Salted with Sharks

Archive for the ‘GOOD NEWS’ Category

Elberta Farmers Market Calendars on Sale Now

In Calendar, Elberta Farmers' Market, Farmers' Market, GOOD NEWS, Open Season on April 14, 2017 at 10:25 am

*Now available on Etsy! Ask for the volume discount of 5 calendars for $15*

The Elberta Farmers Market opens its 2017 season on May 18 at 8 am, and you’ll be all ready for it with the first-ever Elberta Farmers Market Calendar! On sturdy, glossy cardstock, this one-page calendar poster is perfect for your kitchen wall or refrigerator, and will keep you posted on market days and times and what’s in season every week. It even has space for sticky notes about other things you have to remember. For just $5, you can support the market and have a beautiful reminder of one of the best things about Elberta in the summertime. Get yours now and start planning all the great meals you’ll make with local produce week by week, from our hands to your table. So many thanks to Parks & Rec member Jason Soderquist for the wonderful graphic design and production work! Call market mistress Sue Oseland (231) 383-5904 or Emily Votruba (231) 399-0098, or stop by the Village office.

The first-ever Elberta Farmers Market Calendar, available now for the 2017 season for just $5.

Making It Official: Elberta’s New Zoning Map

In GOOD NEWS, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron on March 11, 2015 at 3:15 pm

By Patrick McConnell

The Village of Elberta will be getting a new, more comprehensive map soon! I  recently spoke with planning commission member Bill O’Dwyer about the forthcoming zoning map improvements. Below are some of the improvements one can expect from the new map.

• A much larger map that is more defined and easier to read.
• All parcels will be correctly verified, numbered, and colored.

Mr.O’Dwyer made sure to point out to me that other than said improvements to the map, none of the four (4) zones will be altered in any way. The four (4) zones that make up the Village of Elberta will be listed and displayed as follows:

1. R-1 (Residential District)

2. C-1 (Commercial District)

3. P.D. (Deep Water District)

4. D.D. (Development District)

The above district names and codes are in accordance with the zoning ordinance as of 2009.

The new map is being created by Tom Longanbach, Benzie County’s director of equalization, on a GIS computer program. Once finished, the map will be displayed in the village office for all to see.

The Planning Commission meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7 pm at the Community Building.

Many thanks to Bill O’Dwyer for all his help and cooperation in providing the information for this article!


Whoville in E-ville Contest

In Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, GOOD NEWS, Kid Stuff on November 21, 2014 at 11:08 am

Announcing! The first annual Whoville Holiday Decorating contest, sponsored by Shear Class Salon and Day Spa. Who in Elberta will come up with the greatest house and lawn decor to brighten up our midwinter? Submit your $10 entrance fee to Shear Class. The Overall Best Decor winner gets the whole kitty (and by kitty I mean money). The Best “Grinch/WhoVille” decoration gets a $50 gift certificate from Shear Class! Come on, everybody, and let’s give Ken and Lois Holmes a run for their money. I’m already voting for Fred McConnell.—Emily Votruba

Near Beer, Cont’d: Frankfort Beer Week

In Agriculture, Calendar, Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, GOOD NEWS, On and off the Apron, Open Season, The Mess Deck on September 18, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Frankfort holds its first-ever Beer Week the second week of Hoptober, Monday through Saturday, celebrating our new deeply local beer scene (thank you, Stormcloud Brewing Company). More than a dozen restaurants will be participating, creating unique items just for this event, made with Michigan beer. Stormcloud will tap their annual Harvest Tripel, a Belgian-style libation made from fresh Empire Hops Farm hops; then at Saturday’s wrapup they’ll debut a Belgian-German Oktoberfest batch. On Tuesday come feast at Coho Café’s Beer Dinner with New Holland Brewing Company brews. On Thursday the 9th, the Garden Theater hosts The Michigan Beer Film, a documentary about Michigan’s geysering craft beer industry. Paul Starr, of “I’m a Beer Hound” fame, will be in Frankfort to provide three nights of beer-tasting instruction; you’ll learn how to drink beer with Michigan-made Mindo Chocolate, Hilltop Ice Cream, and locally smoked bacon. And if you’re all, “I make my own beer,” enter the homebrew competition. The winner gets a chance to use the Stormcloud facility, and the knowledge of brewmaster Brian Confer, to brew their beer and have it there on tap. Don’t forget to check out the selection of beer-related books and novelties across the street at Frankfort Bookstore. If you’re not from here, sign on for the Frankfort Beer Week Package at Harbor Lights Resort, including a welcome basket with a growler fill at Stormcloud. With Fall Fest activities taking place every weekend, Frankfort Beer Week is just one more reason to stick around, or get here, this October. http://www.facebook/fbwEmily Votruba


