Watervliet celebrates the 4th with fabulous festival, fun events
By Kristy Noack
If word on the street is any indication, last weekend’s annual Independence Day Weekend Celebration in Watervliet was the best in recent memory. Visitors to and residents of the community were pleased with the numerous events offered, the quality of vendors, and friendliness of everyone they encountered. When festival co-chairperson Amy Loshbough said, “Stay home for the 4th!” she had the right idea.
Sun goes down on first day of celebration with victors in three events
Watervliet’s three-day Independence Day Celebration began Friday, June 30 with the Elkhart Garden Tractor Pull on Pleasant Street. Fans of the pull lined both sides of the street to catch a glimpse of smaller 10 horsepower tractors and large open stock tractors pull the transfer sled as far as they could go. To eke out several more feet, drivers would lean back in their tractor seat as the front wheels lifted off the ground. This marked the first year the ECTP visited the festival.
FACE PAINTING FUN… Jenni Bush, owner of Funny Face, a face painting enterprise out of St. Joe, puts her talent to work on Hadley Musick, 5, of Colo-ma, Saturday during the Inde-pendence Day Celebration over the weekend in Watervliet. (TRC photo by Kristy Noack)
LITTLE MISS AND MR. FIRECRACKER CROWNED… The 2017 Little Miss and Mr. Firecracker con-test was held at 11:00 a.m. Sat-urday. Winning the Little Miss contest was Amiah Apreza, while Jackson Halamka won the Mr. crown. Pictured (from the left) in front are: Amiah and Jackson; back row: Miss Wa-tervliet First Runner-up Katie Schultz, Miss Blossomtime and Miss Watervliet Kaylee Chapin, Miss Watervliet Second Run-ner-up Mercede Daugherty, Miss Congeniality Maggie Lynch and Mr. Watervliet Hay-don Richards. (TRC photo by Kristy Noack)
Makinzie Krider, 9, of Cromwell, Indiana won the 10 stock after she pulled the transfer sled 227 feet during two runs. Krider, who has three years’ experience, said, “My first pull was a dirt pull and I didn’t do well. I figured out my zone and I’ve won (first place) three years now.”
While the tractor pull was in full force, the first annual decorated golf cart and side-by-side parade was held. Seventeen entries took to the parade line, which wound around Watervliet Township and city for almost 45 minutes before ending at the Main Street stage. The winning entry was “Santa Celebrates the 4th!” The Gator was decorated in red, white, and blue and Santa proudly hoisted an American flag. A little rain fell on the parade, but it was just a sprinkle and festival goers didn’t mind a bit.
In their debut outing for the festival, wrestlers with Independence Pro Wrestling hit the squared circle for plenty of high flying, body slamming, tough man action Friday night. The crowd hollered at the wrestlers and winced each time someone was dropped to the mat.
Super Future topped the Nomads in the tag team match, and MM3, otherwise known as Malcolm Monroe III, won the four-man match. He was the last man standing as Ace, the Maltese Tiger, and the Hyena were down for the count. In the final match of the night, Jake Omen was crowned IPW heavyweight champion in an upset.
Saturday held activities for festival goers of all interests: exercise, food, planes, cars & fun
CHRISTMAS IN JUNE?… With Santa’s little helper Mike Noack driving the Gator sleigh, “Santa Celebrates the 4th” won the golf cart parade Friday evening to kick off Watervliet’s annual celebration weekend.
Saturday dawned sunny and warm, and almost ideal conditions greeted the walkers and runners participating in the 30th annual Gene Bednarowski Cherry 5K at North Elementary School.
Philip Davis of Arlington Heights, Illinois and South Haven was the first racer to cross the finish line. Davis, running for the first time at Watervliet said, “This course is awesome. There’s a couple of hills, you get to run by the lake.”
Phoebe Bates of Carmel, Indiana was the first female finisher in the 5K run. Nada Kramp of Stevensville was the first finisher of the 5K walk. Dave Waaso of St. Joseph led the men’s charge in the 5K walk.
