New chapter for the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center

With support from the Vicksburg and Gilmore Foundations, the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center has hired its first full time executive director, Alisha Siebers, effective June 21. Alisha has 15 years of nonprofit management experience, including directing the annual campaign at the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, overseeing the membership program at the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts and serving as a trustee for the Portage District Library.

An award winning-teacher, she has taught courses in literature, poetry, surrealist art, drama and writing at five colleges and universities, including WMU. She has a Ph.D. in English from University of California-Berkeley, where she researched hypnotism in British literature. 

Alisha attended a year-long intensive course in nonprofit leadership sponsored by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. “This course provided in-depth big picture immersion in creating vision, budgeting, ethics, and evaluation.,” she said. “These concepts were hammered home for me when I served for nine years on the Portage District Library board, three of them as board president. In that role I oversaw the library’s $3.5 million budget and led my board in three strategic plan renewals. I’m ready to partner with the VCAC to drive its vision and to deepen the center’s impact on Vicksburg and its surrounding communities.”

“I’m impressed by the support for the arts in the Vicksburg area,” Alisha said. “The Victorian art critic Walter Pater said that art gives us the highest quality to our moments. I’m looking forward to hearing from our region about how we can create these quality moments, together. This is a dynamic time for Vicksburg – a time to expand our reach so that everyone can be inspired, enriched, and educated by the arts.”

To this end, Alisha will work with the VCAC Board of Directors in a retreat in July to unify its objectives over the coming year and dream big into its future. Alisha is charged with bringing the voice of the community into that discussion. She wasted no time on this objective, amassing a large list of people to contact from artists, government officials, volunteers and leaders from other nonprofit organizations in the area on her first day.

Programming already in progress will transition to Alisha’s hands.

The VCAC will host hands-on art activities at the Vicksburg Farmers Market Fridays from 2-6 p.m. in July. Dates and activities will be posted on its Facebook page soon. Also, the VCAC will have art activities at the end of nature walks at the Mill, presented by the Mill at Vicksburg. Guides will lead participants on a scavenger hunt around the Mill and through its 80 acres. The nature walks continue the first Saturday of the month through September with morning and afternoon spots. For more information or to register, go to A fee of $10 per child will be collected at the check-in tent.

Arts in the Burg Summer Camp returns August 9 through August 13. A camp fee of $140 per camper includes all materials. Limited full and partial scholarships are also be available. While the camp is designed for children 8-12, parents of 7- and 13-year-olds may find this camp works for them too.

The Tournament of Writers Celebration will be September 16. All works entered into the competition will be published in the 7th “Small Town Anthology.” This event celebrates the authors with a whopping 51 entries, nearly doubled from last year. Readings from some of the authors and the announcement of the Judges’ Choice winner are highlights. The book will be available for purchase at the event and many of the authors will be on hand to sign books and talk about their works.

Alisha lives in south Portage with her husband Steve, a librarian. They have three grown sons who live in Utah, Texas, and New York City and a teenage daughter at home. If they don’t have their noses in a book, you will probably find Alisha and Steve walking around their block with their black cat, Vader, following them like a dog.

The Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center operates in the greater Vicksburg area. More information is online at, Facebook and Instagram. Contact Alisha at

A walking tour of historic Vicksburg on its 150th

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Village of Vicksburg, the Vicksburg Historical Society is delighted to invite you to participate in a walking tour of your historic village. What better way to help celebrate this milestone in the history of Vicksburg than to gather your family and friends and take a leisurely walk through town. The material in this article is an update of a pamphlet published by the Vicksburg Historical Society in 2000. Park and start your tour at the Depot Museum. Use the map on to guide your tour.

