by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Jack-o-lantern pumpkins are the symbol of Halloween and for the past month nowhere have pumpkins been more evident than at Rockford’s hugely popular Farm Market. The calendar has conspired this year to have Halloween fall on this season’s last Farm Market. This coming Saturday is your last chance to say good-bye to your favorite vendors and stock up on the abundant bounty of a successful fall harvest. Along with carving pumpkins their display tables will be heavily laden with late season crops that store well and can be bought in volume. Vendors are more than happy to share their knowledge of storage techniques—just ask. Many, but not all, of the produce items available will be: pie pumpkins, squash and potatoes of all varieties, late harvest greens including broccoli and multi-colored cauliflower, cider, and apples, apples, apples! The Michigan apple harvest this year was one of the largest and most successful on record. Many varieties of apples can be stored for months in a cool dry environment such as a basement or a garage that stays above freezing. Again, vendors can advise which varieties store the best. Farm Market vendors are in general agreement that this year’s Rockford Farm Market season was the most successful ever. Even on the few days of inclement weather, faithful market goers showed up in good numbers. This year brought the addition of the Market’s newest regular vendor, Earthkeeper Farms. Practicing strictly sustainable and organic farming methods, Andrew and Rachelle Bostwick, found their farm’s offerings so popular that at times they had to double the size of their stall. Not only were they busy harvesting their crops; Rachelle harvested their first child, a bouncing baby boy (future farmhand) Liam Isaac Bostwick. Toward the end of the season a vendor couple appeared sporting a huge copper kettle. Throughout the morning the kettle produced an instant Market success—Old Fashioned Kettle Corn. As they stirred the contents in the heated kettle, the aroma produced caused huge lines to form to sample and purchase the sweet treat. The Rockford Lions Market Masters were also busy popping theater popcorn in this year’s newly placed Market Master Mini-barn. Bags of popcorn were available for just a dollar to support the good works of […]
Cliff and Nancy Hill
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Over the years many events have come and gone from Grand Rapids, but none have succeeded more admirably than the brainchild of Rick DeVos—the 18-day extravaganza named ArtPrize 2009. The unprecedented success for downtown Grand Rapids brought thousands of visitors from the greater Grand Rapids community and beyond to view the collective works of 1,262 artists from 41 states and 15 foreign countries. Every imaginable genre of art was on display at 159 venues within three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids. The good, the bad and the ugly—it was all on display to be voted up or down by anyone who registered to vote. Aside from the artwork on display, visitors were introduced to, many for the first time, the destination mecca that is downtown Grand Rapids. Early in the competition, on two separate days, your reporters had viewed many but not all of the exhibits on display. After one week, the competition was winnowed down to a final 10. During the following week, voters were again asked to choose, from the final 10, the ultimate winners of the ArtPrize competition. So during the last day of voting, the Squire paid a return visit to pick our personal favorites. Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. We each had our own favorites, which we won’t divulge. Last Thursday evening, the winners were announced and we were amazed at the good fortune of having photographed and interviewed each of the top three winners along with their respective works of art the previous day. The $250,000 first-place prize went to Ran Ortner of Brooklyn, N.Y., with his oil-on-canvas painting titled “Open Water no. 24” which was exhibited in the Old Federal Building. The 19-foot-wide by six-foot-high painting is a mesmerizing seascape of rolling waves. Among other accomplishments, Ortner is a surfer and has had a lifelong love affair with water and entered his recently completed painting in ArtPrize. “I had never before been to Grand Rapids and had no idea of the importance of the Lake Michigan seashore and the Grand River to the people who live here,” said Ortner. Fate had also conspired to place Ortner’s painting directly behind another entry, a 14-foot-long by 10-foot-wide by 4.5-foot-high […]
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL On a bluebird Friday afternoon, the first day of Rockford’s Annual Harvest Fest, the Bishop Hills Elder Care Community hosted its annual fall Petting Zoo. Present was guest of honor, Bishop Hills resident Clarence Blakeslee (Mr. Rockford). Clarence would never miss such a photo opportunity and he came, as always, equipped with a camera. Also present for the afternoon, in no particular order, were the critters from Rockford’s “Farm Animals on the Go”, the pre-schoolers and kindergarteners from Our Lady of Consolation School accompanied by classroom teachers, aides, and parents, and last but not least Jack Bolt, representing the Rockford Historical Society. Bolt was on hand to present Clarence with a copy of Images of America – Rockford, a pictorial book of Rockford’s history by author Roberta (Bobbi) Schirado. The author had personally inscribed the book and wrote on the title page, “To Clarence Blakeslee, a Dedicated Historian”. Clarence thanked Bolt and the Society for the book. He expressed great pleasure because the book was a pictorial history of Rockford. In a quote that couldn’t be more fitting Clarence said, “Pictures are the story of my life.” Indeed, for Clarence, they are. He was never seen about town without a camera, or two, or more hanging around his neck. Clarence spent decades of his life recording, in picture, the lives and times of his beloved Rockford. The presentation of the book was all the more appropriate because it was very likely that some of the pictures contained therein were taken by Clarence himself and donated at a later date to the Rockford Historical Society. Clarence Blakeslee will celebrate his 95th birthday on October 30 (the day before Halloween). He would love to hear from you. Birthday cards can be sent to Clarence, care of: Bishop Hills Elder Care Community, 4951 ll-Mile Road, Rockford, MI 49341.
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL As was their usual habit, far southeast Grand Rapids residents “Skippy” Waivo and her gentleman friend, Bob Shaffer, were visiting Rockford and its Farm Market last Saturday. Bob told us that one day Skippy showed up sporting a pair of multi-colored socks. Bob told Skippy they looked sexy, to which she replied, “Why don’t you get a pair yourself?” Bob responded, “Where would I wear them?” to which Skippy answered, “Why, anywhere you please!” To the admiring delight of envious market-goers, they wore them to the popular Saturday Farm Market. Which goes to show, “You are only young once, but you can always be immature.”
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL For maybe the second time in his life, Dave Heyboer, chairman of the Friends of the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail (Friends), was struck speechless. It was Thursday, August 7, and Heyboer had just been presented a check for $502,240 from the Meijer Foundation to further augment a million dollars that had been previously granted some years ago. This latest donation was gifted to provide the 20% matching monies to a recently received federal grant of $2,240,000 to be used toward the final engineering and further paving of the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail (FMWPT). “It was money sent from heaven,” said Heyboer. The 92-mile-long FMWPT is a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) linear park that is the jewel of the state’s Rails-to-Trails system. Traveling north to south, it connects the cities of Cadillac and Grand Rapids. Some 35 miles have already been paved and are heavily used by countless numbers of people as a recreational destination. These users are not only local residents but also Michiganders from around the state and visitors from across the nation as well. The new monies received will go toward the complete engineering of the entire unpaved portion of the FMWPT. The balance remaining will allow paving from Cadillac southward to, hopefully, LeRoy in late spring or early summer of 2010. This southward paving is a departure from the Grand Rapids northward paving that has been previously completed. By completing the engineering, further paving can move forward without delay as new monies come available. Last Friday, September 11, a ceremony was held at the FMWPT staging area in Cadillac that was attended by 150 people. Federal, state and local officials, along with area businessmen, representatives of the Michigan Snowmobile Association, and members of the Friends were present. The guest of honor was to have been Fred Meijer, who was a little “under the weather” and unable to attend. Rob VerHeulen and Mike Julien of the Meijer Foundation ably represented Fred, himself. Friends Chairman Dave Heyboer, who—along with the group he heads—has dedicated a major portion of his life toward the goal of the complete paving of the FMWPT, couldn’t be happier […]