Monthly Archives: March 2015

Folk singers needed to perform at the Farmers’ Market

June Kucks VFM
June Kucks entertains at the 2014 Vicksburg Farmers’ Market.

June Kucks, the booking coordinator for entertainment each week at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market and five others in the area, is looking for musicians to perform at the markets. They are booking traditional and contemporary folk music, light country and bluegrass performers. The Vicksburg market is open every Friday from 2:30-6 p.m. beginning May 22, ending October 9.

Performers must provide their own sound equipment. Electric outlets are available on site. This is the fourth season that K’zoo Folklife Organization has participated with the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market. Tip donations are allowed. Musicians can contact June Kucks at 269-649-4520 or email her at

Danny Gettle and Alex Cannizzaro Achieve Eagle Scout Rank

There has been a flurry of six boys in Vicksburg, attaining their Eagle Scout ranking for Boy Scout Troop 251 in the past three years. From 1937 when the troop was re-chartered, there have been only 41 Vicksburg youth, achieving that rank in over the 71 years. Cody Sherman, Kris Peck, and Tyler Borden received theirs in 2012 and now two in 2014.

Danny Gettle, whose father Dan is one of the involved troop leaders, was granted this highest ranking, along with Alex Cannizzaro, whose mom Annelore also helps with the troop.

To earn the coveted badge there are certain requirements besides just collecting the 21 minimum merit badges. They need to demonstrate leadership, service, and outdoor skills.

Gettle’s project was to build a gateway to the Friends of Vicksburg Youth cabin on Barton Lake. The old one had been falling down and it was apparent someone could get hurt. “I like to build things but the purpose is to organize and lead others, so it was hard not to jump right in and grab a hammer.”

He located someone to donate two trees for the cross pieces of the 2 x 4 x 16 parts of the gate. He got them cut down, milled to the right size posts, went to Big C Lumber in Schoolcraft, explained the need and they donated the pieces to go across the top. Then he organized a work crew to build the new gate and do the lettering. He also worked inside the cabin to replace the fireplace lining which had rusted out, with the help of Gary Davis who donated the steel for the firebox.

For Cannizzaro, who has somewhere over 40 merit badges, the challenge was to remodel the youth room at Vicksburg United Methodist Church, which is the scout’s sponsoring organization. He ordered the paint, got a paint crew of troop members together, and turned the room into a nice shade of yellow. The church’s youth leader Hank Stamm, suggested an added attraction was needed, a platform inside the room where kids could hang out and be together. So Cannizzaro put together a team to build a deck that is sturdy enough to hold plenty of young people.

“It’s a leadership thing. You have to ask for help and it is freely given by others who you will be able to help in the future,” he pointed out.

Both of the new Eagle Scouts say they love being with the close friends they make through scouting. Gettle has been in scouting since the first grade. “It’s so much fun and you learn so much stuff.” He will be attending Grand Valley State University in the fall of 2015.

Cannizzaro, a junior, has participated in lots of extra-curricular activities, such as band, choir, and Showboat. He has been a student at the Kalamazoo Area Science and Math Center (KAMSC) in Kalamazoo since his freshman year in high school.

Vicksburg Library Introduces Staff Members

Vicksburg District Library staff from left to right: John Sheridan, library director; Stephanie Willoughby, children’s librarian; Linda Adams, office manager; Andrea Smalley, circulation and reference; Emily Franklin, clerk.
Vicksburg District Library staff from left to right: John Sheridan, library director; Stephanie Willoughby, children’s librarian; Linda Adams, office manager; Andrea Smalley, circulation and reference; Emily Franklin, clerk.

With the director as the only full-time employee, the Vicksburg District Library has assembled a diverse team of librarians, clerks, and pages to serve the community’s information needs throughout the day. Each staff member brings own unique experience and skills to the job, from the librarians who plan programs and choose materials, to the circulation clerks who serve the patrons and maintain the materials, to the office manager who handles finances and human resources. Whether it’s a few hours working with patrons on the weekend or bringing story times and teen programs to fill each day, the Vicksburg Library staff work as a team to create a place of community and information access. Patrons can meet staff members here, or drop in at the library throughout the week.

John Sheridan, Library Director, has led the Vicksburg District Library for two years. He received his Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in 1995 and has certification in Archival Management as well. Before coming to Vicksburg, he worked at the St. Charles District Library as the director and the Public Libraries of Saginaw, Hoyt libraries Branch as head of the Genealogy and Local History Department. John has been known to refer to Vicksburg as “the friendliest town in Michigan.”He reads non-fiction, especially histories, and loves to listen to audiobooks.

