Category Archives: Schoolcraft

Deb Reynolds Named Schoolcraft Citizen of the Year

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Deb Reynolds with her granddaughter, Elizabeth Reynolds, as she shepherds the parade floats into line.

By Sue Moore

“Deb Reynolds is truly an amazing person who has taken on a tremendous responsibility by organizing the best 4th of July parade in southwest Michigan,” Cheri Lutz, Schoolcraft village manager said. The Village Council agreed, naming her to receive its first Citizen of the Year award at its June meeting.

“Deb has been assisting with the parade since 1981 and took it over completely in 2002 while serving as president of the 4th of July committee,” Lutz wrote in her nominating letter. “Many people know her name but do not know her as a person. Deb spends hundreds of hours as a volunteer each year, organizing the parade, communicating with participants, either by phone or email. She is responsible for parade line-ups, securing the Master of Ceremonies, decorating the judges stand and making sure all entries are lined up and in place. In recent years, Deb has worked with the Air Force to arrange a fly-by from the Air Forces’ A-10 Warthogs which is the signal for the parade to begin,”
Reynolds tried to hand the reins of the parade to someone else several years ago but didn’t get many takers. “She appeared at a village council meeting to see if anyone else would volunteer,” Lutz said.

“I was born and raised in Schoolcraft, so I just couldn’t let the community down when nobody else stepped forward,” Reynolds said. TJ Gill and Courtney Adams have been helping her the last several years on the day of the parade. Reynolds has it so well planned she can leave and go home to rest on the actual day if she wants to.

The secret to her success is plenty of organization, she said. She sends out parade entry cards on May 1 to the list of prior participants, those who have been in the parade in the last two years. Reynolds has it so well planned that she knows exactly how many feet it takes on the road for each float entry. She stages them on Eliza Street and then branches off on all the feeder streets such as Pearl, Osterhout and Cass.

The day of the parade, Tom and Mary Carol Clark are stationed as volunteers at the corner of 14th and Eliza to direct traffic. “I can count on them to manage the chaos,” Reynolds said. “Schelley McMillan is in charge of the tractor lineup and that’s a big help too. Another thing that really helps is the bank where I work, Kalamazoo County State Bank, lets me do the planning work on its time and they cover the expenses too.”

As Citizen of the Year, she is going to be required to ride in her very own parade. Reynolds said she was honored to be chosen but doesn’t want to be featured in the parade itself. Instead she would prefer to be home with her feet up and a cool drink in her hand.

Schoolcraft Names Marilyn Jones Citizen of the Year

marilyn with plaque
Marilyn Jones with her plaque presented by the village of Schoolcraft.

By Sue Moore

Nominations came flowing into the Schoolcraft village office for Citizen of the Year, a new award established by the Village Council. Two people were tied in the estimate of the committee reviewing the qualifications. It decided to give the award to both Marilyn Jones and Deb Reynolds.

They will be honored by riding in the Schoolcraft 4th of July parade and praised for their volunteer work for the community. The two have been employees of Kalamazoo County State Bank (KCSB) and have been friends for more than 40 years.

Jones hasn’t slowed down one bit since turning 92 this year, said Deb Christiansen in her letter of support. Jones was also nominated by Library Director Faye VanRavenswaay, who wrote: “Marilyn is an active supporter and local author who happily shares her love of books and writing with the community. Most recently she has been reading her original poems to 2nd and 3rd grade Schoolcraft students and has submitted her work to the Tournament of Writers (which Christiansen instituted) the last four years of its inception and won a prize each time.”

Jones contributes her written work in selected readings, much of it with a sense of humor, wherever she goes, especially to the six clubs she attends monthly. She is always writing poetry and has won many awards. She has written three books. The first, in 2000, is titled “One Lump … Or Two.” She wrote the second, “Tea Time Again … Have Another Lump” in 2013. She was hospitalized with broken bones from a fall. “I laid there thinking about all of my poems and asked my granddaughter, Angel, to help me put them together in a book. She said ‘No, just wait until you come home and I will help you.’” The third, published in 2017, is “Are You Ready?”

In Jones’ earlier years of giving back to the community she was active as a band parent for her five children. Son Ken is a percussionist for the Kalamazoo Symphony and a music director in the Kalamazoo schools. While working at the bank, she volunteered to co-ordinate the three-week visit of two visiting Russian bankers. “They left Schoolcraft with admiration for our way of life and the capitalist system,” Jones said. For five years she wrote the KCSB newsletter. She also taught “Project Business” to Schoolcraft 8th graders. “Many students remarked that it was their favorite class,” Jones said.

