Vicksburg Quilt Trail is a hidden gem

Area folks who have driven or biked along country roads and spotted a beautiful barn with a brightly painted quilt block on it have discovered part of the Vicksburg Quilt Trail.

Barn quilt trails around the country are often organized by a historical society, art council or quilt group to attract tourists to the area. This phenomenon began in 2001 in southern Ohio with one painted quilt block on a family barn to honor a quilting mother. Many of the patterns are symbolic with deeper historic and personal meaning. Thousands of barns later, in every state and Canada, the trend continues.

Hugh and Kitch Rinehart began creating a barn quilt trail in 2012 for the Vicksburg Historical Society. The trail has grown to 24 barns and historic buildings on a 45-mile loop. From 1-2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18, the Rineharts will explain the process of creating a barn quilt, then show photos of the barns at the Vicksburg District Library, 215 S. Michigan Ave.

Walk-ins are welcome; there is no admission fee. The presentation will be simultaneously broadcast as a Zoom meeting. Preregistration is required; see www.fallbikecelebration.org/schedule for details.

Fall Bike Celebration Weekend coming Sept. 17-19

The third annual Fall Bike Celebration Weekend, Sept. 17-19, will offer bicycling, an outdoor live concert, results of a public bike art competition, and fascinating live and online presentations. The weekend also highlights the many attractions in and around Vicksburg and southwest Michigan.

On Friday Sept. 17, the public is encouraged to ride bicycles to two expertly led disc golf clinics, the Vicksburg Historic Village and the Farmers Market. That afternoon a webinar will present lessons learned about “Increasing Safe Passing of Bicyclists,” gained through how-to research conducted in Michigan and Tennessee.

On the morning of Saturday Sept 18, the Ride For A Reason: Multi-Charity Bikeathon will give supporters of 16 charities a chance to ride and walk to raise funds for a variety of worthy programs important to southwest Michigan. This event aims at providing an outdoor social fundraising platform to help make up for donations lost during the pandemic, starting and ending at the timber-framed Vicksburg Pavilion.

On Saturday afternoon, live and virtual presentations will feature the Vicksburg Quilt Trail paintings and highlight progress on the huge Mill at Vicksburg entertainment and hotel complex. Saturday evening promises an event for live music lovers: An open-air benefit concert performed by the popular rock, blues, country, folk and bluegrass AMP band will take place under the big roof of the Vicksburg Pavilion, with gates opening at 6:15 p.m. Results of Bike Friendly Kalamazoo’s Public Bike Art Competition with $1,750 in cash awards will be announced at the concert.
On Sunday Sept. 18, the event’s namesake, the Fall Bike Celebration Bike Tour will offer routes with views of Vicksburg Quilt Trail paintings. Cyclists will ride to scenic destinations such as Scotts Mill Park, Climax, over the longest covered bridge in Michigan and as far as Shipshewana and back. The Bike Tour starts and ends at the restored Vicksburg Historic Village.

Bill Adams, former Vicksburg village president and honorary event co-chair said, “Vicksburg welcomes bicyclists and everyone to enjoy the Fall Bike Celebration. We are grateful for the support of the Vicksburg Foundation, generous sponsors and wonderful in-kind supporters who make this fantastic fall bicycle festival possible.”

The weekend long event was organized by civic leaders, local charities and bike-related organizations. It’s expected to pack the weekend with dozens of reasons to ride, showcase local amenities, provide ways to support bicycling, emphasize the need for motorist and bicyclist safety as the hours of darkness increase and to have fun. Some activities are free, some require waivers and some may require children to be accompanied by an adult. The latest updates can be found at http://www.fallbikecelebration.org/schedule/.

“This year we will employ safety and public health measures that worked last year — and now, vaccines are working in our favor,” said Paul Selden, president of Bike Friendly Kalamazoo. “We welcome everyone to enjoy the Fall Bike Celebration at any level, bicycling or virtual.”

Bike Friendly Kalamazoo is a Michigan non-profit corporation with a network of volunteers drawn from greater Kalamazoo whose mission is to help make the community more bicycle friendly. Its programs include grants and scholarships to support bicycle/motorist safety, education and infrastructure, while promoting collaboration among local leaders and organizations. For more information and downloads of artist-designed posters, go to http://www.bikefriendlykalamazoo.org.

New projects increase Historic Village accessibility


By John Polasek, Vicksburg Historical Society

The Vicksburg Historical Society has been working hard to make the Historic Village a destination to display artifacts in a period setting for patrons. The majority of the artifacts have ties to Vicksburg and the South County Area.

