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05-24-2018 Hartford’s Strawberry Festival kicks off with the summer fun, June 8 & 9; Michigan

Get moving! Tri-City Area offers abundance of recreation opportunities

By Kristy Noack

With lakes, rivers, gyms, baseball fields, walking trails, and more Coloma, Hartford, and Watervliet are all prime locations for becoming one with nature, improving your health, and spending the summer relieving stress. Whether your idea of fun is cardio drumming, water skiing, or hiking along Wildflower Way, the Tri-City Area has a solution for your recreation needs.

Get walking or running!

The communities surrounding the Tri-City Area are prime 5K and 10K locations. So, lace up your kicks and sign up today.

Hartford’s 2018 Strawberry Run will start the summer walk/run season. The 40th annual event will take place Saturday, June 9 at 8:00 a.m. at Hartford Public Schools, 115 School Street, and offers a 5K run, 5K walk, 10K walk, 10K run, and one-mile fun run.

The Gene Bednarowski 5K walk and run will hit the streets of Watervliet Saturday, June 30. The event is part of the city’s annual 4th of July festival.  The start/finish line is at North Elementary School, 287 Baldwin Avenue.  Day of race registration time opens at 6:45 a.m.

The Coloma Glad-Peach Festival offers three ways you can get your workout on Saturday, August 4.  Take part in the 5K walk, run or bike or 10K walk, run or bike. There is also a one-mile fun run.  Salem Lutheran Church, located at 275 Marvin Street in Coloma, will host the race kickoff.

All three events are part of the Michigan Fruit Belt Series. If you register a finish time in at least five Fruit Belt Series events, you will be awarded a commemorative coin. Details regarding the qualifying events are available by viewing the 2018 Michigan Fruit Belt Series page on Facebook.

Another big race to test your mettle will be the Maytag Ironman 70.3 Steelhead triathlon on August 12 in Benton Harbor. The bike portion takes in some beautiful scenery in Berrien and Van Buren counties. The 56-mile bike loop travels through Hagar Township and into Hartford before returning to Benton Harbor. Details, including registration dates and maps, can be found at

If you’re in need of something a bit milder on the knees and joints, head over to the Parcourse at Lakeland Hospital, Watervliet, located at 400 Medical Park Drive.  The 1.1-mile walking course, which will be renovated throughout the summer, features a gravel base, serene setting, and easy walk.

If you enjoy trail walking, Sarett Nature Center offers plenty of options for you outdoor lovers.  You can walk a mile on the Upland or Lowland trails. Try the Pine Tree or Rolling Meadow loops that travel just under a mile. If you’re looking for something easy for the kids, Sarett offers a 700-foot Tamarack Trail.  There’s also the 0.12-mile Red Fox Run.  In all, Sarett has 19 different trail routes you can take at their facility. Go bird watching. Check out the wetland. Meander near Turtle Creek. There’s plenty to do outdoors at Sarett!

If triathlons are your thing, Paw Paw Lake Yacht Club is once again hosting the annual PPL Triathlon. The swim, bike, run event will be held Saturday, July 7. Registration is held on race day. Participants will leap into Paw Paw Lake at 10:00 a.m.

Another great way to get moving is for residents and visitors alike to get outdoors and into your local parks. Coloma offers Baker and Randall parks in the city. Watervliet’s downtown parks include Flaherty and Hays.  Hartford’s Ely Park is centrally located in the downtown.  Depending on the park, benches, pavilions, and playground equipment await.

Get fit!

If you’re looking for something a little bit “more” than walking or running, there are plenty of gyms in the Tri-City area.

CrossFit CAJIR, located at 55742 CR 687 in Hartford, will get you pumped up and fit for battle. They offer beginning Base classes that teach the fundamental moves used in CrossFit. Following competition of four Base classes, you can join the one-hour CrossFit class. If you’ve mastered CrossFit and want to test your skills against the best, CAJIR also offers competition classes.  Check them out online at or give them at call at 269-308-3062.

Check in to Healthy to the Core at 7139 Red Arrow Highway in Coloma for their always popular, unbeatable Cardio Drumming classes. They offer a variety of times and dates, so you aren’t just limited to once a week in the morning.  They also offer a fit camp. Contact them at 269-202-7197 for additional information.