  1. Union Depot, built in 1904 by the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railway.
  2. Directly south across the tracks stood a hotel known as the Junction House, Adams House, or Railroad Hotel, which served railroad personnel, traveling salesmen and visitors to Vicksburg. It was a two-story brick building and included a restaurant. It was torn down in the 1970s.
  3. To the right, built in 1900, was the original site of the Eclipse Governor Company, which manufactured governors for steam engines. At its peak the company employed 60 men.
  4. The Vine Street Market sits on the original site of the Dentler Bagger Company, which manufactured parts for threshing machines. After moving to another location in town, the Dentlers partnered with the Kimble family to produce steam powered farm tractors.
  5. R&D Automotive sits on the site of the former McMaster’s Opera House and Skating Rink, built in the mid-1880’s. The Opera House stage held many types of entertainment over the years, including vaudeville performances, agricultural exhibitions and concerts.
  6. Prairie Ronde Artist Gallery occupies the site of the first frame building in Vicksburg, built in 1836 as a general store. The current brick building dates from the 1880’s.
  7. John Vickers erected a grist mill on the Portage Creek near the intersection of Prairie and Michigan Avenue in 1831. The Village of Vicksburg developed around this mill site, which is listed on the State Register of Historic Places.
  8. Vicksburg District Library. You can see the modern addition located to your left on Michigan Avenue, but the Fanny Bair Library, listed on the State Register of Historic Places, is just around the corner on Maple Street. Built in 1902 by Mrs. Bair, specifically as a library, the building was very modern for its time, being equipped with electric lights, central heat, brass chandeliers and a fireplace.
  9. On the southeast corner of Michigan and Maple stood the Maple Street School, a two-story brick building which served all grades from 1869 until 1909 when it was replaced by the building you will see at location 10. As you cross the intersection of Maple and Main, look to the left for a good view of the United Methodist Church, No. 11 on your map.
  10. Vicksburg Community School’s Administration Building was built in 1909, to replace the Maple Street School. It housed grades K through 12 until a new high school was built on Highway Street in 1952, then served as an elementary school for many years.
  11. United Methodist Church, constructed in 1870. The church is listed on the State Register of Historic Sites, and features beautiful stained-glass windows.
  12. On the southwest corner of Main and Washington sits Silo Chic, the former location of Corporation Hall, Vicksburg’s jail, fire department and village offices. It was built in the 1880’s and originally housed a grocery.
  13. Just west of Taco Bob’s sits the old Joy and Koons photography studio, built in 1901, at 110 West Washington. S. D. Joy and William Koons left behind many of our most compelling views of early Vicksburg.
  14. Vicksburg’s Main Street retail district contains many buildings dating from the mid-to late 1800’s.
  15. Constructed in 1872 as the McElvain Hotel, this building served as the Vicksburg Community Center until purchased by the McElvain House LLC. Owned by Chris Moore, this private building now houses Paper City Development offices. Four hotels once thrived in Vicksburg.
  16. Just south of the railroad tracks on North Main Street is the former site of the Franklin Community Hospital. Once the home of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Franklin, the hospital served the needs of the community until 1969, when it was replaced by a modern facility on Boulevard Street, west of town. That’s now Turning Leaf Behavioral Health Services.
  17. Beautiful Sunset Lake can be viewed through the property of the Best/Molineaux/Wunderlin home at 101 North Street.
  18. Adam’s Garage and Hudson Dealership once occupied the old block commercial building at 124 North St. The area you are now in was once filled with warehouses, mills, manufacturing concerns and other businesses that shipped products via rail to all parts of the country.

Mary Marshall promoted at KCSB

Kalamazoo County State Bank has appointed Assistant Vice President Mary Marshall to lead the bank’s Human Resources and Marketing departments.

She succeeds Rick Phillips, who recently retired as vice president for those functions.

“It is a pleasure to announce the appointment of Mary to lead our Human Resources Department and Marketing,” said KCSB president and CEO Scott Hines in a press release. “Mary is a true community banker. She joined KCSB in 2013 with over 30 years in community banking. Her vast knowledge of our industry and the people who create its success, makes her a perfect fit for this position.”

Marshall joined KCSB over eight years ago. Her most recent position with the bank was assistant vice president, branch administrator. She was also a consumer and commercial lender, has provided coaching in the bank to strengthen cohesion and enrichment, product delivery, customer service and personal development. Before joining KCSB, Marshall was in branch management for 1st National Bank of Three Rivers, Standard Federal Bank and Farmers State Bank.

