Encore May 2016

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‘A very unique thing’: Comedy in Kalamazoo

May 2016

Helping parents be teachers

Meet John Liberty

Belly dancing for all

Southwest Michigan’s Magazine


Urban landscapes go wild

Deed Shepherd died in 2005. Today she’s helping Kalamazoo area girls lead joyful, confident lives. Deed was a joyful, confident woman who loved where she lived: Kalamazoo. She also loved Kalamazoo’s young people. Their zest for life only added to her own. Thanks to a bequest she left to the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, thousands of Kalamazoo County girls who participate in Girls on the Run learn how to embrace who they are, define who they want to be, rise to any challenge and change the world. We can help you show your love for Kalamazoo and leave a legacy too. Call us today at 269.381.4416 or visit us online at www.kalfound.org to learn how.

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“ The day I went to the hospital, I was working here on my farm. I started to feel a bit poorly so I went back to the house to see if it would pass. At first it just felt like a stomachache, so even with my family history of heart attack, it really didn’t occur to me I was having one. Unfortunately, the feeling kept getting worse, so my neighbor took me to my local hospital, Bronson LakeView. They quickly determined it was a heart attack and transferred me by ambulance to the cath lab at Bronson in Kalamazoo. From the time I was admitted to the time my heart was working right again, it took less than two hours. They were phenomenal. I’m really fortunate to still be here with my family. I owe that to the team at Bronson.” Joe, Paw Paw, Michigan To watch Joe’s story and learn more about heart and vascular care at Bronson, visit bronsonpositivity.com/heart.

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M a y 2016

FEATURES Parents as Teachers


Growing Native


Program helps parents nurture children’s early development

Hello lobelia, goodbye lawn: Gardeners turn to native plants

Funny Friends Unite

Comedians come together to build thriving Kalamazoo comedy scene


DEPARTMENTS 7 Contributors Up Front 8 First Things — What’s happening in SW Michigan 10 Talking to Robots — Human-robot communication intrigues researchers

12 Good Works

Bigs in Business — Workplace fosters relationships for youth and adults

16 Enterprise

House Shows and Bandcamp — Kalamazoo bands forge new frontiers to promote music

46 Back Story

Meet John Liberty — He tells the area’s craft beer story one tour at a time


30 ‘Anyone Can Do This’ Boheme Tribal Belly Dance teaches, performs and

inspires others

37 Events of Note 43 Poetry

On the cover: Jennifer Howell, stewardship director for Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, looks at blooming black-eyed Susans among the 80 acres of native prairie habitat at the Institute. Photo by Brian Powers.

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The Fence Center at

‘A very unique thing’: Comedy in Kalamazoo

Helping parents be teachers

Meet John Liberty

May 2016

Belly dancing for all

Southwest Michigan’s Magazine

A sister company of Arborist Services of Kalamazoo, LLC GOING NATIVE

Urban landscapes go wild


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Contributing Writers

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Encore Magazine is published 12 times yearly. Copyright 2016, Encore Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Editorial, circulation and advertising correspondence should be sent to:

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The staff at Encore welcomes written comment from readers, and articles and poems for submission with no obligation to print or return them. To learn more about us or to comment, you may visit www.encorekalamazoo. com. Encore subscription rates: one year $36, two years $70. Current single issue and newsstand $4, $10 by mail. Back issues $6, $12 by mail. Advertising rates on request. Closing date for space is 28 days prior to publication date. Final date for print-ready copy is 21 days prior to publication date.


Kit Almy

Just in time for spring planting, Kit gives readers an in-depth look at the movement to grow more native plants in local landscapes. Kit is a freelance writer who works at the Kalamazoo Public Library and volunteers at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. A frequent contributor to Encore, she wrote about writers’ groups in our March issue.

Andrew Domino

In his story on how local bands are forging new frontiers to promote their music, Andrew describes Fat Guy Fest, an annual multiday concert at Shakespeare’s Pub featuring regional bands. Andrew admits that when he attended last year’s Fat Guy Fest, he was closer to live music than he had been in some time. He enjoys searching the Internet for new songs and new musicians and discovering genres he didn’t know before. You can read more of his writing at www.dominowriting.com.

Kara Norman

One of Kara’s stories in this issue is about the comedy scene in Kalamazoo. She says that the comedians she spoke to were so dedicated and warm that she wanted to ask every one of them to be her friend, secondgrade style. Kara also writes about Boheme Tribal Belly Dance. One shimmy and you too will be hooked, she says. She recommends, however, that you take a class from Boheme rather than follow in her YouTube footsteps, because being sore in an internal organ for days is no fun. Follow more of her foibles at karanorman.com.

Lisa Mackinder

In this month’s issue, both of Lisa’s stories focus on children. She describes how parents are learning to foster their children’s early development through the Parents as Teachers program and how the Big Brothers and Big Sisters in the Bigs in Business program are mentoring teens for future careers and life in general. “These stories touched my heart and shed light on the many ways to help children right here in our area,” Lisa says. “Both stories demonstrate the commitment of everyone involved and the positive fruits of their labors.”

J. Gabriel Ware

J. Gabriel received a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University last month and is continuing his studies this summer as a graduate student in WMU’s School of Communication. He says he is intrigued by the human-robot communication research of WMU husband-and-wife professors Chad and Autumn Edwards, whom he wrote about in this issue. “Chad and Autumn's passion for human-robot communication is infectious,” he says. “And although they just launched the Social Robotics Lab, they’re already publishing groundbreaking research. I’m curious to see what their lab looks like in 10 years.”

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First Things Something Different Learn about barn quilts

If you were looking for a reason to explore the Vicksburg Quilt Trail, the Vicksburg Historical Society has a couple. On May 17, Suzi Parron, author of Following the Barn Quilt Trail, will give a free presentation combining photos and narrative on the evolution of barn quilts, which are large quilt squares painted on wood or metal and typically hung on barns. The presentation begins at 7 p.m. in the lower level of the Vicksburg District Library, 215 S. Michigan Ave. The first barn quilt was painted in Ohio in 2001, and the Vicksburg Quilt Trail, started in 2012, is one of the barn quilt trails featured in Parron’s book. Want to paint your own barn quilt? On May 21, a workshop from 12:30–4:30 p.m. will provide instructions on how to draft, tape and paint a quilt board for outdoor display. The class costs $40 and is limited to 20 participants. Registration is required for this event, which will also be held in the lower level of the Vicksburg District Library. For more information or to register for the workshop, call 329-0481.

Something Musical

Taylor Eigsti Trio bops into Bell’s The artist that jazz great Dave Brubeck called “the most amazing talent I've ever come across” is bopping into Bell’s Eccentric Café May 12. Jazz pianist and composer Taylor Eigsti, a musical prodigy who released his first album at age 14 and now has seven albums and two Grammy nominations to his credit, will be performing at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Rounding out the trio will be Eric Harland on drums and Harish Raghavan on bass. The program is jointly sponsored by Fontana and The Gilmore, and tickets are $25. For more information, visit fontanamusic.org or call 382-7774.

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Something Artistic

See recyclables transformed into art Works by artists who look at trash and see treasure will be spotlighted at the third annual Recycled Art in the Park May 7-14 at Celery Flats Historical Area, 7328 Garden Lane, Portage. This non-juried art show, organized by the Portage Park Board, is also a contest, challenging artists to express their creativity using recyclable materials while raising public awareness of recycling. Public voting and judging will be conducted and prizes awarded in a variety of categories. Opening ceremonies for the show will be held from noon–3 p.m. May 7 and feature food, music and a children’s craft area, where kids can make recycled artwork of their own. For more information, visit friendsoftheparksportage. com/recycled-art-in-the-park or call 352-4583.

Courtesy WMUK


Something Funny

Laugh with comedian Lewis Black Expect to hear some compelling points about the absurdity of the world when Grammy Award-winning actor, comedian and author Lewis Black performs at 7 p.m. May 20 at the State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St. Black, who stops in Kalamazoo as part of his The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Naked Truth tour, is known for his appearances on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and his comedy specials on HBO, Comedy Central and Showtime. He has released eight comedy albums, two of which have won Grammys, and published three books, Nothing's Sacred, Me of Little Faith and I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas. Tickets for Black’s performance are $37.50–$65. To buy tickets or for more information, visit kazoostate.com.

Something Good

Seita Scholars raise awareness of foster care Barely 4 percent of foster-care kids will earn a college

degree, so the Foster Care Awareness Walk held by Western Michigan University’s John Seita Scholars Program May 21 is a bit of a celebration as well as an awareness-raising effort. The Seita Scholars Program, a scholarship and support program for WMU students who spent their teenage years in foster care, boasts more than 75 graduates since it began in 2008. The walk is an effort to spread awareness about foster care as well as collect donations for the Seita Scholars Program's fund for student emergencies. The one-mile walk through WMU’s main campus begins at 9:30 a.m. at the WMU flagpoles, located at the center of campus, near Sangren Hall. For more information about participating, call Rachel Johnson at 387-8341 or email rachel.marie.johnson@wmich.edu.

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Talking to Robots

WMU lab studies how humans and robots communicate by


Researchers Autumn and Chad Edwards study the communication between humans and robots like Nico, the humanoid robot pictured here.

10 | ENCORE MAY 2016

Brian Powers


n his 2014 visit to Japan, President Barack Obama drew attention when he bowed and played soccer with ASIMO, a social robot with a human-like appearance. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made similar headlines this past December after he shook hands and took a selfie with ASIMO. One day soon we all will be shaking hands and taking selfies with robots like ASIMO, say two Western Michigan University communication professors, and they are preparing for that day by examining humanrobot communication and technology's effects on human-to-human communication in a special research lab at WMU. The Communication and Social Robotics Lab in WMU’s School of Communication was established in 2014 and is a collaborative effort of WMU associate professors Autumn and Chad Edwards and the University of Kentucky’s Patric Spence.

Both universities have corresponding labs that examine human-robot communication, particularly that of social robots, which are designed to interact with humans. “It’s only a matter of time before we see (social) robotics in everyday life,” Chad Edwards says. “This (the WMU lab) is the only lab in the discipline of communication we know about that focuses on social robotics.” Although Chad and Autumn Edwards say it’s not yet clear how people will react to social robots, they have found a consistent pattern in three studies they’ve published since the labs were created. These studies assessed participants’ expectations when they were told that they would be talking to a partner and their subsequent reactions and behaviors when they found out the partner would be a robot. “People expect that they’re going to be talking with another person, so you violate their expectations when a robot shows up instead,” Autumn Edwards says. “Although people may be more fearful or nervous when it comes to talking to a robot, they tend to behave like they would with another person.” The lab is giving WMU students a head start on social robotics research. Autumn Edwards says students are the “heartbeat of the lab” because they drive much of the research. Up to nine undergraduate students and two graduate students work in the lab on independent-study assignments. One

Brian Powers


current student-driven study tests whether virtual reality can reduce receiver apprehension, a state of nervousness when listening to important information. “There’ve been a lot of studies about how speaking into the virtualreality system first may reduce apprehension on the speaker’s part, but nobody is really looking at the apprehension that comes from listening,” Autumn Edwards says. Samantha Macy, a WMU senior majoring in public relations, is doing a study for her senior thesis on whether virtual reality increases news consumers’ social presence, or the feeling of being live at the scene, and whether increased social presence causes consumers to have more empathy in connection with the reported issues. She says her idea arose when the New York Times sent 1.2 million Google Cardboard headsets to its home-delivery subscribers and asked them to watch a virtual-reality film about three children growing up in Lebanon, South Sudan and Ukraine. “So few undergrad students have the chance to participate in original research, and a number of things I’ve learned in the lab I would have never learned by sitting in the classroom,” Macy says. “It’s been astonishing to learn how technology can be applied to communication and all the changes we’re going to see in communication technology in the next five years.” In addition to social robots and virtual-reality headsets, the Communication and Social Robotics Lab houses a telepresence robot, which the Edwardses describe as Skype on wheels. It is used to explore technology-mediated human-to-human communication. The lab also recently received a humanoid robot (a robot that has

a similar physical appearance to human beings), which will help expand the lab’s research of human-robot interactions involving embodied artificial intelligence. These robots were part of a November presentation by the couple and students to residents of a local retirement community, The Fountains at Bronson Place. Afterward, the residents experimented with the robots and used the telepresence robot to tour Waldo Library from the retirement community. “Our residents were really amazed by the technology,” says Nancy Kotarski, community life director of The Fountains. “It was a very insightful experience for them. It’s important for them to know about the technology that will be available to them for when they’re no longer able to travel the world.” Chad and Autumn Edwards are both from West Texas. They have been married for 20 years and have two daughters, America and Emerson. Chad says he became intrigued by robots as a 2-year-old when he saw Star Wars and that his liking for robots has rubbed off on 9-year-old Emerson. Autumn Edwards, on the other hand, says she’s sometimes suspicious about the continued advancements in technology and social robots. “I think that’s what makes the lab work really well. We balance each other out,” Chad Edwards says. “It’s a good blend. We’re like The Force.” For more information on the Communication and Social Robotics Lab, visit www.combotlab.org.

