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08-08-2019 Watervliet Fire Department celebrates 100 years with open house Saturday; Coloma festival

Watervliet Fire Department celebrates 100 years with open house Saturday

By Teresa Smithers

Headlines on the March 10, 1911, Watervliet Record read,HOT NOON DAY BLAZE Threatened Destruction of Blarney Castle, WATER FROM MILL Saved Town from Serious Conflagration

The article read… “Fire broke out in the frame addition to John Lottridge’s saloon at 12:40 Monday and for a time threatened the destruction of the entire building and adjoining stores as well. Chief Hammel and his company of volunteer fire fighters were on the ground promptly with two leads of hose, but there was a delay in getting the water and the long wooden structure was a mass of flames before there was any water pressure in the hose, and Carmody’s store and the adjoining livery barn seemed sure to catch on fire. Just as things began to look desperate the pressure appeared and the powerful streams of water forced from the big pumps at the paper mill soon brought the blaze under control and again this fire protection saved thousands of dollars’ worth of property as it has a number of times before.”

ERECTING A TRIBUTE TO FIREFIGHTERS… The bronze overlaid 1600-lb. statue portrays the calm confidence of a firefighter. The team of Mike Camp, Dave Woodward, Jim Enochs, Cody Irwin, Bill Loshbough and Chief Jones work to set it in place. (TCR photo by Teresa Smithers)


This Saturday, August 10, 3-5 p.m., the Watervliet Fire Department (WFD), Station 2100, celebrates 100 years of service to our community. Although no records have been found for the years prior to 1919, it is well known that there was a volunteer fire department. The dedicated work of this department, with John Hammel as Chief, was instrumental in purchasing equipment and achieving the highest insurance rating possible for a city with a force of volunteers. As mentioned in the article above, they worked closely with the Paper Mill.

In 1919, WFD became certified and a paid on-call department. It is now celebrating its centennial. In honor of the occasion, the Watervliet Firefighters Association ordered a life-sized statue to be created representing the bravery and dedication of every firefighter. With the teamwork typical of this department, that 1600-lb. statue now stands outside the fire hall.

A 4-foot by 3-foot black granite memorial wall is in the works, to be dedicated to a century of firefighters and listing both the original firefighters (those that are known) and current ones (see the list that follows). Flanking that will be two 3-foot x 3-foot plaques – one listing past members and another listing “Life Members” (those who have served at least 10 years with the department).

“It doesn’t matter if someone worked for the department with one fire or for thirty years,” Fire Chief Dan Jones said, who has been with the department himself 10 years. “That volunteer still put his life on the line and deserves to be recognized.”

This isn’t about glory. Chief Jones runs his department on the premise that firefighters are public servants, and as such, they are here to serve the public, not seek self-glory. His team reflects that integrity, working silently and selflessly to perform the tasks that need to be done to save lives. And there are a lot of tasks.

They don’t just battle blazes; they educate the public on fire safety. They perform people and animal rescues, they respond to vehicular accidents. In this area of many lakes and rivers, they act like a mini Coast Guard, performing water search-and-rescues no matter how long it takes. In the spring of 2018 they battled extreme weather, high water, swift currents, snags and log jams – searching 48 days and nights until the lost was found. And although the WFD no longer has an ambulance service, they are still a licensed EMS agency that assists the sick and injured.

No, it’s not about glory. It’s about being on call 24/7, missing nights out, anniversaries, holidays and birthday parties to save lives.

In large cities, firefighters are paid full-time salaries and they work shifts. When they go home, they can be relatively certain that they won’t be called back before their next shift. As a paid on-call firefighter, WFD volunteers are on-call 24/7, getting paid a stipend for each call. In addition to that, they go through several required trainings that, since most employers don’t allow time off to save lives, they must take around the schedule of their day jobs that pay the bills. It’s a sacrifice they accept as part of being a firefighter.

Since becoming certified as a department, WFD has focused on obtaining better equipment and training in that equipment. And they have had to house said equipment.

About 1921, they moved to a frame building, located at Pleasant and First Streets near the current city hall. To quote a Watervliet Record of that year, it was “located partly in the street, partly on railroad property and partly on a triangular tract of ground owned by the city.”

In 1932, the current city hall building was built to house the fire engine as well as city offices. Then in 1963, the current WFD fire hall was built, with additions added in 1984 and 2001 to house their growing line of equipment.

