Fantastic Watervliet Independence Weekend Celebration Revisited

4TH OF JULY LITTLE MISS AND MR. FIRECRACKER COURT… The Little Miss and Mr. Firecracker were crowned Saturday morning under the Main Stage tent. Caroline Weber was chosen as the 2016 Lit-tle Miss Firecracker, while Braydon Collins was named Little Mr. Firecracker. They joined the 2016 Miss and Mr. Watervliet court. Pictured front row (from the left): Little Mr. Firecracker Braydon Collins, Little Miss Firecracker Caroline Weber, and 1st Runner-Up Li-lyahna Collins. Back row (from the left): Mr. Watervliet Brody Roland, Miss Blossomtime’s Miss Congeniality and 1st Run-ner-Up to Miss Watervliet Aliea Chapin, Miss Watervliet Karlee Liles, and 2nd Runner-Up and Miss Congeniality Brittney Collins. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


        Wonderful weather helps Watervliet celebrate fun-filled 4th of July celebration

By Kristy Noack

 Watervliet celebrated the 4th of July holiday weekend in high style with a two-day celebration that featured wrestling, vintage baseball, a parade, and activities for kids of all ages.  The celebration kicked off Saturday morning at the Watervliet Fire Department with a pancake breakfast enjoyed by many.  Firefighters Dave Woodward and Jim Enochs served up pancakes hot off the griddle as the rest of the department members kept the coffee warm and orange juice cold, cleaned tables, and refilled syrup bottles.

Gene Bednarowski 5k

BEDNAROWSKI 5K RUN WINNERS… Peyton Whitt, 15, of Kalamazoo was the first female finisher in the Gene Bednarowski 5k run held Satur-day morning. First place overall finisher was Calvin Bates of Carmel, Indiana. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


At 8:00, amid cool temperatures and no wind, the Gene Bednarowski 5k race kicked off at North Elementary school. The event featured a run and walk. According to organizer Tim Lynch, the race had about 350 participants. He said, “Sixty [entrants] signed up this morning. We have great weather, great crowd.”  The race returned to North school after a one-year location change to Watervliet High School due to construction at North last year. When Lynch hailed the return of the race “to its original location,” cheers could be heard.  Calvin Barnes, 15, of Carmel, Indiana was the first overall finisher of the 5k run. His time of 16:30.9 earned him first place.  Peyton Whitt, 15, of Kalamazoo was the first female runner to finish. She completed the route in 19:09.8 and finished 11th overall.  Nada Kramp of Stevensville won the 5k walk. She finished first with a time of 33:48.7. Bruce Gelbaugh took first place for the men and third place overall with his time of 39:13.9.  Lillian Wolf, 8, was nestled on the grass following the race enjoying a slice of watermelon. Wolf competed in the 5k run and finished second in her age bracket and 216th overall with a time of 36:48.7.  Wolf, of Hartford, said her mom let her run “If I could prove that I could finish the strawberry run last year, then I could run a 5k this year.”  The Bednarowski marked the fifth 5k Wolf has run. She also competed in Hartford’s Strawberry Festival run this year.

Vendors line sidewalk, Farmers Market featured yummy treats

VENDOR…Groundfloor Bakery of Niles


Vendors lined the sidewalks along Main Street Saturday selling hats, sunglasses, necklaces, and books.  The GroundFlour Bakery of Niles, Michigan opened their bakery stand in the grassy area next to the old pharmacy building.   The stand featured homemade cinnamon rolls, mini apple and blueberry pies, chocolate covered pretzels, rhubarb bread, and baskets of fruit. GroundFlour Bakery, owned by Sarah and Ryan Skinner, also sells their delicious baked goods at the Purple Porch Co-Op in South end on Wednesdays. G. W. Jones owners Cordell and Kay Jones were on hand to show kids how easy saving money could be. They had a fun wind machine encased in a see through booth. Kids could step into the booth, and Mr. Jones would push a button to send money flying. Kids tried to grab as much money as they could and feed it into a “bank.” Any money they “saved” was theirs to keep.

Car Show supports Veterans

 At Arclight Brewery, vehicles began rolling into town early for the 9:00 a.m. car show. Organized by Vick Kinzler and Les Fairbanks, the car show, in its 13th year, filled both parking lots at Arclight. Monies raised from the event are given to the V.A. Hospital in Battle Creek to help care for the veterans in our area.  Nate Wolfe of South Haven spent the morning wandering around the parking lot. It was his first visit to the car show.