Other workout facilities in the area include For the Love of Fitness (269-202-7364) and Top Notch Physiques (269-468-5433).  Contact either for class offerings and hours.

If you need to perfect your swing, Paw Paw Lake Golf Course, located at 4548 Forest Beach Road in Watervliet, is right in your backyard.  The public 18-hole, par 70 course offers three par five holes to test your driving strength. With five par three holes, your short game will get a workout as well.  As an added bonus, the course provides beautiful views of Paw Paw Lake. Contact the course at or 269-463-3831.

If flinging a disc rather than swinging a club is more your speed, Flaherty Park offers a nine-hole disc golf course. Grab your friends, your discs, and have some fun at Flaherty Park.

Get sailing and kayaking!

The Paw Paw Lake Yacht Club continues to inspire great health. The club is offering youth and adult boating classes this summer.

In conjunction with the Paw Paw Lake Community Sailing Foundation, the yacht club will be the site of learning to sail classes, boating STEM classes, or boater safety class.

Kids will test their newfound sailing skills on Optimist or Club 420 boats.

And, adults under 39 must have a certificate to operate a jet ski on Paw Paw Lake – or any other open body of water.  Sign up for the boater safety class, taught by the Berrien County Marine Division, which will be held Saturday, June 9 from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Maybe you’re an adult who just isn’t too comfortable on the water. Or, maybe you want to learn the difference between a figure eight and halyard hitch knot.  The two-day adult sailing class would be perfect for you. Learn to love the water at Paw Paw Lake Yacht Club.

Additionally, the yacht club will host the Grand City Skiers again this summer.  The water skiing troupe will return to the waters of Paw Paw Lake on Sunday, August 5 at 2:00 p.m. for a free show.

If you are a kayaker or canoeist, the Paw Paw River awaits. Sixty-eight miles of water, beginning at Paw Paw, runs through Hartford, Watervliet, and Coloma.  While cleanup of the river has been undertaken, a lot of brush and obstructions remain. If you venture out for adventure, use caution, be responsible, and always put safety first. That means, wear your life jacket, wear sunscreen, go with a buddy, and always share your location and departure and return times with someone else.

The river winds through the Tri-City Area and there are put-in locations along the way.

If you want to brush up on your skills beforehand, Sarett, located at 2300 Benton Center Road in Benton Harbor, offers kayak lessons as well as paddling trips.

Get a game on!

America’s pastime is in full swing as little league baseball and softball seasons continue. The Coloma Youth Baseball Softball Association offers a rec program for ages 5 to 14.  The Coloma baseball Memorial Day Madness tournament will take place May 25 through May 27.  The Coloma Girls All Stars will hold their tournament June 15-18. Both tourneys are hosted at the CYBSA fields located on East Becht Road near Coloma North Road.

The Watervliet Rec Council baseball and softball games continue through June. Schedules for 6U, 8U, 10U, 12U, 14U, instructional, minors, majors, and pony teams are available at Stop by Hays Park to see future hall of famers in action. The park is located at 700 North Main Street in Watervliet.

The community of Hartford is readying Indian Pride Park as tournament action takes shape. The park, located at 130 Lincoln Street in Hartford, offers two different tourneys of first class action.  The All-Star softball invitational will be held June 22 through June 27. The Hartford All-Star baseball Tournament of Champions will be held July 6-11.

Whether you know someone on the team or just want to catch some action, all three locations will provide a welcome break from overpaid, overrated big league ball.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to get out, get moving, and get your fill of summer in the Tri-City Area. Begin fulfilling your adventure to-do list today!

Hartford’s Strawberry Festival kicks  off with the summer fun, June 8 & 9

By Jon Bisnett A longstanding festival in downtown Hartford celebrates the harvest of Michigan strawberries with two days of family fun and entertainment. This year’s festival runs Friday, June 8 and Saturday, June 9. There will be plenty of strawberry shortcake to go around as Hartford’s Ely Park comes alive with the sights and sounds of this year’s Strawberry Festival. The Friday – Saturday event coincides with the opening night of the city’s Concerts in the Park summer music series on the preceding Thursday evening which adds a bonus of musical entertainment on what is typically setup day for most. Strawberry events begin on Friday with the Kiddie Parade at 6:00 p.m., followed by the crowning of the 2018 Strawberry Prince, Princess, and Baby. A magic show will follow performed by local prestidigitator extraordinaire John Dudley. Food vendors will offer up tasty treats along with arts and crafts vendors throughout the park.