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Bigs in Business

Workplace fosters relationships for youth and adults LISA MACKINDER

Brian Powers



evi Hickman, a 13-year-old student at Milwood Magnet School in Kalamazoo, is hesistant to try out for the school band for next year, but you can’t help notice more than a hint of interest on the eighthgrader’s face when Kyle Croes encourages him to do so. “He’s reading music proficiently, has great range and runs through all of our warm-ups without having to refresh,” says Croes, who gives Hickman weekly trumpet lessons. “He’s got it all down.” That’s because Croes is more than a music instructor to Hickman. 12 | ENCORE MAY 2016

Levi Hickman, left, listens as Big Brother Kyle Croes explains a project he is working on in his job as a supply chain manager at Eaton Corp. Opposite page: Croes gives Hickman weekly trumpet lessons.

Croes is Levi’s Big Brother, and the pair came together in an unusual way: through Croes’ job at Eaton Corp. The two are participants in Bigs in Business, a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kalamazoo program that gives those who don’t have a lot of free time to volunteer the opportunity Brian to bePowers a Big


Brother or Big Sister at their workplace. The Bigs in Business program partners with local companies to match up workers with “Littles.” Then twice a month, the Littles visit with their Bigs at the companies where the Bigs work, not only connecting with the Bigs, but receiving valuable exposure to the work world. Sitting beside Hickman, 14-year-old Nina Herschleb beams at her Big Sister, Kristen Kubicek, a senior pricing analyst at Eaton. Herschleb, a ninth-grader at Loy Norrix High School, and Kubicek talk of their shared interest in creative pursuits, including the glazed globe art piece that they created to donate to the upcoming BBBS Annual Benefit Dinner on June 20 at the Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites. “I thought it sounded fun to meet someone,” Herschleb says about signing up for Bigs in Business, “somebody who is older than me and just connect and have a friend.” In 2006, BBBS launched the Bigs in Business pilot program with Eaton, matching the company with Milwood Magnet School, with which it is still partnered. Other companies came on board as well, but when the 2008 recession hit, involvement plummeted. Kubicek,

who served as Eaton’s Bigs in Business site coordinator during those years, says Eaton’s commitment to the program never wavered. Eaton not only continued participating, but picked up the tab when funding to bus the kids to its Galesburg facility dissolved. “A lot of it was pride that we were the pilot program and we were still going — and Eaton is very community-oriented,” Kubicek says. “It’s the employees’ expectation of what the corporation is going to do and also the corporation’s expectation of what the employees will do. It never ever occurred to us to not have the program.” Today, Bigs in Business has expanded to other Michigan communities including Grand Rapids. Local matches include Stryker Instruments and Kalamazoo Central High School, Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Loy Norrix High School, and National Flavors and Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. Each July, Eaton Corp. starts recruiting its Bigs. It currently has 15 adult volunteers and has had as many as 25 volunteers. The Littles come to Eaton twice a month to meet with their Bigs. In addition to getting to know their Bigs and learning about their careers, the

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SAVOR GOOD WORKS ENCORE ENCORE Littles experience a workplace environment, learning such soft skills as dress code, interaction with co-workers and office behaviors. Last year Eaton Corp. planned a field trip for its Big-Little pairs to KVCC, where the Bigs and Littles toured the campus and met with KVCC representatives, who explained the types of support in place to help Littles if they become future KVCC students. Kubicek and Croes say many Littles imagine college as “a scary place” — or not even an option for them — and the Bigs hope that the visit showed the Littles that “it doesn’t have to be as terrifying because there are all of these things that (colleges) can do to help,” Kubicek says. Carmen James, a match support specialist at BBBS in Kalamazoo, who pairs the Bigs and Littles, and Kubicek and Croes all attest to the huge impact Bigs in Business has had, using one word to describe what they see the program instilling in the Littles: confidence. James describes how one Little Sister’s body language before being matched with a Big appeared very defeated. Within four weeks of being with her Big, she carried herself like a different person, she says. The Bigs also receive much in return, says Croes, who is most rewarded by witnessing his Little’s growth. “Levi is an incredible young man, and giving him the opportunity Ninth-grader Nina Herschleb, at left, met her Big Sister Kristen Kubicek through the Bigs in Business program at Eaton Corp., where Kubicek works as a senior pricing analyst.

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to grow and have a promising future, I think, is definitely the most rewarding,” Croes says. Sometimes, though, Bigs don’t know the impact they have had on a Little until much later. Back in 1994, Kubicek says, she wondered if she was making a difference in her first Little’s life. Then, in 2002, Kubicek’s boss nominated her for Eaton’s Stover Volunteerism Award, and that Little and the Little’s mom wrote a letter in support of Kubicek’s nomination. Her Little wrote about when she and Kubicek rang bells for the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle drive. “Without yelling at me or anything,” the Little wrote, “she helped me think bigger about what we were doing and why we were there, and that my feet really weren’t that cold.” Both Croes’ and Kubicek’s relationships with their current Littles have evolved into community-based matches, meaning they participate in one-on-one outings and activities outside of the workplace. Croes and Hickman generally get together once a week and often embark on a new experience for Hickman, such as listening to the Gull Lake Jazz Orchestra at the Union Cabaret & Grille. Croes remembers that outing for what Hickman said afterward — words that revealed the experience’s effect on the teen. “We were driving back to my apartment, and (Hickman) said, ‘I want to take my girlfriend to the Union to listen to jazz.’ I couldn’t believe it,” Croes says. “It was the coolest thing!”

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House Shows and Bandcamp

Kalamazoo bands forge new frontiers to promote music by



hose wanting to hear a new rock band these days probably won’t buy an album or spin through a radio dial. They’ll go online, where there are thousands of bands making music they’ve never heard before. With so much competition, how does a band get its sound to new listeners? “You can have Facebook and social media, but you’ve got to play shows, get to know people in your town, then go out of your town,” 16 | ENCORE MAY 2016

says Daniel Riehl, drummer and vocalist for the Kalamazoo punk band The Reptilian (which sounds a little bit like the 1970s bands The Ramones and The Clash). Online tools make it easier for bands to get their songs in front of an audience now than in past decades. Instead of paying a studio for recording time, artists can record a song in their bedroom, post it on a site like YouTube and let the word of mouth spread. That’s part of The

Clubs and house shows While online promotion is important, musicians say the best way to attract an audience to is to play live, Riehl says. The Reptilian is working on a new album, so the band has scaled back its performances to about one a month. When in “tour mode,” however, the band travels across the country for two to three weeks at a time. The members rely on a network of friends — and messages on sites like Facebook — to help set up concert dates and procure places to sleep after a show. Riehl estimates The Reptilian has played about 1,000 shows since forming in late 2007.


At left: Members of Kalamazoo band Bike Tuff perform at Shakespeare’s Pub. Below: Bike Tuff also finds fans by performing at house shows.

Another Kalamazoo band, indie rock group Bike Tuff, plays about 40 shows a year, mostly in West Michigan. Bike Tuff’s sound is akin to that of the White Stripes and Arcade Fire. Singer Nathan Richards says that, since forming in 2009, the band has tried online promotion and paying marketing professionals to push a new album. “Playing live shows is the more effective way” to promote a band, Richards says. “You get in front of a captive audience, it gives you a chance to get your message out.”

Booking bands Both Riehl's and Richards’ promotion of music goes beyond their own bands — they book live shows for bands from Southwest Michigan and sometimes bands from Chicago, Detroit and other regions. Even in the music scene the old cliché is true: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Booking involves connecting local bands or bands that are touring through West Michigan with local venues — finding a bar, club or other facility that has available performance space — and scheduling a show. Often bands try to team up for a show so they can all get in front of an audience on the same night. Bands will also take turns booking and hosting shows for out-of-town bands they know and then relying on those same friends when they go on tour. Booking a show extends beyond just the concert, Riehl says. He’s helped bands find a place to sleep after a show. Sometimes bands can even wash clothes or eat a home-cooked meal if the booking agent is able to arrange it. “Anyone who does that little extra is really appreciated,” Riehl says. Bands discover one another online, and Riehl says he tries to check out anyone who emails him asking to “hop on” a Reptilian performance. Venues also look for artists. Charley Lavelle is a booking agent at Shakespeare’s Pub, on East Kalamazoo Avenue. In addition to booking bands for Shakespeare's, Lavelle organizes the annual Fat Guy Fest in August, a concert marathon of local and other bands. The festival debuted in 2014 and the response was so positive that Fat Guy Fest was expanded from three nights to four Brian Powers Courtesy

Reptilian's plan, Riehl says. His band’s newest music is posted online for download on the music sales site Bandcamp (thereptilianband. bandcamp.com). Listeners can even download The Reptilian’s music for free, although Bandcamp suggests users pay about $1 per song. Bands can also sell their albums in CD or LP format on the site. Having an online home for their music allows bands to provide listeners with constant access. If a friend recommends a band, you can listen to a song by the band immediately and buy the group’s album on the spot. Or maybe a music journalist will find a band’s song through an Internet search and promote it on a blog or in a magazine.

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nights of performances in its second year. Fat Guy Fest 2, held in August 2015, featured The Reptilian, Bike Tuff and more than 40 other bands, most from the greater Kalamazoo area. Lavelle says he’s considering bringing national acts to this year’s Fat Guy Fest. Musicians say Kalamazoo clubs like Shakespeare’s Pub, Louie’s Trophy House Grill, Bell’s Eccentric Café and the clubs in the downtown Entertainment District are popular venues for local bands. Booking agents also book bands for house shows, literally arranging a concert in someone’s living room or basement. Shows are announced on Facebook or through fliers distributed in retail locations around Kalamazoo. Riehl says one house, called “Milhouse,” just hosted its 100th show. His own home is dubbed “Casa Mona,” and Lavelle says the Fat Guy Fest is named after another area house party locale, “Fat Guy House.” Riehl suggests some cautionary measures to take if you host a house show. “You block off the living room and emphasize that it’s not a party,” he says. “You definitely have to talk to your neighbors. I try to shut it down at midnight. I’ve never really had problems with the cops.”

