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Charlotte is Rising all around us

Charlotte Rising is a figurative slogan, an aspirational goal and an inspiring idea – but as of Summer 2018 it’s also an objective reality. Charlotte is seeing an obvious wave of development and redevelopment, investment and...

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Memorial Day reflection

I wasn’t always aware of the purpose of Memorial Day. For a long time it was simply a holiday on which my mother would tell me I was born. When I was in junior high and high school it was another parade opportunity for marching...

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Charlotte

Charlotte

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Art of Charlotte to unleash community’s wealth of talent

It may be a surprise to some to learn that both the state and national Main Street organizations identified arts and culture as a key strategy to downtown Charlotte’s revitalization efforts. Through extensive research, both organizations concluded the arts and culture have a big presence in Charlotte.

But, how many people are aware of all of the talent in the area?

A group of local community members, including representatives from CharlotteRising, CanDo!, Windwalker Underground Gallery, and Charlotte High School students have formed to show that art really is at the heart of downtown Charlotte.

The group created Art of Charlotte, a five-hour celebration of the arts that will take place in the parking lot behind Windalker, located at 125 S. Cochran Avenue, from 6 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 2. The event will feature a live performance by folk trio, Whoa Nelly!, which kicks off Windwalker’s popular Open Mic Night format that will keep people entertained throughout the night.

In addition, local artists have been given the opportunity to set up shop around the perimeter of the parking lot to display and sell their work. Families can also walk away with their own work of art, thanks to Crosswalk Teen Center, which created small wooden key chains featuring the Art of Charlotte logo. Each key chain can be custom painted by participants and taken home free of charge. The evening will close with a “Fire Flow” led by local flow artist, Nat Spinz.

“It’s always been a part of my dream to be able to have a great big party like the city’s never seen before,” said Richard Turbin, owner of Windwalker Underground Gallery.  “I’m as excited as all get out. It’s an opportunity for everyone in the community to come have fun. It’s things like this that are really why I do what I do.”

All of this is offered to guests free of charge, thanks in large part to a mini-grant from CanDo!’s 2017 Charlotte Soup event. The idea behind Art of Charlotte was created during Charlotte Soup, and received the second-most votes from those in attendance that night, earning a $300 grant.

“As we have preached for some time now, arts and creativity remains at the forefront of downtown’s growth,” said Dillon Rush, executive director of CharlotteRising. “To see student and community leaders come together to celebrate ‘Art of Charlotte’ is just amazing and I look forward to more creative activity like this in the near future.”

In the case of inclement weather, Art of Charlotte will be moved inside Windwalker Underground Gallery.

More information can be found on the Art of Charlotte event page on Facebook.

Olivet

Olivet

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Dave and Lynn Funk say farewell to Olivet Schools ‘one last time’

After 24 years of conducting, band camp, band trips, competitions, and Dave’s famous “one more time” line, the Funks are saying goodbye to directing at Olivet schools. While Dave was the official band director for the schools, he and his wife, Lynn, were an inseparable unit for 19 years in Olivet. Leaving behind a legacy of music, hard work, and family, Dave reflected on their time in Olivet with the County Journal.

“We’ve impacted hundreds of kids over the years,” said Dave. “I always enjoyed watching kids grow and mature into the opportunities band had to offer.”

Dave Funk started his teaching career in Colorado, then later taught in Bad Axe and Buchanan, Mich. It was Olivet that stuck, however. The Funks had been well prepared for the small town environment, and they found a program they could build on and nurture into something greater. Starting with around 40 students in their first year, the program under the Funk’s direction grew to 120 students at its peak and has remained over 100 participants since.

But for Dave it was never about the numbers. He knew that his small town band would likely remain humble and modest, but he wanted to impart something larger on his students.

“My philosophy is these kids aren’t any different than kids from bigger schools,” said Dave. “Just because it’s a small school doesn’t mean you can’t have a big impact.”

Dave’s philosophy was affective for his students. He and Lynn continued to invest and garner the buy-in to the program so that Olivet could have the same opportunities as larger band programs. Olivet bands were regular attenders to larger competitions both locally and nationally, and was a consistent participant in opportunities like their Disney trip, during which the band would march in a parade and record in a real studio.

State festivals, solo and ensemble, jazz band, playing at the Lincoln Memorial were just a few of the opportunities provided for Olivet students over the years. The greater opportunities, however, were in participating with other students in mutual goals, learning to be self-critical and to take other’s criticism well, and finding the beauty hard work and accomplishment, according to Funk. Band offers students not only the skills to play an instrument, but also critical life skills and opportunities to mature into confident members of society.