Saturday Saturday starts with the a Strawberry Pancake Breakfast held at the High School beginning at 7:00 a.m. which rolls right into the 40th Annual Strawberry Run, sponsored by the Hartford Lions. Hundreds of runners from all over the Midwest compete in 10K and 5K runs. There is a 5K walk and even a one-mile Family Walk for those looking for a little fun and exercise without all the formal training regimen. With the fully certified course now part of the Fruit Belt Series, runners can earn a special medallion by posting an official finish in any five of the nine races now participating in the series. New this year is the advance of electronic starting mats and free emailed professional race photos at the finish. There’s still plenty of time to get registered for all the race events by visiting The day really gets rolling with the Annual Strawberry Festival Parade at 1:00 p.m. The park will be buzzing with food & craft vendors. Main Street will also be the site of the Bed Race with local teams doing battle for bragging rights. If running isn’t your speed you can always try the Pie Eating Contest back at Ely Park. It’s delicious and messy good fun as contestants in multiple age divisions square to gobble up a strawberry pie – no hands allowed! Festival goers can plan on plenty of toe-tapping music to fill the stage with two featured bands on tap for Saturday evening entertainment. Reasonably priced kids attractions are always a hit. Bounce house, climbing wall and trackless train rides provide family fun for the younger set. Expect to find some free kids activities like fingerprinting and crafts as the evening turns to the festival stage for musical entertainment. Plenty of free parking is available in surrounding city lots. The festival is held the second weekend of June, typically just after the last day of school. Visit for a complete schedule of all the events and times. The Strawberry Festival is a production of the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, with major support from Hartford City & Township, the Hartford DDA & Hartford McDonald’s restaurant.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette speaks of State jobs program to students at Hartford High School

By Jon Bisnett Hartford High School students were joined by members of local government to hear State Attorney General Bill Schuette speak to begin his day of a whirlwind tour of Southwest Michigan.

MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL SCHUETTE (photo on the left) made a quick stop at Hartford High School to address the student body regarding meaningful preparation for future employment. As guest of Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates, Schuette also met briefly with city officials in photo on the right (from the left) City Manager Yemi Akinwale, Mayor Rick Hall, AG Schuette, Police Chief Tressa Beltran and Officer Phil Lucas during his stopover in Hartford Wednesday, May 16. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)

Jobs for Michigan Grads The Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) program invited Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to Hartford leading off a day of several stops all around Southwest Michigan on Wednesday May 16. Over 130 students in the Hartford district take part in the jobs program, now in its second year. Kristin Harrington, the executive director of Youth Solutions, who supervises the JMG program, said the program objectives are to both help students succeed and help fill the employment gap for qualified workers in further stimulating Michigan’s economy. “Michigan is projecting over 800,000 open jobs in the skilled trades and professional trade area by 2024 and we believe that our young people are a perfect pipeline into those open opportunities,” Harrington said. “But a big part of it is making them aware that those job opportunities are out there and then preparing them with meaningful soft skills so that they can walk right onto the job and perform at the employer expectation,” said Harrington. Schuette’s message Although it’s no secret that Schuette has his hat in the ring for the gubernatorial post, his message to the largely teen audience was on the whole apolitical and more Pure Michigan Jobs. Attorney General Schuette recalled his education in the public schools of Midland, Michigan while warning of the radical need to improve reading scores throughout the state, now lowest in the United States for 3rd Grade proficiency. He also shared that 55 of 83 districts in the state lost population since the “crash” of 2008. Schuette feels it’s not up to Lansing, but regional approval to continue the recovery that Michigan is experiencing. He challenged students on three points for success in their future career path: Be Indispensable – Be Honest – And Help Others Succeed. Schuette closed by encouraging students to “cop an attitude, a positive attitude” about Michigan and its path for the future, and above else to “Have big dreams!” For further detail on the Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates program and Youth Solutions, Inc. visit them online at, or follow them on Facebook at JobsforMichigansGraduates.



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