Monthly Archives: November 2017

Christmas in the Village to Light Up the Night

By Sue Moore

The Vicksburg “Christmas in the Village” night-time parade will be three years old on Saturday, December 2 when it kicks off led by the Big Red Machine marching band. This year, there are even more activities planned for children during the afternoon and an expanded parade in the evening for the thrill of all those watching it.

Having the parade at dusk, 5:30 p.m. through downtown Vicksburg was the brainchild of Ken Schippers, village manager in 2015. He wanted floats and firetrucks to be lit with Christmas lights for a more exciting presentation. Bringing up the end of the parade will be Santa and Mrs. Santa who will weave their magic for little children afterwards in the Community Center. The parade was wildly successful with thousands crowding the main thoroughfares in the village to watch in the last two years.

Leading up to the parade will be performances of dancers from the community education department in Vicksburg schools, carolers in the afternoon roaming the streets filling them with song, a magician, entertainment by Benjammin, shopping, and children’s elf workshops. A winter farmers’ market is planned along with crafters selling their wares in the old Hill’s Pharmacy building.

Wagon rides will take participants from downtown to the Depot Museum and back around the village. There will be the usual bake sale fundraiser in the Depot and the model toy trains running in the township hall. The many buildings in the Historic Village will be open for tours.

To wrap things up after the parade, children will have a chance to ask Santa for their most cherished wishes while talking to the jolly couple in the Community Center. Earlier they will be able to write letters to Santa and place them in a mailbox set up at the room where Santa will greet them. Story time for youngsters will take place from 4 to 5 in the Community Center, led by staff from the Vicksburg District Library. The annual tree lighting will take place in Oswalt park at about 6:15 p.m. For adults who might like to imbibe in a nip or two, there will be a Holiday Pub Hop scheduled with stops at the Hide-A-Way, Main Street Pub and the Distant Whistle from 7 to 10 p.m.

New this year will be a stage for performers to sing and dance in Oswalt Park. The Vicksburg high school carolers will start things off with their Christmas music. The dancers are scheduled from 3 to 4:30 with tap dancing, ballet, jazz and Hawaiian dancers from ages five to 17 performing.

Downtown merchants and restaurant owners will be opening their doors to welcome customers all day on December 2 with special menu items featured as part of the event. The Vicksburg United Methodist Church has its annual bazaar scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Vicksburg Historical Society has its annual bake sale fundraiser set at the Depot Museum from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They will also be offering their baked goods inside at the former Hill’s Pharmacy in the afternoon from 2 to 5:30 p.m.

All of these activities will be made possible through the Downtown Development Authority with a committee headed up by Mary Ruple, John DeBault and Stella Shearer. Local businesses have chipped in with cash to help support the endeavor. They include Frederick Construction, Imerys, Paper City Development, Ronningen Research and Development, Main St. Pub, Grossman Law, Fred’s Pharmacy and the Vicksburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

Santa’s in Town for Schoolcraft’s Christmas Walk

By Linda Lane

“We’ve got a stone soup operation here, with everyone in town pitching in,” Kelly Bergland said to describe Schoolcraft’s upcoming Christmas Walk. “With everyone pulling together, there’s truly a sense of magic in the moment that makes it special.”

The first weekend in December kicks off Schoolcraft’s Annual Christmas Walk through the village, on Friday, December 1, 6-9 p.m. and Saturday, December 2, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Kelly Bergland and Deb Christiansen have teamed up together to coordinate the event. They’ve put their money where their mouths are, fronting the cash for advertising, printing and invitations for the community event.

“It’s getting people together face-to-face that makes a difference in the community. Making those connections with people in the business and residential areas is what makes this such a close town,” Christiansen said. “We’ve really got a great line up of things happening for the Christmas Walk!”

Among the highlights:

Reindeer will be visiting for families to see up close in Burch Park on Saturday, December 2 from 2-4 p.m.

There will be two options for kids to get their picture taken on Santa’s lap Saturday, December 2: from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Beauty Bar; and from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Schoolcraft Holiday Bazaar at the Krum Center.

Walkers can get a glimpse of the former Opera House in Schoolcraft, while checking out Art at the Opera, which will feature paintings by Miles Cooley, caricatures by Cooley and a free postcard of Schoolcraft’s Underground Railroad by William Christiansen; Art at the Opera is on the second floor above the Grand Antique Gallery, formerly Norma’s Antiques.

Others may want to stop by the Schoolcraft Library to enjoy hot chocolate and vote for their favorite Christmas decor entered into the Gathering of the Greens. There will also be cookie decorating, sponsored by Lake Michigan Credit Union from 2-4 p.m. at the Library.