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Money for ‘merch’ If bands like The Reptilian and Bike Tuff are playing house parties and sleeping on audience members’ couches, are they making any money from their music? They don’t, Riehl says. At a house party, bands collect suggested donations of $3 to $5 per person. Venues may charge a little more, but most of that money goes to pay the club’s expenses for hosting a concert. The little revenue that does come in is put right back into the band, he says. “It’s all going to the band for gas money or ‘merch,'” Richards says. The merchandise includes T-shirts, bumper stickers and maybe CDs with homemade art for a cover. At many shows, a small table displaying the merchandise is set up near the stage, with a friend of the band taking care of sales. Bike Tuff’s merchandise has gone beyond the standard: The band created a small video game, Bomb the Hill, that’s available online

(nathanrichards48.wix.com/bomb-the-hill). Players control the band members riding bicycles as they pick up beer and burritos while avoiding cars and potholes. Bike Tuff songs play in the background during the game. Bomb the Hill is free to play, and Richards says the game is simply another opportunity to promote the band. The Reptilian has released “splits,” discs with two songs, one from The Reptilian and the other from another band the group wants to support. Riehl says the other bands on the splits are “friends we met on tour.” More than making a lot of money from their music, bands want to play songs and get to know fans and other bands, Riehl says. “You’re always meeting people and making friends,” he says.

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Boosting the local scene A unique part of the Kalamazoo music scene is the “loose collective” DITKalamazoo, which has a website at ditkalamazoo.com. DIT stands for “Do It Together,” and the individuals in DITKalamazoo seek to help the local music scene thrive and grow, according to the website. Since 2009, the website has been a place for bands to connect online and discuss ways they can promote one another. The site’s activity has quieted down recently, but its concert calendar remains up-to-date, with multi-band shows somewhere in the greater Kalamazoo area two or three days every week. While it’s always possible a local band could be spotted by a big-time record producer and suddenly go on tour around the world, Riehl and Richards say they’re OK with just sharing the bill with friends on a Saturday night in a Kalamazoo club. They both have day jobs — Richards works at Kalamazoo marketing company Newhall Klein, while Riehl just starting working at the People’s Food Co-op. Before that, he was a shift manager for several years at Menna’s Joint, a restaurant on Stadium Drive. “I stayed there because I could go out on tour and always come back to a job,” Riehl says.

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Program helps parents foster children's early development story by


photography by

“H-A-L-L-E-L-U-J-A-H.” Two-year-old Kar’Mon Coleman names the letters as his mother, Talia Coleman, points to each one. The toddler doesn’t miss a beat. “What does that spell?” she asks. “Hallelujah!” Kar’Mon exclaims. When Kar’Mon reached about 1 1/2 years old, Talia and Kareem Coleman realized that their son recognized his written name. They mentioned it to Bianca Harris, a parent educator with the Parents as Teachers program (PAT) at the Elizabeth Upjohn Community Healing Center, in Kalamazoo. Upon learning that Kar’Mon identified his written name, Harris suggested that the Colemans create a word book for Kar’Mon, starting with simple words like “cat” and “bat.” Now Kar’Mon knows all the letters of the alphabet and reads a litany of words such as “juice,” “worship” and, of course, “hallelujah.” PAT is a national program in which parent educators such as Harris visit the homes of parents and teach them ways to increase their child’s communication skills, intellectual development, socioemotional growth and fine motor skills — in effect helping the parents become their child’s “best first teacher,” according to the Parents as Teachers National Center. The thinking behind PAT is that parents participating in the program become more knowledgeable in all of those developmental areas and can recognize their child’s developmental strengths and potential delays, ensuring that the child gets the best start in life. A hopedfor result of PAT is to raise a child’s school readiness and odds of future school success. In Kalamazoo County, PAT parent educators visit with families of children from infancy to 3 years old. The families come from all walks of life, across the economic spectrum, and live in rural, suburban and urban settings.

Talia Coleman works with her 2-year-old son Kar’Mon on recognizing numbers, including the spelling of the words.

20 | ENCORE MAY 2016


When Harris first arrives at the Colemans’ home on this day, with her blue and black duffle bag full of tools – balls, color charts and other materials – Kar’Mon races over expectantly, peeking inside the bag and pulling out a ball. He’s eager to learn. So is his mom, who wants the best for her son. And Harris, extremely personable and knowledgeable in her area of expertise, is ready to get started too.

Boots on the ground

Sally Reames — executive director of the Community Healing Centers (CHC), one of the community partners in the PAT program — refers to Harris and the other parent educators as its “boots on the ground.” Reames says that when Harris interviewed for the position, the program snatched her right up. But Harris almost missed the opportunity to wear those educational boots because she initially planned to don a stethoscope and white doctor’s coat instead. “I kind of knew I wanted to do something in the teaching field,” she admits. “I tried to run from it because everyone in my family are teachers and professors. So when I was growing up, everyone said, ‘You’re going to be a teacher,’ and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’” Harris attended Western Michigan University as a pre-med student, but becoming a doctor didn’t suit her.

w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 21

She switched her major to nursing, but that didn’t feel right, either. So, what did Harris do next? “Honestly, I prayed on it,” she says, “because I’m a woman of faith, so I said, ‘God, lead me to what it is,' and it just dropped into my spirit.’” Harris changed her major — for the last time — to childhood and early development, with an emphasis in family studies. She enjoyed it from the start, she says, and now loves working with parents and with youngsters like Kar’Mon. “I love building connections with the family, watching the child grow, and seeing that this program does help,” Harris says. Harris visits the Coleman family once a month, as she does most of her clients. During this visit, she asks the family how things are going and if any new concerns have developed. They discuss the development of fine motor skills, such as the dexterity to display one, two, three and four fingers. Harris identifies ways to help advance Kar’Mon’s fine motor skills, such as coloring and drawing, which strengthen the muscles and promote coordination. With her training, Harris recognizes where Kar’Mon falls in regard to fine motor skills and confidently assures Talia Coleman that he is right on track. Next, they all sit on the floor and roll a ball to each other, then stand and toss it back and forth, both underhanded and over their heads. Kar’Mon quickly follows suit. 22 | ENCORE MAY 2016

Harris has been meeting with the Colemans since Kar’Mon was 2 months old, and the parents say they look forward to the visits. For families new to PAT, Harris first asks getting-to-know-you questions, including, “What would you like to gain from the program?” Each family presents different concerns and areas of interest, she says, requiring an understanding of a wide range of topics. Occasionally a question pops up that Harris might not be able to answer. She says she doesn’t shrink from admitting it and will then seek out the information. “I try to keep an open, honest relationship with my clients,” Harris says. Harris believes traits including openness, sincerity, flexibility and a sociable nature make for a successful parent educator. Another important quality is liking to smile, because it helps set clients at ease and let them know that she is there as a support, not a critic.

About the program

Reames emphasizes that PAT uses an evidence-based model. This is important, she says, because it means that the program is measured on its success rate. “We measure where kids are when we go in developmentally and where they are as we move along,” Reames says. “We measure parent satisfaction with their experience and how many visits.” According to the Parents as Teachers National Center, state governments,

Parent educator Bianca Harris, at right, celebrates as Kar’Mon Coleman, leaning against his mother Talia, shows Harris his dexterity at displaying numbers using his fingers.

independent school districts, private foundations, universities and research organizations have conducted research on PAT, collecting outcome data from more than 16,000 children and parents. Published studies reveal that PAT achieves its goals and makes a real difference in the lives of children and their families, according to the center. Reames also emphasizes that PAT has achieved fidelity, meaning that the model is taught the same way at every location across the country — with parent educators applying the same measures, language and approach at each home visit. “The fidelity of the model says that the PAT staff is not there to tell the parent what they’re doing wrong,” she says. “But the staff is there to support the parent and enhance what they’re doing right” and to help the parent engage the child, Reames says. In 2014, The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo received $300,000 in funding and wanted to focus on children age 3 and younger. The United Way of the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek Region contributed another $250,000 toward that cause, Reames explains. Five organizations — the CHC, Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency (KRESA), Comstock Community Learning Center, Advocacy Services for Kids (ASK) and Catholic

Family Charities of Kalamazoo — joined forces to offer the PAT program and called their unique consortium Seeds for Success. ASK is currently unable to participate, but the YWCA of Kalamazoo has recently come on board as a full partner. “Many of us knew each other's agencies from before,” Reames says. “We already had commitment to the cause. Several of us in the field had been waiting for someone to say, ‘You guys are doing a great job of collaborating. Let’s give you some money and see what you can do with it.’ So we really were eager to try it.”

‘Building the airplane while flying it’

Reames laughs when asked what it took to get Seeds for Success off the ground. An immediate launch was required or the funding would have been lost, she says. It was like “building the airplane while flying it.” “We had 30 days to hire and train,” she says. “And we did it. In 60 days, we were on the ground and taking referrals.” During this short time, the collaborators realized there were many details to hammer out, such as deciding that one person should oversee the consortium’s finances. This issue, along with many others, Reames says, taught the group what it really meant to share a budget and develop standards of operating. Despite this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants liftoff, Seeds for Success reached 480 children in its first year. The program now has almost 20 parent educators, with five of them based at the CHC. Seeds for Success partners meet each week to sort through referrals and match families with parent educators. These matches aren’t guided by a family’s home location, but by who is the most natural fit. Each parent educator possesses certain strengths, and each organization at which parent educators are based has special expertise. One parent educator speaks fluent Spanish and is trusted in the Hispanic community, so she’s a natural fit for Hispanic families, Reames says, and KRESA, for instance, might best understand developmental and physical issues for parents of babies born prematurely. Seeds for Success has also swiftly expanded its outreach. Reames recalls meeting one day with Grace Lubwama, YWCA chief executive officer, and mentioning the PAT program. Lubwama immediately

inquired, “Well, why aren’t you here?” Reames says the question stopped her in her tracks. The YWCA provides safe shelter for women with children who suffer from domestic violence, and Reames wondered, ‘Yes, why wasn’t PAT there?’ That situation was soon remedied, and a parent educator is now based at the YWCA. The educator works with women and their children not only when they move into the facility, but also when they move out and into their own homes, Reames says. After adding a parent educator at the YWCA, Seeds for Success evaluated where else PAT might be needed and decided the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission was a fit. “The women and the kids were especially welcoming and eager,” Reames says of the Gospel Mission’s clientele. “Before I knew it, she (the parent educator) was taking a whole group of them to Reading in the Park. I think now somebody is there (Kalamazoo Gospel Mission) every week.”

Community commitment

People like Kath Paul, owner of Kalamazoo Stripping and Derusting, in Portage, help parent educators do their jobs better. During an appearance on WWMT, Reames discussed PAT and its ongoing need for diapers. Seeds for Success clients falling in a lowincome bracket often need assistance with diapers and baby wipes, which can’t be purchased with a Bridge card. With dry bottoms, youngsters are more comfortable and ready to learn, Reames explained. Paul saw the telecast and called the station to leave a message for Reames:“Tell that woman that the Kalamazoo Strippers are going to do diapers.” Reames received the message in a handwritten note from the station, and Paul and her employees made good, donating an entire truckload of diapers. “She was so straight, come at you. I really liked her style,” Reames says. The PAT model places a strong emphasis on reading. By age 5, Reames says, a child should have been read 1,000 books. According to the PAT National Center, 75 percent of PAT parents say they regularly (continued on page 42)

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Going Native

(with plants, that is)

Improving the environment one yard at a time 24 | ENCORE MAY 2016

story by photography by



here’s a growing trend in landscaping across the country: replacing traditional lawns, shrubs and annual bedding plants with perennials that are native to the local region. Not only are nature preserves like the Kalamazoo Nature Center and Pierce Cedar Creek Institute restoring prairies, wetlands and other ecosystems on their own properties, but individual and corporate landowners are getting in on the act, too, creating native landscapes both large and small. Why? Proponents say native plants are good for wildlife and environmental quality and are easy to care for and beautiful, too. Tom Small, co-founder of the Kalamazoo area chapter of Wild Ones, a volunteer organization dedicated to restoring biodiversity through education and native landscaping, says this native plant trend is a reversal of what had been happening to the American landscape during the past several decades — development that eradicated natural ecosystems and contributed to the extinction and endangerment of both plant and animal species.

