Monthly Archives: June 2017

John Pincumbe Named 4th of July Parade Grand Marshal

pincumbe 4
John Pincumbe celebrates the track he helped to construct.

By Sue Moore

John Pincumbe is the epitome of serving his village of Schoolcraft, said Virginia Mongreig, who has chosen him to be the grand marshal of the 4th of July parade in Schoolcraft.

“He has been selected for his service and dedication to Schoolcraft schools as a booster and all of the years of involvement with the athletes and students at SHS. He is the voice of the Eagles. He is a sheriff’s reserve officer and a member of the Masons,” she pointed out.

“I was shocked,” Pincumbe said when he was notified. “I haven’t done anything special.”

“That’s debatable,” said Mongreig.

Pincumbe’s first volunteer gig in Schoolcraft was in 1984, when he teamed up with Roy Davis and John Coates to build the high school track and football field. For six or seven years, he would go straight from work at Consumers Power Company to help Davis construct the track. Pincumbe had become the track announcer in 1980, using a bullhorn.

The track had no bleachers; spectators sat on the hillside. His daughter, Jane, was a senior in 1984 when Davis pledged that she would be able to run on her home track as a senior. She managed to set a state record in the 100-yard dash that year. “We worked most every night and on Wednesday I’d go to the middle school and call bingo for the Boosters,” Pincumbe said. “Roy might sneak out and go bowling.”

“Davis was a hard taskmaster. He would tell me what to do and how to do it as he was a construction foreman and had built lots of buildings and tracks. He had his own backhoe on this job and I was the only one he trusted to run it. He would yell at me ‘tongue-in-cheek’. I vowed I’d never again work for him, yet there we were every night,” Pincumbe said.

“For the homecoming football game in 1985, we erected the scoreboard the night before. The field was named after Roy Davis and I got to flip the coin against Marcellus in that game. Jack Tully had been the football announcer but he got stranded in St. Louis on a Friday night and called Loren Warfield, the superintendent, to say that I would have to do the announcing for him. That was fall of 1980 and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

1980 was another big year for the Masonic Temple in Schoolcraft Lodge 118. Pincumbe’s dad had bragged about being a Mason, so John asked about joining and worked his way in. ”I dearly loved it but now I’ve kind of faded into the woodwork.”

Pincumbe joined the Sheriff’s Reserve in 1994. He became a lieutenant, as executive officer the second in command, until January 2017.

Then the bottom fell out for Pincumbe when he and wife Linda were traveling in Pennsylvania and crashed into a dump truck at 75 miles per hour. “My wife and I were busted up so bad that we were in the hospital for nine months. It seemed like a lifetime. All the bones on my right side were broken, my right arm crushed.” His wife, Linda, suffered too and was diagnosed with a brain tumor in October 2016. She died February 5, 2017.

Pincumbe grew up in the Flint area and went to Michigan State University in 1962 for a year to play baseball. He decided college wasn’t for him and quit as a sophomore to get married and find a job with Consumers. That meant the couple moved around a lot, so after 20 years, he agreed with his three children, Jane, Greg and Dennis to stay put in Schoolcraft when Consumers wanted to move him once more.

He went to work for Fruitbelt Electric, which wanted him to become a manager. The job required a college degree. The company financed his education at the University of Nebraska by flying him out for weeks at a time. He ended up with a business degree.

Pincumbe has nine grandchildren and is mighty proud of each of them. They will be cheering him on as he rides in the parade in a shiny yellow corvette, compliments of Cole-Krum Chevrolet.

Sara Taylor Kowalski Sings the National Anthem

sara & reviewing standBy Sue Moore

The Schoolcraft 4th of July parade comes to a full stop in front of the reviewing stand to hear Sara Taylor Kowalski belt out the National Anthem, heard up and down Grand Street. She’s been doing her rendition for 13 years, when Jon Krum listened to her sing in church and asked her to kick off the parade.

