The Mill Adds Music to the Mix

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Folk singer Kevin Large watches as Chris Moore introduces him by pointing to the palm of his hand as to where Vicksburg in located in the state of Michigan.

By Rob Peterson

The Mill at Vicksburg team is creating a new initiative called The Mill Music Residency, which it announced at a live concert event in September.

Like its Prairie Ronde Artist Residency, the music residency is aimed at attracting solo musicians and bands through a stipend and by providing living space for the artists for up to two months. To support the program, founder Chris Moore will be reconstructing an apartment, recording studio with instruments, and a performance venue, all located in the Dancers building at 107 South Main. This space most recently housed the Home Again resale store before its expansion to the former Family Dollar space on Prairie Street.

“Many artists from around the country have been part of the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency and left a little part of themselves in Vicksburg,” said John Kern, director of the program. This has included several art installations at the Mill and in gallery spaces downtown.

Like the artist residency, musicians who take part will showcase the work they created for the Vicksburg community in the form of a public performance. These concerts may one day be held at one of the 5 planned performance stages at The Mill. For now, they have created a temporary venue at the Dancers building.

“We worked with the Village to make sure that the space is safe,” said Ryan Collins of Frederick Construction. “A reinforced structure, emergency lights, and smoke detectors were among the requirements to get our occupancy permit for the desired 220-person private event.

That occupancy number was nearly reached at the concert where the new program was announced. Seattle-area band The Moondoggies were the headliner that evening, just one night after they opened for The Head and the Heart in Grand Rapids.

“Right between Grand Rapids and Chicago is Vicksburg,” said Moore, demonstrating Vicksburg’s proximity to both cities by using his hand to represent a map of Michigan. “We were a convenient stop for The Moondoggies on their way between these two cities.”

Vicksburg residents were treated to a concert that early fall evening with opening act Kevin Large, a folk singer who is also from the Seattle area. His original folk songs and authentic vocals were an excellent match to the unfinished, raw space which was primarily lit by string lights and the illuminated historic beer signs lining the walls.

The Moondoggies, a band NPR calls a roots-rock group that “exudes a Neil Young-style 70’s vibe,” took the stage shortly after. Their songs showcase a danceable beat and infectious vocal harmonies. A testament to the crowd’s appreciation was the growing number of people dancing; by the end of the concert, those dancing outnumbered those who weren’t. It was more reminiscent of the 1980’s Kalamazoo venue Club Soda than a former resale shop.

One suspects that a band like the Moondoggies could someday headline its own concert series. It’s possible, the creators of The Mill Music Residency Program say, that by attracting talent we could see bands here that will one day make it big.

You never know, says Kern, “It only takes one performance to get that big break artists dream of.”

1000 Cranes a Fundraiser for the Schoolcraft Library

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Kelly Bergland and Kirstin Simon learn how to fold origami cranes.

By Sue Moore

This holiday season the Friends of the Schoolcraft Library would like to give the Library 1,000 origami cranes to raise funds for library needs. The folded-paper cranes would decorate the library, secretly holding names of area residents, their hopes and wishes.

“Friends members will begin folding cranes at the Library on October 21 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. with cider and doughnuts offered,” said member Deb Christiansen. More mass folding workshops are to be scheduled. “Folding a crane can seem a little intimidating at first, but it’s really no more complicated than folding a paper airplane. There are just a few more steps.”

The project stems from an ancient Japanese legend: Someone who folds 1,000 cranes in a year will be granted a wish. The legend was revived in popular culture when a Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki, a victim of the Hiroshima atomic bomb in 1945, hoped to fold 1,000 to heal her radiation poisoning. Even though stories vary on whether or not she completed 1,000 before her death, her spirit drives a legacy for peace in the Peace Crane Project and, in Hiroshima, the Children’s Peace Monument.

Christiansen first heard of the legend in college. “I attempted to fill my college dorm room ceiling at Kalamazoo College with as many cranes as I could make,” Christiansen said, “maybe in an attempt to ace a chemistry exam. That was a long time ago.” She thought the legend would be well suited for a Schoolcraft Library fundraiser. “Each crane is a symbol of the support given the library by the community with the added bonus of being an extraordinarily beautiful display. Traditionally, the cranes are strung and hung on strings, but since the library boasts the spectacular hobbit tree, we will start hanging them there.”

Contributions will be used for computer software and hardware. “There is a need for computer upgrades for the patrons with well-supported software running on each. My choice would be for Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe InDesign,” she said. Christiansen has formed a Facebook group for the Friends of the Schoolcraft Library for feedback from patrons on what software would best serve the community. “There is a copy of Microsoft Publisher on one of the computers. I’d be interested to hear if it would be used more if more people knew it was there.” Patrons can comment at Facebook.com/groups/schoolcraftlibraryfriends or via the message box at schoolcraftlibraryfriends.org.

