Charlotte High School marching band members were excitedly celebrating a Class B victory at the 26th Annual Hastings Invitational Saturday, Oct. 7 when excitement turned to shock. The shock came with the announcement that the CHS Band had been named the Invitational’s Grand Champion.
“It was a real shock, because that wasn’t our goal,” said senior drum major Erica Pryor. “Actually most of us didn’t even know there was a Grand Champion.”
The students can be excused for not fully understanding the Scholastic Marching Band Circuit’s format. CHS Band Director Jerry Rose said he had never fully explained the Grand Champion concept to his band members. This is just the third year the Oriole marching band has competed in the Scholastic Marching Band Circuit.
“It’s a bit unusual for a Class B band to win Grand Champion,” Rose said. “That typically goes to your Class A or Class AA schools. They often have far more resources.”
To be named Grand Champion, Charlotte High School earned the top score of the invitational, recording an 85.2. In doing so, they outperformed two Class A schools — Wyoming and Caledonia high schools — and two Class AA schools — Kalamazoo Central and Zeeland high schools.
Rose said that while it’s always nice to win, Charlotte’s focus is always on meeting its own standards. He said what he really likes about the Scholastic Circuit is the opportunity to receive more feedback from the adjudication process. It allows to the band to see exactly where it can improve to continue to raise the program’s standards.
Prior to joining the Scholastic Circuit, Charlotte participated in the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA). The MSBOA festivals allowed each school to receive a grade from the judges, with the goal to score a 1. However, Rose felt more feedback and even a different scoring system could give his program a push to excel even further.
“I felt we had become stagnant as a marching band,” Rose said. “I felt the change would give us the boost we needed and think it has been a nice fit for our program.”
Pryor said she has noticed the difference as well.
“My freshman year we pushed and worked hard for festival, but when it was over, we didn’t have another opportunity to prove ourselves,” Pryor said. “Since then, I think the culture of the band has really changed.”
The band now turns its focus to its final Scholastic Circuit competition on Saturday, Oct. 21 at East Kentwood High School. Rose said the goal is to improve upon last year’s fourth place finish in Class B at the East Kentwood competition.
“I feel that the East Kentwood competition has more strenuous judging and a more advanced pool of bands,” Rose said. “We’re not going to focus on any of the other schools. We set our own standards and will use all of the feedback we received in Hastings to improve.”
The CHS marching band takes the field at East Kentwood High School at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21.
To most people it may not seem like a big deal that two junior high aged brothers got to play a game of football together. But for 13 year old Connor Benton and his 10 year old brother Cole Tuesday October 3 was a big day. October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and Cole Benton has Down syndrome.
“I have a child with special needs, but I don’t think of him that way. I just think of him as special,” said Michelle Benton, mother of Cole and Connor.
Michelle considered it a privilege to have her two boys finally playing football together in a real game. Her husband, Craig Benton, coaches youth football in Eaton Rapids. They thought it was finally time to see their boys playing on the same field. Craig coordinated the game with Matt Rhode, the coach for the 8th grade boys football team in Olivet.
Although Cole’s role in the game was running a few plays at the end, Michelle and Craig and the rest of the family consider it a blessing to witness Connor the quarterback handing off the ball to his younger brother so he can run it to the end zone. Cole was the star offensive player, the Olivet boys played their defense, the cheerleaders shouted Cole’s name, and the Benton family watched proudly as Cole scored.
Beyond the hype of a few minutes of football action, the game had even more significance for the Bentons. Michelle and Craig lost their oldest son Cody about a year ago. Seeing their sons out on the field together was a reminder of the hope and joy that exists in their family after that tragedy.
The game, as well as Down Syndrome Awareness Month, was also a reminder of the great happiness and promise the family has with Cole. Children with Down syndrome are capable of so much more than they’re often given credit for.
“We shouldn’t treat them differently than we do any other child,” said Michelle. “I think it’s really important to teach kids, but to also remind adults that they’re just like everybody else. They are special.”