She sings the Star-Spangled Banner without accompaniment over the sound system used to announce the floats as they pass by. This year, Skip Fox will take over announcing duties from Doug Flynn.

Kowalski is a soprano who is a native of Schoolcraft and a Western Michigan University music graduate. She operates Hair-N-Things Salon during the work week but is often asked to sing at weddings, baby dedications and plenty of church related gatherings. She can sing southern gospel and sings with Kids for Christ. While in college she was in Sing Out Kalamazoo for teens.

She met her husband Alex Kowalski while attending a karaoke session at Bud’s Bar in Schoolcraft some eight years ago. He works for Metal Mechanics in Schoolcraft as a control engineer and IT administrator. “He can sing, but not to me,” Sara joked. She likes to do competition shooting in her spare time – which isn’t often, as she claims to be a workaholic.

92nd Annual 4th of July Parade Winds Down Grand Street

By Brian Freiberger

Schoolcraft will be celebrating its 92nd annual Fourth of July parade, headlined by one of the best firework shows in the state. This event attracts an estimated 20,000 people to the village, according to Fireworks Director of the Schoolcraft Fourth of July Committee.
The parade will begin lining up at 10 a.m., an hour before the 11 a.m. parade start time, at the railroad tracks on Eliza Street which will be closed to through traffic for several hours.

The parades route begins on Eliza, then turns right onto US 131. The parade travels along US 131 before turning right again onto Clay St. by the elementary and middle schools, where it will end and rides on fire trucks will be offered. Only walkers in the parade will be allowed to throw candy, according to a flyer released by the Schoolcraft Fourth of July committee.

It’s unusual for US1 131 to be closed, but the Department of Transportation and the State Police have given their blessing to this closure for the last few years, making the parade much more expansive. Both northbound and southbound traffic will be diverted west from US 131 at U Ave. and US 131 at XY Ave. to Eighth St. “Those traveling on US 131 during these times are encouraged to seek alternative routes, and attendees are encouraged to arrive early,” according to a statement by Schoolcraft Police Chief Bryan Campbell.

There will be plenty of activities before and after the parade.

From 7-11 a.m., Schoolcraft Lions Club will host a pancake breakfast at Schoolcraft upper elementary school. A mile-long walk-run will start at 7:30 a.m., followed by the five-mile Firecracker race at Schoolcraft High School beginning at 8 a.m. The annual Fourth of July Car show at Burch Park will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., an ice cream social will be held at Schoolcraft United Methodist Church located on US 131.

After the parade, the Schoolcraft Historical Society will give tours of the Dr. Nathan Thomas house and garden, a stop on the underground railroad, until 3 p.m. Also, The Schoolcraft American Legion, located on Cass St., will be having a chicken and ribs barbecue through the day, with live music and other family activities.

Fireworks will begin at 10 p.m.

The fireworks will light the night sky with about a thousand shells from 3, 4, 5 and 6-inch mortars, according to Fireworks Director Randey Palmer. “This is better than the South Haven fireworks show minus Lake Michigan and a pie,” he explained.

The fireworks will be displayed north of Schoolcraft High School. Palmer said over the past several years that they are gradually making the show bigger.

Estimated cost of the fireworks is $10,000, and is funded by donations from the village of Schoolcraft, Schoolcraft Township and local merchants. Donations will be accepted during the Fourth of July festivities as well, according to Jon Krum.

For the past 24 years, Krum, who has been volunteering for the Fourth of July committee said, “I think it’s great for a small town to have an event like this.”

Three people volunteer their time through the year to gather and build the fireworks display. Randey and Rod Palmer and Chip Mongrieg put in approximately 400 hours to make sure the fireworks are ready for the event. “This is something I like to do to give back to the community. I’ve lived here my whole life,” said Palmer.

Free parking will be available at Schoolcraft schools for the parade and fireworks. Last year’s fireworks show can be viewed at

Chicken BBQ at Legion Hall

july 31Schoolcraft American Legion Post 475 at 425 E. Clay Street will be expanding on its 4th of July BBQ event with live entertainment in the afternoon, according to Dan Vansweden.