Swim for Mitch and His Favorite Places This Labor Day Sunday

In Community Alert, Environment, Fishing, GOOD NEWS, Open Season, Water on August 27, 2014 at 11:09 am

By Ann Sinclair


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Greetings to All!
In honor of my dear friend Mitch Stevenson, who passed on August 22, 2013, I thought I would go for a swim.  And since I’m still rehabbing my shoulder, I prowled around for a revised route, and have landed on crossing Little Glen Lake, located on the edge of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. My pal Marilyn and I scouted start and finish points along the lake shore this past weekend, and my Google map tells me my chosen route measures about 1 mile.
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So I’m thinkin’ that perhaps you would like to join in.  You can swim with me (my pal Joanna is getting ready to go), or float alongside in a kayak, canoe, innertube, pontoon, or fishing boat. I will have kayaks accompany us so no other boats run anyone over, but if that isn’t up your alley, you can simply send a tax deductible donation to the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC) with “Mitch Swim” in the memo line—easy.  I’m throwing a $10 figure out there, but whatever is comfortable for you is the perfect amount. And if a donation isn’t in the cards at the moment, no worries. You can send great thoughts and encouragement this coming Sunday morning, August 31, at approximately 7:30 am EST.  The only things that will reschedule this swim are lightning and/or gale force winds.
I’ve chosen GTRLC because this land is Mitch’s home, and the Conservancy works hard to protect these woodlands and coastline. Mitch loved wilderness and the life it supports, and spent as much time as possible in the woods and on the water.  The organization does great work, and every little bit from us helps—even coins found in your sofa. Here’s a link to a list of the nature preserves GTRLC has set up; you may have visited some already, or will plan to once you see the list.
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If you’re interested, write a check for a tax deductible donation to:
Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy—please write “Mitch Swim” in the memo line—for tax purposes and tallying the final amount.
And send to:
3860 N. Long Lake Road, Suite D
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
231-929-7911 or 888-929-3866
I will buzz them up mid-September to see how we did and let you know grand total—together we will help preserve more natural habitat—a page out of Mitch’s playbook! Spread the word if you like.
It is with honor and respect that I make this crossing for Mitch; this world is a better place because he was with us. Ψ

Village Offers Beautiful, Affordable Event Locations

In Community Alert, Farmers' Market, GOOD NEWS, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Uncategorized, Village Money Situation on July 31, 2014 at 2:21 am

By Diane Jenks

The Village of Elberta is struggling to survive with low fiscal scores and the threat of an emergency manager. The State of Michigan has many communities in this situation and is willing to help the village work its way back into the black. The departure of the former clerk, Sharyn Bower, and treasurer Laura Manville, with no notice and nothing in place for the incoming staff, has been traumatic. The new clerk and treasurer (Mary Kalbach and Sheila Applebee) are in training and working diligently to get the office up and running. Elberta residents have survived a lot of pitfalls and we continue to be the mouse that ROARS.  This community will roll up its sleeves and trudge on and fight for the right to shine like the gem this little village continues to be. I can’t help but wonder sometimes what keeps this little community together, but I realize that when good people gather for a good cause amazing things happen. I am proud to be part of Elberta and urge everyone out there to support this village, because it is here to stay.

The Village of Elberta is offering the opportunity to rent several of its facilities.

