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Ringing up fun with horseshoes

September 2018

K’zoo Folklife ‘keeps music alive’

TEDx Kalamazoo takes the stage

Southwest Michigan’s Magazine

THE JET SET The siblings piloting RAI Jets

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Ringing up fun with horseshoes

K’zoo Folklife ‘keeps music alive’

September 2018

TEDx Kalamazoo takes the stage

Southwest Michigan’s Magazine

THE JET SET The siblings piloting RAI Jets

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From the Editor Anyone who knows me knows I adore my siblings. The four of them are

far-flung — from Alaska to Alabama — but we are very close, choosing to spend vacations and holidays together. Given our intense battles growing up and our very different life perspectives as adults, I see our bond as just short of a miracle. That’s why several of the stories in this issue appealed to my familial sensibilities. First, there’s our feature on RAI Jets, an aviation company in Portage and Sturgis. What was initially a hobby for their father and uncle has become a thriving aircraft management and charter business for three siblings and their nearly 20 employees. Readers will also meet Becky and Rick Bil, who make and sell delicious jam and popcorn with inventive flavors. Their nine kids, ages 7 to 21, help out. Finally, we learn that it’s not just blood that binds folks. Sometimes it’s sharing the worst experience imaginable that turns disparate people into a “family,” as has happened with those served by the nonprofit organization Cancer Families United. This local organization provides support and networking to families whose children have cancer. It also advocates for research into this heart-wrenching disease. We hope you enjoy a little “family time” this issue.

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Andrew Domino

Andrew spent some time in the pits this issue — that is at the horseshoe courts throwing with the Kalamazoo Horseshoe Club. Spending time with club members, Andrew learned about the terms of the game as well as how a proper court is set up, but admits he will probably keep his throwing skills in his own backyard for now. A Kalamazoo-based freelance writer, you can see more of Andrew’s writing at dominowriting.com.

Marie Lee

During the interview for our cover story on RAI Jets, Marie enjoyed observing the sibling dynamics among brothers Brian and David Riley and their younger sister, Becky Bakeman, the three owners of the aviation company. “Brian is the quiet, older one,” Marie says. “He’s no-nonsense, while David, in the middle, is affable, funny and a born mediator. Becky says Brian’s nickname for her growing up was ‘Brat,’ but she’s the CEO now so he probably doesn’t call her that anymore. At least not to her face.” Marie is the editor of Encore.

Lisa Mackinder

For our Savor feature, Lisa talked with Becky and Rick Bil, who not only own and operate two businesses, but also have nine children ranging in age from 7 to 21. In fact, while Becky Bil was pregnant with her youngest child, she picked 27 pounds of strawberries — an activity that ultimately launched their jam business. “You can tell she is a person who jumps right in and gets a job done,” Lisa says. A Portage-based freelance writer, Lisa also wrote about the organization Cancer Families United in this issue.

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DEPARTMENTS 5 From the Editor 6 Contributors


Up Front First Things

Happenings and events in SW Michigan

12 Five Faves — Longtime Civic denizen recounts special stage memories


Throwing Shoes — Local horseshoe club is ringing up fun




Good Works


Back Story

Jam and Popcorn — Family business combines fruitful flavors with corny confections

United Against Cancer — This local organization supports families dealing with childhood cancer

Meet TEDx Organizers — It takes a team to bring 'so many cool people’ to the stage

ARTS 34 Bringing Folk to Life — K’zoo Folklife is

‘keeping the music alive’

On the cover: From left, brothers David Riley and Brian Riley and their sister Becky Bakeman keep RAI Jets flying. Photo by Brian Powers.

39 Events of Note

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First Things Something Enlightening

Prof’s book looks at Fetzer’s spiritual side While he was building the media empire that fueled his wealth and enabled him to become sole owner of the Detroit Tigers, few knew that John E. Fetzer was quietly using spiritual principles and practices to guide his business growth, as well as funding some of America’s seminal research on consciousness. WMU professor Brian C. Wilson looks at this side of Fetzer’s life in his new book, John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age, released last month by Wayne State University Press. With a particular focus on the Midwest, where Fetzer’s story unfolds (he lived and ran his business from Kalamazoo), Wilson shows that, in fact, the Midwest was the first cradle of advanced spiritual expansion — long before California claimed that mantle. To ensure that his legacy of spiritual inquiry and spiritual values would continue long into the future, Fetzer left endowments to fund The John E. Fetzer Memorial Trust and The John E. Fetzer Institute. The book is available at local bookstores. For more information, visit InfinitePotential.com.

Something Spirited

Tacos and tequila at Stryker Field Mariachis, wrestling, tacos and tequila? We’re in! The Taco & Tequila Festival will offer up some south-of-the-border-inspired fun from 5-8 p.m. Sept. 29 at Homer Stryker Field, 251 Mills St. You can sample tacos of different styles from area vendors and partake of a little tequila as well. There will also be mariachi bands and lucha libre wrestling, a type of Mexican wrestling that dates back to the early 20th century and features colorful masks and rapid and high-flying maneuvers. Tickets are $30 and include three taco tokens, five drink tokens and festival sunglasses. If you’re feeling really special, VIP tickets are $50 and include early admission, tequila samples that are not available to general admission ticket holders, five taco tokens and 10 drink tokens, those snazzy themed sunglasses and a souvenir cup. For tickets or more information, visit kzootacoandtequilafest.com or call 492-9966. 8 | ENCORE SEPTEMBER 2018


Something Novel

Deborah Gang to read from her new book Kalamazoo

writer and former psychotherapist Deborah Gang will read from her novel, The Half-Life of Everything, at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at This Is a Bookstore, 3019 Oakland Drive. The Half-Life of Everything, published this month by Bancroft Press, looks at marriage, fidelity and love when a spouse becomes lost to earlyonset Alzheimer’s. Gang worked as a psychotherapist for 30 years. This is her first novel. She has previously published poetry and short fiction.

Something Sacred

Join Native elders for water ceremony Join the Grandmothers of the Sacred We as they hold a water ceremony Sept. 13 to bless and pray for the waters of the Great Lakes. The Grandmothers are members of indigenous tribes from around the world who travel the globe — from Standing Rock to the People’s Climate March — offering love, healing and support that acknowledges the interconnectedness of all. Their water ceremony is part of an event called Caring for the Earth With the Elders, hosted by the Transformations Spirituality Center and the John E. Fetzer Institute. The event is set for 4-9 p.m., with the water ceremony at 4 p.m. at Spring Valley Park, 2606 Mount Olivet Road. After the water ceremony, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Fountains Banquet Center, 535 S. Riverview Drive, there will be a dinner inspired by Native American cuisine as well as drumming and circle dancing. Attending the water ceremony is free of charge but does require advance registration, since space is limited. Tickets for the dinner, dancing and drumming are $25. To register or obtain more information, visit transformationscenter.org. w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 9


Something Short

Run .1K to help Hospice Care With just 329 feet of an all-flat running course, Kalamazoo’s shortest “race” returns to the Kalamazoo Mall Sept. 22 to raise money for Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. The Point 1K Spoof Run begins at noon, with pre-race activities starting at 10 a.m. that include a scavenger hunt and Duck Derby raffle. There will also be live music, costume contests, a free kids fun run and other activities throughout the mall. Registration is $25, and the first 500 to register receive a race T-shirt and swag. For additional race information or to register, visit point1k.com.

Something Bright

iLuminate to light up Miller Auditorium iLuminate, an innovative dance troupe and third-place winner of America’s Got Talent’s sixth season, will light up Miller Auditorium at 8 p.m. Sept. 29. Dancing in the dark and wearing LED-laced black dance suits, iLuminate presents a story of adventure and romance through dance styles including contemporary, hip-hop, Latin and breaking. Tickets are $20-$40 and available at millerauditorium.com or by calling 387-2300.

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Something Festive

Get your indie fix at Audiotree You need some real love, baby?

Then head to the Audiotree Music Festival at Kalamazoo’s Arcadia Creek Festival Place, where “Real Love Baby” singer Father John Misty headlines the second day of the Sept. 22-23 festival. Los Angeles-based Local Natives headline the first day, and the festival lineup is rounded out by more than 25 other acts, including Khruangbin, Basement, Chicano Batman and Blitzen Trapper. Performances begin at 11 a.m. and go until 11:30 p.m. both days. Single-day general admission tickets are $45, and two-day passes are $80. VIP passes are $75 for one day and $135 for two days. Find tickets and additional lineup information at audiotreemusicfestival.com.

