Category Archives: Community

Maple Sugar Time is Near

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Maple syrup made in Terry Moyer’s Sugar Shack will be on sale at his open house in March.

By Sue Moore

The thought that spring is near means maple trees will start disgorging their beautiful sap for sugaring time.

What starts out as a thin stream of greyish liquid has to be boiled down for hours to convert it into maple syrup, said Terry Moyers. He makes about 250 gallons per year and demonstrates the process at his annual sugar shack gathering March 23 and 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 24890 Flach Road near Mendon.

His family of helpers roll out free pancakes, eggs and sausage, with last year’s maple syrup to smother them in. It’s a two-day celebration of what nature gives back in various quantities each year. “Last year we had lots of rain, so we might not have as much sugar in the crop, making the syrup a little darker. Nobody made any light syrup last year because it was such a wet summer.”

Moyers takes his guests for a walk in the woods in small groups to explain how he taps the trees all around his house during the two days. His 2018 crop is on sale but the real reason for the open house is to educate the public about Michigan maple syrup on a weekend designated by the state.

A similar event, Backyard Sugarin’, will be held at the Schoolcraft library on Saturday, March 23 with Tom Long doing the honors by tapping the maple tree in front of the library. He works as a librarian year-round and in the spring gathers sap from trees on his farm to boil down for syrup. The plan is to demonstrate the entire process, including boiling it down and providing samples to try, said Library Director Faye VanRavenswaay. Long will be demonstrating to all who want to stop by from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to experience the maple sugaring process up close while sampling freshly made syrup.

Eagle Scout Project Benefits Creative Beginnings

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Brett Manski at his Eagle Scout Court of Honor is surrounded by his parents Shari and John Manski. Photo by Kyle Heather.

By Sue Moore

Brett Manski, in the last stage of achieving his Eagle Scout status, needed to have things running smoothly. He was making sure everyone understood what needed to be done while avoiding hiccups. He wanted everyone to be happy, have a great time, but still get the job done.

He had to deal with the stress of wanting everything to be perfect while building elevated garden containers for the Lakeland church’s Creative Beginnings pre-school and day care students while trying to predict what could possibly go wrong.

Not much did go wrong on the two weeks it took to build the eight-box set of planters. His task was to oversee their planning and construction for his final Eagle Scout project. He led his team of scouts to construct the beds on wheels that can be moved to meet the needs of the students and the church.

He accomplished the project as his final project to become an Eagle Scout just a couple of months before his 18th birthday while still a junior at Vicksburg High School. It wasn’t easy to get this project complete when carrying a 3.8 GPA, playing on the varsity golf team, playing saxophone in the marching band as section leader, participating in the two high school jazz bands, the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra, musical talent with the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Lab Band and Jazz Sax Ensemble sponsored by the Jazz & Creative Institute in Kalamazoo.

He has participated in the Solo and Ensemble festivals representing Vicksburg High School for five years in which he has received several first-place ribbons. Brett participates in an organization at school called Aim Higher that focuses on taking the initiative to meet the needs of the community.

Besides all that, he is a lover of the outdoors, participating in rock climbing, camping, swimming and mountain biking. In addition, Manski has participated in many high adventure trips with his troop including backpacking at Pictured Rocks and the North Manitou in northern Michigan. His love of the outdoors has been passed on to younger scouts in his troop who are currently planning an adventure to Isle Royale, which Brett hopes to attend as an adult leader this summer.

“Matt Bombich, my troop leader and Duane Monroe have been a big help in finishing my requirements to become an Eagle Scout,” Manski acknowledged. “My mom also helped me along with the paperwork as I’m a bit of a procrastinator. “My dad helped me to focus on not being stressed out with the endless possibilities of what could go wrong on the construction project.”

“We did fundraising to gather the $800 that the materials cost to build the garden beds,” Manski said. “We had car washes and went door to door in the Tobey school neighborhood where I live to collect pop cans.” He got great discounts from Home Depot and Menards.

The Creative Beginnings pre-school and early childhood participants will be able to plant the garden beds and see how vegetables grow from day to day. When there is a crop to harvest, it is expected that church members will be able to help themselves on a Sunday morning. The garden beds can be moved to sunlight or shade as growing conditions demand, Manski said. There are about 30 children in the summer school classes who will benefit from this learning experience according to Cindy Palmer, who is the director at Lakeland Reformed Church’s Creative Beginnings program.

The project has extra meaning for this school. Manski is one of their alumni, having attended there since he was four years old.

On the Corner

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Eric Hackman was the chief architect of the Vicksburg athletic field and stadium in 2003.