Stephanie Willoughby, the Youth Services Librarian, is the newest employee at the Vicksburg District Library, starting work mid-February 2015. Stephanie is responsible for all programming and services for patrons ages 0 to 18, but her many years of experience working with children and raising her own three have made her up to the challenge. Stephanie is always brimming with great ideas and enthusiasm. She reads adult fiction and children’s literature, but is starting to delve into young adult literature now too.

Emily Franklin divides her time between clerking at the Vicksburg District Library and caring for children at a local day care. Emily, who has worked at the library for 3 years, is expecting her first little one in August. Emily is a voracious reader, and a great resource on young adult fiction, especially alternate reality fiction.

Linda Adams, Vicksburg Library’s office manager, has been keeping things running smoothly for almost exactly one year. Linda grew up in Lansing, then moved all around Michigan after her marriage until settling in Vicksburg fourteen years ago. She has one son, Michael, who is 19. Linda likes to read clean and cozy mysteries, especially those in a series.

Andrea Smalley began at the Vicksburg District Library as the Teen and Reference Librarian one year ago, and is now the Head of Circulation and Reference. She lives in Kalamazoo with her husband Kevin and son Wally. Andrea earned her Masters of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Washington in 2013. Andrea reads a little bit of everything, but especially travel memoirs and quirky fiction.

On the Corner

By Sue Moore

This issue of the South County News highlights three stage productions being presented in Vicksburg and Schoolcraft in March. The young people of the two high schools have shown considerable talent in singing and acting. If the past is a guide, some will go on to make stage work their profession. Those who end up working in other fields will continue to get up on the stage and give it their all—as in the Showboat at the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center, celebrating its 62nd year.

The directors of these shows are diverse but passionate about their productions. Christine Sargeant in Schoolcraft says she relieves the actors’ nerves backstage by acting crazy, all the while urging them on to quiet their nerves. Melissa Sparks in Vicksburg works in the drama department at Western Michigan University and is director in residence at VHS, keeping the singers and dancers seriously concentrating on their parts. She is a creative, multi-talented director that the kids really respect. Dr. Ken Franklin, Showboat director, is equally serious with the cast of talented men, all drawn from the surrounding area. In their day jobs, you would never know they are performers.

The audiences for these three musicals is miniscule however, and that is a pity. These are talented people who give enormous time to their performances. As a community we are blessed by so many entertainment options, but these three are the very best and deserve our attendance and applause.

The Showboat cast each year draws a number of young people from the high school choir program including its director, Dusty Morris, who sings a beautiful solo number. Several of the pit band members who are decidedly grayer, evolved from the high school band program. Craig Rolfe, Tom Weeks, Dennis Watson, and Dawn Garrett are refugees from the Big Red Machine. Combine that with Music Director Chris Garrett, who spent some years here as band director before going to KVCC, and you realize how much local talent there is and the importance of training young people as early as possible in the performing arts programs in each school.

Quilt Trail Visitor

Kitch Rinehart, the founder and executor of the fabulous Quilt Trail in the Vicksburg area, has scored another coup. She has invited Suzi Parron, the nationally known author of quilt trail history throughout the U.S., to visit and promote her new book coming out in the spring of 2016. It will feature the Vicksburg Quilt Trail in one chapter and she will come here in May 17 of that year to lecture and sign her books. Kitch is looking for a suitable venue for the presentation that will need to seat at least 150 avid quilters. The Vicksburg Historical Society has agreed to underwrite her appearance.

Chili Cook-Off Winners

Clink Powell, owner of the Vault, was declared the winner at the Chamber of Commerce chili cook-off in early February. Voters cast their ballots for the six entrants, giving second place to Barrett’s Smokehouse and third place to Boy Scout Troop 251. The outhouse race winner was the Chapman Memorial Nazarene Church crew. Most of the cooks ran out of chili before the closing time of 5 p.m., so a decision was made to quit early. The scouts whipped through the huge tent in 15 minutes as the volunteer clean-up crew. Tanya DeLong, the Chamber president, was exceedingly grateful for their help.

Anna Brown’s Birthday Recognition

Helen Brown Horn, wants to thank the many people who sent birthday greetings to her mom, Anna Brown on her 100 year anniversary. She was thrilled to see the names of so many people she knows, and many more that she doesn’t know. She even received a lovely card from a reader who saw the article and sent a card anonymously. She received 207 cards and Anna realizes what a great community of wonderful, caring people she lives in.