Marshall serves on the board of directors of the Vicksburg Rotary Club, was its president for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, as well as treasurer. Marshall is also a mentor for the Strive Program, helping a senior high school student to graduation, a set design and make-up artist for the Vicksburg Rotary Club Showcase, and a bell ringer for the Salvation Army. A previous co-chair, Marshall championed the Vicksburg Christmas in the Village through the Downtown Development Authority, and has been a participant in the Crop Walk, Relay for Life and Generous Hands. In 2015, she received the LM Angell Directors Award, given to an employee who demonstrates outstanding job performance and community volunteerism.

Marshall attended Western Michigan University for general business courses and is a graduate of CMU Perry School of Banking. She is also a self-taught oil and acrylic painter.

“It was definitely bittersweet to announce Rick’s retirement,” said Hines. “Rick was with KCSB for 37 years. As much as we will miss his daily presence and counsel, we all wish Rick and his husband Lowell a very happy and healthy retirement.”

Beach reads for all at Vicksburg Library

By Adrianne M. Schinkai, Head of Reference & Circulation Services, Vicksburg District Library

Summer has landed in the Kalamazoo area. As restrictions are lifting with the COVID-19 pandemic, many are planning vacations and adventures by the water. Along with swimwear, hats, and sunscreen, people are grabbing their trusted books, or “beach reads.” But what exactly is a beach read? That depends on who you ask.

Many definitions and factors can surround a beach read. Beach reads could be strictly vacation books. They could be those that are read by the waterside, whether sea, lake or pool. They could be books that give off the feeling of summer and warm weather. Others debate that a beach read is made by the style of the writing. A beach read may not have a lot of drama. It could be fiction, easy to read and oh-so-cheesy. A beach read could suck you in!

These are all fine ideas of a beach read. But to me a beach read is simply a book. As a librarian, to me a book is a book is a book. If you enjoy reading it, who is to say you are wrong with where you read it? I say this because everyone is very different in their reading habits. While some may prefer the 80’s romances that feature Fabio on the cover while they are out boating, another might want the latest political tell-all while they are lakeside or sitting on their front porch. Some may prefer not to read books at all. What if they like magazines instead? What if they listen to an audiobook while they are relaxing in the sun? Long story short (no pun intended) the definition of a beach read can be different for everyone.

Summer is a hot release time for books, which is one reason why beach reads are so popular. Along with everything else in the world, readers are seeking out the next biggest and greatest tome to pique their interest while they are out during the warm and sunny season. Here are a few items I enjoyed and would recommend for readers this summer.

“Miss Benson’s Beetle” by Rachel Joyce tells the story of two women looking to prove the existence of the golden beetle of New Caledonia after World War II. While the book was published in November 2020, the story’s atmosphere of jungle adventures put you in a warm-weather mood as you trek along with Margery Benson and Enid Pretty.

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s “Daisy Jones and the Six” is formatted to read like a behind-the-music documentary, through which you hear the story of the 1970s band The Six and how they came to collaborate with the devilishly gorgeous singer, Daisy Jones. Sex, drugs and rock and roll rule in this saga of California-style fame. Reid’s latest book, “Malibu Rising,” is already listed to be one of the biggest hits of summer 2021.

“The Henna Artist” by Alka Joshi takes you to the colorful city of Jaipur as young Lakshmi escapes from her abuse-filled marriage and works to perfect her skills as an artist and advisor to some of the richest and well-known women in India. The sequel, “The Secret Keeper of Jaipur,” was released mid-June and is already looking to be just as well-received.

Looking for more recommendations? Be sure to stop in at the Vicksburg District Library and we’ll be sure to set you up for some great beach reads for the season!

‘Adorable’ harp seals lead to a few dozen figurines

Grace Bond and a selection from her harp seal collection.

By Jef Rietsma

Collector/Collection: Grace Bond, Harp seal figurines.

How did your collection begin? “It was 1988 and I was back in my home country of Holland. We were in the northern part of the province where I was born and we happened upon a rehabilitation center for seals. The doctors there helped seals that had been orphaned, sick or injured by boats or other animals. The seals were all small and so incredibly adorable. Their big eyes and such beautiful expressions … they’re just darling. I have been in love with harp seals ever since.”

