THE PAST IS PRESENT… Ellinee Woodward and Bonnie Kuehl, the granddaughters of Ernest and Hildegard Erickson, owners of the Ellinee, stand beneath the repaired Ellinee marquee that once held a spot of honor at their grandparents’ resort. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)
TOP FLOAT AWARD… Miss Hartford Brynn Duffy and Mr. Hartford Xavier Salinas served as the hosts of the Hartford Community float at the Blossomtime Parade that once again was named the Sweepstakes Award winner. The theme, As Big as Kansas, As Big as Oz, won the award for outstanding float concept and artistic merit of theme, creativity, color, animation, beauty, and floral display. The community of Hartford has won the coveted award four out of the last five years. Other royalty included Little Miss Hartford Lilly Johnsen and her first runner-up Kennedy Deckard; Little Mr. Hartford Javier Frias and his first runner-up Carter Moore; Miss Teen Hartford Raven Ledesma and her first runner-up Jersey Baker; Miss Junior Teen Hartford Cessie Finley and her first runner-up Zoe Prillwitz; Mr. Hartford’s Mr. Nice Guy Noah Wade, 1st Runner-up Alexander Lehnert, and 2nd Runner-up Evan Parker; Miss Hartford’s 1st Runner-up Mikinzie Chambers, 2nd Runner-up Piper Reinhardt, and Miss Congeniality Cecilia Peralies. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)
Ellinee sign party makes history – again
By Kristy Noack History came alive again recently as the outdoor sign that heralded the location of the Ellinee, a Paw Paw Lake resort landmark named after Ernest and his wife Hildegard (nee Lundberg) Erickson, was lit up after spending decades in the dark. The Ellinee sign was donated to the North Berrien Historical Museum (NBHM) by Ellinee Woodward and Bonnie Kuehl, granddaughters of Ellinee proprietor Erickson. Erickson was originally from Chicago and traveled to Paw Paw Lake before building the resort in 1908 with his wife Hildegard. In 1913, the landmark was considered “The Social Center of Paw Paw Lake” and boasted “a large assortment and fine line of latest souvenirs, post cards, stationery, fishing tackle, the best velvet ice cream and soda water, candy, cigars, tobacco, and fancy groceries,” according to an August 8, 1913 article in the Coloma Courier. The social center also had “box ball alley” (bowling alleys) and a billiards lounge. By 1925, Erickson had constructed the Midwest Art School and added “a new pier 100 feet long” to the lake area. He also “dragged the bottom of the lake to provide a good bathing beach” at the resort. Erickson, according to the June 12, 1925 article, planned to erect new boathouses as well. In 1926, Greyhound began an hourly bus service between the resort and Coloma, running every hour from 7:00 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. Paw Paw Lake’s resort area continued to see its popularity increase, as new hotels and dance halls were added. In the 1930s, Erickson constructed the tower and created an 18-hole miniature golf course at the site. The Ellinee tavern received a makeover in 1941 after the dance floor was enlarged and a new stage was added, specifically for the orchestra. Additionally, Erickson oversaw improvements at the bowling alley which included more seating for spectators.
A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE… Seeing the Ellinee sign operational once again brought joy to three former employees of the Ellinee resort. Marge Schaefer Baes (left) manned the souvenir stand, while Ron Clark (center) set pins at the bowling alley, and Sharron Van Ryswyk Krueger worked the soda fountain counter. All three enjoyed seeing the Ellinee sign take center stage once again. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)
The Ellinee tower was closed in 1945 due to increased insurance premiums unless the structure was brought up to code. Recommendations included a new set of stairs and fireproofing the entire wooden building. Because of the “prohibitive cost” to upgrade the Ellinee, the tower was closed to tourists. The Ericksons owned and operated the Ellinee for 62 years before Ernest died in 1969. In the early 1980s, the building was razed, although the Ellinee sign was saved and placed in storage. According to Jack Greve, executive director curator of NBHM, the non-profit spent two years fundraising to have the Ellinee sign taken out of storage, repaired, and rewired. The sign was also straightened but the original paint and lettering remains. Last month, on March 28, NBHM held a “relighting” party. Following a short presentation, Greve introduced Bonnie Kuehl and Ellinee Woodward to the crowd of over three dozen and they pressed the switch to light up the “ELLINEE” once again. The sign can be found in the Main Gallery of the museum, located at 300 Coloma Avenue.
