would come out after his shift.”

Schlitz Creek Band Cartoon-6-14 jpgNews spread about the group’s rehearsals and the group gained steam.

Then, Dekema, hearing about the jams from his parents, went to a show one evening.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll, Ozzy Osbourne and metal was what I played,” said Dekema. “I had never heard this kind of music ever. I was amazed when I first heard it. Totally wasn’t what I was used to, but way more fun.”

But he was entranced by what the trio was doing with bluegrass and decided to join in. With the final member found, the Schlitz Creek bluegrass band was born.

The weekly Schlitz Creek practices are not typical rehearsals, but are more of a casual party. Relatives, friends and locals come by to hear them play, while socializing and having drinks.

The family dog mingles through the crowd as children ride scooters and bikes. The band enjoys the family atmosphere because it reminds them of what bluegrass music is all about.

Early bluegrass artists like the Dillards, Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe have been their major influences.

Besides their unique instrumentation, Schlitz Creek also sing vocals on a single microphone or “Ole Opry” style. The band says the style gives the crowd a more unique and intimate experience, something that music lovers do not experience every day.

Schlitz Creek has a connection to Vicksburg. Speeter is president of the Long Lake Association and a Governmental Lake Board representative. He also has used his musical talents for the annual Vicksburg Rotary Showboat and is a cartoonist for the South County News.

“I’ve been doing cartoon work for 30 years. I’ve published a couple books of illustrations,” he said.

Schlitz Creek will be attending summer bluegrass festivals in the Michigan, but will also be playing local weddings, which the band says has been a new venture over the years.

“[The weddings] are awesome,” said Griffith.

The band has no plans on making an album anytime soon, but instead they enjoy the experience of playing live music.

“I always love the fact you can play [Bluegrass music] anywhere,” Griffith said. “You don’t need a microphone, or amplifiers, or anything and the people will come and listen.”