Category Archives: Community

Mark’s Towing Making Changes

Mark's Towing
Mark and Kim Parker greet fans as they are acknowledged as 4th of July parade grand marshals in 2018.

Kim Parker tells us that Mark’s Sales & Service in Schoolcraft will be out of the towing and auto repair business on January 1. “Because of health problems, we realized it was time for Mark to step back and let our son take the reins. Sean Sutherland and his wife, Amanda, will be renaming the repair shop ‘131 Auto Care’. They are excited to be purchasing that part of the business and have fresh ideas,” Parker said. “Mark and I will remain at the 429 S. Grand address. The office building out front will be for used car sales only. Our name will stay the same. We hope to build up our inventory and still serve the great customers we have met during the last 26 years in Schoolcraft.”

Vicksburg Foundation Grants

Rudy Callen, president of the Vicksburg Foundation, announced grants made in 2019 to the following nonprofit entities in and around Vicksburg.

Vicksburg District Library – air conditioning repairs

Pride of Scotts Community Center – building improvements

Vicksburg United Methodist Church – building renovations

Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation – Curiosity Grants

Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation – Bardeen Grants

Junior Achievement of SW Michigan – Titan Challenge

Lending Hands – Endowment fund project

Vicksburg Community Schools – School Resource Officer

Village of Vicksburg – State of the Village Address (catering)

Vicksburg Band Boosters – band trailer

Village of Vicksburg – Director of Community Engagement

Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation – Student Scholarships

Bike Friendly Kalamazoo – Fall Bike Celebration

Gilmore Keyboard Festival – 2020 performance at PAC

Vicksburg DDA – Facade Grant Program

United Way – UW of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region

Southwest Michigan Miracle League – field development

It’s a Fine Life – The Winter of Redford

fine life 3By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

December through February in Michigan we experience something described by local meteorologists as the perma-cloud. As far as I can tell, this simply means days –sometimes weeks – with no sunshine. Period. It must be hard to imagine if you reside in Arizona, or California, or even New Jersey. Here in the mitten we have become so accustomed to the grayness of these months that when the clouds do occasionally part, it is like hearing the voices of an angels’ chorus. We stop what we are doing, we pause mid-sentence, we look up from our books or smile from our all-wheel-drive cars and trucks.

We Michiganders learn to make our own light during our winters, always seeking a new pastime, a recommended Netflix series, or even a new flavor of Cheez-its.

A dear friend moved into my neighborhood early last winter. And for the first time in our lives, we are within walking distance of each other, within the “what-cha doin?” stop, and within the cuppa-sugar-borrowing range.  As last winter’s darkness approached, we decided we could weather the predictable gloom together, determined we wouldn’t feel soulless by March.

And so it began: our winter of Redford.

I have been a Robert Redford fan since I was thirteen and sat in the darkened theatre, mesmerized by his boyish charm in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. My piano teacher tempted me with the sheet music to “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” and before the next lesson I had it memorized. I had a full-length black-and-white poster of Robert that traveled with me to my dorm room at Michigan State University. I guess I’ve always been a fan.

So where to begin?

We opened our first December with Out of Africa. Imagine the lushness of Africa juxtaposed against the moonlit, snow-covered yard illuminated in my friend’s bank of windows. It was delightful. We wanted to stay in that world for a few more hours with Kenya’s sun and that gorgeous Redford smile warming us during this winter darkness. Many more films followed, a welcomed escape each winter week.

As with time spent with all good friends, this weekly evening is much more than simply watching a screen. We share a meal, always something warm and soothing. We have tried new recipes—burgundy beef, chicken pies, chowders—yet the old standards still please us: chicken and rice casseroles, meatloaf, or our mother’s pot roasts. Nothing has disappointed us so far: the films, the food, or the fellowship.

Early last month, we resumed our evenings, something along the lines of the “Monday Night at the Movies” from our childhood.

Yes, we have broadened the scope of our films, but we have saved some of Bob’s films for the heart of winter.  Only his youthful glow will do. And, much to our surprise, we looked forward to this annual cover of clouds, the storms the season brings, and another Winter of Redford.

It’s a Fine Life.

You can follow Kathy at her blog

On the Corner

By Sue Moore

The Christmas parade winners in Vicksburg’s Christmas in the Village event found Frederick Construction staff outdoing itself to take first place with a lighted float. It’s really great to see such imagination and participation in the parade as all of the entries displayed. Second place went to the Vicksburg village Department of Public Works for its lighted decoration of its plow truck. Third place went to the Special Olympics float.

Alex Lee, assistant to the village manager, was charged with obtaining judges for the parade. They included Congressman Fred Upton, Portage City Mayor Patricia Randall, County Treasurer Mary Balkema and Stephanie Mallery.

Mike Frederick described his company’s entry: “Our float was designed by Chad Kandow, our estimator, and Brandy Wisz, our comptroller. The costumes were designed and created by Brandy Wisz, Julie Stoll and Rachael Dedes. The basic idea came from the movie “How to Train your Dragon”.