SUN’S OUT; HOODS UP… With the hoods up on a line of classic cars including two Ford Mustangs and a Pontiac Bonneville, Nate Wolfe of South Ha-ven checks out the engines during Saturday’s car show honor-ing veterans at Arclight Bre-wery. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


“I like Mustangs,” he said as he checked out a row of cars that included a 2006 blue Ford Mustang, 2014 red Ford Mustang, and 1961 Pontiac Bonneville.  It was a car lover’s delight as attendees could view everything from a 1955 Chevy Bel-Air owned by Stan Robinson of Coloma to a 1978 MG Midget owned by Jeff Muller of Watervliet.  With 50’s music playing the background a Lark’s of Benton Harbor serving pulled pork and chicken from their new trailer, the car show was jumping.  While you could see a 1934 Ford 3-Window owned by Rod Austin of Hartford, the vehicles weren’t limited to cars. Motorcycles and trucks were also on full display with chrome gleaming.  Jack Kuiper of Kalamazoo was out driving his 2015 Chevy Corvette when he drove past the show. He pulled into the driveway and, although he wasn’t showing his car, it did get plenty of looks. This year’s award winners were: Best of Show: Myron Schaffer-Top Ten Awards went to: Troy Kablitz, Steve Gagliano, Gary Shindledecker, Vick Kinzler, Roger Yerington, Jeff Sink, Dan Lok, Rolland Boyd, Tim Donahue, Ken Tomaszewsk-Best Motorcycle: Bill Meachum

Kids zone featured fun!

 This year’s kid zone featured plenty of fun activities for youngsters. Three large inflatables were located on Church Street. A giant slide, obstacle course, and bounce house got quite a workout through Saturday.  New Hope Community Church of Watervliet offered popcorn, flavorful snow cones, and bracelets. All proceeds from their tent were generously donated for the 2017 4th of July festival.  Free face painting was also part of the Kids Zone activities.

Little Miss and  Mr. Firecracker crowned

 The crowning of the Little Miss and Mr. Firecracker contest was held under the Main Stage tent to a full house.  Three young boys vied for the title of Mr. Firecracker. Ultimately, the title was bestowed upon Braydon Collins.  Fifteen little ladies were up for the crown of Little Miss Firecracker. Lilyahna Collins was named first runner-up. Taking the crown, sash, and flowers as Little Miss Firecracker 2016 was Caroline Weber.  The event, organized by Liz Eggert, raised a whopping $7,706.72, which goes to support the Watervliet Pageant Organization.  On hand to crown the Little Miss and Mr. was the Watervliet Court of Royalty. The court included Miss Watervliet Karlee Liles, Miss Blossomtime’s Miss Congeniality and First Runner-Up to Miss Watervliet Aliea Chapin, Second Runner-Up Brittney Collins, and Mr. Watervliet Brody Roland.  The contest also included a special bicycle giveaway to two contestants.  Tyler Jarvis and Brooklynn Pethe were the lucky winners.

Veterans Park rededicated

CARRYING THE COLORS… VFW Post 6803 of Watervliet and American Legion Post 362 of Coloma carry the country’s colors on Saturday in the 4th of July parade. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


Veterans Park in downtown Watervliet was rededicated in a noon ceremony on Saturday. Celebrating not only the 4th of July but the renovations at the park, including new lights and landscaping, the event was attended by 19 people.  Members of the American Legion Post 362 of Coloma and VFW Post 6083 of Watervliet lined the walkway to the park and offered a military salute during the dedication.  Corky Oppeneer, Commander of Post 6083, offered the dedication, while the benediction was given by Pete Petruk, the chaplain of the Coloma American Legion.  In his remarks, Petruk said he hoped the park would “bring reverence” and “bless our land.”  Oppeneer thanked the Watervliet Downtown Development Authority for the park’s renovation. He also thanked “the city’s Public Works Department who does a valiant job of keeping the grass mowed.”

Petal paper, candy, and marching units; it’s a parade!

