Monthly Archives: March 2018

Boy Scouts Offer Dinner and Brunch Before Each Showboat Performance

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Scouts from Vicksburg’s Troop 251 line up to present the colors at the beginning of an Eagle Scout ceremony. Many of the boys will be serving at the spaghetti dinner being offered before the Showboat on Friday and Saturday nights and the brunch for the Sunday matinee. They are from left to right: John Vreeman, Eddie Goodwin, Levi Renzema, Andy Zeeman, Matthew Renzema, Mitchel VanderMeulen, Cole VanderMeulen, Michael Renzema, Charles Brunett, Nick Akins, Anthony Renzema, Jakob Schmidt, Mike Ellard, Luca Cannizzaro, Jonny Gettle, Patrick Wallace.

By Sue Moore

A spaghetti dinner preceding the show has been a part of the Vicksburg Rotary Club’s Showboat performances since the Boy Scouts of Troop 251 began it four years ago. “It’s been a nice collaboration,” said Todd White, the chairperson for the scouts. “Rotary does the theater superbly and we put on a fine dinner with spaghetti and all the fixings. It makes the partnership stronger as we feel Rotary’s values align well with the scouting purposes.”

For the second year in a row, a brunch will be offered on Sunday, March 4 for the matinee presentation of the Showboat. Tickets for the dinner and brunch are the same price at $8 for adults, $5 for children 10 and under and $25 for a family. Doors open at the high school cafeteria at 5 p.m. on March 2 and 3 with serving taking place until curtain time at 7 p.m. The Sunday brunch on March 4 begins at noon and ends at 2 p.m., when the show gets underway.

Previous to the scouts’ offering the dinner in the high school cafeteria before curtain time, the troop offered dinner for the public. It was held at the United Methodist Church in Vicksburg as a fundraiser on the same weekend. “Coming together to stage the dinner and show at the high school just seemed like it would be a win-win for everybody,” White said.

There will also be a silent auction chaired by Jessica Hawkins with some unusual donations. One is a free driver training session for a student. Another is a guided fishing trip to Lake Michigan. The scouts are constructing cornhole stands and selling them in the silent auction along with bean bags made by Valerie Tassell.

Money from the scouts’ fundraisers go toward the cost of the boys’ camping experiences in a 60/40 split. The 40 percent goes to rebuilding expendable camping supplies according to White. Each scout is encouraged to put in extra hours to work toward the amount it costs to go to camp, which is $375 per person. Each scout has an account that tracks volunteer hours, worth $1 for each hour the scout participates in an activity.

Troop 251 is fortunate to have a scout cabin on Barton Lake, built in the 1940s by Rotarians and other volunteers. Its roof was leaking badly in recent years and destroyed much of the camping gear stored there. Through generous private donations, the roof has been repaired and the inside restored, White said.

The menu for the spaghetti dinner includes green beans, salad, garlic bread, beverages, cupcakes and of course the requisite spaghetti. It is prepared by head chefs Jim Butler and Ken Heikes, long-time scoutmasters from the troop. The brunch offers scrambled eggs, sausage, garlic bread, green beans, finger sandwiches, beverages and cupcakes donated by Molly Morgan.

Tickets may be purchased in advance from the scout troop members or at the door of the cafeteria.

Showboat to Mark 65 Years of Performances in Vicksburg

By Sue Moore

What is a Showboat? People who are new to the community would have little idea from the title. Certainly they’d have no idea whether it would be worth the time or cost to attend when it’s being offered as a musical happening at Vicksburg’s Performing Arts Center on March 2, 3 and 4.

Showboat is living theater that has been performed by local musicians and anchored by people in the greater Vicksburg community and showcasing an all-male chorus interspersed with jokes and skits.

The show has an interesting history, having staged 64 years of presentations since 1954. Today, it could be hard to believe that the show started out as a vaudeville revival of the old-fashioned minstrel show, blackface and all. In those years, the Vicksburg Rotary Club members were casting about for a fundraiser to benefit the community. They settled on the minstrel show idea because their members loved to sing.

