Monthly Archives: June 2016

Fourth of July in Schoolcraft Draws Huge Crowds

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Walther Farms and its employees take part in the 4th of July parade. They often give out potato chips which are made from the potatoes raised on their farm. They are gathering here before the parade starts.

By Sue Moore

Celebrating the 4th of July with a parade and a ton of other activities has been a tradition in Schoolcraft for over 90 years. What makes this celebration different from the observances in other towns? Could be the over 10,000 people who line U.S. 131 three and four deep to see the parade, said Courtney Adams, one of the new persons taking over the event that has such a big draw for a village of 1,500 people.

Schoolcraft village is packed with many other activities leading up the huge fireworks display at dusk, according to Virginia Mongreig who has been involved for many years. She is coordinating the activities this time along her husband, Chip, who has been the fireworks guru for 15 years.

It takes a host of people to make all the events happen and 2016 is no exception. Newcomers to organizing the parade are TJ Gill and his girlfriend, Courtney Adams. They have big shoes to fill because Deb Reynolds has been the parade organizer for the last 14 years. Fortunately, Adams works with Reynolds at Kalamazoo County State Bank, where there is a company policy of giving back to the community, allowing them to take some time from work to get things done for the parade.

This year’s parade will feature Grand Marshal Tiana Carruthers, the first person targeted in a Feb. 20 shooting rampage by an Uber driver in Kalamazoo County which left six dead and two, including Tiana, injured, and the organization Kalamazoo Strong. The organization is a group of concerned citizens who organized after the shooting rampage, and again after June 7, when the Chain Gang bicyclists were struck by a pickup truck, leaving five dead and four hospitalized with serious injuries. “It’s all about Kalamazoo this year,” Mongreig pointed out.

Tiana is very susceptible to loud noise according to Sheriff Richard Fuller who will be accompanying her. Thus, fire engines have been asked not to activate their sirens as they drive down the parade route.

When the parade celebrities pass by the reviewing stand and announcer Doug Flynn, they will be treated to a rendition of the National Anthem by Schoolcraft’s own Sara Taylor-Kowalski. She studied vocal music for four years at Western Michigan University after growing up in Schoolcraft and singing for many local events.

Prizes will be given to sponsors of winning floats for creativity and decorative enhancements.

Schoolcraft’s 91th Annual Independence Day Celebration

IMG_3617Monday, July 4, 2016

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

Veterans Honored in the Schoolcraft Parade

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Max Loker designed this float for the Schoolcraft 4th of July parade. He has invited veterans to accompany him on this first of five hay wagons that carry service men and women in the parade.

By Sue Moore

A float honoring veterans which has been entered in the Schoolcraft parade for the last 10 years or more will no longer be organized by Max Loker, a Schoolcraft resident and former Marine. 2015 was his last year, but he is expecting others to step in to honor veterans as he has done for many years.

To adorn the float, he acquired a silhouette of the flag raising on Iwo Jima from a man who had it on his barn but was ready to give it away, Loker said. “We put it on a hay wagon and invited retired military to sit on the float.”

“I just shake the bushes each year and some guys fall out to be on the float. I invite them to ride and tell them it won’t cost them a thing. This observance is not for me, it’s for the veterans. The first and only mishap occurred last year when one of the riders fell off. But he got right back on and rode the whole rest of the way. It’s tough to get around corners with five wagons all linked together.”

“We have grown this observance for our veterans and it makes me really proud. In fact, being in the parade is one of the greatest experiences I have had in life because people show us their love as we ride down the street. We had two kids playing taps one year. The crowd would stand and it seemed like we were all on the same page, just real American people appreciating those who have served.”

Loker’s most memorable moment was his Talons Out Honors Flight to Washington, D.C. in 2014. For a farm kid from Vicksburg to go to the nation’s capital and be treated with such dignity and respect was a once in a lifetime thing, Loker said. He entered the Marines in 1954, a year after graduating from Vicksburg High School. It was during the Korean War but all of his service was spent at 29 Palms, Calif.

For the last few years, the Schoolcraft parade has been honored by a fly-over by the Air National Guard at the start of the parade. One year, a parade official had been trying to arrange it but wasn’t getting the right answer. Loker called the captain at the base in Indiana and said it wasn’t acceptable when there would be all these veterans riding in the parade. He insisted the team journey over Schoolcraft on their way to Indiana and Ohio. They were right on time that year.