The Elberta Life Saving Station at the Waterfront Park is already available for weddings, private parties and events that require indoor space and a beautiful setting. A large deck overlooking Betsie Bay is a perfect way to watch the night sky calm the hectic day. Check out the Lifesaving Station page on our website at

We also offer our Waterfront Park Bandshell (performance pavilion) for $100 a day. This venue is available during the week for concerts or a performance with hillside seating overlooking our beautiful park and Betsie Bay. It makes holding your own concert or other event affordable.

You can rent the Amphitheater for your own little Film Fest. Elberta Parks & Recreation held the first annual Mushy Peach Film Festival in 2012.

You can rent the Bandshell for your own little event. Elberta Parks & Recreation held the first annual Mushy Peach Film Festival here in 2012.

If you’re looking for a place to hold your family reunion, birthday party, class reunion, or private party, our Waterfront Park Picnic Pavilion is only $75. The pavilion offers a beautiful fire pit, electricity and picnic tables. The children’s playground adjacent to it is one-of-a-kind in the area. The playground is handicapped accessible and starts with a ramp that little tykes can hop right on. Nearby is a swing set that includes with a handicap swing.

Perhaps you are looking for a little more privacy. If so, Elberta’s Penfold Farmers Market Park is a great venue for a more intimate gathering, but still conveniently located on the Betsie Valley Trail at the junction of old M-168 and M-22. For just $50, you get a spacious pavilion, picnic tables, two grills, a porta-john, and electrical outlets. Your guests can kayak down the Betsie River and put in at the small boat launch to get to your party.

If you’d like to hold a birthday party, open house, meeting, or baby shower indoors, we have our Community Building on First Street with a capacity 68. You can rent this space for $150. Although there is no kitchen, the building does have tables and chairs and places to plug in crock pots. This facility has the ball diamond and ample parking with restrooms that can be entered from inside and out.

The newest addition to Elberta is our Dunes South Park. It is located on the south side of the village on the west side of M-22. This fabulous rustic setting offers a parking lot and a flat space big enough to set up for a festival or event. Imagine your group or organization incorporating hiking the dune and embracing nature at its finest. You can rent this park for only $300.

For more information on renting any of these spaces, contact Diane Jenks at

Thank you for your support of the little village that can. Ψ

Elberta Summer Solstice Festival no. 12: Wilder Than Ever

In Calendar, Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, E Beach, GOOD NEWS, Kid Stuff, Open Season, Water on June 12, 2014 at 11:10 pm

Elberta Solstice Festival_Poster_2014WITHLOGOSmaller

The Elberta Solstice Festival is back for its 12th year, Saturday June 21! Join the teeming masses of music and food buffs descending on our magical Village amid the dune bluffs of Lake Michigan for live music, local food, beer, games, Michigan’s best beach, and other attractions to amaze and astound you, all capped off with one of the premier fireworks displays in the region.

Benzie County’s number one music festival is family friendly, quirky, cutting-edge, and eco-conscious, with some of the best bands, craft beverages and artisanal food around. Up until this year, admission to Solstice has been totally free, with guests paying as they go for food and beer. This year, because of the Village’s dire deficit situation, a fee of $5 will be charged for entrance to the beer tent, starting at 8 pm. It’s still possible to hear and even see the bands from outside the beer tent (but you can’t buy beer outside the beer tent). The Solstice Committee and P&R regret the change but hope everyone will still crowd the beer tent and help the Village get back on its feet.

Our Solstice Queen Jennifer Wilkins and other volunteers from Parks and Recreation and the Solstice Committee have prepared some special new treats this year. Coming all the way from Detroit are Magician Keith Stickley, Wood-E the Clown, and Animal Encounters with the infamous “Ghetto Gators”—large and scary scaly creatures recovering from shady servitude in the Motor City. While your reptile brain is turned on, stuff a bunch of food in you, from TuGo’s Egg Roll Co., Elberto’s Taqueria, Conundrum Café, The Lions, Cabbage Shed, Frankfort Takeout, Louie’s Burgers, Why Knot pretzels, and A.Papanos Pizza, plus bebidas from St. Ambrose, Acoustic Mead, and your favorite beers in the beer tent. You’ll be glad to know that this year, for the first time, you can catch a free Benzie Bus shuttle between our Waterfront Park Pavilion and the Antique Car Show and Art Fair in Frankfort. Call or text 231-930-8100 for pickup at one of the stops (see photo below).

