45 Years for B & B and Still Going Strong

Doug Stafinski has chaired the Lions Club B & B for 18 years.

By Sue Moore

Brats, sauerkraut, beer, music, horseshoes and cornhole all come together in one big fancy summer festival. Scheduled in Vicksburg on the weekend of July 26-28 and lovingly called the B & B, for beer and brats, it is a tradition going back to 1973.

This will be the fifth year of the B & B hosting the event in the Pavilion on Richardson and Spruce streets. The attendance has increased and the Lions Club which sponsors the event has been able to raise more money to give back to the community, according to Doug Stafinski, long-time coordinator of the festival.

In fact, Stafinski will mark his 18th year as the go-to guy for all questions and answers that are needed. When he took over planning in 2000, three years before his retirement from the post office in Vicksburg, he found that spending on supplies and other equipment had suffered from duplication. He put all the ordering on a spreadsheet so overlap was eliminated and waste was down to a trickle. However, the weather can have a big influence on that equation, he noted.

“There were years when we have had tornado warnings and once a torrential downpour while at the Richardson Street address before the Pavilion was built. There were kids on the volleyball courts who were having great fun sloshing and sliding all over head first until I reminded them that they might be drinking water seepage from the old dump that was once in use there,” Stafinski said with a chuckle.

The festival has moved around from its original site in the old Helms building in downtown Vicksburg, a location now owned by Frederick Construction. It outgrew the location after just a couple of years and was moved to the old Harre & Fink Implement building next door, also owned now by Frederick Construction. A pole barn next to the railroad tracks on property just north of what today is Family Fare was the next location.

It became somewhat claustrophobic on hot summer days. A move to a larger building on W Avenue near St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church followed. The next location was a former dump next to Brady Township Hall. Shortly thereafter, all the tents and activities were moved to Vicksburg’s Recreation Park. The problem with that? The public couldn’t find it as easily. What to do?

The Lions Club joined forces with the village and the Farmers’ Market to build the pavilion which now houses both activities and is much more in the public eye. It offers good parking, cover from rain and room for cornhole and horseshoe competitions, Stafinski said.

He manages to get everybody involved from the club members right on down to his wife Deb, daughter and son-in-law Katie and Brett Grossman, son Eric and very shortly his grandkids who are learning to take responsibility and get the job done. They are following in enviable footsteps.

Well-Known Bands to Play at the B & B

bb 11By Tanner White

The Vicksburg Lions Club’s 45th Annual B&B Summer Festival features an array of live performances from talented local and travelling bands. One of the staple bands set to perform on Friday night is The Backroads Band. Formerly known as The Rustic Band, it plays covers of classic and modern rock and country songs.

The band has been a cornerstone of Friday night festivities at the B&B for almost 20 years, recognized and cheered for its cohesive sound and appeal to hometown audiences. Live music is a perennial attraction at the B&B, and attendees often laud the live music and its contribution to the festival atmosphere. The band’s set begins Friday night at 8:30 p.m during the Adult Corn Hole Tournament.

Two members of the band are Vicksburg locals. Bob Soter plays the drum set and Charlie Pritchard plays lead guitar. The band’s take on rock and country from the 1970s to today means it’s popular among listeners of all ages. Doug Stafinski, chair of the B&B, urges fans to come out and support the Backroads Band and to enjoy great entertainment at the B&B on Friday, July 27, in the Pavilion at the Vicksburg Historical Village.

Saturday has DC-90 featured beginning at 9 p.m. It is a party-rock band that loves to get fans out on the dance floor to move with their music.

Thursday Night is Kids Night at the Summer Festival

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Maya Grossman and her best friend Madison Niewenhuis enjoy kids night at the B & B.

Games, prizes, clowns, a magician, hot dogs and hijinks for kids mark the Thursday, July 25 opening of the Lions Club B & B at the community pavilion from 5 until 9 p.m. Organized by Katie Grossman and assisted by many of the young people who are children of club members, there is something for every child to enjoy.

There will also be vision testing for kids ages 5 to 13 with results available on the spot at no charge. This is one of the Lions International main service projects.