By Sue Moore

The sudden closing of Bud’s Bar in Schoolcraft on the day of the Super Bowl was a major shock to those who consider this establishment an institution. Owner Nate McNeal promises to speak publicly about the decision in a month or more after details of the situation get ironed out.

Comments posted on Facebook speak of it being the “end of an era while many good times were had by all.”

Erika Fojtik and Drew Mallery Correction

“We’ve seen the article (about their engagement in Iceland) in the paper and have heard from a lot of others who’ve read it! It looks great and we are grateful you wanted to share our story. One thing that would be nice to put as a correction either online or for the next issue is that the photograph that is in the story was taken by Steph Murray photography, not Shelby Monnette. I would like to give Steph credit,” Erika Fojtik said.

50 Years in Business

Congratulations to EIMO for fifty years in the plastic molding business in Vicksburg. It has been a worthy employer and contributor to the greater Vicksburg community. It is planning a company picnic at Prairie View Park on July 13. Other than that, it’s just business as usual, according to General Manager Gary Hallam. The company started as Triple S Plastics and was bought out by a EIMO, a Finnish company, then by Nissha, a Japanese conglomerate which kept the name. One of my first jobs as a photographer was with Dave Stewart at Triple S when it was making testers for electrical equipment.

Robotics Champion

Eric Hackman, the Vicksburg Middle School co-coach for the robotics club, is a super volunteer in the program even though his own teenagers are not particularly interested in robotics. Hackman has an important connection to the school that is little known. He is an architect for TowerPinkster. In that position he designed the football stadium in 2003-2004 that we enjoy today. “There was 16 feet of peat moss under the old football field on the site, which at one time was a swamp and before that a lake. That’s the reason the previous track kept failing. We had to dig it all up and transport it to village property next to the cemetery on W Avenue where the sledding hill is now,” he related. “Mike Roy, the athletic director, wanted the field sized so soccer could also be played on it. That meant the track became a broken oval track. It is supposed to have 100 meters on each curve but we had to stretch them out to make room for the standard size soccer field. Thus, the straight-a-ways are shorter while still making it a quarter mile long.

Tidbits

Max Reicherts, senior, and Caleb Kosak, junior, at Vicksburg High were selected to the Michigan All-State Jazz Ensemble.

Ward Lawrence spent his last day as a Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s deputy on Friday, Feb. 22. He ran for sheriff but didn’t win in 2012. He stayed on staff anyway and was cited for his bravery and handling of a man who had serious destruction on his mind in 2018.

Event Calendar

Vicksburg

3/9 – Sat. Chili Cook-off and 5K Dash, 10 a.m. Vicksburg Auto Body for race, 11 a.m. for chili tasting.

3/10 – Project Graduation Euchre Fundraiser at the Clubhouse at Centennial. Registration at 6:45 p.m., games start at 7 p.m. Free food, donation bar. Must be over 21 to enter. $20 per person.

3/13 – Wed. Vicksburg Middle School Science Night – 5-7 p.m. Public is invited.

3/16, 3/17, 3/23, 3/24 – Wizard of Oz at the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $5 for kids. Show starts at 7 p.m. on Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Sunday.

3/16 – Loaves & Fishes Free Food Distribution. 8 a.m., Vicksburg United Methodist Church, 217 S. Main.

3/17 – Sun. Sure And It’s A Grand St. Patrick’s Day Celebration at Monsignor Martin Parish Hall, St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church. Corn beef and cabbage dinner and Irish music. Adult tickets $12, children 4-12 $5, children under 4 eat free. 3-5 p.m.

3/28 – Thurs. The Arts Exploration Lab at the Community Center from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The event is free and students 13-19 from area schools and home-schooled are welcome to attend.

Schoolcraft

3/21, 3/22, 3/23, 3/24 – Thurs., Fri., Sat., Sun. Honk! The tale of the Ugly Duckling at the Schoolcraft Performing Arts Center. Tickets $10 for adults, $7 for students.
7 p.m. Thurs-Sat, 2 p.m. on Sunday.

3/7, 3/14, 3/21 – Japanese 101 for Teens from 4-4:45 p.m. Teens in grades 6-12 can learn about Japanese language, culture, food, and more in this returning program provided by the Soga Japan Center of WMU. Registration is required.

3/23 – Sun. Backyard Sugarin’, at the Schoolcraft library. 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Other Areas

3/23 & 3/24 – Sat., Sun. Michigan Maple Syrup Open House at Butternut Creek Sugar Shack. Syrup tapping and processing tour, and free pancake breakfast. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

3/22, 3/23 – Fri., Sat. Spring Flower and Garden Expo at Wedel’s. 20 vendors, $5 tickets for informative seminars. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday.