Flower Power

Village Manager Ken Schippers recommended to the village council the elimination of the flowers that usually get planted in the elongated curbs in downtown Vicksburg during the summer. The cost of $4,000 he thought could go toward buying pots for flowers or plants instead. That way he could keep the need to weed at a minimum and improve the looks of downtown toward the end of the summer, when the weeds typically take control of the flower beds. The council concurred.

One Last Tidbit

The lady who ran an ad in the February newspaper needing a used treadmill for her dog to get some exercise on, got six phone calls from it and found just what the dog liked and started his workouts almost immediately. This spring the advertising representatives hope to produce a classified section for sale of items such as this along with garage sale advertisements.

Maple Syrup Celebration

By Sue Moore

A free breakfast of pancakes and pure maple syrup awaits those people who come to Butternut Creek’s Sugar Shack on from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 14-15, at 24890 Flach Road, Mendon.

Along with the breakfast is an opportunity to walk or ride through the sugar bush, the wooded area where Terry Moyer taps his maple trees to start the maple syrup process. Moyer taps his own trees, boils down the sap in his evaporator on site, bottles it and then sells small quantities of it each year. He expects to tap a few neighbors’ trees too, with about 500 total taps. Last year he ended up with about 100 gallons of syrup for the season.

Visitors to Moyer’s Sugar Shack can also expect a ride through the woods on either day at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 and 2:30 p.m., weather permitting. He will be demonstrating the art of making maple syrup, reducing the sap into what ends up as seemingly minute quantities of syrup. There will be sausage and drinks to accompany the pancakes and syrup, along with cookbooks and maple syrup for sale. The meal will be served inside a heated garage, but if venturing outside, guests will need to bundle up, Moyer remarked. He has lots of helpers on site to join in the fun and work the syrup making process, but he could always use more extra hands.

The season for tapping maple trees is a small window of about three weeks in March, depending largely upon the weather, according to Bob Smith, another area syrup maker. He expects to tap 270 trees this year with four taps to a tree if they are large maples. He mostly taps trees along 28th Street, U Avenue, and on Richardson’s Farms, by getting permission from the land owners. Each tree gives about 11 gallons per tap and Smith goes about collecting sap every day in his pickup truck equipped with a 55-gallon drum. He uses a pump to transfer the sap from each barrel attached to a tapped tree. He claims he doesn’t even get sticky with all of this transferring of sap. He will drive each day to a place in Watervliet where a large evaporator boils it down into maple syrup.

The temperature needs to reach at least 32 degrees during the day for the sap to begin running, Smith said. The season begins when the sun starts to hit the canopy of the trees, drawing the sap out of the roots of the trees. When the temperature drops at night, the sap moves back down to the roots. It’s about a three week window for the sap to run. Once it gets too warm, the resulting product starts to turn bitter and cloudy. At that point it’s thrown away, Smith explained.

Moyer and Smith live only seven miles apart, but it took a meeting in northern Michigan at the Michigan Maple Syrup Association for them to get acquainted. Smith’s wife Kathy and Moyer’s girlfriend Kathy now often serve as judges for the blind tastings the association sponsors each year where they award medals for the best maple syrup producers around the state. Moyer has hosted Open Houses for tours of his property for other producers, and offered the free breakfast since 2013. He says he does this to introduce all those interested in learning more about the process of making this all natural product.

Pure maple syrup is deemed to be much better for the individual to eat, in place of processed food made with high fructose corn syrup. Moyer spends a lot of time getting ready for the season by cleaning his tanks and hose lines with bleach and peroxide. He places a huge emphasis on cleanliness and battles squirrels constantly who are attracted to any salt on the exterior of the plastic pouches. The salt invites them to chew through the plastic.

Smith sells his syrup at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market and sold all 217½ gallons he made in 2014. Moyer sells his syrup from his Sugar Shack on Flach Road.

Directions to 24890 Flach Road, Mendon for the Butternut Creek Maple Syrup Event

Coming from Vicksburg, travel east on W Ave. to 27th St. Drive south until the road dead ends (approximately 2 miles). Turn left on YZ and go .4 mile past Ronningen Research. Turn right on 28th Street and drive for .9 mile where it dead ends. Turn left (going east) for .8 mile on Flach Road to a sign that says “member MI Maple Syrup Association.”. Turn left, down a narrow road, into the woods about half a mile, to the Sugar Shack where parking is next to the Moyer home.

“Toots” at 89 Years of Age, Still Works in the Greenhouse

Dave Corstange & Helen “Toots” Nelson at Corstange greenhouse on Centre Street in Portage.