Oh, you want to know about the *bands*? But of course: THE ACCIDENTALS, ALFREDO, MEDICINAL GROOVE, E MINOR, THE STANDING HAMPTONS, BLAKE ELLIOTT & THE ROBINSON AFFAIR, K. JONES & THE BENZIE PLAYBOYS, BLUE DIRT, SOUL PATCH, and late at night after Wolverine’s fireworks display, G SNACKS.

Don’t miss this northern Michigan hometown extravaganza on the wild side of Betsie Bay! 12 noon to 2 am, Saturday June 21st, at Elberta’s Historic Waterfront Park on old M-168.

(The Parks and Recreation Commission and the Solstice Committee would also like to us to mention that the Benzie County Sheriff Department is planning extra patrols the night of Solstice, including on the beach. They’d like to remind everyone that fireworks and camping on the beach are unlawful activities. Let’s all have a safe and hassle-free Solstice Fest.)




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2014 Bruce Catton Award Winning Essay: “He Was Lost, but I Found Him”

In Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, Education, GOOD NEWS, Our Men and Women in Uniform on April 18, 2014 at 2:02 pm

The following story, by J.J. Swander, took first place this year in the annual Bruce Catton Awards event. Each year, freshmen at Frankfort–Elberta High School compose essays inspired by their reading of Catton’s Waiting for the Morning Train, about his life growing up in Benzie County. J.J. Swander is a fifteen-year-old freshman at Frankfort–Elberta High School. He is the son of A.J. and Molly Swander, and the second eldest of five siblings. He enjoys reading, video games, working out, and hanging out with friends. Here he’s written a wonderful tribute to an Elbertian veteran. To read more Catton Award essays, visit this page on the Frankfort High School News site.


By J.J. Swander

I walk slowly through the thick grass of the cemetery, making my way down the paved trail, searching and searching. I examine headstone after headstone, peering at the inscriptions, looking for the surname, “Van Brocklin.” The sun beams down through the clouds and superimposes me with the blinding light of spring.  The wet leaves slide and mat under my shoes with every footfall. SQUISH. SQUISH. Down the path a few yards, I finally discover it. “LaVaughn Van Brocklin.” My great-uncle. An American flag is poised beside it, the Stars and Stripes rippling in the chilly wind of Memorial Day. His headstone depicts his life as a World War II fighting man, displaying two crossed rifles, along with a symbolic engraving reading, Killed in the Service of his Country. I gaze at his name, and his resting place, and smile.

LaVaughn didn’t live past the war. He never left the sandy beaches and jungles of the Philippine Islands. He never left his boyhood. He was a typical American, drafted and thrust into the nation’s war like so many other young men. He was a prime example of the workingman of America during the time period. He was, as a young boy, a member of the 4H Club in Benzonia. He was, as a teen, a laborer in the Crystal Canning Company in Benzonia, working with fruit. As a young man, he was a prominent member of the Elberta community, participating in children’s events and occasions. He lived in the building next to the post office. He worked on the car ferries on Lake Michigan, and the Ann Arbor Railroad, which extended all the way from Frankfort, to Ann Arbor, to Toledo. He married Charlotte Pierce in the Elberta Methodist Church in 1940. He fathered two sons. All of these life events added up, molding and shaping his young life. All of that was taken away from him when he read his name in the draft notice he received in early 1944.

The day before he departed for boot camp, his in-law’s held a party in his honor. They celebrated his dignity and bravery. Before he left, he had a last dinner at his mother’s home in Benzonia, in the Homestead Township area. She saved his breadcrumbs in a bag. He went to Beulah with the other draftees, and they promptly were shipped out to Detroit before entering boot camp.