“When the parade is all over, we have to quickly unload the wagons and get them back to the farmers we’ve borrowed them from. The 4th of July almost always comes right in the middle of haying time,” Loker said.

Cruise in to the Schoolcraft Car Show

car 14By Linda Lane

Roadsters, muscle cars, coupes and classic cars will cruise into Schoolcraft on July 4th for the Annual Car Show in Birch Park from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“This is the third year we’ve held the Annual Car Show. The day goes so fast with so many things happening, it’s really an exciting event. The day is really for the car owners to show off their cars,” Theresa O’Leary said. O’Leary organizes the Annual Car Show with Village Manager Cheri Lutz.

“We send out letters in May inviting car owners to participate and we’ve had close to 100 cars in the past couple of years,” O’Leary said. Car owners who pre-register pay only $10 to participate; owners who pay on arrival are charged $15.

The Village of Schoolcraft awards trophies to the “Top Ten” cars, which are determined by the cars owners’ votes. There will be three additional trophies: Ladies’ Choice; Village Officials Choice; and Local Business Choice.

During the event, door prizes are drawn including gift cards from local restaurants and businesses and a gift bag from a local dentist. A 50/50 drawing will be held with proceeds going to the local food bank. Volunteers will be on hand to help park cars and help with the activities of the day.

Several food vendors will be stationed in Birch Park, including “The Beginnings” with barbecue, and Mike King, known as “the Weinie King” selling hotdogs. A DJ, Nate Henschel, will be playing music in the park.

Firecracker Miler Fundraiser

The Schoolcraft Athletic Boosters are in charge of the five-mile Firecracker run at 8 a.m. on the 4th of July in Schoolcraft. It is a fundraiser for the Boosters who do many good things for the high school athletic program, according to Wade Rutkoskie, the group’s president.

Some of the proceeds go to the fireworks display at dusk, bringing many people back to the high school for the largest show of its kind in the area.

Those who want a mild bit of exercise can participate in the one-mile fun run/walk at 7:30 a.m. Both runs start at the high school with the one-mile a free, fun, non-competitive outing for people of all ages. Finishers receive a participation ribbon.

The five-mile race is unique because of its distance and its fast and flat course. The cost to participate is $25 for early registration and $30 on the day of the event. There will be an awards ceremony and door prizes given out at 9:10 a.m.

Lions Pancake Breakfast

pancakesThe Schoolcraft Lions Club prepares pancakes for the multitudes on the 4th of July from 7 to 11 a.m. at the school’s upper elementary cafeteria. “It’s a great way to start the full day of activities in Schoolcraft,” according to Molly Hartlieb, a Lions Club member.

During the breakfast a special free vision screening for children ages 1-5 will be held. That’s because one of the missions of the national service organization is eyeglass assistance for those in need. Besides that, many of the dollars raised go right back into community for the Eagle’s Nest food pantry, weekend backpack program, and South County Community Services.

The cost is $6 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-12. Children under five and uniformed military and police are free. The Lions Club is a nonprofit organization that also supports Leader Dogs for the Blind, the Michigan Eye Bank, KidSight, and the Michigan All-State Band.

Summer Festival Schedule

THURSDAY, JULY 21, FAMILY NIGHT
B&B Opens (No Lunch) 4 p.m.
Food Prices for Children – $1.00
Children’s Games, Crafts, & Raffle 6-8 p.m.
Magic Show-Ron Jaxon 7 p.m.
Free Kidsight Vision Screening 6-8 p.m.
Live Music-The Hatfield & McCoys 9 p.m.-12 a.m.

FRIDAY, JULY 22
B&B Opens for Lunch 11 a.m.
Adult Cornhole Tournament 6-9 p.m.
Live Music – Back Roads Band 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.

SATURDAY, JULY 23
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.
Please Note: Thursday Night is Family Night and all ages are welcome. Friday and Saturday nights after 9 p.m., no one under the age of 21 will be allowed in the B&B tent area.

Fun for the Whole Family at the Summer Festival

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Kids’ Night on Thursday, July 21 features lots of games, a magician and even eyesight testing.

By Sue Moore

It will be 43 years and going strong when the Vicksburg Lions Club opens the gates to the community pavilion on July 21, 22, and 23 for the Summer Festival, better known as “Beer and Bratwurst,” and further abbreviated to “B & B.”