The Matter of Balance class will be held at the Vicksburg United Methodist Church from 1-3 p.m. on the following dates:  April 2, 5, 9, 12, 23, 26, 30, and May 3.  Participants need to register at South County Community Services, 649-2901.  There is no charge for the class.

Tournament of Writers – Entries may be submitted between March 1-29 at the Schoolcraft Community Library.

Rotary Club Showcase Features Many New Acts

By Sue Moore

After 65 successful years of presenting Showboat as a fundraising musical romp to the delight of local audiences, changes were needed, according to the show’s chairman Mike Tichvon.

A new format has been developed that plays to today’s audience of young and old alike, Tichvon said. The script promises a trip to the moon in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1969 NASA expedition. How the cast gets there will be the intriguing part of what is still a musical celebration of local talent. Performances are scheduled at 7 p.m. March 1 and 2 and at 2 p.m. March 3 at the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center, Tichvon said.

A significant change to the show’s foundation is an increase in featured acts and a requirement for all acts to audition in front of a five-person panel, said Syd Bastos, director of the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center. The acts guarantee a new level of entertainment for audiences, she said. With performances ranging from pop, old rock, classical, soul and even barbershop, there is something for everyone.

Some of the featured acts include Dusty Morris singing “Fly me to the Moon”, The Maxson Duet’s “Bring it Home to Me”, Bob Donelson’s “Your Song”, Kathy Forsythe’s “You’re No Good”, Caleb Dziepak’s “Ain’t That a Shame” and John Carpenter playing “Star Wars Fantasy” on the Steinway piano. Bastos said you can follow the Vicksburg Rotary Showcase on Facebook to learn more about these acts.

The stage crew has constructed its version of the moonshot rocket to be launched from the PAC stage. They had a little help from the electronic wizards that populate the Rotary Club’s back of the house construction gang.

The Rotary Club of Vicksburg has been able to raise over $641,500 to put back into the community since the inception of the Showboat that began as a minstrel show in 1953. It wasn’t real professional back then, but it was a lot of fun and attracted standing room only audiences. At one point the fire marshal had to close the doors of the old gymnasium because it had reached capacity. The show moved to the new Performing Arts Center at the high school in 1994. It took on a new dimension of production and presentation according to Larry Forsyth, this year’s show director. He has been a part of the show in one capacity or another for at least 50 years. His wife, the former Tina Schneider, was brought to the first performance in ‘53 in a baby basket as her father Arle, was one of the early performers and script writers.

The evolving show has included singers from the high school Simply Men chorus. The Showcase chorus is an all-male singing group that began rehearsals the first Sunday in January. They will be performing “Come Fly Away with Me” this year.

For the last four years, Boy Scouts from Troop 251 have offered a spaghetti dinner on the Friday and Saturday nights of the show in the high school cafeteria. They have enlarged the offering to a brunch for the Sunday matinee that has been well received. Tickets for the meals may be purchased from any Boy Scout and at the door which opens at 5 p.m. before the evening shows and at noon for the matinee.

Tickets are on sale at the Church Insurance Agency at 125 East Prairie Street from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and online at https://tix5.centerstageticketing.com/sites/vicksburg/. They will also be available at the box office the night and afternoon of each performance.

Miracle Field Concept Alive and Well in Schoolcraft

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Some of the board members who are working on bringing the Miracle Field to Schoolcraft are seated: Jud Hoff, president; standing, from left: Josh Baird, vice-president; Heather Meyer, marketing and public relations; David Olson, founder; Lisa Anspaugh, treasurer; Bill Deming, secretary; Josh Will, fundraising.

By Sue Moore

A field of dreams is coming to Schoolcraft. It’s to be called the Miracle League of Southwest Michigan. devoted to a baseball field for children with disabilities.

To Dave Olson of Vicksburg, it’s simply the Miracle Field. He and many others have become the driving force behind planning the layout and recruiting children who would benefit from having a place of their own to play baseball.

They have submitted an application to the IRS for 501c3 status and should know soon if their dream qualifies as a nonprofit. The group Is on Facebook as Southwest Michigan Miracle League.

Olson witnessed such a field in Grand Rapids last summer and vowed to bring a similar structure to the South Kalamazoo County area. With the help of Bill Deming, former parks and recreation director in Portage, they found the perfect place to locate such a field; at the Dome in Schoolcraft, owned by Josh and Amber Baird and Jud Hoff.

A more dedicated group of people could hardly be found anywhere, Olson says. He personally helped to recruit Deming, Jud Hoff and Josh Baird. Others quickly said yes when they heard his dream. “We don’t want to turn away any child that is interested. The kids in the Grand Rapids area say they live for the days they get to come and play baseball. There are so many disabled kids out there – it’s a whole demographic of people not being served. I have an army of people who want to help with this project,” Olson claimed. He is the owner of The Postman on Sprinkle Road.

