Vicksburg Football Season Ends in Coldwater

By Travis Smola

After the clock hit zero at Friday’s Division 3 District Final against Coldwater, head coach Tom Marchese didn’t leave the field until he had personally thanked every player.

A long line of players, many with tears in their eyes after Vicksburg fell 35-14 to the Cardinals, all stopped to hug their coach as the team finished the season with an 8-3 record.

“To get here, it’s a lot of hard work,” Marchese said. “I just wanted to thank them for their belief and trust.”

Hopes had been high going into the playoff game after the Bulldogs knocked off Marshall in their first playoff game the week prior. Coldwater received to start the game and immediately went on an 11 play scoring drive to go up 7-0. The drive burned up half of the first quarter.

The usually stout Bulldog defense couldn’t stop a strong Cardinals run game that got multiple runners involved.

On Coldwater’s second drive, senior linebacker Brendan Crawford recovered a Coldwater fumble, but the Bulldog offense turned the ball over on downs six plays later. On the first play after the turnover, Coldwater running back Spencer Burns broke through the Vicksburg defense for an 80 yard rushing touchdown.

In the second quarter, both senior running backs Nick Wallace and Seth Benson ended up injured in the game right as the Bulldogs started to get the ball moving on the ground. Vicksburg started using designed quarterback runs by junior Brenden Lovell to make up for the loss in the ground game.

Right before the half, it paid off. The Bulldogs were finally able to drive the ball deep and Lovell plowed his way into the end zone for a two-yard score. Freshman Joe Brady tacked on the extra point to cut Coldwater’s lead to 21-7 at the half.

In the second half, Coldwater was first to score again after they turned a Garrett Ketelaar interception into points to make it 28-7 with just over one minute left in the third quarter. Vicksburg responded on the first play of the fourth quarter when Lovell hit junior receiver Blake Rankin with a wide open pass for a 57 yard touchdown. Brady made it 28-14 with the extra point kick.

On the ensuing kickoff, Vicksburg was flagged and forced to re-kick. On the re-kick, the Bulldogs went for a surprise onside kick. It appeared that Vicksburg recovered, but the referees had a conference and decided a Bulldog had touched the ball before it went ten yards and gave possession to Coldwater. The Cardinals failed to capitalize on the great field position however and Vicksburg had another chance. On a gadget play, senior Trace Slancik threw a bomb pass that was caught in Cardinal territory by junior Deondre Lovell.

But the Bulldogs then had four straight incomplete passes and turned the ball over on downs. Coldwater responded by driving the ball down the field before Cardinal fullback Sam DeMeester broke free for a 38 yard touchdown run to seal Coldwater’s win.

“It stinks, but at the end of the year only one Division 3 team stands,” Marchese said. He also credited Coldwater for their tough play.

While it was a hard loss, Marchese’s efforts in building a program appear to be paying off as this year was the first time ever the Bulldogs have been in the playoffs in consecutive seasons. He praised the efforts of his team, especially the ones playing their last game. “This group of seniors was no-nonsense and led by example,” Marchese said.

Wi-Fi Comes to Downtown Vicksburg

Andy DeVries atop the H & H Feed and Grain tower where his company Digital Example, LLC, also has a transmitter, and offers subscriber Wi-Fi service to residents who do not have Comcast availability.
Andy DeVries atop the H & H Feed and Grain tower where his company Digital Example, LLC, also has a transmitter, and offers subscriber Wi-Fi service to residents who do not have Comcast availability.

By Sue Moore

The Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the village of Vicksburg are bringing outdoor Wi-Fi to the downtown through the good offices of Andy and Steve DeVries. They are two techies who grew up in the area, graduated from the local school system in the early 90s and have gone on to succeed in high-visibility technology companies.

They have proposed to the DDA that they provide the wireless Internet service at no charge to the village and at $35 monthly to participating businesses, saying they feel it is time to give back to their community. It has taken over a year to put a proposal together to make this project a reality. But DDA Director Kathleen Hoyle has buttoned up the deal by getting 10 downtown businesses to contribute $100 up front to pay for the required insurance and do a 90 day demonstration test beginning December 1. If it works to everyone’s satisfaction, then it can become a permanent offering downtown for visitors to the village and those needing a good Wi-Fi connection inside their buildings.

