Monthly Archives: February 2015

Young Readers Battle it Out in Annual Competition

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Anna Christiansen, Trevor Young, Hannah Fenwick (back row, left to right), Cassie Chang, Tyler Fenwick, and Molly Young (front row, left to right) participate in the annual Battle of the Books event at the Schoolcraft Community Library.

By Kaye Bennett

At age 11, Anna Christiansen is already a veteran of two battles … Battles of the Books, that is. Along with her teammates, Anna has been preparing since November for Battle Day, February 14 in Schoolcraft.

Now in its 20th year, Battle of the Books (BoB) is a nationwide after-school program that encourages young people to read good books. It is sponsored locally by the Schoolcraft Community Library. This will be the first year that long-time Schoolcraft librarian Bobbi Truesdell won’t be heading up the competition. When she retired in 2014, Truesdell handed over those reins to current Schoolcraft Community Library Director Faye VanRavenswaay.

VanRavenswaay says that Battle of the Books has grown and evolved over the past two decades. Open to students in grades 4, 5, and 6 in Vicksburg, Schoolcraft and Parchment elementary schools, plus homeschoolers, last year’s competition included 192 students on 31 teams. This year there will be 36 teams. VanRavenswaay chose the 12 books for this year’s competition, and says she kept in mind Truesdell’s desire to challenge readers with “meatier” books. Each October, the reading list is provided to schools, and the race to read is on.

Jenny Taylor, a third-grade teacher at Sunset Elementary School in Vicksburg, has been a Battle coach for three years and will serve as moderator at this year’s Battle Day. As soon as the booklist comes out, Taylor says, students who want to participate divide up into teams of five or six and begin reading. Coaches, often with help from Battle parents, read the books and write student guides. Team members split up the book list, agreeing to be the expert on three or four of the books, concentrating extra efforts on those choices.

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The Slaughter team from Schoolcraft was ready to participate in the 2014 Battle of the Books.

Teams meet weekly for the next few months, discussing the books, practicing saying and spelling the authors’ names (“with capitals,” says Anna), and preparing for the day of competition.

When Battle Day comes, friends and relatives of the readers fill the auditorium. This year’s questions will be read by Taylor and will increase in difficulty as the day progresses. After the question is read, team members have one minute to come up with the answer, then send their designated member to the microphone to respond. Points are awarded for correct answers, and the top four teams will return for the Grand Battle, on February 19, competing for the title of 2015 Battle of the Books champion, plus a trophy. All four finalist teams also win certificates from Kazoo Books, as well as ice cream and pizza prizes.

But the biggest value, agree Taylor and VanRavenswaay, is less tangible. “Families come back and tell us that they had a struggling reader who now loves to read,” says VanRavenswaay. Taylor’s also been impressed by the sportsmanship and accountability that Battle of the Books imparts to participants. “It teaches kids to work together and to compete in a healthy way, and the kids bond over the books,” she says.

Anna has read all 12 books on this year’s list and says that her favorites are The Penderwicks (which she first read as a third-grader and has read “many times” since) and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. Her team name, MATTCH, is made up of the initials of team members, all of whom will be wearing special team T-shirts on Battle Day. This will be the last year that Anna, a sixth-grader at Vicksburg Middle School, is eligible for the Battle. VanRavenswaay says another mark of success for the event is the number of seventh and eighth graders who tell her they wish they could still be in Battle of the Books.

battle stageBattle of the Books preliminary and semi-final rounds will be held Saturday, Feb. 14, starting at 10 a.m., and the finals will be Thursday, Feb. 19, starting at 7:00 p.m. All events will be held at Schoolcraft High School’s Performing Arts Center and are open to the public and free of charge. For more information, call Faye VanRavenswaay at 269-679-5959.