WFD now has two high-tech, top-of-the-line pumper trucks (one platform, one tender/rescue) with another pumper in reserve. They have a tanker, a light grass rig, a wildland pumper, a light rescue, a QRV med unit, a command truck and two boats. They also have the use of a Kawasaki Mule that can be replaced with a new one every 90 days.

EARLY FIREFIGHTING CREW… Unfortunately, we do not have the names of the Watervliet firefighters in this undated photo. However, it shows one of the earliest trucks of the WFD. Note the helmets, the fire axe and the dog.

Top-of-the-line equipment allows Watervliet home and business owners to have the lowest fire insurance rate possible. It also causes WFD to stay busier than most rural departments. WFD is the fourth busiest fire department in Berrien County, just under Benton Harbor, Niles and Chikaming Township, working in tandem with North Berrien and Hartford fire departments, and Covert as needed.

If one of these departments gets a call, Watervliet responds as if they had gotten the call themselves. But really, if anyone needs help, Watervliet doesn’t turn them down.

“Hey, if my house was on fire,” Jones said, “I wouldn’t care what name is on the side of the truck. So, if they need us, we’re going to be there.”

WFD has come a long, long way from church bells and phone trees. Celebrate and honor the first 100 years of this firefighting excellence with these public servants and check out the equipment they use at an Open House this Saturday, August 10, 3-5 p.m., with hot dogs, hamburgers, a history of the department, and an honor roll of the volunteer firefighters who started it all.


Fire Chief Dan Jones, Bill Whitney, Justin Scheetz, Chad Hunt, Dave Woodward, Ralph Thurston, Jim Enochs, Blake Kinzler, Al DiBrito, Zoey Pritchard, Rick Ertman, Don Whitney, Quinton Childs, Jon Van Lente, Cody Irwin, Cole Hunt, Toby Adams, Kyle Christopher, George Smith, Bill Loshbough, Tom Sexton, and Mike Camp.

Coloma festival has beautiful weather and good attendance

By Annette Christie

The annual celebration of the gladiolus flower and peaches had a wonderful sunny weekend as its backdrop in the community of Coloma.

Friday night brought in the crowds for the ribbon cutting, crowning of the prince and princess, dancing, exhibits, and musical entertainment.

LET THE FUN BEGIN… 2019 Miss Coloma Samantha Scott (left) and Mr. Coloma/ Mr. Blossomtime Sin’cere Taylor do the official ribbon cutting to kick off the 2019 Coloma Glad-Peach Festival. (TCR photos by Annette Christie)

Glad-Peach Prince and Princess

Following the ribbon cutting by Miss Coloma Samantha Scott and Mr. Coloma/Mr. Blossomtime Sin’cere Taylor, the newest royalty in Coloma were crowned. Dakota Pulido was crowned as Glad-Peach Prince. He is the son of Ashlee Wheaton and Emilio Pulido.  Lilly White was crowned as Glad-Peach Princess.  She is the daughter of Chad and Dani White. Her first runner-up is Olivia Shuck. She is the daughter of Timothy and Stephanie Schuck.  Her second runner-up is Aubree Perry. She is the daughter of Brianna Head and Najarione Perry.

Bake fest, glad, and business display awards

2019 ROYALTY… Coloma Glad-Peach Prince and Princess and their court (from the left): 2nd Runner-up Aubree Perry; Prince Dakota Pulido; Princess Lilly White; and 1st Runner-up Olivia Shuck.)

The Bake Fest and Gladiolus entry winners were also announced at the opening ceremonies.  Brook Stewart received the Best of Show Award for her Peach Cream Cheese Danish. Other winners of the bake fest were Sherry Bachman for her peach pound cake; Jen Springer for her no bake peach cheesecake; and Amy Podman for her perfect peach pie coffee cake. The Best of Show award for her gladiolus entry was Maureen Ovington.

The business display awards were also announced. The Friendly Tavern won Best of Show for the business displays. Other winners were Chamber of Commerce for the best interior business display; Soulard’s Bakery for the best exterior window; Mike’s Pit Stop for the best use of theme; Four Seasons Spa & Pool for their best use of glads and peaches; and Chemical Bank for the Most Welcoming exterior.

Saturday activities

Saturday, August 3 kicked off with the annual pancake breakfast at the North Berrien Fire Rescue Station and the Glad-Peach 5K Run and Walk (see Press Box pages for results).

The annual library sale had a steady stream of lookers and buyers during their event at the library on Saturday.

The family art fair and kids games dotted the weekend with festivities.

FESTIVAL HONOR… Carole Sternaman, selected as the Parade Grand Marshall makes her way down the parade route for the Grand Parade.