They were good at singing four-part harmony but not so great at the end-men jokes. During the early years there were all kinds of script kerfuffles, most of which drew peals of laughter from the hundreds in the audience.

The presentation got something of an upgrade in 1984 when a decision was made to get rid of the blackface. Club members acknowledged that they had been insensitive through the years. At first, the all-male chorus and actors felt self-conscious without their masks on, but in fact it made the show ever so much better and sophisticated, said Charlie Kendall, who has appeared in over 20 of the shows as a soloist with his beautiful tenor voice.

The Rotary Club has continuously drawn on local musical talent from the community, not just the members of the club. Over the years it has truly become a glue that tied the greater community of Vicksburg together, Warren Lawrence, a long-time Rotarian, has said. The chorus has been a mainstay of the show as the skits developed their own following for slapstick and showmanship. Kids love the pratfalls while adults find the four-part male chorus the biggest reason to attend.

In 1994, the Showboat moved from the high school gym to the new Performing Arts Center and turned another corner in its professionalism. The acoustics were far better, the curtains would close on time and the stage was much larger in order to accommodate the 40 to 50 chorus members.

Hundreds of performers have filtered through the cast over the years and enjoyed the camaraderie that keeps them coming back to weekly rehearsals from January through February. Soloists have included the likes of school Superintendent Charlie Glaes to members of the high school’s Simply Men chorus.

Over $500,000 has been raised through ticket sales and advertising in the Showboat program. All of which has gone back into the greater Vicksburg community to fund deserving projects. This year’s theme for the show is “A Dose of Reality” featuring the nearly bankrupt cast as they again seek to raise the money to keep the show going for another year.

General admission tickets are on sale for $10 at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center, 101 E. Prairie Street in Vicksburg during its regular business hours. There are no reserved seats, as in the past. On the days of performances, tickets will be available at the box office at the high school. The curtain goes up at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. for the matinee on Sunday.

Running and Eating Chili on a Winter Day

A winter chili cook-off has been a decade-long tradition in Vicksburg. The event will again be hosted March 10 at the community pavilion in the historic village by the Vicksburg Area Chamber of Commerce. “We want to take advantage of some of the features our beautiful town has to offer,” event chair Mandy Miller explained, “Being at the pavilion ties all the day’s activities together.”

Kicking off the day’s events will be the Vicksburg Chamber Chili Dash 5K run. It is under the management of Vicksburg High School Track Coach Lucas Wolhuis. All proceeds from the race will be donated to the track and field program. The 5K will start and end near the Vicksburg Auto Body Shop on Spruce Street just to the south of the pavilion. The run will travel through the village streets to give runners an up-close view of the village. Registration is $25 and is being handled online until March 2 at, where full details about the 5K may be found. Late and in-person registration begins at 9 a.m. the day of the race. All racers will receive three chili tasting tickets.

Even though the event was moved to the beginning of March from early February, weather usually is a factor in outdoor events such as this, Miller said. The Chamber of Commerce plans to provide temporary shelter from the elements by enclosing most of the pavilion and if necessary, providing heaters to offset the chill.

From 11 a.m.-3 p.m., local area restaurants will offer their favorite chili recipes for visitors to taste and judge. Past participants have included Creekside Grille, Main Street Pub, Taco Bob’s, Distant Whistle Brewhouse, Rise N Dine and Jaspare’s Pizza. This year, the Chamber anticipates 12 vendors, including the new Vicker’s Lakeside Tavern and the Dawg House. Chili styles range from traditional beef and beans to tasty white chicken chili and some non-chili items. Project Graduation will have a bake sale to benefit the class of 2018. This year, the Distant Whistle Brewhouse will be providing local craft beer for the event, with two styles of beer available for purchase at $3 per 12-ounce pour.

Admission to the event is free. Tickets for food items and drinks are 50 cents each. Guests might plan to spend $5 a person for samples, snacks and drinks. The Chili Cook-Off is a family-friendly event and will feature a children’s activity area presented by the Vicksburg Public Library. Attendees will be treated to live entertainment by the cast of Tarzan the Musical from noon-1 p.m. The Chamber will also be hosting a fundraiser sponsored by the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority. It will offer three chances per person to take a whack at a smashed-up car to raise money for the musical. Depending on the weather, the Historical Village buildings will be open for tours.