Pink swamp rose mallow, at left, and purple ironweed are among the native wetland plants the Kalamazoo Wild Ones have cultivated along Axtell Creek near Crosstown Parkway and Howard Street in Kalamazoo. w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 25

Growing Native Tom Small, of Kalamazoo Wild Ones, suggests these plants for getting a native garden started:

Shady, moist areas

Sunny, dry to moist areas: • Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

• Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) — good ground cover

• Lance-leaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)

• Woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata)

• Pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida)

• Zig-zag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis)

• Rough blazing star (Liatris aspera) — dry, sandy areas

• Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

• Silky aster (Aster sericeus)

• Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) • Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Plants are available locally from Hidden Savanna Nursery, hiddensavanna.com.

• Purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea)

More than 20 years ago Small and his late wife, Nancy Cutbirth Small, gradually began replacing their lawn in Kalamazoo’s Winchell neighborhood with native plants, following their Quaker values of simplicity and stewardship. They were inspired by Sara Stein's book, Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards, which Small says makes the case that “we need to create the ark all over again. In order to restore the ecology that we’re losing, we need to bring 26 | ENCORE MAY 2016

back as much as possible the species that evolved where we are.” Small says that native wildlife is most successful in — and in some cases entirely dependent on — a habitat of native plants. He notes, for example, that a native viburnum shrub supports 90 to 100 species of moths and butterflies, whereas a non-native forsythia supports only a few insect species. “Over the course of tens of thousands of years, an amazing evolutionary process has

created relationships that are very specialized and very intricate and really work, and when we disrupt them, then we begin upsetting the balance of species,” Small says. “And as Darwin remarked, take away one species from a whole system, and the ripples go on and on and on. You’ve changed everything just by eliminating that one species, and we’re eliminating them at a great rate. There are natural background extinctions, but most scientists agree that the extinction rate is 100 to 1,000 times the natural background rate.” Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, in Barry County, has converted more than 80 acres of fallow farm field to prairie. “Today less than 1 percent of the original expanse of Michigan native prairie remains,” says Jen Howell, stewardship director at the institute. “By creating prairie habitat, we can provide crucial habitat for many native species and can potentially increase their populations by doing so.” Sarah Reding, vice president of conservation stewardship at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, has seen this work firsthand on a restored prairie at the center. “The Willard Rose Prairie is one of the most diverse restoration projects in the state, or at least in Southwest Michigan,” Reding says. As a result, “we’re getting birds that haven’t been to the Nature Center ever and some that haven’t been here for a long time.” Restoring native habitat is important from a human perspective too, particularly in terms of agriculture. With the rise of colony collapse disorder and other threats affecting the population of nonnative honeybees, the importance of native bees, butterflies, moths and beetles in crop pollination is greater than ever. “If we lose our native pollinators,” Small says, “we’ll wind up the way the Chinese are in various areas where they’ve lost pollinators due to Opposite page, top row: Tom Small’s yard boasts native plants including obedient plant (left); cup plant with a visiting Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (center); and cup plant and joe-pye weed, pictured with Small. Second row, from left: Jennifer Howell, stewardship manager at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, admires a bed of thriving black-eyed Susans at the institute; the delicate daisy fleabane; and purple coneflower. Bottom row, from left: Rattlesnake master; swamp rose mallow At right: Black-eyed Susans

pollution and environmental practices, and now they have to go around by hand transferring pollen from one crop plant to another.” Native plants offer other environmental benefits, like improved soil, water and air quality. For example, prairie plants’ deep roots make them better at carbon sequestration — taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere — than shallow-rooted plants like lawn grass. Similarly, wetland plants around shorelines help control runoff of sediment and chemicals from roads and agriculture. As director of ecological services at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, Anna Kornoelje works with homeowners, corporate landowners such as Pfizer, nonprofits and public agencies to develop native landscapes on their properties. She is overseeing the creation of an Urban Nature Park along Portage Creek in downtown Kalamazoo, an area that is prone to flooding. The park will be festooned with colorful blooming plants such as cardinal flower, but the predominant vegetation will be sedges, grass-like plants often found in wetlands. “Sedges have dense roots,” Kornoelje says, “and they really hold that soil so when we get floods in that area, it’s going to capture the floodwater and hold the soil.”

Easy to tend Native plant experts say established native plants are also easier to care for and more economical than conventional lawns and gardens. Just like any Michigander who grew up here, native plants are used to the regional climate, but are better able to weather cold and drought than most humans. Irrigation is unnecessary for them and so is fertilizer, because natives usually do well in poor soil and even improve it themselves. “One of the really nice benefits about planting natives is that you don’t need to add so much (to the soil),” Kornoelje says. “They take a little while to get established, (but once they are) you’ve got plants that will come back for, some of them, up to 100 to 150 years for a single individual plant.” Native plants also compete well against weeds. “In a mature prairie we don’t really have issues with invasives,” Howell says. “The native grasses are quite aggressive and hardy and are able to hold their ground against many weed invasions. If you’re someone who spends a lot of time weeding and fertilizing and watering your garden, this is a great alternative.” Although a bed of native plants can be quite beautiful if planned well, don’t expect a showcase garden overnight. Creating a native garden involves some preparation, like evaluating the soil and other

Getting Started Finding native plants Southwest Michigan is a fertile area for native gardeners because of the resources available — from seed and plant stock to information and expertise.

Consulting • The Kalamazoo Nature Center’s Great Lakes Ecological Management and Services team offers a range of services, naturecenter.org/ConservationStewardship/ GreatLakesEcologicalManagement.aspx

• The Kalamazoo area chapter of Wild Ones offers free site visits to members, kalamazoowildones.org • The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy has compiled a list of private ecological consultants, swmlc.org/content/resources-land-management

Seeds and plants The Michigan Native Plant Producers Association includes member nurseries in the Kalamazoo area, mnppa.org/members.html w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 27

Learn more

Kalamazoo Wild Ones (kalamazoowildones.org) May 7 — Field trip to Augusta Plain with Nate Fuller of Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy May 28 — Native plant sale at the People’s Food Co-op Pierce Cedar Creek Institute (cedarcreekinstitute.org/calendar.html) May 7 — Guided wildflower hikes May 8 — Native plant sale May 19 — Monarch monitoring program

conditions to know what plants will do best and removing unwanted non-native and invasive species before planting. “If you want a planting that will impress people right away, I highly recommend plugs (seedlings),” Howell says, “but it’s a lot more expensive to do so. If you can be patient, seed is the way to go. Just be aware that it can take five or more years for many prairie plants to establish the extensive root systems required before blooming.” Planting by seed can also be the best option when dealing with plants that don’t transplant well, like wild blue lupine, which is the host

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Learn about growing native plants at these upcoming educational programs:

for the endangered Karner blue butterfly. “Sometimes Mother Nature just does a better job, and it’s best not to interfere,” Howell says.

Self-taught gardeners You don’t need to be a master gardener to take up native gardening. The Smalls, who were both retired English professors from Western Michigan University, became self-taught experts and ended up writing an instruction manual, Using Native Plants to Restore Community in Southwest Michigan and Beyond. The book, published in 2011, two years after Nancy Small’s death, includes essays on the Smalls’ experiences as well as practical advice and encouragement, including the whys and hows of growing native plants, lists of plants and resources. As former teachers, the Smalls even opened up their own yard as a demonstration garden, with informational signs, pathways and seating. “We want this to be educational,” says Small, who is continuing the work with his current wife, Ruth. “Yes, we want some privacy, but people are welcome to come in here, walk around, ask questions, look at things and sit and contemplate.”

Above: Purple coneflower. At left: Native wetland plants along Axtell Creek.

Small advises homeowners considering converting yards to natives to go slowly. “Don’t try to do it all at once,” he says. “Start with a 400-square-foot patch or a 20-square-foot patch. See how things go and learn as you go along. Do it bit by bit so that you don’t burn out in the first couple of years.” Even small native gardens provide needed oases for wildlife in the middle of the suburbs, Small says. “We have these patches of seminatural areas like Asylum Lake, some parts of Woods Lake and Kleinstuck Preserve here in our neighborhood, but there’s not much connectivity. In between there’s either barren land or conventional landscaping, which doesn’t support much in the way of wildlife.” You don’t have to restore a whole prairie to benefit nature in some way, and every little bit helps, Kornoelje says. “If you can make it attractive and make your other neighbors think, ‘Oh, I could do that, too,’ then you’re starting to create a ripple effect and make a big impact.”

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‘Anyone Can Do This’

Belly dance duo teaches, performs for and inspires others by


"Belly dance is not just dance.”

So says Sarah Schneider Koning, a 39-year-old professional belly dance instructor and founder of the Kalamazoo dance troupe Boheme Tribal Belly Dance. “It’s the music, the way of dress, the language. Then you start getting into the food,” she says with a laugh. For the past 19 years, Koning has been offering belly dance instruction to the public, devoting her life to the study of Arabic culture and Western expressions of its dances. “Arabic culture is not homogenous,” she says. “There are little nuances from every corner, every generation. In Egypt, they may dance differently than they do in Turkey or in Greece or in Lebanon.” Koning studied with Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman, the founder of a style of dance called American Tribal Style, or ATS, which is based on traditional belly dance but uses a completely improvisational approach. Koning has also studied traditional belly dances with teachers who travel to the United States from overseas, including some of Roma lineage, the traditionally itinerant ethnic group of Eastern Europe sometimes known by the term “Gypsies.” (Some consider this term to be derogatory. It originated with the mistaken idea that the Roma people came from Egypt.) Now Koning runs classes, workshops and offers business consultations on everything from choreography and how to teach belly dance to building community and social networking. She teaches in her Caravan of Dreams Gallery and Studios, on the fourth floor of the Park Trades Center, in downtown Kalamazoo. Beginner Belly Dance, Intro to Improv Tribal Style and Shimmy Power Hour are among the classes offered at a drop-in rate of $15 per hour or an eight-week rate of $90. Koning grew up in South Haven, where her father, Kevin Schneider, worked at Palisades nuclear plant, doing disaster-preparedness planning. He was also a paramedic and a firefighter, and he now lives in Georgia. Her mother, Maureen Schneider, is a pharmacy technician at South Haven Community Hospital. Koning got into belly dance when she was 18, after she took her first class on a dare and fell in love with it. She started studying belly dance through videos because the ATS movement, which was unfolding in San Francisco, had not yet reached the Midwest. She deliberately avoided studying Western

30 | ENCORE MAY 2016

dance, like ballet, she says, because she did not want its influence on her body as she studied the subtleties of Middle Eastern dances. Koning was 20 when she started teaching at the South Haven Center for the Arts, after the teacher of her belly dance class left and her classmates wanted the class to continue.

ENCORE ARTS “I didn’t really have a mentor for any of this,” she says. “It’s been a lot of trial and error.” Koning may be impressively focused, but among the many endearing things about her — including reddish freckles on her face, her long, sometimes braided hair, and an enthusiasm for belly dance that other dancers tease her about — she has a beautiful laugh and uses it often. She also shares her life’s passion with her husband, Eric Koning. The two met in high school. “He dated all of my friends,” Sarah says, laughing. The couple met again in 2006 when Eric, who was living in Minnesota, moved back to Kalamazoo. He was looking for a new belly dance teacher, since he had started to pursue belly dance on his own in 2005 after a friend suggested he try it. When he reached out to Sarah for lessons, they realized they knew each other. This time around, the connection was immediate. “We both love belly dance so much that it’s like, how could we not get together?” she says. On working together, Sarah says, “When we finally come to the end and have a number choreographed and perform it together, it’s ecstatic.” “But,” she admits, “the process can be bumpy.” Koning says she and her husband are the only couple she knows of who perform ATS. Husband and wife Eric Koning and Sarah Schneider Koning teach and perform belly dance through Boheme Tribal Belly Dance. Photo by Brian Powers.

