Monthly Archives: June 2016

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

Get Your Tickets for Hidden Vicksburg on August 6

hidden_jffollmerCreaky attics, old cellars and more are the focus of the first annual Hidden Vicksburg event hosted by the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority (DDA) in collaboration with the Vicksburg Historical Society (VHS). The event is set for Saturday, August 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The tour begins at the Vicksburg Community Center, 101 S. Main St. It will include a presentation on the “Hidden Secrets of Vicksburg’s Past” by VHS historian Maggie Snyder at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and tours of some of Vicksburg’s oldest buildings, including the old McElvain Hotel, Vicksburg fire station and historic jail and J.F. Follmer Hardware Store.

Participants will receive a punch card to visit all eight buildings where a guide will provide a costumed tour of the building complete with the site’s history and a souvenir tour guide of their expedition into the past with a map, tour listing and historic photos. Tickets are $10 per person, with children 4 and under free. They can be purchased online at, at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center, 200 S. Main St., and will also be available during the event at the Community Center while tickets last.

During the tour you will see how some of the upper stories have been converted into loft apartments and some that haven’t seen light in decades. The goal of the event is to create awareness of Vicksburg’s historical contribution in Kalamazoo County, attract visitors and to serve as a fundraiser for the DDA’s façade improvement fund and provide operating support for the Historical Society. Unearth the hidden secrets that lie in the bricks and streets of Vicksburg while you explore mysteries of the past.

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

Garden Honors Sue Dornbos

garden 2A note from Dr. David Schriemer of Family Doctors of Vicksburg and a special contributor to stories in this newspaper: “You should drive by the front of our office and take a look at the garden that was just planted. When Sue Dornbos died the staff quickly came up with the idea of making a garden in front of the office in her honor. They have completed that project already (several husbands were drafted to help). They made the garden look like Sue’s backyard using decorations and a chair that came from her yard. We also put a plaque up on the building to honor Sue. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Weinberg Makes Full Recovery from Lung Transplant

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Todd Weinberg in front of his corn harvesting rig.

By David Schriemer, MD

Todd Weinberg, 47-year-old farmer from Scotts, had lung transplantation March 13, 2013 at the University of Michigan. His lifelong struggle with cystic fibrosis and the accompanying breathing problems were detailed in the November 2013 issue of the South County News.

Prior to surgery, Todd struggled to breathe. He was on oxygen continuously. His lung function was 16% of normal. He could barely walk across a room. Todd reports his lung function is now 104% of normal and he hopes to improve on that. “I can breathe like a wild stallion!” he says. He still has soreness in his chest from surgery, but now his activity is limited by muscle fatigue and not shortness of breath.
Todd even looks different. Before surgery, he was 5’10” tall and weighed 132 pounds. His body used so many calories breathing he couldn’t put on weight. Now he is even taller at 5’ 11 1/2” because he no longer hunches over to breathe, and weighs 185.

Todd has to take vitamins, supplements, digestive enzymes, anti rejection medicines and antiviral medicines to stay healthy. He takes 60 pills per day. He has not had any serious infections or complications.

Todd is so grateful for his health. “It was a God thing all the way. It was perfect timing, not my timing.” Todd adds, “I still haven’t figured out why God kept me around.” Those around him are certainly glad He did.

Vicksburg United Way Allocations Announced

Laura Howard serves many roles in Vicksburg and sports her Live United t-shirt as she does sound checks for the Rotary Club annual Showboat.

The Vicksburg United Way allocations committee faced some tough decisions this month. It wrestled with total requests for $26,800 but had just $11,992 to spend. This was in part due to the overall United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region’s campaign missing its goal by about 10 percent.

The Vicksburg campaign is a part of the larger effort and receives an amount to allocate based on the results of the overall campaign. A request for funding was received from South County Community Services (SCCS) for $10,000. This new program is designed to assist people with aging well in the community. It was deemed an important initiative for SCCS so its funding was granted. Generous Hands’ request of $15,000 for backpack food was whittled down to $1,992, the remainder of the local money available.

Requests from Vicksburg Community Schools Community Education scholarship program for $1,500 had to be turned down as did the Vicksburg District Library’s request for $300 to fund its summer reading program. “These are very worthy requests that we have funded in the past. The committee is hoping it can find the replacement dollars locally as both are good programs for kids during the summer months,” according to Laura Howard, chair of the Vicksburg United Way effort.

Howard has been involved in United Way for many years both in Vicksburg and on the board of United Way of the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek Region. She was honored recently at the campaign wrap-up gathering. Howard was among 15 people who were singled out for their leadership contributions to United Way. “Laura has the ability to see the big picture and exhibits a good planning mind. She is dedicated to the adjacent communities program, having involvement with the overall program and having led the Vicksburg program for almost 30 years,” said Mike Larson, United Way regional CEO and president, in handing her the award.

Others serving on the local campaign committee include Tim Moore, Carol Lohman, Gen Landtroop, Danna Downing, Tonya Nash, Sue Moore and Travis Cree. Nash and Downing recused themselves from the voting.