Category Archives: Vicksburg

Angels Crossing Under New Management

angels 1By Sue Moore

Angels Crossing Golf Club was selected as one of the best places you can play golf in the 2017 issue of Golf Week. With the Renaissance Golf Management team in place at Angels Crossing for the 2018 season, the goal is to make the course even better and go from #17 to first on the list.

Renaissance owner Tom Ham was hired to oversee all operations for the municipal course. He is bringing with him PGA golf professional Brian Schueneman to oversee daily operations of the course. The company was selected by Vicksburg’s Village Manager Jim Mallery. It plans to improve the bottom line of the course while focusing on the golfing experience for the many members and guests who love the challenge the Angels Crossing course presents. The course will be open for play the first week in April, weather permitting.

Ham is one of only 38 PGA master professional people certified in general management of golf courses in the nation and the only one in Michigan with these credentials. His team manages Hemlock, a well-known course in Ludington and 10 others in the state. “We are evaluating many things at Angels Crossing in order to make the course the very best experience possible,” Ham said. “We are starting on the greens with ‘deep-time’ aerification. This will help get air into the substructure of the greens and when cut vertically, they will play faster at about a 10 level being our target. The size of these greens is awesome. The architect who designed the course had a vision that they should play firm and fast and that’s what we hope to achieve.”

Schueneman has his PGA card and has been the pro at both public and private golf courses. “We want to specialize in customer service by installing a new web site that will be able to book tee times online,” he said. “It’s the wow factor we are after. That means making sure there are no little pieces of trash laying around on the grounds, that golf carts are clean and the service is impeccable.”

Schueneman is from River Valley near Three Oaks where he played baseball in high school and college. He didn’t take up golf until he was 26. He sports a 1.6 PGA handicap, which is highly competitive for any pro golfer. He served as golf professional most recently at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor and before that at Lost Dunes in Bridgeman.

Pricing will remain the same for 18 holes at $49 per round. “This price is not low by local standards but for those driving from longer distances for an exceptional experience, it is the best value in the state,” Ham said. “We hope to cater to local traffic with incentive programs that will reflect our interest in leagues and special events.”

The team is managing the whole facility including the dining room, kitchen, pro shop and maintenance. They have retained Joe Tsui as the chef and hope to keep as many of the current employees as possible. The village of Vicksburg will own the golf shop but will be able to order equipment through the buying group that Renaissance represents to achieve better pricing, Ham said.

Alpin Hong Plays at the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center

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Alpin Hong deconstructs a piano.

By Sue Moore

You’re a classical pianist. You’re performing before an audience when a bat, perhaps startled by your virtuosity, flies out of the piano. What do you do? If you’re Battle Creek native Alpin Hong, you switch to film music – Batman.

Hong will be on the stage of the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center April 17, as part of the Irving S. Gilmore Keyboard Festival. The 7 p.m. concert is free. No bats are expected to attend.

Hong loves to entertain youngsters with his music by transforming his audience’s expectations into full enjoyment of his music. “Kids have an idea of what it’s going to be like, coming to a classical music concert.

“In five minutes of my performance, I know I’ve got their full attention. I just love that. You can transform people forever this way, and that’s what I hope to do with my concert.”

The family concert tour as part of the Gilmore Festival will be a homecoming for Hong. He started his musical life in Battle Creek with piano and violin lessons at the age of four. His dad and mom were Korean; his father came here to practice medicine and psychiatry while mom was a homemaker. Hong said his mother was the more musical person in the family.

Hong was 12 and his brother 10 when his parents were killed in an automobile accident in Allegan County. That left just one relative in the United States, an aunt who lived in Los Angeles. The boys went to live with her.

Hong, 41 now, came back to solo with the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek Symphony orchestras in his earlier years. He was chosen to headline the Gilmore’s family concerts during the biennial festival series that brings some of the greatest stars to Kalamazoo.

“It is absolutely essential for youth to know the classical experience,” Hong said. “I don’t want my concert to be the last one kids will ever want to attend. Classical music is much like green leafy vegetables. You know they are good for you but it’s not always tasty.”

