Category Archives: Community

Summer Adventure Rolls Out for Eager Summer Readers

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Children get hands on with a large tortoise during the Nelson the Animal Guy program, part of 2018’s Summer Reading Program.

By Adrianne Schinkai

Stephanie Willoughby, youth librarian at the Vicksburg District Library, has been working tirelessly on summer events. All that prepping leads to the library’s big event each year, the summer reading program. But Willoughby wanted to do something special this year. She began retooling very early.

Her mission? To include more things, besides books, that would interest participants, from infants to teenagers. The result is what she is calling Summer Adventure.

“I think a summer reading program should be more than just books,” says Willoughby. “Not all kids are interested in books. But that doesn’t mean that they stop learning or observing. They just learn differently. So I decided to try a new, different approach.”

To help keep up habits and knowledge learned during the school year, many public libraries across the United States offer summer reading programs to help combat what is known as the “summer slide.” The Vicksburg District Library has participated in this practice for many years. But Willoughby states, “I want to reach out to new participants, as well as returning ones.” How will she do this? By utilizing the program’s new tagline: “Read. Explore. Create.”

Summer Adventure, broken up into three age categories, includes opportunities for participants to get outside, discover new interests, get a bit messy, and, of course, read. For reluctant tween and teen readers and those who may not know exactly what to read this summer, the library is holding Book Tasting. This event will give readers a chance to sample new books and come up with their own reading lists. Participants will also have a chance to compare books to movies as films like How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse will be shown on the library’s big screen. Tweens and teens who love the outside will love the Painting on Big Paper event.

Popular programs from years past will be back as well. Last year’s Color Run event saw over 150 pastel painted participants. Another popular program, Nelson the Animal Guy, will be back this year with his collection of exotic creatures, big and small.

Prizes are still included for those participants who complete their various tasks.

Registration for Summer Adventure opens on June 1. Information is available at the Circulation Desk of the library and at the library’s website, http://www.vicksburglibrary.org.

The Big Read Machine

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The Lakeland Reformed Church’s Creative Beginnings pre-school class hosted the Big Read Machine during one of their special celebration day events in May.

By Sue Moore

There is nothing more satisfying for a child on summer break than to cozy up with a good book on a warm summer day, according to members of the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation board. Thus, this funding organization in support of the school district, has taken it upon themselves to make sure children have that good book always at the ready over the summer break.

The Big Read Bookmobile will be plying the roads in the school district two days a week to deliver reading materials to children at Tobey, Indian Lake and Sunset schools on a regular basis. The existence of the bookmobile was a dream of former Superintendent, Charlie Glaes before he retired and has been seen to fruition by current Superintendent, Keevin O’Neill.

Letters went out to service clubs, individuals and past donors to the school foundation to raise funds to buy books, paint and equip a school bus that was owned by the district. That has resulted in $21,000 in donations to get the wheels rolling literally, Willhite said. This effort has been helped by Frederick Construction’s donation of labor and materials to outfit the interior of the bus to hold the books in place as it tootles down the road.
All of this effort goes toward keeping children from what is commonly known as the “summer slide’, where they forget some parts of what they learned throughout the year and that it takes several weeks, even months when they come back to school in the fall to catch up.

Testing has typically shown a summer slide of a grade level or more if students don’t have access to books for almost three months, O’Neill pointed out. “This project was a big step for the Foundation to undertake as it meant going out to raise the funds, rather than experience donors coming forward in support of the Foundation. It has typically relied upon individual donations for scholarships and small fundraisers such as the Duck Derby for Old Car festival and the Hearty Hustle sponsorship.

When parents see the Big Read Machine pull into schools’ parking lots the hope is children will board the bus, pick out the books they want to check out, go home to read and bring them back on the next stop or even keep them until school begins in the fall. Their school ID will be their check out with a reader that will be aboard the bus to help with this. Home school children will be invited to utilize the bookmobile and be assigned a number in the school system.

He Drove into Our Lives

irv gordon 3By Skip Knowles, founder of the Old Car Festival in Vicksburg

We were saddened to get the news of the death of a longtime friend of the Old Car Festival. Irv Gordon passed away on November 16, 2018 while traveling in China on a promotional trip with Volvo Motors. He was 78 years old.

Irv became a friend, family member and frequent visitor to the Vicksburg Old Car Festival. He first drove into our lives when he responded to a request for a celebrity auction item in 1988, a year after he had turned 1,000,000 miles on his 1966 Volvo P1800S and became known as the “Million Mile Man”. He promptly returned to us a signed Volvo poster featuring him in a tux with his car and promoting the achievement for Volvo. Also with the poster came a letter telling us he was honored to be considered a celebrity. I made a phone call to him asking him if he would consider attending the Car Festival in 1989 as our special guest.