Cole still expresses excitement about the game in his own way, and it’s a moment he and Connor and the rest of the Benton family won’t soon forget.
Tucked away in a back corner of the Bellevue Township Library is a room filled with historical documents, clothing, knickknacks, furniture, and more. This room is home to the Bellevue Historical Society.
This group of Bellevue locals, many who spent their whole lives in Bellevue, look over the room and its contents as well as the legacy of their beloved village. Like many others, these folks have watched the change in Bellevue, often with disappointment.
In the July 1 edition of the paper, the County Journal ran an article about the Bellevue Township building, which is to be torn down to accommodate a drive through for the Fruin Pharmacy. Although nothing at this point can be done to change the coming adjustment to the face of Bellevue’s downtown, representatives from the Bellevue Historical Society still want readers to understand how such changes affect the character of the village.
Bellevue was the first of many things in Eaton County, according to Joyce Miller, and had several defining characteristics. One of the defining characteristics was the Burt Portland Cement Plant in Bellevue, which provided the cement for the bank building that was erected in the 1920s. While the Bellevue Township building (formerly the bank) isn’t nice marble, its material is still representative of the legacy and character of Bellevue.
Miller believes that the building, for having a historic designation, wasn’t maintained properly. She believes there would be no need for the township to find a different space to work from if it had been maintained the way it was supposed to be.
President of the Bellevue Historical Society, John Dexter, sees the loss of the township building as part of a growing trend. As larger corporations and companies settle in new areas small towns are often faced with the choice to preserve historic focal points, or allow stable businesses to expand.
“Almost every small town is losing businesses in some way or another,” said John.
It’s unfortunate to John, but ultimately he acknowledged the predicament Bellevue is faced with. But as historians of the oldest Eaton County Village, John and Joyce know the hard truth that once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
Like many other residents, John and Joyce are at a loss of ideas for what to do to preserve Bellevue’s historic downtown while also keeping visitors interested and coming back. They hope the trend stops with the township building, and they hope even more that other citizens will take on the concern and interest for local history.
Eaton CountyFeatured Story
The Country Mill, a favored local orchard, winery, and wedding venue in the Eaton County area, has been a hot topic in conversations of religious freedom, business, and LGBTQ discrimination for the last several months. When Steve Tennes, owner of the Country Mill, announced the reopening of the wedding venue side of the business with the exception of same-sex marriages, the City of East Lansing did not allow the favored vendor a spot at its farmers market.
The Tenneses reluctantly decided to sue the City of East Lansing on the grounds of religious discrimination. A motion was filed to allow the Country Mill a place at the East Lansing farmers market while the case continues. Wednesday, Sept. 13 both sides made their arguments before federal district judge, Paul Maloney, and ultimately he sided with the Country Mill, thus allowing the business to return to the farmers market while the case continues. Judge Maloney released a written decision the following Friday, and the Country Mill was back at the East Lansing farmers market Sunday, Sept. 17.
“We’re extremely happy the judge recognized the short window of harvest. We’ve already missed three and a half months of income at the largest farmers market we attend,” said Steve.
The return to the East Lansing farmers market was met with both support and protest. Tennes noted the number of out-of-town buyers who drove great lengths to express their support for the Country Mill, as well as the several protestors who aimed to discourage people from buying from “bigoted” business owners. Even with the protestors and several months of threats and discouragement, the Tenneses are choosing to be thankful for ample support.
According to Steve, they’ve even received encouragement from people who disagree with their beliefs and policies.
“There are Americans who believe in freedom of religion and the right to act how you want in your own home without fear of government punishment,” said Steve.
Alliance Defending Freedom represents the Country Mill in the lawsuit against East Lansing. In the case of the Tenneses they maintain that denying the Country Mill a license for the East Lansing farmers market is an overreach of and distortion of anti-discrimination laws.