There are 10 buildings and three railroad cars, all owned by the Village of Vicksburg, that need periodic upgrades and maintenance. Each year the VHS reviews maintenance needs and, through the Historic Village Committee, presents a repair and maintenance budget to the Village for review and approval. When approved, the Historic Village budget becomes part of the overall Village of Vicksburg budget.

After the approval process, the committee is responsible for having the work completed within the fiscal year. In 2020, maintenance work included cleaning the grounds and the inside of buildings, and placing ramps at the exits of several buildings to improve accessibility and create one-way traffic for COVID safety. The doors on the Township Hall were also replaced.

The HVC is currently working on finishing work from last year’s budget delayed due to COVID and unavailability of materials. This work includes placing railings for ramps at the Township Hall and Farmhouse and replacing the front porches and the back entrance ramp at the School. The work should be completed this summer.

The HVC’s budget for FY 2021-2022 emphasizes maintenance of buildings and began July 1. Major highlights of the new fiscal year work include washing and painting of the General Store, Sweet Shop and Gazebo. The Depot trim, doors and windows will also be repaired and painted.

The largest of the work items will be construction of aggregate pathways from the road to the School, Township Hall and General Store/Sweet Shop. This will make it much easier for everyone to visit these buildings. All work will be complete before the Harvest Festival September 26.

All are invited to attend.

The Village includes a 1904 restored railroad depot, boxcar and caboose containing railroad history exhibits; a one-room school restored to the 1930’s; a print shop and newspaper office containing a large display of letterpress equipment and a farmhouse and barn with furnishings and agricultural equipment circa 1870 to 1930. The mission of the Vicksburg Historical Society is to preserve, advance and disseminate knowledge of the history of the greater Vicksburg area. More information can be found at http://www.vicksburghistory.org.

150 years of Vicksburg at a glance

1831 – John Vickers builds mill on Portage Creek at the present-day site of Clark Park.

1835-36 – Tavern house and blacksmith shop built, marking beginning of a village.

1842 – First school built of logs, located on present-day Kalamazoo Avenue.

1843 – Village platted for first time as Vicksburgh – with an “h”.

1845 – Post Office on Gourdneck Prairie moved to Vicksburgh.

1849 – Village re-platted under the name Brady.

1850 – Village consists of store, blacksmith, frame school, flour and lumber mills, lodging, tavern house and post office.

1869 – Brick school built on Maple Street.

1870 – Beginning of two decades of construction of retail buildings in village.

1870 – Vicksburg’s oldest church, present-day United Methodist Church, constructed.

1871 – 1872 – Two railroads reach the village.

1871, Oct. 18 – County Board of Supervisors petitioned to organize Village of Brady.

1871, Oct 19 – Petition amended and accepted to change name to Vicksburgh.

1872 – McElvain House Hotel built, southeast corner of present-day Main and Prairie.

1879 – Vicksburg Commercial begins publication.

1894 – Village’s first bank established.

1897 – Water and Power Plant provides first electricity and municipal water to residents.

1897 – Vicksburg Telephone Exchange established.

1897 – Fire Department established, Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1.

1899 – Frame train depot burns to the ground.

1902 – Fanny Wallace Bair builds Library on Maple Street. It’s later named for her.

1903 – Frakes and Citizens’ Additions added to village.

1903 – Carson Durkee builds an automobile, many people see their first car.

1904-1905 – Lee Paper Company built and first Polish workers hired.

1904 – Brick Union Depot constructed.

1904 – Housing boom in the village, with many homes constructed.

1905 – Hobard Addition added to village.

1906 – Bowie, Godshalk and Dell Additions added to village.

1909 – New brick two-story school built on Kalamazoo Avenue.

1913 – First automobile agency established, Tobey Bros. Ford Agency.

1916 – First hospital, located on northwest corner of Kalamazoo Ave and South Street.

1916 – Village’s first engine-propelled fire truck ordered.

1916 – Street signs erected; house numbering system set up.

1917 – House -to-house mail delivery begins.

1918 – First village casualty from World War I reported: Roy Canavan.

1922 – Golf course built between Vicksburg and Schoolcraft, Vixcraft Golf Course, now States.

1924 – Hospital on North Main St. opens in the former Peter Franklin home.

1931 – Vicksburg’s two banks merge, then soon close due to the Great Depression.

1933 – A money exchange opens to provide change and cash checks.

1936 – A branch of First National Bank established in Vicksburg.

1936 – Vicksburg to Kalamazoo bus service begins.

1941-1942 – World War II brings on rationing, sends many men off to war.

1946 – Vicksburg Foundation established.

1947 – 21 one-room school districts consolidate with the Vicksburg District.

1947 – One-room schools close, then a few re-open to lessen crowding.