Something Musical

Civic opens season with Hello, Dolly! Catch local celebrity Lori Moore in the lead role of the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre’s

production of Hello, Dolly! Sept. 21-Oct. 7. Follow along as the musical’s namesake hunts down a wife for Horace Vandergelder, the crotchety “half-a-millionaire” from Yonkers. Throw in his two shopmen, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, a couple of hatmakers, Irene Molloy and Minnie Fay, and some fabulous dance numbers and you have true spectacle. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21, 22, 28 and 29 and Oct. 5 and 6 and 2 p.m. Sept. 23, 30 and Oct. 7. Tickets are $15-25 and available at kazoocivic.com or by calling 343-1313.

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Five Faves

Longtime Civic denizen recounts special stage memories by


The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre is 90 years old this season, and I am happy to say I’ve been a part of it for almost half of those years. Since making my debut at the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre 40 years ago, I’ve had the good fortune of directing or acting in more than 60 Civic productions. As you might imagine, I’m usually in a quandary when asked to name my favorite shows. The roles, the people and the creative processes have all been uniquely wonderful, but here are a few of my favorite memories.

More than just a show I have always loved Oklahoma! Filled with colorful characters, incredible production numbers and beautiful music, it truly is one of my favorites. I directed a production of this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic that opened on Sept. 28, 2001, just 17 days after our country was subjected to the worst terrorist attack in American history. Hurting and fearful, patrons of all ages found healing and comfort in the familiarity of this simple slice of Americana. I’ll never forget the emotional impact of 500 audience members rising to their feet each night as they joined the cast in singing "God Bless America" immediately after the curtain call.

Not just another opening night The opening night of a new production is one of

the most exciting experiences in theater. There’s an indescribable energy and electricity both onstage and in the wings. And so it was in 1982 on opening night of Dracula — until one of the actors skipped from Act I to Act II mid-monologue, and no one on stage knew. The results of skipping pages of dialogue could have been disastrous if not for the quick thinking of our talented director, Kathy Mulay, a skillful cast and a hard-working crew. I’ll never forget Ms. Mulay sending an actor out on stage to advise the other actors of what had transpired and to get them back on track. At intermission, we huddled in the makeup room poring over the script, determining what had already been said, what had been omitted and what needed to be said in order to create some sort of continuity. Instant rewrites! When the curtain came down and the reviews were written, no one seemed to have been the wiser. 12 | ENCORE SEPTEMBER 2018

Mentors and more I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I was in 1994 when Civic Director Jim Carver asked me if I would join him in a special production of the two-man comic romp Greater Tuna. Jim had a profound impact on me as an actor and director, and the opportunity to share the stage with my mentor was tremendously rewarding and a little frightening. All through the rehearsal process, Jim proved to be an incredibly generous scene partner, going out of his way to share the spotlight. I loved working with him on that project. Fast-forward to 2014, when Jim asked me to join him and Art Nemitz in a special production of The Sunshine Boys. Wow! After all the years of acting and directing, I learned so much from sitting back and watching these two “old pros” at work.


We are family

Talent, talent and more talent In

2004, in celebration of the Civic’s 75th anniversary, I produced and directed The Gala Reunion Concert. This very special event was created as a way to recognize artists who had gotten their start at the Civic and gone on to professional careers in theater, opera, cabaret, film and television. Everyone we invited back to perform agreed to participate. Due to the crazy schedules of these talented folks and the fact that they were performing for free, we kept the rehearsal process to a minimum, putting the whole show up in just three days. Believe it or not, the time constraints only added to the excitement. While all of the performers received incredible applause, I’ll never forget the audience reaction to Broadway veteran Jerry Dixon’s stirring rendition of "Ol’ Man River" — an instant standing ovation!

Not often, but every once in a while, a production comes along that exceeds any expectations you could possibly have for a show. That is precisely what happened in 1986 with Brighton Beach Memoirs. More than 80 people vied for seven roles, and the audition process was arduous. Those of us ultimately cast as members of the Jerome family knew instantly that we were a part of something very special. The bonds we created were intimate and immediate: We were a family! Artistically, the forging of those friendships allowed each of us to do our best work. The role I played provided me with challenges I had never been afforded, and I was able to meet those challenges head-on, in large part because of the wonderful people with whom I shared the stage. Even after 30 years I count some of those people among my closest friends. About the Author Ben Zylman, an award-winning actor and director, joined the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre staff in 1998. He currently serves as the organization’s development director.

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Ringing Up Fun

Horseshoe club brings players out of their backyards ANDREW DOMINO

Brian Powers


There are three distinct sounds one hears

on the grass field behind the VFW hall on East Kilgore Service Road on Monday and Wednesday nights in the summer. First, there’s the metallic clanging of the horseshoes rattling together as members of the Kalamazoo Area Horseshoe Club carry them back and forth to either end of the pits. Then there’s the sucking sound of wet clay from the players’ shoes in the pits as they retrieve their horseshoes from around the stakes. And, finally, louder than the classic 1970s rock playing on a nearby stereo, is the roar of airplanes taking off and landing at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport, which is just south of the club’s courts. Club members say the planes don’t bother them, since they are too focused on throwing ringers to pay attention. 14 | ENCORE SEPTEMBER 2018

The club has been leasing this property from VFW Post 1527 since 1982, paying just $1 each year in rent. There’s a small clubhouse, which is essentially a tiny room with a table and a roof. On the clubhouse’s outside wall, a scorecard half the size of a sheet of paper is posted, listing every member’s ringer percentage, or the number of horseshoes they pitched that went around the stake. Michigan’s average ringer percentage is 33 percent; most of the club’s members hit around 20 percent. Players play three 40-shoe games, walking back and forth between the ends of the pits to throw their horseshoes. Wednesdays are one-on-one games; Mondays are for doubles. “I’m here to try and get better, beyond ‘picnic shoes,’” says Will Plankenhorn, 43, of Vicksburg, who’s been part of the club since

Above: Members of the Kalamazoo Horseshoe Club play on a summer’s night. Opposite page, left: John Cousins throws a shoe. Right: Justin Plankenhorn is one of the club’s youngest members.

2006. “The clay is a real learning curve; there’s no slide like you get on sand.” Kary Christansen, 60, of Galesburg, who’s been a member since 2014, says he’s been playing for years in his backyard. He heard about the club from a friend and keeps coming back each year, though he admits he sometimes wonders why. “You think you’re good. Then you play here and find out you’re not,” he says.

State tournament site Horseshoe clubs have an official state governing body — the Michigan Horseshoe Pitchers Association (MHPA) — which regulates everything from tournament


schedules (this year, there are about 50 events statewide, including the championship held in August in Kalamazoo) to the material allowed around the stakes (at least 4 inches of sand, dirt, clay or synthetics). The Kalamazoo club, founded in 1980, is one of a dozen officially recognized horseshoe clubs in the state and the only one located west of Lansing. Kalamazoo’s club also has one of only three sites large enough to host the state championship (Lansing and Jackson are the other two). There are 18 courts in a

fenced-in area behind the VFW hall, and the club’s pits have clay taken from a quarry in Grand Ledge rather than sand. At the beginning of the season the clay starts out soft, almost like mud. As the summer wears on and shoe after shoe is thrown, the clay becomes beaten and kneaded. By the end of the season, it is the consistency of Play-Doh. Horseshoes is an easy game to get started in — an entire set of equipment, which includes two pairs of horseshoes made of cast iron or steel, generally runs about

$100. Josh Lull, 36, of Kalamazoo, who is in his 17th year with the club and serves as its tournament director, says he owns four pairs of horseshoes and that each cost about $50. He also has a special tool that folds out to measure the distance between a horseshoe’s landing place and the stake and includes a metal file to smooth out “burrs” on a horseshoe that could cut a pitcher’s hand. Most players have a “pick-up stick” — a hook on the end of a long shaft (Lull’s is made from an old golf club) that can grab horseshoes out of the soft clay — and a towel to wipe them off. That’s all a horseshoe pitcher needs, plus time to get in a few games. Eighty-nine-year-old Clayton Champion, of Galesburg, one of the Kalamazoo club’s founders, says that over the years he’s purchased several tournament-level pairs of horseshoes, which he compares to a bowler buying his or her own ball. Two pairs of professional-grade shoes sell for about $80, and Champion says they are designed to feel good when held. The horseshoes are made carefully, so the weight in them is spread evenly throughout the shoe, making them fly smoothly when thrown.