That brought up the bat story: “For example, some years ago I was playing a concert in Columbus, Ohio and a bat flew out of the piano. I started playing music from Batman and the audience loved it. Kids are the best testing ground for music. They are honest. Adults will clap nicely but kids will let you know if they are bored. Although I’m rooted in extensive classical piano training, I have a background in extreme sports, martial arts, and video games.”

“My concert presents a retro-fitted mash-up disguised as a piano recital – prepare to be amazed!” Hong said he will be playing Muczynski’s Desperate Measures, a modern work based on a theme of Paganini, and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue as the grand finale of his tour in southwest Michigan.

One place Hong plans to visit upon his return to Kalamazoo: Boonzaaijer Bakery. “I go there every time I’m in the city.” Hong’s brother lives in Ann Arbor where he teaches and practices psychiatry. “I tortured my brother growing up. I guess it takes one to know one as we are polar opposites in personality. He is quiet and reflective. I met my wife, Tiali Dattara, through him when they were both in medical school at UCLA.

“My wife is not exactly sitting at home waiting for me while on tour. She cares for our two children, a boy, six, and a girl, four, while working as a doctor in Los Angeles. This time she will be coming with me to see where I started life. It will be a very emotional homecoming.”

Artist in Residence Sponsored by Paper City Development

By Jef Rietsma

A pair of artists – one from New York, the other from California – has been selected to participate in the inaugural season of the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency at the former Simpson Paper Mill as its ambitious redevelopment plan moves forward.

In working with the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC), the artist-in-residence concept had been imagined in the “thinking about it” stage, said John Kern, who played a key role in creating the program and its guidelines. The VCAC is planning to help by hosting meet and greets and the occasional opening.

“We had been looking at ways in which we could develop a broader creative community even though there’s already a good one existing here in Vicksburg,” Kern said. “We were wondering about how we could raise the profile a little bit.”

The idea gained momentum thanks to Frances Li, a visual artist in New York City. Kern said Li is his wife’s niece and spent a month in the area last year. The visit afforded Li, Kern and his wife, Jackie Koney, an opportunity to debate the merits of an artist-in-residence concept at the former mill.

Kern and Koney are playing major roles in the mill’s redevelopment under the authority of its backer, Chris Moore.

Li was behind an email blast that targeted a network of her friends and like-minded artists who might have an interest in the local opportunity. Kern said nearly a dozen people applied for the position and two seemed to stand slightly above all others.

May Hong, who hails from Brooklyn, N.Y., plans to do mural work over a four-week period once she arrives April 23. Meanwhile, Penelope Anstruther, an Oakland, Calif. resident, is set to do a multimedia project by creating sculptures with found objects from the mill, Kern added.

“The agreement is they can do whatever they want, though we encourage them to incorporate the mill complex as much as they can and Vicksburg in general in their work and in their planning,” Kern said. “In addition, we’ll ask every artist to do some sort of a community give-back, whether that’s open studio space or a gallery opening or some sort of event with some sort of effort to include the village.”

Ultimately, a finished product will be turned over to the Mill for its private collection, Kern said. He added that artist-in-residence participants will receive a $2,000 stipend, a place to stay for their visit and use of a vehicle.

Kern said he is excited for the program to take root. Being part of the interview team, he said, was a thrill.

“They’re all very serious and brilliant people, and they are looking forward to just having quiet time to focus on making what they want to make,” he said. “These are professional artists so they are serious about what they do, they’re eager to be here and participate in the community.”

Kern said the artists will have any portion of the mill not under construction available for inspiration and their use as a workplace.

For now, the local artist-in-residence program will see just one artist working at a time.
“Right now, we’re set up for one at a time,” Kern said. “We’d like to explore maybe growing it into something a little more cohort-driven down the road, but right now, that’s what we have.”

Anstruther plans to arrive in late May and stay a month. Both Hong and Anstruther chose the lengths of their stay, Kern said, noting they were given a window of between four and seven weeks.

The second application series recently closed and Kern, along with others who are a part of the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency program, are in the midst of evaluating their portfolios and bodies of work.

