Don Stewart receives Glad-Peach Community Service Award
By Christina Gelder
Don Stewart is retiring from his duties related to the Glad-Peach Festival after more than 15 years which makes him a great pick for the Community Service Award.
Throughout his time volunteering for the festival Stewart has done several different jobs and been a part of many aspects. He was originally asked by longtime family friend Sandi Munchow to help with the youth parade. From there he worked on the brochure, website, fund-raising database, t-shirt barn and was even responsible for bringing a monster truck in for a couple of years. “I have done a lot of little jobs along the way,” says Stewart modestly.
For Stewart, the best part is seeing everyone have fun. “The festival is for the community,” he says, “it’s nice to see people enjoying themselves.” He thinks it is unique to have so much support from the city and the township and accredits that to helping the festival succeed. He would like to see the festival stay in the community and do well for many more years, making sure to point out that it is simply not possible without all of the volunteers.
Stewart was not expecting this award at all. He says he was surprised and honored, pleased that his efforts were noticed and appreciated.
Originally from South Florida Stewart and his wife Sue ended up in Coloma in 1982 and they have been a part of the community ever since. They have one daughter and three grandchildren. Stewart says that they are looking forward to spending more time with family, traveling and just enjoying life.
Keeler Township legal action targets blight and violations
By Annette Christie
The legal section of the Keeler Township Board agenda is getting larger as township officials continue to work on cleaning up the township. Supervisor Bill Kays announced at the August 1 meeting of the board that the demolition is complete on the Sister Lakes Playhouse property. Clerk Carl Davis said that though the township spent over $30,000 for all of the expenses involved in getting the property to this point, that they will be able to re-coup it with a possible sale of the property.
Kays said that an unsafe structure located at 60476 Territorial Road has been referred to the attorney. He reported that the owner has contacted the building inspector in regards to removing it. Another structure located near the west end of Round Lake is also being addressed. Kays said the owner is removing the brush and tall grass and is working on bringing the structure into compliance.
While semi-trailers are still being used as accessory buildings in two places, the township has sent citations to the owners for those zoning violations. Both of those situations should be resolved very soon. The township has issued seven citations for extra tall grass, four of which are now in compliance.
One resident asked during public comments if the board was addressing two big semis and a bus on Charles Street. Deputy Hochsprung said that all of the other vehicles were brought into compliance. One vehicle is still being addressed but they are keeping close tabs on it. “It looks like a ghetto up there,” the resident commented. Hochsprung said that a neighboring property owner had eight other vehicles that were either brought into compliance or gotten rid of. The resident went on to ask about the white house on the corner of Lakeshore and Denton. She said the property also has a lot of vehicles. Kays said that he and Hochsprung and the Zoning Administrator will be following up on those areas.
Rep. Griffin updates board on her agenda
State Representative Beth Griffin announced her summer accessibility which are on the 4th Mondays. Griffin will be at Hartford City Hall on August 7 for citizens to reach out if they have any concerns.
She reported that it was a busy, first six months but they did get the budget done on time. She said the road funding is flowing through to the counties. “We will continue to invest in roads through the general fund,” Griffin said. She was pleased that they finished the budget with increases in home services to seniors such as meals on wheels. She was also happy to report that legislators passed a budget that will provide a record amount of per pupil funds for the public education students in the budget for this year. This summer they are focused on being in the districts and being accessible to the people. Rep. Griffin said one of the things she was to focus on still is no-fault insurance reform. Her next summer update newsletter will have more information on that.
Road Commission reports on road work in the township
Rick Boze with Van Buren County Road Commission reported that the grades are cut and the curbs are done for the 70th Street and Red Arrow Hwy. project which means pavement is close. He said the construction company has been working pretty steady especially with the Pokagon Tribe offering an incentive to complete the job sooner than the original estimated completion date.
Boze reports the project on CR 687 north of Hartford is continuing but was delayed because the Road Commission had to wait for the blue herons to hatch before they could begin. The project on CR 687 from Territorial Road to Hartford will be delayed until next year as the federal money was delayed. Boze said that it has been appropriated but the job hasn’t been bid out yet. He said that the Road Commission will probably do the tree work yet this year.
Sister Lakes Fire responded to three calls in Keeler Township for the month of July. They also had 15 other calls for service for the month.
The Keeler Township Fire Department responded to 16 calls last month including one fire burn complaint, 15 emergency medical service calls, two tubing accidents, a Jet Ski accident, and a car accident.
Van Buren County Deputy Ray Hochsprung worked nine days last month in Keeler Township due to training sessions and vacation. In all, he worked 11 complaints, one of which was criminal. He said there were two traffic property damage accidents, seven traffic stops, eight driver warnings, and three citations. Hochsprung especially wanted to acknowledge the Van Buren County Sheriff reserve and posse units who were here for the parade, fireworks, and the triathlon.