“The lead builders were Greg Dedes, Chad Kandow, Ryan Collins, supported by the Frederick Construction employees. The float deck and dragon jail were constructed out of wood framing material, metal conduit, and concrete reinforcement fabric. It had approximately 9,000 individual LED lights, 18 special-effect motion lights, 180 feet of LED rope lights, a lighted fog machine and a sound machine. The dragon was constructed out of metal tubing, wire mesh , and 55 cans of spray foam. The wings were constructed out of metal tubing and sheets of pipe insulation.

“We intend to repurpose all of the material, some of which will be used for next year’s float. Who knows where the dragon will end up? The Frederick team really enjoyed walking the parade route watching the reaction of the kids and their parents.”
“All of the floats were outstanding,” Frederick said. “The competition was tough and knowing the competitors that will be part of the 2020 parade the Frederick Team has already started the planning for next year! Stay tuned!”

Toy Train Display at the Historic Village

A total of 339 visitors caught the excitement of the toy train setup in the Historic Village over three weekends in December, according to Joe Timko, who sets up the display each year. “The attendance on the afternoon of the parade is always plus or minus since so many people come in a relatively short period of time. A better estimate would be “a whole bunch” he said.

He collected $117.37 in donations. “Our operation was greatly aided by two very generous toy train donations in 2019. The first was a postwar group of trains which were not suited for our layout. But I sold it and then purchased a badly needed replacement set of Grand Trunk Western diesels for $400, at no cost to the Society. On the day of the parade we also received a Grand Trunk Western collection of very nicely custom decorated engines and cars, some of which we immediately incorporated into our running layout, much to the delight of the donor,” Timko said. “Most importantly, we couldn’t have done it without the help of Ben Maxey (set-up), Rick Davison, Phil Timko, and Justin Plankenhorn (running the trains) and the Historical Society members supplying us with cookies to keep the guys who run the trains running.”

Brownfield Presentation in L.A.

The Mill at Vicksburg was featured in a talk by Jackie Koney at the 2019 National Brownfields Training Conference in Los Angeles. Entitled “All Roads Lead to Vicksburg”, Koney told about the public-private partnership that is saving the former Lee Paper company mill from the wrecking ball. Cosponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), the National Brownfields Training Conference is the largest gathering of stakeholders focused on cleaning up and reusing formerly utilized commercial and industrial properties.

Prairie View Park Update

The attorney for the Johnson family that was litigating to keep control of their property inside of Prairie View Park in Schoolcraft Township reported on a small success in their effort against Kalamazoo County. The issue was first mentioned in the South County News’ November edition.

Attorney Randell Levine had sued the county for the Johnson family, alleging a violation of the state open meetings act in 2019. In his plea, he said the County Board of Commissioners had decided in a closed meeting to “take” the property which had been in the family since the 1930’s.

Circuit Court Judge Curtis Bell’s opinion in December ruled that the county commissioners violated the Open Meetings Act and “jumped the gun” in an attempt to condemn a family-owned lakefront property inside the park. He said the county board had made the decision without public input following a series of meetings conducted behind closed doors. He threw out the board’s decision and ruled the issue must be revisited in open session at a future meeting.

Judge Bell also said the land-owners had a right to talk with their county commissioner, John Gisler and ask him to hear them out but they were denied that by the county attorney, Beth White. She was subsequently fired from her job, likely not about this issue alone.

Beekeepers Meet on Feb. 5

While bees are the furthest thing from most people’s minds right now, the Kalamazoo Bee School is attempting to beat winter blues with its annual bee school. It’s February 15, at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and offers classes for new-bees, experienced beekeepers and nature lovers. More information may be found at

Schoolcraft’s own Charlotte Hubbard is president of the club and will be teaching bee keeping classes. Dr. James Tew is the keynote speaker.

Event Calendar


1/13 – Sun. Vicksburg Rotary Club Showcase rehearsal begins at the high school choir room, 2 p.m. Contact Danna Downing, 269-779-5453.

1/20 – Mon. Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce Mixer, Distant Whistle, public welcome, 5 p.m.
2/8 – Fri. Strive Beef Raffle at the VHS basketball game.

2/9 – Sun. Vicksburg Lions Club 9th Annual Bowling “Fun-Raiser”, 11 a.m. 3 p.m. at the Continental Lanes.


1/8 – Open house for art display by Gurjot Nanhra from 6-7 p.m. at the Schoolcraft library. Her work will be shown through February 7.

Kalamazoo County Area

2/4 – Kalamazoo County Citizen Science Panel will meet on February 4. The public is invited to join with the Kalamazoo Conservation District and partners to learn about opportunities to contribute to the knowledge about the environment. Meet representatives from local organizations who will share information about their projects and how you can get involved. Oshtemo Community Center, 6407 Parkview Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49009. 7-8:30 p.m. FREE. For more information: (269) 775-3368.

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.