Southwest Michigan Second Annual Library Hop in April

By Eric Hansen, Vicksburg District Library’s head of circulation and reference

The Annual Library Hop is a way to introduce people to area libraries and the programs each library offers. Each participating library has planned special events during the month of April. Schoolcraft Community Library is presenting a Storybook Walk in its Reading Garden all month; Mendon Township Library has an all-month display featuring Madam Marantette, world renowned horsewoman; and Three Rivers Public Library has a Paint & Pour Craft Project one day, and two author visits scheduled. Libraries offer events throughout the year that are open to everyone. They host authors, artists, hobbyists, informational meetings, children’s programs and events for teens, to list a few.

The Library Hop provides a wonderful opportunity to plan road trips with family or friends in Southwest Michigan. The first week of the Library Hop coincides with the Vicksburg Community Schools Spring Break and any student who is enjoying a vacation would benefit from this a great opportunity to be educated and entertained.

The Library Hop is a great way to showcase the charm of small communities. There are interesting shops and restaurants in each location. These communities have beautiful parks which would be great places to have a picnic. And there is history: Did you know that the harvester-thrasher combine was invented by one of the first settlers in Climax? Did you know that at least two of the communities represented were part of the Underground Railroad?

This is the Second Annual Library Hop coordinated by Linda Adams, the office and community engagement manager at the Vicksburg District Library. It occurs from April 1 through 30.

Adams and one of her friends devised the idea for this program as they visited local quilting stores for their Quilting Hops.

Patrons can pick up a “passport” at one of local participating libraries. Each participating library has a page in the passport. Each will stamp their page showing their library was visited.

The program has grown significantly since last year, from 11 to 19 participating libraries. It has been a team effort, with Todd Reed of Sturgis District Library creating a website available at LibraryHop.org, and Perri Saunders of White Pigeon Township Library creating a library “Passport” for the participating locations. There is also a Facebook page highlighting the special April events.

Participating libraries are: Athens Community Library, Burr Oak Township Library, Cass County District Library, Colon Township Library, Comstock Township Library, Constantine Township Library, Dowagiac Community Library, Galesburg-Charleston Memorial Library, Lawrence Memorial Library – Climax, Wood Memorial Library, Marcellus Township, McKay Library, Augusta-Ross Township, Mendon Township Library, Nottawa Township Library, Richland Community Library, Schoolcraft Community Library, Sturgis District Library, Three Rivers Public Library, Vicksburg District Library, and White Pigeon Township Library.

Patrons can find the websites and addresses for each library at the Library Hop website at libraryhop.org/destinations.html.

2018 Vicksburg Athletics Hall of Fame Recipients Named

By Sue Moore

The highest honor for a Vicksburg former athlete is induction into the sports Hall of Fame. It has honored 83 athletes since its founding in 1987.

It’s not just the highest achieving athletes that receive this honor, according to Coach Jon Kachniewicz. “Another part of the consideration is what they have done for their community once they have graduated from Vicksburg High School. This year’s nominees reflect that thinking as both Robert (Bob) Critz and Dave Maneikis have given back many times over to their respective communities.”

Critz earned four varsity letters, two in football and two in tennis, then went on to a 48-year career in coaching football in Allegan, Mendon, Colon and Centreville. He played first singles his senior year in 1960 and second singles as a junior.

His greatest team was the 1972 Mendon football contingent that went undefeated and was named state champion in class D by the Associated Press; there were no playoffs in those early years. He had Rock Klinger as his quarterback and Tim Baker as a receiver. “I just stayed out of their way and let them play,” Critz said. He was head coach in Mendon from 1969 to 1974, then went to Colon for four years to become part-time athletic director, history teacher and head coach. He moved to Centreville in 1979 but still worked the sidelines in Mendon as assistant coach, retiring from teaching in 2003.

He was high school track coach for 21 years at his various schools and golf and basketball coach at Mendon at various times. He was selected as the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) class D track coach of the year in 1998. Critz was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1994.

He and his wife, Barb, have three children. All have gone into the teaching field.

Maneikis claims he wasn’t an all-star athlete while at Vicksburg High School as he was lettering in football, basketball and baseball. He graduated in 1970 and went on to get his associates degree from Michigan State University in electrical technology. He came back to Vicksburg to go into business with his father, Ed. He began his career of umpiring as an Michigan High School Athletic Association official in baseball, basketball and softball from 1974 to 1986.

Umpiring four or five days a week, Maneikis also volunteered as announcer for Vicksburg’s athletic programs in football, basketball and wrestling. With bad knees, he spent more time in recent years keeping score books and operating scoreboards for Vicksburg’s teams.

