Schoolcraft will honor VFW post 5189, American Legion post 475, and Marcellus VFW post 4054, as grand marshals of the 2015 parade.
Walther Farms marched in the 2014 parade, giving out bags of Lay’s chips along the way. They grow some of the potatoes that go into the chips and are based just south of Schoolcraft.
Sarah Kowalski sings the national anthem each year, as the parade pauses in front of the reviewing stand with announcer Doug Flynn doing the honors.
Parade goers line the streets in Schoolcraft at an early hour to get the best seats. Many, like this little girl, are dressed in their finest 4th of July attire.
Current crew of the Schoolcraft 4th of July planning committee appeared before the village council requesting replacement for several retiring members. They are seated left to right: Deb Reynolds, parade chair who is retiring; Chip and Virginia Mongrieg, long-time volunteers with Chip in charge of the annual fireworks shop until this year; Jon Krum, finances. Standing left to right in the back: Randy Palmer, this year’s fireworks chair; Jim and Monica Rasmussen, parade assistants to Reynolds who will be retiring; Kathy Stiver was absent when the meeting took place.
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’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.
The horseshoe pitching contest gets intense as it winds down to the finals each year. The champions have bragging rights at the Hide-a-Way for a whole year.
Clowns, a magician, and kids’ games are the highlight of Thursday at the Summer Festival.
Marilyn and Paul Schutter partake of the Otto Kaak special recipe brats.
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 High School alumni gather on Saturday morning as part of the Summer Festival. Graduates who have been out of high school for at least 50 years are invited to meet and greet their old classmates, with the class of 1995 being honored at this year’s gathering.
Members of the 1994 Vicksburg High School graduating class were glad to renew their friendship at the 2014 breakfast at the pavilion. They are from left to right: Mary Fry Curtis; Diane Clark Barker, Barb Grimm Brown, Evelyn Hines Briggs, and Myrna Grace Schwartz.
Bob Merrill and John Polasek with the tongs, prepare Otto Kaak’s signature brats for the grill.
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.
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
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.
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.