The Zoning Administrator reported that six portable signs on wheels, in the township, are non-compliant. He has contacted the owners and four have responded, bringing them into compliance. Allyn Anthony said the issue is the ordinance which states that the sign has to be 15’ from the property line; however, with businesses being so close, some don’t have that much room. Anthony said he is going to ask the Planning Commission to revise the ordinance to reduce the feet required from the property line. The Planning Commission will meet the 4th Tuesday of the month.
A question was raised from a resident regarding a fire pit at a nearby establishment. It was used recently and put large hot ash on her roof and in her yard. She asked the board to look into what is allowed regarding the use of it and whether there are any restrictions or permits required. Kays said he will check with the Sister Lakes Fire Chief.
Also the resident asked, on behalf of her neighbors, about live music on the exterior deck at the same establishment. With Labor Day approaching the residents are concerned about this given that last September the owner had live music outside. Anthony said that any live music had to be inside. The resident said that the owner has had them outside on the 1st and the 22nd of July. On July 1 it was one guy playing the guitar but on July 22 it was a band with a full light show and playing loud music until 11:00 p.m. Anthony said again that it is not allowed. Kays said they will follow up on the complaint.
In other business, the board addressed multiple budget amendments that were necessary including the addition of $2,500 for election equipment necessary for the new state mandated election system that is being put in place. While the state is reimbursing the local entities for the major equipment necessary, there are still some small items the township will need to purchase to put it all together.
Burnette Foods expanding
At last month’s meeting a public hearing was held to consider an Industrial Facilities Exemption Certificate for Burnette Foods, Inc. The company is considering a $4 million dollar expansion with the addition of 15-20 more employees. The expansion will increase the number of production lines which will double their production. The exemption provides a 50% reduction in taxes for a 12-year period. This is the third expansion for the company, following one in 2006 and 2015. The board approved the Industrial Facilities Exemption Certificate unanimously.
TROPHIES IN HAND… Congratulations to the Watervliet 8U All Star team for a great season. The boys were the champions of the Hartford and Paw Paw tournaments. The boys also made it to the semi-finals of the Lakeshore tourna-ment. Their season record was 12-2-1. Pictured (from the left) are: Front row – Coach Larry Ryan, Ashton Coleman, Nate Schmitt, Lucadis Fonseca, Mark Birmele, and Nathan Harasewicz; Back row – Coach Brian Morris, Khannor Hamilton, Nicholas Reeves, Talynn Davis, Lucas Lents, Cael Morris, Cayden Ryan, Ethan Eggert, Coach Travis Hamilton, and Coach Mark Reeves. Special thanks to our sponsors: Araceli C. Mesiona-Brucal MD, Best way Disposal, the Lents family, Lindy’s Lockers, Modern Woodman, Ryan’s Electrical Services, Trident Builders, Trident Dock and Dredge, Watervliet Hardware, and the Watervliet Recreation Council.
Coloma’s Glad-Peach Festival turns 50
By Christina Gelder
The Coloma festival that is a summer staple and can always be counted on to usher in the month of August is celebrating 50 years this year. That is quite the feat for a local festival put on solely by volunteers with generous donations from the community and surrounding area. It speaks well of a community that can pull together and get things done.
Going back even further, according to the North Berrien Historical Museum, the first festival was held in August of 1946 one year after World War II ended to celebrate the anniversary of V-J Day. In subsequent years a gladiolus show was added and it was eventually named the Gladiolus Festival. At that time gladiolus were a big deal in the area with a large grower and distributor outside of town that is now DeGroot.
The Gladiolus Festival was successfully held until a controversy led to it being cancelled in 1955. The flower show was then held in Watervliet before becoming the Southwestern Michigan Gladiolus Society. That group went on to join forces with the Michigan Gladiolus Society and by 1964 had become one of the biggest flower societies in the Midwest, hosting three annual shows.
In 1967 the Coloma Jaycees were a key part of bringing back the Coloma Gladiolus Festival. At that time, it was mostly a flower show and parade. In the mid-1970s the interest in the flower show was declining and so the festival continued without it.
In 1981 a local farmer, Paul Friday, who was involved with the Michigan Peach Grower’s Association purposed that peaches be added to the festival name. The peach growers were offering financial support so the name was officially changed to the Glad-Peach Festival in 1981.
Throughout the 1980s the festival grew to be a lot bigger deal as events were added and aggressive fund-raising was done. The festival became known not only for the parade but also the fireworks show, youth parade, a huge car show and two stages with live music.
Over the years a strong band of volunteers has kept the festival going. Every year is a little different as some events come and go but Coloma’s Glad-Peach Festival is still a wonderful, family oriented weekend for everyone to enjoy.
There is currently an exhibit at the North Berrien Historical Museum commemorating the 50 years of Glad-Peach. The exhibit will be open to the public for the rest of the year.