Olson is passionate about the opportunities the Miracle Field will provide for people with disabilities. He believes it will offer life-changing activities including camaraderie and a sense of teamwork for kids who don’t get that in the real world. One of the unique aspects will involve a buddy system of volunteers that will assist the players, Olson said.

Jud Hoff, president of the new board of directors, aims to bring the field to reality. Deming has been researching the requirements for a field that will work for kids with disabilities. It will be asphalt with a rubber matting over the top and maybe Astro turf shaved down so the surface area will accommodate wheelchairs and walkers so they won’t roll over. It will need dugouts that wheel chairs can access along with a pitching machine and other amenities, Deming said.

Other board members include Lisa Anspaugh, treasurer and an accountant who lives in Schoolcraft and Josh Will, vice president and wealth management officer with Southern Michigan Bank & Trust, in charge of fundraising and Heather Meyer, public relations and marketing with her business of HMM Consulting. Although this small group has been working together on planning for six months, it has just added two new board members, Dr. Luchara Wallace from Western Michigan University’s special education department who specializes in learning disabilities, and Wade Rutkoskie of Schoolcraft, who will lead construction efforts and is senior business manager at Tekna Corp.

The board members have formed a Youth Corps to support the organization. It consists of Baird’s son, Jacob, at Vicksburg, and Hoff’s son, Bryce, at Portage Central, and the friends they have recruited.

Damaged Cars Look Like New at Dunshee Body and Frame

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Brock Stephenson, the painter specialist at Dunshee Body and Frame, points to a repaired bumper that he just finished painting. Dunshee’s owner Joe Townsend inspects the work.

By Sue Moore

It isn’t as easy to fix dinged up cars as it used to be, according to Joe Townsend, owner of Dunshee Body and Frame. His company just set up shop in Vicksburg at 1728 E. VW Avenue, its second location. “The science behind all the computers that are built into the newer model cars and trucks has changed,” Townsend explained. “It means we approach our estimating and actual work much differently than 45 years ago when Dunshee started in business in Kalamazoo.”

“We start any repair job with a pre-scan to determine the amount of damage and pinpoint where it has occurred,” Townsend said. “Then we do another scan once the car is fixed to authenticate that the work has been done right and the car is safe to drive. Not every automotive repair shop invests in this kind of sophisticated equipment, but we believe it’s the best way to do the job and get our customers safely back on the road.”

Townsend ought to know. He started at Dunshee in Kalamazoo while in college sweeping floors. “I loved construction and fixing things when I was a kid. My uncle worked at the shop so when I was in college I got a job there prepping cars for the paint shop and washing them too,” Townsend said. He ended up graduating from Western Michigan University with a business degree and took a sales job elsewhere. He hated it.

“I went back to Dunshee and the owner, Ken Draayer, started me as parts manager. Then he moved me to estimator and finally general manager when Ken was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2003. I ran the shop for Draayer’s widow, Sherrie, for 10 years and then purchased the business in 2015,” Townsend said.

“I’m not unique with having worked here for so many years. Don Carlson moved to Vicksburg to work when we opened and he’s got 40 years in,” Townsend said.

“There is a great need for young technicians to enter the field as there is a huge shortage. We try to grow our own and keep them here. In fact, the day of our open house last fall, Mercer Hardy, a Vicksburg High School senior, walked in and asked for a job. I was happy to have him and he brought another of his buddies from the high school Education for Employment class. We are growing our business in Vicksburg with eight employees here and 29 at our Kalamazoo shop.”

“Training our staff is a big investment but one we strongly believe in,” Townsend said. “Our shop in Kalamazoo is I-Car Gold Class and certified for makes such as Volvo, Chrysler, Hyundai, KIA and Nissan. We are in the process of getting certification for Chevrolet and Subaru. Then this summer, we will get our Vicksburg location certified too. We have gotten busier each week after our opening day. I reached out to the various insurance agents in Vicksburg and surrounding areas to explain our business model. It’s important that they feel comfortable with our work ethic and the results we can achieve.

“Folks here in Vicksburg have been wonderful. It’s a great new location for us between Vicksburg and Schoolcraft.” Townsend lives in Mattawan with his wife Erin and children Tyler, 13, Emma, 8, and Elizabeth, 6. He has coached in the Mattawan Little League and Rocket football and been a sponsor of teams as well.

Carlson may have said it best about his move to the Vicksburg location: “There is no place better to work. Their reputation is great and they treat me right.”