Vicksburg Farmers’ Market to Open May 20

By Sue Moore

Hungry for fresh produce? So are most of the people who answered a survey conducted this winter by the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market staff. Over 150 people responded, asking in particular for more vegetables and fruits at the local market which will kick off its 2016 season on Friday, May 20, at the community pavilion.

Besides the seven regular vegetable vendors at the market, three new veggie vendors have signed up for the season, along with a pork vendor, which the market has not seen in its six years of existence. The survey also revealed that a majority of those answering would like to see an evening market.

“We will give it a try with the first one scheduled for Friday, June 24,” said Carol Meyer-Niedzwiecki, in her second year as operations manager at the market. “That is the evening that the Revolutionary War re-enactors will be coming to the village for their Battle of Sunset Lake. We think they would like to visit the market for fresh food to use in their encampment at the Recreation Park. Plus, our usual customers will get a chance to talk to the visitors and get an insight on the weekend’s activities.”

It was also suggested in the survey that customers at the market enjoyed the music that the Kalamazoo Folk Life organization provided each week. June Kucks, Vicksburg’s own dulcimer player, has volunteered to schedule many diverse entertainers for the last two years and will keep recruiting the Folk Life members to perform each week as they volunteer their talents.

Carol LaFrance, the events manager for the market, has lined up the special Kid’s Plate offering each month on the third Friday in June, July and August. She is working on licensing for food demonstrations at the pavilion, called “Eating Healthy on a Budget.” Her goal is to have a special event at the market each week from the opening day on May 20 until the closing on Friday, October 7.

Vendors who have been staples at the market will be back again with vegetables, fruit, baked goods, beef and beefalo, granola bars, bread products, plants, flowers, maple syrup, home-made mustard, jams and jellies.

Parking at the pavilion has been overseen by Don Wiertella. He has enhanced the vehicle pattern to increase the number of parking spaces and accessibility for handicap parking. During the weekend of the Lions Club’s Summer Festival, the entire market will move south to the Historic Village grounds on July 22.

General Store Dedication in the Historic Village

By Sue Moore

The Vicksburg Historic Village was once a landfill, otherwise known as a dump. Since 1997, the area in the triangle between Spruce Street and 300 N. Richardson Street has grown from a decrepit depot at the intersection of the Grand Rapids and Indiana and Grand Trunk Railroads into a bustling re-creation of small town Americana.

This dream of curators Maggie Snyder and Bonnie Holmes came to light somewhat out of necessity as founding members of the Vicksburg Historical Society. They had collected all kinds of objects depicting life in this area at the turn of the 20th century. To house the artifacts, the grounds grew from the one building to a dozen.

The latest, the General Store and the Doris-Lee Sweet Shop, will be dedicated Sunday, May 22.

The shop will be formally accepted by the village of Vicksburg representatives during an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Several of the people instrumental in constructing and furnishing the buildings will be honored during a 3 p.m. ceremony.

Ken Evensen as head of the “Thursday Guys” for 11 years will be honored as a John Vickers Fellow along with his wife Lee, who has spent those 11 years as a cataloging specialist for the collections committee. They are both retiring from these duties and looking to spend more time with their other love, the Tin Can Tourists.

Maggie Snyder, who has assembled most of the collections showcased in the Historic Village, will be similarly honored as a John Vickers Fellow. She has capped off her work with a display of objects in the General Store. She and her husband, Bill, also love to travel and expect to spend only a few months each year in Vicksburg.

A special salute by Warren Lawrence is being prepared for Gail Reisterer, who has made a gift of $100,000 to the Historical Society. Lawrence will announce the matching gift campaign being launched that day to build the endowment of the Society to help with future expansion in the Historic Village. “This gift is forever and will keep on giving well after all of us are gone,” Lawrence says. The principal of an endowment can never be spent. Interest on the investments will be used for projects on the drawing board. They include a doctor’s office, a barbershop and opera house.

Also being remembered for her volunteer work with the Historical Society is Karen Hammond as a John Vickers Fellow.