“The arts provide Humanity. We often underestimate the power of working with each other and creating something of our own. That’s part of nurturing the soul of a child,” said Dave. “I’m worried about how we’re cutting the arts. We need to nurture all the kids in the arts. It’s very valuable for kids to learn how to create and learn together and have feelings about something. I believe in the power of the arts.”

Dave and Lynn are already moving into the next stage of life. It’s a little uncertain, but the couple knows well that the beautiful things in life always start with a blank canvas, or complete silence.

Thursday, May 24 Dave Funk directed his last band concert with the Olivet bands, and provided an opportunity for alumni to play in one more song. Dave’s old line, “one more time,” is now “one last time.” Dave and Lynn are thankful for the immense community support they’ve had over the years, from the schools, from parents, and of course from the students. Dave hopes Olivet will continue to nurture the band legacy in Olivet to bring up the next generation of musicians, music lovers, and artisans.

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Bellevue

Bellevue

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The changing face of Bellevue

It’s difficult to imagine sometimes, what it would be like if our own hometown was losing some former glory, dwindling in population, or not being invested in the way it should be. Stories like that unfortunately exist in so...

Bellevue

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The changing face of Bellevue

It’s difficult to imagine sometimes, what it would be like if our own hometown was losing some former glory, dwindling in population, or not being invested in the way it should be. Stories like that unfortunately exist in so many cities and towns, both large and small. For Bellevue, Mich. the reality of getting smaller and losing some of the old familiarities is one that longtime residents know well.

In recent weeks citizens of Bellevue watched as the old bank and former township building was gradually demolished, it’s ornate façade the last to be pulled down. The sight was a painful reminder for some that the old days of the small village have drifted into memory; the last remnants of glory days when Bellevue was a bustling town with multiple grocery and drug stores, car dealerships, and more.

The old bank building was torn down to make way for a drive thru for Hometown Pharmacy. While the loss of the building is a sign of losing some history, it’s also a sign that the village is still adjusting for the times. One thing dies and makes way for another. Every town has its own circle of life in that way, for better or for worse.

But, there are other parts of town that stand empty, vacant because of a lack of interest and traffic in town. Residents know this, many would even like to do something about it. Mark Goodrich, owner of the Village Bar, along with his business partners, started a renovating project a few doors down at the old Plezall building in the hopes of possibly having a beer garden and a separate banquet hall. Goodrich was unavailable for comment, but spoke to the County Journal about the plans in a January 2017 edition.

Bobbi Easter is another local business owner looking to raise more interest in Bellevue’s downtown. Easter and her two daughters, Pam Steele and Becka Dunne, plan to open their new bakery, Main Street Eatery, in April. The bakery will specialize not only in desserts such as cakes, cookies, and donuts, but will also serve breakfast and lunch with Easter’s own flavor and spice. She doesn’t plan to open any run of the mill diner, but a restaurant with one of a kind recipes.

But Easter’s eatery isn’t just about sharing her special treats with her neighbors. For her, opening a restaurant in Bellevue is about breathing some life back into a once thriving community. She lamented the building Main Street Eatery is moving into stood vacant for five years or so, a sure tell sign in her mind the town isn’t being properly invested in.

“Nobody wants to invest in Bellevue,” said Easter. “Everybody wants new. Nobody wants to preserve the old.”

Easter has many years of ownership and management behind her. Along with investing in one building in town, she’s also owned an adult foster care home in Battle Creek, as well as a bakery in Kalamazoo. But as it relates to Bellevue, Easter saw the rich history, and she hopes for a bright future as well.

“My daughters and I have a dream for making Bellevue a destination village,” said Easter. “I just see the potential.”

In the end, hopes and dreams are what are what make the stuff of reality. It takes an idea, a simple plan, and some hard work to make new and exciting things for ourselves and those around us. Bellevue won’t look the way it did 50 years ago, but that’s part of its story; discovering and shaping how it will look for the next generations.

Advertisement: Readers: since many ads are from outside the local area, please know what you are buying before sending money.

Eaton County

Eaton County

Featured Story

Art of Charlotte to unleash community’s wealth of talent

It may be a surprise to some to learn that both the state and national Main Street organizations identified arts and culture as a key strategy to downtown Charlotte’s revitalization efforts. Through extensive research, both organizations concluded the arts and culture have a big presence in Charlotte.

But, how many people are aware of all of the talent in the area?

A group of local community members, including representatives from CharlotteRising, CanDo!, Windwalker Underground Gallery, and Charlotte High School students have formed to show that art really is at the heart of downtown Charlotte.

The group created Art of Charlotte, a five-hour celebration of the arts that will take place in the parking lot behind Windalker, located at 125 S. Cochran Avenue, from 6 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 2. The event will feature a live performance by folk trio, Whoa Nelly!, which kicks off Windwalker’s popular Open Mic Night format that will keep people entertained throughout the night.