Race organizer Tim Lynch, with his wife Carla, announced he would be stepping down following Saturday’s event. “We’ve been a part of it for nine years. It’s always been a school event, so Aaron Weber (the Watervliet varsity cross country and track coach) will take over. (Weber’s) just going to take the lead baton,” Lynch said. He and Carla will be stepping away but may maintain some level of involvement down the road. Carla said, “It will be nice to be a spectator.”
While the race was underway, pancake batter was being dropped on the grill at the Watervliet Fire Department. The pancake breakfast featured regular and blueberry pancakes with sausage links. The tables in the garage were full as visitors helped the department fill their coffers in their largest fund-raiser of the year.
FIRING UP A GOOD BREAKFAST… George Smith of the Watervliet Fire Depart-ment adds some blueberries to the grill, as fellow firefighter Corey James offers up some delicious pancakes during the department’s breakfast fund-raiser Saturday morning during the weekend Independence Day celebration. (TRC photo by Kristy Noack)
WFD Chief Dan Jones said, “The guys take a lot of pride in doing what they do. This breakfast helps fund our community outreach, which involves adopting families at Christmas, and public fire education.” Jones has spent 40 years in fire service, including seven as chief and nine with the Watervliet Fire Department.
In another inaugural event, artists lined Main Street just south of the railroad tracks for the Chalk our Block event. Danny Bloss II, an artist from Niles, was creating a goliath moth in front of B&B Outlet. He does numerous chalking events during the spring and summer and was happy to be part of Watervliet’s first go-round.
Bloss’s wife Becky was next to him on the sidewalk creating her own masterpiece, a large tropical fish. Both said each rendering would “take about five hours to complete.”
Kids of all ages enjoyed Kids Zone at Library Park. One of the most popular features was the towering rock climbing wall. Youngsters strapped on gear and set their sights on reaching the top. The wall reached a height of 24 feet according to Vertical Edge Entertainment employees.
Another popular component of Kids Zone was the barrel ride, donated to this year’s event from the KOA Campground in Riverside. Kids Zone also featured face painting by Funny Face of St. Joe, a duck pond where the kids could win a prize, and a Rescue Squad bounce house.
REACHING FOR THE STARS… Jordan Brule, 10, of Watervliet, makes his way up the rock wall Saturday after-noon. The wall, along with a barrel ride, bounce house, and duck pond were part of Kids Zone, hosted at Library Park during Watervliet’s weekend celebration for Independence Day. (TRC photo by Kristy Noack)
Sarett Nature Center was on hand to show off some of their friends of the animal variety – turtles and snakes!
Craig and Gladys Christian had the tough job of determining the winner of the window decorating contest. They ended up with a three-way tie that had to be broken by Watervliet City Manager Michael Uskiewicz. With the tie-breaker broken, it was announced that Robert Michael Salon won first place. Tying for second was the Flower Basket and K9 Learning Center.
The annual 4th of July car show honoring our veterans was a huge hit, as well. The parking lot of Arclight Brewery was filled with Chevys, Fords, and Dodges from almost every decade. The chrome was polished, the hoods raised, and there were plenty of onlookers taking in the scene. One fan of the show said it was one of the best he’s seen! All profits raised from the event are donated to the Battle Creek Veterans Administration Hospital to provide care to wounded service members.
HOODS UP… Hoods aplenty were up Saturday morning dur-ing the annual 4th of July car show, held at Arclight Brewery. Pictured here are a blue Chevy Fleetline, white 1940 Ford De-luxe Couple, a black 1957 two-door 327, and blue 1969 Dodge Super Bee. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)
Rod Szotek of Paw Paw showed his 1950 Chevy Fleetline. He said it was a replica “of the first car we had,” referring to his wife and him. “I bought one used in 1956 after coming out of the service.” The Army vet and his wife Joan have celebrated 60 years together, proving that just like old cars, long marriages are classic, show love, and should be treated with the utmost respect.
Airplanes aplenty were touching down and taking off from Watervliet Municipal Airport, as the facility hosted their annual fly-in and steak fry. With the temperature creeping over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it sure was a warm one at the grills, but the volunteers didn’t seem to mind. Delicious food lined the tables, and attendees could watch aircraft land on the green runway and take off into the blue sky all afternoon.