By David Schriemer, MD

Helen “Toots” Nelson celebrated her 89th birthday in January. She had already received her best birthday present, an invitation to return to work at the Corstange Greenhouse in February. She had been a little ambivalent about working, worrying if she could still do the job to her standards. But when she received that note with her previous year’s W-2 form she decided, “Well, I guess I have to work now.”

No one could be more delighted to work than Toots.

She grew up in Portage. Her father, Nanno Hazelhoff, was a Dutch immigrant and a celery farmer. Their greenhouse and celery farm was on Westnedge Avenue where Putters Miniature Golf is today. As a child she helped start celery seedlings in the greenhouse.

Toots has “no idea” how she got her nickname. She has always been known as Toots. “My mother said I was a cute baby. I said, ‘What happened?’”

Toots quit school at 16 and went to work in a factory for three years. She met Harry Nelson, got married and soon after had two daughters, Ruth Ann and Donna. As the girls got older, she returned to work in retail at Federals, Gilmores and Don’s Card Hut. She was a good worker but would tire of retail. “I wasn’t one who believed ‘the customer is always right.’” She would periodically return to work in the greenhouses, get refreshed and return to retail. Toots reported with pride,“I never applied for a job.” Employers asked her to work for them, whether in retail or in the greenhouse.

When Toots was a young teenager, the celery business was no longer profitable and celery farmers turned to raising flowers in their greenhouses. The greenhouses got busy and required more workers from February to June. Toots loved to be in the warm bright greenhouses that time of year. She worked at the Peterman, Schram, Posthumus and now Corstange greenhouses. The Corstanges have employed her for eight seasons since George Posthumus, a former owner retired.

Dave Corstange worked in the greenhouse for Carl Hoeksema. With Carl’s help, he started his own greenhouse business on Centre Street in 1972. The business has changed radically. Toots’s father had a small greenhouse to start celery seedlings and then raised his plants on five acres.

The Corstanges have about 3 acres of greenhouses, sell over 120,000 geraniums, 200,000 begonias, about 12,000 flower baskets and many other flowers each season. They import seeds and plants from Uganda, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Israel. Many tasks are now automated. Toots reports that when she started, she made three cents for every two flats of seedlings she completed. She could turn out about 66 flats and make about a dollar a day. Now workers are paid hourly and a good worker like Toots can prepare over 200 flats per day.

Corstange reports it’s difficult to find good help for seasonal work. He has hired a number of retirees like Toots. Toots loves to get out of the house in the dead of winter. When asked about driving to work in winter she said, “My kids worry about it”.

Corstange confirms Toots couldn’t make it in only three to four times in the previous seven years. The Corstanges love her. “It embarrasses the 19 and 20-year-olds when she outworks them,” said Corstange. His son, Todd, added, “People just don’t have Toots’s work ethic.”

Toots has made a few accommodations for her age. She works half days and quits in April before the work is more physically demanding. She reports coworker and friend Gail Weber helps her out. “She keeps me straight. If I don’t hear something, because my hearing isn’t so good, she’ll tell me what to do and when it’s icy outside, and I need an arm walking to the car, she helps me.”

Toots loves the work. “It’s good for me. I should pay them to work because therapy costs a lot more.”

Donor to the South County News Offered Personal Service

jane deckerA sprightly voice on the South County News answering machine wanted to know how much it would cost to subscribe to the newspaper. The woman wondered if she could charge it to her Visa card. A return call informed her that the paper is a nonprofit and thus doesn’t have subscriptions. However, all who donate their time to work on it are most appreciative of any donation she might wish to make but to control costs there is no way to accept Visa payments.

Jane Decker, the caller, didn’t think she could even get out to the mailbox, as she is past 84, and lives on an extremely icy and snowy hillside on Indian Lake. An offer was made to pick up a check.

That sealed the deal. She had donated in July of 2013 when the paper was just getting started and wanted to do her part once again.

Decker said she reads the personal stories first, and then the others from cover to cover. She is originally from Scotts and married a young man from Scotts, Kenneth (Jack) Decker. The family has had several homes in the Vicksburg school district, bringing up a son, Dean, and daughter, Cheryl, who have also settled in this area. She has seven grandchildren, and “texts” with all of them although she doesn’t own a computer. “They get a kick out of that,” she chuckled.

“When I was young, everybody was poor and you didn’t know the difference. I’ve been blessed with my life, and just lucky to have lived this long. My dad was the smartest man I have ever known, even though he only had an eighth grade education. He came from Holland and settled on a farm in Scotts,” she explained.

“Do it gently,” were her parting words to the check pickup person, as she realized she had been interviewed for a newspaper article.