To my delight he responded that he would love to. Irv was a middle school science teacher and, to my amazement, he jumped into his car as soon as school was out on Friday and drove all night from New York to be at the Car Festival bright and early on Saturday to display his car and meet our town. He was very popular, telling people about maintaining his car and how he came to put that many miles on it. He spent the day with us and Sunday morning jumped back in his car and drove back to Long Island to be in the classroom Monday morning.

This was just the first of many visits to our Festival and the beginning of a long family friendship with him. Anytime that he was in the area he would stop and spend a few days with us or just simply stop to have a cup of coffee on his way through to yet another destination.

Irv used to tell us that he never intended to set any mileage record, let alone be the Guinness record holder. He had purchased a brand new Corvair saying that “he liked the way the car looked and rode” but the shine quickly wore off as the car broke down four blocks from the dealer the night he bought it. A few months later and looking for a “reliable ride,” he walked into Volvoville in Huntington, New York and test drove a P1800S. It was love at first sight even with its $4,150 sticker price, which was close to a full year’s salary for the science teacher. He traded in the Corvair and that Friday night picked up the car and drove it through the weekend, returning to the dealer on Monday for the 1,000 mile checkup.

Irv explained that he simply loved to drive the car, he loved a road trip, and loved his daily commute to work, which was 125 miles. When his car hit 250,000 miles, he decided he would see how many miles it would go. He said, “I wrote to Volvo to tell them I had never had a single repair on the car, simply the required maintenance. They wrote me back with a very short letter that said, ‘We are happy you’re happy with the product, don’t forget to buckle up’”.

Irv wrote again at 500,000 miles and they began to track the car and when he turned 1,000,000 miles, Volvo gave Irv a new Volvo 780 coupe. When he and the P1800S reached 1,690,000 miles in 1998, he set the Guinness World Record for the “highest certified mileage driven by the original owner in non-commercial service.”

Continuing his quest, he turned 2,000,000 miles in 1987 live, in Times Square on Good Morning America and then in 2013 he turned 3,000,000 miles in Alaska and was featured in several Volvo TV Commercials.

Irv loved his car and loved driving it whether it was to the Old Car Festival, the Spam Festival, celebrity fundraisers, appearing on both Jay Leno and David Letterman or driving to special appearances for Volvo and Castrol to promote their products. He left a mark on everyone he met. His travels earned him his own name tag at Waffle House and took him to 49 States, Europe several times, Australia, Dubai and China. Not bad for a guy who one evening took delivery on a 1966 Volvo P1800S and fell in love with driving it. Rest in peace our friend. You will be missed by all of us!

Footnote: The car is in the hands of his daughter and at the time of his death registered 3,260,257 miles. There has been no decision at this time as to what the future for the car is.

Volvo Car USA Statement: It is with great sadness that Volvo Car USA learned of Irv Gordon’s passing yesterday.

We’ve been lucky to be along for Irv’s countless adventures, perhaps none more monumental than when he passed three million miles in his red 1966 P1800S in 2013 in Alaska, a record that no other individual has accomplished in more than 100 years of automobile manufacturing.

Irv never set out to break world records. To him, he was simply living his life in his Volvo. And today, we celebrate his legendary life.

Dutchboys Bring Four Specialty Cars to Old Car Festival

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg’s nationally renowned hot rod restorers, Dutchboys Hotrods, will be bringing four of their specialty cars to Vicksburg’s Old Car Festival on Saturday, June 8.

These guys are so well respected for their work, that Chip Foose, auto designer, artist and reality TV star, recently stopped by their shop on W. Prairie to see what they were doing. He autographed their paint shop booth with artwork he is well-known for, said Skip Knowles, the Old Car Festival’s organizer.

The Dutchboys, Paul and Joe Van Nus, have a great reputation for building out old cars to make them operate like new, Knowles said. “When guys want to have a super car rebuilt that they cherish, the Dutch Boys are well known for their fine work.”

The four cars they will be showing in downtown Vicksburg will include a ’69 Camaro with lots of customization, a ’38 Buick that is owned locally, a ’69 Camaro with a V-28 engine that has won lots of awards, and a ’71 Camaro that Paul built for himself. It won awards when they took it to a show in Las Vegas. It’s now owned by a customer in Nashville, Tenn.

Other Activities Scheduled

The actual event gets underway on Friday evening, June 7 with lots of cars cruising downtown Vicksburg. It’s a time where people put the hood up, talk cars and have fun, Knowles said.

There will be an expansion of the performances on Friday to include “Arts on the Street” along with high school jazz bands performing in the evening and on Saturday.