He was a charter member of the Vicksburg Athletic Boosters in 1983 and has logged 45 years of continuous service to the Vicksburg athletic program. “I volunteer because it gives me a way to give back to the school and community,” Maneikis said.

He and his wife, Sue, have twin daughters. They helped him with his scorekeeping duties as they were growing up.

Church Agency Celebrates its First Year in Vicksburg

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Dawn Couey, Charlie Church and Laura Brandt on the sidewalk in front of the Church Agency in Vicksburg.

By Sue Moore

The Church Allstate Insurance Agency celebrated its first year of business in Vicksburg on March 1. In this period of time they have been able to grow the business from zero clients to 468 by their anniversary date. The business is located at 125 E. Prairie Street.

Charlie Church and his father-in-law, Brian Johnson, were looking around for an area to expand in and chose the Vicksburg location. Johnson began his insurance business in 2010 in Kalamazoo on Stadium Drive where he purchased a book of already existing business from an Allstate agent. Johnson expanded to Paw Paw and recruited Church to run that office in 2012. Johnson still has the Paw Paw office, as well as one in Portage.

Johnson and his family lived in Vicksburg school district on East T Avenue, so he was familiar with the area. His daughter, Ashley, is a 2003 graduate of Vicksburg High School and met Bloomingdale native Charlie Church after he moved to the Vine neighborhood of Kalamazoo. “My parents were very involved in the community, so it felt natural for me in coming to Vicksburg to join the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce during my first year here,” Church said.

“Insurance is a fascinating business since we operate 24/7. We represent Allstate exclusively, which specializes in personal lines insurance like home, auto and life,” Church said. “Allstate strives to be number one in claims satisfaction. If an auto customer isn’t completely satisfied with their claim, we offer six months of premium free service.”

“I am an Allstate customer and have had a few claims so I know they go above and beyond. What separates us as an agency is providing the best service possible from a local person you know and can trust. This is especially true during the claims process as we like to file all the claims for our customers from our office right here in Vicksburg.”

Laura Brandt who was with Church in the Paw Paw office followed him to Vicksburg. “I love my customers,” Brandt said. “It’s all about the personal insurance business.” They have expanded enough that Church has added a second assistant, Dawn Couey. “We’re actually looking to grow further, and are searching for great local talent to join the team,” Church said.

Gilmore Young Artist Recipient Plays Concert in Vicksburg

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Elliot Wuu.

The 2018 Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival returns to Vicksburg every two years. The Gilmore has announced Elliot Wuu will be one of the young artists of exceptional talent who will play in Vicksburg. Wuu was presented with the Gilmore Young Artist Award (GYA) for 2018. The award comes after an extended period of critique by a six-member panel. The artists in question have no clue they’re being judged.

Wuu will take the stage on Sunday, May 6 at 3 p.m. in the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center as part of his concert tour in southwest Michigan.

The New York Times recently called The Gilmore’s selection process “the music world’s version of the MacArthur Foundation’s ‘genius’ grants: a prestigious prize that cannot be applied for or sought.”

Above and beyond the recognition of becoming a Gilmore Young Artist, alongside George Li, Yuja Wang, Jonathan Biss, Kirill Gerstein and 26 other established pianists, each winner receives a $15,000 stipend to further musical and educational endeavors as well as the commission of a new piano composition, to which the artist will have exclusive performance rights for one year.

Born in Fremont, California in 1999, Elliot Wuu began studying piano at age six. He was a pre-college student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and attended Valley Christian High School and Conservatory of the Arts in San Jose, Calif. Most recently, he has accepted a full scholarship to attend the Juilliard School.

In 2017, Wuu was named the winner of the National YoungArts Competition and was a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts semifinalist. He is a Young Scholar of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation and a 2016-2021 MTAC Young Artist Guild member, the highest honor bestowed to a California music student. In 2013, he was selected as one of the 12 pianists to participate in the inaugural Lang Lang Junior Music Camp in Munich, Germany.

Tickets for this event are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $5 for students 18 and under, and $25 for families of five or more. Reservations can be made by visiting vicksburgcommunityschools.org/pac or by calling the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center ticket office at 321-1193.