This longevity is due to the hard work of the Lions Club over the years. The club first opened its doors for a party at the old Helms Garage in downtown Vicksburg to serve Otto Kaak’s homemade brats and sauerkraut and offer beer to go with this fine German combination.

It was a sellout hit for the Lions, launching the B & B as the chief money maker for the club ever since, according to Doug Stafinski, mastermind of the event for 16 years. The location for the festival has changed many times. In 2014 it found a permanent home when the Lions Club helped to sponsor the building of the community pavilion on N. Richardson Street, adjacent to the Historic Village. The pavilion is also used for the Farmers’ Market which will move its Friday, July 24 offerings to the grounds of the Historic Village for that one day of the season.

Kid Friendly Opening Night

The festival offers family fun on its opening Thursday night with games for the children, animal balloons that and a magician who was a big hit in 2015. Ron Jaxon will be back with an even bigger and better show this year according to Stafinski.

A Kidsight screening program aimed at identifying future and existing vision problems in children will be offered free by the Lions International to visitors on Thursday, June 23 from 6-8 p.m. The screening practice uses a special camera to take a picture of the child’s eyes and is one of the organization’s important services to the community. It is hoped that at least 50 kids will take advantage of this service. They also collect eyeglasses for reuse in developing countries at various locations in downtown Vicksburg.

For the first time, a band is being offered for entertainment on Thursday night. The Hatfield and McCoys will take the stage from 9 p.m.-midnight to keep things rocking.

Cornhole Tournament on Friday

The ever popular cornhole tourney takes place from 6-9 p.m. on Friday with a double elimination and a draw for partners. Last year the winning combination of Steve Heath and Bill Rager took the prize. There were 92 players in 2015. It is expected that 100 players will sign up this year.

The live music kicks in at 8:30 p.m. with the Back Roads Band playing until 12:30 a.m.

Horseshoes are King on Saturday

The annual horseshoe tournament will begin clanking at 11 a.m. following the Vicksburg High School Alumni breakfast. The graduating class of 1965 will play host to this year’s 1966 class that is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The requirement to attend this get-together is having graduated from Vicksburg 50 years or more ago or be the spouse of a graduate. It’s a time for seniors to remember the “good old days,” and try to guess who that person is from out of town that hasn’t been seen in decades.

The horseshoe tournament is an annual duel between some of the best players in the area with plenty of rivalry to go along with the boasts and beer. The champions last year were Jeff Mohney and Dan Mendham. The band South County takes over from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
There were 44 barrels of beer consumed in 2015, way down from the record 90 barrels a few years back. There were 2,000 brats sold. Since the club’s inception through the members’ hard work with the festival and other fundraisers such as the golf tournament in the fall, the members have put over $601,000 back into the community, according to Stafinski.

Apple Knockers is a Unique Restaurant in Vicksburg

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The two daughters of Apple Knockers fame, surround their mom who makes it all fit together. They are from left to right: Angie Palomaki, Paula Hochstetler, and Rita Sertic.

By Sheryl Oswalt

Roll back to 1964 and you would have found Lyndon B. Johnson running against Senator Barry Goldwater for President and a busy ice cream parlor in Vicksburg. Fast forward and we’re in the midst of another exciting election season and there’s still a busy ice cream parlor in Vicksburg. On some nights, it’s so busy there’s a line up on the street, and for good reason: Paula Hochstetler and her daughters, Angela Palomaki and Rita Sertic, have made Apple Knockers a hopping place in town.

Seven years ago, Angela and Rita were looking for work that would allow them to avoid putting their children in day care. The community was looking for ice cream and the home of the original Tasty Freeze was available. With experience in food service but not ice cream, the ladies struck a deal with the owners and set out to recreate the atmosphere of the old-fashioned ice cream parlor.

Imagine their surprise when removal of the carpet in the building revealed the incredible terrazzo floors fitting the look they were going for!

Why Apple Knockers, I asked. The short answer hangs on the wall. What it doesn’t say is that an apple knocker is also the coined name used for those from the Lower Peninsula bringing apples and produce over the Bridge, first for food and later for baiting deer. Angela’s husband Tim is their U.P. connection. Growing up in Marquette, his family originated the famous Apple Knockers pasties.