She spent several years as a court appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children in Kalamazoo County. She also adjudicated Remynse scholarship applications for the Kalamazoo Foundation.

VanRavenswaay concluded her nomination by lauding Jones: “Marilyn is a jewel in the community, sharing her gift as a poet and helping to spread the word that writing is a pursuit for everyone to enjoy.”

Big Parade Brings Thousands to Schoolcraft

By Tanner White

Schoolcraft’s 4th of July celebration, one of the largest in southwest Michigan, draws thousands of spectators from Michigan and beyond with its time-honored traditions.
What causes the population to explode during these festivities?

One of the more spectacular facets of the 4th of July celebration is the parade.

Participants line up beginning at 10 a.m., the parade steps off at 11. The route extends from Eliza St. to the corner of Clay and 14th, a distance of about two miles. An estimated 10,000 people view the parade every year. An event that fun for the whole family, the parade often consists of over 100 organizations and other entries.

Equally as exciting as the parade is the annual firework display, held at Schoolcraft High School. The display is set to begin at 10 p.m. and lasts approximately 20 minutes. Crowds often surround the high school for miles in every direction, with each viewer seeking the perfect location to watch the spectacle. Arriving early is recommended to ensure the best close-up view.

Ultimately, the entire Independence Day celebration is a time for family, friends, and fun. The most common factors cited as attractions to the festivities are the friendly nature of Schoolcraft locals and the huge variety of activities to suit visitors of all ages. Visit Schoolcraft this 4th of July and be a part of the celebration.

Dine and Listen to Music at the American Legion Hall

American Legion Post 475 of Schoolcraft has big activities for this 4th of July celebration, according to Post Commander Dan Vansweden. “This year we are again offering our traditional favorite barbecue chicken and ribs with sides and drinks from noon until 4 p.m., in both indoor and outdoor dining facilities. This year’s entertainment will feature the live band Latitude who will be playing their country-blues-classic rock sound from 1-5 p.m.” An outdoor inflatable obstacle course will be available for kids as well as an outside beer tent for the adults. The Legion post offers two air-conditioned levels with bars and dining open to the public.

Parkers are Grand Marshals for the Parade

Kim & Mark Parker
Kim and Mark Parker at their desk at Mark’s Sales and Service in Schoolcraft.

By Sue Moore

“The 4th of July is my favorite holiday!” That’s Kim Parker, readying her latest idea for a float to put in the annual parade in Schoolcraft. This will be the 20th year Kim has designed a float and her husband, Mark, and family have built one.

Kim and Mark have been named grand marshals of this year’s event, not because they have been contributing a float but because they do so much else for the event, according to Virginia Mongreig, treasurer of the 4th of July committee.

The couple own Mark’s Sales and Service on U.S. 131, where they repair vehicles, sell used cars and provide a towing service. They have been in business in Schoolcraft since 1997, having begun in 1994 in Vicksburg. Mark started at Kendall’s gas station on Portage Road in 1976 as a mechanic for Charlie Kendall, whom he credits for mentoring him in the business.

Their wrecker serves as the judges reviewing stand on Grand Street each year. The fireworks committee has made use of the company’s van to transport fireworks from where they are purchased out east and brought back to Schoolcraft, Mongreig said. He has also served as a judge for the car show in Burch Park. They have a ready-made pole barn to build the float and have loaned it out to other community groups when extra space is needed.

The parade float is almost always a winner because it is so creative. Kim comes up with a theme each year and then executes it to perfection, her husband said. For the 2018 parade it will be “Grease” with 50s live music emanating from the 50s diner designer float. The couple as grand marshals will be riding in a 50s-era car next to the float, Parker said.

“It usually takes a week to build the float so it’s a very busy, long week,” Kim said. The whole family of six grown kids and their spouses and 11 grandkids all help. Their reward is a dip in the family pool near Barton Lake on the 4th. The Parkers provide a cookout after the parade to their family. It works because they all live nearby. Kim also does a family gathering each Sunday and posts the meat dish of the week on Facebook. The rest of the contributors then tailor their potluck dishes to complement the theme for that Sunday, she said.

Those who attend the parade regularly will recognize the Parker family float as it is usually the most elaborate offering, easing its way from Eliza Street, down Grand, Clay Street and circle back on 14th to the garage. Mark has worked on Deb Reynolds throughout these years to slowly move their float up in the parade so the family is done by 11:45 and able to hit the pool shortly thereafter. “It stinks being at the end of the parade,” Mark said.