In addition, local artists have been given the opportunity to set up shop around the perimeter of the parking lot to display and sell their work. Families can also walk away with their own work of art, thanks to Crosswalk Teen Center, which created small wooden key chains featuring the Art of Charlotte logo. Each key chain can be custom painted by participants and taken home free of charge. The evening will close with a “Fire Flow” led by local flow artist, Nat Spinz.

“It’s always been a part of my dream to be able to have a great big party like the city’s never seen before,” said Richard Turbin, owner of Windwalker Underground Gallery.  “I’m as excited as all get out. It’s an opportunity for everyone in the community to come have fun. It’s things like this that are really why I do what I do.”

All of this is offered to guests free of charge, thanks in large part to a mini-grant from CanDo!’s 2017 Charlotte Soup event. The idea behind Art of Charlotte was created during Charlotte Soup, and received the second-most votes from those in attendance that night, earning a $300 grant.

“As we have preached for some time now, arts and creativity remains at the forefront of downtown’s growth,” said Dillon Rush, executive director of CharlotteRising. “To see student and community leaders come together to celebrate ‘Art of Charlotte’ is just amazing and I look forward to more creative activity like this in the near future.”

In the case of inclement weather, Art of Charlotte will be moved inside Windwalker Underground Gallery.

More information can be found on the Art of Charlotte event page on Facebook.

Advertisement: Readers: since many ads are from outside the local area, please know what you are buying before sending money.

Vermontville

Vermontville

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Vermontville

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Kelsey Grand Marshal of 78th Annual Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival

Doug Kelsey has never been far from the Maple Syrup Festival fun, living for years just a block from where the action takes place. But, he’s never been quite front and center as he will be this year, having been named the 78th Annual Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival Grand Marshal.

A Vermontville native, Kelsey graduated from Maple Valley High School in 1967 and chose to remain an active member of the community. His involvement includes an impressive list of boards and committees, but his dedication to the Syrup Festival, where he served as Master of Ceremonies for 35 years, is rivaled by only a handful of residents.

It is for his years of dedication that organizers of this year’s festival have chosen to honor him.

The 78th Annual Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival will take place Friday, April 27 through Sunday, April 29 in downtown Vermontville.

This year’s festival officially gets underway with the opening ceremonies on Friday, April 27 at 6 p.m. on the main stage.

Included in the Friday festivities is the annual talent competition, which features a number of local acts showcasing a variety of skills. You will also find some of the best pancakes around being served up by the American Legion and Nashville Lions Club at the American Legion (located above Independent Bank) from 4 to 8 p.m. or the Maple Valley Band Boosters at the fire station from 5 to 7 p.m.

As always, Mid-America Shows will be on hand providing entertainment on the “Midway,” including rides and games for everyone on the family to enjoy.

Start Saturday off right with a second helping of pancakes smothered in your favorite syrup. The American Legion, Lions and band boosters begin serving pancakes at 7 a.m. and will serve them throughout the day. The community is filled with activity all day long, including the Vermontville arts and crafts show, flea market, a petting zoo, performance by the Maple Valley Jazz Band, Maple Valley Choir and the Glen Erin Bagpipe Band, among others. The children’s parade: “Maple Syrup is Springtime Sweetness” takes center stage at 11 a.m. The grand parade, “Maple Syrup and Sunshine,” begins at 3 p.m.

The celebration continues through Sunday as the streets of Vermontville will be filled attractions such as various displays, games, free entertainment and arm wrestling. Local syrup producers are located throughout the village selling syrup, candies, crème and the ever-popular maple syrup cotton candy.

Of course, you can learn all about the Maple Syrup process throughout the weekend at Maple Manor, where a number of exhibits showcase the tradition and history.

For more information on the 78th Annual Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival, visit VermontvilleMapleSyrupFestival.org or call toll free (888) 482-8780.

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Potterville

Potterville

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Potterville

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Potterville City Council in dispute over paying city bills

At the Thursday, April 19 Potterville City Council meeting, an unusual occurrence took place, one that Mayor Katherine Schmidt said is a first for the City of Potterville. The city council voted to not pay the city’s bills.

According to council members Schmidt and Bussard, among the list of unpaid bills was the liability insurance, energy bill, employee health insurance, and others.

The paying of bills came to a vote due to what councilmen Duston Twichell and Bruce Kring, and councilwomen Jennifer Lenneman and Rebeckajo Lewis identified as untimely presentation of bills reports. The reports were presented via email to the council the Wednesday before the Thursday meeting, much to the dismay of the aforementioned council members.

“Since the first of the year we have in open meetings directed the manager to get packets to us in a more timely manner,” said councilman Twichell. “Getting the packet the day before is unacceptable.”

