Belleville & Ypsilanti: Inside the Newsroom

Here you can find the musings of writers and editors of the Ypsilanti Courier and the Belleville View.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Strawberry diaries, Woods Creek Friends, Martha andd Mary Church

The following was submitted by The View Staff Reporter Jerry LaVaute:

The Strawberry Festival was fun
I had fun covering and writing about the Strawberry Festival last weekend.

The day before I went to the festival, I was shaving when I had an idea about an unusual approach to the story.

The following morning, just before leaving for the festival, I expanded on the original idea – a diary of my visit to the festival, and my evident disappearance shortly thereafter.

It intrigued me because it was a mix of the “Blair Witch Project,” about finding disturbing evidence after several people disappeared in the woods, followed by backtracking to figure out what it means, and the song in the 1960’s by the Kingston Trio, titled “The M.T.A. song.”

The chorus goes like this:

“Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn'd
He may ride forever'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned.”

See the “Strawberry Diaries” or "The Lost Diaries" at The boss said it was like Jack Bauer and the TV show “24,” only a lot less interesting. Every time I think about that, I laugh – out loud. Austen has a bit of an edge, I see.

Woods Creek Friends
I’m not much of a tree-hugger. I wish we were allowed to search for more oil in this country, without all the restrictions.

But I do believe we should respect and preserve the natural beauty we have, and so I joined an organization called “The Woods Creek Friends” three years ago.

Woods Creek flows behind my home in the extreme southern end of Van Buren Township.

And Woods Creek Friends, bless them, have committed themselves to preserving and protecting the creek.

They celebrate their third anniversary next month, after humble beginnings in a hot library in the South Middle School, in July, and I get to do the anniversary story.

They’re working on coordinating their schedules to take one of their great action photos as they prepare to enter a creek, searching for flora and fauna that would reveal to them how the creek is doing.

I’m excited about this story, but I’m doubly excited because I got to watch Ron Merritt, a WCF member, describe in a recent Van Buren Township Board of Trustees meeting how his video on Woods Creek, narrated by his young daughter, won first prize at the recent Miller’s Creek Film Festival. I’m gonna do a sidebar on Ron’s story – very cool.

Martha and Mary Church
Speaking of cool, I’m planning to write a story on the Belleville Presbyterian Church on Belleville road. It is a fascinating story, for any variety of reasons. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Poll results

When do you start getting interested in the Primary Election?
Never: 36 percent
July, closer to the election: 23 percent
Just days prior to the election: 21 percent
After petitions have been filed: 21 percent

What qualities do you look for in a political leader?

Independent thinker: 55 percent
Rapport with 'regular folks': 17 percent
Experience: 17 percent
Agent of change: 10 percent

How did you spend Memorial Day?
Did nothing in particular: 51 percent
Attended community Memorial Day events: 21 percent
Attended a family picnic: 20 percent
Spent time at the pool or lake: 7 percent

What do you do about child care in the summer?
Family members: 40 percent
Summer camps: 32 percent
Daycare facility: 20 percent
Babysitters: 8 percent

What do you really do when there's a tornado warning?
Cautiously wait and see: 49 percent
Take cover in the basement: 31 percent
Ignore it: 11 percent
Take cover in a room without windows: 8 percent


Throughout my lifelong love of sports, I've never been a soccer buff.

I've never known the passion and thrill of what intrigued so many to watch a sport which could end in a 0-0 tie and be called exciting.

Not even when I was growing up in Pontiac, Mich. in 1994 when the World Cup came to the Silverdome just 2 miles away from my front door was I enthralled in the sport or the excitment that looms around it.

That was until this summer.

My 4-year-old started his first organized sport: Soccer. And the World Cup is in full effect.

I found myself learning more about the rules of the game because people in the office were glued to the tube when they weren't working.

I think more than anything, a sense of personal pride for my country has drawn me into the Cup fever. Having watched the USA vs. England in the World Cup kickoff for our country. The 1-1 tie had me on my seat for quite some time as the USA may have earned the cliched nickname of the Cardiac Kids.

The 2-2 tie versus Slovenia was even more exciting, and I felt personally robbed when the goal was wiped out that would have won the game for the USA.

In the advancing game versus Algeria, with the game tied 0-0 (and another good goal wiped out by a bad offside call), I was cautiously optimistic about the U.S.'s chances of advancing to the next round. Ninety minutes had passed without a standing goal. In the final minutes of extra time, it was the most recognizable name on the US squad, Landon Donovan, who tapped in the go-ahead goal the the United States, and that culminated my fanhood as a soccer fan.