Cranes will be available for sale at the library and online in many varieties: 10 gold cranes – $50, five silver cranes – $25, two green cranes – $10, one red crane – $5, one white crane – $1.

There will be a display set up at the library where patrons can purchase and fold a printed crane. Patrons may write a wish inside. There will be a matching donation made by the Jack Scobey Action Fund for the $1,000 collected. A gold level donor‘s name will be posted ten times on social media and at the library. A silver level donor will be posted five times, a green level donor twice and red and white donor, once. “This fundraiser is called ‘1,000 Cranes by Christmas,’ but we are hoping to have 1,000 cranes by the Schoolcraft Christmas Walk, December 6 and 7,” Christiansen said. “The library will be open during the Walk on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. giving the community an excellent time to see the crane display.”

The Schoolcraft Community Library has the following books available on the legend of the cranes. Sadako Sasaki: One Thousand Paper Cranes by Takayuki Ishii, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr, and Sadako by Eleanor Coerr and Ed Young.

Pat Pettinga Back to Sing by Popular Demand

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Pat Pettinga in concert.

Bill Willging and Pat Pettinga will return to the Township Hall in Vicksburg’s Historic Village on Sunday, October 27 at 2 p.m. to present their program “Folk Women in Story and Song” for the Vicksburg Historical Society’s Speaker Series.

Their audience had a great time presenting “Women of Vaudeville Blues…in story and song” this past June, and are excited to have them invited back, according to Director Brian Berheide.  Pettinga is a singer, guitarist and songwriter. With her husband Bill Willging’s deft guitar work, she adds a distinctive layoff to style to the music. It has been described as making one and one equal more than two, Berheide said.

Kalamazoo RESA Millage Request on Nov. 5 Ballot

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Kresa Superintendent Dave Campbell on the left and Keevin O’Neill on the right presented information about the request for millage to serve technology students in the county, to the Vicksburg Lions Club in September.

By Sue Moore

County voters Nov. 5 will be asked to approve a 1-mill tax hike to consolidate technical and career training at a single site.

The tax, $1 per $1,000 taxable valuation, would raise approximately $8.3 million annually for 20 years for the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency (KRESA) to fund construction of a new tech center or retrofitting an existing building, plus providing additional funds for instruction, transportation, equipment, career counselors and other staff.

The county’s students in grades 9-12 now travel by bus, sometimes more than one, to get to courses located in schools and community-based organizations.

The ballot proposal was the recommendation of a KRESA study committee created in January, 2018.

KRESA Superintendent Dave Campbell described the need to Vicksburg Lions at a recent meeting. “Jobs are really different today. “We are in a gig economy, in a demographic shift with boomers retiring. The skills that are needed in the workplace today are different,” Campbell pointed out. “Are we truly prepping kids for the skills they need today which are really different than they were in 1960?”

The pendulum has swung, he said, from assuming that high school graduates needed a bachelor’s degree to prepare them for higher earning jobs. He said that 7 out of 10 good-paying jobs require one or two more years of advanced training to earn a skills certificate or associate’s degree.

The study committee found that it is just as important to develop career awareness, exploration and readiness which needs to be intertwined from kindergarten to twelfth grade for students.

A centrally located career center with satellite campuses, such as the Air Zoo and KVCC, is what is needed, Campbell emphasized. Career and technical classes are offered at various high schools and other locations in the county. Students who sign up for these either drive their own cars to attend or take a bus from their high school. Buses go to Loy Norrix, which is a central hub.

There the students take another bus to get to the school offering their desired course. Campbell noted that riding the buses for hours is not attractive to today’s students as it is so time consuming. And kids today aren’t as fixated on getting their driver’s license the day they turn 16; their only option if they want to take a CTE course is the long bus ride, which feedback from students shows is a barrier.

“Good jobs that pay well are going unfilled. We want to double the participation in career and technical training. Employers are desperate,” Campbell said. “Our recommended model of a career center with satellites will offer specific skill training for high school students in high-demand areas based upon state and local market analysis and input.”

To learn more, you can go to kresacte.org.

Ken Franklin Writes a Book About His Personal Faith

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Ken Franklin with the cover of his new book, Spit Out the Apple!

By John Fulton

Ken Franklin moved to Vicksburg in 2002 and practiced medicine at Family Doctors after retiring as an Army physician. Franklin has now retired from his Vicksburg practice. He is very active in the Vicksburg United Methodist Church and is a Methodist lay leader.

In September, Franklin self-published a non-fiction book titled “Spit Out the Apple: How to embrace God’s love by rejecting the gift He never gave you.”

He was encouraged to put his personal faith relationship into words by his wife, pastor, and several fellow lay servants at Vicksburg United Methodist Church.