“The Chamber is taking the opportunity for this event to bring together, schools, community and the businesses” Miller said. “We encourage all to come and have a great time and experience what makes Vicksburg so wonderful.”

The schedule for the day is as follows:
9 a.m. – Late/In-Person 5K Registration ($30 fee)

10 a.m. – 5K begins

11 a.m. – Chili Cook-Off begins

Noon to 3 p.m. – Trash the Car and Historical Village Tours

3 p.m. – Event ends

The Chili Cook-Off is hosted by the Vicksburg Area Chamber of Commerce, which uses its proceeds to fund future events such as the Taste of Vicksburg. Interested sponsors and volunteers may contact the Chamber at and Facebook.

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” Set to Open in March at Schoolcraft Performing Arts Center

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Schoolcraft students act out their parts for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” From left: Tim VanOrman, Merinda Edwards, Chance Evans.

By Sue Moore

The musical “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” was chosen by Director Leigh Fryling for Schoolcraft’s annual spring production. Curtain is at 7 p.m. on March 16 and 17 and 2 p.m. on March 18.

Fryling is succeeding a longtime Schoolcraft community institution: Christine Sargeant coached the school’s teenagers through many years on the stage of the Performing Arts Center at the high school.

Since Fryling was appointed to the job in November, she wanted to keep her first big play offering to the community simple, but fun and collaborative. “We are building all new rapport together with the students while keeping the tradition of great productions in Schoolcraft that Sargeant was known for. The Charlie Brown script is like flipping through the Sunday funnies. It’s full of vignettes of the comic strip. The music is upbeat consisting of jazz, classical, swing and even tango,” she said.

Playing the leading role of Charlie Brown is Tim VanOrman, who will sing and reluctantly dance, according to Fryling. “He can be a goofy kid but underneath is shy. He has a background in the Kalamazoo Civic along with his family’s participation in the theater.

Lucy is Merinda Edwards, a senior with her first lead role. She has been on the tech crew and been a stage manager in the past. “She is blossoming in the role, becoming the perfect Lucy in the process,” Fryling said.

Hayden Long plays Snoopy and has been in previous Schoolcraft productions but not in a leading role. “This was a surprise casting as he tends to be reserved. But when he auditioned with a song from ‘Into the Woods,’ he nailed it. He is eager to please and learn his craft,” Fryling said.

Others in the cast include Chance Evans as Linus, Isabelle Parker as Sally, Colin Evans as Schroeder, Beth Pavlak as Peppermint Patti and Hope Spencer as Marcie. Amelia Brown, Chloe Scott and Bridget Crofoot perform as Woodstock and company.

Fryling is well known in the area as an accomplished director and performer. She has sung for concerts at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center and was the founder of the Revelry Theater that has staged two plays in the Vicksburg Community Center. “I’ve turned over the reins of Revelry to Cassidy Haines and Ethan Waldron as I prepare for the Schoolcraft play and also have a baby in mid-August,” Fryling said. She is a substitute teacher looking to complete her master’s degree in English to take a full-time position.

Tarzan the Musical has High-Flying Effects

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Emily Towns, Alex Smith and Sydney Andres rehearse their roles for Tarzan the Musical to be presented by the Vicksburg High School’s spring theater production.

By Sue Moore

Tarzan the Musical, a high-flying theatrical production, will be gracing the stage of the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center in March. It is the annual musical offering performed by the Vicksburg Community Schools theater department each spring.

This one has a special twist: Teenagers will be flying through the air like Tarzan in the original musical based on Walt Disney’s epic animated musical adventure.

The $8,000 cost of the flying harnesses, wires and ropes to lend authenticity to the play has been a product of intensive fundraising by teens, their parents and Melissa Sparks, the director of the play. They needed the financial backing by March 1 and have been involved in at least one fundraiser per week since deciding to stage this entertaining musical play. This included coupon books, business sponsorships such as Panera Bread, cookie-dough sales, pop bottle returns and several other opportunities. They raised $350 by going table to table singing love songs on Valentine’s Day to diners at Main Street Pub.