“I didn’t think I could approve them in good faith,” said councilwoman Lenneman.

Mayor Schmidt denied the allegations that bills reports were consistently presented late to council. According to Schmidt, the April 19 council meeting was the first time City Manager Wanda Darrow presented the reports only one day in advance to the monthly council meeting. The last few months the reports were presented consistently by the Tuesday before the meeting. Mayor Schmidt also factored in that there is no set deadline for the presentation of reports to city council, except for the monthly council meetings themselves.

After the council voted at the April 19 meeting not to approve the bills for payment, they set a time for the following week for the vote, thus allowing for more time to review the bills. The second meeting, originally set for the following Thursday, April 26, was soon contested.

Mayor Schmidt quickly became concerned with factors like the liability insurance for the city, as well as reporting finances to the state budget office. Without liability insurance paid, she, councilman Bussard, and the city manager feared the city would shut down, a concern that apparently didn’t come to pass. The concerns led Mayor Schmidt to call an emergency meeting for Monday, April 23 to approve the bills.

“Because we have not paid the bills, we’re in a deficit. We’re talking about not paying $70,000 in bills and interest fees,” said Mayor Schmidt.

A quorum was needed for the approval of the bills. However, that quorum was not met that Monday. Mayor Schmidt planned to continue the request for quorum for the following days leading up to April 26, still lacking the necessary number of council members.

The lack of quorum between Monday and Thursday was a matter of busy schedules, according Twichell and Lennenman.

“The city manager neglects schedules and keeps trying to force a meeting,” said Twichell. “We flat out told her we had other schedules and that we wouldn’t be there. They keep trying to throw us under the bus with these meetings.”

Lack of concern for personal schedules considered, Twichell and Lenneman believe the call for emergency meetings was not only unnecessary, but a coordinated effort to discredit the new council members.

“They’re due on May 1. What’s the difference between having the stuff paid by April 26?” commented Lenneman.

“They’re working in concert to discredit the newly elected council. They are working very hard to turn city employees against us. We have not been able to get a thing done. It’s a constant struggle to try and do anything,” said Twichell.

Council members Bussard and Schmidt had similar sentiments about the resistance to meeting to approve the bills.

“I feel they’re trying to make a political point,” said Mayor Schmidt. “I don’t like being in this position. It’s a disservice to citizens. We talk about transparency, and building a better stronger community. Deviating from those principles for the sake of making a political argument is unacceptable and inexcusable in my opinion.”

“This is insanity,” said councilman Bussard. “We’ve never ran over budget or didn’t pay our bills, they are so disconnected from what the hell is going on.”

The Potterville City Council was still on track to meet and approve the payment of city bills by Thursday, April 26.

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Eaton Rapids

Eaton Rapids

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Eaton Rapids Area Chamber dinner an evening of fun, anniversaries, and celebration

Thursday, May 3, the Eaton Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce held their annual spring dinner at The English Inn. The evening was split into socializing, passing out awards, and enjoying interactive, dueling pianos.

Several awards were passed out during the event. The Ted Oliver Award was presented to Morgan Scarbro of Morgan’s Hugs for her contributions to the community through her charity work. Morgan is a high school student at Eaton Rapids Public Schools who has organized several charity events to provide school supplies for students in need, items for wounded veterans, and more.

The Doug Stevenson Award was presented to Deb Malewski, who is the director of the Jean Bradford Kline Senior Center. Malewski not only has helped seniors stay active and connected at the center for the last few years, but she’s also expanded the scope of their activities and made the center a place where all seniors can feel welcome.

This year another award was given to Jaime and Tracy Lawson, owners of Your Creative Escape. The Dynamic Duo award was presented to the couple for their “past and continued support of making Eaton Rapids a better place to be by donating time, money, and talents.” Your Creative Escape has provided direction and materials for many of Eaton Rapids’ creative community efforts like the mosaic tiles.

Several chamber member businesses and organizations also hit some big milestones in 2018, which were honored at the event. Darb’s Patio celebrated 10 years of business, Old Mill Furniture 70 years, CRG Directories 25 years, Michigan Plumbing 25 years, and Skinner Funeral Home 65 years. Eaton Rapids Medical Center was also recognized for opening their new wing of the hospital, which accommodates the family care, redicare, physical therapy, behavioral health, and more.

Robin Platt was also introduced as the new ERACC director. Chrystal Murphy also officially announced that she was stepping down as president of the chamber, and Chelsie Swaynie is stepping in as her successor. With many things to celebrate, remember, and look forward to, the ERACC dinner was simply a gathering of caring community members. They’ve chosen to plant roots, invest in, and celebrate Eaton Rapids for the amazing place it is.

Sunfield

Sunfield

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Mulliken

Mulliken

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Dimondale

Dimondale

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