To actually make this happen, Andy DeVries will don a harness and climbing boots to climb the village water tower and place broadcast transmitters atop the tower. They will be pointed toward Main and Prairie streets to cover about a six-block radius initially. Wireless repeater boxes will be placed upon selected lampposts along the two main thoroughfares. This will allow a strong enough signal for most people seeking to connect to a hotspot, through an Internet portal offered by the village. If a business needs a stronger signal inside its building, a radio can be purchased to increase the capacity of the signal. But most of the customers in local shops will find the signal strong enough from the nearest pole outside, DeVries noted.

The intention of the project is to bring today’s Internet technology into the central business district for use by visitors in a variety of ways including awareness building, product/service ordering, and creation of Internet cafes, Hoyle pointed out.
The likely beneficiaries of this service would be the restaurants, who could receive orders for food from people who are attending a Vicksburg football or basketball game and want to beat the rush afterwards, Hoyle said. That might also include visitors at the annual Old Car Festival, Taste of Vicksburg, events at the pavilion or the various school buildings.

Connection to the downtown Wi-Fi will be through a Village portal web page which will host advertisements for those businesses who pay for advertising space and web links from the portal page as well as provide a link to the Internet, Hoyle said. Phase two of the project will give businesses the opportunity to use the Wi-Fi as their primary Internet service to help minimize the cost of Internet access. There will be some direct costs associated with this setup, including a monthly charge of $35, a one-time cost of $67 for a radio and a $50 setup fee.

All of the work will be performed by Andy and Steve DeVries’ Digital Example, LLC. They are providing the service at no cost to the village, fronting the cost of equipment in hopes of breaking even sometime in the future. They are not planning to provide residential service, pointing out that customers with Comcast in the village would not be eligible. Andy DeVries can be reached at 269-382-3334.

Vicksburg Band’s Big Red Machine the Largest in This Area

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg’s Big Red Machine is the largest high school band in southwest Michigan, with 194 members marching this fall. It takes five or six buses and three trailers to transport all the students and their gear to their competitions in September and October, according to Vicksburg High School Band Director Ben Rosier.

The sense of pride for these students when the band pulls into a stadium parking lot of another school is palpable, Rosier said. The band’s record of many first place finishes in the past competitions puts pressure on all members, new and returning, to succeed on the new model. More so considering that 25 percent of the band members have never marched before when the season begins. Somehow they are able to master the formations by the first performance in August. Rosier noted that marching band now counts for a physical education credit, thanks to the state legislature recently passing a bill to this effect.

It all starts with student leadership. His system depends on the juniors and seniors taking responsibility to mentor the freshmen and sophomores. “This is the way we start to build the ‘band family’,” he said. “These are relationships that can last a lifetime, witness the many graduates that came back for the alumni band performance during Vicksburg’s Homecoming football game.”

Recruiting for the band starts at the sixth grade level with 126 young people enrolled in lessons this year. Patty Stoll is the director in middle school. A big drop off in interest in many schools occurs when students enter ninth grade with almost 80 percent selecting out of many band programs, according to Rosier. Vicksburg has been able to flip this number and retain 80 percent of the incoming freshman band members. This is what created a need for 20 more new uniforms in 2015. At a cost of $400 per uniform in 2014, the band boosters paid $90,000 for 180 uniforms. Now they are out in the community, looking for more donations to cover the cost of 40 more new uniforms. They are also recruiting new volunteers to help carry out the mission of supporting the band’s many activities.

A “glow-run” was held in October for runners as a way to raise money for the band. At $25 for the entry fee, boosters had over 200 registered competitors to help toward the uniform purchase, according to the chair of the event, Donna Cratsenburg-Scott. In September, the band raffled off a red and white Chrysler convertible that helped raise money and awareness of the band’s needs.

This year’s band show was developed around the number nine, which is how many years Rosier has been building the band program in Vicksburg. The planning begins with his technical team and Assistant Director Ravenna Kahler at the end of the school year. The actual practice starts the first Tuesday after July 4 and runs through the season, concluding with the last home football game in October. Band camp for a week in August is where members learn the show, but also how to deal with each other, Rosier pointed out. Each student is given their coordinates, with eight steps to every five yards. They then find their dot on the field for each sequence in the performance. The judges at each contest will look for the formations, stops and starts, music flow, and general effect of the show. All the music has to be memorized.

