Monthly Archives: December 2019

Christmas in the Village Has Night Parade and Day Events

By Sue Moore

The village of Vicksburg will turn into a wonderland of Christmas lights at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, December 14 for the fifth annual night-time parade through downtown.

Former village manager Ken Schippers hatched the idea of a glow-in-the-dark parade five years ago. It has since attracted huge throngs of visitors to the village. The Downtown Development Authority has been the sponsoring organization for Christmas in the Village since Schippers moved it to the evening parade.

But the parade is just the culmination of holiday activities throughout the day. For those who love homemade baked goods, the Vicksburg Historical Society starts things off with its annual bake sale at the Historic Village’s Depot Museum from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. While customers are munching on cookies and cupcakes, they’re invited to bring the kids to see the O-gauge toy trains running the rails in the old yellow Township Hall on the grounds nearby. It’s a taste of nostalgia for the days when kids were gifted with Lionel train sets under the tree and their fathers could play all day with the setup of rail cars, engines and a caboose and a switch or two.

Events move downtown at 2 p.m. with the 6th annual winter market in the former Hill’s Pharmacy building. There won’t be a whole lot of produce for sale but there will be honey, baked goods, beefalo, Christmas décor and gifts. Another type of craft market will be open at 103 E. Prairie Street for those looking for other kinds of homemade items for sale.

Meanwhile kids, parents, friends and relatives alike will be entertained on the live stage adjacent to Oswalt Park at Prairie and Main. There will be music with the high school choir singing and also strolling the streets while caroling. Dancers from the community education dance classes will perform along with a magician and a story teller holding forth in a heated tent.

The Children’s Elf Workshop, run by staff of the Vicksburg District Library, will invite children to play games in the main room of the Community Center.

The Big Red Machine will kick off the parade at 5:30 p.m. as it moves north from the school’s administration building on Kalamazoo Avenue, west on East Prairie Street to S. Main and thence south to Park Street.

There will be three special visitors this year at Christmas in the Village: Santa Claus will be downtown at the old consignment store before and after the parade. Santa Paws – dog visits – will be at Cuts 4 Mutts grooming, 207 Richardson, during the event, and the Grinch will be at the Troll Marketplace on W. Highway Street. Draft horses hitched to wagons will transport visitors from downtown to the Troll and around the village, then back downtown. The Holly Jolly Trolley will travel in the other direction to take people to the Historic Village on Richardson Street and the nearby Cuts 4 Mutts. There will be horse and pony rides available on the grounds of the Historic Village all day.

The tree lighting ceremony will take place in Oswalt Park soon after the parade ends. Adults are invited to take part in part in the annual Pub Crawl at five of the local drinking establishments, sponsored by the Vicksburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

Lead sponsors for the celebration include Frederick Construction, The Mill at Paper City and the Village of Vicksburg. Others include Grossman Law, Fred’s Pharmacy, Imery’s Perlite, Main St. Pub and Michelle’s Restaurant.

Something for Everyone at Christmas Walk in Schoolcraft

By Deb Christianson

In Historic Schoolcraft, the first weekend of December is set aside for the downtown Christmas Walk. It was the brainchild of Norma Taggert of Norma’s Antiques & Collectibles on Grand Street, as a way for people to discover the charm of a small-town Christmas – and sell antiques.

This tradition continues after 31 years.

Fourteen businesses along Schoolcraft’s downtown corridor or close by will be open on Friday, December 6 from 6-9 p.m. and Saturday, December 7 from 9-ish to 3-ish for holiday fun. Antique and collectible shoppers can begin their journey north of town at Nana D’s Attic, a consignment shop with 40-plus vendors and something for everyone. The Grand Antique Gallery, LLC, resides in the location where Norma’s Antiques & Collectibles was and features a nice selection of antiques, glassware & artwork. Myles Cooley will provide music and there will be live caricatures by Bryce Cooley. Having a caricature done by Bryce is a new Schoolcraft tradition. The Schoolcraft Antique Mall will have hors d’oeuvres and lots of freshly selected antiques.

