Arts Center Takes Charge of the Art Stroll in Vicksburg

By Leigh Fryling

Downtown Vicksburg will be lighting up with art, music and summer sunshine Saturday, August 27 from 6 -9 p.m. In the style of the Kalamazoo Art Hop, the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) has invited 15 businesses and more than 40 local artists and musicians to celebrate the end of summer with displays of their work and a series of mini concerts scattered all over town.

The Stroll begins at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center, 200 S. Main Street, where patrons can pick up a brochure outlining the Art Stroll locations and identifying the artists and musicians. Each location will feature either a local artist displaying work, a local musician showcasing music or in many instances both. The brochure will contain information about special features at various locations, such as drink and food specials, discounts and more. Locations will also be indicated by sandwich boards and balloons, so patrons can easily see where the Art Stroll path will lead them next.

The VCAC is also featuring a special program, Children’s Art Purchase Program (CAPP). Children 15 and under will be able to purchase for themselves a work of art from participating artists for less than $10. Some works will be available for under $5! This program gives children the opportunity to engage with artists, learn about art forms and establish their own private collection of art.

Patrons are welcome to take their time visiting each location, and to finish the Stroll in as much or little time as they like. Dessert and beverages will be available at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center, but everyone is encouraged to take advantage of the local pubs and restaurants as part of the experience. With a wide variety of artists and musicians and a pleasant stroll in downtown Vicksburg, the Summer Art Stroll is sure to become a summertime staple in the Vicksburg calendar, according to Syd Bastos, the event coordinator and operations manager of the VCAC.

Round Peg Square Dance at the Farmers’ Market Pavilion

pav for sq dance
The square dance will be under the rafters of the community pavilion on N. Richardson Street.

By Sue Moore

Grab your partner and do-si-do at the Round Peg Square Dance, sponsored by the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market as a fundraiser on Saturday, August 20 from 6 to 11 p.m. at the community pavilion.

The Celery City Sodbusters will be playing music starting at 7 p.m. and calling square dances for this old-fashioned shindig, said Stella Shearer, market board president. There will be square dancing instructions for the first half hour, included in the $5 ticket price for those who would like to brush up on their dancing skills.

The many customers who love the Farmers’ Market will find this chance to support the extras that the market offers by attending the fundraiser, Shearer said. Square dancers can have a great time harkening back to the days when families would get together for food, fun, and to tap their toes to some good old barn dance music, Shearer pointed out.

Besides, it’s for a good cause. The market wants to expand its offering to children who are trying to eat their veggies and adults who are learning easy ways to prepare them. Kids’ Plate will be the beneficiary of the donations. This is a program that Carol LaFrance and Penny Allen started when the market was still headquartered at the Bobby’s location. Each month, the vendors have been asked to donate fruits or vegetables that are in season. Kids’ Plate gives hands-on opportunities to children who come with their parents to the market. They can see how to prepare food they thought they would never eat, and then how great it tastes when they sample it after fixing it themselves. LaFrance also started Eating Healthy on a Budget to demonstrate the many ways to conserve precious dollars while learning to like fresh vegetables.

Special food for the evening will be offered by Beginnings from Schoolcraft, which was a market vendor for several years. The menu includes a pulled pork sandwich dinner for $9, two pulled pork sliders for $9, a smoked chicken one quarter leg for $8, two smoked brats or two hot dogs for $6. They all come with two sides: coleslaw, potato salad or chips. A kids’ meal for 12 and under includes one hot dog, chips and soda and costs $5. A donation for draft beer and red or white wine will be accepted.

Sponsors for the event include the Mike and Sharon Seelye Foundation, Thad Reeder Automotive, KEPCO Manufacturing, Oswalt Electric and Classic Mortgage.

Farmers’ Market Cooking Demo by Angels Crossing Chef

cook demo 1
Gary Vermeulen of Right-Way Rental conducted a cooking demo in June but couldn’t give out samples. The new license allows the Farmers’ Market and Creekside Grille to offer small bites to customers as they watch the chef work his magic.

By Sue Moore

Lots of seasonal produce is coming ripe at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market, such as sweet corn, blueberries, raspberries, peppers, squash, and broccoli. To celebrate this quantity of riches, the market has invited Joe Tsui, chef at the new Creekside Grille at Angels Crossing as its special guest.