Being in the band can bring lots of benefits for students, according to band parent Linda Lane. Her kids have benefited from leadership training, accepting responsibility, gaining music knowledge, and caring for each other. They don’t want to disappoint each other while earning great respect from the rest of the 800 plus students in the high school, she added.
This year, 35 of Rosier’s band students have gone on to play in college marching bands or participate in their college music programs. The largest group of 18 is at Western Michigan University. Four are at Grand Valley, three at KVCC, two at Hillsdale, two at Michigan State and two at University of Michigan. One each is at Northern Michigan, Ferris State, Michigan Tech, and Albion.

DDA Gets Grant & Starts Main Street Designation Process

Members of the Vicksburg DDA board listen to a presentation by Emily Pantera of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority on its bid to become a Main Street ‘select’ designation. Seated from front, left to right: Pantera, Mandy Miller, Mike Oswalt, Mary Marshall, Kathleen Hoyle, Julie Merrill, John DeBault, Stella Shearer, and Steve McCowen.
Members of the Vicksburg DDA board listen to a presentation by Emily Pantera of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority on its bid to become a Main Street ‘select’ designation. Seated from front, left to right: Pantera, Mandy Miller, Mike Oswalt, Mary Marshall, Kathleen Hoyle, Julie Merrill, John DeBault, Stella Shearer, and Steve McCowen.

By Sue Moore

Revitalizing Vicksburg’s downtown became a little easier for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) with a grant of $10,000 from the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) and a loan of $50,000 from the same organization. How the money can best be used for maximum impact was a big decision for DDA board members at their monthly meeting in October, according to Executive Director Kathleen Hoyle.

She had previously organized a meeting of the building owners in the downtown to garner suggestions from them as to the best way to stretch the funds. The $10,000 is a grant and doesn’t need to be repaid. The $50,000 needs to be repaid to LISC in approximately four years. The building owners’ recommendations to the DDA board for the loan program were accepted as follows:

• Use the money for design services in a revolving loan fund.
• The amount of a loan for facades and other work could be up to $10,000, with repayment within three years. Currently it is $5,000 for five years.
• Require an 80/20 match for the grant program.
• Coordinate a list of desired contractors for building owners to call on for bids, listed as a need but not a requirement.
Chuck Vliek, a representative of LISC at the meeting, ended by promising, “We will make it work for you guys.” His organization is nationwide, supported by the Ford Foundation, with offices in Kalamazoo and many other cities across the U.S.

To further enhance the downtown area, Emily Pantera attended the meeting to describe the Michigan Main Street program’s “select” designation, a goal the authority’s board hopes to achieve to gain revitalization assistance from the state.

A year ago, the DDA decided to apply to be an associate community in the program for a year. The next step is to set their sights on becoming a select designation. Only three communities are approved for admittance every year, according to Pantera. If accepted it would be for a five-year commitment, at little or no cost to Vicksburg or the DDA, except in the time commitment of the director and the volunteers.

Each Michigan Main Street (MMS) community is locally organized, run and funded. The payback is in the professional advice offered through design services, training sessions for volunteers, and working with the other 11 communities in Michigan that are part of the program. MMS seeks to refill vacant store fronts, focus reinvestment in the downtown district and support small businesses, Pantera said. “Being part of the program will signify real return on investments and renewed community commitment.”

Other cities and villages currently in the select program for MMS include Three Rivers, Otsego, Owosso, Saline, Hart, Grayling, Blissfield, Hart, Wayne, Wayland, and downtown Lansing.

Vicksburg Vision Campaign’s Public Fundraising Event

The Vicksburg Vision Campaign will host its first public fundraising event on Friday, November 20, at the new Vicksburg Cultural and Arts Center, 200 S. Main Street in Vicksburg. The event, titled “It Takes a Village to Feed a Village” will take place from 5 to 7 p.m.

It will be open to the public and feature small plates from local food vendors. Cost of entrance will be one canned good per person. These canned goods will be donated to local foodbanks. Attendees of the fundraising event will be asked to make a donation in exchange for small plates at each food station. The event will also feature a silent auction with a myriad of items from local merchants and establishments. No RSVP’s are necessary. All funds raised will be donated to the Vicksburg Vision Campaign. The event is the first of many to benefit the cause.

The Vicksburg Vision Campaign is a combined effort of the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority and the village of Vicksburg. The capital campaign will fund the construction of a new nature trail system; enhancements to area parks; expansion and improvements to public parking for easy access to the downtown district; and updates to streetscapes with new sidewalks, trees, flower planters, and seating. In addition to substantial grants, the campaign will need the help of the public and local organizations to create matching funds for these projects. This fundraising event is one way that individuals can help out.

