by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Last Thursday evening was Veterans Night at the opening of this year’s Ultimate Sport Show at DeVos Place. The Rockford Squire was there to specifically cover a very special ceremony honoring surviving veterans who had served their country in times of war and peace since WWII. We were especially pleased to find U.S. Marine Corporal Josh Hoffman (with ties to Rockford) present that evening in order to receive special honors for what he had given up in the protection of our freedoms. You may recall that Josh had been felled by a sniper’s shot through the neck while on patrol in Iraq’s Anbar province in 2007. The bullet left him paralyzed from the chest down. After more than a year of medical treatment and therapy, Josh was released to return home to Michigan, where he continued rehab along with 24/7 care that will continue for the rest of his life. In 2009 Josh moved into a house in Middleville that had been especially constructed to meet his needs going forward. He resides there to this day with the full-time assistance of a caregiver. At the opening of the ceremony, patriotism flowed through DeVos Place as a military color guard of veterans, followed by color guards representing each and every branch of the Armed Services, marched the entire length of the entrance concourse of DeVos Place to the ceremonial stage. Hundreds of onlookers, with hands on their hearts, witnessed the procession as it passed, followed by a flag created by Rockford’s Sherrie Coke. Titled “Freedom,” the flag, composed of over 1,000 American veterans’ thumbprints, was carried fittingly by two Marines. The flag had been Coke’s entrant in the 2010 Grand Rapids ArtPrize competition. During the ceremony, surrounded by hundreds of well-wishers—friends, family and veterans alike—Cpl. Hoffman was honored and presented with a beautifully framed shadowbox containing all of his medals and ribbons, not the least of which was the Purple Heart. Proudly displayed on stage in the background was “Freedom,” Coke’s U.S. flag. The veterans in our midst that evening and countless others, some of whom have lain down their lives, reinforce what it truly means to be a proud American. […]
Ultimate Sport Show
Honor Guard to carry flag made by Rockford woman by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL An annual harbinger of spring returns to DeVos Place this Thursday through Sunday, March 17-20. The Showspan-produced Ultimate Sport Show is eagerly awaited every year at this time by winter weary West Michiganders. Michigan sportsmen never miss this show and readers may recall how, last year, we hooked up with “Walleye Wayne” Stevenson for a guided walleye fishing charter out of Monroe, Michigan on Lake Erie. Reporter Nancy became a bona fide walleye “aFISHionado” on the morning of the early June outing as we quickly limited out with keepers all exceeding 18 inches. At this year’s Ultimate Sport Show, we are looking forward to a special ceremony, scheduled for 6 p.m. during opening night on Thursday, March 17, honoring a group of war veterans, all of whom have been awarded the Purple Heart for combat wounds. An Honor Guard representing U.S. military branches will officially thank the veterans for their sacrifices. A 3×5-foot American flag containing 1, 021 thumbprints taken primarily from veterans in West Michigan will be presented as part of this very special ceremony. Rockford resident Sherrie Coke collected the thumbprints and designed the flag entitled “Freedom” using as a model antique 48-star flag predating 1958. “Freedom” was entered in last summer’s Grand Rapids ArtPrize competition. “There’s a story behind each and every one of those thumbprints,” Coke said. “They belong to servicemen and women whose rank runs from Private through Colonel.” Coke’s father and brother are both veterans and were a motivating force in the creation of the flag. Additionally, Coke taught art classes in oil painting at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans during 2005-2006. We were fortunate enough to see “Freedom” proudly displayed in the Waters Building during ArtPrize 2010. Ironically, it was housed in the same venue as “Pandora,” the stained glass lamp creation of Rockford’s Eric Brown. “Freedom” was a heartfelt creation celebrating the bravery and sacrifice of American heroes in recognition of those who have given of themselves to protect our freedom. “Lest we not forget.” Every red stripe in the flag was composed of hundreds of veterans’ thumbprints along with blue thumbprints creating the field around the stars. It was beautiful and […]
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Sixty-five years and counting, Michigan’s oldest sport show played out to record crowds this past weekend at the Showspan Inc.-produced Ultimate Sport Show at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. From new boats and accessories to fishing tackle and hunting gear, along with representatives from sporting goods suppliers, there was something of interest for every sportsman and woman. Also on hand were fishing and hunting resort operators from all over the United States and Canada, extolling the virtues of their ultimate year-round sporting packages. This being Michigan, fishing was the name of the game. Indeed, the show was “pure Michigan.” You could book a fine Michigan guide, make reservations for a great family fishing vacation, purchase the latest fishing tackle, and attend multiple demonstrations and seminars to hone your outdoor skills. From mushroom-hunting and fly-casting instructions, to canoe and kayaking demonstrations on the huge DeVos Place 110,000-gallon Lake Ultimate, there was something for everyone. Not left out were the kids. They could receive coaching in casting skills or try their hand at a fully stocked trout pond. Two prominent Rockford businesses played a big role in the show. One of Michigan’s most knowledgeable anglers, Glen Blackwood of Rockford’s Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company and host of TV’s “Fly Fishing with Glen Blackwood,” gave fly-fishing casting and presentation demonstrations on Lake Ultimate. Unbelievably, in the crystal clear waters of the lake, he was able to entice and hook ever-wary stocked trout. The experts at Rockford’s Powers Outdoors gave live in-water demonstrations of how to enter and exit a kayak, various paddling techniques, along with important kayak maneuvers. Best of all for us, Rockford’s world record angler Tom Healy was on hand to personally autograph commemorative t-shirts. A portion of the proceeds was being donated to the Manistee County Sportfishing Association. You may recall that Rockford resident Healy had hooked and landed a new world record brown trout on Michigan’s Manistee River on Sept. 9, of last year. Michigan sportsmen never miss the Ultimate Sport Show. We saw familiar faces from all over Rockford in attendance during our visit. If you weren’t there this year, plan on attending the March 2011 event.