He is planning a delightful cooking demonstration at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market on Friday, August 19 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the south end of the pavilion, according to Carol Meyer-Niedzwiecki, co-market manager. “Joe was a celebrated chef at the Vault before it closed and now he has taken up residence at Angels Crossing to the delight of his many area fans. He will be preparing some of the vegetables that are in season and showing the audience how he works his magic in the kitchen.”

All of this is possible because the market has spent the last three months prepping for a special license from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). This license will allow food to be cooked and shared with customers on the market’s site. “It was a rigorous application and meant an inspection by the MDARD inspector. He found the market in the community pavilion to be up to health and safety standards and issued our permit on the spot,” Meyer-Niedzwiecki reported.

Each of the vendors were inspected as part of gaining the cooking demo license and all of them passed with flying colors. “This is an important step for us,” she said. “Now we can do more educational sessions with children and adults. We’ve been a big proponent of Kids’ Plate each month for the last four years at the market. Now we can add other cooking demos such as Eating Healthy on a Budget and bring in well-known chefs to show customers how they whip up those spectacular dishes we all wish we could make at home. We plan to have another celebrity chef cooking demonstration in September too featuring the chef from the Dek.”

Lions Club Announces Winners of Summer Tourneys

Backpack Bonanza Gets Back to School Started Early

backpack 2
Bubs73 members from left to right: Melissa Miller, Kathy McCormick, Shelley Steinmiller. In back from left to right: Sheri Louis, Connor McCormick and Tom Miller.

The hot summer weather the community has been experiencing does not lend itself to thinking about back to school, according to Sheri Louis, Generous Hands executive director. But she has been making plans for the annual Backpack Bonanza on August 6 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Lakeland Reformed Church on Sprinkle Road for some time now.

This event is co-sponsored by South County Community Services (SCCS) and Generous Hands, Inc. It is designed to provide school backpacks and age-appropriate school supplies to children served by either the Generous Hands Friday Pack program or services offered by SCCS. Many items are donated by local stores.

There will be games for the kids, face painting, and lunch served by Bub’s 73 Foundation. Representatives from other service agencies will also be available to provide information about their programs. Eligible families should register for this event by calling 269-370-7965 or 269-649-2901.

Last year’s Backpack Bonanza provided backpacks and school supplies to an estimated 111 students enrolled in the Vicksburg School System. The Bub’s 73 Foundation served lunch to over 180 children and parents.

Sunset Lake Bathing Beach Declared Safe for Swimming

beach 1The Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department has lifted the Public Health Advisory for the bathing beach on Sunset Lake at Sunset Lake Park, which was issued on Monday, July 18.

As a result of the bathing beach water-quality sampling program done this year through the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department, nine public bathing beaches are monitored weekly for levels of bacteria. Results of samples taken on Monday, July 25, from the bathing beach area between Frakes Street and McKain Street, revealed a significant improvement in surface water quality.  Water quality at this location is now in compliance to Michigan’s Water Quality Standards for total body contact recreation.  Samples collected on July 26, indicate the following bacteriological results:

The geometric mean of all samples collected over the last 30-day period is 81.9 E. coli per 100 ml, which is in compliance with Michigan’s Water Quality Standards for total body contact standard of 130 per 100 ml.

Based upon these sample results, the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department is lifting the public health advisory at the bathing beach area. The village has been notified to resume normal operation and the health advisory signs will be removed.  The county will continue to monitor this location to verify compliance. The next beach monitoring event will take place August 2.

Further information is available on the latest beach advisories and more about the Bathing Beach Monitoring Program at

Historical Society Announces Pie Judging Contest

Harvest Festival 086
Judges Diane Randall, Tonya Nash, David Aubry, sample the cream pies in a past year’s pie baking contest at the Harvest Festival.

By Sue Moore

The upcoming Harvest Festival wouldn’t be complete without a successful pie-judging contest, according to Don Wiertella, the co-chairman of the event along with John Polasek. “We want to get the word out early to find the champion pie bakers we know that are out there. We think we will get even greater participation by more advance information so pie bakers can plan ahead to prepare their specialty pies that their family and friends clamor for,” Wiertella said.

For the last few years the festival has taken place on the last Sunday of September. This year that’s September 25 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

A Harvest Festival would not be complete without celebrating the fabulous harvest of fruits and vegetables for the year. The pie baking contest came into being seven years ago when the first Harvest Festival was organized by the Historical Society. “It’s a great way for Vicksburg’s agricultural community to show its wares for the past season,” Polacek said.

