Monthly Archives: December 2014

Schoolcraft Library Features Decorated Trees

jubille of trees 1The tree decorating competition at the Schoolcraft Library features 25 trees with a variety of themes including children’s books, sweets, farm fun, horses, cats, bears, animal crackers, and getting beautiful at the gym. Participants really thought outside of the box this year, according to Faye VanRavenswaay, library director. Some ornaments are even homemade from decorative paper or clay. The trees liven up the library and so do Jim Dean’s collection of Santas which are also on display. “This is the favorite fundraiser of many of the library staff and we are delighted to see local businesses participate alongside patrons and other library supporters.”

The Jubilee of Trees has turned out to be a surprisingly good fundraiser for the library, which is now in its third year, VanRavenswaay indicated. It costs a quarter to vote on the best decorated tree with the top three winning trees announced on December 10. Library patrons can also place a bid in the silent auction on the ten trees that will go home with the winners of the auction.

2014-11-19 08.08.27

Schoolcraft Christmas Walk

sch walk 6By Sue Moore

A 25-year holiday tradition in Schoolcraft that was the brainchild of Norma Tackett will continue this year without its maven who passed away in November. The merchants and churches have regrouped to continue the event in her honor. Norma and her husband Carl Tackett opened their antiques and old coin shop on Grand Avenue and conceived of the Christmas Walk that has become a hallmark of the season for their town.

The Christmas Walk opens on Friday evening December 5 at 5 p.m. with all the participating stores welcoming guests who can browse, munch on refreshments and drinks, and meet their friends and neighbors who frequent the lovely antique stores on Grand Street. They will stay open until 9 p.m. and start all over again at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, December 6th until mid-afternoon.

The Schoolcraft United Methodist Church on Grand Street has activities going on with a Sloppy Joe and Pie Supper from 5-7, a bake sale, craft sale, silent auction, white elephant sale, and a gospel music quartet entertaining at 6 p.m. All of the proceeds benefit charities and people in need. They will open again on Saturday with a soup and pie luncheon from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a cookie walk, and continuation of the bake sale, crafts, silent auction, and white elephant sale.

The Presbyterian Church, although not situated on Grand Street, will set up shop in the Brian DeVries law office just south of Bud’s Bar from 6-9 p.m. with arts and crafts, gift cards, and raffle tickets for sale. They will reopen on Saturday at Westminster Hall on Cedar Street from 9-4 p.m., showcasing the many raffle prizes that will be drawn at 1 p.m. They will continue with the bake sale, white elephant sale, clothing boutique, and provide lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Norma’s Antiques will open at 10 a.m. with her faithful staff and husband Carl to greet guests during the day. They will have a band playing upstairs for entertainment amid the great array of antiques. There are four other antique stores that will be open both Friday and Saturday according to Mike Gilpin who has volunteered to help organize the participation of stores including his store, Annie’s Thrifts-N-Gifts, as well as Abby’s Shop, the Antique Mall, and Loving Ewe.

The Salted Cupcake’s owner Korina Thompson, will attempt to keep up with the requests for her sumptuous offerings of specialty cupcakes while celebrating her first year anniversary—she opened the doors for the Christmas Walk in 2013. Kalamazoo County State Bank offers its front door space to Project Graduation sales. Both Marjo’s West and Bud’s Bar will to open for food and drink.

Celebrate the Holidays at Vicksburg Christmas in the Village

2014-11-26 05.54.37Vicksburg will be a festive place to start your holiday season on Saturday, December 6th, with activities planned throughout the day and evening hosted by the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority (DDA) with presenting sponsor Frederick Construction. The morning begins at 10:30 a.m. with the annual Vicksburg Christmas Parade, sponsored by the Vicksburg Community Association, and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus in their Vicksburg North Pole workshop at the Village Community Center.

The day continues with feasting on Snowman Pancakes, Reindeer Waffles and Jolly Burgers at local restaurants. Shop at the local stores and boutiques for holiday gifts you won’t find anywhere else. Shops marked with a North Pole sign post are hosting kid’s crafts and special treats. Stop by the new Winter Farmers’ Market located downtown for soaps, maple syrup, jellies, smoked BBQ, cheese dips and other locally made products.

