06-29-2017 Fabulous Independence Day Celebration weekend on tap for Watervliet; Schools of Choice; t

Fabulous Independence Day Celebration weekend on tap for Watervliet

By Kristy Noack

Watervliet Independence Day Celebration co-chair Amy Loshbough has this to say to residents of the Tri-City area, “Stay home for the 4th!” With the plethora of activities on tap for Watervliet’s annual weekend celebration, which kicks off Friday, June 30, there is no reason to leave town. You can catch wrestling, parades, vintage baseball, and live music. You can eat elephant ears, steak, and pancakes. You can kick a little mud, watch some little ducks, and bounce your way to a fun-filled weekend all right here in Watervliet!

PRIZE STAMPEDED….Youngsters run to collect ping  pong balls dropped from an aircraft at the Watervliet Municpal Airport a couple years back. As part of the Independence Day weekend celebration.

With old favorites like the car show as well as new events like a tractor pull, there’s something for everyone.

It’s a miracle in July: an elephant ear concession stand will be at this year’s festival! A great array of food vendors will be lined up on Food Vendor Row in the Family Dollar parking lot at 415 N. Main Street. Grab some chicken, fries, smokehouse pork or cinnamon and sugar ears for lunch and dinner Friday and Saturday.  Picnic tables will be set up near Food Vendor Row for diners’ convenience.

Other vendors will be set up along Main Street in various locations for people to peruse their wares. Look for everything from rings to books to tie-dye shirts.

The fun begins Friday at 4:00 p.m. at the Watervliet Airport. The airport is hosting a 40C Fly-In and Camp-In. Everyone is welcome to head out to the airport, located at 4959 M-140 Highway just north of town, to examine aircraft, watch the airplanes land, and talk with veterans of the skies about flying.

A new event at this year’s festival is the Elkhart County Garden Tractor Pull, which will be held on Pleasant Street near Saylor’s Pizza, beginning at 6:00 p.m. The pull will feature various classes of tractors, from 10, 14, and 16 horse power to outlaw.

The decorated Golf Cart and Side by Side Parade will make its debut as part of the weekend celebration Friday night at 6:00 p.m. The parade begins at North Elementary School, 287 Baldwin Avenue, north of town. According to Watervliet Fire Department Chief Dan Jones, “We’ve got about 25 minutes” along the route that covers both city and township roads. There is no cost or need to register to join in the fun. Just bring your cart or side by side decorated in a theme of your choice to join the lineup and for a chance to win a prize.

The Main Stage, located downtown in the city parking lot, will be a hotbed of activity all weekend long. The first event slated is Independence Pro Wrestling at 7:30 p.m. Friday night. The Freedom Fights 2017 will feature high-flying action as 12 wrestlers take to the squared circle.

The Gene Bednarowski Cherry 5K Run and Walk will hit the streets Saturday morning. Late registration begins at 6:45 a.m., and the official start of the 5K and walk is at 8:00 a.m.  Stop by North Elementary School to cheer on the walkers and runners as they begin and end their quest for medal glory.

Artists aplenty will be downtown Saturday morning beginning at 7:00 a.m., just south of the railroad tracks on Main Street. They will be decorating as part of another new event at this year’s festival, the Chalk our Block. All proceeds from Chalk our Block will be donated to the Watervliet High and Middle schools art program.

Make your way to the Watervliet Fire Department for their delicious pancake breakfast from 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m.  The breakfast is the fire department’s largest fund-raiser of the year. Stop by and fill their donation boot to help support their community-wide programs.

If it’s 10:00 a.m., it’s time for the Kids Zone Play Area to open.  New to the kid zone this year is a 25-foot climbing apple tree, a barrel train ride, frozen t-shirt contest and much more. This will all be available in Library Park for the little ones to enjoy. Pam Quinn, chairman of kids’ activities, wants everyone to know this about the kid zone, “Bigger, better all day, come check it out from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.”

K-9 Learning Center owned and operated by Nan Edwards, will demonstrate dog training methods on the Main Stage from 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. If you have concerns about your dog’s behavior, stop by; the instructor will field questions from audience members.

With engines rumbling, chrome shining, and rims polished, the 14th annual Independence Weekend Car Show will be held from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. at Arclight Brewery, located at 544 North Main Street. The car show offers attendees a chance to see antique, classic, modified, or special interest cars, trucks, or motorcycles. There is a $5 registration fee to enter your vehicle, but the money goes to a great cause. All profits are donated to Battle Creek Veterans Administration Hospital. Plaques will be awarded, and there will also be a raffle.

