By Sue Moore
Vicksburg’s agricultural heritage will be celebrated with its 7th annual Harvest Festival on Sunday, September 27, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Historic Village.
The idea of celebrating the end of the growing season in Vicksburg was a gleam in Pat Oswalt’s eye as she annually decorated her farm home with the fruits of her labor in the garden and on the farm. As a stalwart member of the Historical Society, she wanted to bring the farmers’ efforts to a larger audience; thus the local Harvest Festival was born in 2008. It rained and was cold all day that first year, but that didn’t stop Pat and the Historical Society from reaching out to the community to make the event bigger and better every year.
In 2014, an estimated 3,000 individuals and families attended. The weather was a perfect 70 degrees, the sun was shining and farm animals were on display. The festival has been under the leadership of Sue Harper-Grieger since the first year. Sue has consistently found new and exciting creatures for children who live in the city or villages around, so that they could pet and learn about their care. She expects to have Dave Critchelow bring his alligators, snakes, and other reptiles to show and challenge the youngsters. She annually has a bevy of small animals, pigs, goats, sheep, lambs, alpacas, and Tornado, a big bull from Green’s Beefalo Farm, on display. There will even be a camel, although this giant has really nothing to do with farming in rural Michigan.
The pie-baking contest has been a big hit with those who have perfected this epicurean delight. It’s also a fundraiser for the Historical Society. The pies will be sold after the judging, piece by piece.
Wagon rides around the village have been popular in the past and this year will be no exception. There will be a sawmill demonstration, many kinds of crafts, farmers’ market vendors, Model A Ford rides, antiques to purchase, and an old-time photographer who dresses people up in period costumes and snaps their photograph.
There will be entertainment in the pavilion and the gazebo by the Kalamazoo Folk Life organization, headed up by June Kucks. Local kids’ music artists BenJamin and Alisa will perform from 1 to 1:40 p.m., at which time they will give away a guitar to some lucky young person.
For the kiddies, there will be a scavenger hunt, a word hunt, and lots of prizes for completing the contests that will be available at the headquarters tent. At least eight food vendors will be on the grounds so nobody should go hungry, according to Bob Smith, the general chairman of the festival.
It takes a host of volunteers to plan, set up, direct traffic, and keep order out of potential chaos, according to Smith. For Gail Reisterer, a long-time volunteer coordinator, this will be her 7th go-round in making sure the staffing for the various buildings and grounds is handled without a glitch. Fred Reiner has worked hard to bring in new demonstrations, along with Regina Richardson recruiting antique vendors. Others helping with the planning of the festival include Ron and Carol Wilson, Don Wiertella, Mary Ann Kudary, Randy and Donna Seilheimer, Marsha Miazga and Kim Marston.
Sponsors helping to underwrite the event include Ronningen Research and Development, Fred’s Pharmacy, Thad Reeder Automotive, Hill’s Pharmacy, Grossman PLC and Family Doctors of Vicksburg.