1952 – New high school built on Highway Street.

1952 – Harding’s Market opens village’s first self-serve grocery at 112 South Main.

1953 – First Rotary Showboat presentation.

1956 – Southland Mall built in Portage, beginning retail decline in Vicksburg.

1956 – Vicksburg water treatment facility completed on Highway Street.

1958 – Sunset Elementary School opens.

1959 – Harding’s Market opens new modern store on West Prairie Street.

1960 – New post office opens on North Kalamazoo Avenue.

1960 – Middle School on East Prairie opens.

1968 – Vicksburg Ambulance Service formed.

1969 – New hospital opens on North Boulevard Street.

1970 – Commercial buildings on west side of North Main demolished, park established.

1971 -Vicksburg celebrates “One Hundred Years of Progress.”

1971 – Little League is established in Vicksburg.

1971 – Passenger train service to and from Vicksburg ends.

1975 – McElvain Hotel/Vicksburg Hotel refurbished, becoming Vicksburg Community Center.

1975 – Alley on west side of South Main Street transformed into Liberty Lane.

1980 – Village hires first full-time village manager.

1981 – First Old Car Festival is held.

1983 – Vicksburg Community School Foundation established.

1986 – Main Street receives a facelift, with wider sidewalks, new lights, and trees.

1987 – A large addition added to Fanny Bair Library along Michigan Avenue.

1990 – Ground broken for industrial park on West Prairie St.

1990 – Union Depot dedicated as a Historical Society Museum.

1995 – Performing Arts Center opens.

1996 – Professional Medical Building opens on North Boulevard.

1996 – Village Market Place opens.

2001 – Paper mill closes.

2003 – Angels Crossing Golf Course opens.

2006 – Bulldog Stadium and Sports Complex opens.

2013 – Vicksburg Quilt Trail completed.

2014 – Community Pavilion dedicated.

2015 – Cultural Arts Center opens.

2016 – Nature Trail project gets underway.

2016 – Local hospital closes.

2017- Hill’s Drug Store closes after 72 years in business with same name.

2018 – Paper City LLC acquires papermill buildings.

2018 – Last locally-owned car dealership sold.

2021 – Village-wide infrastructure improvement project.

Community corner

By Drew Johnson

Community” is an interesting word. It means different things to different people – it might mean your circle, your town, or even your group on Facebook or your fanbase (I’m a Wolverine for life). But at its core, community is about helping others. It’s about recognizing that humans are wired for connection and support, and that groups of people have survived for millennia by working together to solve problems and help each other.

The pandemic really made us think about community. Suddenly we were separated from people who we loved and worried about everyone else buying up all the toilet paper and peanut butter. We could have forgotten all about community. But a funny thing happened – we came together. All over the country, people had drive-by birthdays, put teddy bears in windows and sewed masks for healthcare workers.

As the director of South County Community Services, I saw people donate their stimulus checks and volunteer to deliver food to seniors. People were worried. The world was turned upside down, and nobody could do anything about it. The only thing we knew, through all the chaos, was that other people had it worse off than we did. So we helped them any way we knew how. THAT’s community.

We live in a time when it is easier than ever to feel isolated from the people around us. If I wanted to, I could pick up my groceries curbside, order my non-essentials on Amazon, and spend my days working from home, all without ever seeing a soul. In this new column, I hope to inspire you to reject that path and seek to actively be a part of your community.

I live in Kalamazoo and was worried that when I came down to work in Vicksburg I would always feel like an outsider.

But the opposite happened.

I found a Village that was welcoming and supportive, that cared about its neighbors and reached out to help those in need. So this is an encouragement to anyone else who is on the outside: Don’t just look in, GET in. Maybe to you that looks like talking to a neighbor or checking in on a friend. Maybe it means volunteering at or donating to a local nonprofit. Every month I’ll bring up a new idea – many of them will be things you have done before, or thought about doing before, but sometimes we just need a little push to actually get out there and do it. I’m looking forward to the journey and hoping to get to know some more of you along the way!

Drew Johnson lives in Kalamazoo and is the Director at South County Community Services. He has a small quarter acre homestead with chickens, bees, and hops (and more!), a wonderful wife, and three energetic children. He can be reached at 649-2901 or ajohnson@southcountycs.com.

For more information on South County Community Services, please check out our Facebook at
facebook.com/southcountycs or visit our website.

Backpack Bonanza a success in 2021

A sampling of backpacks donated for this year’s bonanza.

