DRONE VIEW… The Great Lakes Drone Company provided this aerial shot facing south of the fireworks overlooking the Watervliet Independence Weekend Celebration, Saturday night. That’s the downtown in the right lower corner of the picture and I-94 traffic beyond.
Sun and fun makes Watervliet Independence Weekend Celebration a hit!
By Annette Christie
Any chance of rain to dampen the Watervliet Independence Day Weekend Celebration passed on by this little town for their annual event. It was a weekend filled with sunshine and fun as the town took celebrating this country’s independence to a whole new level.
Starting Friday night, the streets were filled with people for the Kiddie Parade, the crowning of Little Red, White & Blue and Baby Independence, the golf cart parade, the carnival, food booths, entertainment on the Main Stage and Independence Pro Wrestling on Main Street.
FREEDOM FIGHTS… Friday night proved once again to be a festival favorite. Josh Raymond of IPW didn’t disappoint Friday and Saturday with the Championship matches. (TCR Photo by Amy Loshbough)
Korbyn Poole was selected as Little Red, White & Blue. The toddler is the son of Shawnn & Amanda Poole. Ella Ledesma was crowned Baby Independence. The 7-month-old baby is the daughter of Tyler & Shelba Ledesma. Voting boxes were placed throughout town with the proceeds going to benefit the Watervliet Business Association and the annual event.
The tropical and nautical golf cart named “Tilly” won the golf cart parade. The owner, Cyndi Garrone and her mom Treva Garrone were participants of the parade. Tilly’s theme was “Happy Birthday ‘Merica – Let’s Have a Ball” reminiscent of the oodles of beach balls she was carrying onboard. The winner received a $50 cash prize.
Members of the Elkhart County Garden Tractor Pullers Association were in town to hold one of their scheduled contests on Friday night on the street that holds City Hall, between Main Street and City Hall. Justin Harrington, a membe
r of the group said that they hold 20 events between May and October. Members of the group earn points with the hopes of earning first, second, or third place at the end of the season. The modified tractors in the varying classes pull a weighted sled for 260 feet. Harrington, who is involved in the association for his children, said that the organization is very family oriented. “The events are very family friendly,” Harrington said. Those interested in catching another one of their events this summer can see them in South Haven on August 11.
Saturday filled with fun
Early Saturday morning the festivities kicked off again with the Watervliet Fire Department Pancake Breakfast and the Gene Bednarowski 5K Cherry Run/Walk.
Run organizer Aaron Weber said that the proceeds from the event named after Watervliet teacher and coach Gene Bednarowski are used for a scholarship in Mr. Bednarowski’s name for a Watervliet High School athlete that participates in track or cross country. Tragically Mr. Bednarowski was killed in a motor vehicle accident in 1985.
HE’S #1… Nicholas Watson crossed the finish line first Saturday morning during the Gene Bednarowski 5k walk/run. Watson finished the course with a time of 16:54.5, setting a 5:27 pace per mile. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)
Watervliet’s own Anna Frazee, 21, was the top female runner with a time of 19:28. Her male counterpart was Nicholas Watson, 44, (town unknown) with a time of 16:54. The top male walker was Coloma’s Bruce Bantley with a time of 35:16. The top female walker was Nada Kramp of Lawrence with a time of 34:11.
The Southwestern Michigan Car Collectors Club had over 90 vehicles come for their annual car and motorcycle show that honors Veterans. The awards were distributed following the parade to the Top 15, Top Motorcycle, Best of Show, and President’s Choice. Dave Allen of Watervliet won the Top Motorcycle award with his 2008 Thoroughbred Stallion. He has owned it for three years. The President’s Choice Award was presented to Mark Black with his 1970 Chevy Monte Carlo. Best of Show went to Greg Doty of Wayland. While Doty has been to the Lane Memorial Day Car Show, it was the first time that Doty brought his 1932 Ford 3-window coupe to this community for their holiday festival. “This is a really nice event,” Doty said.