Cornhole and Horseshoes Standard Fare at B & B

bb 8By Sue Moore

Winners of the 2017 horseshoe pitching contest were Bob Gettys, on the left in a blue shirt, and his partner, Bryan Wolthuis, wearing a white shirt. Wolthuis is the son-in-law of three-time winner Scott “Stubby” Haynes. Bob and Bryan beat Stubby and Scott Plankenhorn in the finals to take home the trophy.  Both were first-time winners. Horseshoe competition is good for bragging rights all year long, according to chairperson Brett Grossman.

“I have been told that at 80 pitchers for the Vicksburg B & B horseshoe tournament, it’s the largest organized event of its kind in the state,” Grossman said. ”What’s remarkable is that last year we had 75 men and five women sign up in advance and all 80 of them were there for an 11 a.m. start on Saturday morning.”

“For the cornhole competition we had 92 participants for the second year in a row. We hope to have a full slate of 100 this year,” he said.  That contest kicks off at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 27.

Staff at Vicksburg District Library Ready for Big Changes

library personnel
Vicksburg District Library’s staff includes from left to right: Lisa Stafford, Eric Hansen, and Adrianne Schinkai.

Change in the library world are not glacial. To prove it, the Vicksburg District Library is announcing big staff changes that took place in June.

Eric Hansen will fill the role of director left by the retiring John Sheridan. Hansen is a 2010 graduate of the University of Michigan School of Information. Before switching career tracks, he graduated from Western Michigan University’s (WMU) College of Arts and Sciences and taught courses in English composition, public speaking and creative writing at several colleges. He has worked for the University of Michigan Libraries, Grand Rapids Public Library and the Special Collections and University Archives at Grand Valley State University.

He is expecting to offer internet access to the piles of yearbooks in the library collection from the late 1930s to 1989 as they get scanned into the library database. The library also has decades of scrapbooks and items in storage that people drop off to offer online so a member can access from home.

Hansen and his wife, Margaret, have been married for 13 years. They have a seven-year-old son, Oscar, who will enter second grade this fall. They enjoy completing 5K runs such as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and the yearly Thanksgiving Gobble Wobble to raise money for the West Michigan Kids’ Food Basket program.

Hansen explains, “The role of the library has to include serving as a community center. Our library has programs to connect adults and senior citizens, junior high and high school youth, and children from pre-school to elementary age. It’s also a great place to discover new movies, music, and books to discuss with friends.”

Adrianne Schinkai will replace Hansen as Head of Circulation and Reference. Schinkai is a graduate of Wayne State University and WMU. She comes from a background of providing services and programs to a variety of ages in both academic and public libraries. Her prior experience includes working at the Lansing Community College library, Wayne Public Library, Madonna University Library and WMU’s Waldo Library.

Of her new position at the Vicksburg Library, she said, “I have always felt that the public library is an incredible resource for a city or town, no matter how big or small. My mission is to show Vicksburg and its surrounding communities what resources we can provide for them besides just books. Libraries are changing mediums nowadays and can do so many wonderful things. That’s why I love being a librarian!”

Schinkai lives with her husband and daughter and a variety of pets. She lovingly refers to her home as “The Zoo.” During her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, cooking and baking and crocheting. She is a die-hard fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and her favorite book this year is Circe by Madeline Miller. Schinkai also enjoys writing fiction and participating in National Novel Writing Month.

Lisa Stafford is Vicksburg District Library’s new clerk. Stafford has been a Vicksburg resident for six years and lives with her husband Nick, their two children, Zoe and Caleb, and two kitties. She enjoys growing fresh vegetables in her garden, trying new recipes, exercising at the gym, spending time with family, and reading with a nice cup of tea. She said, “Going to the library was always a big part of my life as a child. I am very excited to serve my community as a member of the library staff.”

Thespian Society to Perform at Community Pavilion

Members of the Thespian Society dance and sing as they perform in Cabaret. Photo by Melissa Sparks.

By Sue Moore

Friends and family is the musical theme of a lively show by a group of Vicksburg High School drama and musical performers in “It’s a Cabaret: Friends and Family Night”. It will take place at the Community Pavilion on July 11, opening at 6:30 p.m. with the show at 7 p.m.