The start of school is here – it’s back-to-school routines, friends, and homework. Sheri Louis, executive director of Generous Hands, Inc. prepares for months securing donations for the back-to-school bonanza event. This year may have looked different during a pandemic, although the needs remain constant. The Backpack Bonanza, held on August 7 proved to be popular – 55 families attended; 146 backpacks were given out. This year Meijer generously donated over 200 backpacks, face shields, and two generous gift cards. The event was held outside at the Generous Hands/South County Community Services office.

“Generous Hands, Inc. truly appreciate the support of the community. This event could not happen without the many donations and all of the caring volunteers,” Louis said. What does it take to staff an event like this? Generous Hands welcomed 19 volunteers. Preparing volunteers with their work schedules, Louis scribes the word bonanza: the Random House College Dictionary definition is “a source of great and sudden wealth or luck”. She goes on to say, “I am not sure a backpack full of school supplies would seem to be a source of great or sudden wealth to most of us; I do believe that for many of the children, it is. The smiles on the kids’ faces will bring a source of great and sudden wealth to all of us working at the Bonanza.”

For more information about Generous Hands and how it supports our community, please visit generoushands.org or contact Sheri Louis at (269) 370-7965.

Kalsee Credit Union prepares to open new location

Kalsee Credit Union’s drivethrough is nearly complete.

With much of the exterior work complete, Kalsee Credit Union is hoping to move into the building on North Main which housed a branch of PNC Bank – and housed several predecessor’s bank branches before that – by late September.

Carrie Boisonault, vice-president for marketing and business development, said the upgraded building “features an all-new drive-through canopy and state-of-the-art ATMs with a live, interactive video teller feature.” The lobby received a facelift, Boisonault said, with new flooring, equipment and teller line.

The branch manager will be a familiar face. Ryan Wagner was branch manager at the location when the last bank there closed. Wagner, the Kalsee executive added, was recruited “for his passion for the Vicksburg community.” Wagner, she said, is a village resident who serves on the board of directors of the Vicksburg Historical Society.

“Vicksburg exemplifies the Midwestern small town ideal,” said the credit union’s CEO, Matt Lahman of Schoolcraft. “The community is a great fit for the way we do business, where we get to know our members personally and invest ourselves in their financial well-being. It’s our privilege to contribute to the community’s growth and wellness.”

A previous Kalsee CEO who retired from that post is Rudy Callen, a Vicksburg resident and former Vicksburg school trustee.

The credit union’s Vicksburg branch lobby décor will include historical photographs of the building and a historical timeline.

Book sale returns to Vicksburg District Library

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

Patrons are enthusiastic with anticipation after the Vicksburg District Library announced the return of its annual book sale. The big event was canceled in 2020 and delayed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The sale has traditionally been held in June to coincide with the annual car show downtown.

“COVID-19 cancelled our 2020 book sale and we were unsure it could happen during 2021,” said Eric Hansen, Vicksburg District Library director. “The whole situation has created numerous difficult questions. I have always assumed that occurring during the car show helped sales because of increased foot traffic in the village. However, this year we will see if the community will participate in the Book Sale even more when it occurs in October.”

One of the biggest concerns for the book sale is not just the safety and health of those who attend, but the volunteers who have worked hard to put everything together, Hansen said. This has been a main reason for the delay in the event’s return. “We have to consider how our volunteers could safely prepare for the sale. We also have to consider how many citizens will come to the sale. We are grateful to Gail Reisterer and her team of volunteers for coming to the library twice per month to sort books. They have had their work cut out for them.”

When the pandemic began, libraries across the state stopped taking donated items to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. As a result, when Vicksburg opened donations once more in mid-May, limits had to be set on the amounts that could be accepted at one time. “During 2020, we stored a large number of unsold books from the previous year. Then we had DVDs and CDs which had been weeded after not being checked out for years. The volunteers needed to sort all of this in preparation for the upcoming sale,” he adds.

Despite the hiccups, Hansen hopes for success with October’s event. “The book sale has always been a reliable source of income. The collected money helps ensure that our patron outreach programs are well funded!”

The Vicksburg District Library’s Annual Book Sale will be held Friday and Saturday, Oct. 8-9, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Monday, Oct. 11, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. The sale will take place in its original location on the Library’s lower level. Only cash will be accepted for payment.

For interested patrons, there is still time to donate items. More information about donations and the sale can be found on the Library’s website at http://www.vicksburglibrary.org.

Franklin has ‘Monopoly’ on board games

Ken Franklin and some of his collection.

By Jef Rietsma

Collector? Ken Franklin

Collection? Board games

How did your collection begin? I’d have to preface my answer by saying I always loved TV game shows and I learned to read at an early age, so I became enamored with games from the time I was pretty young. The first game I remember was something my parents bought me, it was a 52-game chest. It was a little box game with lots of little pieces and rules to 52 different games. Most weren’t very fun but it included checkers, chess and so on. I loved to make up new games with those pieces. That’s what set me off, and I started collecting games, making games, writing them on notebook paper when I was bored in school. And I’ve done that all my life.