Booklist for 2015 Battle of the Books

Here are the books and authors that 36 Battle of the Books teams will be quizzed about on February 14:

Prairie Evers (E. Airgood)

The Penderwicks (J. Birdsall)

Shakespeare’s Secret (E. Broach)

About Average (A. Clements)

Gingersnap (P. Giff)

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (C. Grabenstein)

One Dog and His Boy (E. Ibbotson)

If You Lived When Women Won Their Rights (A. Kamma)

A Dog Called Homeless (S. Lean)

The False Prince (J. Nielsen)

Hatchet (G. Paulsen)

Who was Dr. Seuss? (J. Pascal)

Showboat Crew Puts on Telethon by Remodeling the Abandoned Paper Company

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The Rotary Club Showboat chorus traditionally ends with the Battle Hymn of the Republic, with the audience, standing, saluting, and clapping loudly to show its appreciation.

By Sue Moore

Performers in the 62nd Showboat claim they’ve found a new use for the old Simpson Paper Mill in Vicksburg. As owners of the Vicksburg Broadcasting Service (VBC) they intend to turn the mill into WVIX television station at 7 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and 2 p.m., Sunday, February 27, 28 and March 1 at the Performing Arts Center on W Avenue in Vicksburg. Tickets at $10 each will be available at Hill’s Pharmacy in Vicksburg on February 9.

The crew estimates the cost to be $300,000 to build the studio and broadcast their special news reports and commercial messages from the old mill. They need the cash before they can turn it into the greatest sound stage ever found in Vicksburg. How they raise the money culminates in a surprise ending, according to the Ken Franklin, the show’s director.

The cast soloists will perform during the telethon that seeks to bring in donations from the community. The chorus of the Showboat has the unenviable task of selling snake oil and other commodities usually found on middle of the night broadcasts from QVC, Franklin notes. “This show is one of the funniest in a long line of really great Showboats, so the audience should be hurting with laughter as the final curtain rolls down.”

Chris Garrett, the show’s musical director, has the chorus in fine voice, Franklin points out. This is Garrett’s eleventh year as music director. He says the chorus just gets better every year. “If you love the old songs, we even have some new ones to go along with the tried and true that the audience will enjoy.” Simply Men, the select high school chorus will be back to perform for the fourth year under the direction of Dusty Morris.

The Vicksburg Rotary Club annually puts the Showboat musical together to raise funds for its many charitable contributions in the Vicksburg community. This includes the Crop Walk, Youth football, South County Community Services, Generous Hands, and AED defibrillators for the elementary schools.

For the second year in a row, the club is partnering with Vicksburg Boy Scout Troop 251 to provide a delicious spaghetti dinner, with meat donated by Green’s Beefalo Farm, and lots of treats to accompany the main course for theatergoers. Doors will open at 5 p.m. and they will be serving until 7 p.m. when the curtain goes up. Patrons do not need to go to both, but a combination ticket with a $3 discount is being offered at $15 for the dinner and performance. Walk-ins the night of the dinner will be welcome at the high school cafeteria on Highway Street. A Silent Auction will be ongoing before each show, with the Boy Scouts and Rotary sponsoring it.

The Master of the Prop Parade

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Lloyd Appell, MD, shows off his space ship creation that was used in the 2010: A Space Odyssey show.

By Sue Moore

Spectacular props are the norm in all the Showboat performances, dating back to at least the time when Lloyd Appell, MD, started making them in his cozy basement workshop.

The 62nd annual Showboat stage will feature the set for WVIX, the television station that wants to produce a telethon to raise money. They intend to remodel the old Simpson Paper company mill in Vicksburg that has been idle since 2001 for their sound stage on February 27, 28 and the matinee on March 1.

A mysterious investor paid for the crew to turn the mill into a television studio, and when the crew finds themselves short of cash, they start a telethon to come up with the rest. They need props of course, which have been developed from the ingenious mind of Appell with a little help from the script committee. He also has assistance from Jim Bird, who chairs the prop committee for the Rotary Club. The club has been the show’s sponsor since its inception in 1953.

Each Showboat performance usually consists of the great old songs, sung by a male chorus, and the glue that holds the show together, comedy. This takes props — lots of them.

The first big prop that Appell constructed in his basement he vividly recalls. He carefully built a chandelier for a castle that was the center of the Storybook theme in 1988. When the stage crew came to pick it up, they were stymied because it was too big to fit through the basement doorway of 29 inches. Now what? They dismantled the candle lights from each side and finally inched the monster sized prop up the steps, Appell recalls. This is the same chandelier that during rehearsal, fell on Norm Schippers head, not intentionally. The next week Norm wore a hard hat to rehearsal as did others in the cast, just to make the point.