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Membership in the Kalamazoo club costs $15 for a season. In addition, players pay $5 each week they show up to compete. The fees mostly cover maintenance of the property, clubhouse and courts. The club has a casual participation policy, but there are rules. “No beer or phones are allowed when you’re inside the fence (in the play area),” Lull says. A typical summer night draws between 10 and 20 players, and members say the club has struggled to grow. While there are indoor tournaments throughout the fall and winter months, the club finds it best to keep its season to the warmer months. “We’re not hard and fast with attendance,” Lull says. “As soon as the weather is nice, we’re out here. It wraps up in August. A lot of people say, ‘My bowling league is starting, so I have to go there.’” The club has a Facebook page (facebook. com/groups/KAHC1980), and players say they do what they can to encourage others to join. Lull has been interviewed on local radio programs about horseshoes; another player, Owen Mergen, says he’s been talking to the Kalamazoo 4-H Club about hosting a tournament for young horseshoe pitchers. Twelve-year-old Justin Plankenhorn, who has come with his father, Will, to play, says he’s invited his friends to play, but even a casual game presents challenges. “If they do bad, they don’t want to come back,” Justin says. But both Lull and Champion, who has a ringer percentage of 32 percent and has taken part in national tournaments, say setting records and winning tournaments isn’t what draws them to the courts. “It’s a good-time sport,” Champion says. “At different clubs — the American Legion, the Eagles — you can see people playing, and (I’ve) gone up to them to invite them to play. It’s a pretty simple game or I wouldn’t be playing.”


Jam and Popcorn

Family business combines fruitful flavors with corny confections by



local farmers’ markets in Richland and Plainwell and at the Douglass Community Center. “It was easier to get into a small market,” she explains. “It was not a huge investment.” Bilberry Jams and Jellies took off, and by 2013 they were selling their wares at the


Brian Powers

ne summer day back in 2012, a pregnant Becky Bil of Kalamazoo had no inkling that a trip with her kids — she and husband, Rick, have nine ranging in age from 7 to 21 — to the strawberry patch would launch a family business. They picked 27 pounds that day, and when Rick, who is a parts manager at Galesburg Ford, arrived home from work, Becky says, he whipped up a batch of jam from the berries. They passed the jam out as gifts to family and friends, which started a commotion. “They’re like, ‘You should really make this and sell it!’” Becky says. “I said, ‘Well, what’s the market for that?’” Continued entreaties and encouragement propelled the Bils to gather a variety of fresh fruits and make different flavors of jams and jellies that summer. They produced traditional jams like peach, strawberry and strawberry rhubarb as well as some unique flavors such as peach pie and apple pie. As a test run, Becky says, they took their products to sell at small


Rick and Becky Bil, center photo, in the storefront of Pop City Popcorn in downtown Kalamazoo, where they sell many flavors of popcorn, such as the one at left, as well as an assortment of their homemade jams .

Kalamazoo Farmers' Market. In the meantime, the Bils created 80 different flavors of jams and jellies. “We keep anywhere between 40 and 60 (flavors) on the table (at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market),” she says. Bilberry’s top sellers remain strawberry, red raspberry and strawberry rhubarb jams, which they always have on hand. The Bils dream up special creations for holidays, such as chocolate cherry and chocolate raspberry jams for Valentine’s Day and beer jelly made with Guinness or Bell’s Oberon for Father’s

Day. They also make seasonal flavors like elderberry jelly. “That, we can only get a little bit,” Becky explains, because of a limited supply of elderberries. “So when it’s gone, it’s gone.” Inspiration for these creative concoctions comes from different sources. Take the peach pie jam. While making apple pie jam, Becky says, her brother mentioned that his wife’s grandmother used to make peach pie jam. Other times, yogurt flavors spur creativity, such as Bilberry’s Strawberry Vanilla and Orange Creamsicle jams. “People love things when we put vanilla in them,” Becky says, noting they use real vanilla beans in both of those jams. For the past five years, the Bils sold Bilberry Jams and Jellies under the Michigan Cottage

Food Law, which allowed them to create the jams in their home kitchen. As the Bils’ business grew, Becky says, they sought an opportunity to work in a commercial kitchen, which would allow them to expand into more markets, including shipping their products. When the opportunity finally arrived, it came with another flavorful commodity: popcorn.

Opportunity pops up Through the Kalamazoo Farmers Market, the Bils became acquainted with Teresa and Steven La Fountain, who owned Pop City Popcorn, in downtown Kalamazoo. In 2016, Rick discovered an interesting post on Craigslist — a business for sale that sounded like Pop City Popcorn. It also had the commercial kitchen that the Bils were

w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 19


The Bil family, back row from left: Emma, 14, Audrey, 17, Rick, Julia, 15, Ruth, 18, Becky, and Violet, 12. Front row: Calvin, 8, Oliver, 7, and Dorothy, 9. Not pictured is their eldest child, Rachel Vlietstra, 21.

Brian Powers

seeking. It was, and the Bils were interested. The La Fountains decided to hold off selling for a year and it took a bit to hammer out the details of the sale, but the Bils officially became Pop City Popcorn’s new owners in March of this year. “They were phenomenal,” Becky says of the La Fountains. “They worked with us for a month. We came and learned how to do all the (popcorn) recipes, and then they worked with us two weeks after we took over. They’re

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only a phone call away if we have questions. Theyworkedhardtogetthisofftheground, andtheywantedtoseeitremainsuccessful. I really appreciated that.” Inthe1,700-square-footestablishmentat 346 S. Kalamazoo Mall, the Bils sell popcorn varieties such as butter rum caramel corn, cheddar,whitecheddarandBecky’spersonal favorite: parmesan garlic. She also enjoys chocolatepeanutbuttercaramelcorn,which she describes as “decadent.” As with the jams and jellies, which they also sell at the location,thepopcornprovidestheBilswith room for creative flavor pursuits. “Ithinkthepossibilitiesonflavorscouldbe endless for us,”she says.“We’ve been doing somedifferentthingswiththeflavorswe’ve had on hand for St. Patrick’s Day. I did a Shamrocks&Shenanigans,whereIputLucky Charms in there. That sold so well.” Pop City Popcorn’s top seller is The Kalamazoo Mall Mix, which Bil says is “Chicago style,” mixing caramel corn and cheddar cheese popcorn. They also have spicy flavors like Buffalo Wing and Angry Pickle.PopCityPopcornhasmanycorporate clients, including Bronson Methodist Hospital,StrykerCorp.andWesternMichigan University. For WMU, the Bils make Bronco Mix, which is a blend of their black cherry, vanilla bean and caramel popcorns. Both businesses are truly a family affair. The Bils’18-year-old daughter, Ruth, opens PopCityPopcorneachmorning. Beckysays the other kids assist with such things as cleaningandpreppingfruitandlabelingjars forBilberryandhelpatPopCity,depending on their ages and abilities. She offers advice for others wanting to launch a business: Test your product and discover your niche. Another tip: Don’t get discouraged.Atthosesmallfarmersmarkets, she says, they initially sold a couple jars a day. It takes time for word to spread. “You just have to keep showing up and doing what you’re doing,” Becky says. “Another possible pitfall is trying to do too much at once. Know your limits and what you'recapableof,anddon’ttrytogobeyond that until you’re ready.”

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United Against Cancer

Organization supports families dealing with childhood cancer by


"Why do you do this?”

When people pose this question to Farrell Howe in connection with the heart-wrenching circumstances she encounters working as a volunteer and board member with the area nonprofit Cancer Families United, she answers, “Because I made a little girl a promise.” The young girl died at age 10 on an airport tarmac in Philadelphia aboard a private company jet that does “angel flights” for critically ill patients. She had won Howe’s heart when they met at Bronson Pediatric Oncology Hematology Clinic, in Kalamazoo, while Howe’s own son was going through treatment for leukemia. “You wanted to do everything for her because she was just so sweet,” Howe says. The child was in Philadelphia for an immunotherapy treatment study at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The therapy is taxing on the body, so the girl “fought and fought and fought” to become healthy enough to receive the treatment, Howe says. But upon arriving in Philadelphia she developed an infection that excluded her from the trial. She died on the plane that was to take her home to Kalamazoo. Shortly after, Howe visited the girl’s gravesite, which was sprinkled with one of the girl’s favorite things: glitter. “I said, ‘Your death isn’t going to be in vain. I will do whatever I possibly can to fight so that this doesn’t keep happening to children like you,’” Howe recalls.

Confronting childhood cancer Children dying of cancer is a sobering topic that Howe says the media often shies away from. But the subject demands attention: 43 new cases of childhood cancer are diagnosed every day in the United States, according to Curesearch, a foundation that supports research to end childhood cancer. For children, cancer is the No.1 cause of death by disease. Howe and her husband, Colin Howe, were unaware of those statistics until December 2013, when their son, Garrett, then 2½, was diagnosed with b-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Farrell had taken him to the pediatrician for an ear infection, when it was discovered that Garrett also had anemia. They were sent to Bronson Children’s Hospital, where Garrett endured several tests, including a double femoral artery poke. “I had to restrain him for that and hold him down,” she says, “and that was one of the most traumatic things I’ve experienced during this process.”