“We’re seeing cities and states apply anti-discrimination laws in an odd way,” said Kate Anderson, the Tenneses’ attorney from ADF. “All Steve did was state his beliefs, and that has nothing to do with selling apples at the market.”
In a statement published Sept. 19 in the Detroit Free Press, mayor of East Lansing, Mark Meadows, noted the disappointment with the federal court decision. He believes the City’s “intentions in this case have been mischaracterized by Country Mill as well as in some coverage of this suit.”
Meadows went on to write that the city does not have a problem with the Tenneses’ religious beliefs, but with their business policy of not allowing LGBTQ weddings at their venue.
“Country Mill lost its spot at the Farmer’s Market because of its business practices. Same-sex couples have a right to be married. Country Mill offers a public accommodation that discriminates against same-sex couples and has turned same-sex couples away when they have sought out the public marriage venue.
“It has been asserted that Country Mill had no option but to sue the City. In fact, it did have another option. It could have stopped discriminating against same-sex couples,” wrote Meadows.
The decision from the federal court stands for the remainder of the farmers market season. According to Anderson this was only the first step in the lawsuit. Whether the Tenneses win the case remains to be seen.
Nathan Byler still fondly recalls the first deer he ever harvested with his bow. Only 13 years old at the time, he remembers being slightly off his mark as the first arrow he ever launched at a deer sailed harmlessly by. Undeterred, he was given a second opportunity when a larger deer crossed his path. This time, he didn’t miss.
The experience ignited a passion for bow hunting, one he’s translated into his own business — Whispering Pines Archery.
Open since 2014, Byler focuses his energy on getting his clients to the next level in shooting.
“I know how it is to be frustrated with archery,” Byler said. “If I don’t help my customers shoot better, I didn’t accomplish my goal.”
Offering everything a bow hunter would need for their compound bow or crossbow, Whispering Pines Archery places an emphasis on properly setting up and tuning each bow they sell or service.
“I stand behind the products I sell and behind my work,” Byler said. “I want to make sure the bow is tuned right and is the right fit for the archer.”
Ensuring his customers are set up with good flight is Byler’s top priority.
“I keep my tuning fees reasonable so people will want to have their bow property tuned,” he said.
Whispering Pines Archery offers a wide range of bows, arrows, quivers, targets and accessories. Nestled in the wood off of Valley Highway in Vermontville, the archery shop also has a range for customers to try out a bow before they buy.
Whispering Pines Archery is located at 8850 Valley Highway in Vermontville, and is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Byler said after hours appointments are also available to those who cannot make it during normal business hours. For more information, call (517) 726-0518.
In early July the Potterville school board appointed an interim superintendent for the school district. Tom Pillar, a retired superintendent from Waverly schools, is set to fill the interim role until the summer of 2018, by which point the Potterville school board hopes to have a candidate to fill the position permanently.
The need for an interim superintendent follows after former superintendent Tim Donahue resigned from his position in May of 2017. Donahue resigned from his position due to a new employment opportunity with Buchanan Public Schools. According to school board president, Stacey Sipes, Donahue had been open to the possibility of a new superintendent position for a couple of years.
Donahue started as an interim superintendent at Potterville schools in 2006, before moving into the permanent role. Because the Potterville school board had not done a thorough search, interview, and hiring process for a superintendent for over ten years, the current board decided to appoint someone temporarily to the role so there would be ample time to find a suitable candidate.
Upon deciding to take more time and care in selecting a new superintendent, the board next decided to seek the aid of an executive search service, which is a common standard according to Sipes. The Michigan Association of School Boards is providing the search service for Potterville schools, which is an organization interim superintendent Pillar has worked closely with.
In moving forward with the search process Sipes indicated a few things the school board is looking for in a candidate. Ample knowledge and experience with budget, ability to draw and retain staff members, and ability to conform to the needs of a smaller school district and community are a few of the basic characteristics for a desired superintendent. Quality leadership skills are generally what the board is seeking out for the district.