Did your ideas lead to development of any actual games? I designed a few computer games when the Apple II computer came out in 1980. I sold some shareware games when they came out in the early ‘90s. Calliope Games, a family game company, eventually signed me to a contract. Through research and development, “The Mansky Caper” became the first published game that I designed. The game “Imagineers” followed, then “Tsuro: Phoenix Rising.” “Back to the Future – Dice Through Time” was next.

How big is the game industry? The table-top board game industry is a $5 billion-a-year industry and there are 3,000 new games being published (put on store shelves) every year. For every one of those 3,000 that make it to a store shelf, there are 20 being pitched to designers.

How many games do you own? About 325.

Why do board games appeal to you? I enjoy the interaction with people. It’s a way to exhibit friendship, it’s a way to make new friends and interact with each other.

What games did you enjoy as a youngster? I didn’t have one in particular. I enjoyed a great variety. When I was 11, I learned about a guy named Sid Sackson, who was a game designer. He developed what are called bookshelf games and I started collecting them once I discovered them.

With a few exceptions, a lot of the games you own aren’t games most people would recognize. One of the things I enjoy about bringing people here for game night is I open their eyes to the fact that there are a lot of games that you don’t know about that are a lot of fun.

What’s an example? Double Double Dominoes. It’s a cross between Dominoes and Scrabble.

Footnotes: Franklin, 65, lives on South 27th Street. He retired after a 25-year career in the Army. He would go on to be affiliated with Dr. David Schriemer at Family Doctors of Vicksburg. For many years until COVID-19, Franklin hosted an every-other-week game night. He has issued a standing invitation for anyone to attend once it is safe to resume. For more information, check out “Franklin Farms Game Nights” on Facebook. “We want people to feel that they are at a place where they are welcome, where they are included, where they are valued and where their joy is important to everybody else,” Franklin said.

Come play with fiber arts!

Jodie Gerard, Sheril Jager Moore, Julie Renzema, Susan Chapman and Holly Jensen attending a monthly meeting.

At Harvest Fest a few years ago, a young girl saw Lisa Beams spinning and asked her, ‘Can I play that game?’ Lisa feels that playfulness captures the essence of their group.

Alisha Siebers, Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center

Jodie Gerard read about a drop spindle in a mystery novel. She was intrigued by the idea of spinning her own yarn. Her husband gave her a spindle for her birthday, but she didn’t know how to use it.

Enter the friendly folks at South County Fiber Arts, a part of the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center. Jodie called them and they told her, “Come over – we can get you started.” Jodie was hooked; a month later she owned a spinning wheel, and today, five years later, she’s experimented with a wide range of fiber arts – preparing fleece to spin, spinning to make yarn, knitting with the yarn, weaving to create fabric and felting. Jodie explains that there are “endless possibilities of fibers, colors, and textures – and that’s just in making the yarn and felt. There are so many possibilities to being creative.”

The fiber arts are some of the most accessible, with something new to explore for people at all different levels. South County Fiber Arts members range from beginners to some who have been spinning for decades, all learning and solving creative challenges together. Sewing, knitting, and spinning circles have always had a social aspect, and the same tradition continues in our back yard. There’s a generosity and kindness in this group. They chat, bounce ideas off each other, and share their joys and sorrows, brainstorming together – about both their art and their lives.

The group experiments with reviving old-world crafts. Members have re-created ancient processes for creating hand-made decorative and functional objects. They’ve cleaned fleece by soaking it in a fermenting bath, have spun with drop spindles and with spinning wheels, and have recently been experimenting with a type of Scandinavian needle binding that pre-dates knitting called nälbinding. They are up for anything, including teaching kids how to make felt by beating the fiber with pool noodles and how to dye fabric with Kool-Aid. Lisa Beams, one of the organizers of the group, believes that there is something about fiber arts that is incredibly meditative. She explains, “You don’t need a fidget spinner when you can knit.” She finds that knitting helps her concentrate during meetings, and she even can knit and read at the same time!

At Harvest Fest a few years ago, a young girl saw Lisa spinning and asked her “Can I play that game?” Lisa feels that playfulness captures the essence of their group. You don’t need to be an expert to try fiber arts – just dive in and have fun. You’re welcome to come find out for yourself! When the weather is good, you can join them under the Pavilion at 300 N. Richardson, Vicksburg, on the first Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. If you have questions, contact me at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center: Alisha@vicksburgarts.com.