“In Genesis, God gave humans the gifts of love, dominion over the planet, and free will,” Franklin explained. “The serpent, Satan, gave humans the apple and the power of labelling good and evil, which God did not intend for man.”

“To me, this book is a gift of loving God back,” Franklin said. Half the book proceeds will be donated to church and to local community outreach efforts. The paperback book is available now on Amazon.

It took Franklin two years from deciding to write a book to getting it published. Much of the content came from extensive personal study, lay sermons he has delivered, and sermon notes.

Franklin had three goals in mind for the readers. First was to make the book accessible to those not sure about the reality of God. Next was to detail the ways that judging others keeps us away from God. Finally, to provide strategies of living the Christian life without judging other people.

“The book doesn’t tell us to permit sin, but instead of focusing on others’ sin, this book hopefully shows how to love God back by living the best life possible,” Franklin stated. There are discussion questions in the book designed to make readers think about their faith.

Franklin decided to use the Amazon self-publishing platform because of its ease of use. He is making the e-reader version free for one weekend in October to encourage sharing, as well as to encourage honest feedback and dialogue about the book.

The free download weekend in October will be announced in advance on the “Spit Out the Apple” Facebook page, as well as the page “Vicksburg Michigan: Around the village.” The Kindle book can be obtained at http://amazon.com/gp/product/B07XNL86MD

Methodist Youth Group Holds Luncheon Fundraiser

By Kris Miller

Each year a group of youth from Vicksburg United Methodist Church, grades 6 through 12, venture to another state to assist those in need. They will raise funds for next summer’s trip at a luncheon of sausage and gravy on October 13, with the public invited to partake.

The next trip, known as the “Week of Hope” will take the group of 18-24 students and adults to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During this week the group will serve at the Boys and Girls Club Kids Camp, assist a housing organization by processing and organizing donated items, help at the food pantry, and launch a local church food bank and clothing ministry. Work will also be accomplished with an international humanitarian organization and local seniors that need inside and outside work done at their homes.

Each youth participating in this event donates a week of their summer as well as their own financial means to help others. In the Vicksburg community, this same group of youth attends weekly meetings to grow their faith and friendships among their team. They assist locally by volunteering at VUMC’s Vacation Bible School held each June, painting in the church, and assisting the church with outdoor projects. The also hold three fund-raising meals to assist with the cost of this important work. Each event is held as a donation event and all are welcome – church membership is not required. These events are held in the Life Center at Vicksburg United Methodist Church as follows: Sausage Gravy Luncheon October 13 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Chili Cookoff January 5 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and Italian Dinner April 20 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Disney’s Frozen, Jr. Comes to the Vicksburg Stage

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Stella Reitenour, who played Junie B Jones last year, will be Anna. She is shown with Margaret Williams as Elsa on the right.

By Sue Moore

“Frozen, Jr. is about family, friendships and sisterly love,” said Melissa Sparks, long-time director of plays on the Vicksburg stage. The animated film version became one of Disney’s all-time hits in 2013. The stage musical has been released for local performances, and Sparks believes Vicksburg’s performances will be the first in the area.

It is a huge production, with 50 cast members and 30 in the crew, a challenge for Sparks’ organizational skills though she has successfully met similar challenges before. It will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, October 25 and 26 and 2 p.m. Sunday, October 27. The musical portion will be directed by Dusty Morris, the high school choir director. There are 20 songs for the chorus to learn, all for voices from 4th grade to 8th grade.

Stella Reitenour an 8th grader who was Junie B Jones last year, was chosen to play Anna, a princess, with Margaret Williams as her sister Elsa, who becomes queen. Jacob McGehee will be Kristoff and newcomer in his first production is Jack McCaw as Hans, the dashing prince.

Frozen, Jr. is based on the 2018 Broadway musical, and brings Elsa, Anna, and the magical land of Arendelle to life onstage. A story of true love and acceptance between sisters, Frozen Jr. expands upon the emotional relationship and journey between Princesses Anna and Elsa. When faced with danger, the two discover their hidden potential and the powerful bond of sisterhood. With a cast of beloved characters and loaded with magic, adventure, and plenty of humor, Frozen Jr. is sure to thaw even the coldest heart, according to the press release.

Staging the show is a big technical challenge, Sparks said. “We have to make an ice palace that appears on stage with Elsa’s wave of her hand. There are lots of other magical items along with the cost of royalties. all of which are a beast to pay for.” Rehearsals are from 5-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and the set crews work on Saturday to paint and construct. “It’s a game of chess,” Sparks said.

Tickets for the event are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students 18 and under. Order before October 19 and families of between 4-6 members (same household) are $30. Reservations can be made now by visiting http://www.vicksburgschools.org/pac or by calling the Vicksburg Performing Arts center ticket office at 321-1193 beginning October 21.