Schoolcraft’s 90th Annual Independence Day Celebration

Saturday, July 4, 2015

7-11 a.m. – Pancake breakfast – Schoolcraft Upper Elementary – Sponsored by the Schoolcraft Lions Club

6:30-7:30 a.m. – Late registration for Firecracker Run at the High School

7:30 a.m. – 1 mile fun run/walk (free at the High School)

8 a.m. – 5 mile Firecracker Run – High School

8 a.m.-3 p.m. – Car show – at Burch Park

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

10 a.m. – Parade lineup

11 a.m. – 4th of July parade through downtown Schoolcraft – route is Eliza St., to Grand St. to Clay St.

Noon – American Legion Chicken & Ribs BBQ – Legion Hall on Clay St.

Post parade events:

Underground Railway House & Garden Tours until 3 p.m., sponsored by Schoolcraft Historical Society

Fire Truck rides & Fire Prevention trailer – Schoolcraft Upper Elementary – sponsored by South County fire Authority

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

10 p.m. – Fireworks north of Schoolcraft High School. Parking available in the school lot – funded by donations to the Schoolcraft 4th of July Committee

Schoolcraft 4th of July Parade is Looking for a New Organizer

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Deb Reynolds flashes her ‘to-do’ check list that she uses each year to make sure that all of the tasks get done. She is ready to pass that on to the next parade chair. She holds the float prizes in the other hand that are given to the winners of the individual categories.

By Sue Moore

Schoolcraft’s annual 4th of July parade is 90 years young in 2015. To the thousands who congregate along the parade route, it has become classic Americana. To Deb Reynolds and her parade organizing committee, it is a well-oiled piece of machinery. She has been in charge for 16 years.

But this will be Reynolds last year at the helm, as it will be for several of her trusted volunteers. It will be up to the village of Schoolcraft to help find new volunteers, according to a report Reynolds gave to the Village Council at its June meeting.

“It is super hard to walk away from the parade planning since this in my home town,” Reynolds said. She moved here as a four-year old in 1960. She is also a 41-year employee of Kalamazoo County State Bank (KCSB) which has allowed her to work on the parade during office hours.

“I have a task list called the ‘Holy Grail’ that I will gladly share with whomever you can get to carry this forward,” she offered the council. “I really wanted to go out quietly without any fuss, but I think it’s important to give you time to find someone as this is my last year.”

Village President Keith Gunnett thanked Reynolds for her years of giving back to the community. “The parade is the biggest thing for Schoolcraft and you will be hard to replace. We’ll do what we can to make sure it continues.” The village stepped in last year to continue the car show in Burch Park as it also wanted to see that continue, Gunnett told the audience.

Reynolds started helping Jim Robertson in the 1980s and took over in 1999. She has it so well planned that by parade time, she takes a breather and actually headed home to rest in 2014. The chaos in her home life leading up to that moment the week before, is what she is hoping to avoid in 2016. “Kathy Stiver takes over on the 4th and with her crew of Tom and Mary Carol Clark, they get it done. Jim and Monica Rasmussen also help line up parade participants and will be in retirement mode along with Reynolds.

Shelley McMillan takes care of the multitude of tractors and Randy Palmer will be heading up the fireworks at dusk for his first year at the helm, taking over for Chip Mongrieg. This leaves four people on the overall organizing committee for 2016, including Jon Krum who helps to raise money, Virginia Mongrieg, and Kathy Stiver.

“Police Chief Brian Campbell does an awesome job,” Reynolds said. “We only have two hours to close US 131, beginning at 10:50. If we aren’t done by 12:50, we could be fined as this is a state highway and it causes quite a disruption of traffic. That is a big reason why we don’t take late entries anymore. The parade usually has about 120 to 130 advance entries and it takes that long to move them down the parade route.”

“Last year we were scheduled to have the jets from Selfridge Air Base to fly over at 11:15. I looked up and saw a crop duster plane overhead and realized the jets wouldn’t be able to be here. That’s just one of the little things that can go wrong with the parade that nobody else would notice. Like, why is there a gap? The stress comes from worrying about the weather and the details that go into the planning of the parade. There is no drug on the market that could help me with this part!”

This year she is expecting the “Hooligans” from Battle Creek in their A-10 Warthogs to fly over at about 10:45. They will be coming up from a training flight in Indiana and will be looking to salute the veterans float that will be stationed on the corner of Pearl and Eliza streets. Reynolds applies online for the flyover, based upon a recommendation from Max Loker of Schoolcraft. His heart is in the Stars and Stripes, a true blue American, Reynolds said. “He helped to intercede to get the jets here some years ago and now it’s just something they do for us.”