Sometimes they get on stage and improvise a performance. “The audience loves it, because there is that dynamic between us that you don’t see between two platonic dancers," she says. When you watch them dance, it’s apparent that Eric brings a quiet presence to Boheme Tribal, embodying the mystery some might believe females contribute to a space. This reversal of expectations, and seeing a man in a belly dance troupe at all, enriches the troupe’s performance. At the same time, there is no danger of Eric taking

Boheme Tribal Belly Dance Location: Suite 424, Park Trades Center, 326 Kalamazoo Ave. More information: Visit bohemetribal.com, send email to aksanais@gmail.com or call 269-665-0893. attention away from the group, since the six dancers circle and shift, often changing who is out front. And Sarah’s commanding stage expressions shine no matter where she is. “I get a lot of women who say, ‘Oh, I couldn’t do that. I’m too fat. I’m too old,’” says Sarah. “I say, ‘Look at me. I am not a Barbie doll. I wouldn’t be in a movie doing what I’m doing,’ but then they see me dance and they’re like, ‘Wow, anyone can do this.’” In the U.S. and a lot of Western cultures, Sarah says, some people erroneously believe that belly dance is a highly sexualized dance,

intended for the male gaze. “That’s not what it’s about at all,” she says. “It’s what Grandma does at the weddings. Even Uncle Mahoud is doing it. It’s just the way they dance,” and more and more Americans are starting to belly dance. “It’s funny how belly dance starts as a bucket-list kind of thing for women, and then when they join and take part in the sisterhood and the community, and they start moving, something happens inside of them,” she says. “You could think of it on an energy level, opening the chakras. Or you could think about it just as finally being allowed to move freely. After so many years of being taught to pull yourself in and hold yourself up, you’re allowed to let go and have a good time.” Boheme Tribal Belly Dance can be hired to perform at festivals, weddings and fundraising events. The group also performs at local events and the World Dance Showcase, which is hosted by a belly dance duo in Traverse City every year. In October, Boheme Tribal will host its 10th annual Ooky Spooky, a two-day Halloweenthemed event at various venues in the Kalamazoo area, featuring workshops with international and regional belly dance stars. The event includes a costume contest for the audience and vendors selling belly dance costumes and jewelry.

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s d n e i r F y n n Fu e t i U n her to build thriving get o t e m o ne c e s c n s a i y d d e e com Com o o z a m a Kal story


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ob Fredericks is a man who sleeps until 10:30 a.m. and is not afraid to put on a chicken suit. The proof is printed on his business card, which shows Fredericks wearing a flaming Pabst Blue Ribbon box on his head and advertises his semi-monthly comedy open-mic night. The 26-year-old customer service representative is part of a group of local comedians who say they are building one of the strongest grassroots comedy scenes in Michigan. Kalamazoo’s current comedy scene, which goes back about five years, includes six open mics as well as regular showcases where only polished jokes make the cut. The showcases are sometimes headlined by nationally touring acts. Among the zealots of this burgeoning scene are longtime Kalamazoo resident Fredericks; his friend J. Nate Tilka (who goes by Nate); Ashley Stommen, who is the newly appointed host of the Louie’s Back Room open mic; and any number of other hilarious, hard-working comedians who have been getting on stage for years. In fact, Fredericks runs the open mic at Shakespeare’s Lower Level every first and third Thursday of the month with such professional focus you might forget that, as he hands you his business card, he facetiously says, “I’m learning to adult.” “Bob is an enigma,” says Adam West, a 35-year-old jewelry salesman and four-year veteran of the Kalamazoo comedy scene. “Most comedians are introverts offstage and don’t have a whole lot of friends. Bob is the opposite. He goes out and makes a lot of friends and they all flock to him.” Fredericks, who is two years into a marketing degree program at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, is both a practiced comedian and a near-whiz when it comes to discussing comedy, but he says he’s not the only force helping the local comedy scene flourish. Aspiring comics here offer a broad range of talent, from the understated style of 30-year-old Tilka to the goofy presence of aviation instructor Andrew Van Houton, and they give audiences endless opportunities to laugh.

Kalamazoo’s History of Hilarity

At left: Bob Fredericks, Ashley Stommen and J. Nate Tilka all host open-mic comedy shows in Kalamazoo.

The road to laughter in Kalamazoo has been a rocky one, at least for venues dedicated to comedy. In 2005, Gary Fields Comedy Club operated for a year and a half in the space that is now Shakespeare’s Lower Level before going out of business. After that, The Laughing Post tried to make it in the same space, with similar results. In 2013, the minds behind downtown Kalamazoo’s Entertainment District, which includes Wild Bull, Monaco Bay and The Gatsby, unveiled The Kalamazoo Comedy Company inside Wild Bull, with the aim of making weekly comedy a mainstay of entertainment offerings in town. They worked with local comedians and national acts, but the club didn’t stick around. It seemed Kalamazoo wasn’t big enough to carry a pure comedy venue, and even venues that offered diverse acts — like the 411 Club, which once hosted numerous bands and blues artists in addition to comedians — weren’t able to bring in enough revenue from comedy. w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 33

The current scene, however, has been built from the ground up by a community of passionate artists and appears to run like a professional operation. But there is one man who gets much of the recognition for jump-starting the scene: 40-year-old automotive salesman Eric D. Steward. A comedian himself, Steward is often credited with getting the handful of open mics around the area up and running. In early 2011, Steward started the first open mic in Louie’s Back Room, the performance venue inside Louie’s Trophy House Grill. “My comedy career started with the open-mic scene,” says Steward, who was raised in Dowagiac and now lives in Kalamazoo. “But my goal was always to help others out, to get to that point where they feel like they can do comedy wherever. I’ve always been a big fan of stand-up and spent a lot of money going to comedy shows before I ever shared a stage." After starting the open mic at Louie’s, Steward co-hosted an open mic at Shakespeare’s, and in March of 2012 asked Fredericks to host the Shakespeare’s show. Fredericks recalls that when Steward asked him, “Do you want to host this show?” Fredericks thought he meant just once. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I could do that tonight.’ And he said, ‘No, do you want this to be your show? I can’t do this and Louie’s at the same time.’” In time, Steward passed the hosting of Louie’s open-mic night over to Michael Burd, a comedian who now lives in Boston. Jen Dama then ran the Louie’s show and, after taking a job in Chicago, passed it to Stommen in early 2016. “The nice thing about Louie’s is that everyone always comes back to that room,” Steward says. “That one right there is the root of Kalamazoo comedy.” Steward still performs, most recently at The Black River Tavern, in South Haven. He also promotes R&B acts as well as bigger names in comedy who play Kalamazoo’s State Theatre.

So, where’s the party? When he first started doing stand-up, West didn’t realize Kalamazoo had comedy so he traveled to Ann Arbor to perform. Born in Pontiac and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, West moved to Kalamazoo in 2000 after deciding his temperament wasn’t suited for college at Lake Superior State University. He and fellow comedian Perry Menken now co-host a Friday-night comedy show at Brite Eyes Brewing Co., with just a microphone hooked up to an amp sitting on the floor. “It’s old-school,” West says. “You’re almost eye-to-eye with people, telling them jokes. When you see comedy on a stage, there’s a bit of separation, which is more of a traditional joke-telling format.” West says he prefers to be “on the people’s level” doing a style of “guerilla comedy” that puts people on edge. “But in a good way,” he says. “That helps the laughter come out.” For Stommen, fate intervened in her decision to become a performing comedian. After she experienced a period of depression, singing karaoke was the only thing that felt Left photo: Christopher Karpinski performs at Louie’s Comedy Open Mic. Right photo: Comedians of Kalamazoo include, back row: Spencer Henning, Adam Summerfield, Karpinski, Jon Mullinix and Tanner Oliver. Middle row: Sammi Mccrorey, Preston Koning and Bob Fredericks. Front row: Joseph Johnson, Cody Holdridge, Ashley Stommen and Jake Swope.

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worthwhile to her. One night while Stommen was waiting to sing at a local venue, a woman insisted she join her and friends at a nearby table. The woman told Stommen she was funny and should come to an open mic she had started attending. “I was like, ‘No, that’s not me,’” Stommen says, but the woman persisted and eventually introduced her to Fredericks, who gave Stommen stage time the day before her 24th birthday. This past March, Stommen celebrated three years of doing standup comedy. She is the second woman in a row to host the Louie’s show, and that’s no accident. “Jen was adamant about having a female host,” Stommen says. “When I first started, there were a handful of girls. It has quadrupled since then.” Stommen wants to see more women do stand-up comedy, however. “You’re like the mystical beast: ‘Oh, there’s a girl on the stage? What? That’s crazy!’” “Just get on the stage. That is 80 percent of the battle,” she advises. “The funniest people I know are too afraid to actually get on stage. Just do it.”

What’s so funny? Comedians may be cruelly self-deprecating, chronically gesticulating over-sharers, but most are also very serious about their work. “I wear bows, and people are like, ‘She looks so cute!’ Then I just hit them smack in the face with the dirtiest joke, and they’re like, ‘Whoa, didn’t expect that,’” Stommen says. Tilka, who sells replacement windows for a living, sometimes hosts up to four shows a week around Kalamazoo and produces regular showcases that sell out. He is hyper-aware of how to keep laughter going in a room. “It’s like a wave you are trying to ride,” Tilka says. “That’s why comics dislike hecklers so much, because they throw a wrench into things.” That’s also why shows have warm-up acts that get the crowd in the mood to laugh. But just because you’re on a roll doesn’t mean anything. “You can have everybody going and then say something that they don’t like,” Tilka says. “Then everybody stops laughing.” “Comedy is painful,” Stommen says. “You do a show, there’s two people in the audience, and you can’t get

them to laugh. You’re like, ‘Well, that sucked.’ The next night you do a show with 40 people in the audience and do the exact same set and kill. You’re like, ‘Well, that was nice.’ The next night it could suck again. It’s just all up and down.” So what is it that motivates these comedians to get up on stage? “I wanted to be a poet until I was 15 or so,” says West, who has been writing since he was 7. “Then I got discouraged. I didn’t think that I could be a writer. I didn’t think I had the discipline or anything like that. Now I like jokes better because it’s like a poem but, like, with a point.” Stommen, who was born in Texas and raised in Michigan, is a nontraditional student working toward a degree in communication at Western Michigan University. For her, performing is a way to entertain herself. “Some people jump off of bridges or out of planes,” she says. “This is what I do for my adrenaline kick.” Another kick the comedians talk about is watching newcomers on stage for the first time. “If I have someone new who doesn’t know what’s going on with the scene at all, I try to give them a little bit of stage time so at least they get to try it out,” Fredericks says. The connectedness of the comedy community comes through when you talk to the local comedians. Tilka says he thought about quitting comedy in 2015, but his social life was completely wrapped up in it. “Our scene is different than almost anywhere else,” he says. “We’re a lot closer, and we hang out together. We didn’t have a club or anything. We had to come together to make stuff happen.” West speaks of Van Houton, co-host of a free comedy show at Harvey’s Upstairs on Wednesday nights, as if he were a hero. “When I first started on