The Kalamazoo County State Bank will sponsor “the Christmas Present Jar” where visitors can guess the amount of money in the jar, and sample donuts and hot cider as well.

A variety of crafts and Christmas shopping can be found at numerous places around town during the Christmas Walk as well. The Schoolcraft Holiday Bazaar will be held at the Krum Center.

Christmas Crafts are at Camelot, hosted on South 14th Street in a beautiful historic home. Schoolcraft Ladies Library will have crafts, refreshments and a tour of the historic building. Schoolcraft United Methodist Church will have food for sale and First Presbyterian Church, hosted at DeVries Law offices, will have crafts for sale there on Friday and on Saturday at the Church’s Westminster Hall.

Treats, drinks, antiques, and shopping around town will include: Abby’s Shop, The Beauty Bar, Grand Antique Gallery, Loving Ewe, Nana D’s Attic, Schoolcraft Antiques Mall, Schoolcraft Lions Club and the Estate Outlet.

 

Vicksburg Arts Spectacular Features a Live Auction

By Sue Moore

It’s been two full years since the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center became a reality. With a constant need to raise money to keep it going, the staff of the Center organized an art auction in 2016 as a fundraiser that helped to keep the doors open for a second year. It was so successful that Syd Bastos and Lisa Beams, sparkplugs behind this success, are presenting the Vicksburg Arts Spectacular on Saturday, November 11 from 5:30 to 9:30 to further cement the Arts Center’s place in the community.

It will be an art auction fundraiser with lots of moving parts on the four corners of downtown Vicksburg. There will be a live auction in the Community Center offering seven major items. The centerpiece: a package called “Party at the Paper Mill” for 25 people.

Paper City Development has planned an unforgettable evening – a 30’s style party for twenty-five at the Mill.  Staffed by members of Paper City, Ryan Collins, Stephany and Mike Frederick, the event will be in an undisclosed location within the Mill with access gained through a secret door and a coded password – just like Grandma and Grandpa did during Prohibition!  The winning bidder will work with the staff of Paper City to create a special menu reflective of the era. Live entertainment will add extra zest to the evening. The opening bid: $900.

The Cultural Arts Center began as a gleam in local artists’ eyes and opened at 200 S. Main Street in 2015. It has since gone through several iterations, looking to find the right mix of art work for sale, visitor center operations and entertainment venue. Together, Bastos and Beams have taken the operation to a new level, according to John DeBault, president of the Downtown Development Authority which oversees the work of these two ladies and their staff.

Things are on a solid footing for the Center. It moved its operations to 101 E. Prairie Street with plans to eventually move to the former Doris Lee shop next door at 103 E. Prairie when renovations of the space are complete. Thus, the need continues to raise funds and bring the best of local artists’ work for public consumption, according to Bastos.

The Arts Spectacular will use all three buildings to showcase the current and future spaces that will allow the Center to be even more active in the community. To date it has held 58 events engaging more than 250 artists and musicians and over 7,000 visitors. It’s clear that the Arts Center is becoming a part of the tapestry of the community, according to DeBault.

Guests will register at 103 E. Prairie, where they will get a sneak peek at the future home of the Arts Center. Next door, the Gallery will be open where items will be displayed for bidding in the Silent Auction. Musical performances will run all evening in the Gallery including Whiskey Before Breakfast, Bob and Kathy Brandt, Sky and Walker Truckey, and Adam Wallace. Guests will also enjoy live music at the Community Center with emerging artist Megan Happel opening the evening, an excerpt of the next Revelry Theatre production, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”, and musician Patricia Pettinga performing with Bill Willging just prior to the live auction.

This year, the guest auctioneer will be Mark Mitchell, Vicksburg Rotary Club president. He will be tantalizing bidders with uncommon items such as The Monty Python, a crazy collection of items fit for the King and his Knights of the Round table; The Big Head Todd Special, including tickets to their concert at the State Theatre, a collection of CD’s and memorabilia, hotel accommodations in downtown Kalamazoo and dinner before the show; and The Distant Whistle Package, including a Mug Club Membership, growler and pint glasses for filling, a custom colors mug, and a Distant Whistle shirt.

Silent auction items run the gamut from original works of art, spa treatments, auto care and sports packages, Miller Auditorium tickets and much more. The Center is adding daily to its list of items. Guests can follow the event on facebook.com/vicksburgculturalartscenter.

Tickets are $40 and include entertainment, hors d’oeuvres, special non-alcoholic beverages and delectable desserts. Tickets are limited to 125 and can be purchased at the Vicksburg Arts Center Gallery at 101 E. Prairie in Vicksburg and at vicksburgarts.com.