They hit pay dirt with an appeal to the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation, which awarded them a $3,000 grant, contingent upon raising the remainder of the funds by March 1. Sparks’ appeal was based upon having the right equipment to fully stage this challenging play. It involves 40 students on stage who range in age from fourth grade to seniors in high school. Another 20 to 30 students serve in the backstage production, which Sparks also manages. The musical director for the show is Dusty Morris, the high school vocal music director.

Lauren Burke, a senior, told the VCSF board that her years of participation in the theater program have taught her leadership skills and how to communicate on a high level. “It’s a welcoming environment where we can build each other up,” Burke said. She is the assistant director on this play and helped with the fall production of Shakespeare.

Jess Schmidt, a junior, talked about his love of the journey in theatre when he first was chosen for a part in seventh grade; he has been in many others since then. “I’ve met all of my friends here.”

The flying equipment will be installed on March 8 with a crew from an Illinois company present to do the work and instruct the cast on the safety requirements. The actual play will have a run on March 16, 17, 24 at 7 p.m. and a matinee on March 25 at 2 p.m.

The play is an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ book and work of Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwan. The production features heart-pumping music by rock legend Phil Collins, with award winning hits like, “You’ll Be in My Heart” for an unforgettable theatrical experience performed by students who have tremendous musical and stage capabilities, according to Sparks.

“This is a wonderful group of young people,” Sparks said. “They are inclusive, supportive, and build community as they work together. This show is about acceptance of each other, be it amongst the gorillas or in humankind. This is what I’ve been teaching in my 18 years of theatre at Vicksburg. They can be loved for who they are, supportive of each other and build an atmosphere of acceptance.”

Starring in lead rolls are Alex Smith as Tarzan, Sydney Andres as Jane, Emily Towns as Kala the gorilla mother, Jess Schmidt as Kerchak the gorilla father and R.J. Robertson-DeGraff as the dance captain.

Michigan’s Golden Harvest: Maple Syrup

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Terry Moyer, the host of the Michigan Maple Syrup Open House, explains the way he taps his maple trees on his property at 24890 Flach Road between Vicksburg and Mendon.

By Linda Lane

Blue plastic tubing runs from tree to tree on sugar maples lining streets and woods throughout St. Joseph and Kalamazoo counties. The collection of sap is well underway to produce this year’s batch of maple syrup. The newer systems of plastics tubing and bags, replacing metal spouts and buckets, offer an easier and more efficient way to collect sap from the trees and increase yield.

Butternut Creek Sugar Shack, one of the premier sugar bushes in this area, will host an open house again this year. It will offer a free pancake breakfast, including sausage and orange juice, with a tour of the “sugarbush shack” from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 10-11, at 24890 Flach Road just south of the Kalamazoo County line. Weather permitting, visitors are invited to take a walk through the woods with owner and event host Terry Moyer. Walks start at 11 a.m., noon, and 1, 2 and 3 p.m. to watch the process of tapping the sugar maple trees and learn the process of collecting the maple sap.

If conditions are right, Moyer hopes to show people how “maple taffy” is made, sometimes poured onto snow (or crushed ice for cleanliness) with a popsicle stick. Also called sugar on snow, the maple taffy is made by boiling the maple sap past the point of maple syrup, but not to the point of making maple butter or maple sugar. In New England, the event is called a “sugar on snow party” and the soft candy is served with donuts, sour dill pickles or coffee to counter the intense sweetness of the candy.

“I do this because I love it,” Moyer explained. “I really enjoy teaching people about the process of making maple syrup.” Moyer reignited a family tradition, one his grandfather had started in the same woods, though he died before Moyer was born. At the beginning, Moyer even used the old flat pans of his grandfather’s that he had found out in the family’s woods.
Moyer has 950 trees tapped currently, getting permission to tap trees from other landowners, with 45 gallons of maple syrup already produced. The plastic lines drain into 30, 40, and 150-gallon containers, with as many as 140 trees running into the biggest container. Although it’s too early to tell how this season will be, his goal this year is 200-250 gallons of syrup.

But it is entirely weather dependent.