The event utilizes the grounds in the Historic Village to celebrate the harvest. It has lots of community involvement in planning the event and staging tons of activities for what was estimated as 3,000 in attendance in 2015. The animal exhibit has been particularly attractive to children who seldom get a chance to see sheep, lambs, alpacas, pigs, goats, and a wide variety of critters from David Critchlow’s alligator farm.

The contest for pie baking has two categories: best fruit pie and best cream pie. A blue ribbon will be awarded for first place and yellow ribbon for second. The best overall pie with receive a grand prize ribbon as determined by three adult judges chosen from local restaurants and the Historical Society.

The criteria for the judges to make their decisions includes crust: color, flavor, texture, doneness (20 points); overall appearance (15 points); flavor: strength and balance; filling: consistency, doneness, moistness, flavor; creativity: (10 points). Each contestant is responsible for refrigeration of their pies.

Pies should be delivered to the Depot Museum at the Vicksburg Historic Village on Sunday, September 25 between 9 and 10 a.m. Judging will take place at 10:30; results will be announced by noon. Individuals may only enter one pie in each category and need not be present to win. They can either choose to take their pie home with them after the judging or allow the pie to be sold at the Harvest Festival to help raise money for the Historical Society.

WWII Home Front Industries

steve rossio
Steve Rossio from the Portage Public Library has been a speaker for the Historical Society in the past as a soldier in the Civil War. This time he is featuring the “home front” in Michigan during World War II.

Well known and local historian Steve Rossio is the speaker on August 16 for the continuing series of Vicksburg Historical Society’s programs at 7 p.m. in the Community Center. He brings the story of how the challenges of supplying the fighting forces for freedom engaged in a world war changed a way of life for this local community. More than half a million men and women served in the military and on the home front from Michigan; the state was one of the most important in the war effort. Michigan industry switched from consumer products to tanks and bombers while the unemployment rate nearly vanished as Michigan became “The Arsenal for Democracy”.

Munn Family Observes 100 Continuous Reunions

Munn 100th Reunion
Thirty nine people came to the Munn reunion representing five direct descendants of the Munn family children who migrated to Michigan. They were from the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh generations of the family of Charles and Anne Munn. Bill Southworth flew in from Ashland, Ore. for the reunion and the memorial service/scattering of ashes of his brother, John Southworth.  Mary Vander Shaaf, Bill’s sister came from Waterloo, Canada. Four came from West Branch, Mich. and two from Bay City especially for the reunion.

By Sue Moore

One hundred years of continuous family reunions is a milestone for the Charles Munn family of Vicksburg and Schoolcraft. Family members celebrated on Sunday, July 10 at Jackie and Frank Chapin’s farm home in Schoolcraft. These reunions used to mean a lot of cranking on the old homemade ice cream machine according to Jackie, while keeping the tradition alive of homemade ice cream to be served to young and old for the reunions.

“Nobody remembers when we stopped playing ball after the big meal, but they would certainly remember if we stopped serving homemade ice cream. The reunions almost came to a screeching halt when family member Mercer Munn remarked that it was getting too hard for the older folks to get around Prairie View Park where the family gathered in the 80’s. That’s when I spoke up and offered to have it at our farm, without seeking the counsel of my husband, 29 years ago. I stipulated that the date had to move from August when we would be harvesting to July so Frank could help with everything,” Chapin joked since he wasn’t at that momentous gathering.

“I thought it was important to keep the tradition going, so I stepped in. And now here we are going for the 100th anniversary, so I know it was the right thing to do,” she said. “Everyone pitches in to help with the food. I supply the ice cream and the kids were tasked to turn the crank. When we celebrated the 50th reunion, it was at the EUB church in Vicksburg with over 90 notices sent out. This year I sent out 27 invites, so I guess that says something about how the family has gone its separate ways, yet still sees a reason to get together.”

“We see the joy, the smiles, the warmth, and the genuine greeting of cousins being together. We reminisce, tell stories and share the family history.

The founding member of the family came over on a boat to settle on a farm in Brady Township in 1891. Charles Munn actually made several landings in the New World, the first in 1848 when he was 18. He came with two brothers and two friends but they all returned to England at some time or other. He married Ann Wood and rented a farm in England, but couldn’t get the idea of returning out of his mind. Meantime, they had 11 children, though two, Thomas and Mercer Munn, died before the family left again for America. Mercer’s name has lived on in Vicksburg through many generations.

