by CLIFF and NANCY HILL The mission of the Rockford Education Foundation (REF) is to promote excellence in education for people of all ages in the Rockford community. Toward that end the REF annually sponsors an eagerly awaited and excellent benefit performance usually held in the acoustically correct and comfortable confines of the Rockford High School Fine Arts Auditorium. Every year REF Administrator Sue Arend and a committee of REF trustees agree upon and book the finest available performing artist(s) to headline the annual concert. Over the years the selections have been an eclectic mix chosen to appeal to the diverse tastes of the Rockford area. Last Saturday evening the REF was proud to present the multi-talented singer/songwriter and recording artist, Brian Vander Ark. Vander Ark is a native of West Michigan who currently resides in East Grand Rapids with his wife and three-year-old daughter, Evie. Wife, Lux Land, is an accomplished singer/songwriter in her own right. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s Vander Ark was the principal songwriter and frontman for the Verve Pipe, a band that has sold over three million albums worldwide. In 1997 he wrote and, along with the band, recorded the hit single The Freshmen. His gift as a songwriter has resulted in a collection of original songs of a storyteller relating life experiences that he as well as his listeners, have lived. His melodies and rhythms are unique, intensely personal, and riveting. Leading off the evening’s concert was Vander Ark’s beautiful and talented wife, recording artist Lux Land, who warmed the crowd up singing a collection of her own penned songs. What followed was a performance by Brian Vander Ark that resulted in a standing ovation at its close. Vander Ark had brought in a group of accomplished musicians from Texas to back him up for the evening. The group, which remained nameless, was composed of Richard Hewett on drums, Dylan Sneed on guitar, Bryan Frink on bass, and featured Kristy Kruger on keyboard and pedal steel guitar, while at times providing vocal accompaniment. For the better part of two hours Vander Ark and the band performed a selection of his songs that explored themes of life and family along with love and loss. Crowd favorites included Monday […]
January 29 2009
Rockford is a community with a rich and interesting history, and people willing to take the time and effort to keep it from being forgotten. At last month’s Historical Society, Gene Berry shared the story of two of the town’s older families – the Berrys and the Ammermans. The presentation included dates and names going back to as far as 1693, but also philosophical thoughts. There was no television in pioneer days and families often consisted of 12 or 13 children. Is there any cause and effect to those two facts? Berry’s research also showed that marriages often took place between relatively close neighbors, most likely a result of less opportunity to travel and meet spouses from farther away. Berry’s narration traveled the course of generations, listing homes that still exist as well as towns which no longer do. It included discussion of names and their interesting origins. His family tree boasts a Thankful Shears, mother of Shears Berry who fought in the Revolutionary Army. Names like Thankful and Blessing expressed settlers’ gratitude at finally arriving at their new home after a grueling trip. Also discussed was the Ammerman family, traced back to 1784 and settling in Rockford in 1900. Barb Stevens (nee Ammerman) remembers her childhood in the now red farm house at 275 W. Division (Ten Mile Road) west of Rockford on the north side of the road. The home is over 100 years old and used to be white. It also had a huge red barn, now gone. Her favorite memories of the farm include picking up dropped apples, which were pressed into cider and kept all winter long. In 1963 her grandfather died and one acre of farm with the house on it was sold. The other 79 acres was sold to a developer. It is now the Highlands. She recalled how vibrant Rockford was in the ’50s, with a much greater diversity of stores than today. Gene Berry said his first memory is of a team of horses pulling the wire to provide electricity to his home in 1937. He was one year old. The Historical Society is always looking for new members to help keep the town’s past from being forgotten. Museum Director Pat Frye is currently seeking photos […]
On Thursday, January 8, 2009, Wolverine World Wide (WWW) announced the pending closing of their downtown tannery facility. Since that time, I have been working with WWW to identify the many issues that will be facing our community as the tannery operations are phased out. Initially, the closing of the tannery will reduce the City’s revenue within the sewer fund by approximately 25%. The sewer fund is operated as a separate “enterprise fund,” which relies on sewer rates and charges to fund operation and maintenance of the sewer collection system, lift stations and the newly constructed PARCC Side Wastewater Treatment Plant. We have developed a rate study model showing the rate impact of the tannery closing. I cannot put it any other way but to say that the impact is staggering. According to the preliminary model, it is expected that once the tannery operations are fully phased out that we will need to increase rates by approximately 25%. This equates to approximately $10 per month for the average residential customer. The budget that was built includes very little investment ($50,000) for capital improvements related to the sewer system and the elimination of one (1) position. These numbers are still very preliminary and we will continue to work closely with WWW to identify options for reducing this financial hardship. From a property tax standpoint, our preliminary numbers would indicate that the City could lose approximately $105,000 in property tax revenue. There are many variables that go into this analysis such as the timing for the potential redevelopment of WWW’s downtown campus. The impact on property taxes cannot be fully determined until we have a detailed schedule identifying the time frame for demolition of the existing buildings on site. I believe that the negative impact on property taxes will be temporary and ultimately we will see complete redevelopment of the tannery property and adjoining facilities into an extension of our downtown business district. I will continue to keep our residents and business owners apprised of the latest developments through periodic postings on our web page and through my blog. Of course, if any one has questions regarding the impact on our community as a result of the tannery closing, please do not hesitate to contact me at […]
Band – Rockford area community ensembles have resumed rehearsals in preparation for upcoming concerts. The Concert Band under the direction of Calvin College professor Tiffany Engle, is scheduled to present varied performances this season. In addition to its annual spring concert, the band will also participate in the Forest Hills Community Band Festival and Rockford’s own Start of Summer Celebration. The Rockford Community Concert Band rehearses weekly on Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m. in the band room of North Rockford Middle School. Membership is open to musicians who have previous experience on any band instrument (a minimum of high school playing level is recommended). If you are interested in joining the concert band contact Tiffany at firstname.lastname@example.org. Orchestra – The Rockford Chamber Orchestra meets on Monday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m. in the choir room at North Rockford Middle school. Violin, viola, cello and bass players are welcome to come join them. Members come from all walks of life and represent many generations. All kinds of music is played and they join sometimes with the band to create a symphony orchestra option at each concert. Char Lothian, of Greenville and a former orchestra teacher in that school district is the talented conductor. She also is a talented cellist. If interested call Char at 616-754-6602. Rehearsals begin on Monday, February 2. Choir – For those of you who love to vocalize, our Community Choir has started rehearsals on Thursdays at North Rockford Middle School in the choir room from 7 to 9 p.m. All ages and abilities are invited to join the choir. Kayle Clements, talented jazz musician, plus composer of choral music, is the conductor. Clements commented, “Our focus is not only on learning and performing music but also on having enjoyable rehearsals – and building friendships” All these groups plus many other activities are sponsored by the Rockford Area Arts Commission.