Community of Hartford repeats Blossomtime Parade Sweepstakes Award
By Annette Christie The community of Hartford had reason to celebrate Saturday afternoon after learning that they won the coveted Sweepstakes Award at the Blossomtime Grand Floral Parade for a repeat of last year. In fact, the community of Hartford has won the top prize for four of the last five years. The float theme, “As Big as Kansas, As Big as Oz” won the award for the outstanding float concept and artistic merit of theme, creativity, color, animation, beauty, and floral display. Despite the rainy week that Southwest Michigan took part in prior to the Saturday afternoon event, hope for the sun to shine and the temperatures to warm up won. By 1:00 p.m. at kickoff time, the dreariness of the week prior was gone. This year marked the 113th year for the event which draws thousands of people from all over Southwest Michigan and afar. It is the crown jewel of the Blossomtime Festival, the area’s oldest and largest multi-community festival in the State of Michigan. The parade contained 108 units. This year’s parade featured Coloma’s own Sin’cere Taylor as Mr. Blossomtime and Mr. Nice Guy. Jeff Fettig, retired chairman of the board and former chief executive officer of Whirlpool Corp, was named the 2019 parade grand marshal.
As is tradition, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Motorcycle Drill Team led the parade. The remainder of the float winners were as follows: President’s Award for second most outstanding float concept and artistic merit of theme, creativity, color animation, beauty and floral display – Berrien Springs. Board of Director’s Award for the third most outstanding float concept and artistic merit of theme, color, animation, beauty and floral display – St. Joseph. Mayor’s Award for the float exhibiting excellence in presenting the festival theme – Stevensville.
BLOSSOMTIME PARADE 2019… Watervliet Royalty gathered prior to riding the Community of Watervliet Blossomtime Float in Saturday’s Grand Floral Parade. Pictured are (from the left): Back row – Allen Chapin Co-Mr. Watervliet 2019, Natalie Wesaw Miss Congeniality, Emma Yazel 1st Runner-up, Hannah Yerrington Miss Watervliet 2019, Emma Kraklau 2nd Runner-up, Derrick Burkhardt Co-Mr. Watervliet 2019; Front row – Charlotte Weber Little Miss Firecracker and Bradyn Fuller Little Mr. Firecracker.
Queen’s Award for the float exhibiting excellence in beauty and dramatic impact – Bridgman. Twin Cities’ Award for the float exhibiting excellence with the outstanding use, display and floral craftsmanship of live flowers and blossoms – New Buffalo. The community of New Buffalo also won the King’s Award for the best tow unit. Chairman’s Award for the float exhibiting excellence in creativity and impressive use of animation and movement, both live and mechanical – Eau Claire/Sodus. Parade Committee’s Award for the float exhibiting excellence in the presentation and use of color and color harmony – Baroda. The overall theme for this year’s Blossomtime activities was “America, the Places You’ll Go.” Each community selected a state as their theme. This wraps up the busy Blossomtime Tour Week which started last Sunday with the Blessing of the Blossoms and the traditional baseball game with the House of David baseball team. Throughout the week, the community queens and courts of Mr. Blossomtime and Miss Blossomtime made their way throughout Southwest Michigan with stops that included the Mayors’ Banquet, Dinner with the Queens, visits with seniors and students in many communities.
COLOMA COMMUNITY FLOAT featured Miss Coloma Samantha Scott with a cardboard stand-in of Mr. Coloma Sin’cere Taylor who went on to become Mr. Blossomtime. Other Coloma royalty on the float were Miss Coloma’s 2nd Runner-up and Miss Congeniality Cassidy Dryer; 1st Runner-up Amber Street; Mr. Coloma’s 1st Runner-up Zack Lake, and 2nd Runner-up and Mr. Nice Guy David Hiler; Little Miss Glad Peach Kinley Milnickle; Little Mr. Glad Peach Carson Case; Miss Teen Grace Larsen and her first runner-up Kylie Prisk; Miss Teen Sweetie Bella Greenman. The theme of the float was Massachusetts, Spirit of America. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)