Warn sunny days in the 40s and freezing nights in the 20s are necessary for maple trees to produce the coveted sap and will determine the length of the maple harvest season. Maple sap will flow for approximately 8-15 hours, with a very rapid rise in temperature, from 25 to 45 degrees, enhancing the sap flow. Each tap hole in a tree will produce about 10 gallons of maple sap, enough to boil into about a quart of maple syrup.

Once the sap is collected, it is boiled to 219 degrees Fahrenheit, seven degrees above the boiling point of water. Classified as one of nature’s healthiest foods, maple syrup retains nutrients during the boiling process. Nothing is added; only water is removed during the concentrating process. Pure maple syrup contains natural sugars, minerals, vitamins and amino acids.

Moyer has some new-fangled equipment to expedite the syrup process: a “saparator” which preheats sap to 190 degrees and injects air to create bubbles to release steam before the sap moves into the evaporator which completes the maple syrup boiling process. This process reduces the processing time and allows Moyer to produce 55 gallons of syrup an hour. The wood-fired evaporator will burn 4-6 cords of wood over the season to produce the syrup. It requires manually feeding the wood into the burner every 12 minutes, sometimes as often as every eight minutes.

Anyone with a large maple tree in their yard can tap the tree and produce maple syrup with a minimal amount of equipment. Drill a tap-hole (typically with a 7/16” or 1/2” drill bit, about 2-2 1/2” deep) in the tree which fits a metal or plastic collection spout for each tap-hole; larger trees can have up to four taps. Attach a collection container (bucket or plastic bag). Once the sap is collected, boil down the sap to create the maple syrup by using a large-scale thermometer calibrated at least 15 degrees above the boiling point of water. Filter the finished syrup while still hot with a wool, orlon or other filter into a container.

Native Americans are credited with initiating America’s oldest agricultural commodity and discovering how to convert maple sap into maple syrup. While it was used in local trade many centuries ago, the current economic benefit to Michigan producers exceeds $2.5 million annually. There are an estimated 500 commercial maple syrup producers, with an additional 2,000 hobby or home producers. Michigan ranks fifth in the country for maple syrup production, with Vermont coming in first place.

Fundraising for Team Riley Strong

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Avery Sands and Sadie Grossman display their versions of ‘slime’ for sale to help raise funds for Riley Meyers who has stage 4 cancer.

By Linda Lane

A series of fundraisers have been underway to help a Vicksburg family whose daughter is battling cancer. Samantha Meyers, who had been a special education teacher with Schoolcraft Middle School, quit her job to care for her 10-year-old daughter, Riley. Riley was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer with a large tumor on her right kidney and nodules in both of her lungs. Proceeds from the fundraisers go to Riley’s family to help with medical and day-to-day expenses.

Long Lake Roller Rink will host a roller skating fundraiser March 24 from 5-7 p.m., $10 per person or $30 per family. “My mom and dad went on their first date at that Roller Rink and I’ve going there since I was a little girl. It’s a family tradition,” Meyers said.

A lively fourth-grader who brings a smile to everyone’s face, Riley named her tumor, “Robert.” With the flu running rampant and Riley having a compromised immune system from treatments, her retired third-grade teacher, Lynn McDaniel from Vicksburg’s Tobey Elementary, helps keep her from falling behind while she is homebound. Riley glows with happiness when McDaniel visits and tutors her, as she has been Riley’s favorite teacher.

Recent CT scans presented good news: the nodules in the lungs and the tumor on the kidney are shrinking, with Robert, the tumor, shrunk to nearly half its original size. Riley has endured her seven rounds of chemotherapy, with five more to go to shrink the tumor before doctors determine if they can operate and remove it. The goal is to save as much of her kidney as possible.

“It’s amazing how strong Riley has been through all of this. Really, she’s been stronger than I have been,” said Samantha Meyers. “In spite of everything she’s been through, she just still brings a smile to everyone’s face that she sees.”