It soon became clear that props needed to be built in pieces and reassembled on stage at the Performing Arts Center.

“I love the Showboat,” Appell says. “I’ve been working in it for 42 years, either singing in the chorus, being the show director, making props, and yes, doing the newspaper jokes in front of the curtain with the best ones we can find that are still presentable.”

He and partner, Warren Lawrence, take their place in front of the curtain, usually while set changes are going on behind them. They both come up with safe jokes and jot them down throughout the year, then exchange them. Those they both think are funny, are accepted and then Appell pulls the presentation together for show time. They deliver them with great panache, making the audience see the humor just by their presentation alone, according to Ken Franklin, the show’s director since 2007.

When the show is over, it’s hard to find a storage space for the largest props, so they are usually broken up for salvage lumber. That started after the Humpty Dumpty year when Appell had constructed a huge egg, and the Rotarians returned it to his front yard on Sunday morning.

They thought he might have a use for it in an Easter egg hunt.

Boy Scouts in Vicksburg set to Celebrate 75 Years of Service

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Boy Scouts from Troop 251, with one of their leaders, Dan Gettle, gather for Veteran’s Day observance in Oswalt Park in 2014.

By Sue Moore

February 2015 marks 75 years of continuous service by Boy Scout Troop 251. Being able to celebrate this milestone is a huge accomplishment for the youth of this community, according to Scoutmaster Kevin Borden.

To recognize this anniversary, the Troop is planning an official announcement at the Feb. 8 11 a.m. Scout Sunday service at Vicksburg United Methodist Church (VUMC). The church is the sponsoring organization of the troop and Pack 251.

Vicksburg troop 251 was originally chartered in 1917. During the Depression it missed a few years due to hard times. The troop re-chartered in 1940, making 2015 its 75th year of continuous service. Cub Scout Pack 251, led today by Renee Hawkins, was chartered in 1950, making 2015 its 65th anniversary year.

Eagle scouting is the highest achievement for a Boy Scout. Over the years, 47 boys in Troop 251 have attained that rank, with the latest being Alex Cannizzaro and Danny Gettle in 2014. There are currently 11 Life Scouts in Troop 251, Borden is proud to say. Life Scout is the rank before Eagle Scout.

Feb. 8 will kick off a host of activities being planned throughout the coming year. Those activities will include a spaghetti dinner before the evening performances of the Rotary Club Showboat, a camporee at the Historic Village on April 24-26, which the community is invited to attend, an anniversary float in the July 4 Schoolcraft parade, and a Nov. 11 celebration honoring the nation’s veterans at VUMC.

Currently, there are 40 boys enrolled in Troop 251 and 66 cub scouts in Pack 251, representing a big increase in membership over the previous year. The community’s dedication to scouting has impacted many lives according to Kip Young, the organizer of the year-long 75th anniversary celebration. Adult leadership of the scouts is just as dedicated with many people stepping forward to make the various anniversary events happen, Young said.

Troop 251 Boy Scout headquarters are at the Boy Scout cabin located on Barton Lake. It was built by the Rotary Club in 1949 on land donated to the scouts by the Charles Aulm family. It’s a terrific outdoor venue that provides Vicksburg scouts a place to meet during the spring, summer and fall months. The cabin is also a great place for an occasional winter campout.

Scouting’s mission is to prepare every eligible youth to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout oath and law, Young emphasized. Scouts experience many hands-on outdoor and community service programs that are designed around fun with a purpose, he said. “Scouting makes a difference in families, the community, and most importantly the youth of Vicksburg.”

Like anything, scouting costs money to provide the programs necessary to keep the youth engaged. Therefore Pack and Troop 251 are launching their Strong Scouting Strengthens Communities capital campaign as part of their 75th anniversary celebration. The goal is to raise funds for scholarships, equipment, and other support services needed to provide a top-notch program and keep the growth momentum in Vicksburg going.