The public is urged to attend to tour the dozen buildings from 2-4 p.m. and attend the dedication ceremony at 3 p.m. The newest buildings will be open after the presentations with complimentary ice cream being served from the Sweet Shop by Apple Knockers.

Future plans are underway to open the buildings to tours and individuals each week from Wednesday through Sunday, with docents available to spin yarns about each building and its unique collection. “This is an amazing place, full of history dating largely from the 1890s to 1934 when rural electrification came to the Vicksburg area,” Ted Vliek, president of the Society, says. “Very few people have actually been in the buildings and we are eager to open them up to the public on a regular schedule of 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.”

Battle of Sunset Lake is Gearing Up for Big June Event

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Lauren Seyler and Keith Stratton show off the Revolutionary War costumes she made for their wedding last year. They met through re-enacting in New Jersey and have recently moved to East Lansing where she is a post-doctoral candidate in the geology department at Michigan State University. They plan to attend the Battle of Sunset Lake encampment in Vicksburg on June 25 and 26.

By Sue Moore

Revolutionary War fighters are coming to Vicksburg to re-enact the British march from Lexington to Concord (Massachusetts). This is where the “shot heard round the world” was fired in April, 1775, which led to war with Great Britain.

The host unit of re-enactors from the North West Territory Alliance (NWTA) is the 84th Regiment of Foot, 1st Battalion, Royal Highland Emigrants. Today they are led by Sergeant Tim Gora and Corporal Gene MacDonald, both of Illinois, with the assistance of Stefan Sekula who lives in Nashville, Mich. He is the liaison to the Vicksburg Historical Society, the sponsor of the event scheduled for Saturday, June 25 and Sunday June 26 at the Recreation Park off Sprinkle Road.

It is ironic that this particular group of re-enactors volunteered to host the Vicksburg event, according to Ted Vliek, president of the Historical Society. The 84th was actually billeted in Michigan after the war at Fort Michilimackinac. The many other military units coming to the re-enactment were located in the East and Midwest, but not necessarily in Michigan.

The public is invited to visit the encampment at the Recreation Park on the weekend. There will be entertainment beginning with the trooping of the colors at 9 a.m. on Saturday to the closing colors at 4 p.m. on Sunday. One of the big events on Saturday will be the march on Lexington which will be staged in the Historic Village at 2:30 p.m. The 84th Scottish Regiment will be in charge of the re-enactment and has recruited many of the other uniformed members of the NWTA to this event.

Once the mock battle is over, the re-enactors will be treated to a meal at the pavilion provided by area church groups who have agreed to cook for the 200-plus soldiers and their complement of camp followers at 4 p.m. Saturday. It is rumored that an army is most effective on a full stomach. The men will form up to parade to downtown Vicksburg at 5:30 p.m. from the Depot Museum. They will be led by the River Valley Fife and Drum Corps which will also be performing at the Recreation Park at various times.

This group of re-enactors and musicians will join with the Taste of Vicksburg offered by the Chamber of Commerce. The Celtic Band of Father Son and Friends will take the stage to entertain from 6-7 p.m. at the main four corners of Vicksburg as a kick-off to the Taste event.

The 84th was formed in the mid-1770s in Quebec and New England, according to Sekula. They came together as veterans of the French and Indian War in the 1750s, composed primarily of Scottish emigrants and loyalists. Some recruits were born in New England. Their militia unit was guaranteed land in Nova Scotia as an inducement to join up. They are credited with wounding Gen. Benedict Arnold as he fought on the Plains of Quebec on Jan. 1, 1776. Arnold failed and retreated back to Vermont to lick his wounds and rejoin the Americans before eventually joining the British.

As a militia unit, the men lived in their own homes, had no uniforms, and went to work every day. It was documented that recruits had to be 17 years or older, (drummers could be younger), at least 5’3”, appear healthy, have all limbs, no ruptures, not troubled by fits, and have at least 2 teeth that met.