Ryan LaPorte Honored for His Work at Swan Park

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Ryan LaPorte holds the plaque presented to him at the Schoolcraft Township board meeting by the Little League district 15 administrator.

By Sue Moore

Ryan LaPorte, who serves as coordinator for Schoolcraft Township’s Swan Park, was honored by District 15 Little League as its Volunteer of the Year. District Administrator Joanne Wilson was present with a plaque and a formal presentation at the Township’s board meeting in October.

It recognizes Ryan LaPorte as a dedicated and loyal supporter of the 15 leagues of Michigan District 15 hosted each year at Swan Park. “Ryan’s been instrumental in field maintenance for regular season play.  I’ve received the highest praises from our Little League guests on the condition of the fields.  He’s also taken the lead in our hosting the four state of Michigan Little League All-Star tournaments at Swan Park over the last five years.  Swan park has hosted approximately 540 players and managers plus countless family members who follow their teams to the township location.  They praise Ryan’s hours of dedication on providing a first-class state tournament site,” Wilson said during the presentation.

The plaque reads, “Ryan LaPorte goes over and above in his commitment to the ideals and goals of Little League.  Ryan LaPorte is a spirited and dedicated volunteer that supports the development of children participating in Little League baseball and softball.”

“He accommodates the players and families’ every need,” Wilson said. “He and his dad, Jeff, are in this for the kids. This year they spent $1,200 to rebuild the pitching mounds before our tournaments. He takes care of the fields as if they are his babies. It’s like a field of dreams for the players. It’s a small town with big town attractions.”

LaPorte isn’t satisfied with just maintaining the fields; he wants to enlarge and enhance the whole property. The goal is to build one more field, continue laying irrigation to extend to all six fields rather than the three it currently covers and expand the parking lot. The biggest project of all is to build a full-service concession stand by adding on to the existing block building. That will have a price tag between $80,000 to $100,000, so he envisions several years of fundraising to see the dream come true.

The development of Swan Park began 15 years ago when there was one softball field sitting idle on land that was purchased from Raymond and Lela Swan in November 1966. Jeff LaPorte asked the township if he could convert it to a baseball field so his son Ryan and his team from Schoolcraft would have a home field to play on. The dad is now retired and helps with the mowing and Ryan, age 28, has accepted the responsibility of managing the park as its coordinator. He is a graduate of Schoolcraft High School and Western Michigan University and holds a full-time job as a test engineer at Parker Hannifin. His mother, Patti, and sister, Katie, also help with the park.

The Township has a budget for park maintenance, covering expenses for anything outside of the Little League fences. The Schoolcraft Little League takes care of expenses inside the fences such as the irrigation system and the stone dust on the base paths. “Our goal is to make this an enjoyable experience for the people who use the park,” LaPorte said.

“This is the best place to play in the state of Michigan for Little Leaguers,” Wilson declared.

From Russia With Love

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Jim Butterfield and Natasha Yakimenko at the Vicksburg Community Center.

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg resident Jim Butterfield, a Western Michigan University political science professor, wasn’t expecting to find love during a sabbatical in Russia in 1994. It happened anyway. He met Natasha Yakimenko in the Moscow office of the Agency for International Development (USAID) where she was working.

“We worked so well together,” Butterfield said. “She was on the team of Russian interpreters and I was the only American who spoke Russian. “It took us three years to decide to get married through our long-distance romance.”

One thing that helped to seal the deal: Butterfield sent Natasha flowers and a jar of pickles. She had told him she was sick of chocolate. Male consultants would often drop by the translation pool and bring chocolate. She said she wished they’d bring pickles once in a while. He picked up on that and sent them to her as a surprise. “I love pickles any time of the day,” she had told him.

In those years after the fall of Communism, U.S. consular officials were suspicious of women applying to come to the States. “We had to show that it wasn’t a relationship of convenience, via emails, phone bills and letters to get approval,” Butterfield said.

When Natasha was interviewed at the U.S. Embassy, she was asked, “Are you excited about moving to the U.S.?” No, she had answered, “because I have my life here and I don’t know how it will fit in over there.” The embassy employee assured her she would be all right and stamped her visa.

Although she had previously visited the U.S., there were plenty of reasons that Yakimenko did not want to leave Russia. Among them: She had a terrific job as an interpreter with AID, a mother who was still alive and a son Ivan, then 12.

Yakimenko was well educated, with a Ph.D in American Literature from Moscow University. She came from parents who were both university professors and wanted their daughter to have the very best that education had to offer. She started taking English lessons at the age of seven and found it easy to learn. Upon graduation, she went to work at the Institute for World Literature in Moscow, a research organization. Despite the education and jobs, she and her parents were not paid much more than a worker in a factory. They lived in a small apartment with few luxuries.