Watervliet Royalty adds little crown holders
The newest Little Miss and Mr. Firecracker were crowned at 11:00 a.m. Saturday. Out of sixteen contestants, Amiah Apreza was named Little Miss Firecracker, while Jackson Halamka won the Mr. Firecracker crown. On hand to dole out the awards were Miss Blossomtime (and Watervliet’s own) Kaylee Chapin, Mr. Watervliet Haydon Richards, First Runner-up to Miss Watervliet Katie Schultz, Second Runner-up to Miss Watervliet Mercede Daugherty, and Miss Congeniality Maggie Lynch. The 2017 Snow Princess and First Runner-Up were also on hand.
Winners of the bikes were Jay Smith and Olivia Forrester.
Saturday afternoon entertained the crowds with a glorious parade, more competitions and more food
The Grand Parade was filled with float, animal, and group entries, as Watervliet native Michael Zehner took his Grand Marshal duties very seriously as he followed the Watervliet Police Department to kick off the parade. Zehner was all smiles as he waved to everyone.
Awards were handed out in six divisions. In the youth category, Olivia Kinzler won first place. She has been in the parade for five years and is only five years old. The Boy Scouts took second place and the Girl Scouts finished third.
In the Marching/Walking units’ division, Knight Winds Renaissance Group took first, followed by Lakeland Health and Watervliet District Library.
The River of Life Church won the floats category for their entry “I Love Sundays.” They were followed by Hartford and Watervliet community floats.
The Judges’ Award went to the Coloma float.
Lest We Forget won the top prize in the Vehicle Entries category. The Mudd Run finished second followed by Jim Hammond.
The Mid-America Cowgirls Rodeo Drill Team took first place in the Animal category. The North Branch Riders won second place, while John Nelson and his rescued St. Bernard finished third.
Judges for the grand parade were: Dave Scheuer, Sam Kabelman, and Nikki Needham.
There was plenty of opportunity to get some great grub as Food Vendors Row was stocked with pulled pork, elephant ears, kettle corn, and funnel cakes. Five different eateries, serving up delicious edibles, were available for festival goers.
A meet-and-greet event was held with the Coloma, Hartford, and Watervliet royalty courts following the parade. The opportunity to meet all three local queens and kings was considered a highlight of the festival.
The Mid-America Cowgirls Rodeo Drill Team also held a meet-and-greet in Flaherty Park following the parade. The location, nestled along Mill Creek, was ideal and visitors commented they were thankful for the shade! So were the horses! The opportunity to meet the cowgirls was a great one, and they were very kind, answering questions and giving a demonstration.
Wrestling was back in the ring for more bouts on Saturday afternoon, just as the winners of the parade were being announced. The seats were once again full of excited fans that both encouraged and derided their favorite and least favorite wrestlers.
RAISED IN PRAISE… Hands were raised in praise Sunday morning during the community worship service at the Main Street tent. Singing as part of the event was the group Relent-less, from the River of Life Church. The community wor-ship service was part of the Wa-tervliet Independence Day Cel-ebration. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)
The July 4×4 Mudd Run, in their second outing at Watervliet’s Independence Day festival, switched locations this year and held their races in the vacant lot across from Hays Park. They featured three different runs, from the littlest power wheels to the biggest Jeeps and full-sized trucks. There were plenty of people cheering from the stands as the mud flew from the tires.
MUD? WHAT MUD?… From kids’ power wheels to full-size Jeeps, size didn’t matter Satur-day during the second annual July 4×4 Mudd Run. This year, the event was held at the vacant lot across from Hays Park. (TCR photo by Karl Bayer)
The Cardio-Drummers from Healthy to the Core were out in full force as they banged out a demonstration on the exercise at the Main Stage.
The corn hole tournament was a rousing success. Ten teams competed at a time to win the top prize and bragging rights.
Two bands hit the Main Street stage Saturday. Hey Girl Hey and C&S Delivery cranked out some smooth sounds as people in the audience sang along and swayed with the music.