The Scouts will be asking the greater Vicksburg community to dig deep to help fund their goal of $40,000 needed to help sustain current growth and to lay a foundation for the next 75 years of scouting in Vicksburg.

Fundraising efforts throughout the yearlong celebration will include the sale of special commemorative T-shirts, hats, patches and other items. Money raised will help the Scout Growth Fund and purchase equipment such as tents and a new roof needed at the Boy Scout cabin. In addition, funding will be needed to help pay for celebration activities, including street banners in downtown Vicksburg, a scout silhouette display and camporee at the Depot in the Historic Village.

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Boy Scout and Cub Scout leadership gathered at the Vicksburg United Methodist Church, their sponsoring organization, to plan the 75th anniversary celebration. They are from left to right standing: Kip Young, Todd White, Gary Miller, Kevin Borden, Renee Hawkins, Buff Coe, Gary Fleming, and Vickie Schmidt. Kneeling from left to right: Chris Goodwin, Dan Gettle, and Matt VanderMeulen.

House of David Bibliography Authored by Henry M. Yaple, Former Vicksburg Resident

Henry Mack Yaple
Henry M. Yaple at one of his favorite ski haunts.

By Sue Moore

The Israelite House of David was a celebrated religious commune in the early part of the 20th century, located down the road from Vicksburg in Benton Harbor. It had a famous semi-pro baseball team that played the local boys, and won. The Israelites sported long locks, flowing beards and players with major league talent.

A former Vicksburg resident, Henry M. Yaple, VHS class of 1958, has compiled a bibliography listing the thousands of works printed by the Benton Harbor House of David and Mary’s City of David as re-organized by Mary Purnell. According to promotional material from the publisher, Couper Press of Hamilton College located in Clinton, NY, Yaple’s bibliography should materially assist future research and scholarship into the two Israelite communal societies and their founders, Benjamin and Mary Purnell.

It has taken Yaple over 30 years to compile the bibliography. Much of it was done in retirement as Librarian Emeritus from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Yaple began his professional life as a librarian/bibliographer at Michigan State University Libraries. He obtained a B.A. at Kalamazoo College, an M.A at the University of Idaho and all but his dissertation at the University of Toronto.

Yaple returned to Vicksburg to attend Western Michigan University’s School of Librarianship after having been to the Universite d’Aix Marsaille as a Rotary Fellow – he had been nominated by the Vicksburg club.

Yaple’s father, Henry, served many years as the clerk of the village and his mother, Pauline, was a respected elementary school teacher in Vicksburg. The family lived in the 100 block of Michigan Avenue and he loved sledding on the Washington Street hill with childhood pals Gary and Jan Hollenbeck, Patti and Corky Brown. “I’ve always loved winter. There is something magical about snow and the sheer pleasure of skiing through deep powder snow in the trees.”

Yaple felt the urge to ski early in life, so headed west to Vail, Colorado where he met his wife, Marilyn. At Whitman, he completed Ski Bibliography: A Complete List of English Language Publications on Skiing, 1890-2002. In retirement, he has also completed Never A Bad Year For Snow, a history of the first 75 years at Lost Trail Pass Powder Mountain, located on the border of Montana and Idaho.

The idea for researching and compiling a bibliography stemmed from his studies as a librarian. The sect headed by Benjamin and Mary Purnell, who had only an eighth grade education, realized that it could attract converts with written material outlining its beliefs. They didn’t attribute or date most of their works but published thousands of titles. The published works helped to attract large numbers of men and women to become members, some from as far away as Australia.

According to Mary’s City of David web site, the sect published The Star of Bethlehem and by 1910 it was in its third edition, having circulated around the world to the churches and followers of the former six Israelite messengers. Their “Eden Springs Park” was in its second successful season in 1910 and on its way to become America’s premiere pre-Disney theme park. The House of David schools would provide education and recreational activities for its children, who soon developed into legendary barn storming baseball teams, known to Satchel Paige as “Jesus boys”, and traveling jazz bands that would catch the attention of America in sweeping nationwide vaudeville circuit tours throughout the 1920s. By the mid-1920s, and in spite of the worldwide economic depression, the Israelite House of David and Mary’s City of David would come to dominate southwestern Michigan’s economy, tourism and agricultural industries.”