Kalamazoo Area Comedy Schedule Open Mics Sundays: 9 p.m., Rupert’s Brew House, 773 W. Michigan Ave., hosted by J. Nate Tilka. Info at facebook.com/ ComedyAtRuperts Mondays: 8 p.m., The Dock at Bayview, 12504 East D Ave., Richland, hosted by J. Nate Tilka and Isaac Potter. Info at facebook.com/ComedyAtTheDock Tuesdays: 9 p.m., Louie’s Back Room, 629 Walbridge St., hosted by Ashley Stommen. Info at louiesbackroom.com/ comedy-night-1 Wednesdays: 9 p.m., Harvey’s Upstairs, 416 S. Burdick St., hosted by Andrew Van Houten and Jason Alt. Info at facebook.com/HarveysComedy 1st & 3rd Thursdays: 9 p.m., Shakespeare’s Lower Level, 241 E. Kalamazoo Ave., hosted by Bob Fredericks. Info at facebook.com/LowerLevelComedy 2nd & 4th Thursdays: 9 p.m., Crying Circus house shows, 815 W. Walnut St., hosted by Brent Von Kalamazoo. Info at facebook.com/cryingcircus 2nd, 3rd & 4th Fridays: 9 p.m., Brite Eyes Brewing Co., 1156 S. Burdick St., hosted by Adam West and Perry Menken. Info at facebook.com/OpenMicAtBriteEyes

Showcases 1st Fridays: Louie’s Back Room, hosted by J. Nate Tilka 1st Saturdays: The Local, 116 W. Main St., Centreville, featuring Kalamazoo comics, hosted by J. Nate Tilka. Info at facebook.com/ComedyAtTheLocal Periodic: Shakespeare’s Lower Level, hosted by Bob Fredericks. For schedule, check facebook.com/ LowerLevelComedy

Are you an aspiring comedian? The best way to get on a schedule is to make sure to contact a venue ahead of time by sending an email or a Facebook message. Sometimes comedians drop from a schedule, and there’s a small chance you could get on stage if you show up out of the blue. But if you sign up ahead of time, you’ll most likely get a spot. Anyone can sign up, no matter your experience.

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the scene, Andrew was one of the shining stars,” West says. “He was pretty new, too, but he’s got such a sharp mind. He’s a brilliant joke writer.” Some of the comedians hang out together so much that they have started a yearly camping trip. “All we do is get drunk in the woods and yell at each other the whole time,” Stommen says. In other words, comedians camp the same way many other Americans do. In addition to being close enough to beg rides from each other, huddle in booths at shows and relax together after sets, the comedians have a whole pool of judges of their material at their disposal, Stommen says. She can say, “Hey, what did you think?” and someone will tell her what to change or what they liked.

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While the efforts to bring big, national comedians to town are now in the hands of larger venues such as the State Theatre, the all-but-underground comedy scene brings a wide range of talent to Kalamazoo stages. “The scene here is crazy,” Tilka says. “We have people come from Indiana and Ohio just to do our shows.” “I had some Chicago comedians at my show a little while ago,” Fredericks chimes in. As in many other entertainment industries, networking is crucial in the world of comedy. Kalamazoo comedians often go to comedy clubs in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Indiana and Ohio to perform and meet others in the business. Many of these club scenes are powered by Funny Business, a national entertainment agency whose website is reminiscent of a health care site with its offering of eight varieties of comedy under one of its tabs. (Don’t worry: “Murder Mystery” and “Jugglers” are under a different tab.) But Kalamazoo’s comedy operates under a different authority, or rather, no real authority at all. The open-mic scene here is run entirely by unsigned talent, and that, some might say, is the beauty of it. “I always remind people, ‘We’re not in L.A. We’re not in New York,’” Stommen says. “We’re not competing against each other. We are building a community because this is what we like to do.” “It’s a very unique thing that’s sprouted up,” Tilka says. “It’s really just a lot of people working together.”

PERFORMING ARTS Michigan Youth Arts Festival — High school artists and performers in music, theater, film, dance, visual arts and writing, 9 a.m.–10:45 p.m. May 12, 9 a.m.–9:20 p.m. May 13, 9 a.m.– 5 p.m. May 14, Western Michigan University, 248-545-9200; see michiganyoutharts.org for schedule. THEATER Plays Immobile! — A one-act play in which three individuals navigate their relationships, loyalties and futures, 2 p.m. May 1, Dungeon Theatre, Kalamazoo College, 129 Thompson St., 337-7130. Learned Ladies — Molière's comedy about women who want to improve their social standing through intellectual achievement, 7:30 p.m. May 12, 8 p.m. May 13–14, 2 p.m. May 15, Balch Playhouse, Kalamazoo College, 337-7333. The Murders in the Rue Morgue — All Ears Theatre radio-theater presentation, 6 p.m. May 14, First Baptist Church, 315 W. Michigan Ave., 342-5059. Still Life with Iris — Civic Youth Theatre production about a young girl's quest to regain her memory, 7:30 p.m. May 20 & 27, 1 & 4 p.m. May 21 & 28, 2 p.m. May 22, 9:30 a.m. & noon May 25 & 26, Parish Theatre, 426 S. Park St., 343-1313. Escape from Christiana — All Ears Theatre radio-theater presentation written and directed by Von Washington, 6 p.m. May 28, First Baptist Church, 342-5059. Musicals Murder for Two — Farmers Alley Theatre production with two actors in 13 roles, blending music, mayhem and murder, 2 p.m. May 1, 8 & 15; 7:30 p.m. May 5 & 12; 8 p.m. May 6–7 & 13–14; Little Theatre, WMU, 3432727. Hairspray — A teenager pursues stardom and rallies against racial segregation, 7:30 p.m. May 6–7, 12–14 & 20–21; 2 p.m. May 15 & 22, Civic Theatre, 329 S. Park St., 343-1313. Once … Twice … Thrice: The Best of the Odyssey, Part 2 — The best of the New Vic's original folk music trilogy, 8 p.m. May 6–7,

13–14, 20–21 & 27–28, New Vic Theatre, 134 E. Vine St., 381-3328. MUSIC Bands & Solo Artists Soul-Filled Sundays — Aaron Wright, local singer/songwriter, May 1; Scott Davis, acoustic rock and folk, May 15; Steve Pesch, guitarist, May 22; Conception Vessel, contemporary avant-garde trio, May 29; all events 5–7 p.m., Arcadia Ales, 701 E. Michigan Ave., 276-0440. Breaking Benjamin: Unplugged — American alternative rock band, 8 p.m. May 1, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St., 345-6500.

The Devil Makes Three — Punk mixed with vintage American blues, 8 p.m. May 22, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-7774. The Levtet — Jazz and funk, 7–9 p.m. May 25, Arcadia Ales, 276-0440. Downtown Music Jam — Jam with Kalamazoo musicians, 5:30–9 p.m. May 26, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 507 N. Rose St., 388-2830. Keith Sweat: A Ladies Night — R&B and soul singer/songwriter, 8 p.m. May 27, State Theatre, 345-6500. Fishbone — Alternative rock band, 9 p.m. May 27, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-7774.

Robin Trower — The rock music legend of Procol Harum performs with his trio, 7 p.m. May 6, State Theatre, 345-6500.

May Erlewine — Folk and country swing singer/songwriter, 9 p.m. May 28, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-7774.

Letters from Earth — Indie alternative rock band, 7–9 p.m. May 6, Arcadia Ales, 276-0440.

Orchestra, Chamber, Jazz, Vocal & More

The Crane Wives and Out of Favor Boys — Americana/folk and contemporary blues bands, 9 p.m. May 6, Bell's Eccentric Café, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., 382-7774. Tony Bennett — The Gilmore presents the legendary singer, 8 p.m. May 7, Chenery Auditorium, 714 S. Westnedge Ave., 359-7311. Digital Tape Machine — Chicago band with a modern electronic sound, 9 p.m. May 7, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-7774. Mother's Day Celebration — Dede Alder and Josh Holcomb on percussion, vibraphone, viola and vocals, 5–7 p.m. May 8, Arcadia Ales, 276-0440. The Sam Pilnick Project — A modern acoustic jazz collective, 7–9 p.m. May 11, Arcadia Ales, 276-0440. Mustard Plug — Punk-influenced ska band, 9 p.m. May 13, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-7774. Blue Ox Music Festival Pre-Party Tour — Pert Near Sandstone, acoustic and indie rock string band, 9 p.m. May 14, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-7774. The Megan Stagl Quintet — Jazz with a modern twist, 7–9 p.m. May 18, Arcadia Ales, 276-0440. The Go Rounds and Kansas Bible Company — High-energy twang rock, 9 p.m. May 19, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-7774.

The Gilmore International Keyboard Festival — Multiple concerts featuring world-class musicians, through May 14, various venues, 342-1166, thegilmore.org; see website for schedule. Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Prep Strings and Training Orchestra — 3:30 p.m. May 1, Kasdorf Auditorium, Loy Norrix High School, 606 E. Kilgore Road, 349-7557. Academy Street Winds — 8 p.m. May 6, Dalton Theatre, Kalamazoo College, 337-7070. Kalamazoo College Jazz Band — 8 p.m. May 7, Dalton Theatre, Kalamazoo College, 337-7070. Taylor Eigsti Trio — Fontana and The Gilmore present the jazz pianist and composer and his trio, 6:30 & 9 p.m. May 12, Bell's Eccentric Café, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., 382-7774. Stulberg International String Competition — Twelve semifinalists from around the world compete; daytime semifinal performances, 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; finals concert, 7:30 p.m. May 21; master classes, 12:30 p.m. May 22, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, www.stulberg.org, 343-2776. College Singers — 3 p.m. May 21, Stetson Chapel, Kalamazoo College, 337-7070. Crescendo Academy of Music Student Recital — 2 p.m. May 22; call 345-6664 for location.

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EVENTS ENCORE Kalamazoo Ringers — Handbell choir performs favorites for its 35th Anniversary Birthday Bash, 4 p.m. May 22, Grace Harbor Church, 811 Gorham Lane, 921-2713. Kalamazoo Philharmonia — 4 p.m. May 22, Dalton Theatre, Kalamazoo College, 337-7070. International Percussion Concert — 7 p.m. May 24, Dalton Theatre, Kalamazoo College, 337-7070. COMEDY Gabriel Iglesias: #FluffyBreaksEven Tour — Stand-up comedy show, 8 p.m. May 1, Wings Event Center, 3600 Vanrick Drive, 345-1125. Dan & Phil: The Amazing Tour is Not on Fire — Theatrical stage show with anecdotes, sketches and audience interaction, 7:30 p.m. May 11, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 387-2300.

Sunday Public Tours — Tour exhibitions with a docent: High School Area Show, May 1; Mother's Choice, May 8; From 2 Arises 3: Arnold Chang and Michael Cherney, May 22; Young Artists of Kalamazoo County, May 29; all sessions begin at 2 p.m. ARTbreak — A weekly program about art, artists and exhibitions: North by Midwest Micro-Budget Film Festival Micro Screening, May 3; Artist's Talk with Ellen Nelson, “Finding Truth and Meaning in Patterns of American Life," May 10; Common Threads, a performance inspired by African-American art, May 17; China: West Meets East at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, documentary, May 24; Craft in America: Why Become a Craft Artist? film, May 31; all sessions begin at noon, KIA Auditorium.


Thursday Evenings — Gallery Talk, featuring West Michigan Area Show artists, May 5; KIA Film Series: Due More Time, by Chad Earnest, May 12; Teacher Night, free event with refreshments and raffle for educators of all grade levels, May 19; all sessions begin at 6:30 p.m.

Square Dance Kalamazoo — Lesson at 7:30 p.m., dance at 8 p.m. May 9, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-7774.

Book Discussion: Lisette's List — Discussion of the novel by Susan Vreeland, 2 p.m. May 18, Meader Fine Arts Library, 585-9291.

Ballet Arts School of Dance Spring Recital — 2 & 7 p.m. May 21, Chenery Auditorium, 714 S. Westnedge Ave., 337-0440.