Post members will still serve the traditional favorite barbecued chicken and ribs with sides from noon-4 p.m. offering both indoor and outdoor dining facilities. This year’s entertainment will be expanded to include two live bands performing outside: Latitude will begin at 12:30 p.m. with Heartland following at approximately 3:30 p.m. Both bands feature a country-blues-classic rock sound.

An outdoor inflatable obstacle course will be available for kids as well as an outside beer tent for the adults. The Legion Post offers two air-conditioned levels with open bars and dining that will be available to the public all day.

Vicksburg Lions Club Summer Festival Has Many Features

club members
John Polacek and other members of the Vicksburg Lions Club gave a special tribute to Ken Schippers, retired village manager, at its 2016 event.

By Sue Moore

The Vicksburg Lions Club has a lock on how the good times roll each year with its Summer Festival, more commonly known as the B&B for beer and bratwurst. It opens at the community pavilion on Thursday, July 27 with Kids’ Night and rolls on through Saturday, July 29, very late in the evening.

Besides all the afternoon and evening activity described elsewhere on these pages, the Vicksburg Community Schools alumni association gathers in the morning on Saturday, July 29 in the pavilion with the Lions helping to facilitate by supplying the tables, chairs and sound system.

Each year, the alumni breakfast honors the class that graduated 50 years ago. Over 250 graduates of Vicksburg High School and their spouses usually attend the breakfast. The 50 year graduating class gets to sit at the front of the table, go through the serving line first, and appoint a speaker who talks about what life was like in the years in school.

It’s a great time to catch up on classmates, with the class of 1966 doing all the organizational work for the reunion. Those who didn’t receive a notification in the mail should contact Carol Silliman Erickson of the class of 1966 at 989-621-4578.

Beer and Brats: The Lions Serve Them Up All Weekend

lions 2
Fred Flegal roasts the brats.

By Sue Moore

Beer and bratwurst go together, they say in Germany. Or Milwaukee. And certainly in Vicksburg.

The Vicksburg Lions Club has been serving them for 44 years at its annual Summer Festival, scheduled this year on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, July 27, 28, 29 at the community pavilion on N. Richardson Street.

“The Lions, a service club, had been raising money in dribs and drabs by selling light bulbs and newspapers in the 1960s,” said Bob Merrill, a member of the club for 55 years. “Otto Kaak, our local baker and club member, came back from a trip to Germany and insisted that we could make lots more money if we sold beer and brats and had a party in 1973. Now we work our heads off for a week, make lots of money, and we’re done. “Kaak also had a secret recipe for the sauerkraut that has been passed down through the ages, according to John Polasek, head of the kitchen operation for the event.

“We go through nearly 1,400 brats and lots of hot dogs too,” Polasek said. “Bob who is 90 years old, loves to do the cooking. He and I love to chide one another about the best way to cook brats. I like to get them nice and plump by grilling them to 150 degrees and then hold them in the roasters to keep them juicy. Bob says I don’t cook them long enough and use too much grilling oil, but that’s not true. He likes to do the cooking and would do it all day and all night if he didn’t get tired. He even bought a new grill to loan to the club this year. Now we can get 60 brats on it at one time rather than the 40-45 we were grilling.”

Soft drinks, water and hot dogs are available in the Lions Club trailer next to the pavilion. The beer has its own trailer to keep everything cold in a tent beside the pavilion. Wrist bands are issued to those over 21 who wish to buy a beer. “Everyone will be there enjoying food and beverages in a wonderful setting at the Community Pavilion,” Polacek said.

Cornhole is Wildly Popular

cornhole 1
Cornhole tournament contestants get in some practice.

The cornhole tournament, in its sixth year, is a family friendly, fun Friday night event which takes place while the Backroads Band hits the stage. There are 10 sets of identical boards to accommodate up to 50 teams at one time.