While waiting for answers, Howe and Garrett fell asleep curled up together in a hospital bed. Her husband’s face was as white as a sheet, she says, when he roused her the next morning. His three words took Howe’s breath away: “Garrett has leukemia.” “I couldn’t cry,” Howe explains. “I couldn’t scream. I just was struggling for air.” One thing that offered a bit of comfort to the Howes: a Care Bag from Cancer Families United (CFU) given to them at the hospital. When Howe looked inside looking for pain relievers for their pounding headaches, she discovered much more: They weren’t alone. “That family care bag (was) really a godsend,” Howe recalls. The CFU bag not only contained other much-needed necessities, such as snacks, toiletries, note paper and a calendar, it showed that CFU was there to provide support and services to Southwest Michigan families affected by childhood cancer. That’s because CFU’s founder and president, Mary Kay Pederson, and her husband, Corey Pederson, who created the bags, had already traveled this road. Their daughter, Emma, was diagnosed with b-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2010, at age 3. Emma had been having ongoing ear infections, which can be a symptom of childhood cancer, Pederson says they later found out. Emma’s visits to the pediatrician involved a recurring cycle of fever, antibiotics and rest. On one visit, a visiting doctor proposed Pederson let Emma get well and then come back for blood work — a test no other doctor had yet suggested. Pederson insisted on a blood draw that minute. Even eight years later, tears trail down Pederson’s cheeks as she recalls the phone call that told them Emma needed to immediately see a specialist at Bronson Children’s Hospital. While Pederson was on the phone, her toddler, Abby, climbed onto a nearby table, dumped out a box of Cheez-Its, and proceeded to crunch the crackers beneath her feet. “I continue to include that into my recollection of all this that happened to us because it’s significant — it’s the colliding of two worlds,” Mary Kay explains, brushing away tears. “That is my life: You have a toddler getting into mischief, but at the same time your other child is about to embark on a very hard journey. That moment still gets me choked up.” From left: Garrett Howe, now 7, and Emma Pederson, 11, show pictures of themselves when they began cancer treatment at ages 2½ and 3, respectively. Both are in remission.

Brian Powers w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 23

The creation of CFU Emma ended up staying at the hospital for two weeks. Corey had to return to work, so Mary Kay remained at the hospital with her terrified daughter, who didn’t want her mom to leave the room. Pederson quickly started recognizing things she needed, such as basic toiletries and snacks like popcorn and granola bars. She also identified other necessities: a notebook to jot down questions and a calendar to keep track of the regimented rules of the clinical trial to treat the child. “They (doctors and nurses) come in and start talking right away about what the schedules are going to be,” Pederson explains, noting patients must receive medicine at precise times and families must keep track of numerous appointments and procedures, such as ongoing spinal taps. During Emma’s treatment, which lasted two years and three months (she is now 11 and in remission), Pederson’s eyes were opened to other needs. She and her husband had family and friends to help watch their younger daughter, Abby, but others at the clinic, including a struggling mother of three, didn’t and couldn’t afford child care. “I’m thinking, ‘This is horrible,’” she says. During Emma’s treatment Pederson became acquainted with other families and evaluated their needs. She started a private Facebook group and organized an event to get together outside the hospital. “That’s how CFU started,” she says. CFU has since evolved to help families in a variety of ways: the Care Bag, family networking events to build relationships outside of the hospital, and assistance to offset the financial strain of cancer treatment.


Brian Powers


Garrett Howe with dad Colin and mom Farrell, above, and in treatment for leukemia, at left. Opposite page, bottom: The Pederson family, from left, Abby, Corey, Mary Kay and Emma. Top: A young Emma undergoing a chemotherapy infusion.

The organization also provides a Warrior Wish, specifically designed for children whose cancer has relapsed, to provide the child and family with an opportunity to experience something special. A Warrior Wish for a family of four costs the organization about $2,500, Howe says, and is its greatest area of need. “(We’ve) been trying to find a local corporation or donor or somebody that would be interested in helping these kids,” Howe says. “It might be part of the family’s last memories with their child.”


The statistics

Brian Powers

Worldwide, a child is diagnosed with cancer every two minutes, according to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds research to find cures for childhood cancer. “The general population — and I used to be one of them — thinks that childhood cancer is rare and that it’s mostly curable because they hear that 80 percent cure rate, not knowing that is only tied to leukemia and not the rest of the dozens of childhood cancers that are fatal,” says Howe. Only four child-specific cancer treatments have been developed and approved in the last 20 years, so children with cancer are often treated with adult cancer drugs modified for kids, Pederson says. The

toxicity of these drugs comes with “cruel” side effects that 60 percent of children who survive cancer suffer long term, she says. “They end up having organ failure, they end up losing their teeth, they end up having disrupted bowels,” she explains. Another potential result is secondary cancers.

The STAR Act Together, Howe and Pederson are on a crusade to tell everyone that not only is childhood cancer not rare, but research for a cure is woefully underfunded. They have taken their battle to Washington D.C., traveling there for several years with the Alliance for Childhood Cancer to push Congress to pass the Childhood Cancer STAR (Survivorship, Treatment, Access and Research) Act. Finally approved in May, the STAR Act will advance pediatric cancer research and child-focused cancer treatments, including development of childhood cancer drugs. “The treatment is really key because we want pharmaceutical companies to view childhood cancer as a disease worthy enough to create a drug,” Pederson explains. Closer to home, area residents remain unaware of CFU, say Pederson and Howe, but also of Bronson Children’s Hospital’s pediatric oncology clinic, which serves seven counties. “If we didn’t have the option to seek treatment locally for Emma’s leukemia, we would have had to travel to Grand Rapids or Ann (continued on page 43)

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The Jet Set Siblings pilot the success of RAI Jets

Brian Powers

story by




hat began as a hobby for their father and his twin brother is now the business of three siblings who own RAI Jets, an aviation company based in Portage. When brothers Brian Riley, 52, and David Riley, 49, and their sister Becky Bakeman, 45, were kids, their father, Ronald, and his twin, Donald, had a thing for flying and started a small aviation company in Sturgis. The company, Riley Aviation, provided flying lessons and some charter flights and managed the Kirsch Municipal Airport for the city of Sturgis. David remembers being in middle school when the elder Rileys’ hobby became a vocation. “It all started when my dad started taking flying lessons and the man who ran the place wanted to retire, and so my dad and Uncle Donnie won the bid to manage the airport and traded a dump truck and backhoe for an airplane,” says David. Their vocation ultimately included Ronnie Riley’s children. “We’d gas up the planes, clean planes

and watch the office,” says David. “Oh, and we ran the rental car desk too.” The kids also worked in the other family business, Riley Construction Co., pouring concrete sidewalks and driveways. “It supported the hobby,” David says. All three of Ronald Riley’s children learned to fly, with David and Brian both soloing on their 16th birthdays. After Brian graduated from Mendon High School in 1984, he went straight into helicopter flight school with the U.S. Army, flying a UH1 (Huey) helicopter out of Fort Hood, Texas. David went to Western Michigan University and studied aviation. But Brian was the one who was really into planes. “My dad was a crew chief on a helicopter in the Army, and Brian to got play in it and just wanted to be a helicopter pilot forever,” recalls David. “Brian knew so much about airplanes as a little kid that if he saw a piece of an aircraft through a window, he could tell you which aircraft it was. He had models everywhere. When the opportunity came up for our dad to learn to fly, Brian was 12 or 13, so he brought him along and brought him into it.” Brian is a little more taciturn about his fascination with flight. “It

seemed like a fun thing to do,” he says, “and it beat pouring cement.” Becky, on the other hand, originally went in a different direction. She was a cheerleader at the University of Kentucky and graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in business management.

Circling back All three of them ultimately landed back at Riley Aviation. David helped manage the Sturgis airport while he attended WMU. After six years in the Army, Brian came back as well. “I really liked being in the Army, but my dad thought I would be better off doing this and, I suppose, in the long run I was,” he says. The company was better off as well, David says. Ronald Riley died in 1990, shortly after Brian returned. “My dad and uncle — I'm more like them — they did not follow any rules. They did whatever the heck they wanted,” says David. “Luckily, my dad raised Brian to be disciplined and so when he got out of the Army and came back, the way he did things really changed the way I did things. Everybody's more disciplined. You don't do stupid stuff. You do what you're supposed to do, that sort of thing.”