In the 1770s the 1st Battalion was stationed in Quebec and manned the Great Lakes trading routes coming into Quebec. This battle in Quebec is generally considered the one that drastically affected the war insofar as the saving of Canada as a British possession was concerned. The 1st Battalion also saw service at forts on the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain area, Montreal, Ontario, and Michigan.

Visitors to the camp site at the Recreation Park will be treated to many more tales of British and Continental units who fought in the Revolutionary War. Each re-enactor chooses a person to emulate and stays in that character for the entire two days in camp. They enjoy spinning yarns about their service and the hardships they encountered.

A schedule of events and more details about the encampment are available on the web site, The funding for the entire weekend has come from several sources with grants were obtained from the Vicksburg Foundation, the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, and the Michigan Humanities Council an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Vicksburg Rotary Club and Lions Club have also contributed funds along with area churches including St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, Vicksburg United Methodist Church, Lakeland Reformed Church and Chapman Memorial Church of the Nazarene.

Historical Society Presents Suzi Parron as its First Program

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Suzi Parron displays her books and calendar standing in front of Matt and Julie Skrzypek’s barn which is featured on the Vicksburg Quilt Trail.

By Sue Moore

Suzi Parron, a national author and quilter, will kick off the monthly programs for the Vicksburg Historical Society on Tuesday, May 17 at 7 p.m. at the Vicksburg District Library. She will do a book signing following her lively slide presentation of barn quilt trails across the country.

Parron’s program features over 100 stunning photos starting with the very first barn quilt that was painted in Ohio in 2001. Her newest book, Following the Barn Quilt Trail, has a section devoted to the Vicksburg Quilt Trail. “Anyone who enjoys quilts will love Parron’s stories,” says Kitch Rinehart, Vicksburg’s quilt trail guru. “We are honored to be in the national spotlight. Then add in the topic of old and new barns along with beautiful photos of rural America and you have a program that is sure to please.”

The Vicksburg Quilt Trail has brought a lot of visitors to the community, in part because the barns are beautiful and the quilts appeal to a large group of quilters. This has all happened through the efforts of Kitch and Hugh Rinehart, who have made the trail come to life, according to Ted Vliek, the Historical Society’s president. The Society is the fiscal agent for the Rineharts’ efforts. They received an initial grant from the Vicksburg Foundation.

When the Rineharts started selecting barn owners within the Vicksburg school district, they offered to paint whatever quilt pattern the family decided upon. Hugh did the carpentry work and Kitch did the painting. Then she put together a brochure featuring the barn quilts and a reference to why the owner chose a particular design. The brochure has a map of the entire trail so visitors can take a leisurely drive through the countryside, plus stop in the Vicksburg shops and restaurants.

In addition, a barn quilt painting workshop will be held on Saturday, May 21 from 12:30 to 4:30 at the Vicksburg District Library. People taking the class can create their own barn quilt with instructors who will guide participants through the painting of a 2 x 2 foot quilt block. It will be suitable for displaying out of doors on a home, a garage or shed, Rinehart says. The class is limited to 20 students. The fee is $40 and a place in the class can be reserved by calling the Rineharts at 269-329-0481.

Kitch declares the Vicksburg Trail complete. She has joined a statewide network of barn quilt trails and promoted the local trail through this connection.

Plots Available in Community Gardens

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The Community Garden behind the Leja farm on VW Ave, across from Summit Polymers.

The Community Garden Network is about to begin another season at its two sites. Members hope anyone interested in having a plot to plant and harvest will contact Carol Meyer-Niedzwiecki at (269) 568-0580. The Network supports the Pantry Garden across from Summit Polymers on the west side of the village on Prairie Street. It also involved with the Heritage Garden next to the community pavilion beside the big red barn on North Richardson Street by the Historic Village. Both gardens have open plots this year. New gardeners are welcome to join and use them.