Maya Grossman, a fellow fourth-grader and friend of Riley’s, enlisted her sister’s help to help raise funds for Riley’s family. The “Partners in Slime, LLC” business began at the end of the summer when Sadie Grossman and her partner, Avery Sands, pitched the business prospect to Sadie’s mom and dad, Katie and Brett Grossman, to produce slime to sell at craft shows and online. When Riley was diagnosed with cancer, the girls turned their slime business from a for-profit into a fundraiser for Riley. In just 5-6 weeks, they have raised over $1,000, selling the slime at Tobey’s parent-teacher conferences, order forms with Sunset Elementary and at a wrestling tournament, and on Facebook.

The Partners in Slime developed some special slime with Riley in mind: “Orange Crush” to crush Robert (her tumor) and “Green Giant” (Riley’s favorite color, green). The slimes are often scented and may have textures, embellishments, or other surprises in the containers of slime, like eyeballs, unicorns, rainbow foam beads, or skeleton parts. Jars of slime cost $4 for a four-ounce container, with the $2 profit going to Riley’s family. Types of slime include Zombie, Cotton Candy, Twizzlers, Marshmallow, Confetti Cake Batter, Unicorn, Green Giant, and Orange Crush.

In addition to the slime fundraising, Tobey Elementary hosted a dinner and movie night, with a silent auction, at Vicksburg High School where over 250 people turned out to support Riley’s family. Almost $4,300 was raised at the event. Tobey also did a penny/change drive which raised over $800, with kids literally emptying piggybanks into the coin containers. Additionally, T-shirts and wristbands have been for sale. Several stores in the area have also started donation buckets to support Riley’s cause, including Daane’s Party Store and the Daily Grind Café.

Anyone interested in contributing to Riley’s family can go to and search for Team Riley Strong. Orders for slime can be placed at upcoming fundraisers and information can be found on Facebook – Team Riley Strong– via order forms. They even offer local delivery.

Windfall Coffeehouse Opens in Vicksburg

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The drive-through window at Windfall Coffeehouse opened recently with co-owner Rita Sertic offering a cup of hot java.

By Sue Moore

“We didn’t want to get out of our car to get coffee,” joked Rita Sertic. “So we thought we needed a drive-through coffee shop in Vicksburg.” That was the impetus for Sertic, her sister, Angela Palomaki, and mom, Paula Hochstetler, to open Windfall Coffeehouse at 625 W. Prairie Street in Vicksburg.

These three founded Apple Knockers Ice Cream Parlor in downtown Vicksburg nine years ago and have owned it since.

An apple knocker is someone who uses a long stick to knock apples from trees to gather them up. Over the decades it turned into a slang “Yooper” term for down-staters, like “redneck” or “country bumpkin,” describing folks who come up from the Lower Peninsula to hunt in the U.P. and set out piles of apples to fatten the deer throughout the season. When trying to decide on the name for the coffeehouse, Paula, Angela and Rita settled on Windfall, referring to an apple or other fruit blown down from a tree or bush by the wind. And since Windfall is just down the street from Apple Knockers, they thought it was fitting.

“We didn’t want to compete with ourselves at Apple Knockers, so we are offering more of a gourmet menu here at the coffeehouse. We did bring our chilis, soups and cornbread here, so people can get them all year round now,” Palomaki said. Windfall opened in early December and will stay open year round. Apple Knockers takes time off in the winter and will reopen in the middle of March.

Windfall took lots of thought and exploration from its inception two years ago, Sertic explained. The three are still tweaking their offerings as they gain feedback from their customers. They have added items to their breakfast menu, which is available all day. The lunch menu has been honed to showcase a nice array of items and soon will have a gourmet salad bar to go with the luscious sandwiches. “Our menu is small but really good, as we didn’t want to cut corners,” said Hochstetler. “The quality is important to us, so we want to offer the very best.”

“We went to a chef we trusted for his suggestions. He coached us on what would work at this location, then we started testing and tasting as we worked on the menu. There are no fryers here like at Apple Knockers, just fresh, gourmet food. We knew how to scoop ice cream but we were less sure of breakfast and lunch items for a coffeehouse,” Hochstetler said.