w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 27


Brian Powers

Their sister came back to Riley Aviation in 1995 and put her degree to work in sales and marketing, making cold calls and getting customers for the charter company. When their Uncle Donnie died in 2005, the company passed into the hands of the three siblings. In 2009, during the economic downturn, the trio decided they needed to revamp to weather the times. They renamed the company RAI Jets (RAI is short for Riley Aviation Inc.) and focused on three things: aircraft management, maintenance and charter service. They still manage the Kirsch Municipal Airport, but the business’s emphasis has shifted to jet management, which includes helping jet owners offset their operating costs by using their planes for charter service. “Instead of owning aircraft, we manage aircraft for other people that own them,” explains Becky. “There’s a lot to owning a plane, especially a jet. There are many inspections to keep up on for the planes, whether it’s by calendar or flight time, and we track all that. There’s regular maintenance that needs to be done, and we schedule it and line it up. We also hire the pilots that fly the jets, and because they need specific training and ratings for the jets we fly, we make sure they get those.” RAI Jets manages an impressive fleet of aircraft: a Beechcraft King Air 200, which can seat nine people; a Cessna Citation III, which can also hold nine passengers; and the newest addition to the fleet, a Cessna Citation X, which, with a top speed of 700 miles per hour, can travel at 92 percent the speed of sound. The company has 20 full- and part-time employees including pilots, maintenance crew and administrative staff. In 2016, RAI Jets expanded its operations in the Kalamazoo area, locating in a building and hangars on Willoughby Drive in Portage, at the southern end of the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport. Becky is the CEO, but in the past both David and Brian have served in that role. “We’ve

all been president of the company through the years, at different times for different reasons,” David says. “The two of us (he and Brian) were feeling burnout from the stress of the economy falling apart and everything. And, really surprisingly to me, Becky stepped up and said, ‘Let’s do this.’” David now oversees the company’s operations, a job that includes scheduling maintenance and certifications. “I do a lot of paperwork,” he admits. Brian is the company’s chief pilot. “He bitches. A lot,” says David with a chuckle when asked to describe Brian’s role. The business also includes their mother, Kay Scobey, and Brian’s 26-year-old daughter, Christina Riley. “Her crib was in our office when she was a baby,” says David of Christina, who helps with scheduling. Scobey helps schedule maintenance and does bookkeeping. And there’s a fourth pilot in the family as well: Becky’s husband, Mike, whom she met when he flew for Riley Aviation many years ago.

Riley family members, clockwise from left: David Riley, Christina Riley, Brian Riley, Becky Bakeman and Kay Scobey, sit on the steps of the Cessna Citation X jet that they manage.

‘All walks of life’ The bulk of what RAI Jets does now is manage aircraft and provide charter jet services. “If someone calls us and they need an airplane size that we don’t have, we can get what they need and we’ll arrange it for them,” Becky says. “We have contacts with operators all over.” Many of RAI Jets’ frequent clients are large companies in the area with groups of employees who need to fly to the same location or with employees or executives who need to be in two places on the same day. “It makes sense if someone has several people going to the same place to look at a charter rather than the commercial airlines,” Becky says. “They might find it is not any more expensive, and they save the time waiting in airports for flights and layovers.”

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airplanes don’t,” says David. “They truly think it’s only for the ultra-wealthy.” In addition, the company often provides medical flights, transporting organ transplant teams or taking critically ill patients to specialists in other cities. “We work with people from all walks of life, and I have been to some really cool places,” says Becky, “but it’s really awesome to know that your work might help save someone’s life.” Much of the work RAI Jets does to arrange a charter flight may not be obvious to customers. They provide concierge services such as arranging ground transportation at arrival or departure points and, especially Left: The staff of Riley Aviation in Sturgis in the 1990s. Below: A younger Brian Riley piloting a helicopter with a passenger.

Other RAI charter clients include families and groups going on trips together. Becky says that a group traveling together may find chartering a jet an easier and more economical way to go. One client has RAI fly their elderly parents to Florida each winter and bring them home in the spring. “It’s much easier on them and their health,” Becky says of the elderly couple. “They can be driven right out to the plane. We load their bags, and they board. There are no lines, no being X-rayed or frisked by TSA (the Transportation Security Administration), and they don’t have to worry about getting around in airports to make connections.” “My estimate is that 95 percent of the people that can afford to charter private

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with flights to foreign countries such as Mexico, work with “handlers” to coordinate services at local airports. “You need someone on the other end to do the legwork, someone who knows the language, and who to pay off,” Brian says. “They tell you where it’s safe to fly into and will make all the arrangements for permits and licenses. They know which hotels are safe to stay in. They are literally invaluable, because you can’t do it in a foreign country without one. You really have to be able to trust them, because without them you’d be like a pig looking at a wristwatch.” RAI Jets also helps clients who want to buy planes understand which aircraft fits their needs and what it takes to own and operate that aircraft. “There are a lot of people out there who are teetering on the decision to buy an airplane but don’t know where to go to buy one,” Becky says. “We have people who have been our charter customers forever and want to see if they should buy one. We can help run the numbers, because sometimes it turns out that it’s just more economical for them to charter. We are not very good plane salesmen because we’re going to tell them the truth about whether or not it makes sense for them to buy one.”

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Family affair David says that when Riley Aviation started in 1982, his father and uncle had twin desks that faced each other. When the siblings took over, Brian and David sat at those same desks “looking at each other.” The desks are still there, but David admits that between the flights and operations in Kalamazoo and Sturgis, it’s rare that the three siblings are all in the same place at the same time. But they are all on the same page when it comes to the business. “We really do get along well,” David says. “People always say they couldn’t do it because they’d fight with their siblings too much. We fight, but then we forget about it. Not everybody does that.” “I can’t imagine not working with them,” Becky says of her brothers. “It’s not all hugs and la-la land, but we always figure out a way to make things work in the best interest of the business.”

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Bringing Folk to Life

K’zoo Folklife is ‘keeping the music alive’ ANDREW DOMINO

Brian Powers


On just about any summer Saturday morning at the Kalamazoo

Farmers Market, there’s someone strumming a guitar and singing while shoppers peruse the vegetables, plants, baked goods and artisan wares. That someone is usually a K’zoo Folklife Organization member. K’zoo Folklife, or just Folklife, as board members and participants call it, is a local group for musicians who play acoustic instruments, including guitars, banjos and mandolins. It became an official nonprofit organization in 1985 but truly got its start in the early 1970s at Western Michigan University. At the time, the campus boasted the Canterbury Coffeehouse, a hub for coffee and live music modeled after clubs like those where Bob Dylan began his career. From 1971 to 1982, Canterbury Coffeehouse was where local folk musicians would gather. Although the coffeehouse no longer exists, folk musicians have continued to meet in Kalamazoo ever since, said John Speeter, 34 | ENCORE SEPTEMBER 2018

Clockwise from above: Participants play at K’zoo Folklife’s weekly jam session at Louie’s Trophy House; Folklife board members, left to right, Shirley Kime, John West, Mike Bogen, Richard Bair, Mike Fleckenstein, June Kucks and Nancy Cyrus; Richard Bair, left, and June Kucks play during the jam session.

president of K’zoo Folklife. Now the group can be found holding jam sessions at Louie’s Trophy House on Monday nights, performing at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market, as well as at other local folk-music events. Open jams Kalamazoo has long been a hub for folk music. The Kalamazoo Valley Museum has hosted its annual Fretboard Festival, which celebrates string music, for more than a decade. The Great Lakes Acoustic Music Association (GLAMA) marked its 16th Cooper’s Glen Music Festival this past February at the Radisson Plaza Hotel


in downtown Kalamazoo. The festival has brought in big-name folk music performers like Tom Paxton as well as Traverse City’s Don Julin. While Folklife members play a variety of genres, bluegrass and traditional folk music are the most prominent. Speeter, who joined Folklife in the 1970s and became a board member in the early 2010s, says the organization’s goal is the same as it was back in the Canterbury Coffeehouse days: to give musicians a chance to get together to play or find a place to play. The organization also helps schedule musicians for local events like parties at senior centers and for summer farmers’ markets. “We are a clearinghouse for those looking to hire acoustic musicians,” Speeter says. “Sometimes they’re not interested in a w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 35


concert. They want background music, or what you could call ‘campfire music.’” Most of Folklife’s events are jam sessions held throughout the Kalamazoo area, including the Monday night events at Louie’s and events at the VFW Hall in Augusta and grange halls in townships like Oshtemo and Alamo. Musicians are always welcome to join jam sessions, not only to play, but also to meet other group participants. At a jam session, a handful of musicians will sit in a circle and play. One musician kicks off a song they’ve been practicing, and those who know the song can play along while others listen carefully to learn it for the next time it’s played. “There are a lot of different venues and a lot of different styles,” says Folklife participant Russ Meade of Climax, who has been a musician for about 50 years and was part of the bluegrass trio Franklin, Meade and Webster until last year. While Meade says he doesn’t play as much now as when he was younger, he’s appreciative of what Folklife does for Kalamazoo-area performers. Meade says Folklife helps performers learn about one another and stay in touch in a busy world where music is typically just a hobby. Performing in front of audiences


Above: While most members play string instruments, one Folklife member plays a trumpet during the jam session. Right: Member Mike Fleckenstein plays his guitar.

regularly is not only the way to improve musical skill, it’s also the way to find more chances to perform. “Folklife is keeping the music alive,” Meade says. “Once people get to know who you are, you start to get to know venue owners. You’ve got to have an organization (supporting you).”