“The public will love this fast-paced dinner-theatre type of show,” said Melissa Sparks, theater director for Vicksburg Community Schools. It includes dinner as well as the show, with tickets $10 and available that night. Walk-ins are welcome, she said.

Singers and dancers, from the high school’s International Thespian Society, Troupe 8147 will perform musical theater songs. In addition, Vicksburg theater alumni will perform and announce scenes and songs from next year’s lineup for school theater productions, Sparks said. “It provides the audience a chance to see what our alums are doing now.

And our current students get an opportunity to see how these songs and scenes could be performed. The current Thespian students sing musical theater songs from other shows, all under the theme of friends and family,” Sparks commented.

Since there are no drama classes at Vicksburg High School, Sparks wanted an opportunity for more educational enrichment for her theater students outside of school time. “This was the best solution,” she said. “Since our inception, these students have had master class workshops with Broadway stars, recording artists, world-class musical directors, and Vicksburg theater alumni. We’ve taken trips for additional enrichment, including to Chicago.”

They just returned from a trip to the Stratford Festival in Canada, where they attended performances and workshops with their exceptional performing artists. “For ‘It’s a Cabaret’, we rehearse during the summer and this is our summer fundraiser.” However, during the school year the Thespian Society meets for other purposes: fundraising, service projects, education and outreach.

This troupe also provides service to Vicksburg Theatre and the Vicksburg Arts Community. It organizes props and costume storage, creates and provides fundraising for the theater program and assists in various performances at the Performing Arts Center, including mentoring the 4-8th grade fall musical. Membership invitations are extended based on hard work in the program and earning points. The troupe was formed in 2012 by Sparks as an honor society for high school and middle school theater students. There are over 2.3 million high school students in the International Thespian Society.

Seating at the pavilion will be on picnic tables and people are welcome to bring their own chairs if that would be more comfortable for the 1 1/2-hour show, Sparks said. The food is made and provided by members of the local International Thespian Society. This summer’s show will be barbecue style, with pulled pork, hot dogs, cold salads, fruit, dessert, lemonade and iced tea. The fundraising is for Vicksburg Community Schools’ theater program.

Taste of Vicksburg Promises a Party Downtown

By Sue Moore

The Taste of Vicksburg is back after a year’s hiatus in downtown Vicksburg July 14. Sponsored by the Vicksburg Area Chamber of Commerce, it has always drawn big crowds to the village. The choices of food will get going at the main four corners at 5 p.m., ending at 8 p.m. The Chamber will offer hot dogs for sale from 9-midnight, after the food vendors close down and the beer is still available.

One new restaurant has been added to the number of restaurants operating in Vicksburg, with Vickers’ Tavern now open for business at 122 East Prairie. A few of the regulars with the Taste who can be counted upon to show their best food options include: Jaspare’s, Main Street Pub, Rise-N-Dine, Taco Bob’s, and Angels Crossing. There are 15 restaurants now in Vicksburg with eight which have committed to offer their food creations. A judge’s choice plaque will be awarded to one of the restaurants participating. Chamber Vice-President Mandy Miller said there will be five mystery judges sampling the food offerings. They will announce their choice at 8:30 p.m. on the stage.

Imperial Beverage will have Miller High Life, Miller Lite and Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy on tap. Distant Whistle and the Hide-A-Way will be offering drinks inside their buildings but they cannot be carried outside to the tent on S. Main Street.

Music will be provided by Hair Mania from 7-11 p.m. on the stage under the traffic light.

The Vicksburg Area Chamber of Commerce is headed by Dane Bosel and assisted by Miller, Nick DeVito, Christine Butcher, and other dedicated business people. They recently sponsored a Job Fair at the high school, a Picnic in the Village and the Chili Cook-off in March at the Community Pavilion.

In years past, food and drink were purchased with cash only. This year the Chamber will accept debit and credit cards along with cash in an effort to shorten lines waiting to purchase tickets.

