Cliff and Nancy Hill

Squire reporters discover town’s largest burl

January 26, 2012 // 0 Comments

Talk about your bulbous protrusions! by CLIFF AND NANCY On an undisclosed piece of private property within the City of Rockford stands a tree, which is encapsulated by the largest “burl”, we have ever seen. What’s a burl you ask? Wikipedia tells us that a burl is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. It is commonly found in the form of a rounded out growth on a tree trunk or branch that is filled with small knots from dormant buds. Almost all burl wood is covered by bark. A burl results from a tree undergoing some form of stress. Most burls grow beneath the ground but the one in the picture completely encircles the tree some five feet above the ground. Burls yield a very peculiar and highly figured wood prized for its beauty by many. Its rarity also adds to its expense. It is sought after by furniture makers, artists, and wood sculptors. Some burls are highly valued and sliced into veneers for furniture, inlay in doors, picture frames, household objects, automobile interior paneling and trim, and woodturning. Burl wood is very hard to work, with hand tools or on a lathe, because its grain is twisted and interlocked, causing it to chip and chatter unpredictably. This “wild grain” makes burl wood extremely dense and resistant to splitting, which makes it valued for bowls, mallets, and mauls for hammering chisels and driving wooden pegs. The Rockford tree that holds the burl is dead and denuded of bark making it nigh unto impossible to identify the species of tree. It is a huge burl and is approximately 6 feet high and 6 feet in diameter dwarfing the charming and delightful Squire reporter, Nancy Hill, a perfect foil for gauging its size.

2012 REF Benefit Concert scores twice the laughs

January 26, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL The Second City National Laugh Out Loud Touring Group returned to Rockford last Friday and Saturday night after a two-year absence. Squire readers will recall their single sold-out Rockford Education Foundation (REF) benefit performance in January 2010. Two is better than one, right? And that’s just what the REF ended up with, a win-win with two sold-out performances that will provide resources for the REF to continue providing educational opportunities for people of all ages in the Rockford community. Chicago’s legendary improvisational theater group provided two evenings of hilarious and cutting edge sketches, songs, and improvisations to the delight of everyone present both nights. No topic of subject matter was off limits and an early sketch found two cast members seated in a doctor’s office. The doctor entered saying, “The last time you were in my office I found a lump in your breast.” There was an uncomfortable moment of strained silence as the couple absorbed the news. Abruptly the husband broke the silence saying, “But Doctor, you’re a dentist!” The lights then faded to hilarious laughter and thus began an evening of Second City’s trademark humor. There was also a third winner both evenings, that being RPS Freshman Center Technology Technician Chris Schneider. Schneider had been judged The Funniest Person in Rockford in a contest put on by the REF that took place in front of a sold-out crowd at the Corner Bar on January 12. As the winner, Chris was given the opportunity to perform with the Second City Comedy Troupe. Schneider appeared at the Rockford High School Fine Arts Auditorium in both evening’s encore sketches with the entire 5-member Second City ensemble. Schneider’s comedic talent was barely scratched in one sketch called “Dr. Know-it-all”, where he linked arms with four troupe members while the fifth fielded questions for “Dr. Know-it-all” from the audience. “Dr. Know-it-all” had five heads so he must have been five times as smart. Each head was allowed to utter only one word at a time as they answered the audience queries. It was improv at its finest as each of the heads had to add a word, almost instantly, to construct a coherent sentence that resulted in a laughable answer. There was no […]

Rockford Lion and Club honored by Michigan Legislature

January 19, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest community service organization, with 1.3 million members. Today there are more than 45,000 Lions clubs in approximately 200 countries and geographic areas. Regardless of the language Lions speak, religion they practice or politics they support, they all share a common dedication to service. The extremely active and successful Rockford Lions club is the envy of every Lions club in the State of Michigan. Nowhere is the dedication to service more apparent than right here in the Rockford Lions club. Lions get things done and are always ready to help where they see a need. The services they provide oftentimes “fly under the radar.” In other words, they go quietly about their tasks with no greater reward than the self-satisfaction that comes from helping others. Locally, the Rockford Lions have been clearing Rockford’s oldest cemetery—Pioneer Cemetery, along with reclaiming the old Rum Creek Mill Pond skating rink in order to provide a new generation an old-fashioned Rockford wintertime tradition. Most recently, the Rockford Lions have been spearheading efforts to assist the Rockford Historical Society in a fundraising campaign to raise monies to relocate the antiquated and overcrowded Rockford Area Museum (RAM) to the larger and vacant 63rd District Court Building adjacent to Rockford City Hall. However, the Rockford Lions may be best known by acting for many years as Market Masters of the Rockford Farm Market—“America’s Favorite Farm Market.” The Lions volunteered to relieve the City of the responsibility of overseeing the Saturday morning operations of the Farm Market at no cost to the City. So it was with great pleasure that Michigan 73rd District State Representative Peter “Pete” MacGregor showed up at the January Lions Club meeting in order to surprise Lion Bob Winegar and the Rockford Lions with a framed Special Tribute from the Michigan Legislature honoring the Club for their unselfish service to the Rockford Farm Market. The Tribute, in part, reads: “Many people understand that without the Lions valuable service and volunteer hours the Rockford Farmers Market would not be what it is today.” Perhaps there is no State Legislator more interactively involved with his constituents than Pete MacGregor. Sponsoring this Tribute and having it read on the floor of […]