Acoustic accomplishments Speeter isn’t sure how many Folklife participants there are, since the organization is funded exclusively by donations and there’s no formal membership. He estimates, though, that “several hundred” people have been part of the group over the years. The move away from funding by membership dues was

Brian Powers

done in part to make joining Folklife more affordable, Speeter says. The strategy seems to be working, since a separate chapter of the organization was established in 2016 for artists and venues hosting folk music in Allegan County. Despite folk music’s traditional championing of progressive causes (think of performers like Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie), K’zoo Folklife doesn’t take stands on political issues. The organization, is socially minded, however — in the past two decades, it has raised $10,000 for Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes through an annual benefit concert for the food pantry. Folklife’s contributions to the community were recognized in 2017 when it received the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo’s Epic Award, which recognizes nonprofit organizations that are “of high artistic quality and serve to enhance life in our community through the arts.” Speeter says such accolades help bring the organization attention and reach people “who wouldn’t ordinarily listen to folk music.” “The goal is to get the word out,” he says. “Guitar, mandolin, banjo — whatever it is, we’re here to help.”

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PERFORMING ARTS THEATER Disaster! — A campy musical about New Yorkers attending the opening of a floating casino plagued with disasters, 8 p.m. Sept. 1, 5 p.m. Sept. 2, Barn Theatre, 13351 West M-96, Augusta, 731-4121. Cowboys: Songs, Stories & Poems — A collection of music, poetry and stories about and from cowboys, 8 p.m. Sept. 7, 8, 14 & 15, New Vic Theatre, 134 E. Vine St., 381-3328. Hello, Dolly! — The adventures of a widowed matchmaker in search of a bride for a "half-amillionaire," 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21, 22, 28 & 29, Oct. 5 & 6; 2 p.m. Sept. 23 & 30, Oct. 7, Civic Auditorium, 329 S. Park St., 343-1313. Beyond the Rainbow: The Judy Garland Musical — The life story of a Hollywood legend, Sept. 28–Oct. 14, Farmers Alley Theatre, 221 Farmers Alley, 343-2727. MUSIC Bands & Solo Artists Brena — Gun Lake Live Summer Series, 6–10 p.m. Sept. 5, Lakefront Pavilion, Bay Pointe Inn, 11456 Marsh Road, Shelbyville, 888-486-5253. Town Mountain with Mark Lavengood Band — Bluegrass and country band, with singer/songwriter’s band as opening act, 8:30 p.m. Sept. 6, Bell's Eccentric Café, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., 382-2332. Earth Radio — Progressive soul quintet, 8 p.m. Sept. 7, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns Tour — Jazz saxophonist and brass band featuring Gerald Albright, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, and Aubrey Logan, 8 p.m. Sept. 8, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St., 345-6500. The Go Rounds — Folk, rock and pop band, 8:30 p.m. Sept. 8, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Ken Morgan Jazz Ensemble Serenading Mother Earth — Second Sundays Live series presents local

musicians, 2 p.m. Sept. 9, Parchment Community Library, 401 S. Riverview Drive, 343-7747. An Evening with Dawes: Passwords Tour — Indie roots-rock band, 8 p.m. Sept. 9, State Theatre, 345-6500. Dar Williams — Folk-pop singer/songwriter, 8 p.m. Sept. 13, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Keller Williams' PettyGrass — Bluegrass, acoustic and folk singer/songwriter in tribute concert to Tom Petty, 8:30 p.m. Sept. 20, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Morris Day & The Time — Funk band featured in Prince's rock musical Purple Rain, 8 p.m. Sept. 21, State Theatre, 345-6500. Sada Baby, Icewear Vezzo, Peezy & FMB DZ — Detroit-based rappers, 8:30 p.m. Sept. 22, State Theatre, 345-6500. Audiotree Music Festival —Eclectic lineup of pop, funk, folk and dance music, 11 a.m.–11:30 p.m. Sept. 22–23, Arcadia Creek Festival Place, 145 E. Water St., audiotreemusicfestival.com. Modest Mouse — American indie-rock band, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25, Wings Event Center, 3600 Vanrick Drive, 345-1125. Mustard Plug — Ska, rock and punk band, 8:30 p.m. Sept. 28, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Under the Streetlamp — Vocal quartet sings classic hits from the 1950s–70s, 3 p.m. Sept. 30, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 387-2300. Orchestra, Chamber, Jazz, Vocal & More Ravel & Berlioz — The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra performs Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique and Ravel's jazzy Piano Concerto in G, featuring pianist Di Wu, 8 p.m. Sept. 14, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 349-7759. Broadway . . . The Barbershop Way! — Kalamazoo's Mall City Harmonizers barbershop chorus, 7 p.m. Sept. 15, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 615-8796. Gilmore Rising Star Luca Buratto — The Italian pianist performs works of Bach, Adès and Schumann, 4 p.m. Sept. 16, Wellspring Theater, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall, 342-1166. Sarkozy Brunch Concert — Daniel Brier and Frank Silva present chamber favorites, 11 a.m. Sept. 23, Sarkozy Bakery, 350 E. Michigan Ave., 349-7759.

KSO Family Discovery Series: Beethoven Lives Upstairs! — The story of young Christoph and the "madman" upstairs, 3 p.m. Sept. 30, with preconcert activities and instrument petting zoo at 2 p.m., Chenery Auditorium, 714 S. Westnedge Ave., 349-7759. COMEDY Comedian Jo Koy: Break the Mold Tour — Standup comedian, 6 p.m. Sept. 23, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St., 345-6500. DANCE iLuminate — A story of adventure and romance told through dance and light, 8 p.m. Sept. 29, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 387-2300. OTHER Champions of Magic — Five world-class illusionists/ magicians, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St., 345-6500. Fall into Magic — Magician Brian Penny with a visit from the Kalamazoo Ghost Busters, 6 p.m. Sept. 21, Hayloft Theatre, Celery Flats, 7334 Garden Lane, Portage, 329-4522. VISUAL ARTS Kalamazoo Institute of Arts 314 S. Park St., 349-7775 Exhibits Global Glass: A Survey of Form and Function — Exhibition surveying artists and works from the mid1960s to the present, through Oct. 14. The Way Forward: New Acquisitions at the KIA — Paintings, photography, mixed media, prints and ceramics, through Dec. 2. Inka Essenhigh: A Fine Line — Large-format paintings filled with otherworldly expression, Sept. 15–Jan. 6, with reception and artist's talk 5:30 p.m. Sept. 27. Events ARTbreak — Weekly program about art, artists and exhibitions: Pewabic Pottery, talk by Kimberly Dobos, Sept. 4; Public Art as Community Memory, talk by Lauri Holmes, Sept. 11; Craft in America: Borders and Neighbors, video, Part 1, Sept. 18; Part 2, Sept. 25; sessions begin at noon, KIA Auditorium.

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Art League: Tim Light's Early Birthday Party — Lecture by Liu Yang, Curator of Chinese Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, 3 p.m. Sept. 9. Unreeled: Film at the KIA — Screening of Los Bandits: More than a Tex-Mex Band, a documentary and discussion by filmmaker and retired Kalamazoo College professor Dhera Strauss, 6:30–8 p.m. Sept. 13. Book Discussion — The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and the American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home, the story behind the Biltmore Estate, by Denise Kiernan, 2 p.m. Sept. 19. Get the Picture: Philemona Williamson — An indepth exploration of the artist's Tender Breeze, noon Sept. 20. Free Talk: Cameraphones & Social Media for Artists — Discussion of social media outlets and tricks to take the best photos of artwork, 5:30–7 p.m. Sept. 28. Richmond Center for Visual Arts Western Michigan University, 387-2436 Rita Grendze: Signs for Those Seeking Light — Cast-off books that have been cut by hand, mounted and suspended give voice to writing as a powerful visual language, through Dec. 16, Atrium Gallery. On the Inside Out — An exhibition focusing on the nuanced inside/out boundary pertinent to prison life, Sept. 20–Oct. 28, with opening reception 5–7 p.m. Sept. 20, Monroe-Brown Gallery. Robyn O'Neil: We, the Masses — An exhibition of drawings, prints, and the artist's acclaimed film We, the Masses, Sept. 20–Oct. 28, Netzorg and Kerr Gallery. Other Venues Community Art: MRC artWorks — Acrylic paint on wood board works by various artists, through Sept. 28, Portage District Library, 300 Library Lane, 329-4544. Christopher Light – Inspirations: Flower Photography from Film to Digital, 1995–2018 — Through Oct. 29, with artist reception 1–4 p.m. Sept. 9, Glen Vista Gallery, Kalamazoo Nature Center, 7000 N. Westnedge Ave., 381-1574. Art Hop — Art at various Kalamazoo locations, 5–8 p.m. Sept. 7, 342-5059. LIBRARY & LITERARY EVENTS Kalamazoo Public Library Animals and Society Book Club — Join Vegan Kalamazoo for a monthly book discussion, 7 p.m. Sept. 13, Boardroom, Central Library, 315 S. Rose St., 342-9837. An Inspirational Discussion — Dr. Kevin Morton and DeLurean Griffin share their stories that changed their lives, 6 p.m. Sept. 18, Alma Powell Branch, 1000 W. Paterson, 553-7960. Fraud Prevention — Lt. Greenlee from the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office discusses phishing and scammers, 10:30 a.m. Sept. 19, Oshtemo Branch, 7265 W. Main St., 553-7980. Novel Ideas Book Club — Discussion of The Dinner, by Herman Koch, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 24, Oshtemo Branch, 553-7980. Reading Race Book Group — Discussion of When I Was Puerto Rican, by Esmeralda Santiago, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 25, Van Deusen Room, Central Library, 342-9837. Parchment Community Library 401 S. Riverview Drive, 343-7747 Front Page: Donuts & Discussion — Discussion with local media, educators, politicians and special guests: Our Water: Glass Half Empty or Half Full — What Are You Drinking? 10:30 a.m.–noon Sept. 8. Yum's the Word — Vegan 101 – Ten Easy and Delicious Ways to Add More Plants to Your Diet,