Enjoy Victorian carolers, live ice sculpting, choir performances, and a musical children’s show featuring BenJammin sponsored by AVB (American Village Builders). Horse carriage rides, sponsored by Ronningen Research, will tour twelve downtown historic sites, stopping at the Historic Village where you will find a model railroad running through the Vicksburg Historic Village, and enjoy the offerings at the annual Vicksburg Historical Society’s Bake Sale.

Finish the day by attending the Vicksburg Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in Oswalt Park, and enjoy a cup of cheer during the Holiday Pub Crawl. Get your card stamped at all participating pubs to earn your commemorative Village Koozie while supplies last from any of the participating restaurants.

“The community support has really been fantastic with wonderful contributions from all our sponsors, businesses and citizen support,” said Tanya DeLong, DDA chairperson. “The event committee worked hard at bringing the holiday events happening in Vicksburg into one amazing day of Christmas in the Village.” The day would not be possible without all the sponsors including Bronson Vicksburg Outpatient Center, MLC Research & Development, Eimo Technologies, Grossman & Moldovan, Vicksburg Hardware, and Ralph Hayward Agency to make this an event for the whole family. Vicksburg’s Christmas in the Village will be a festive place to start your holiday!

For more information call event organizer Kathy Hoyle at 269-352-4583. The Vicksburg DDA works on activities to enhance the quality of life in the community as a great place to live, work and play.

Behind the Scenes for Christmas in the Village

2014-11-26 05.41.13By Sue Moore

A lot of work goes into turning Vicksburg into a Christmas village. All is in readiness for the officially opening of the holiday season with a parade and full day of special events on Saturday, December 6th.

Thanks to the sponsorship of the Vicksburg Community Association (VCA), area residents have enjoyed the Christmas parade and a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus for over 20 years. Betsy Breitenbach and her elves (the teaching corps at Sunset Lake School) have been running the show for the last ten years, taking over for Mike and Kay Wunderlin and Skip and Carol Knowles.

Hundreds of people line the streets and queue up for hot chocolate, cookies and a visit with one of the nicest Santa Claus pairs known to any child wishing for his or her favorite toy. When Kathleen Hoyle, the Downtown Development Director (DDA) talked to her board about things that could be done to highlight the special stores in the village, it became clear that the first Saturday in December presented possibilities for keeping the hundreds watching the parade through downtown Vicksburg around long after Santa departed.

Hoyle, who gets things done in a big way, pulled a group together as a think-tank for holiday activities, and wouldn’t you know it, Vicksburg now has a full-fledged day of events going on from morning into the evening. Her creativity has been felt in so many ways, but this just might be Hoyle’s finest hour, according to Tanya DeLong, president of the DDA.

There are new banners hanging from lampposts downtown, North Pole markers for the elves workshops taking place in each store, and through all of it, over 12 local businesses have chipped in to sponsor the activities that have a price tag connected to it. Those major sponsorships are what have made the whole expansion of the event possible, said DeLong, but more than anything, it was Hoyle and her jolly old elves on the committee who steered it along.

Plans are set for a winter farmers’ market, an ice sculpting demonstration, a royal carriage for Mr. and Mrs. Santa to ride in, and then a wagon with horses to take families back and forth from the village center to activities at the Historic Village. There will be Christmas carolers circulating throughout the downtown at various times, BenJammin’s children music, crafts for children, and boutique shopping at the specialty stores. To top it all off, a Christmas tree lighting in Oswalt Park followed by a pub crawl to the three local watering holes will wrap up one fine day.

Winter Farmers’ Market

farmers marketKay Anderson and Stella Shearer helped all summer long at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market to greet vendors with their assignments in the pavilion and to take care of their every need. There will be a one day, winter Farmers’ Market in conjunction with the Christmas in the Village events, sponsored by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) from 11 – 5 p.m. at 120 S. Main Street in Vicksburg. While there won’t be as many fresh vegetables or fruits for sale, there will be some root veggies, maple syrup, honey, apples, hot cider, bake goods, sausage, beefalo, pretzels, hot coffee, handmade soap, pasties, jams and jellies from over 15 vendors that sell at the pavilion each week in the summer.

One of the favorite vendors, pastry chef Erin Hill, will have quiches and brownies for sale, and Grandpa’s Pasty and Pie Company will be on tap with their homemade pasties. Beginnings, the Schoolcraft specialty booth for BBQ meats and sandwiches will set up shop inside of the store on South Main Street that will be the one-time location for the market.
This is a trial run for a winter market to determine if there is enough interest to try it more often, according the Carol LaFrance, the board of directors president.