WATERVLIET FLOAT… The community of Watervliet made their way to Coloma for the Glad-Peach Festival with their float carrying the theme “Sweet Home Alabama”. Royalty included Miss Watervliet Hannah Yerington, Co-Mr. Watervliet Derrick Burkhardt; First Runner-up Emma Yazel and Firecracker Royalty Nicholas Tenter and Hannah Halamka.

HARTFORD’S FLOAT… Miss Hartford Brynn Duffy and Mr. Hartford Xavier Salinas brought their Community float, As Big as Kansas, As Big as Oz, to the Coloma Glad-Peach Grand Parade. They were joined by their respective courts.

Festival parade

The 52nd Annual Glad-Peach Festival Parade was held at 1:00 p.m. Saturday and lead by Grand Marshal Carole Sternaman. The parade awards were presented as follows: to Best Historical Importance was the Lest We Forget unit; Best Color Guard was the Berrien County Sheriff’s Unit; Best Marching Unit was the Coloma High School Band; Best Unique Entry was the Freshwater Community Church live

COLOMA COMMUNITY FLOAT… featured Miss Coloma Samantha Scott and Mr. Blossomtime/ Mr. Co-loma Sin’cere Taylor and their courts. The theme of the float was Massachusetts, Spirit of America. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)

music float; Best Antique Tractor was Lindy Smith; Best Organizational/Civic Float was CW Tech Robotarians; Best Overall Float was Berrien Springs; and Best Use of Glads and Peaches was the Coloma Pageant Organization featuring Mr. and Miss Coloma and their courts.

Peach Pit Spit results

The Peach Pit Spit was hosted by Mr. Coloma and his Court. There were three categories, ladies, men, and kids. The top three women were Courtney Churchill of Coloma with a distance of 14.4 feet; Amber Street of Coloma with a distance of 14 feet; and Alecia Kosek of Coloma with a distance of 13.5 feet. The top three men were Karson Kosek of Coloma with a distance of 16.2 feet; Dave Russell from Illinois with a distance of 15 feet; and Nick Maiers of Illinois with a distance of 13.5 feet.  The top three children under 12 were Elizabeth Russell of Illinois with a distance of 7.6 feet; Cody Hess of Coloma with a distance of 6.5 feet; and Masyn Hess was 5.2 feet.

Festival family fun

The hotdog eating contest, balloon toss and a Peach Pie Eating Contest were all well received.

The entertainment on Saturday night included the band “Dart Board Compromise” on the Leonard Main Stage starting at 5:00 p.m., followed by “Ginger and Her Baked Goods”.

Saturday night was topped off with the Peach-Tac-U-Lar aerial fireworks display downtown.

Sunday provided the car/motorcycle show, a Kids Fun Fair, Community Worship Service and the kids pedal tractor pull.

Car Show

The car show had the following categories: New Make Cars (Terry McCoy 1st place); Muscle Car (Mark Dibble 1st place); Truck (Tim Cummings 1st place); Street Rod (Larry Greenman 1st place); and Classic (Steve Gagliano 1st place).

Pedal Tractor Pull

There were three classes for the kid’s pedal tractor pull: Class 3 (56-65 lbs.) 1st place Avery Rugg; 2nd place John Dahlquist; 3rd place Everett Trail; Class 2 (46-55 lbs.) 1st place Savannah Rugg; 2nd place Dominic Vanderbough; 3rd place Cooper Rodell; Class 1 (35-45 lbs.) 1st place Sophia Vanderbough; 2nd place Gibby Jacobs; 3rd place Beatrice Trail.

The community is looking forward to the 2020 Coloma Glad-Peach Festival, always on the first weekend of August

AWARD WINNING MARCHING… The Coloma High School Marching Band won the award for Best Marching Unit in their hometown parade. The band is directed by Cheryl Thomas. (TCR photos by Annette Christie)

BEST GLADIOLUS WINNER… Maureen Ovington won Best of Show with gladiolus entry.

BUSINESS DISPLAY WINNER… The Friendly Tavern was selected as Best of Show for their festival decorations. The restaurant was a popular spot during the annual festival event.

DUCKY CATCH… (photo right) 2019 Coloma Glad-Peach Princess 1st Runner-up Olivia Shuck takes part in the kids games held on Sunday. She grabbed the fish and netted a prize as a result.

2019 COLOMA GLAD-PEACH BAKE FEST WINNER… Brook Stewart won Best of Show with her peach cream cheese Danish entry.



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