presentation by Hillary Rettig, co-founder of Vegan Kalamazoo, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 10. Mystery Book Club — Discussion of Cold Day in Paradise, by Steve Hamilton, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 17. Portage District Library 300 Library Lane, 329-4544 SciFi/Fantasy Discussion: Who is the Best Star Trek Captain? — Share opinions and Star Trek treats, 7 p.m. Sept. 11. Paint Along with Bob Ross — An episode of The Joy of Painting on painting little trees, 7 p.m. Sept. 12; registration required. International Mystery Book Discussion: Medieval Ireland — Discussion of My Lady Judge, by Cora Harrison, 7 p.m. Sept. 13. Living History: Weaving, Wigs and the Wild West — A living museum exhibit of an interactive 1800s Michigan field logging camp, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Sept. 15, First Reformed Church of Portage, 7905 S. Westnedge Ave. Open for Discussion — Discussion of The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen, 10:30 a.m. Sept. 18. Go VR: Learn — An introduction to the Oculus Go virtual-reality headset and some short adventures, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18; registration required. Other Venues Deborah Gang: The Half-Life of Everything — Kalamazoo writer reads from her first novel, about marriage and love with a spouse lost to Alzheimer's, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 13, This Is a Bookstore, 3019 Oakland Drive, 385-2847. Black Heritage and the Idlewild Community in West Michigan — Talk by WMU professor emeritus Benjamin Wilson, 7 p.m. Sept. 27, Richland Community Library, 8951 Park St., 629-9085. MUSEUMS Air Zoo 6151 Portage Road, Portage, 382-6555 Wild Weather — Hands-on, immersive journey through the science of extreme weather, through Sept. 5. Gilmore Car Museum 6865 Hickory Road, Hickory Corners, 671-5089 Muscle Cars Plus Show & Swap Meet — Hundreds of special-interest vehicles, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Sept. 9. Ford Model A Day — Swap meet, Hall of Fame induction and seminars, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sept. 15. Cadillac-LaSalle Club Museum & Research Center Fall Festival — 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Sept. 22. Smithsonian Magazine's Museum Day Live! — Free entry with a Museum Day ticket, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sept. 22. Kalamazoo Valley Museum 230 N. Rose St., 373-7990 Cats & Dogs — Entertaining and interactive environments that help us understand life as a cat or dog, through Sept. 9. Treasures of the Great Lakes — Learn how navigators used the night sky and lighthouses to guide them, 2 p.m. Sat., 3 p.m. Tues. & Thurs., through Sept. 8, Planetarium. Journey to Space — What future space missions may look like, 3 p.m. Sun., Mon., Wed., Fri., & Sat., through Sept. 9, Planetarium. Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here — The band's album set to stunning visuals, 4 p.m. Sept. 1 & 8, Planetarium. Seeing! — A photon's journey across the galaxy to investigate the eye's structure, 4 p.m. Sept. 2 & 9, Planetarium.

Frank Lloyd Wright: Architecture of the Interior — Designs of the American architect's houses and their interiors, Sept. 8–Dec. 9. Bikes: Science on Two Wheels — Interactive exhibits about the history and evolution of the bicycle, Sept. 22–Jan. 6. Your Kalamazoo Wings: The First 45 Years — The history and culture of Kalamazoo's oldest professional sports franchise, Sept. 27–March 31. NATURE Kalamazoo Nature Center 7000 N. Westnedge Ave., 381-1574 Bird Banding Up Close — Visit bird banders with the first birds of the day, 8–10 a.m.; see naturecenter.org for schedule. Family Discovery Hikes — Habitat Haven – Amphibians, Sept. 2; Prairie Pathway – Butterflies, Sept. 9; River Walk – Tree ID, Sept. 16; Beech Maple – Birding, Sept. 23; Raptor Ridge – Birds of Prey, Sept. 30; all hikes from 2–3 p.m. Monarch Tagging — Join biologists from the Michigan Butterfly Network on a butterfly walk, 2–4 p.m. Sept. 4, 11, 18 & 25. Hummingbird Banding — Watch KNC researchers band ruby-throated hummingbirds, 8–10 a.m. Sept. 7, 14, 21 & 28. DeLano Cooking Series — Judy Sarkozy, of Sarkozy Bakery, demonstrates simple recipes with veggies, 5:30–6:45 p.m. Sept. 10, DeLano Market Barn, 357 West E Ave., 381-1574. Golf Cart Tour: Beech Maple Forest — Tour the forest and visit Trout Run Stream, 4–5 p.m. Sept. 17. DeLano Farms Tractor Tour — Tour the DeLano Farm, 4 p.m. Sept. 20, DeLano Homestead, 555 West E Ave., 381-1574. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary 12685 East C Ave., Augusta, 671-2510 Wild Edibles Workshop — Walk through the trails looking for wild edible plants with Danielle Zoellner and sanctuary staff, 9 a.m.–noon Sept. 8. Birds and Coffee Walk — A morning bird walk and discussion over coffee, 9–10:30 a.m. Sept. 12. Native Pollinator Workshop — Learn about native bees from an expert, 9 a.m.–noon Sept. 16. MISCELLANEOUS Kalamazoo Farmers Market — 8 a.m.–1 p.m. Tuesdays, 3–7 p.m. Thursdays, through October; 7 a.m.–2 p.m. Saturdays, through November, 1204 Bank St., 359-6727. Portage Market — 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 28, 7900 S. Westnedge Ave., Portage, 359-6727. Lunchtime Live! — Live music, food trucks and vendors, 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. Fridays, Bronson Park, featuring music by Carrie McFerrin, Sept. 7; Minor Element Music, Sept. 14; Abbigale Rose, Sept. 21; Kristen Kuiper, Sept. 28; 337-8191. NSRA Street Rod Nationals North — Street rods, muscle cars and custom vehicles, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Sept. 7 & 8, 8 a.m.–1 p.m. Sept. 9, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, 2900 Lake St., 303-776-7841. Movie in the Park — Watch Thor Ragnarok under the stars, 9 p.m. Sept. 7, Grain Elevator, Celery Flats, 7336 Garden Lane, Portage, 329-4522. Back-to-School Food Truck Rally — Food trucks, artisans, booths, music and networking, 9 p.m.– midnight Sept. 7, 201–299 W. Water St., 388-2830. SPCA 5K Doggie Dash — Walk or run park trails to raise money for the Society for the Prevention of