The goal for the Vicksburg Vision Campaign is $2.7 million dollars which will fund projects totaling $7.3 million. For this year, the campaign will need to raise at least $1 million dollars by November 30 to match the trail grants. Mary Ruple, community chairperson for the Vicksburg Vision Campaign, is excited about the event and explains its importance, “Since we do need to meet our first goal on the 30th of November, donations and the community’s participation at this event is needed and would be greatly appreciated.”

Veteran’s Day Celebration in Vicksburg

Veteran’s Day will be observed at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, November 11, in Oswalt Park.
Veteran’s Day will be observed at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, November 11, in Oswalt Park.

A Veteran’s Day flag ceremony in Vicksburg’s Oswalt Park at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, November 11, will celebrate the service of American military veterans. Originally this day and time was set aside to recognize the official end of World War I. The November 11 date was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all veterans. The Vicksburg Veterans of Foreign Wars, Captain Charles Osborne Post 5189 will perform a special flag ceremony and a twenty-one gun salute to honor our veterans.

After the ceremonies in the park, veterans and their families are invited to the Depot Museum, where the Vicksburg Historical Society plans to inaugurate a new flag pole in the front of the building at 1 p.m. Money to buy and replace a rusted and non-functional flag pole was donated by the Rotary and Lions Clubs. Members of the two clubs who are veterans will be honored during this short ceremony, according to Warren Lawrence who has been orchestrating the funding.

There will be another activity to honor veterans on Sunday, November 8. The Boy Scouts of Troop 251 and their families will treat all veterans, whether they served at home or abroad, to lunch at the Vault at 1 p.m.

“This day should be more widely celebrated. Most American families have a veteran or know a veteran. Today is the day to ask them about their service,” according to Jim Hamrick, the Quartermaster for the VFW post.

“Many veterans are reluctant to share their service experiences for a variety of reasons,” Hamrick said. He is a retired U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant with 20 years and eight months of active duty. “The horrors of combat, sad memories, or perhaps veterans don’t want to burden others with tragic circumstances. When veterans share their experiences, the better loved ones can help and support them. Some veterans carry sad memories of service even if they never saw combat. Military service is trying no matter what the circumstances. Every veteran should be proud of their achievements. They met the challenges of basic training, advanced training, long hours and family separation. Be proud!” Hamrick said. He served in Viet Nam from 1970-71, and now lives at Kline’s Resort.

“Every veteran is a hero no matter what position they held, a clerk typist who created the paper trail, the cook who fed the troops, medics, engineers, truck drivers, no matter the job it took the whole team to win victory after American victory. Sure the combat pilot, rifleman, and sailor get the big medals, like the Medal of Honor or Silver Star and yes every Purple Heart wearer is a hero, but it takes the whole team,” Hamrick pointed out. “Take time to remember fallen comrades, they gave their all, but living veterans should be proud of their achievements and take this special day to celebrate.”

Storytellers Perform for Schoolcraft Historical Society

Dr. Von Washington directs players in a special presentation in Schoolcraft.
Dr. Von Washington directs players in a special presentation in Schoolcraft.

Dr. Von Washington will be presenting a special program for the Schoolcraft Historical Society’s November meeting held at the Ladies Library building at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, November 5 and 6. Entitled “In Search of Giants, Ghost of the Underground Railroad” the retired professor from Western Michigan University will perform a reading of his newest Story Theatre creation.

The play is based in present day America, with the majority of it taken from the Underground Railroad museum. It reaches back to the heart-wrenching activities of slavery. He follows the modern day activities of a college professor, searching for his ancestral roots. It uses music, drama, and the spoken word, while blending the past with the present.

He will be assisted by six of his storytelling friends from Kalamazoo and Toronto. He is focusing on Pamela Thomas and the nationally known Henry Bibb who spoke so eloquently against slavery. Some of the Thomas family descendants are coming for the performance. The 92 year old great grandson and the great, great, great granddaughter who is an opera singer, who will also perform.

Vicksburg High School “Sparks” Stage Offerings

Melissa Sparks, on the left, directs elementary and middle school students in Seussical, Jr. a musical centered around Dr. Seuss’s books for children.
Melissa Sparks, on the left, directs elementary and middle school students in Seussical, Jr. a musical centered around Dr. Seuss’s books for children.

By Sue Moore

Melissa Sparks is Vicksburg’s director of plays and musicals, and her last name fits her personality perfectly. She has been the “sparkplug” behind productions at the Performing Arts Center (PAC) for the last ten years, while elevating the performances to a very high level, according to Tim Fuller, manager of the theater.