The school board, however, acknowledges that this is a community decision, according to Sipes. She and other board members are eager to hear from members of the Potterville community via online surveys, town hall style forums, fall conferences, and more. Sipes encourages all members of the community, parents of current students or not, jbring forward input. She also hopes to include Michigan Association of School Boards on the upcoming conversations and forums.
To learn more about the Potterville superintendent search and how to be involved in that process, readers are encouraged to visit the Potterville Public Schools website and locate the school board member contact information.
Eaton RapidsFeatured Story
About one year ago David Ballard sent an application to the Honor Flight Network on behalf of his father, Jim Ballard, who is a Korean War veteran. The Honor Flight Network takes applications of veterans from WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War and selects applicants to participate in a day long tour of the monuments and memorials in Washington D.C. In August Jim received a call letting him know he had been selected for a fall 2017 Honor Flight, and he and Dave were off.
The Honor Flight Network covers the cost of flights and meals of their veterans, but the guardians (one family member or caretaker of the veteran) have to pay their own way. Dave accompanied his father on the September 30 trip, which started the evening of Sept. 29 in Kalamazoo with a small dinner and celebration. Veterans were greeted and thanked by police officers and other service people.
The next morning started early, however. Jim and Dave were up by 4 a.m., at the airport by 5, and off to Washington D.C. by 7. They arrived at 9 a.m. with a warm welcome. Hundreds of volunteers came to the Reagan International Airport to celebrate and show their appreciation to the veterans arriving for their tour of Washington D.C. On the September 30 trip were about 73 veterans, plus their guardians, or four busloads of veteran fathers accompanied by sons and daughters.
After the greeting at the airport, the tour officially began with a police motorcade to the National Mall. Police blocked off the streets and led the way for the veterans who were on a day trip. There was a lot to see for these seniors, and time was of the essence.
The highlights of the tour were those three war memorials for the veterans on the trip. Jim had been to the Korean War memorial before, but visiting again reminded him of the national impact of the conflict.
Jim was stationed in the city of Pusan, now called Busan. Although he was only overseas for seven months during the war, Jim said, “I have some very bad memories.” He remembers a fire that devastated the city in 1953, killing only three people, but leaving around 28,000 homeless. Jim was an officer, and didn’t see much of the heavy action. He admits to having some of the most comfortable lodging of the U.S. soldiers, though comfortable is a flexible term in this context.
Jim also admits to having mixed feelings about Korea. He’s proud of the progress South Korea has made, and he is grateful for the good people there. Jim returned to South Korea about 20 years ago. He had family located in Japan, and at the time U.S. citizens had to fly to South Korea indirectly. Meeting his family in Japan and then making their way to South Korea Jim experienced some of those mixed feelings about the country.
His family was lavished with greetings and gifts when they arrived, though for Jim his thoughts were met with both distinct and faded memories of his seven months there in the 50s. He had one destination he had to see on that visit, however. It was a church atop a hill, overlooking the bay where his barge was docked. The driver mistakenly took him to the wrong church at first, but finally Jim made it. The view he remembered so clearly was fresh and new again in a country still plagued by conflict with a northern adversary, but free and independent nonetheless.
One memory that slips Jim’s mind, however, was of the thanks and welcome he received when he returned home after his seven months in Korea. That’s because he like so many other veterans, never received any.
On this trip to Washington D.C., however, Jim and his fellow Korean War veterans received the thanks and recognition they deserved. Several members of Jim’s family made their way to Washington D.C. without his knowing and surprised him before he made the return trip home. And still another surprise awaited him on the plane when he and the other veterans had mail call.
September 30 was a full day for Jim and Dave Ballard, packed with travel, celebration, touring, and remembering. Jim and Dave encourage veterans of WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam War to send in applications to the Honor Flight Network, especially if they are terminal. Terminal veterans are given priority for Honor Flights. Readers interested in applying or recommending the Honor Flight Network to a loved one can visit honorflight.org for more information.