RHS Women’s Chorus finds their voice, challenges others to do the same

January 12, 2012 // 0 Comments

We are the music makers, the dreamers of dreams by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL along with JED SCOTT  The honors never cease for Rockford High School (RHS); you could hear the pride in her voice when Mandy Makita Scott told us, “The RHS Women’s Chorus has been selected to perform at the 7th annual Michigan Music Conference (MMC).” Rockford resident Mandy Scott is the director of the Women’s Chorus at RHS. Scott is in her fourth year of teaching at RHS, where she directs two sections of the Freshman Choir and the 68-voice sophomore Women’s Chorus. Scott holds a Bachelor of Music Education from WMU and a Masters Degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Miami (FL). She currently serves on the Full Board of the Michigan School Vocal Music Association (MSVMA) as the Supervisor of High School Music Selection. The Women’s Chorus is a non-auditioned intermediate choir made up almost entirely of sophomore women. The ensemble is noted for its diverse repertoire and cohesiveness as an ensemble. The choral group has consistently earned Superior and Excellent ratings at district and state choral festivals. Held annually, the MMC draws 2,000+ attendees to their 3-day conferences – not including exhibitors, speakers, performers, parents, along with staff and volunteers. This year the conference will be held Thursday, January 19 – Saturday, January 21 at DeVos Place and Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Chosen by a juried panel of vocal music educators, representing the MSVMA, the RHS Women’s Chorus is one of six choral groups (five high schools and one middle school) to be honored to perform at this year’s Conference. Honored indeed. “This is a really, really big deal to be singing at the MMC,” said RHS Director of Choral Activities David Duiven, seconded by Mandy Scott and echoed by Michigan Composer Jeffrey Cobb. “We will be giving music educators a taste of what you can do with a non-auditioned sophomore level choral group,” added Scott Jeffrey Cobb, is a highly degreed music educator and a much sought after composer of commissioned music. His pieces have garnered several national awards and honors. College ensembles, community groups, and public school students throughout the United States and around the world regularly perform his works for choir, […]

Keep your laughter local

January 12, 2012 // 0 Comments

Laugh out loud tune-up to be held at Corner Bar by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Let’s embrace the “think local” attitude here. Instead of taking our monies outside of the Rockford community to attend “LaughFest” in Grand Rapids in March, why not support the good works of the Rockford Education Foundation (REF) and laugh your sides out right here at home in the cozy confines of the Rockford High School (RHS) Auditorium. When Chicago’s legendary comedy troupe, Second City, last appeared in Rockford in January 2010 it was a sell-out from the “git-go”. Appearing then to headline the annual REF benefit concert, Second City returns again for two evening performances of their “Laugh Out Loud Tour” on Friday and Saturday evenings, January 20 and 21. Thinking local, the REF is hosting “The Funniest Person in Rockford Contest” to be held this Thursday, January 12 at the Corner Bar in downtown Rockford. Four comedic finalists in the contest will face off for the opportunity to perform with Second City during their two upcoming evening performances in January. Mike Cole, Mike Marn, Michael Newell, and Chris Schneider will exhibit their comedy routines starting at 9:00 p.m. before a panel of local (celebrity) judges. What a hoot? Three Mikes and one Chris! The Corner Bar doors will open at 8:30 p.m. and reservations are being excepted by contacting Jen at the Corner Bar at: or 616-866-9866. Seating is general admission with a $10 cover charge to benefit the REF and includes chips and salsa. Drink specials and Second City ticket give-a-ways all evening long. First come, first serve for the best seats. If you can’t make the Funniest Person in Rockford event at the Corner Bar this Thursday evening don’t let yourself get caught with egg on your face, as many did during the 2010 visit of Second City, when last minute ticket purchasers were met at the box office door with a big sold-out sign. There’s not a bad seat in the house at the RHS auditorium. A limited number of tickets are still available. Contact: The REF at 616-863-6317 or visit

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