The last two years there have been 92 participants in the cornhole tournament. This contest starts Friday, July 28, at 6 p.m. and usually lasts at least until midnight. Like the horseshoe tournament, it is double elimination and partners are picked via random draw, with the exception of last year’s winners, Steve Heath and Bill Rager. The number of contestants will be capped in this tournament at 100 and sign-ups ahead of time are requested. Call Ryan Bright – 269-217-7880.

B & B Horseshoe Tournament Turns 11

Bobby Poveda checks the line-up with Mindy Reno at the 2016 horseshoe pitching contest.

This year marks the 11th year of the horseshoe tournament at the Lions Club’s Summer Festival. Brett Grossman, the newest Lion in that year, started it in 2007 and struggled to get 32 pitchers. This year, the club expects nearly 80 participants, male and female, the largest field ever.

“The last few years we’ve capped participation at 64 players but we will be installing a fourth set of horseshoe pits at the pavilion to accommodate more players,” Grossman said. “The tournament has really become a staple for the festival.” He noticed that now the event is getting more and more second and third generation pitchers; guys are able to throw with their fathers and uncles and the event has the spirit of a family reunion.

The contestants like an audience, Grossman observed. Last year’s tournament took nearly eight hours to play but most of the crowd stayed until the bitter end, he said. Dave Stafinski Jr. and Randy Munn were last year’s champions. They will be paired again to defend their title. All other players will be matched via random draw at 11 a.m., Saturday, July 29. Sign-ups are required ahead of time. Grossman can be reached at 269-615-6770.

The cost is $10 to enter and includes a T-shirt for each participant. For the 10th anniversary, six players who had participated in every horseshoe tournament were recognized. They were Ryan Bright, Jamie Hagenbaugh, Scott Hiemstra, Scott Haynes, Dan Mendham and Grossman.

Vicksburg Summer Festival Kicks Off with Kids’ Night

lions 8By Brian Freiberger

Vicksburg Lions Club will be hosting a Kids’ Night to begin the service club’s Summer Festival on Thursday, July 27 from 6-8 p.m. at the Community Pavilion on N. Richardson St.

During the evening, there will be several games along with arts and crafts available. Each ticket to play costs 25 cents. Games include ring toss, floating ducks, ping-pong, ping-pong ball toss and bean bag toss.

Crafts include making and decorating bookmarks, masks and crowns, says Katie Grossman, community service chair and coordinator of Kids’ Night.

Grossman has been involved with Kids’ Night for the past three years. “The most fulfilling part about this is seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when they are having fun playing the games,” said Grossman.

Food specials consist of $1 hot dogs, popcorn, water and soda. A final raffle for a Meijer gift card will be awarded to one boy and girl at 8 p.m. To be entered in the drawing, each child in attendance must participate in at least one game or craft making.

Project KidSight will be offering free vision screenings for children up to age 17 at the event. “A simple photograph can screen for many cognitive eye conditions, so we encourage families to take advantage of this service,” said Grossman.

The Vicksburg Lions Club Summer Festival is the largest fundraiser for the club, and all proceeds go to club projects that focus on vision exams for children, community service projects, charities and many other important causes, according to Grossman.

All activities are staffed by volunteers. Additional help is welcome, call 269-870-0995 or email for more information.

Redevelopment of The Mill Announced

Overhead view of the abandoned paper mill in the heart of the village of Vicksburg. Photo by Kalamazoo Aerial Media.

Editor’s Note: This issue contains news stories about my son, Christopher Moore, in his quest to restore the former Simpson Paper Mill to its former grandeur in the heart of Vicksburg, in a multi-use development to be called The Mill.

Because of my close relationship to this project, I have asked other reporters to research and write stories about the development. I pledge to our readership that I will have a hands-off commitment to telling the story of The Mill, that I won’t write or edit any of the stories about The Mill during its reconstruction and reportage in the South County News.