There is no fee to have a plot. Plot “owners” plant and maintain a small area within the larger garden. They obtain their own seeds and plants. The Network only allows natural pest killers and weed control measures. It provides free manure, wood chips and tools to share along with low-cost straw for mulching. The whole group comes together periodically for potlucks and community work nights where they tend the common pathways, a plot planted in the Pantry Garden for South County Community Services and around the fence lines.

“We have a good time learning from one another and sharing planting and recipe ideas and tips. If not interested in a plot, feel free to join us anyway. We never turn away volunteers or anyone needing service hours or community service,” says Meyer-Niedzwiecki. “If interested, call soon. We look forward to working alongside you this season.”

Victorian Garden Club Invites New Members

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Officers of the Victorian Garden Club are Shirley Heath, Julie Burke (seated left to right), Teri Clark, and Nancy Smoker (standing left to right).

The South County Victorian Garden Club is gearing up for another exciting year of activities, some of which include field trips, garden walks, Historic Village clean up, plant sale and crafts, according to the club Secretary Nancy Smoker. They meet the fourth Monday of the month, March through November. Those interested in joining can call the following officers: Julie Burke at 269-746-4730, Shirley Heath at 269-778-3369, Nancy Smoker at 269-806-4985 or Teri Clark at 269-778-9948.

One of the early spring activities is helping to clean up the grounds in the Historic Village. It is set for Saturday, May 21st, from 9:00 am to Noon. Followed by a Sloppy-Joe lunch in the pavilion. Everyone is welcome especially if they bring their own tools.

The club’s only fund raiser is its annual plant sale. The weather has turned perfect so it’s a good opportunity for members to pot up their plants to have them ready to sell by June, Smoker says. The sale is June 4th at the community pavilion. Members will have bigger sized plants that sell well and are easier to organize than the smaller pots. Also, plants that have been potted a few weeks in advance are preferred by customers. There will be plant sticks in each pot to label the variety and price. They will also have garden related flea-market items.

Hearty Hustle 5K Kicks Off Its 29th Year

By Sue Moore

“The theme for the 29th running of the Vicksburg Hearty Hustle is based upon the yin and yang of being healthy–balancing body, mind and spirit,” says Tonya Nash. The race, traditionally the second Saturday of the month, this year will leave the starting line at 9 a.m. May 14, from the Vicksburg High School stadium parking lot. Nash and Beckie Oswalt in the Vicksburg Community Education Department have been involved in planning for the Hearty Hustle for many years. “We see how much fun the participants are having. They bring their entire family to either run or walk and feel good for making the effort, balancing their own yin and yang.”

The Community Education department is assisted by Amy Manchester and Steve Goss in the assistant superintendent’s office representing the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation, which has sponsored the race for the past two years. “It is a great harmonious community event as the course runs through the streets of Vicksburg,” Manchester says. “Everyone is a winner by moving and participating.” There are awards for those who place in the race, and drawings for raffle prizes for everyone. The Baby Bolt is especially fun for the young children from one to four years of age. All of the children receive a medal and are filled with pride.

A special volunteer award each year is given in the name of Gary Hollenbeck who was instrumental in creating the Hearty Hustle. The winner is not announced until after the race is finished. Last year, Joni Nichols and Jody Maher were recognized for their many years of quietly volunteering to help set up the stadium with chairs, tables and water, and work the clean-up detail, all behind the scenes.

Registration for the race is online The online entry fee through May 12 is $14 for adults. Children through grade five and seniors pay $10. It’s ok to decide to enter the race at the last minute, but the price goes up accordingly. One of a kind T-shirts and hoodie sweatshirts are available for purchase with registration on the day of the event or at pre-registration on Friday, May 13 at Sunset Lake Elementary from 4:30-7 p.m.

Race partners are Bronson Vicksburg Outpatient Center, Village of Vicksburg, Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation, and Vicksburg Community Schools. Other important contributors are: Kaye Bennett who sponsors the Carl Bennett Photo Moment; Leon Hayward honoring his wife Tina, who competed well past the age of 50 in both local and national distance races and Family Fare through the donation of food and drink for the runners. So far this year Ozland Enterprises, Bubs73 Foundation, EIMO Technologies, Family Doctors of Vicksburg, PC, Fred’s Pharmacy, Grossman Law, Hungry Howie’s, Kalamazoo County State Bank and Houghton Manufacturing have all stepped up to help sponsor the event.