Both of Schoolcraft’s historic churches participate joyously in this Walk. The United Methodist Church, dedicated in 1852, will have a sloppy joe and pie supper from 5-7 p.m. on Friday and a homemade soup lunch from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday. There will be a bake sale, craft sale, silent auction, white elephant sale, and more. Church secretary Kimm Carlin says, “We always have a packed house.”

Friday night, the festivities for the historic First Presbyterian Church, dedicated in 1892, will be at the DeVries Law offices in downtown Schoolcraft with craft items, baked goods and a raffle. Saturday, Westminster Hall will be open while serving pasties and chicken ‘n’ biscuits from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thecraft sale, bake sale and raffle continue there with Attic Treasures.

Founded in 1908, Kalamazoo County State Bank boasts that it is the oldest independently owned and operated community bank in Kalamazoo County. It will be on hand with donuts and cider on Friday night and invite guests to stop by and guess the amount of money in the “Christmas Present Jar.”

On Hayward Street next to the Schoolcraft Post Office, the Ladies Library Building, which was dedicated in 1896, will be open both days with a craft and cookie sale. Elizabeth Hamilton at the Ladies Library Building will sign her eagerly anticipated new book titled, “Have Camera Will Travel in the Historic Village of Schoolcraft, Michigan.” $25.

Santa Claus will be visiting several places in Schoolcraft during the Walk, so there are no excuses to miss the jolly fellow. He will be stopping at Lake Michigan Credit Union on Friday night. Warm up with coffee, hot chocolate, cookies, and a few ho-ho-hos. The credit union will have Lazy Man BBQ in its parking lot both Friday and Saturday. On Friday, at the American Legion on Clay Street, Santa will appear with the Mrs. The American Legion is serving cocktails, beer, wine and sloppy joes. There will also be cookie decorating. For professional photos with Santa, look no further than Reflections Modern Photography at the Beauty Bar on Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Cost: $15 per child or group.

For the modern and local, Salon Harlow invites you to shop-sip-snack on Friday with Pop Up-Shop Boutique Oz. Close by on Grand Street, a new shop, Craft & Grand, will be open both Friday and Saturday with locally made goods, cookies, and cocoa. Biggby’s will be serving its specialty coffee on Friday night. On Saturday, there will be $1.99 hot/iced specialty beverages up to 20 ounces with upgrades available. Popular local Nonla Taqueria will be serving Mexican cuisine at its finest on both Friday and Saturday.

For the little ones, in addition to visiting with Santa, there’s a Princesses and Pirates sing-along with Disney classics. The little ones are invited to appear in their sparkliest tiara or blackest pirate hat and sing like no one is listening. Signing her new book, “Meant for Her,” will be Joy Avery Melville on Saturday at the Library. $12.65. Historical walking caroling tours through town are planned.

Visit the Village of Schoolcraft for a map of Walk festivities and a free postcard of the Underground Railroad by Wm Christiansen Photography. The map is printed on Starwhite Vicksburg Tiara from the former Simpson Paper Company. More information and updates will be updated at or call 679-5795 for further information.

Boutique Gift Shop Opens on Grand Street in Schoolcraft

Craft + Grand Gift Boutique is newly opened at 222 N. Grand Street in downtown Schoolcraft. Stacey Sherman, owner of The Beauty Bar and a Schoolcraft native, recently expanded into the space next to the salon and has opened a new retail option for area residents. Craft + Grand features items made in the U.S., with the majority being made right here in Michigan.

There’s a wide variety of offerings, including home décor, bath and body products, jewelry, hats, scarves, clothing, pet goods and handmade greeting cards. You can find photos of many of these items featured on the Craft + Grand Facebook page and on Instagram @craftandgrand.

While giving the space a makeover, a section of shared wall between the Beauty Bar salon and store was removed, making it possible for salon guests to shop while hair color is processing, or before and after their hair appointment. There is also a door on Grand Street.