Cruelty to Animals, 10 a.m. Sept. 8, Spring Valley Park, 2606 Mount Olivet Road, 344-1474. Haunted History of Kalamazoo Tour — Kalamazoo history mixed with the paranormal world, 8–10 p.m. Sept. 8 & 29, starting in Bronson Park, 220-9496. Kalamazoo Walk to End Alzheimer's — A walk to raise money for Alzheimer's support, care and research, noon Sept. 9, Arcadia Creek Festival Place, 145 E. Water St., 342-1482. 9/11 Ceremony — Special guest speakers and music, 5:30 p.m. Sept. 11, Bronson Park, 760-3595. Grandmothers of the Sacred We: Caring for the Earth with the Elders — A water ceremony to bless the Great Lakes' waters, 4 p.m. Sept. 13 at Spring Valley Park, followed by dinner, drumming and circle dancing at the Fountains Banquet Center, 535 S. Riverview Drive, Parchment, transformationscenter.org. TEDx Kalamazoo — Twelve local speakers discuss a variety of topics related to the theme "The Old Made New," 6–10 p.m. Sept. 13, Jolliffe Theatre, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall, tedxkalamazoo2018.com. Kalamazoo's Vintage Mini-Market — Antiques, salvage, retro and shabby chic items, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Sept. 15, Kalamazoo County Expo Center North, 903-5820. Fall Expo & Craft Show — Crafters, artists and vendors from across Michigan, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Sept. 15, Kalamazoo County Expo Center South, 903-5820. Kalamazoo Dance — Monthly ballroom dance open to the community, with 7 p.m. West Coast swing lesson, 8 p.m. general dancing, Sept. 15, The Point Community Center, 2595 N. 10th St., kalamazoodance.org. Kalamazoo Night Market — 5–10 p.m. Sept. 20, 1204 Bank St., 359-6727. The Papercrafting Roadshow — Scrapbooking and stamping items and cropping sessions, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Sept. 21 & 22, Kalamazoo County Expo Center South, 231-206-2980. Point 1K Spoof Run & Duck Derby Raffle — A 329-foot flat course plus family activities, live music and Duck Derby raffle to benefit Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan, activities at 10 a.m., race at noon Sept. 22, Kalamazoo Mall, point1k.com. Eco Raft Race — Create a floating vessel from ecofriendly materials and race, 2–4 p.m. Sept. 22, Mayors' Riverfront Park, 251 Mills St., 337-8191. Suicide Prevention Walk — Join Gryphon Place for a 5K walk through downtown Kalamazoo, 9 a.m. Sept. 29, Bronson Park, gryphon.org/events; registration required. Fall Stamp & Cover Show — Buy and sell stamps, covers, postcards and supplies, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Sept. 29, 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Sept. 30, Kalamazoo County Expo Center North, 375-6188. Geek Fest — Gaming, cosplay, crafts, robotics, artists and authors, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Sept. 29, Kalamazoo County Expo Center South, 553-7871. Taco and Tequila Festival — Local food vendors, tequila sampling bar and festive entertainment, 5–8 p.m. Sept. 29, Homer Stryker Field, 251 Mills St., 492-9966. Bronson Children's Hospital Walk & 5K Run — A 5K run and walk supporting the children's hospital, 9 a.m.–noon Sept. 30, Bronson Methodist Hospital parking lot at John and Lovell streets, 341-8100. Harvest Fest — Pie baking contest, petting zoo, hay rides, scavenger hunt, storytelling and food booths, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Sept. 30, Vicksburg Historic Village, 300 N. Richardson St., vicksburghistory.org.

w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 41








United Against Cancer (continued from page 25)

Arbor just to get her basic medical needs met for cancer treatment,” Pederson says. “The pediatric oncology clinic is part of a global group called Children’s Oncology Group, which allows for smaller hospitals and medical facilities to have the same standard protocol of care that a larger university hospital or medical center would follow.” Howe credits Bronson’s oncology nurses with helping her family get through Garrett’s treatment, which lasted three years and two months. (Now 7, he has been cancer-free for one year.) She describes an instance when Garrett started having seizures and the oncologist ordered an MRI.

Left: Mary Kay Pederson, left, and Farrell Howe, traveled to Washington D.C. to push for the passage of the STAR Act to support research and treatment for childhood cancer. Above: Care Bags are filled with essentials and given by Cancer Families United to families whose children are undergoing cancer treatment.

“I heard the words brain tumor and I hit the floor,” Howe remembers. “One of our nurses got on her hands and knees and grabbed my hands and said, ‘Look at me. Breathe. You can do this. It’s going to be OK.’ She was right there with me.” The seizures turned out to be a result of one of Garrett’s medications. “But still …,” Howe says, remembering that moment and how important it was to have support. “They go to funerals. They grieve

with the families … and have to do it over and over. I’m thankful every day there are people that have the compassion and the steel will to do it — because it’s not easy.” It is not easy what these mothers do day in and day out fighting the fight either. “You can’t sit in a corner and cry. You have to be strong,” says Pederson. “You have to react and keep the ship moving.” So in those moments when families of kids with cancer might feel their ship is sinking, CFU volunteers like Pederson and Howe will be there to help shore them up. The “U” in CFU stands for "united," they say, and they won’t allow families to face this cancer battle alone.

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Kalamazoo Public Schools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Keyser Insurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 LVM Capital Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

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BACK STORY (continued from page 46)

How is it connected to the TED programs? All TEDx events are independently organized and licensed by the national TEDx organization. I applied for the license in December of 2017 and got it late January. Since this is our group's first time doing the event, we have to follow TEDx rules about fundraising and tickets, such as we are limited to selling 99 tickets in the space for the first year and giving other tickets away to those who might not be able to access it otherwise. How did you choose the speakers? The most exciting part about this has been seeing all the potential people we could share the stage with. We had almost 100 names that were suggested to us. Parsing it down to 12 was very difficult. We could have had a three-day event, based on all the talent in Kalamazoo County. The theme of this TEDx Kalamazoo is “The Old Made New,” and each one of our speakers is tailoring their particular area to that topic. For example, Loreen Niewenhuis will talk about how she emerged a new person after her experience of walking around the Great Lakes. Troy Thrash, of the Air Zoo, is going to talk about using old airplanes to bring out a new excitement in kids for science. Jonathan Kline, from Tillers International, is going to talk about how the Amish farming technology they use is helping people farm now, while Sue Ellen Christian will speak

about journalism and what can be learned from it. Our speakers are so diverse, but at the same time they are so the same. They're all doing or have done something remarkable.

project manager. But Alicia Segnitz, who is a production planner and coordinator at Heritage Guitar, stepped forward and became our project director. We couldn’t do it without her.

How did the TEDx team come together? I started asking people, and some people stepped up and offered their skills, and it was

Why does it take such a small army to do this? We want to make sure that everyone who sees it just feels like it was really good. That means working with the best people we can. We are honoring the speakers by giving them whatever we can to make them a success, because our success depends on their success. Our No.1 thing is to make sure that the speakers feel great. We told them that we want this to be a great experience for everyone involved and for everyone to want to do it again later. And we can't pay anyone, so the only way we can pay people back is by having a kick-ass event.

See a livestream of TEDx Kalamazoo 6-10 p.m. Sept. 13 Only 99 tickets were available and the show is sold out, but you can still see a livestream of the event, which includes 12 local speakers. Visit tedxkalamazoo2018.com for info and cost. like, “You'd be perfect here!” Then those people made recommendations of other people to connect with. We have a core group of about 10 or 12 people organizing it, and there'll be between 50 and 60 volunteers behind the scenes, and that number may be higher still. For example, with the stagehands, lighting crew and people running the soundboard, the director, Kelly Short, may have 20 people, so it does get kind of big pretty fast. But knowing the way I'm wired — I have to outsource logical thinking to somebody — I was most worried about finding a

Why is the “kick-ass-ness” important? I'm keeping an eye on 2019. The better 2018’s event is, the more people will want to be involved in 2019. Next year we won’t be constrained to selling only 99 tickets, (and) we can have a bigger venue. So next year we're going to crank it up. In preparation for the next year and the year after, with the hope that it becomes a community event, because there's so many cool people in this area that we want TEDx Kalamazoo to be sustainable long-term. — Interview by Marie Lee

Psi Iota Xi’s

A family-friendly, fun walk Sunday, October 7 Check in at 12 PM, Event begins at 1 PM Flesher Field, 3664 S. 9th Street, Kalamazoo Register at cbrown.org, $20

proceeds benefit

w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 45


Organizers TEDx Kalamazoo T

here’s a lot of people with something to talk about in the greater Kalamazoo area, and, thanks to a small army of volunteers, an audience will be able to hear some of them do so this month at TEDx Kalamazoo. The event is set for Sept. 13 at the Judy Jolliffe Theatre in the Epic Centre, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall. A TEDx event presents live speakers from the community who give presentations fashioned after TED Talks, events developed by a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas in the form of short, powerful talks. Millions of people regularly view TED Talks online or listen to a weekly TED Talks show on National Public Radio. TEDx Kalamazoo organizers have put together an eclectic

slate of speakers for this month’s event, and we sat down with Lem Montero, the event’s executive organizer, to learn more about the program. What is TEDx Kalamazoo? TEDx Kalamazoo is basically the stage version of Encore. (Montero laughs.) Kalamazoo has such a rich history and rich tapestry of intelligence, musicians, artists, makers and thinkers. There are so many people here with such great ideas like you report on in the magazine, and we're doing the same thing, but on stage. (continued on page 45)

From left: Lem Montero, executive organizer of TEDx Kalamazoo, with fellow organizers Alicia Stegnitz and Kelly Short.


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Profile for Encore Magazine

Encore September 2018  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine: Meet the siblings piloting RAI Jets success, local horseshoe club is ringing up fun, what do jam and popcorn...

Encore September 2018  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine: Meet the siblings piloting RAI Jets success, local horseshoe club is ringing up fun, what do jam and popcorn...

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