A department store near the hospital had an embroidery piece with a baby seal. She completed the piece and had it framed. It became the first item in her collection. She now has about three dozen pieces.

What is your best source for acquiring/trading/selling? “I’m not really interested in buying or trading and, actually, I’ve stopped buying pieces. Once my curio cabinet ran out of space, I decided that’s enough. I wasn’t going to let this collection get out of control and I didn’t want to spend my time worrying about what I don’t have in my collection. I very much enjoy what I have. My only concern is what will happen to the collection when I’m gone because I know my kids and grandkids won’t be interested in keeping it.”

What is the most unique or expensive item in your collection? “I have a crystal seal figure that my son-in-law brought back from the Netherlands when he was visiting there. It was made by the Swarovski Company and it is just beautiful. I also have a couple Hummel figures I bought in Frankenmuth. They were a little more expensive, too.”

What joy do you get from collecting harp seals? “It was a fluke that I started collecting seals but after that day seeing them in the seal hospital, I just fell in love with them. They’re so friendly, they’re playful, their expressions and those big, brown eyes are just beautiful. Of course, when they get older they’re just big, smelly animals but I still love them even as adults.”

Footnotes: A Klines Resort resident, Bond and her late husband made a trip to Bath, Maine, in the early 90s to see seals. She got a few figurines during that trip, but the highlight was standing on the beach and being surrounded by the playful seals. The 88-year-old Bond moved to the US when she was 16.

Headstone cleaning and restoration – a labor of love

Jane Crist cleans up the cemetery.

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

Jane Crist is a familiar sight at the Vicksburg Cemetery where she works at her “retirement project”: cleaning veterans’ headstones.

This project is close to her heart. It started by accident.

Each Memorial Day, Crist plants flowers and carefully tends her family’s graves, which include great-grandparents who came to Vicksburg in the 1800s. While planting in May, she noticed a marker so blackened by layers of dirt and dust that the information was no longer readable.

“It just caught my eye, and it bothered me.” She began to gradually and gently scrub the old stone when she visited the cemetery. Eventually her work revealed the name of a 10-year-old boy, Lemuel Snyder, who Crist learned had died of rheumatic fever. Seeing this child’s restored headstone was so satisfying that Crist began her research and restoration, beginning with veterans’ graves.

Crist’s family has generations of veterans, including her grandfather, brother, son, and grandson. This deep connection energizes her efforts and keeps her focused.

She first sought approval through the township and stays in contact with Schoolcraft Township’s clerk, Virginia Mongreig, who has provided forms, granted approval for Crist’s work, and forwarded information about the cemetery.

Next, Crist conducted extensive research about safe products to use. Two cleaning solutions approved for monument and marker cleaning are in concentrate form and are expensive. Crist says the most expensive is $100 a gallon. But it is the one she likes to use as it works the best.

Crist explained that each veteran’s grave should be decorated with a flag and a special medallion if service was during wartime. Crist replaces flags and bent poles and carefully cleans the grave markers. This visual honor for veterans is important to Crist and fills her with emotion.

Thanks to a Facebook post by her daughter, friends and members of the community have contributed money to buy several gallons of concentrate, enough to keep Crist supplied through the warm weather.

Armed with a brush, spray bottle of cleaner, putty knife and determination, Crist continues her work and has additional plans for improving the condition of the cemetery.

Throughout the old cemetery are markers in need of repair. A visitor sees sunken stones, broken or damaged stones, and even former upright towers with all the pieces leaning against the base. Crist’s dream is to not only improve the markers of veterans, but to repair and restore the old markers throughout.

Crist says, “These graves represent the people who sacrificed and made it possible for us to live a good life in this village. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.”

Student wins online art competition

Vicksburg Middle School student Mason Kreitner is the winner of an Artist of the Week contest, a voting competition held on, which claims to be the world’s largest collection of student art portfolios with more than 80 million pieces of student art. 

Mason said he was excited by the news. “It was pretty cool.” He said he enjoys trying different kinds of art.