The kids and grandkids will take in the fireworks at 10 p.m. but the Parkers would rather stay home and relax. “I’m pooped by the end of the day,” Kim declared.
As well she might be.

Board Approves Hiring of New PE Teacher and Coach

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft School Board made the hiring of new physical education teacher and football coach Nathan Ferency official at its June meeting.

High School Principal Ric Seager said they look for employees based on values. It quickly became obvious Ferency was their man. “When we went through that process, Nathan just stood out,” Seager said. “As soon as he stepped out of the room, the teachers on the panel said ‘This guy will fit right in here.’”

Ferency brings a host of coaching experience in a number of sports from Shepherd, near Mt. Pleasant. “I feel it’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of your district and your community,” Ferency said.

The board also approved moving to a trimester schedule for the elementary and middle schools. The move means the schools will have three equal trimesters of around 60 days each. The first will run from Sept. 4 to Nov. 29, the second from Dec. 3 to March 14 and the third from March 18-June 13.

The change isn’t a huge one, even for teachers and staff. But elementary principal Matt Webster said it does allow for better alignment across the district, especially with professional development dates and card marking since the board approved an “unbalanced calendar” for the high school back in February.

Board President Darby Fetzer said the move just made common sense. “I love the flexibility of this district,” Fetzer said.

Schoolcraft Baseball Has Strong Tournament Performance

By Mark Blentlinger

With the loss of 9 starting seniors from last year’s Eagles baseball team, it was definitely a rebuilding year. But making it back to McLane Stadium on the Michigan State campus to play in the State Championship semifinals? That was unexpected.

The Eagles faced off against the Pioneers from Gabriel Richard in the Division 3 semifinal game. Freshman Alex Thole on the mound showed a tremendous amount of maturity and was focused on the task ahead. He pitched 5.1 innings, allowing six hits, one walk and two strikeouts.

The Pioneers had Frank Klamerus as their starting pitcher. He went 4.2 innings allowing six hits, three walks and three strikeouts. The game started off with Wyatt Adams of the Eagles blasting a deep hit to left field, giving him a lead-off double. Jett Gott was able to get a base hit, putting two runners on base to start the game. Unfortunately, the Eagles were not able to capitalize on their base runners.

The next four innings ended up as a pitchers’ duel, along with some great defensive plays by both the Eagles and Pioneers.

In the top of the fifth inning, senior Austin Edwards was able to claim first base after a line drive to center field. Getting a good jump on the next pitch, Edwards stole second base. While attempting to steal third, a wild throw by the Pioneers catcher allowed Edwards to score the Eagles’ first run of the game. With three walks given up in a row to Wyatt Adams, Jett Gott and Dalton Adams, the bases were loaded. Eagle Connor Nutt drew yet another walk, bringing in run number two for the Eagles.

Inning sixs didn’t go as well for the Eagles. With some untimely errors by the Eagles and a couple of good hits that found gaps in the outfield, the Pioneers were able to put five runs up on the board. The Eagles were left with one more inning to try to claim a victory.

Unfortunately, a win wasn’t in the cards. The final score was 5-2, in favor of the Pioneers. Gabriel Richard went on to beat Madison Heights’ Bishop Foley 3-0 for the Division 3 State Championship.

With the talent and determination this young Eagles team has shown this entire season, we can anticipate more trips to McLane Stadium to watch these young men compete.

Village Council Approves Land Use Plan

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft village council unanimously approved a long-term comprehensive land use and recreation plan under consideration for the last six months.

The plan’s goals are to develop accessible trails to Three Rivers and Portage, make additions or improvements to existing ones and possibly develop an all-new park.

The plan was developed in cooperation with Wightman & Associates, a Benton Harbor-based engineering firm. Jorden Parker from the firm was in attendance. Village President Keith Gunnett said many villages make similar plans that sit on a shelf and never get done. But he’s confident that won’t happen in this case.

“Your company has really made this so much easier,” Gunnett told Parker. He further credited Wightman for getting the community involved in the process. “It really did get responses out of folks and that’s hard to do,” Gunnett said.

The council also recognized the village’s two Citizens of the Year and presented them with plaques. The two winners were Debra Reynolds and Marilyn Jones. Reynolds was recognized for her contributions to the village’s annual 4th of July parade and Jones for her support of the library and spreading a love of reading and writing in the community.

The trustees thanked the two for their contributions to the community. Trustee Michael Rochholz said they would be a tough act to follow. “Unfortunately, you probably set the bar a little too high for the rest of us,” he joked.