The Hooterville Hitters took to the diamond at Hays Park against a very tough House of David Echoes team. As the quartet, Memory Lane, sang the National Anthem, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and strolled through the crowd of 65 people, the night belonged to vintage baseball. The Hitters, despite their best efforts, fell to the Echoes 19-13.
BAGS TOSSED… in the first annual Corn Hole Tournament leaving first place and the winner of the Michigan/Michigan State tickets to Nick Prince and Josh Forrester. Larry and Becky Ryan won the raffle and took home the set of custom boards. Second place went to Jimmy Butler and Devin Schultz.
The night sky lights up with a drone show and spectacular fireworks
Another first-time event at the festival was the Great Lakes Drone Company’s drone show, which started just prior to the ever-popular fireworks.
The drone show was the company’s take on “Flight through the Ages” and included imagery in the sky of an eagle flapping his wings, a hot air balloon, a fighter jet, a rocket soaring into space, and the Earth rotating on its axis. Each segment was timed to music.
Despite a few technical difficulties, including a few drones falling from the sky, the show went off without a hitch. In what turned out to be its last act of the night, the largest drone hoisted an American flag high into the night sky as Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” played from the speakers. As the song ended and fireworks began, the drone got tangled up with the flag and ended the segment with a bang as it hit the ground.
The drone show was enjoyed by many who thought the lights “were cool” and had “never seen anything like that before.”
Red, white, and blue fireworks took to the sky as well as the most popular attraction took center stage. With pops and whizzes and bangs, the fireworks lit up the night in a colorful display.
Sunday concluded the All American celebration with more food, some worship, ping-pong balls and floating ducks
On Sunday, the final day of the festival, a community worship service was held at 11:00 a.m. under the Main Street tent. Every seat was filled, as River of Life’s band Relentless sang a joyful noise into the air. Audience members also heard a great spoken message and more praise worthy tunes.
While adults gathered at the airport for a yummy pancake, egg, and sausage breakfast, kids were anxiously awaiting the ping-pong ball drop. The airplane dropped the little balls from the sky and the youngsters raced to pick them up. Prizes can be collected at each location written on the ball.
At 2:00 p.m. Mill Creek was overrun by little yellow ducks. The bank in Flaherty Park was lined with anxious audience members who wanted to see if their duck would be one of the first 30 to be pulled from the water. The ducks jockeyed for position, as they raced down the creek towards the chute.
Winning the top prize of $1,000 was Kevin Christiansen. Maureen Pavletic, Kati Burtchett, Peter Shanley, Linda Rizzo, Maureen Pavletic, Scott Dewey, Bob Freed, Denise Westfall, David Flaherty, Ken Evett, Robin Mileski, Jennifer Michael, Cinde Mastny, Della Hodge, Crystal Cartwright, Holly Vanhorn, Mindy Rodriguez, Owen Fillmore, Steve Gagliane, Patt Bambrick, Tyler Burbach, Keith Thomas, Rich Skruch, Dylan Tucker, Lisa Struska, Austin Castaneda, Jon Bisnett, David Williams, and Michelle Galla also won. Vic Holland was the lucky winner of a ticket to next year’s race; his duck was the first out of the chute following the winners.
BEST DECORATED STOREFRONT… With a pa-triot theme on the left and a Hooterville Hitters vintage baseball theme on the right, the winner of the best decorated storefront for the Independence Day weekend festival in Water-vliet was Robert Michael Salon, located at 324 North Main Street.
This year’s festival was organized by the Watervliet Business Association and co-chaired by Amy Loshbough and Rochelle Ulleg. The entire group should be commended for their efforts in creating a wonderful three-day event that highlighted the Watervliet city and township. A big thank you goes out to all who helped with an event, volunteered their time and energy, and sponsored the festival.
The organizers couldn’t have made the festival a success without the help of Watervliet Police Department Chief Tim Sutherland, Watervliet Fire Department Chief Dan Jones, and Watervliet Public Works Department Supervisor Jeff Allen, and their respective departments. All three organizations were quick to help when called and went above and beyond.
Mark your calendars now for next year’s festival dates of June 29, 30, and July 1. With the 4th of July landing on a Wednesday in 2017, the celebration will begin the Friday before. Join in the fun next year as the festival continues to grow!