The main goal for Craft + Grand was to create somewhere that people could shop locally, and truly feel like they’re supporting local business. A lot of time was spent searching for local vendors and finding items to be for sale in the store, Sherman said.

“There are a lot of other great boutiques in the area, and it was time for Schoolcraft to have its own modern retail option,” he said. “With the Beauty Bar having opened three years ago, many conversations have been had within its walls about people not wanting to drive to Kalamazoo for a unique wedding shower, baby shower or whatever gift.”

Statements like that made wheels start turning in Sherman’s head. A couple of years were spent growing an idea. Once the space became available, a decision was made, and the Craft + Grand was launched.

Fall and winter hours are Wednesday-Friday 3-7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sunday 12-4 p.m. Since The Beauty Bar and Craft + Grand have a pass-through, patrons might want to check Facebook or Instagram to see if there are expanded hours throughout the week during which one can enter through the salon.

Craft + Grand will also be participating in the annual Christmas Walk, December 6 and 7, and will be helping The Beauty Bar and Reflections Modern Photography carry on the new tradition of sales, snacks, and Santa photos, Sherman said.

Elizabeth Hamilton Debuts New Book at Christmas Walk

Elizabeth Hamilton
Elizabeth Hamilton shows off the proof pages of her book that was printed at Portage Printing Company.

By Deb Christianson

A book more than 33 years in the making is hot off the press and will now be available during the upcoming Schoolcraft Christmas Walk. Elizabeth Hamilton has been photographing Schoolcraft since she took her first darkroom film photography class at Kalamazoo Valley Community College in 1988. She has been a Schoolcraft resident since she moved here with her husband and son in 1976.

Her latest book, “Have Camera Will Travel in the Historic Village of Schoolcraft, Michigan,” features a cavalcade of photographs, from Schoolcraft residents and Schoolcraft historical places to recent Schoolcraft events. It is a chronicle of her personal journey as well as a chronicle of life in Schoolcraft. Elizabeth has donated her time and photos to the community for charity and other projects for the past 33 years.

Among the photographs in “Have Camera” is Elizabeth’s first prizewinning entry in the WKZO calendar contest. This photo features the interior of Mike’s Barber Shop with Cliff Niskala in the chair, barber Mike Eberstein, and two dogs, Ollie and Ellie. There’s a photo from the 2014 Schoolcraft Christmas Walk taken in the Opera Room on the second floor of what was then Norma’s Antique Shop. Deadwood bluegrass music was entertaining customers. Elizabeth photographed the book signing of “So, I’m Told” by author Mary Jane Swartz in 1989 at the Underground Railroad Museum. Mary Jane’s daughters, Harriet and Nancy, were there. It’s Edna Smith’s book that Mary Jane is signing. Edna Smith owned the oldest house with siding in Schoolcraft.

Elizabeth was great friends with the Swartz family, and her photography of Schoolcraft homes began with a phone call from Harriet Swartz. Harriet wanted to photograph Schoolcraft herself. “I have a camera, and I want to take pictures,” Harriet told Elizabeth, “but my camera isn’t good enough. Can you help?” Their collaboration resulted in two books, “The Porches of Schoolcraft” and “The Kitchens of Schoolcraft.” “The ‘Kitchens’ book took longer to put together,” Elizabeth said, “because Harriet and I actually went inside the house.” This necessitated a neighborly visit rather than a quick pic and run. “Harriet visited with the hostess while I took the photographs,” Elizabeth said. Both books are greatly loved by the Schoolcraft public and are available to view at the Schoolcraft Community Library.

In August of 2000, Elizabeth was granted a press pass by the Secret Service and FBI to take pictures of George W. Bush’s visit to Schoolcraft alongside ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. There were about 7,000 people there that day at the Schoolcraft train depot. That same year, Elizabeth’s photography was in a KVCC End of Year Budget Performance publication that won an award for depicting information graphically rather than solely numerically.