Yaple’s only payment for the years of work is ten copies of the bibliography, he said. He will send one to the Vicksburg District Library for its authors’ collection in February.

Kids Closet Has Warm Clothes for Families in Need

Kids closetBy Penny Allen

The bright yellow socks seemed to be coming down the hallway on their own. But they were attached to a little girl with a huge smile on her face.

Why the smile?

Cindy’s feet were warm and dry for the first time in weeks and she was ecstatic. Bare feet and flip flops in the dead of winter are downright painful.

Kids Closet, a program of Kids Connections, has been silently filling the clothing needs of Vicksburg-area children for the past four years; Cindy is just one of hundreds on the receiving end. During 2014 more than 135 kids shopped and expressed excitement over finding something “cool” to wear. They love the variety of current, name-brand apparel they can try on and keep. Sizes 5T through Adult (for high schoolers) are ready for kids and families to choose from.

Kids Closet is located in the Kids Connections house across from Summit Polymers at the west edge of Vicksburg. It offers a unique shopping experience for those looking for clothing assistance. During scheduled open hours, 4:30-6 p.m. Thursdays, families sign in and are welcome to shop on a monthly basis for free items such as jeans, shirts, coats, snow pants, sweatshirts and other items.

All clothing at Kids Closet is donated by the local community. It’s sorted, washed and arranged for shopping ease. Depending on donations, shoes, belts, backpacks, sportswear, books, hygiene products and pajamas are also available to kids. Any items not used at the closet are donated to other local nonprofits. Frequently, the regular shoppers will donate back to the closet.

Kids Closet operates on a small budget used entirely to purchase new socks, underwear or other critical needs. Funds are replenished by the annual “Kids Connection Community Rummage Sale” held in August, plus grants and individual donations. While the monetary donations are crucial, the volunteers that keep it going are invaluable. BREATHE, a women’s ministry group from Lake Center Bible Church, adopted the closet last summer. A core group of volunteers evolved and currently operates the program.

Fueled by the desire to make the holidays special, Honey Parker and her helpers organized a giving tree with community toy donations from Vicksburg Dollar General. Afterwards, shopping families were able to select gifts for their children and enjoy cookies and snacks.

The story would not be complete without the support of the Village of Vicksburg. Through its generosity, Kids Closet has a home and can continue to meet the clothing needs of local children. The Department of Public Works (DPW) keeps the drive plowed so kids can continue to shop during the winter months.

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Mittens and socks are appreciated by children who come to the Kids Closet in Vicksburg.
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There are winter coats and pants available to keep kids warm this winter at the Kids Closet.

Kids Connections is grateful to all who help keep the closet going: the village, Dollar General, the volunteers and the local community for their donations. For those who are interested in donating gently used, clean clothing appropriate for youth, a drop box is located behind the Kids Connections house. Those with questions or who would like to make a monetary donation can call 269-744-6475 or email:

Chili Cook-Off & Frostbite Run Return to Vicksburg

Vix chili 028By Mary Ruple

The Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual 5K Frostbite Run on Saturday, Feb. 7.

But runners can look forward to hot food at the finish line: The Chamber’s Chili Cook-Off starts at the same time, 11 a.m., and next to Clark Park. The Chili Cook-Off will last longer than usual, ending at 5 p.m.

The cook-off portion of the event will take place in a heated tent on the corner of W. Prairie Street and Michigan Avenue. Tanya Delong, president of the Vicksburg Area Chamber of Commerce, is enthusiastic about bringing the event back to downtown. “We are excited to have the chili cook-off again and are looking forward to seeing everyone there for great fun and fantastic chili,” she said. Those attending the event will be able to sample chili from many local restaurants and organizations.

In addition to the cook-off and run, other events will be taking place. These include outhouse races and music inside the tent. Prizes will also awarded to the restaurants and organizations that participate in the Chili Cook-Off. If successful, the Vicksburg Area Chamber of Commerce hopes to continue the combined effort in future years.