Christmas Trains Keep Chugging Along

For over ten years, Gerald ‘Smitty’ Smith, set up model trains running on O gauge track as part of the Historical Society’s Christmas treats for youngsters and adults alike. He passed away in 2014 but his legacy lives on through the efforts of Joe Timko and his young understudy, Travis Robertson who became enamored with trains at an early age. He became Smitty’s engineer in 2008 when he was six years old and has helped out every year since. The display will be set up in the vintage Township Hall on the grounds of the Vicksburg Historic Village for three Sundays, beginning with the events for Christmas in the Village, with the trains running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They will also be open on December 13 and 20, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Christmas Barn is for All Ages

2014-11-30 05.11.25By Sue Moore

The scent of holidays hangs in the hair at Mott’s Christmas Tree Farm, but it only gets better when you walk into the Christmas Barn. Customers come from all over southern Michigan to the Christmas Barn at 16200 South 21st Street in Vicksburg for their holiday fix, according to owners Mardee and Phil Mott. Their unique establishment has homegrown Christmas trees for sale and some of the best Michigan holly, grown right here on peat bogs which is sold throughout the U.S.

Besides the outdoor symbols of the season, Mardee has been decorating the old barn inside with a veritable cornucopia of Christmas décor. This year she says the trend is back to the basics, especially in colors. No more chartreuse she claims. While browsing the wreaths, the specially designed centerpiece arrangements, and the various ornaments, customers can feast on popcorn, peanuts, and hot mulled cider. It just makes the whole experience a special day for the families who have established a trip to Mott’s Christmas Barn to launch their tradition celebration, Mott proclaims.

The Mott’s originally moved to what seemed like rural Vicksburg over 35 years ago to cultivate and grow the ilex verticillata, commonly known as Michigan Holly. Phil’s relatives had been making a small business out of shipping the holly in the Midwest. Now it can even be found in stores and specialty shops on both coasts but it’s the best and freshest right on 21st Street according to those who love to decorate their homes with the little red berries.

The Christmas tree business grew out of the holly sales over 20 years ago. It has grown into a business where families can go out into the field, pick out their tree as it stands and cut it down themselves. The Mott’s offer wagon tours to help the selection process, however the wagon is pulled by a tractor and not the horses used in the old days.

The various spruce, fir, and pine trees are sheared and shaped, sprayed for disease control, mechanically shaken, netted or tied and drilled for an upright stand (upon request) before a customer leaves the property with a tree tied to the top of their vehicle. In this neck of the woods, a trip to Mott’s at Christmastime is one of the season’s nicest traditions.

Vicksburg Boy Scouts Honor Local Veterans

boy scouts honor vets
Jamie and Terry Wallace, both Navy veteran’s attended the Boy Scouts gathering with their grandson Patrick Wallace.

By Jim Hamrick, (USAF Ret.)

Boy Scout Troop 251 honored local veterans with a special recognition program in November just before Veterans Day with a video tribute at the Vicksburg United Methodist Church where they have their meetings. Troop leader Chris Underwood said the boys came to him and wanted to do something special to recognize and meet as many local veterans as possible and thank them personally for their service. An invitation was extended to all veterans with 15 in attendance.

The evening was a big success as the veterans were very appreciative of the scout’s friendly welcome and presentation of special pins to each veteran according those who attended.

The evening progressed into a positive fellowship experience for all. Older veterans shared their experiences with the scouts as well as each other. Veterans currently serving shared their perspective on issues of the day, including opportunities and advantages for serving in the armed services. Many relationships were formed as newly acquainted vets bonded over stories of past service. Former Navy Waves Linda Hamrick and Jamie Wallace compared their experiences of serving in the Navy as women in the late 60s, during the Viet Nam War.

Major Jim Langley shared information about some of the changes at the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base.

Everyone in attendance came away with a better understanding of what it is to serve in the military, and several new friends. Hats off to Troop 251 for a job well done.

boy scouts (2)
Troop 251 Boy Scouts salute the flag during the Veteran’s Day ceremony in Oswalt Park.

Richard Coppes Earned His Medals

coppes 1By Sue Moore

Medals are given for valor on the battlefield commemorating the brave men and women fighting in our armed forces. Movies are made to celebrate that type of military service while too often the story of those soldiers doing their duty on the home front goes unrecognized. Usually, those who functioned in this capacity as part of the “greatest generation” in World War II were just happy to get home and move on with their lives, so they never pushed the point. Richard “Dick” Coppes of Vicksburg, who served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946 near Washington, D.C., never expected any recognition for his service. But it turns out that Dick has friends in high places.