Her father had served in World War II, first in the artillery and then as a war correspondent. He had suffered many wounds with shell fragments remaining in his spine until he died at age 58. He was gratified that he was still alive when over 20 million Russians had lost their lives. He went to graduate school where he met Natasha’s mother. He authored war novels and both taught at Moscow University.

With the collapse of Communism on December 31, 1991 and dissolution of the Soviet Union, life in Russia became something like shock therapy, according to Yakimenko. Inflation was 2,500 percent the first year although salaries stayed the same. She recalls standing in line for hours just to buy milk in the winter. It was brutal, she said. “Nobody knew how to reform a Communist society. The American government wanted to make sure that Communism didn’t ever come back. They sent highly paid consultants from Harvard to help develop a market economy, but at a huge price.”

At that time, she augmented her meager paycheck by editing trash novels, then interviewed for a job with the U.S. State Department. “I was so naïve. I just asked to do this job part time because I wasn’t ready to leave academia so I didn’t get the job.”

But she got the next best thing: “The interviewer put a letter of recommendation in my file and when the USAID office was set up, I was the only person they knew about. I had lots of translation jobs and worked long hours with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in an attempt to set up a disease surveillance system. It turned out that Russia had been collecting this type of information all along, but in a very different format.”

Her employer, the World Literature Institute, hosted Americans. She came to Jackson, Miss. on an exchange program in 1992. “It wasn’t the America I expected. I was just amazed at how rural it was. I saw firsthand the north-south animosity I read about in southern literature was still alive when being hosted by professors at the university. We were there a week and then flew to New York City where I stayed with a Jewish couple in their apartment who were psychoanalysts. The third night, we moved to an apartment of a Jesuit priest. The USSR was not homogeneous and I learned in my first trip that the U.S. wasn’t either, so I found I loved life in New York during my brief visit.”

From Russia With Love will conclude next month.

Veterans Day in Oswalt Park

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Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5189 fire a salute during the 2016 observance.

The annual Veterans Day observance will be at 11 a.m. on Friday, November 10 in Oswalt Park in downtown Vicksburg, to allow school students to participate. The local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5189, named after Capt. Charles E. Osborne, will be conducting the annual flag ceremony. The observance usually takes place on the national holiday on Nov. 11 which originally was known as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I 99 years ago. Each year, fifth grade students from Sunset School join the ceremony and use sign language for the National Anthem as it is played over the loud speaker. Boy Scouts from Troop 251 participate in saluting the colors of each armed services branch. The guest speaker will be, former U.S. Army Major Richard Furney. Major Furney is a veteran of several deployments including combat in Somalia as part of the Third Mountain Division. He and his family are Vicksburg residents.

Historic Plaque Dedication Set for November 12

Oswalt Park on the main four corners of Vicksburg’s downtown, once had a large group of imposing buildings that housed an A&P grocery store, a post office, a clothing store, offices on the second floor and the Sun Theater. The buildings were torn down in the early 1970s to create the park when the bank, at that time known as First National Bank, decided to raze the Stofflet Block.

Enter the Historic Footsteps Program an arm of the Vicksburg Historical Society. The Footprints committee has been working over the last five years to place bronze plaques on various buildings in the community to mark their historic significance. This plaque recently placed in Oswalt Park was years in the making. Mike Hardy the “artist in residence,” drawing of the buildings is the highlight of the newest plaque that has been erected. On the reverse side of the plaque are photos of the interior of the various retail establishments that were once housed in the Stofflet Block.

The large metal signs have a special coating that protect the painting and photographic images from fading and make the surface weather and vandal resistant. The original painting and text was digitized by Kal-Blue and the sign was made by Sign Art. Two village light poles were reclaimed from the Department of Public Works’ yard and incorporated into the sign frame which was engineered and painted by SignArt. Fred Reiner and fellow woodworkers made the finials for the top of the poles. The DPW dug the holes, poured the concrete and erected the sign in the park.

A dedication for this imposing plaque will take place on Sunday, November 12 at noon in the park according to Kristina Powers Aubry who has been the de facto leader of the plaque committee. Everyone is invited to celebrate what has turned out to be an imposing monument to the history of the village, Aubry said.

The Footsteps committee was introduced in 2013 by the Vicksburg Historical Society to identify buildings and locations in the Village of Vicksburg of historical significance. Twenty-five locations have been identified: eight have been completed and marked with bronze plaques, seven are in process and 13 more are planned to be finished by the end of 2019. All of the plaques were financed by private donations, Aubry said. Others serving on the committee were Ted Vliek, Bonnie Holmes, and Margaret Kerchief.