Girl Scouts Seeking Garage Sale Customers, Items to Sell

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Paryn Norman, Amanda Munn, Sage Moser, Emmaline Miller and Julie Gettle stand on a symbolic bridge as the “bridge” over to the Ambassador level in Girl Scouts last year.

By Sue Moore

Five Vicksburg students, Girl Scouts working on their organization’s top Gold Award, are raising funds for service projects and travel.

The five, members of Troop 80809, are planning a garage sale during the Old Car Festival Saturday, June 11. First, they’re looking for donations of items to sell.

The girls are Vicksburg High juniors Paryn Norman, Julie Gettle, and Amanda Munn, in scouting since kindergarten, plus Vickburg High sophomore Emmaline Miller and home-schooler Sage Moser.

Girl Scouting’s Gold Award is similar to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Award.

The garage sale is planned at the Munn’s home at 215 Wayland Street just off Silver Street in Vicksburg by the Shell Station.

The girls collectively don’t have a lot of garage sale items to make the kind of money they need for each to take home $100 to $400 in sales. They are asking the community to donate items to their sale. They are offering to pick up anything during the next month that donors are willing to part with. A call to Paryn Norman at 649-2306 should get the job done quickly.

Norman, Gettle and Munn are making a trip to the Caribbean as part of their Gold Award project, a project the troop has saved for since the girls were in middle school. Scouting encourages multi-cultural experiences so scouts have more understanding and compassion for other nations and cultures. Part of the Girl Scout code is to “make the world a better place.”

Their cruise from Port Canaveral, Fla. will take them to Mexico, Jamaica, Haiti, and Grand Cayman. The troop is helping them finance the trip but each girl needs to kick in another $300 to $400 for travel expenses. Their travel includes a stop in Tampa to do a service project at a county park. The girls have been responsible for budgeting, their itinerary and obtaining passports as well as raising their own money.

The girls entered scouting as Daisy Scouts, then progressed to Ambassador Scouts, the next level to Gold. The basic requirements for a project to achieve the Gold Award include:

• A minimum of 80 hours of service for a non-profit, or government organization in the community–but not for a scouting project.

• It must be sustainable. The benefit must continue after the project is complete.

• It must have a definable beginning and end.

• It should have 20-40 hours contributed by other volunteers–helpers.

• It should begin with the end in mind.

• Financing (fundraising) cannot ac count for more than 20% of the hours.

Each girl chooses a project to complete by the time she is 18 and off to her first semester in college. Munn has decided to make knotted blankets to donate to a homeless shelter. Norman is planning on her project benefiting the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Southwest Michigan, where she volunteers regularly. Miller has plans to clean out the storage space for costumes at the high school since she has been involved in many stage productions at the Performing Arts Center. She will take pictures of the props and inventory the many clothing items stored in the room. Gettle is talking with South County Community Services but is still deciding on her project. Moser’s project will benefit MusiCares, a group that helps struggling musicians.

The troop is also getting help from Jaspare’s on Sprinkle Road. It’s donating a portion of its sales all day Sunday, May 22, to Troop 80809.

National Food Drive Benefits Local Food Banks

Vicksburg, Fulton, Schoolcraft and Scotts postal carriers are all participating in the United States Postal Service’s Stamp Out Hunger national food drive, the largest one-day food drive in the nation. It is held every second Saturday in May. This year it’s on May 14 in over 10,000 cities and towns across America.

Carriers in Scotts, Schoolcraft, Fulton and Vicksburg will be happy to pick up any non-perishable food donation left out by individual mail boxes on that day. They then drive the goodies collected to the South County Community Services office at 103 S. Kalamazoo St., in Vicksburg. Volunteers will be on hand to accept the donations and sort them for distribution to those in need.