Doug Flynn has been lining up the parade judges and is the MC now. Prizes are awarded for judges’ choice, most patriotic, classic car, antique tractor, equestrian, and best float. Each of the entrants holds up a card issued with a number on it for Flynn to announce to the crowd. Sara Kowalski has been singing the national anthem when the flag carriers get to the judges stand, next to Mike’s Barber Shop.

For 90 years, the parade has gone off like clockwork. But visitors have no idea what’s behind it all, Reynolds reflected.

Fun is an Important Ingredient of the Summer Festival

By Sue Moore

The Vicksburg Lions Club on July 23-25 will celebrate the 42nd anniversary of its Summer Festival, better known in these parts as Otto’s Beer & Bratwurst. This will be the second year in the new pavilion in the Historic Village setting on N. Richardson Street, just north of the downtown. The Lions Club helped to finance the building along with many other community individuals and groups.

The pavilion has provided a much more visible event than when it was held at the Recreation Park, according to Doug Stafinski, long-time chairman of the B&B. That visibility in turn has helped the club increase its profits, all of which have gone back into the community. Over the years, it has raised more than $545,000, he said.

The B&B was the brainchild of local baker and Lions Club member, Otto Kaak, who was from Germany originally. He and his wife Anna ended up plying their trade on Main Street in the village of Vicksburg during the 1970s. He suggested they use his secret recipe for sauerkraut and bratwurst and make the gathering open to the public in the old Helms garage. It turned out to be a rip-roaring success. The club guards his recipe like the original Coca-Cola recipe. The brats are now made in Fink’s deli store, but owner John Fink is likewise pledged to secrecy, according to Stafinski.

John Polasek and his able kitchen crew of members make the sauerkraut, and they don’t like to share that recipe either. The beer will also have a new twist to it, featuring Bell’s from the tap along with the usual Miller High Life, Miller Lite, and Leinenkugel Summer Shandy.

The Kids’ Night on Thursday kicks off the three-day event with a magician, games, and hot dogs for the little ones. Friday, the club opens its door at 11 a.m. for lunch, with the Vicksburg Rotary Club enjoying the Lions hospitality for its noon meeting.

The Vicksburg Farmers’ Market will move southward to the main part of the Historic Village for the one Friday, providing a different setting for vendors and customers.

The volleyball tournament has been canceled for this year in an attempt to protect newly seeded grass on the east side of the pavilion. The village Department of Public Works (DPW) carefully spread three to six inches of topsoil donated by Allen-Edwin home builders. The DPW planted the grass seed in April and with all the rain, has achieved a good catch of grass. But it’s not ready for prime time, Stafinski said.

Instead the adult cornhole tourney will be held on Friday from 6 p.m. to possibly midnight. The annual horseshoe tournament has been moved to the Richardson Street side of the property and kicks off at 11 a.m. after the Vicksburg High School alumni breakfast at 9 a.m.

Area bands will be playing on Friday from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and Saturday nights from 9 p.m.-1 a.m.

Vicksburg Lions Club’s 42nd Annual Summer Festival

Thursday, July 23, Family Night

Festival Opens (No Lunch) 4 p.m. Children’s Games, Crafts, Clowns, Magician
& Raffle 6-8 p.m.
Food Prices for Children – $1.00
Free Kidsight Vision Screening 6-8 p.m.
Rocket Football & Cheer Sign-Up 6-8 p.m.

Friday, July 24

Beer and Bratwurst Opens for Lunch 11
The Farmers’ Market will move to the Historic Village grounds-2:30-6:30 p.m.
Adult Cornhole Tournament 6 p.m.-midnight.
Live Music – Back Roads Band 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.

Saturday, July 25
Vicksburg Alumni Breakfast 9 a.m.
Adult Horseshoe Tournament 11 a.m.
B & B Opens for Lunch 11 a.m.
Live Music – South County 9 p.m.-1 a.m.

The Vicksburg Lions Club has donated over $574,000.00 In support of state and local projects.

Friday Night at B&B Could be Standing Room Only

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Chad Sikkenga and Dave Reno work the beer taps at the Summer Festival.

The Vicksburg Lions Club hopes to have the largest night in the Summer Festival/Beer & Bratwurst history on Friday night, July 24.  The World Disc Golf Championships are in Kalamazoo during the same week with matches in Vicksburg’s Recreation Area on Wednesday and Thursday.