“The students are the artist and are given as many choices as possible in order to create artwork that is personally meaningful to them,” said his teacher, Anna Lacey, who has taught the subject for 12 years. “Choice-based art education has become a passion of mine and I see students more free and happy when they are allowed to lead their learning. It makes me so proud to see that their hard work has paid off and earned them the recognition they deserve. Often times they don’t realize how good they are until something special comes about. It is a huge confidence booster.”

Lacey is one of thousands of art teachers from more than 100 countries who use Artsonia to showcase their student art, crowd-source lesson plans and help raise funds for their classrooms. Artsonia lets family and friends of student artists create and purchase organic keepsakes from the student art, and then gives back 20 percent of all revenue to the local art classroom, the company said in a press release.

Winners receive a $50 gift certificate; their school receives a $100 certificate. Both are from Blick Art Materials.

Student recognitions

Albion College
Kasmyn VanMaanen of Vicksburg recently graduated with a degree in biology education, a minor in psychology education and a concentration in the Fritz Shurmur Center for Teacher Development.

Concordia University, Nebraska
Nathan Johnson of Vicksburg, named to honors list for the spring 2021 semester.

Grand Valley State University
Julia Fagaly of Vicksburg, Academic Excellence for Cell and Molecular Biology
Logan Pauli of Vicksburg, Academic Excellence for General Business

Ohio University
Sandra West of Vicksburg graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Baccalaureate Nursing) from the College of Health Sciences and Professions.

Vicksburg village proposes 2021-22 budget

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg’s Village Council was scheduled to hold a special meeting June 28 to consider approval of a 2021-22 budget with an unchanged tax rate of 15.163 mills, $15.163 per $1,000 taxable valuation.

Village Manager Jim Mallery provided a copy of the proposed budget to the South County News. He said the council has reviewed requests for funding the necessary projects, programs and operations for the 12-month period covering the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The proposed budget, Mallery said, supports the village’s 2015 master plan, its parks and recreation plan of 2014 and its downtown development plan adopted in 2014. It was prepared based on input from the seven-member council, Mallery himself, sub-units of government and citizen input through five public meetings held via Zoom. Mallery said more than 60 people participated.

Here’s a breakdown of the proposed 2021-22 fiscal year budget:

Mallery said the general fund is set for about $1.4 million in expenditures, while revenues are anticipated to be more than $1.6 million. He said the village’s general fund amount has increased by 35 percent since 2016.

Other proposed expenses include $249,850 for its Major Street Fund, $109,625 the for Local Street Fund, $832,900 for Department of Public Works, $116,000 to Downtown Development Authority, more than $1.1 million to Angel’s Crossing Golf Course, $3.6 million to its Sewer Fund and more than $1.5 million to its Water Fund. Several of those funds are supported from outside funding sources.

The average household will realize a slight increase in sewer and water rates. Mallery said the new rate will reflect a 3% increase for sewer services and 7% for water. On average, Mallery said, that amounts to an added $1.57 per month for sewer and $1.51 per month for water.

He said the village’s property tax revenue, $702,400 in the 2016-17 fiscal year, is projected this year at $1.1 million. The increase is due to the growth of the industrial park and residential properties – most along 22nd Avenue, Mallery said.

Mallery explained the budgeting process started in February and was subject to many levels of input.

“We do it differently than most … we work off a ‘needs, wants and wishes’ list, where department heads turn in their needs, wants and wishes, and we do that with public works, parks and recreation, and planning commission – which is also the Downtown Development Authority,” Mallery said. “We sent a survey to all the businesses in the DDA, held five neighborhood Zoom meetings, the Historical Society had input and some ideas we hadn’t thought of have been implemented from those neighborhood sessions.”

Parking aplenty during downtown construction

Despite all the construction in downtown Vicksburg, it is still possible to visit and support village businesses. Three parking areas are available to the public and are close to downtown shopping: a lot north of the post office, a lot behind the laundromat and Main St. Pub and a lot behind the hardware store and The Distant Whistle.

While the construction project is inconvenient for customers, continued support for businesses is vital. Residents just need to take a few more steps to provide the continued support village businesses need.