It’s the coffee that inspired Palomaki to become a trained and certified barista. The roaster they use, the Coffee Barrel, is located in Holt, south of Lansing. The company uses a unique roasting method called fluid bed air roasting, which is unlike traditional roasters. “It offers a much smoother, more flavorful blend. I can order a week’s supply of coffee on Monday and have it here the next morning so it is always fresh,” Palomaki said.

Windfall is open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the weekdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Customers may call in their orders in advance at 269-315-5123 or order online through and use the convenience of their new pick up window. Coffees and a selection of grab-and-go items are available right at the window without any pre-ordering.

With one step inside the door of the coffeehouse, there is a “wow” factor. Their decorating is unique with found items in every nook and cranny. “We are successful hoarders,” Palomaki said with a laugh. “We were also gifted a lot of the artifacts that are on the walls and even the ceiling.” The focal point of the cozy dining area is a 150-year-old fireplace mantel that once graced a flower shop in Grand Rapids. It came from a collection of family friends Duane and Arlene DeYoung. The 20-foot ladder hanging from the ceiling as a light fixture was a gift from another family friend, Jack Matthews, and the list goes on. Palomaki even made the barn doors herself from scraps of lumber.

“We didn’t want to wash dishes, so we started out with paper cups and plastic plates and silverware. We soon realized that didn’t fit the type of food we wanted to serve,” Hochstetler said. “We have brought in glass plates from home now and have real plates on order. And the same with the coffee mugs. People were requesting real mugs, so we ordered a few and will keep on adding them as we can, along with real silverware.”

“As Apple Knockers was a work in progress, our vision for Windfall is customer-driven. We want everyone to have an enjoyable experience. Magic happens when all three of us can get together and brainstorm,” said Sertic. “Then we all jump in and work until the job gets done.”

Vickers Lakeside Tavern to Open in Late May

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Owner Jon Pearsall sits at the bar of the newly named Vickers Restaurant in downtown Vicksburg.

By Sue Moore

Change is coming to the restaurant that used to be The Dek and before that The Vault on W. Prairie Street in Vicksburg. New owners Jack and Jon Pearsall have purchased the property from a bank foreclosure and will open Vickers Lakeside Tavern in late May.

The father and son combination may not be from Vicksburg but they chose a name for their establishment that connects with the original settler, John Vickers. It is believed that Vickers’ original grist mill was built very close to the property on what is now Sunset Lake.

“We are excited, optimistic, positive about this investment in a beautiful lakefront space, and in a great supportive community,” Jon Pearsall said. Although he grew up in Portage and is a graduate of Northern Michigan and Michigan State universities, he has worked in Chicago as a manager and then in Kalamazoo for the Kalamazoo Flower Group as program manager. He quit that job at the end of January and is devoting full-time to getting the doors of the Vickers Tavern open as soon as possible.

Jack Pearsall, his father, moved to Portage for a job at Upjohn in the early 80s from New Jersey, where he owned several restaurants. He was working as an engineering contractor for piping installations. He would work the bar at night in his first restaurant. “I wanted to be a golf pro because I grew up on a golf course where my dad was the manager in upper New York state,” the elder Pearsall said. His second restaurant was in Mendham, N.J. near a golf course where he could play golf and work full time at the restaurant. It was sold in the middle 70s. Both father and son are scratch golfers but acknowledge they won’t have much time for the game while diving into this new business.

“The price was right for the building and its contents,” Jack said. “We see a lot of things that have to change. The entrance to the deck area allowed customers to just walk in off the street without the staff knowing they were there to dine. Our plan is to eventually enclose the patio for winter service as well as summer. We will serve bar food such as burgers, fries, pizza, salads, sandwiches and all kinds of alcohol. A tap will be reserved for Distant Whistle’s IPA beer in particular.”

A lot of cleaning, scrubbing, painting and new carpeting needs to be put down before they can open, Jack pointed out. They will install a dishwasher; there wasn’t one before. They haven’t decided what to do with the actual bank vault that opens from the dining room. They had to have a locksmith come and tinker with the combination as that didn’t get left behind. The décor will change with the idea of using photographs of Vicksburg landmarks on the walls. Entertainment will again be offered in the summer on the deck.