The sponsors of the tournament have selected the B&B—over the Taste of Kalamazoo—as the Friday night host party site for all participants.  The attendance could see 200-300 disc golfers that evening in addition to the usual masses, according to Brett Grossman, club president.  “We believe our Friday last year was the busiest we’ve had in years due to the cornhole tourney so these extra attendees should really hop things up. Due to Bell’s Brewery’s sponsorship of the disc golf tournament, we will serve their beer for the first time at the B&B, too,” he added.

On Thursday night, Magician Ron Jaxon of Jaxon Magic will perform for Kid’s night when games and lots of attention is paid to the children who attend with their parents for this party.

For further information guests can go to the Facebook page and website for the Summer Festival. It is “B & B Summer Festival – Vicksburg Lions Club”. The web site is Vicksburg Lions Club – Lions e-Clubhouse

Vicksburg Foundation Announces Grant Awards

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Judy Glover, long-time volunteer for the Historical Society’s collection committee, beside the Depot Museum crumbling brick structure.

The Vicksburg Foundation, which provides a helping hand to many groups in the community, announced its quarterly grant awards after its meeting last month.

Distributions from prior grant commitments:

Annual Vicksburg Foundation Scholarship Funding Pool Commitment, provided to the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation to award six $2,500 scholarships for selected graduating seniors. Amount: $10,145.

Last of 3 annual payments in a two for one matching grant by Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation for the benefit of the Bardeen Teacher Incentive Grant Endowment Fund held at Kalamazoo Community Foundation. Amount: $5,000.

Village of Vicksburg, a grant request approved in December for payment in June representing a third of the cost for professional services needed for the implementation of the Downtown Development Authority plan. Amount: $14,750.

Final matching grant payment made in April to the Vicksburg Band Boosters for a fund-raising campaign for new uniforms, completing a $25,000 commitment. Amount: $5,000.

New grants approved:

Village of Vicksburg – A $10,000 grant to provide funds to retain a “Vicksburg Trail Consultant” with expertise in developing trails, to obtain required permits, assessments and approvals to bring trail construction to a reality in the spring of 2016.

Vicksburg Historical Society – A $17,200 grant to repair the outside of the Vicksburg Depot Museum. The work entails removing all deteriorated mortar, air blasting and removing all joint debris and restoring the building’s original construction integrity.

Vicksburg United Way Reveals Allocations

Members of the Vicksburg United Way allocations committee were happy to parcel out $13,120 to the following local groups:

$10,000 to South County Community Services for outreach to area townships.

$420 to Boy Scout Troop 251 for assistance for scouts who want to attend summer camp, purchase uniforms, and receive help to defray the annual dues.

$500 to the Vicksburg Community Schools Community Education scholarship program.

$250 to the Vicksburg District Library for its Summer Reading program.

$1,950 to the Generous Hands backpack program to purchase food and other essentials that go into the packs each Friday.

Over $7.6 million, raised through the annual campaign conducted by the United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, goes to provide assistance to the many United Way affiliate agencies in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. These agencies serve many residents in south Kalamazoo County, according to Laura Howard who heads up the adjacent communities drive in Vicksburg. A percentage of donor monies earmarked by zip codes of those giving from the 49097 comes back to the local committee to make decisions on funding. Members of Howard’s committee include Carol Lohman, Tim Moore, Sue Moore, Gen Landtroop, and Travis Cree.

Mercer Munn Award Goes to Lorna Landrum

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Vicksburg Rotarian Danna Downing presented Lorna Landrum with the Mercer Munn award at its Charter Night ceremony in late June.

Many persons in the South County area put the Rotary Club pledge of “service above self” into action without ever becoming a Rotary Club member. In part, that is why the Vicksburg Rotary Club created its annual Mercer Munn Fellow award. The award is designed to honor the legacy of service by a longtime member, said Laura Howard, chair of the selection committee.

In the sixty-two years that Munn spent in the Vicksburg Rotary Club, he exemplified all that is the best in Rotary, Howard said. She added that to him “service above self” was a way of life. It was impossible to separate Mercer’s Christian humility and compassion from his Rotary determination. If there was something in the community to be fixed, helped or healed, you would usually find that Mercer Munn was a part of the solution, Howard said.

For those who know Lorna Landrum, this year’s Mercer Munn Fellow recipient, there is no doubt that she demonstrates qualities similar to Munn’s—in her own modest and unique way. For well over 30 years, she has served South County in diverse ways.