Other Venues

The Emperor's New Clothes: Lewis Black — Grammy Award-winning stand-up comedian, actor and author, 8 p.m. May 20, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St., 345-6500.

FILM Bike Shorts: A Collection of Short Films — Short bicycle films, 6 p.m. May 17, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-7774. North by Midwest Micro-Budget Film Festival — Long and short features, documentaries, animations and micro-cams, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. May 21, Epic Center, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall, nxmwfilm.org. VISUAL ARTS Kalamazoo Institute of Arts 314 S. Park St., 349-7775 High School Area Show — Artwork by area high school artists, through May 4. Rhythms of Abstraction: Landscape Duets of Arnold Chang and Michael Cherney — Twenty works combining contemporary Chinese ink painting and photography, through June 19. 2016 West Michigan Area Show — Juried exhibition of work in all media, through July 10.

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Farewell: Prints from the WMU Permanent Collection — Monroe-Brown Gallery, through May 27, Richmond Center for Visual Arts, WMU, 387-2436. Art Hop — Local artists and musicians at various venues in Kalamazoo, 5–8 p.m. May 6, 342-5059. Recycled Art in the Park — Sculptures, music and craft area, noon–3 p.m. May 7, Celery Flats Historical Area, 7335 Garden Lane, Portage; art on display through May 14; 3524583. Watercolor: The Free Flow of Letting Go — Participate in a day of watercolor painting led by Frankie Dutil, Congregation of St. Joseph, 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m. May 21, Transformations Spirituality Center, 381-6290. LIBRARY & LITERARY EVENTS Kalamazoo Public Library Zentangle — Carrie Dunn shows how to create compositions with patterns, 4:30 p.m. May 2, Alma Powell Branch, 1000 W. Paterson Ave., 553-7960; registration required.

First Saturday @ KPL — Family event with stories, activities, guests and door prizes, 2–3:30 p.m. May 7, Central Library, 315 S. Rose St., 553-7804. Pop-Up Booktalks — Share your latest favorites during the lunch hour, 12:30 p.m. May 13, Rotunda, Central Library, 342-9837. Peter and the Wolf — Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra's Woodwind Quintet performs the classic and offers an Instrument Petting Zoo, 10:30 a.m. & noon May 21, Central Library, 553-7804; registration required. The Black Mzungu — Alexandria Osborne discusses her memoir of adapting to life in East Africa, 6 p.m. May 23, Eastwood Branch, 1112 Gayle Ave., 553-7810. Inspiration, Story and Revision: A Conversation with Bonnie Jo Campbell, Jaimy Gordon and Andy Mozina — Three award-winning Southwest Michigan authors discuss writing and read from their works, 7–8:30 p.m. May 26, Van Deusen Room, Central Library, 342-9837. Powell Book Discussion Group — Share insights about Hell on Heels: My Sister's Keeper, by Brittani Williams, 6 p.m. May 31, Barnabee Gallery, Alma Powell Branch, 553-7960; registration required. Parchment Community Library 401 S. Riverview Drive, 343-7747 Parchment Book Club — 7 p.m. May 2. Second Sundays Live: Brass Rail — The brass quintet plays a variety of popular music, 2 p.m. May 8. Genre Gyration Book Club — Discussion of The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro, 7 p.m. May 11. Warm Up for Summer Reading — Gloria Tiller, from Kazoo Books, and Joanna Parzakonis, from Bookbug, discuss books for summer reading or a book club, 6 p.m. May 19. Summer Boredom Busters — Area organizations describe their summer events for adults and children, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. May 21. Portage District Library 300 Library Lane, 329-4544 Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group — Preview science fiction/fantasy movies for the summer, 7 p.m. May 2.

What Some Are Reading: Eleventh Chapter — Exchange book titles and take home book lists for summer reading, 6:30–8:30 p.m. May 3. A Road Trip on Two Wheels: Bicycling in Michigan — Rob Pulcipher shares photos, history and great places to ride in Michigan, 2–4 p.m. May 7. Great Books Reading Group — Discussion of Bamboo, by Eduardo Halfon, and Encrucijada by Roberto G. Fernández, 2 p.m. May 8. Top Shelf Reads — A young professionals' book group discussion of Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, 7 p.m. May 9. PDL Writer's Group — Focusing on fiction and creative nonfiction writing, 6 p.m. May 12 & 26; workshop on goal/motivation/conflict led by Maris Soule, May 26. Astronomy Day — Solar observing, educational displays and hands-on activities, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. May 14. Art Reception — Phyllis Branch, Kay Severson and Elizabeth Rohs display their art, 2–3 p.m. May 15, Solo Gallery. Open for Discussion — Discussion of The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion, 10:30 a.m. May 17. Survival Is Insufficient: How Performing Arts Cultivate Civilization/Connection — Artists from WMU and the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre perform and discuss the significance the arts play in our survival, 6:30–7:45 p.m. May 23. Other Venues May Book Group — Discussion of One Plus One, by Jojo Moyes, 7 p.m. May 12, Richland Community Library, 8951 Park St., 629-9085. Adult Craft: Flower Garden Plate — Make a garden flower from glass plates, 5:30 p.m. May 25, Comstock Township Library, 6130 King Highway, 345-0136.

Kalamazoo Valley Museum 230 N. Rose St., 373-7990 Goose Bumps: The Science of Fear — An experiential and holistic view of fear science, through May 8. Fares and Squares: The History of Checker Motors — Explore the company's history and a 1923 taxi from the Gilmore Car Museum, through Aug. 21. LEGO Travel Adventure — Use LEGOs to think creatively, imagine and build vehicles, through Sept. 11. Art Hop Visual Experience: "Feathership of the Wing" Jewelry Exhibition — Handcrafted jewelry by LeeLee Joy, 5 p.m. May 6.


Invite a Monarch to Lunch: Plant a Milkweed — Learn about Monarch butterflies and how to help them, 1:30 p.m. May 8.

MAY 1 & 4 Warren Beatty & Diane Keaton in REDS

Sunday Series: The Match-e-be-nash-shewish: Looking Back, Looking Forward — Learn what federal recognition means to local tribes, 1:30 p.m. May 22. NATURE Kellogg Bird Sanctuary 12685 East C Ave., 671-2510



Birds and Coffee Walk — A walk to view birds of the season, 9 a.m. May 11.

MAY 7 & 8 MAMMA MIA! Mothers' Day Sing-Along

Spring Wild Edibles Hike — Walk the trails and look for edible plants, 10 a.m.–noon May 21.

MAY 9 Alfred Hitchcock's TO CATCH A THIEF

Pierce Cedar Creek Institute 701 W. Cloverdale Road, Hastings, 721-4190 Out and About — Spring art exhibit by Susan Wray, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., through May 31. Wildflower Hikes — Hike the Little Grand Canyon, 9–11 a.m. & 11 a.m.–1 p.m. May 7.

Gilmore Car Museum 6865 Hickory Road, Hickory Corners, 671-5089

Vegan Cooking — Chef Paul Vugteveen highlights several vegan recipes, 1–3 p.m. May 7.

The Donald Gilmore Classic Car Show — Pre-World War II vehicles, swap meet, auto parades and demonstrations, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. May 21.


Art Hop Musical Experience: Jared Knox Band — Country and Southern roots music, 6 p.m. May 6.


Gilmore Speaker Series — The Earliest and Oldest Auto Dealerships in Michigan, with Jay Follis, 3 p.m. May 1.


Mother's Day Brunch, Native Plant Sale & Program — Stewardship Manager Jen Howell explains changes to the institute's landscape, 11:30 a.m. & 1 p.m. brunch, 12:15 program, May 8. Monarch Monitoring Program — Monarch Watch conservation specialist Ilse Gebhard trains participants to monitor monarch populations, 6:30–8:30 p.m. May 19.

MAY 10 SPICE WORLD Sing-Along MAY 15 & 19 Spike Lee's DO THE RIGHT THING MAY 16 Cary Grant in AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER MAY 22 Henry Fonda in 12 ANGRY MEN MAY 27-30 John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John in GREASE Sing-Along Visit drafthouse.com/kalamazoo for showtimes and tickets


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Bird Hike — 8–10:30 a.m. May 21. Herb Walk and Talk — Local herbalist Christin Othmer leads a short hike and discusses herbs that can be used medicinally, 7–9 p.m. May 26. Other Venues Monday Morning Cruisers — Bike along the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail at a casual pace, 9 a.m. May 2 & 9, meet at KRVT parking lot in Verburg Park, 669 Gull Road; 9 a.m. May 16 & 23, meet at Mayors' Riverfront Park, 251 Mills St.; 383-8778 or kalcounty.com/parks/krvt/ trailprogramming.htm. Kalamazoo River Valley Trail Spring Wildflower Golf Cart Tour — Audubon Society of Kalamazoo’s tour for those with walking difficulties, 10–11:30 a.m. & noon–1:30 p.m. May 2; meet near the caboose at North 10th Street parking lot for Kal-Haven trailhead, north of West Main, 373-5073. Birds at Kleinstuck Preserve Field Trip — Donna and Will Keller lead a 3/4-mile birding walk presented by the Audubon Society, 6:30–8 p.m. May 2, Chevy Chase Boulevard entrance to the preserve, east of Oakland Drive, 207-2874. Birding with the Stars — A birding hike with an expert, 8 a.m. May 3, 10 & 17, Kalamazoo Nature Center, 7000 N. Westnedge Ave., 381-1574. Dessert with Discussion — MSU Professor Jeff Andresen discusses climate change in Michigan, 6:30 p.m. May 3, W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, 3700 E. Gull Lake Drive, Hickory Corners, 671-2015. Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy Nature Hike with Kalamazoo Area Wild Ones — Guided by Nate Fuller, 10 a.m.–1 p.m. May 7, Robert and Rosalie Emmons Augusta Floodplain Forest Preserve; call 324-1600 for starting point of tour. Kal-Haven Trail Walk — Audubon Society sponsors a 5-mile walk along the trail, 8 a.m. May 10, 17, 24 & 31, meet at Kal-Haven trailhead on North 10th Street, between G and H avenues, 375-7210. TrailBlazer 2016 — Enjoy a bike ride on the Kal-Haven Trail between Kalamazoo and South Haven, May 14, starting at North 10th Street Kal-Haven trailhead, Bloomingdale Depot or South Haven trailhead, 373-5071; see kalcounty.com/parks/krvt for details.

40 | ENCORE MAY 2016

Wild Ones Plant Sale — Support wildlife by selecting native plants for your yard, 9 a.m.– 3 p.m. May 28, People's Food Co-Op, 507 Harrison St., 342-5686. MISCELLANEOUS Kalamazoo Rock, Gem, Jewelry, Fossil & Mineral Show — Featuring dinosaur skeleton replicas, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. May 1, Kalamazoo County Expo Center South, 2900 Lake St., 979-3348. National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day Carnival — Providing information on services in the community, 4–7 p.m. May 5, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, 553-7122. Mother/Daughter Night Out — Jewelry making, nails, makeup and chair massage, 6–9 p.m. May 5, Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center, 200 S. Main St., 501-1347. Voices of Wisdom Benefit Dinner — Kalamazoo poet and spiritual writer Mark Nepo speaks on “Heartwork: Being a Spirit in the World,” 6–9 p.m., May 5, Transformations Spirituality Center, 3427 Gull Road, 381-6290. Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science — Science presented through comedy, puppets, songs, experiments and audience participation, 7:30 p.m. May 5, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 387-2300. Mark Nepo: 2016 Voices of Wisdom Retreat: Inside the Miracle — Explore the blessing and challenge of being human, 7 a.m.–4:30 p.m. May 6–7, Transformations Spirituality Center, 381-6290. Frontier Days — Reenactments from 1754– 1898, vendors and entertainment, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. May 7–8, Olde World Village, 13215 M-96, Augusta, 580-1290. Downtown Kalamazoo Walking Brewery Tour — Learn about the craft beer and history of Kalamazoo, noon–4:30 p.m. May 7, 14, 21 & 28; meet at Old Burdick's Bar & Grill, 100 W. Michigan Ave., 350-4598. Kalamazoo Marathon & Borgess Run for the Health of It — Full and half marathon, 10K and 5K runs, 5K walk, 8 a.m. May 8, Borgess Nazareth Campus, 3427 Gull Road, 345-1913. 2016 Michigan Pepsi Youth Bowling Championships — May 14–15, Airway Fun Center & Continental Lanes, 5626 Portage Road, 616-538-2147.