Many Schoolcraft residents will find themselves among the pages of Elizabeth’s book. She will be signing it during the Schoolcraft Christmas Walk, December 6 and 7, at the Ladies Library Building on Hayward Street next door to the Schoolcraft Post Office. The book costs $25.

The Dome in Schoolcraft to Host “The Night of Miracles”

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Miracle Field in Schoolcraft.

By Sue Moore

“The Night of Miracles,” an evening of baseball for kids with disabilities, will take place at the Dome on US-131 in Schoolcraft from 6:30-9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6. It will feature the first-ever Southwest Michigan Miracle League baseball team playing against a team from the West Michigan Miracle League in Rockford. It is also a stop on the Christmas Walk taking place in downtown Schoolcraft.

Stryker Corp. executive Jim Heath and his wife, Marsha, will be hosting the exhibition event. David Olson of Vicksburg has been instrumental in getting the League rolling but has been slowed by health issues. Jud Hoff, a former Stryker executive living in Portage, is chairman of the 501c3 Miracle League board, with Josh Baird from Vicksburg as vice president. Bill Deming, former parks and recreation director from Portage, has been closely involved in designing the facility. Board member Wade Rutkowski of Schoolcraft is doing a lot of the outreach to the area communities.

“It’s a great opportunity to watch kids with disabilities experience the joy of playing baseball and the camaraderie of being on a team and making new friends,” said Hoff. In addition to the game, they hope to provide information about the Miracle League and how fans can help the organization raise the $1.1 million needed to build a Miracle Field in Schoolcraft. It is intended to serve the children and families in the southwest Michigan area.

Heath was raised in Detroit, graduated from Kalamazoo College with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and taught history and economics at Notre Dame High School in Detroit. While pursuing his master’s degree in Sports Administration from Ohio State University, he served as a member of the Ohio State University football coaching staff during his two years on campus. He later accepted a position as assistant football coach at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, N.M.

While head coach in football and baseball at Kalamazoo College in 1985, he was assistant professor of Physical Education during his three-year tenure. He then joined the Stryker Corporation in May of 1988 as Manager of Training for the Surgical Division. He has held numerous positions of increasing responsibility over the past 24 years. He has been in his current position of President, Stryker Instruments, for the past two years. Jim and Marsha live in Richland and want to show their support for the Miracle League by hosting the first-ever event of this kind at the Dome.

The event is free but organizers would like to get a count of those planning to attend. Registration can be done on

It’s a Fine Life – My Holiday Confession

kathy forsytheBy Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

I smugly profess my needs to be so simple: family, friends, food, and shelter. My adult kids roll their eyes. “Oh yeah, we know, Mom,” they sigh. But when the holidays loom, my satisfaction with our 1960s three-bedroom tri-level dissolves. The space suddenly seems so inadequate. I quickly go from, “I don’t need anything for Christmas except time together” to dreaming on Zillow for a massive home, complete with a commercial-grade kitchen and showplace dining room. Perfectly coiffed, I could graciously greet my family at the door, calmly inviting them into House Beautiful. A graceful staircase would lead them to bedrooms staged with fine furniture and sumptuous linens and window coverings, each adjoining bathroom sparkling.

My house would be orderly. Elegant. Lovely. PERFECT.

Most of the year I can beat these feelings down and remember that 95 percent of the women of the world would be amazed by my home; for most of the year my house is more than enough for the two of us. But during the holidays, my values are skewed by Hallmark ads and the colorful displays that this year began before Halloween. Oh, how I secretly covet a huge old Victorian, complete with built-in buffet and resplendent butler’s pantry.

Rockwell’s painting is imprinted permanently in my brain. The appreciative relatives circled around the table are radiant; their freshly scrubbed faces glow. The table set so tastefully; the dishes of the meal exactly timed and on display. But when my turkey comes out of the oven, my serenity is shattered. The gravy needs to be started and stirred; the turkey needs to be pried from the roaster and sliced; the forgotten relishes need to be opened and arranged; the water needs to be iced and poured. Calgon, Take Me Away.