 The 4th of July parade started at 1:00 p.m. from the old Watervliet Paper Mill site north of town and traveled the length of Main Street. Parade watchers lined the streets, seated in lawn chairs or on the curb.  Forty entries comprised the parade line-up this year. The Watervliet VFW Post 6083 and Coloma American Legion Post 362 carried the colors to start the parade.  Grand Marshal Kevin Schooley, Superintendent of Watervliet Public Schools, led the way for the community of Watervliet float, which featured a theme of “Party in the U.S.A.”  Other entries included patriotic group Lest We Forget,  John  Nelson driving a 1955 Ford Thunderbird with his St. Bernard rescue dog, girl scout units, a cardio drumming exercise group, the Coloma Lioness, the Coloma Community Float showcasing a “Dancing in the Streets” theme, and the North Berrien Historical Museum.  Also in the parade were numerous government officials, representatives from the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, Vassar Farms antique Farmall tractors, and the garden pixies of Silverstone Nursery. The best float award was given to Hartford Royalty. The Community of Watervliet float won the most patriotic category.  The most creative entry award was won by River of Life Church.  Their “I Love Sunday’s” float was decorated with giant ice cream cones, a soda fountain, and cupcake.

RED, WHITE, AND “BLUE”AUTIFUL… Watervliet’s “Party in the U.S.A.” float won the “Most Patriotic” award Saturday during the 4th of July parade. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


Miss Olivia Kinzler, 4, won the spirit award. Miss Kinzler has been a participant in the parade for the past four year. This year, she rode a motorcycle.  The craftsman award was given to Vassar Farms of Hartford and their lineup of antique Farmall tractors.  Best animal entry was awarded to North Branch Riders Horse Riding Club. The club members work hard all year preparing for competition at the Berrien County Youth Fair.  The award for best marching unit was given to Knight Winds Renaissance group. The entry featured dancers, a royal court, sword fighting and staff fighters.  The Judges Award went to the Lest We Forget organization for their tireless work in reminding and educating people about our military and the battles fought for our great nation.  The parade was chaired by Heidi Knight. Judges for the event were Sam Kabelman, Sherri Ulleg, and Bill Tohtz.

Mudd run slings  a lot of dirt

 Dave Stasiak of Kids in the Mudd Off Road Park in Bloomingdale brought a little mud-slinging to Watervliet for the 4th of July festival.  At 3:00 p.m. the Power Wheels event kicked off. Youngsters

WE ALL GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS… Samuel Roland gets a push from Billy Loshbough after his car bogged down during the Power Wheels Division of the Saturday after-noon’s Mudd Run. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


in little power wheels vehicles had the chance to tear around in the dirt.  Winning first place was Lane Ulleg, 6, of Coloma. Savannah Rynberg, 3, of Coloma took second place, and Wyatt Schultz, 3, of Watervliet won third place.  Next up, the bigger boys – and girls – had a chance to sling some dirt. The 4×4 action featured duals between two quads. There was quite an audience on hand to witness the fun.  Stasiak said, “I think [the event] has been real good. It’s been fun and I hope everybody’s having a good time.”  He continued, “This is the kind of event we do every weekend at Kids in the Mudd.” The facility in Bloomingdale is open on weekends through early December, weather permitting.  The group offers a site where people can off-road through trails, camp, and race their ATVs.  Kids in the Mudd Foundation’s mission is to “enjoy the environment while exploring our trails, show each other how to safely ride ATV/ORV while minimizing the impact on the environment.”  Stasiak also stated, “The city and Watervliet Fire Department have gone above and beyond helping us set up for a fun, safe event.”

Take the Hooterville Hitters out to the ball game

 The Hooterville Hitters faced the House of David Echoes in a vintage baseball game Saturday evening at Hays Park. The stands were full, the teams were ready, and it was time to play ball!  Sponsored by Noack Construction, the seven-inning game featured lots of runs, but your hometown Hitters were outscored 20-13.  Members of this year’s Hitters team included: Candy Evett, Mike Noack, Rochelle Ulleg, Heidi Knight, Bruce Heslet, James Williams, Kaden Jonjevic, Paul Jonjevic, Karlee Liles, Aliea Chapin, Brittney Collins, and Brody Roland.  The game was a hoot (pun intended) for all involved, until Miss Watervliet Karlee

TOO HIGH BUT SHE HITS IT… Candy Evett hits the ball during first inning action Saturday as the Hooterville Hitters faced the House of David Echoes in a vintage baseball game. The Echoes outpaced the Hitters, 20-13. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


Liles, fielding at first base, took a bounced ball to the cheek. Members of the Hitters reminded the Echoes that Liles was the queen, and the team was fined 25 cents accordingly.  Denny McClain, former Detroit Tiger and Cy Young winner, was unable to attend the game and festival due to an illness in the family.