The Tin Can Tourists will be camping out at the Historic Village on Richardson Street over the weekend with a steam and gas engine show on the grounds.

A pancake breakfast takes place early on Saturday morning at the fire station on S. Main Street.

The United Methodist Church will have its usual ice cream social across the street from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Vicksburg District Library opens its doors on Friday afternoon and all-day Saturday until 5 p.m. for its annual used book sale.

There is a craft show sponsored by the Band Boosters in Clark Park on Saturday along with the Duck Derby: The Vicksburg Community School Foundation sells chances on a rubber duck making it all the way to the finish line in the creek that runs through Clark Park. This takes place at 1 p.m. and lasts about an hour with several heats of ducks making it downriver.

Sondra Phillips’ Vintage Camper Trailer at the Old Car Fest

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg’s Old Car Festival points with pride each year to the hundreds of cars on display the second Saturday of June. This year will be a bit different: a Spartan Imperial Mansion, a 1956 vintage travel trailer, standing tall at the corner of Main and East Prairie Streets from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The owner of the 42-foot trailer, Sondra Phillips, has performed miracles with its renovation. She and her partner have a lot of elbow grease involved in what was a derelict trailer purchased for $900 from a yard near Colon.

It was completely gutted. They found a bee hive 18 inches long when the trailer was disassembled and a raccoon skeleton and skull inside. It was reassembled once the interior was painted. A new ceiling was installed, wiring was redone and wood cabinets were cleaned and refinished. “We kept the original layout which includes a kitchen, rear bedroom with queen size bed with the back wall lined with built-in closets that are original. There is a full bathroom and living-dining area with a huge observation window at the front,” Phillips said. “The camper feels spacious at 315 square feet, smaller than most ‘tiny homes’ which range from 400-600 square feet.” The challenge was to make the most of the small space and create an efficient environment. Turns out Phillips likes to have her creature comforts when camping, she said.

“I consider the revamped trailer a marketing attraction and mobile showroom. It is the perfect way to engage with people,” said Phillips. She hauled it to the Gilmore Car Museum last year and will have it on display at a KOA Campground in Covert this summer. After that it goes to the J. Petter Gallery in Saugatuck for a wine and cheese festivity.

Phillips’ everyday job is as an interior designer. She founded SKP Interiors in 1996 in Kalamazoo. Her expertise has helped with the trailer design too, featuring orange chairs and orange refrigerator from the 1950s repainted in her favorite color – orange. “I love vintage things. The fun is in following tips that people give me and hunting them down.”

The first camper she remodeled was a Go-Tag-Along she found on Craig’s List about three years ago. That one was featured in the magazine Vintage Camper Trailer January 2019 issue. She showed the camper at the Vicksburg Old Car Festival two years ago. Now she’s back with the ultra-comfortable Spartan Imperial Mansion which lists for sale on the internet for $59,000. She has seven more campers in one condition or another that are on tap for renovation. A version of the Spartan camper listed for $3,670 in 1948. It would cost $33,747 in today’s dollars, Phillips said.

Phillips said SKP is the only firm in Kalamazoo with a focus on interior design. She began her career after graduating from University of Michigan, starting in Chicago at the Merchandise Mart. She came back to her home town of Kalamazoo to work for an architecture firm. She started SKP in 1996 and cites her work on the interior of the Kalamazoo Airport, the Girl Scout Training Center in Kalamazoo, Biggby Coffee’s Lansing headquarters and many of its coffee shops. She designed the original interiors on the Vault in Vicksburg when it first opened under Clint Powell in 2014 – mostly in orange, of course.

Dale Emaar’s Bullitt Mustang on Display at Old Car Show

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Lois and Dale Emaar proudly show off the work he has done on the Bullitt Mustang he purchased in derelict condition.

By Sue Moore

A resurrected Tribute Bullitt Mustang completely rebuilt by Dale Emaar will be on display for the 39th running of the Old Car Festival in Vicksburg on Saturday, June 8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The original version of this car was featured in the 1968 film “Bullitt” when Emaar was 18 years old. He fell in love with the car and always wanted one. He loves to tinker with cars – any car, he said. The original car is said to be priceless.

The Ford Mustang was piloted by legendary actor and motorsports enthusiast Steve McQueen during the film. It left a lasting impact on movies and pop culture since its release. The chase scene lasted nine minutes, 42 seconds, and was revolutionary for its time, putting the audience inside the vehicle while driving on actual roads and building suspense without dialogue. Two Mustang GT 390s were modified for the making of the film, including a dark Highland Green paint scheme with no exterior badges, scoops or spoilers. It was adorned with a black-mesh grille minus Ford’s iconic pony badging.