It’s only when my dear family converges that my galley kitchen and dinette area seem Barbie sized. Yes, I know I could make some things easier. I did some research this year about how to create a stress-free holiday meal. I even tried a make-ahead gravy for my gluten-free family members. (I obviously added too much corn starch and the gelatinous, disgusting lump never reached the right consistency when I reheated it – even with my daughter’s determined attention with a whisk and serious brow.)

I meticulously set the tables ahead of time, but as the turkey, sides, and beverages were moved to our dining area, the buffet table was too small. The cornucopia display was voted off the table in the pre-serving rush and plopped on top of our wood burner, the beautiful red pears and glossy apples bouncing to the floor in its transit.

So no, it wasn’t an amazing Martha Stewart Meal, but some things made it pretty darn close: our children still enjoy one another’s company, my husband still smiles at me from across the room, and our grandchildren still think I’m the best Nana ever.

It’s not perfect. Never will be.

But It’s a Fine Life.

You can follow Kathy at her blog:

History and Service in the Ladies’ Library Auxiliary

LLA history
Ladies’ Library Auxiliary co-Vice Presidents Joy Reinstein (left) and Sue Opalewski (right) pose in front of a portrait of Fanny Wallace Bair from 1902.

By Adrianne M. Schinkai, Head of Reference and Circulation Services, Vicksburg District Library

Last year, it was discovered by Joy Reinstein that the Vicksburg Ladies’ Library Auxiliary, of which she serves as a co-Vice President, was a bit older than was originally conceived. Instead of being 125 years old, the organization was closer to 140. And those 140 years hold a lot of history. Like Fanny Bair, who financed the construction of the original Vicksburg District Library building, the Ladies’ Library Auxiliary are women of service in the local area.

“We’re hostesses,” quips Sue Opalewski, another co-Vice President. “We help out with events like the Root Beer Tasting and the party for the kids in the Historical Village,” meaning Party in the Park, held every September.

Reinstein nods. “We do whatever we can to be active within the community for the Library’s sake. Not to replace what [the Library does], but just to reach out within the community. Some people think that our job is to clean the Library and file books and to just do the secretarial stuff…people think we’re just orchestrators of the Library and it’s just not that at all.”

Organized in 1879, the Ladies’ Literary Club (as the organization was originally dubbed) appropriately grew out of a reading club. Founded by Vicksburg, Michigan resident Lucinda Hillsdale Stone, the Ladies’ Literary Club was the first women’s organization in the state of Michigan, and only the third in the United States.

The organization would go through a few name changes over the years, including The Isabella Club in 1891. This name was created due, in part, to the organization’s participation in the World’s Fair. “A gal from Kalamazoo came and indoctrinated us. And to get ready for the World’s Fair, we changed our name. For a while, in preparation for the fair, our name was ‘The Isabella Club’ in honor of the Queen [of Spain]. So they studied Spain. [The ladies] studied other countries in order to be a little more worldly,” Reinstein notes.

By the time Mrs. Fanny Wallace Bair dedicated the Vicksburg District Library building in 1902, the group was known as the Ladies’ Library Association. Like her fellow Association members of the time, Bair was a woman’s woman of the period and a force of community service in the village. Reinstein reflects, “she was very active in the study groups they had because back then most ladies weren’t very prominent. They went home and did their thing, but [Bair] encouraged discussions on cooking, on how to discipline your children, and how to make sure the men were involved.”

“How to be happy-go-married. How to dress well when you had nothing,” Opalewski adds.

While today’s Ladies’ Library Auxiliary has no official mission statement, they live through their work by Bair and Stone’s examples. They actively donate to and work with many local organizations, including South County Community Services, Generous Hands, and Talons Out Honor Flight. Their first service project for the 2019-2020 year took place in October when they donated goods and funds benefitting the YWCA for domestic assault. Both Reinstein and Opalewski agree that sometimes being a part of the Auxiliary is hard work, but that work is rewarding and they have been greatly inspired by their predecessors.