Danna Downing, executive director of SCCS, warns that any items collected that have an expired date or are damaged cannot be utilized. “It’s very important to receive up-to-date items so we don’t have to dispose of them,” she says. “One year past the BEST IF USED BY or USE BY date on the product is our guideline.”

“In particular, we need canned meats, fish, soups, juice, vegetables, pasta, cereal, peanut butter and rice, all non-perishable foods.”

The Purple Martin Returns to Michigan

purple martins 2Editor’s Note: Penny Briscoe is a Vicksburg resident who lives on Barton Lake. She is past president of Audubon Society of Kalamazoo and currently serves on the Board of Directors. She is a Master Naturalist through the Michigan State Extension Service and a purple martin landlord for 30 years.

By Penny Briscoe

The purple martins’ perilous 5,000-mile migration from Brazil to Michigan is now underway. Adults, which arrive as early as late March, head by instinct to last year’s nesting site, if it still exists, or search purposefully for a new one. The yearlings, which arrive between mid-May and mid-June, seek out a colony with space and hope to establish a lifetime summer residence.

These Federally protected, native migratory songbirds are the largest of the swallows at 2 ½ ounces. They nest only in human-provided housing near people to be safer from predators like hawks, owls, and raccoons. Colony-type houses or gourd clusters must be typically at least 40 feet from tall trees and, in Michigan, near water.

Their dependence on humans began with Native Americans who hung gourds in their villages for entertainment and insect control. American settlers continued the tradition by building ornate housing. As John James Audubon wrote in 1831 in one of his published journals about birds: “Almost every country tavern has a martin box on the upper part of its sign-board; and I have observed that the handsomer the box, the better does the inn generally prove to be.”

These insectivores feed only on flying insects, and the first birds each spring risk their lives to get the prime real estate. Insects do not fly when temperatures are below 55 degrees, and three or more days of prolonged cold, wind or snow means starvation. The thousands of humans in the country today who seek to attract these birds often assist by setting out in trays fresh-frozen crickets, mealworms or scrambled eggs to sustain them. But it is unnatural behavior for them to eat like this, unless somewhere in their travels they have been conditioned by a persistent person to do so.

These concerned volunteers, called “landlords,” may also track spring arrival, monitor nests to increase fledging rates, and supply important observations and data to the Purple Martin Conservation Association. In many states, they sponsor well-attended purple-martin festivals for fun and education that provide children with hands-on experiences.

Yet, with these efforts, purple martin numbers are plummeting, especially in the Great Lakes region. “Of the swallow gild (a group of species), hands down, purple martins have an abundance level very much more in decline,” said Caleb Putnam, Michigan Important Bird Areas Coordinator for the National Audubon Society.

Theories about the decline include a shortage of nesting cavities due to loss of human interest, climate change, insect shortages from heavy pesticide use, and the invasive European starling and English sparrow, which out-compete the purple martin for nesting cavities and raise multiple broods annually compared to the purple martin’s one. Controlling these two invasives is legal: The U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act does not protect them.

The bubbly songs and happy chortles of purple martins often can be heard high in the sky. They maneuver and dive in aerial acrobatics to capture their prey. “They … are known to be effective pest controllers,” according to the Museum of Zoology at University of Michigan. Amish farmers often host large colonies for this purpose, and, they value them for entertainment and the longstanding tradition of welcoming them on their land.

Purple martins often are banded to study their migration. They also have been linked to the pollination process by consuming related insects and spiders, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some have been outfitted with geotrackers to study the atmosphere. In the South, purple martins are flying as high as 6,500 feet while consuming invasive fire ants and other insects when they descend. “We calculate that across the entire southern U.S., purple martins eat billions of dispersing fire ant queens—each one a potential new colony—every year,” according to University of Oklahoma research.
“Birds are a very important part of the ecosystem, and removing them upsets the system,” said Kellogg Bird Sanctuary Manager Lisa Duke.