After you get done drooling over the cars and picking up another elephant ear, head back over to the Main Street tent where Little Miss and Mr. Firecracker will be crowned at 11:00 a.m. Watch the fun as the youngsters are dressed to the nines in their red, white, and blue. After the crowning, stop by the airport. Beginning at 11:00 a.m., the flyers will host their delicious steak fry until 4:00 p.m.

The Grand Parade begins at 1:00 p.m. following staging in the vacant lot at the southwest corner of Red Arrow Highway and Main Street (M-140 Highway). Michael Zehner is this year’s Grand Marshall. The parade returns to the “regular” route, heading north through town from the staging area. Last year, the parade traveled south through town.  Awards will be handed out at Main Street stage following the conclusion of the parade.

To see kings and queens and crowns galore, take a few minutes to meet and greet Miss and Mr. Blossomtime, and the kings, queens and courts of honor for Coloma, Hartford, and Watervliet.  The young men and women will be available from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. next to Main Street stage.

Flaherty Park will host the Mid-America Cowgirls Rodeo Drill Team from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. The Cowgirls is an equestrian team based in Three Oaks, Michigan with riders from Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. Their crowd pleasing performances and grand entry has had the team invited to events throughout the Midwest and as far away as North Carolina including the Kentucky Derby Festival Parade and the 58th Presidential Inaugural Parade. Visit the cowgirls and their steeds and witness a demonstration of the talented equine.

The IPW will hold their championship wrestling event at 2:00 p.m. on the Main Stage. Get downtown early as seats will fill up in a hurry!

For the second year in a row, the Power Wheels Mudd Run, scheduled for 3:30 p.m., will throw some dirt. Open registration is still ongoing if you have a youngster with a power wheels vehicle.  The Mudd Runs will move to a new location this year. The runs will happen at the vacant lot located across from Hays Park, just north of town.  The 4×4 Quad Mudd Run will begin at 4:30 p.m. and the Truck Mudd Run will occur at 6:30 p.m. Trophies aplenty will be awarded. Registration forms for all three events are available at the Tri-City Record.  Registration will also be available prior to the event. Please follow signage to staging area and safety check points.

Healthy to the Core will hit the Main Stage at 4:00 p.m. and provide a demonstration on cardio drumming. This energetic exercise gives participants quite a workout but is fun and entertaining, too.

There will be a 64-team corn hole tournament taking place from 4:00 p.m. until 10:00 across from the Main Stage in the open grassy lot.   Up for grabs to the winning team is two tickets to the Michigan vs. Michigan State football game on October 7 this fall.

Hey Girl Hey will play from 5:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. on the Main Stage.  It has been said that this group is the coolest, latest, party band playing the best music in Southwest Michigan.

The Hooterville Hitters will host the House of David Echoes for a vintage baseball game at Hays Park, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Stop on out for a game played according to rules in place in 1858. Singing the National Anthem and other medleys during the game will be Memory Lane, a quartet with some members hailing from Watervliet. Grab a bag of peanuts, donated by Texas Corral, and sit back and watch the Hitters take aim at the Echoes. The Watervliet Athletic Boosters will have the popcorn flowing and drinks for sale as they man the concession booth during the game and through the fireworks display.

After the game, head back to the Main Stage to listen to the band C&S Delivery. Scott Podjan and Craig Harris will be joined on stage by Jimmy Colford and Bill Nuendorf. Listen to the wonderful sounds of the band as the sun goes down.

Another new event this year is courtesy of Great Lakes Drone Company. “We’re going to open the show with a single drone in the sky with eight LED lights on it. There’s a ground light show and an aerial light show,” said Matt Quinn, owner of the company. The drone show is actually the first public show in Southwest Michigan. The 12-minute event will begin 15 minutes prior to dusk and will be set to music. Here’s an important note: the best seats in the house to witness the drones will be at Hays Park. Quinn said part of the show takes place at the tree line, while the other part of the show takes place almost 100 feet above the trees. GLDC will also provide aerial coverage of portions of the parade and July 4×4 Mudd Run.  Drone operators will also be at the airport Sunday doing demonstrations.

The finale Saturday night is the always popular fireworks show. Arranged by Night Magic Displays out of LaPorte, Indiana, the fireworks are a long-standing, spectacular show.

The festival finishes up on Sunday. The airport is offering breakfast from 7:00 a.m. until noon.