It’s important to the veracity and independence of this newspaper that the public does not perceive that I personally am touting one of my own interests. What is important is that people know what is happening in efforts to improve the building and the acreage around it, hopefully to the benefit of the community.

Sue Moore, editor and publisher of the South County News

By Jef Rietsma

A Vicksburg native is proposing redevelopment of an iconic village property at a cost that project executives say could reach $50 million.

Chris Moore, owner of Paper City Development LLC, is the driving force behind The Mill, a multi-use development that would include a brewery, restaurant and taproom, retail offerings, craft food and beverage production facilities, offices, artist studios, event space and a residential component on the 30-acre property.

Moore, 52, is owner of Old Stove Brewery in Seattle.

Jackie Koney, project manager for The Mill, said Moore’s interest in redeveloping the property took root in early 2014 after learning the buildings that comprised the former Lee Paper Mill were slated for demolition.

“Chris had been speaking with the village manager at the time, Ken Schippers, and the village president, Bill Adams, about the idea of an Old Stove Brewing Company in Vicksburg. It was around this time he found out about the plan to demolish the old mill,” Koney said. “When Chris was in town the next time, he went with Bill and Ken to tour the site and Bill happened to mention the county was going to spend $3 million to tear it down.”

Moore’s immediate reply?

“Well, why don’t you give me the $3 million and I’ll do something with it?” according to Koney, who said the wheels of fate were set in motion at that moment.

Koney said she wasn’t surprised to hear Moore’s ambitious plan. The two have been acquaintances since the mid-1980s. Koney recalled Moore worked at the mill during his summers home from college. He was the third generation in his family to work at the mill, Koney said.

“Chris is a big-idea kind of guy, so I really wasn’t shocked when he called and told me his initial plans for the mill,” she added. “I know it’s a place that is near and dear to him and his family, so, no, there was no surprise at all.”

Kalamazoo County currently owns 26 acres of the mill property. The Kalamazoo County Land Bank is in possession of the balance, which includes the newer warehouse area. Koney said the full redevelopment is dependent on funding support and once that puzzle comes together it will take years before completion. Initially, however, Moore wants to focus on establishing Old Stove Brewing Co. and the craft food and beverage production area. The retail and residential aspects will follow.

Converting a former manufacturing property into something new is not unprecedented, Koney said. She noted Moore is incorporating examples used on both U.S. coasts.

Considering the current state of the property, however, the concept could fairly be labeled a stretch. Koney conceded the volume of work is high but added she has full faith in Moore and the team he has assembled.

Regarding the various buildings on the property, surprisingly little will fall victim to the wrecking ball.

“We’re saving the original 1904 structure. It’s the original U-shape building before things were added on,” she said. “We’re planning on taking down most of the non-historically relevant structures, but as far as the historic structures go, we’re going to do everything in our power to save them.” The Mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places last year.

The preservation effort has been aided by Kalamazoo County Treasurer Mary Balkema, who has awarded a bid for about $1.1 million for roof work to protect the asset and prevent further deterioration of the east and west wings, as well as the north end.

Koney said Phase 1 of the rehabilitation will likely cost between $25 million and $30 million, funds that will cover big-ticket items such as foundation stabilization, roofing, mechanical, electrical and plumbing.

The Mill is vying to secure grant and loan monies from a variety of sources including the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Others include the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Land Bank and the Vicksburg Brownfield Authority’s Local Brownfield Remediation Fund, Koney added.

Koney said she has been so involved with the project over the past two years, she can close her eyes and envision what it will look like. The vision was confirmed when a master plan was drafted by Ann Arbor-based architect Hopkins Burns Design Studio in partnership with Johnson Hill Land Ethics Studio, Frederick Construction, Paper City Development and others.

The property will have two main entrances. One will be at its north end, beyond Bridge Organics, off West Washington Street. An additional entrance will be developed at the south end off West Highway Street.

Paper City Development’s corporate office is on the second floor of the Community Center in downtown Vicksburg.