The one in Vicksburg was owned by Sandy Simmons of Simmons Ford fame. It was her first automobile growing up. She drove it for a while and after time passed it was taken apart to restore. It just rested in parts on the floor of the dealership, getting moved from place to place but never put back together. “I wanted this car so bad,” Emaar said after he heard from Mike Braat that it was for sale when Gene Simmons was selling the business to DeNooyer.

“It was a project car in so many pieces. I’ve bought and sold lots of cars but this one was special. I made the effort to redo it with new interior, new motor, wheels, tires, paint, chrome, pretty much from bumper to bumper,” he said.

The car will be on display at Main and Prairie in Vicksburg as Emaar feels the
importance of bringing it to the Old Car Festival for its first outing. He and his wife Lois, a former Vicksburg teacher, always come to this car show in particular. “It’s very high on my list of important things to do,” Emaar explained.

Miniature Custom Manufacturing is Getting Bigger

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Employees of Miniature Custom Manufacturing gather outside the plant in the Leja Industrial Park with the owners, Steve Shoemaker on the left next to the sign and Kevin Murphy on the right of the sign. He’s hard to miss as he stands 6’ 7”.

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg’s own Miniature Custom Manufacturing (MCM) has been selected as one of Michigan’s 50 companies to watch in 2019 by the Michigan Small Business Development Center. The company will be honored at a black-tie gala May 8 at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University.

The company is also continuing to grow within the Vicksburg Leja Business Park. MCM was awarded a $175,000 performance-based grant from the state of Michigan’s Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), a training grant for $82,500 and property tax abatement for 12 years from the village of Vicksburg. With the company’s investment, the expansion is worth $3 million and 37 new jobs for Vicksburg.

The company began in a pole barn in Richland 12 years ago. It moved to Galesburg and then in 2013 to Vicksburg, with one employee, six injection machines, and one customer. It’s grown to 67 employees, 17 machines and 29 customers and is still growing. “Six years ago, we didn’t expect to grow at this pace,” co-owner Kevin Murphy said. “We just knew we each had our own strengths and together we could bring value to the village of Vicksburg. And we are excited to be staying and growing here.”

“Our roles have evolved,” according to Steve Shoemaker, the other co-owner. “It’s rewarding to see others grow while working together. It’s about hiring the right people and getting them the right seat on the bus.”

“It’s our culture that allows us to continue to grow at this pace,” Murphy said. “We believe in people first, quality second, and production third. And when your values are aligned it’s amazing what people can accomplish.”

MCM believes in philanthropy. Over the past year, the staff was involved in a food drive for Generous Hands in Vicksburg, collecting over 1,200 pounds of food by all three shifts. They also adopted a family at Christmas. MCM reinforces a strong culture by bringing employees together with picnics, cookouts and plant-wide catered Christmas dinners. It offers good benefits including company supported health and dental insurance, a 401k match and paid vacation and sick pay. “Our retention rate is good, but it can always be improved.” said Shoemaker.

MCM is an injection molding company that makes parts for the automotive industry, food packaging, computer electronics and the medical industry. This leads to diversity of manufacturing while still being a Tier II supplier to automotive clients. The word “miniature” in the company name derives from early products they still continue to produce to this day, but they have continued to evolve beyond the small parts. MCM continues to secure new customers and has several product launches planned for 2019 and 2020, requiring an expansion of 24,000 square feet to its current facility and conversion of its warehouse into a second manufacturing facility.

Shoemaker is the process guy, Murphy said. “What Steve does, I couldn’t do. He is the manufacturing and software systems person who runs the facility. He’s self-taught and knows how things work.”

Murphy has developed the sales team that includes three salespersons from around the tri-state area. While they were all experienced salespeople, none had plastics experience. “It’s all about networking and building relationships. They believe in the team and are willing to take calculated risks.”

The two owners met as neighbors in Kalamazoo over 10 years ago, not knowing what the other one did for a living. Shoemaker was a one-man band when the shop was in Richland and couldn’t keep up with it all. Murphy joined him as a co-owner in 2013 when MCM moved to Vicksburg. Murphy and Shoemaker with their families both live locally now. Murphy is an outdoorsman and Shoemaker loves to tinker in his spare time. “Back in the beginning, we lived in the plant day and night,” Shoemaker said. “As owners we don’t have titles. We are coaches and mentors most of the time now.”

“The Vicksburg community has been super supportive. The village manager has reached out in every way possible, Murphy said. “Part of the allure is the environment,” Murphy said. “We have a solid foundation and aren’t the little brother anymore. It’s all about the team. They care and take pride in producing what goes out the door each day.”