At 11:00 a.m. a community worship service will take place at the Main Stage. All denominations are invited to attend.

The Ping Pong Ball Drop will fall from the sky at the airport at 1:00 p.m. Kids are divided up by age, ping pong balls are dropped from a plane overhead, and prizes listed on each ping pong ball are collected by the kids. Prizes can be redeemed throughout town and have been sponsored by various establishments.

The final event of the festival will be the Duck Race in Mill Creek at Flaherty Park. The ducks will be turned loose at 2:00 p.m. and will follow the current into the chute. Cash prizes – starting with $1,000 for first place – will be awarded. The last duck through the chute will win its owner a free raffle ticket to next year’s race. Tickets are still available; check with any retailer downtown to purchase. The monies raised by the selling of duck tickets are used for next year’s festival.

This year’s festival, co-chaired by Amy Loshbough and Rochelle Ulleg, and strengthened by numerous volunteers, has been in the works for months. “The greatest thing is more people have stepped up to help. Our committee is stronger.” The small group continues to bring new and exciting events to the festival. Now, it’s the residents and visitors turn to do their part. Take advantage of some – or better yet – all fun things slated for this weekend. Spend time downtown eating festival food and taking part in the activities. Spread the word that Watervliet is the place to be for the Independence Day weekend. Encourage people to take a “staycation” in our little corner of the world, as we celebrate the birth of our nation, the red, white, and blue, and America.

Schools of Choice; the jury is still out

By Jon Bisnett

While the appointment of Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss may send shudders through the public education community, her “pro-choice” position on education is not exactly new. Schools of Choice (SOC) is arguably here to stay in the State of Michigan. So who are the real winners? One would hope it would be the students.

Schools of Choice defined

Let’s first understand Schools of Choice. Generally speaking, the public school system decides where students go to school based on where they live. Schools of Choice adds the option of educational choice based on the idea that parents control where their child goes to school. This is accomplished through a variety of programs that are typically carried out on the state and local levels. In theory that choice would be made by comparing a variety of opportunities to provide the best overall experience to the student. However, as the data comes in over a period of years, those choices are often somewhat less effective than the original intent of the movement. The concept provides access to charter schools, magnet schools, vocational schools and in some cases private schools. For purposes of this article we’ll concentrate on switching among public schools and its specific effect on the Tri-City Area.

The numbers

Out of 74 million K-12 students in the United States today only 3.5 million participate in SOC, which is less than 5%. Here in Michigan that number is significantly higher at 23% blamed mostly on the statistical influence of Detroit; 13% crossed districts, while 10% opted for charter schools.

Hartford Public Schools posted a 5% enrollment loss to other districts in 2015-16.

Coloma 2015-16 numbers showed a gain of 12% primarily caused by a large intake of Benton Harbor students.

Watervliet Public Schools showed the largest gain in 2015-16 school year with 38% of its enrollment increased by non-resident students.

We have a winner or do we?

So out of 1,415 kids on the books, at 38% Watervliet gained some 400 students. Multiply that figure by roughly $7,200 per student of school aid adding $2.8 million dollars to the operating capital for a given year. Sounds great on paper, does it not?

Looking at infrastructure needs of the district, all that operations money dilutes rather quickly. If Watervliet serviced only its own residents, the count would be just over 1,000 students. But with the influx of SOC, in theory they need 400 more desks, and classroom accommodations, a couple extra bathrooms, and those 400 students require additional teachers that come with retirement benefits that have been a bur in the saddle of statewide education budgets for a decade.

Hartford posts a 5% loss, but where does it come from? Most recent 2017 statistics show Hartford lost 105 students to Watervliet while only 21 came from west to east for a net loss of 84 for Hartford.

Coloma on the other hand posts no transfers from Watervliet, while losing 180. It grabs 100 from Hartford while giving up only three, but gets a huge boost of 263 students from Benton Harbor.

Please don’t jump to an incorrect conclusion as to write off Hartford as the lone loser in the game as Hartford typically offsets the westward migration with influx from Bangor and Lawrence plus a surprising inflow from Dowagiac.

The dark side

While Secretary DeVoss firmly believes in educational choice, recently calling them in opposition “flat earthers,” even she would tell you SOC is only a good choice if made for all the right reasons.

Studies show the average stay for an out-of-district public school student is just three years. Bouncing schools for athletics or discontent with staff has a proven and profound effect on student Grade Point Averages and overall performance and deportment.