As she and her husband David, began raising their young family in Fulton, she served on the Wakeshma Township Fire Department and the Wakeshma Township Board. She was part of a team which worked diligently to secure funding for a new fire truck. She trained and served on the fire vehicles; she drove the truck, wrestled with the hoses and, in general, did whatever was needed to save lives and property during emergency situations.

It was her service on the board of a local church that brought her to South County Community Services (SCCS) about 25 years ago when her granddaughter, Amanda, was just a baby. She often brought Amanda with her to the many meetings she attended as a holiday volunteer. Amanda also served at SCCS until she moved away. They were a team.

During her long tenure at the agency, Landrum has typically volunteered over 400 hours a year on a regular basis. Her contributions at the front desk and in providing emergency assistance services have made her an icon of sorts at SCCS. When Lorna is on duty, everyone knows they are working with someone who is trustworthy, who believes in the importance of integrity and fairness, and who will not quit until the task is complete, according to Danna Downing, executive director.

Lorna has also provided stalwart leadership for SCCS as board president. She is not a president in name only. She has served as the temporary director of the agency during difficult transitions. She was also instrumental in creating Wednesday Winners, a signature program at SCCS to serve the needs of adults with disabilities. In addition, Lorna and Dave raised two of their grandchildren when circumstances warranted their stepping up to a challenge.

Lorna was honored at the 2015 Rotary Charter Night and a check in Lorna’s name will be sent by the club to the Kalamazoo Community Foundation’s Vicksburg Rotary Endowment Fund where it will continue the Munn legacy and come back to the community as the fund grows.

Knit-athon in Vicksburg

A sample of the decorative benches Tanya DeLong is proposing for downtown Vicksburg with her idea to ‘bomb’ the benches with color to publicize a Knit-athon.

By Sue Moore

Casting on and casting off? What kind of party is that? For Tanya DeLong, who runs a yarn shop in her Tanya’s Girl Garage store in downtown Vicksburg, casting on and off are an everyday occurrence and usually have to do with knitting and crocheting.

In this case, she’s planning a party for casting on July 1 and a follow up party for casting off on July 31. In between, she hopes to have swarms of people coming in to her shop to participate in a knit-athon to raise money to improve the parking lot behind the stores in Vicksburg on the west side of Main Street.

The knit-athon participants will knit squares for scarves for South County Community Services. To get the community to participate and bring the event to the attention of all the knitters in the area, they plan to “yarn bomb” the benches downtown to advertise the knit-athon for the scarves. All of the yarn has been donated.

The knitters will make six by 60-inch strips to wrap the benches in downtown Vicksburg to raise awareness and incidentally get the community members to donate money. Donations will buy 8” squares that will go into making knitted scarves to donate to South County Community Services to keep people warm all winter long. DeLong is hoping that pledges from interested citizens can raise upwards of $1,000 to go toward creating matching funds to improve the unsightly parking lot.

As past president of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and now treasurer, she knows that the funds are sorely needed. “Of course the parking lot will need way more than $1,000 for the beautification effort, but you’ve got to start somewhere,” DeLong says. “Maybe we can find some grant money that will help the project along.”

She hopes to decorate the benches in all kinds of colors with the knitted stripes to attract attention. After that, she will have people knitting all day long in her shop with pledge forms available to all who enter Tanya’s Girl Garage at 123 S. Main. Those who do the knitting will be out soliciting pledges for their efforts as well, through the month of July.

DDA’s Vision for Downtown

The Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority (DDA) will provide a ‘show and tell’ at its annual meeting. It is scheduled for Tuesday, July 14, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Rawlinson’s Appliance store, 202 S. Main Street. Kathleen Hoyle, the DDA director is encouraging the public to attend and to enhance the appeal, the DDA will offer food, drinks, and an update of the activities during the year 2014/15.

Presentations will be made concerning the board’s accomplishments, the future plans, the façade program, and feature the launch of the Vicksburg Vision campaign, according to Hoyle.

“The enthusiastic community support and participation in the past year, has enabled the DDA to move the Village forward,” she said. “We have listened to citizens’ vision for the Vicksburg of tomorrow, now we are reporting on how these ideas are becoming realities.”

“The DDA Annual meeting invites the community to celebrate with appetizers and drink, while we provide you with highlights of the past year. We will outline plans for the coming year, forging the next phase of development.  At the end of the meeting we want to hear the citizens’ voice to ensure we are providing the community with the Village they envisioned,” Hoyle pointed out.