A BEAUTIFUL DAY FOR A WALK… Greg Krell and Cindy Ga-briel are decked out in their 2019 Gene Bednarwoski 5k walk/run t-shirts as they head for the finish line Saturday morning. The duo volun-teered their time during set up and then traversed the 3.1 mile course in Watervliet. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)
The North Berrien Historical Museum set up a small exhibit in the old bank building on Saturday and continuously showed a film about the history of Watervliet. The film reflects on the time when the community of Watervliet had three passenger trains daily that stopped in the town; a time when the community was home to 22 hotels and cottages all over Paw Paw Lake; the background on Hays Park; City Hall when it also served as the Fire Department; and Main Street of yesterday and today. Interested parties, who may have missed the showing at the Independence Day event, can purchase the DVD at the museum.
Flaherty Park served as the backdrop for an Amish Village experience. Starting at 8:00 a.m., members of Amish families were in the park to share examples of their day to day life including cooking, candle making, quilting, and rug making. The families reside between Hartford and Lawrence. Many visitors to the Amish Village were inquisitive about how they make things, and questions were answered freely. In case people missed the experience, some of them have the objects of their work available at the flea market outside of Paw Paw.
The 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament had great interest for its first year. Organizer Scott Hobson said that there were seven teams that had signed up but only four showed up. While the tournament was going on, Hobson had a lot of onlookers inquire about the event and many requested online registration for next year for the event that cost $25 per team. Each participant received a t-shirt and the first place winners received trophies. The first place team this year was comprised of Bryant Kieft, Cameron Rendo, and Deven Schultz.
FRESHWATER… Foam Pit was a another huge hit on this 85- degree day. Kids of all ages enjoyed these cool bubbles sponsored by the Watervliet Business Association and manned by the members of the Freshwater Community Church in Coloma.
The newest Little Mr. and Little Miss Firecracker were crowned during Saturday’s festivities. The 10 contestants were all very festive in their red, white and blue to mark the Independence Day celebration. Nicholas Tenter, 6, was selected as Little Mr. Firecracker. He is the son of Matt and Brandy Tenter. Hannah Halamka, 5, was selected as Little Miss Firecracker. She is the daughter of Jody and Jenni Halamka. One lucky boy and girl had an opportunity to win a bicycle. Contestant Quentin Welty won the boy’s bicycle while Jamie Cartwright won the girl’s bicycle.
The July 4th Grand Parade held Saturday afternoon featured Veterans, community floats, specialty floats, a Christian band performing, the Paw Paw River Jeep Club, Girl Scouts, queens and kings, elected officials, Grand Marshal Chana Kniebes and many more.
Sunday wrapped up the festival
Sunday didn’t disappoint unless of course the winning ticket from the Duck Race wasn’t yours. The ducks made their trek down Mill Creek before droves of people waiting to see if their duck won the race. Don Whitney was the lucky winner of the $1,000 top prize from the annual raffle which is used to help fund the festivities including the wonderful fireworks display which capped off Saturday night.
Winning $500 is Cari Fuller. Deej Leggitt is the winner of $200 and Emily Bowen won $100. Fifty dollar winners are Renee Laper, Clara LaVenney, Khloe Balenciaga, Kate O’Hara, Terry Dixon and Laura Blaney. Jessica Clark, Tabitha Barry, M. Walter, Stacy Hembree, Brenda Durbin, Chase & Cammy Smith, Kim Laper, Joyce Divis, Dennis Frazier and Willy Loshbough all won $25.
The ten $10 winners are Scott Dewey, Elinor VanEgmond, Candace Vance, Ben Wagner, Tom Colman, Jamie Frech, Bob Robinson, Dan Schofield, Angela Wieand and James Smith. The final winning duck through the shoot wins the purchaser a prize of a free ticket for next year’s race.
The Watervliet Business Association has a Facebook page that has all of the entry and contact information available each year. Follow it for announcements about the Independence Day Festival and more that is going on in the community of Watervliet.