After months of training, in various locations around the United States, he learned of his destination. Mindanao. Mindanao is an island in the Philippine chain, which was occupied by the Japanese. It is the southernmost island, and the second largest. The Japanese had suddenly become LaVaughn’s enemy. And he was forced to fight them, leaving behind his Benzie County life for good. After only two weeks of fighting the Japanese, in the early morning hours of a May dawn, LaVaughn and his fellow soldiers were in the city of Davao, which is located on the coast of Mindanao, in the Davao Gulf. It is known that the conditions these men were fighting in were terrible, with abaca fields everywhere, which is a plant which can reach twenty feet high and allows visibility at only ten feet. LaVaughn and a group of men rushed an enemy strongpoint that was essential to neutralize, probably amid these abacas. The Japanese responded with a barrage of fire, and mortars thundered down on the men like rain on a stormy night. LaVaughn was struck.

A mortar exploded near LaVaughn, and fragments of shrapnel riddled the left side of his body. His left shoulder, notably, was hit. It was perforated and ripped apart by shrapnel. My grandfather believes that his left arm was entirely torn off. We can never be sure. Either way, a medic came to his side, administering first aid to his wounded form. Finding the wound to be mortal, he was evacuated and sent to the battalion aid station, before being moved to an army hospital. His platoon commander, Ernest Zwerner of the 19th Infantry Regiment, recalled in a letter that, although dying, he was cheerful and in good spirits from the onset of his injury to his removal. This showed a great deal of bravery, courage, and dedication to his country and family left behind. He succumbed to his wounds and died during the night of May 11, 1945.

The next day, he was temporarily buried in a cemetery in Mindanao, Chaplain Lamar S. Clark providing religious services. Meanwhile, a War Department telegram reached the door of Charlotte Van Brocklin, his wife. News spread around the close-knit village of Elberta. My great-grandmother, Ida Van Brocklin (now Ida Mix), on Beech Street in Frankfort was told. Her husband, LaVaughn’s brother, was told. Cousins learned of the news. Charlotte’s siblings in Elberta learned. LaVaughn’s brothers and sisters were told. One vital job remained. The job of telling LaVaughn’s mother of the news. LaVaughn’s mother was a woman who deeply loved him, so deeply, that her emotional level was fragile, with three boys gone in the military, fighting somewhere out in the world. Charlotte and Ida, sister-in-laws, traveled to Benzonia, and informed her of the grim news. She fainted. After finally awakening, she fainted again. She would never sleep easily again. She would need wine to sleep from now on.

Four years after, in 1949, LaVaughn was exhumed from the cemetery in Mindanao and sent overseas to Frankfort. He arrived at the American Legion Hall, flanked and protected by two National Guard servicemen. A funeral was held at the Elberta Methodist Church, H.M. Smart officiating, and a large quantity of people attended. Finally, he was moved to his ultimate resting place, the Crystal Lake East Cemetery in Frankfort. Every year, I visit LaVaughn. I visit him, silently talk with him, and thank him. He literally gave his life for his country. On Memorial Day, my family leaves flowers for him. I dig the holes. We watch the American Legion fire their rifles in his honor.

I just stare at the headstone, and the coarse words engraved, and the Benzie County fighting man’s resting place. I reach out and touch it, the cool rock chilling my fingertips. I trace the words on the headstones, tracing his life, his experiences, and his death with my finger. I feel a sense of power in this moment, being touched in a way no one can ever be touched. There is a heaviness in my chest as I dig a hole in the ground, and carefully place flowers in the Benzie County fighting man’s final resting place.

I appreciate LaVaughn for all that he did. I consistently call him a “man” in this writing. In reality, he was only a boy. He never became a man. He never left his boyhood. He never enjoyed life like he should have. He was only 24 when he died. But, if he had not died, I would have never been born. His widow married again, and from that union, I am descended. Without his death, I would not be writing this piece, nor would I be alive to commemorate his life. I honor his sacrifices, and remember him as the Benzie County fighting man and uncle that I never was able to meet.