“She has complete control of the 30 plus 4th to 8th grade students performing in Seussical, Jr. musical, while motivating them to do their very best,” Fuller commended. “Each year she has been here, the shows have gotten better and better. We do three shows during the school year and she directs them all with great gusto and lots of help from Dusty Morris and Karla Stubblefield if the play is a musical.”

Although the curtain has come down on Seussical, Sparks will be turning right around and directing the high school students in a play called “All in The Timing, Six One-Act Comedies,” on November 20, 21, and 22 at the PAC. It is already in rehearsal with a cast of 16, encompassing 18 individual parts. It’s a delightful comedy that will keep the audience laughing throughout, Sparks said.

Caleb Dziepak, a senior will play Trotsky, in one vignette called Variations on the Death of Trotsky. The wife is played by Emily Towns, a sophomore. Both students have been in Sparks drama program for years and are able to deliver some very funny lines, the audience will love, she said. Another of the one-act comedies is called Words, Words, Words, which features typing into infinity and will sooner or later produce Hamlet. Staring in this piece are Andrew Phelps, a junior; Robin Willhite, a freshman, and Riley Robertson-DeGraaf.

“The goal is for the youth group performing in musicals to be as good as what a high school show would look like,” Sparks enthused. “Out high school shows should be professional and rival anything that comes to Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo. People who attend our shows often remark at how shocked they are at how good these kids can be. We have high expectations for our kids, and believe because of that, they will achieve anything they set out to do in this world. A handful have gone on to be in the theater through their college courses, and some have become music educators. A good example is Carver Duncan, a 2009 graduate who attended New York University to study drama, and now is touring in a national company. Kaitelin Fruehauf, one of our star performers, is studying at Wayne State now and her little sister has a part in Seussical.”

“Theater training helps youth grow as people, they learn creativity, build confidence, learn teamwork, and responsibility. We have students who become the off-stage managers, props, make-up, and gain lots of valuable experience in this environment. It’s magical to watch a student ‘get it’ for the first time,” she said.

Sparks was bitten by the bug in middle school while performing in A Christmas Carol. She is from a Detroit suburb, but her family has had a summer cottage on Howard Lake for years and she spent many summers in this area, as well as graduating from Western Michigan University in 2004 with a theater degree. She stayed in the area because she discovered that it was a mecca for theater, performing and directing as she has at the Civic, Farmers’ Alley, and producing musicals at Portage Central. She now teaches at WMU for a class of 360 students called ‘Direct Encounter with the Arts’. All this while balancing a two month old infant, a four year-old and her husband who is the social media director for Channel 3. “Nothing holds me back,” Sparks exclaimed.

Rose Moore Approaches Her 100th Birthday

rose mooreRose Moore will celebrate her 100 years with a birthday party in her honor on November 14, with an Open House at Chapman Memorial Church on the corner of 29th street and U Avenue near Indian Lake.

She was born on November 13, 1915 in Leonidas, and spent most of her life in the Vicksburg area. Rose had one son, Bob Siscoe, who recently passed away. She retired from the Kalamazoo State Hospital after 25 years. She has been married to her husband, Floyd Moore, for 54 years.

VCAC to Host Area Writers Reading & Book Signing Event

By Leeanne Seaver

Here’s the plot: Every person with a story inside struggling to be told should come to hear and be inspired by award-winning writers sharing from their work from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., on Friday, November 13, at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) 200 South Main Street.

The plot thickens when those arriving late have to stand at the back of the room straining to hear what’s happening. A fight breaks out. No, strike that—let’s just skip to the happy ending. All are invited to the VCAC’s “Writers Reading and Book Signing” event for an opportunity to meet and talk with five successful, well-published area authors.

Zinta Aistars, Jennifer Clark, Elizabeth Kerlikowske, Bruce Lack, and Denise Miller will read from their work, then participate in a panel discussion on their writing process. Book signings will follow, and light refreshments will be served. Writers, readers, and everybody else are encouraged to attend this insightful evening spotlighting literary arts at the VCAC.

The VCAC is sponsored by the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority. The Center focuses on a wide range of work including painting, drawing, pottery, jewelry, leather, metal, fiber, wood and photography and provides space for music and performing arts events. The Arts Center hosts readings, workshops, demonstrations, a speaker series, and may offer music classes in the future. For more information on how to exhibit at the gallery please email or you can visit