“We are going to give the restaurant tender, loving care. We have made a commitment. Both of us are very dedicated to making this a success,” Jack exclaimed. “Whatever is needed we will do and work full time at it. We are not absentee owners.”

Oak Wilt Disease is Encroaching on South County

A tree trimmer hard at work in an oak tree in the spring.

By Hailey Black

Editor’s note: Oak Wilt disease can be controlled somewhat by timing pruning of oaks. Michigan DNR suggests no pruning from early April through June 15. The “safe to prune” time is November through March. The following story explains the situation with the disease.

When the first white settlers came upon what is now called Schoolcraft in the early 1800s, they noted a vast prairie with surrounding dense oak forests, inhabited by the native Potowatomi. The south Kalamazoo area we know and love today may look quite different, but evidence of those ancient oak forests still surrounds our communities.

Today, the most notorious threat to our beloved oak trees lies in oak wilt disease.

Oak wilt disease is caused by a fungus which is almost always fatal to oak trees. Once infected, the tree dies within months or even weeks. It first appeared in the U.S. around the 1970s, and the source is still unclear. Possibly, the fungus was introduced from Mexico, Central or South America. It has since spread throughout the Midwest and Texas. Despite the spread, “the number of confirmed cases is declining,” according to Linda Whitlock of the Consumer Horticulture and Master Gardener Program at the Kalamazoo County Michigan State University Extension Office. She attributes much of this to education and outreach efforts.

Part of the outreach is teaching how the disease spreads. This can happen one of two ways: When an oak tree is wounded, either via pruning or storm damage, the wound releases a pheromone. Whitlock notes that the pheromone “smells like rotting fruit” that attracts “picnic beetles”, which can carry the fungus from one tree to another. The disease can also be spread from an infected tree’s complex underground root grafts, 50 to 100 feet apart.

Red oaks (with the pointed leaves) are most susceptible to oak wilt disease and can die within weeks of symptoms being noted. White oaks (with rounded leaves) tend to be more resistant to the fungus and can take months to die. Phillip Kurzeja, forest health technician with the Oak Wilt Mapping and Community Outreach Forest Resource Division of the Michigan DNR notes that occasionally, if caught early enough, white oak trees infected with wilt can be treated, but often the disease is fatal. Treatment itself occurs to prevent the spread of disease to other nearby oaks.

This is what makes oak wilt one of the more unique tree diseases. Treatment options don’t necessarily save a property owner’s tree, but proper management can prevent the fungus from spreading throughout the owner’s and neighboring properties. Whitlock states that proper management may include “trenching” an infected tree to prevent spread through root grafts. Another form of management may include carefully and tightly covering infected oak wood with a tarp to prevent spread via a dead tree. Kurzeja said that not moving firewood is important, because “If it is moved by a person – in infected firewood – it can start a new epicenter anywhere there is host and suitable conditions.”

Kurzeja added that the Michigan DNR has confirmed cases of oak wilt near the south county area (in Ramona Park and the Gourdneck State Game area), though he did not confirm cases within Schoolcraft or Vicksburg. He noted that sometimes potential cases go unreported by property owners, and the Michigan DNR cannot directly manage private property.

Both Whitlock and Kurzeja agreed that oak wilt can be mistaken for other oak diseases, so early and correct identification is important. Kurzeja said, “A healthy tree’s foliage can begin to brown from the tips of the leaves toward the stem, usually starting at the top of the tree and in a matter of a few weeks to a month, can go from fully leafed out to almost completely bare. These symptoms can begin as early as May extending through the summer into September and October is some parts of the state.” Two other oak pests, the two lined chestnut borer (TLCB) and Armillaria root rot, are sometimes mistaken for oak wilt disease.

Although Kurzeja wasn’t aware of any impact studies done by the state to analyze oak wilt’s effect, MSU’s tree experts acknowledge the impact of oak wilt on property values, and estimates that each tree lost may represent thousands of dollars. He also estimates that “trenching” two trees could cost about $300, and tree removal could range from $2,000-$7,000.

With those numbers, it’s easy to see why experts say that prevention is key. For folks in South County, keeping a watchful eye on their own oaks can preserve their properties and their neighbors’, as well as a bit of the heritage of these well-loved communities.