One in particular, Brigadier General Warren Lawrence, also of Vicksburg, took a look at his close friend Coppes’ discharge papers while helping Dick take care of things. Lawrence discovered that Coppes never received the medals he was entitled to for serving. One was the American Campaign medal and the other the Victory Medal that all soldiers should receive upon discharge.

Lawrence, ordered the medals, arranged a surprise ceremony during the Vicksburg Rotary Club’s weekly meeting. While members of the club were near tears, the general ceremoniously pinned them on this man who didn’t think he did much of anything. Coppes, who is now 88 and slowing down just a wee bit, stepped out of the room to compose himself in the restroom. When he returned, he said he “sure didn’t recognize the guy he saw in the mirror” there, and proudly left the medals on the work shirt he was wearing so he could go show them to his wife Freddi who is residing in a nursing home in Kalamazoo.

On the Corner

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg’s Merrill Will Be Missed

peg merrillMargaret “Peg” Merrill epitomized what it is to give back to her community in a positive way. Community involvement has always been a priority for the family. Peg’s father Maurice Rawlinson was president of the village at one time, Peg served on the village council, and now her daughter Julie Merrill has just been elected to the village’s ruling body. The family had an appliance store on Main Street in Vicksburg beginning in the 1940s where you could depend on quality product and the same for repair service. This small town mom-and-pop business has survived and is continuing under Julie’s ownership, even in the face of extreme competition from the big box stores.

Peg started her community service early in her adult life by becoming a Girl Scout leader. Even before women could be members of service clubs, she became a Lioness because her husband Bob was in the Lions Club. She joined Rotary as soon as women were accepted and led the Vicksburg club as president in 2003/04. Under her leadership, the deck overlooking Clark Park was built, affording residents an easy access to this gem of a park, right in the center of the village. She helped with Showboat and, until recently, she and Bob were in attendance at all the rehearsals, making coffee and bringing refreshments to the cast and crew for every rehearsal. She passed away at the age of 83, having served with great honor in her hometown.

Schoolcraft Lost Its Special Lady

norma tackettNorma Tackett died Sunday, November 2, without any fanfare or service in her honor because she didn’t want anything of the sort. Yet she will be remembered for her 25 years of organizing the Christmas Walk in Schoolcraft, thereby helping to put the village on many people’s travel map to start the holiday season. Her antique store on Grand Street in Schoolcraft along with her husband Carl’s T&W Coin shop, brought visitors from near and far to search out quality antiques and coins. They were a great pair and represented the heart and soul of this small town. She had even planned to go ahead with the Christmas Walk this year, albeit cutting back to just Saturday in her store and letting others keep the candles burning up and down Grand Street on Friday, December 5.

She knew her antiques and was respected as the eminent authority by dealers far and wide. Her staff had been with her for so many years, they could predict what her thoughts would be and pretty much any item in the store. The neat thing was that she and Carl lived in an apartment next to the store where her special collections were kept on display. Her staff is carrying on the legacy and tradition by keeping the store open this month and having the Christmas Open House in her honor on Dec. 6. She will be sorely missed.

Vote Recount for State Senate Seat

Across the state, the only contest that came close to a draw was in Kalamazoo County between Margaret O’Brien and Sean McCann who came down to the wire with 59 votes between them for the state senate seat in the 20th District. McCann has understandably requested a recount which Tim Snow, Kalamazoo County clerk will conduct from December 8 – 11 in the Walnut room at Nazareth. He doesn’t have to deal with ‘hanging shards’ as in the contested presidential election between Bush and Gore, but there will be attorneys and representatives for each candidate in the room watching the process carefully.

A recount means each ballot will be examined to determine whether the mark that goes in the oval is discernable. Some people even put an X inside the oval and that will count, according to Snow. Sometimes the machine will not read the mark correctly if it isn’t legible or goes outside the boundaries. With this hand count, each ballot will be examined for the voter’s intent, he says, particularly if the marks are consistent throughout the ballot. He doesn’t believe the recount will change the outcome by much, because usually the count just goes up a notch for each candidate based upon the given percentage that each candidate has won in the first place. The results will be announced shortly after Snow delivers the counts to the state.