Hybrid Pro Wrestling a hit

 If you looked around town at 8:00 p.m. and wondered where everyone went, they were at the public parking lot next to the train tracks watching Hybrid Pro Wrestling.  The crowd was 10 people deep in spots as fans of wrestling watched the high flying action. Wrestlers faced off in the squared circle, encouraged audience participation, and even exited the ring to interact with the fans.  It was an exciting event and one of the biggest draws of the festival.

Sunday’s fun day

 Day two of the Independence Day celebration dawned sunny and bright. The Watervliet airport held a pancake breakfast and fly-in.  Numerous planes were on hand and airport employees and volunteers remarked often that the size of crowd on hand exceeded their expectations.  The airport was also the site of the ping pong ball drop. Although the wind picked up a little bit in the afternoon, the kids had no problem chasing down the ping pong balls dropped from an airplane and WFD ladder truck.  The ping pong balls were sponsored by local business and offered a discount or prize once redeemed.

The popular Duck Race

$1,000 RICHER… Larry Ryan of Watervliet was the big winner of Sunday’s duck race. Ryan, pictured with his son Cayden and Watervliet Rec Council president Jen Warsko, won $1,000 after his duck came in first after traveling down Mill Creek in Flaherty Park. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


The always popular duck race was held at 2:00 p.m. in Mill Creek at Flaherty Park. The ducks were dumped into the water by employees of the Public Works Department. The rubber duckies swam down the creek and into the wooden chute where they were pulled out by Ryan Van Niel.  The first place prize of $1,000 was won by Larry Ryan of Watervliet. Geoff Kiekenapp won $500 as his duck finished second.  Other winners include: Abe Brucal ($200), Scott McKee ($100), and Betsey Steltner, Debbie Aldrich, Mark Rasmussen, Mark Pazera, Irene Patterson, and Tim Hildebrand (all $50 winners).  Winners of the $25 prize include: Cam Rendo, Jessica Clark, Murlene Wolter, Michael Mullins, Candie Pyn, Jordyn Angelo, Lee Price, Mike Noack, Jack Hess, and Rowan Newsome.  Jordyn Angelo, Lori Mizwicki, Greg Kurasz, Jay Kehrer, Amanda Long, Kendall Bayer, Mike Elsner, Mav Kraemer, the WBA, and Dylan Tucker won $10 each.  Dennis Frazier was this year’s winner of a free duck ticket for next year.  Headed by Arica Angelo and Jen Warsko of the Watervliet Rec Council, the duck race was the icing on the cake for a  successful 4th of July festival weekend.

Music returns and other activities help in success of festival

 Music in various forms returned to the festival this year. Four bands performed on two different stages for festivalgoers listening pleasure.  ZAP!, a four-person rock band, played at the B&B Outlet stage on Saturday afternoon. Us Band took the stage at the Main Street tent.  US Band covered Pat Benetar and rocked it out during their performance.

The Freshwater Band also performed as did 7 Reasons and Darling Down.

 A community worship gathering was held Sunday morning at the Main Stage. People of varying faiths gathered to worship. The River of Life Praise and Worship team also participated in the ceremony.  Exercise enthusiasts were treated to a cardio drumming workout on Saturday. As the participants stretched and drummed, audience members learned about the workout.  Evangelist Will Jones was featured on the Main Stage Saturday night. And, as always, the fireworks that blazed in the sky Saturday night, helped celebrate the 4th of July.  With red, silver, and yellow firecrackers bursting in the dark sky, plenty of oohs and aahs were heard from the mill property and Hays Park where people sat in lawn chairs, on the ground, or on a blanket.  Festival chair Rochelle Ulleg and her team of Watervliet Business Association volunteers, including Amy Loshbough of the Tri-City Record, and Tom Gear, of Tri-County Computers, were vital to the success of the festival.  New events were included this year and the two-day celebration was one for the ages. Please take a moment to thank the many, many volunteers who helped with each and every event.

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