I can see him now. I can see him. Not with my eyes. I will never be able to do that. But I can see him. Seeing him in this way makes me proud. Even though his dreams were not dreamt, and his life was not lived, he is an accomplishment in my eyes. Perhaps I can live my life for him. Maybe I can take responsibility, and live his dreams for him. I’ll live for LaVaughn. I look at the inscription on the gravestone, and the dates, and the engraving. Killed in the Service of his Country. I gaze at his name, and his resting place, and smile. Ψ

New Civic Group and Ice Rink Form in Elberta

In Activism, Community Alert, GOOD NEWS, Uncategorized, Water, Weather on February 21, 2014 at 8:06 pm

By Emily Votruba

The Friends of Elberta met for the first time on January 15. In just a couple of weeks, they agreed on a mission statement and held an event, the Fire & Ice Skating party on February 9.

The Friends’ mission is to “preserve, promote, and enhance the quality of life in the Village of Elberta.” The new group took particular inspiration from the natural ice rink in Penfold Park made possible by this year’s cold winter. Penfold Park, aka the Marina/MiniPond/Farmers’ Market park, is located at the juncture of M-22, old M-168, and the Betsie Valley Trail.

Bill Soper, Eric Pyne, Emily Votruba, and Bill O’Dwyer began making the rink back in January. They just wanted to skate. After determining that the ice was safe (well over 16 inches throughout) they cleared the pond with a snowblower, shovels, and brooms. Then, with help from Village DPW superintendent Ken Bonney, they flooded the space with a pump and a hose. It’s no Sochi, but conditions are good enough to get a glide on.

“We could challenge Benzonia in pond hockey,” Bill Soper suggested.

Soon other people noticed the rink. As snow accumulated again over subsequent days, others took it upon themselves to pitch in to clear it—and skate.

Friends of Elberta was started by Jen Condon Whiting and Jim Barnes. The group now meets at the Mayfair Tavern on the second and fourth Wednesdays at 7 pm, and they have a Facebook page. Many people contributed to the Fire & Ice party. Jen Whiting brought a grill and hot dogs. Sue Oseland brought cocoa, tea lights and luminaries. Emily Votruba and Eric Pyne made torches to line the path to the rink, and Eric, Bill Soper, Bill O’Dwyer, and Steve Hagen did last-minute pond clearing and parking lot plowing. Bill Soper was the bonfire master. Jeannie Sikes went around to resale places buying up skates to lend out. Cathy Anderson made a great flier to publicize the event. Coach Reznich lit the torches during the party. Thirty dollars in spontaneous donations were collected.

About 100 people total, including a ton of kids, showed up to skate and commune with each other in this unique park space. Stories went around about skating days past: skating to Frankfort across the bay, skating in the then-open water behind where the Village office is now; how, back in the day, kids would cut a hole in the ice near where the car ferries came to port, and when a boat came in, it would cause the water to rise in the rink, and by the time the boat left, there’d be a perfect frozen disk of ice to skate on. Ella Whiting started out thinking she couldn’t skate and, according to her mom, she was Peggy Fleming by the end of the day.

What’s your skating story? If you don’t have one yet, you can make one at Penfold Park. Meanwhile, Friends of Elberta will be coming up with more fun things to do in the Village. Ψ

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Friends of Elberta Meet Tonight at Mayfair

In Activism, Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, GOOD NEWS, Historic Elberta, Open Season on February 12, 2014 at 2:16 pm

A new NGO, formed in late January, meets for the fourth time tonight at the Mayfair Tavern at 7 pm. The mission is “to preserve, promote, celebrate, and enhance the quality of life in Elberta.” All are welcome.

Agenda items for this meeting include a recap of the Fire & Ice Skating party the group held on Sunday, February 9 at Penfold (Farmers’ Market) Park. About 50 people attended that event, including many children. Some ice skates were provided along with hot dogs and hot cocoa. Torches lit a pathway to the rink, which was cleared by volunteers. A large bonfire warmed participants.

Future projects to be discussed include creating a walking map/brochure for the Village, fundraising for park preservation, a tribal and immigrant historical marker and flower garden at Penfold Park, a summer block party, and enhancements to the Farmers’ Market.—Emily Votruba