At risk students typically face the same challenges from one district to another and had the parents just exercised their rights to convene with school officials to work towards a successful outcome in their home district in the first place, they most likely could have avoided the inevitable turmoil to the student of leaving friends and familiar surroundings, say many leading educational psychologists.

If a parent wants to subtly exercise an act of racism, SOC can be misused to reduce their child’s exposure to certain ethnicities, the same way that decisions are made because the coach picked someone else to be the quarterback.

Bottom line

One in 16 Michigan students will change districts using Schools of Choice. Half of those students will move districts a second time, which top educators find disturbing.

Van Buren County cable subscribers often see an ad campaign by Gobles seeking to bolster their out of district numbers, while Marcellus boasts personal attention and hometown spirit in the shadow of the larger Coldwater Schools that could lay waste to their enrollment. “Mega B” school Edwardsburg sends buses into Niles on a daily basis, to transport SOC students from their home neighborhoods. It’s a turf war in some areas that one might fear reduces the student to little more than a $7,200 entry on a spreadsheet.

We can dissect the statistics a hundred different ways; explaining the westward trend because most parents work in the Benton Harbor area instead of Kalamazoo which makes dropping off the kids easier. Some debate the Watervliet increase is skewed by the closing of the local Catholic elementary and so on. SOC is not going away.

Studies in the State of Indiana found their controversial voucher program had little positive effect on poor and middle income student’s access to private schools because of transportation issues. Those who had already been paying for private schools ended up getting their tuition bill paid by the state!

SOC has the purest intent at heart, but as with many decisions we all make as parents we need to first look inwardly to be sure whose best interest is served. Keep your child at the center. Let’s all promise to make our educational choice for the right reasons.

Coloma commissioners approve road work; Timberbrook residents want new sidewalks

By Christina Gelder

 Jim Cottier and Cynthia Massey of the Timberbrook Terrace subdivision attended the Coloma City Commission meeting on Monday, June 26 with complaints over lack of upkeep. They reported that their sidewalks are in terrible shape and in bad need of repair, saying that they are dangerous and likely to cause a lawsuit in the future if not fixed.

Cottier said that his granddaughter recently tripped and fell. He is concerned because with Randall Park connected to the neighborhood they see a lot of foot traffic. Cottier claims that in the time he has lived there, since 1980, nothing has been done on anything.

When Commissioner Hammond told the neighbors that sidewalks are a 60/40 split with the home owner they were angry because the Coloma Heights community got new sidewalks last year and did not have to pay that split. It was explained that in Coloma Heights the sidewalks were necessary because they had to be torn up to replace infrastructure.

The bottom line became money. The commission said they do not have the money to take on more projects. With loss in revenue sharing over the recent years it is becoming harder and harder to make the improvements they want to make.

Cottier asked if the home owners could hire a contractor to fix/replace the sidewalks. Public Works Supervisor Rod Burkholder confirmed they could but he said that what has to be done first is the removal of trees and many residents are unwilling to do that.

“There is no doubt about it,” said Commissioner Linda Freitag, “our City needs a lot of work.”

Mayor Jim Polashak again confirmed that it really is about money. “We’ll take a look at it,” he told them in closing, “but I won’t promise anything. It comes down to money.”

Road repairs approved

It was approved by the commission to accept a proposal from Quality Paving to repair Leedy Street between S. West Street and S. Paw Paw for $7,925. Also approved was a proposal, also from Quality Paving to repair N. West Street from Marvin to Wilson for $17,600. A storm drain has recently collapsed on N. West Street and much of that section of road has caved in. The West Street project will not begin until after the Glad-Peach Festival.

To clarify for the audience members Mayor Polashak did say that these funds were coming from the Local Streets account. As regulated by the State of Michigan a certain percentage of property taxes must be set aside for major streets and local streets. These funds cannot be used for anything but those streets. This year all of the Major Streets funds went to the E. St. Joseph Street project.

On a related subject, it was also approved to pay some small invoices. One was to Quality Paving for work finishing up a driveway from the E. St. Joseph Street project. They also had to dig a sewer line in that area and approved paying Mike’s Sewer and Septic for work done on that. These are considered trailing expenses from problems that were unforeseen in the big construction project.

In other news, resident Fred Reeves attended the meeting to urge the commission not to allow medical marijuana facilities to come to the town. He said with 25 years in law enforcement he was confident it was not something the city wants to bring in. He claimed to have done quite a bit of research on the topic and urged the commission to really study the subject before making a decision.


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