Pasties are just one of the items on their limited but complimentary-to-ice cream food menu. Whether it’s their pecan-bread pudding, corn bread casserole, chicken salad or their unique (and yummy) coleslaw, each item comes with special family memories. Their homemade pies were first made by Fannie Mae Hochstetler, Paula’s mother-in-law, who made pies for the Essenhaus in Indiana. Paula did much of the cooking in the early days until her brother Mike Keith made the move from Oregon to become their chief cook and pie maker.

They serve Plainwell and Ashby’s ice creams, both made in Michigan. They offer over 60 rotating flavors. My personal favorite has been the key lime pie, now followed by coconut. While interviewing, I made sure to put in my plug for our family’s favorite “Tiger Tiger” ice cream, which we have only found in Canada.

They have been blessed with great young people from the area for help. She credits the parents and the school system for raising fine young people that are very important to the success of their business. Applicants must first be good students as school should be their number one priority. They must be at least 16 years old and while working there they will learn everything necessary in food service. With Paula and her daughters as teachers, I am sure they learn many other valuable life lessons as they are obviously very caring people. I think Paula hit the nail on the head when she said that in order to be successful in food service you first have to have the heart of a servant.

Not only do the ladies work well together, Paula’s husband Bill and their sons-in-law, Tim and Nick, work together at Kepco, Inc.; an electro-polishing facility owned and operated by the Hochstetlers here in Vicksburg. Angela and Rita have been able to rotate work shifts and raise their children as they had hoped and fortunately they found working together very enjoyable. It won’t be long and they will be adding another generation to the work force. Paula also indicated that they are looking at yet another family business opportunity in the Vicksburg area, so stay tuned for more on that!

You will find Apple Knockers open from March to about November 1st. While waiting for my interview with Paula, I overheard an older couple sharing with a friend that they had gotten a cocktail at the golf course, had supper at Yogi’s and were now there for some dessert. Spreading the wealth, you might say! I have to say that the folks in Vicksburg have a dedication to keeping it local that you just don’t find everywhere; and I’m happy to say it’s really rubbing off on me!

Vicksburg Façade Loan Program Boosted to $80,000

The face of Vicksburg is changing with the addition of a $50,000 loan by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Added to a previous amount of $30,000 from the Vicksburg Foundation, it now provides an $80,000 low-interest loan fund for facade projects.

The Vicksburg DDA Board recently expanded requirements for the program. Building owners can now borrow up to $10,000, up from the previous $5,000 loan limit, over three years. The Board also expanded the use of the funds for rear facade upgrades, tuck pointing, power spraying, porches/decks, balconies, roofs, facade design services and fire suppression in addition to awning, window, door, trim and lighting in the previous program. Interested property owners in the Vicksburg DDA district should contact the DDA at 269-679-1919 for more information.

This spring the Local Initiatives Support Corporation provided a $10,000 facade grant which the DDA matched with $13,474 for a total grant fund of $23,475 with a maximum grant amount of $2,500. The grant was awarded to 10 projects for a variety of improvements including awnings, windows, balcony, brick restoration, and other facade enhancements. The projects resulted in $78,095 in new facade investment in downtown Vicksburg buildings. “We are hoping the new grant program awards will spur additional investment in downtown facade using the enhanced loan program this year”, said Kathleen Hoyle, Vicksburg DDA Director. “It’s been amazing to watch the changes, as well as the enthusiasm, by the downtown building owners and merchants as we continue to make their visions of downtown a reality.”

“Kalamazoo LISC supports projects that enhance and push forward additional investment strategies and this project does exactly that! Our intent with this support is to jumpstart retail and commercial development by supporting quality improvements to storefronts in Vicksburg. We have enjoyed getting to know such a motivated partner like Vicksburg keeping us on our toes and we are excited for their future,“ says Chuck Vliek, program vice president/executive director Michigan LISC.

Three other projects are slated for construction this year for Vicksburg to continue creating the Vicksburg Vision. The first project is the new trailhead which is currently under construction at the corner of North St. and Richardson St. Two other projects in which surveys and site plans have been recently completed are going to bid in the few weeks, including the conversion of the alley on S. Main St. into the Liberty Lane East pedestrian walkway and a complete reconstruction of the main parking lot between Prairie St. and Washington St.

The Vicksburg DDA is an economic development organization that promotes and embraces Vicksburg’s rich heritage by showcasing unique boutiques in historic storefronts, and offers dining, event and entertainment experiences to enhance quality of life opportunities in the region. For more information, visit the website VicksburgDDA.com.