Charles next returned to Michigan in May, 1876 with his 16-year-old son George, leaving the rest of the family behind. They visited friends in Plainwell and Vicksburg. He returned again to England, this time to accompany home an invalid sister who had lived in Jackson. She was very sick and had been deserted by her American husband after he had borrowed her meager earnings. Her only wish was, “Take me home, Charlie,” so he did, leaving 16-year-old George alone at the depot in Vicksburg. The sister lived long enough to sight land and was permitted to be taken ashore for burial.

Meanwhile, George found work on a farm in Brady Township and saved his money. With the help of the money George sent to his father, Charles and Ann boarded another steamer, with the remaining eight of their children in tow this time. They settled in Michigan in May of 1884 and moved to Vicksburg on W Avenue in 1891 to be near George. The youngest of the 11 children, Anne Jane, celebrated her seventh birthday on the ship and remembered how rough and stormy the crossing was. She was Jackie Chapin’s grandmother.

As the older children married and had families of their own, they would meet on George’s farm and have fish fry gatherings. But they didn’t start yearly reunions until 1916. They met at the spot on Indian Lake now known as Munn’s Resort at the north end of the lake. Cattle and sheep roamed over the place. According to family lore, they went out on the lake in an old “side wheeler” to catch the fish for dinner. Certainly a bit different from the modern-day family reunions, Chapin observed.

Abby Chapin Goes to Malawi for Teaching and Traveling

By Sue Moore

From Schoolcraft to the Republic of Malawi in southern Africa is a big jump for Abby Chapin, a 2015 Schoolcraft graduate and sophomore at the University of Michigan. She made the trek to Malawi for six weeks this spring as a teacher in a Phalombe secondary boarding school.

It came about because of a book that was her required reading as a freshman at UM called the Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba, who is from Malawi and noted for building a windmill to power family appliances in his teens. Chapin was intrigued by the possibility of helping students in this impoverished country even though it would be on a small scale. She volunteered to tutor students in English, math and science. She applied for a grant that funded her expenses while in Malawi but had to pay for her air fare. Ten other college students were accepted to teach classes from May 7 to June 22, 2016.

“This boarding school was funded by the Ekari Foundation, headquartered in Seattle and named after a young man who had a dream to provide a high school or college education to students who couldn’t afford any further education than eighth grade,” Chapin pointed out. The foundation’s web site is at

Youth and adults in Phalombe yearn for an education, according to the web site. But approximately 26 percent of youth in Malawi complete primary school. Just 18 percent go on to secondary school, and only 1 percent go onto college, mainly due to financial instability caused by extreme poverty. Primary school education in Malawi is free, but there is no access to a free secondary school education. The Malawi government instituted a nationwide adult literacy program but lacks funding to operate the program to its full capacity. Illiteracy rates among adults remain high.

At the boarding school, the college volunteers sometimes worked in a resource room for special needs students who were deaf. All the classes and exams are in English which is not spoken at home for these students. “Science is really hard to understand for these kids when it is all written in English,” Chapin said. “They come from one-parent or no-parent households or have unemployed parents with five or more siblings. The school gets hundreds of applications and can take only 480 at a time. They get three meals a day with breakfast being bread, peanut butter and honey. Lunch and dinner is the same, mostly beans, peas, greens, chicken, beef or goat for protein. I didn’t see a computer except one old desk top that might or might not have been working,” Chapin said. This is a very poor country that has experienced famine and has the most per capita deaths from HIV/AIDS in all of Africa.

“I really don’t intend to become a teacher but I’ve learned a lot through helping teach some summer school programs at the Schoolcraft library. My real goal is to become a mechanical engineer because I like to make things,” she said.

Chapin found her niche as a high school student at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center. She participated in the MSTEM Science Fair, has taught summer reading at the library and headed up Abby’s science Fridays, this year teaching about science and rockets and even plant life from which compost is attained. She has worked at Timber Ridge and for Mac Sports, a timing company for area races.

“I’ve learned a lot more about other country’s culture, how they live. I see the contrast with what I have here in Schoolcraft. I look at things a lot differently now,” Chapin concluded.