Buccaneer Bash — Pirate-themed entertainment, vendors and food, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. May 14–15, Olde World Village, 580-1290. 2016 Kalamazoo Spring Carnival — 4–9 p.m. May 19, 4–11 p.m. May 20, noon–11 p.m. May 21, noon–9 p.m. May 22, Wings Event Center, 3600 Vanrick Drive, 345-1125. Kalamazoo Food Truck Rally — Food trucks, artisans, booths, music and networking, 10:30 p.m.–1 a.m. May 20–21, Water Street, between Rose and Church streets, 388-2830. Circus Maximus Antique Toy Show — Antique, vintage and collectible toys, 9 a.m.–2 p.m. May 21, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, Room A, 262-246-7171. Family Fishing Fair — Activities and instruction on fishing, boating and aquatic conservation, 10 a.m. May 21, Ramona Park, Portage, 3294522. Kalamazoo Reptile & Exotic Pet Expo — 10 a.m.–3 p.m. May 21, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, Room A, 779-9851. America on Tap — Sample over 100 releases from craft breweries, 3–6 p.m. May 21, Homer Stryker Field, 251 Mills St., 978-2167. Science Innovation Hall of Fame Awards — Celebrate Southwest Michigan high school students and K–12 educators, 5:30–9 p.m. May 21, Air Zoo, 6151 Portage Road, 350-2812.

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Kalamazoo in Bloom Community Planting Day — Volunteer to plant flowers across downtown Kalamazoo, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. May 26, Bronson Park, 200 S. Rose St., 548-6232.

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West Michigan Apple Blossom Cluster Dog Show — AKC dog show featuring all-breed show, obedience trials and rally trials, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. May 26 & 27, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. May 28–30, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, 616-706-2314.

MAY 14 - The Murders in the Rue Morgue MAY 28 - Escape from Christiana

Back in the ‘Golden Age” of radio, weekly radio programs brought the young and old to their living rooms to listen to adventurous, mysterious and comical tales. Dedicated to promoting this rich history, All Ears Theatre performs newly scripted radio programs for live audiences, complete with old school sound effects, from January through May. Shows are later broadcast on 102.1 WMUK-FM. Performances are at 6:00 pm at the First Baptist Church and are FREE to the public.

May'd in Michigan — Michigan artisans, entertainment, vendors and food, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. May 28–30, Olde World Village, 580-1290. Memorial Day Parade — Honoring veterans and featuring floats, bands and military vehicles, 10 a.m. May 30, downtown Kalamazoo, 501-9971.

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Parents as Teachers (continued from page 23)

take their child to the library. They also are more likely to promote reading at home. “Brain development is a lot more about the bond and the experience and the cognition that goes along with stimulation,” Reames says, “and that’s not happening in front of a television set.” But some parents don’t have enough money to buy books. Reames tells a story of riding along on a home visit with a parent educator. The family’s apartment was extremely barren, lacking in furniture and other typical home furnishings. A small boy wearing diapers came to Reames and the educator dragging a little sack. Inside the sack he kept a book, which he proudly showed to Reames. “It was his prized possession,” she explains. “That made a huge impression on me that this mattered. It wasn’t a matter of where he lived or what he had. It was a matter of the fact that he connected that this book was important, and it was his.” The Kalamazoo Literacy Council, Friends of the Kalamazoo Public Library, church groups and other organizations and individuals have helped by donating new books. These donations allow the parent educators to provide books to children who might otherwise not have any. During Seeds for Success’ second year, the funding from The Learning Network wasn't available. That funding gap was filled by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, which donated $220,000, and the United Way provided a second year of funding. The United Way is a strong supporter of the PAT program, Reames says, especially because Seeds for Success is a shared project. Seeds for Success collaborators are currently working on securing funding for its third year. “There isn’t a guarantee, but our intention is that (funding) will be ongoing, and we’re behind the scenes working on that,” Reames says. Once that funding is secured, the collaborating organiazations, parent educators and parents enrolled in the program will likely breathe a sigh of relief, and they might even mirror little Kar’Mon with exclamations of “Hallelujah!”


This poem was featured in the Expressions in Ink reading last summer at Water Street Gallery, in Douglas. The gallery invited authors to write about 100 words responding to any piece in its exhibition Acoustic Abstractions. Seaman’s poem was written in response to Terrence Karpowitz’s sculpture Rolling Prairie (pictured at right).

Rolling Prairie Wooden wheels grooved deep ruts into the black promise of territory. If not here, somewhere else along the line. The horizon was always west, rolling in the tall grass and spindly brush. Under it all was strength and courage, granite shoulders holding families up and ready. Could be just one more mountain ahead. Could be plenty right here. If you were not born here, it’s all new to you. Dakota sounds like an invitation. Nebraska, a cousin’s dare. Iowa, like home between two waters. It’s the solid core we’re after. The hills of red after the evening cools, wheels done turning. — Elaine Seaman Seaman knows about wide, rolling prairies and continuous horizons, having grown up in Iowa with parents who grew up in Nebraska. She now lives in Texas Township. She has had two books of poetry published, Rocks in the Wheatfield (2004) and Bird at the Window (2010).

w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 43

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INDEX TO ADVERTISERS Alamo Drafthouse Cinema . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 All Ears Theatre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Arborist Services of Kalamazoo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 The Ayres Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Borgess . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Bravo! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Bronson Health Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 The Civic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Clear Ridge Wealth Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Constance Brown Hearing Centers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Dave’s Glass Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 DeMent and Marquardt, PLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 DeNooyer Chevrolet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 DeVisser Landscape Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Encore Magazine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Farmers Alley Theatre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 FarmNGarden Fence Center . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

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FarmNGarden Garden Center . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Gilmore Real Estate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Great Lakes Shipping Co. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19


Greenleaf Trust . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Horizon Bank . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Kalamazoo Community Foundation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Kalamazoo Valley Museum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Mercantile Bank of Michigan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 North by Midwest Micro-Budget Film Festival . . . . . . . . 28 Osher Lifelong Learning Institute . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Parkway Plastic Surgery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Portage Printing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Principle Food & Drink . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Professional Clinicians & Consultants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41


Jeff K. Ross Financial Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


Varnum Law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23


Stewart & Co. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Stulberg International String Competition . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Vandersalm’s Flowershop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47

Vlietstra Bros. Pools & Spas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 WMUK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Woodwork Specialties Co. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41

44 | ENCORE MAY 2016

BACK STORY (continued from page 46)

How did West Michigan Beer Tours get started? While I was an entertainment reporter at the Gazette, I and some coworkers launched Kalamabrew, a craft beer blog where we wrote about the personalities and happenings in the craft beer scene. At that time craft beer in Michigan was growing but still relatively small — 80 or 90 breweries, where now we’re up to 250-some and growing. Through the blog we made nice friendships with brewers and breweries in the region, met some cool people and learned a whole lot. I play in the Kalamazoo Whiffle League, and one of my teammates, Aric Faber, was asking me about investment opportunities and what I knew about ownerships of some breweries, and I mentioned that I thought it would be great for this side of the state to have a business that would take people from brewery to brewery and tell them a little bit about the back stories of the brewers and the craft beer scene. Aric, who’s entrepreneurial, liked the idea, saw a lawyer and bought a couple URLs. He asked me the next week if we should “make it real.” It took off pretty quick — we launched in spring 2013 and had our first official tour in spring 2014. We just kind of jumped in and ran with it as fast as we could. The timing certainly was right. There was a void here that we have certainly filled. There are a lot of great breweries around, and people are flocking to those on their own. But trying to piece together a tour, especially when driving around to the breweries on

your own, can be problematic. We solve all that by dealing with the planning issues and providing a fun, safe learning experience for craft beer lovers. How big are your tour groups? The sizes are all over the place. We’ve done a walking tour of downtown Kalamazoo breweries for two people, and we’ve had days with three full bus coaches of 50 people each, all going in different directions. We have a couple dates this summer with four tours going on simultaneously. What has been your biggest challenge as a start-up? That the demand has been so high and so fast, and just trying to keep up with the inquiries. There’s a lot of work from keeping up with the new breweries, juggling the calendar and getting ourselves in front of the right eyeballs through learning the Google monster and keeping social media happy. Trying to put all those things in place while leading tours and trying to find new people to help us keeps us busy. What we’re doing isn’t necessarily unique, but the quality of the beer around here and the people making it are so outstanding that it makes our job easy. Once we get our groups in front of the brewers and they taste the beer, things take care of themselves. The coordination takes some work, but it’s rewarding when it all comes together. Any memorable moments stand out?

Dexter, but our GPS didn’t tell us there was a historic arch stone bridge with a 16-foot clearance, which is less than a full coach is able to do. We stopped and joked about coating the top of the bus with butter, and then the driver looked at me and said, “John, we got a thing here.” Cars had started piling up behind us, and we had to put the coach in reverse to turn it around, which meant all the cars behind us had to back up, too. While I was standing out on the road trying to help the driver turn the coach around, this random gentleman came along and asked, “You folks trying to go to Jolly Pumpkin?” I said, “We are.” And he said, “Follow me. I’ve got a shortcut for you.” He took us, in this big coach bus, through this residential neighborhood and then down this dusty, bumpy dirt road. He stopped and said, “Just go that way and it’s down there.” And it was. I wish I’d had a beer to give the guy. What was the first craft beer you ever tasted? A Bell’s Amber. A friend of mine had just gotten back from studying in Belgium and was telling me and our other friends all about the beer he experienced there. It made us all think a little differently about beer. With craft beer a big part of your workday, do you still enjoy it? Oh, yeah. Even without West Michigan Beer Tours, I’m a Michigan craft beer man all the way.

Something always seems to come up on a tour. We were running 50-some home brewers on a coach out to Jolly Pumpkin in

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John Liberty

Co-founder & General Manager West Michigan Beer Tours


ohn Liberty began his professional career as a journalist, but now he’s “a craft beer ambassador” and says the two vocations aren’t really so far apart. Liberty, a former Kalamazoo Gazette entertainment writer, and Aric Faber created West Michigan Beer Tours in 2013 to allow people to experience the area’s growing craft beer industry. Liberty coordinates walking, biking and bus-riding tours of the region’s breweries. The tours include meeting brewers, sampling beers and hearing the back stories of the area’s burgeoning craft beer scene. “I wrote about the craft brew scene at the Gazette and in the Kalamabrew blog,” the 36-year-old says. “I’m just sharing those stories in a different way now.”

Brian Powers

(continued on page 45)

46 | ENCORE MAY 2016



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There’s One Gift…

That Keeps on Giving Beyond One Day. Moms deserve to be celebrated every day. Why not give them a gift that keeps on giving? Tell your mom that you’re counting on her. Remind her (and all the women in your life age 40 and above) to schedule an annual mammogram—the best way to detect breast cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages. We’ve made it easier and faster to schedule mammograms, too. With our online self-scheduling system, moms can make their appointment wherever and whenever they choose by visiting schedule.borgess.com. They can also call (269) 226.6999.

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