Art Stroll Returns to Downtown Vicksburg

Two years ago, the streets of downtown Vicksburg were full of the energy that art and music can conjure. The community will be offered that experience again as the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Cente , the VCAC, brings the Art Stroll back on Saturday, July 21 from 4 to 9 pm.

Downtown business and building owners will be opening their doors to showcase artworks from local talented visual artists and musical performers. Visitors to the VCAC Art Stroll will be provided an extraordinary opportunity to participate in a unique community art project at Oswalt Park. “A number of artists are collaborating right now under the cloak of secrecy to bring a special experience to the Village,” said Center Director Syd Bastos.

New this year, street performers will provide even more entertainment for kids and adults alike. “We’ve got some special street performances lined up to add additional excitement to the Arts Stroll experience,” said Amanda Wilson, VCAC staff member and coordinator for entertainment for the Arts Stroll.

The staff at the VCAC is busy settling the details of the event. You can follow the progress of their efforts on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/VicksburgCulturalArtsCenter, on the website at vicksburgarts.com or stop at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center for the latest information.

Cultural Arts Center Forms a New Board

vcac board
Back row left to right: Syd Bastos, Amanda Wilson, Rex Cummings, MIchaelene Glowacz, Lisa Beams. Front row left to right: Amy Snow, Mariann Tsilis-Barnard, Jodi Vanderweele-Noble, Jake Munson, Kristen Simpson. Standing in back from left: Syd Bastos, Amanda Wilson, Rex Cummings, MIchaelene Glowacz, Lisa Beams.

By Sue Moore

The old saying, “You’ve come a long way baby,” accurately describes the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) as it turns three years old. It’s ready to fly on its own, applying for nonprofit status with the IRS.

It was created through the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the efforts of its director at the time, Kathleen Hoyle. Her vision for the downtown included making the arts central to its development. In doing so, she called local artists together for a meeting in 2013 to determine what kind of interest there might be in a formal structure for the arts.

In August, 2015, it opened as the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center, located next door to Rawlinson’s Appliances at 200 S. Main Street. Growing pains included requests for grants from the Vicksburg Foundation that kept it alive initially. The DDA’s funds could not be used for this purpose.

Several paid directors were recruited along with volunteers but left because they needed steadier employment. “They were great contributors to the foundation of the arts center,” according to Syd Bastos, who took over leadership in late 2015. She was joined by Lisa Beams in early 2016. Together this dynamic duo has built the organization from the ground up, said village President Bill Adams.

Now it’s time to see the groundwork come to fruition, according to Bastos. She mailed the application for 501c3 legal status to the IRS in June and expects to hear of its acceptance within six months. In order to apply successfully, a new board of directors needed to be chosen and seated. This took place in April with Mariann Tsilis-Barnard as its first president.

“We hope to create a sustainable model to fuse with the vision of the community,” Tsilis-Barnard said. “It matters what we do next. We want to be a part of a happening place with a sense of pride from the community we serve. The board will follow nonprofit arts organizations’ proven practices to bring their ideas and experiences to the table. We will ask, ‘what are we?’ within the definition of arts, be it music, drama, design and visual.”

Although Tsilis-Barnard has only been a south county resident for one year, she has volunteered to get involved. She has a brother who lives nearby and thus she and her husband had been visiting often from their home base of Quincy, Ill. She has spent many years in the arts community there, first as coordinator of the Quincy Fine Arts organization and then as executive director of the Quincy Art Center. She is also a jewelry designer, an eco-consultant and event organizer. Now the couple has moved full-time to the Vicksburg area.

Others appointed to the board include: Rex Cummings, treasurer; Amy Snow, secretary and board members Michaelene Glowacz, Jake Munson, Kristen Simpson and Jodi Vanderweele-Noble.

Summer Palooza is August 2

paloozaToni Rafferty and her Schoolcraft Girl Scout troop members were part of Schoolcraft Library’s Summer Palooza in years past. Other organizations in Schoolcraft will also be presenting at the event in Burch Park on Thursday, August 2 from 5 – 7:30 p.m. There will be games, prizes, food, craft vendors and family activities for the whole community. The Palooza is sponsored by Friends of the Library.