I errupted from my seat with a huge roar, one which got a strange look from Jax, my dog.

With that goal, soccer earned a new fan for life. And while I may not watch every game or keep up with the day to day activities, I will become more invested in professional soccer.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Strawberry Festival time!

The following was submitted by The View Staff Reporter Jerry LaVaute:

The Strawberry Festival approaches
This morning, I got to see the results of the first tab (I guess it’s short for tabloid) toward which I contributed in a big way.

It’s the special insert in this week’s The View that is a guide for festivalgoers.

I took 33 years of living in the area and packed as much welcoming gusto I could muster, and threw it into that story.

It was a thrill to see it be the lead story in the tab.

On Sunday, I will visit the Strawberry Festival for the first time in well over a decade, and cover it for The View.

When my wife and kids and I lived across the street from St. Anthony Church, I saw the Strawberry Festival up close, at times too close and too often. The dust, the noise from the carnival across the street, the traffic in the streets, it could sometimes be a bit much.

After an extended absence, I’m looking forward to seeing it again, and it looks as if the weather will cooperate. I’m excited for those who have worked so hard to produce this – I hope they are justly rewarded.

Milan City Council discussions
There are stories coming next week about a couple interesting discussions conducted at Monday’s Milan City Council meeting.

The twin subjects are potential changes to a dog and cat (yes, cat) leash ordinance, and a potential moratorium on applications for medical marijuana dispensaries within the city.

Neither discussion was conclusive, and no decisions were reached. But they’re interesting reading in their own right, and a bellwether for future changes that may affect how you live, if you live in Milan.

German students working at the VBT Senior Center
At the Van Buren Township Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Senior Center Director Lynette Jordan received permission to arrange a host for a German student for a year, who will help out at the Senior Center. I’m planning to do a story on the current student, Oliver Siegel. This is a win-win for the township, and a great reporting opportunity.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Son of: It ain't braggin' if it's true...

The following was submitted by The View staff reporter Jerry LaVaute:

In the last week, I submitted 20 separate stories for publication, a personal record for me. I’m feelin’ pretty good about it.

But…what are they about, you ask?

Seven of them were on the upcoming Strawberry Festival in Belleville, for a special insert we’ll place in next week’s newspaper.

They are stories about where you can find what event, what kinds of food or entertainment is available, or other helpful items like getting around town.

In the paper yesterday, I had two stories describing how the festival is planned, and how its leaders measure its success when it’s over.

The story about Betty Ditzik and the Old English Sheepdogs was published; I thought it looked good.

I’m currently working on a story about the digging up of a time capsule buried for 13 years at the Bessie Hoffman Elementary School on Willow Road.

This is their last year at the site. In September, they will join the rest of the Lincoln schools on the central campus.

I’m working on some additional stories on the Strawberry Festival, including one on how everyone’s safety and security is being planned. I will talk with the chief of Police in Belleville a little later this morning.

I’ll see him after I attend for a short while the Conference of Western Wayne. It’s being held at 9:30 this morning at the PNA Hall in Sumpter Township, for the first time. I’m going to look in on the proceedings, just to see what’s goin’ on.

On Sunday, I’ll spend a little while at the Washtenaw Farm Council fairgrounds, reporting on “Grillin’ for the Poor.”

Yesterday, I began working on an interesting project with Van Buren Township Treasurer Sharry Budd on the property tax reductions that VBT residents are seeing in their tax bills recently – point is to explain why this is happening, and to accentuate a little good news for taxpayers.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gearing up for the Strawberry Festival

The following was submitted by The View staff reporter Jerry LaVaute:

Out of the frying pan, into the fire – just got done with the rush of an early deadline, focusing on Memorial Day-related observances and some very fine people in our community, and have begun to get ready for Belleville’s 34th annual Strawberry Festival.

In the 1990’s, as a parishioner of St. Anthony Parish who lived across the street from the church, I not only had a bird’s-eye view of much of the activity at the festival, I threw myself into it – I made cotton candy, I played accountant, I worked the casino.

Now, I will report the events leading toward the festival, and the festival itself – a little like coming home.

Toward that end, I met yesterday with Joan Bodnar, the festival’s executive director, and got to know her and her job a lot better.

Earlier that afternoon, I interviewed Jan Oliver, a dance teacher in Belleville who will hang up her dancing shoes on Saturday, retiring after 54 years. What a story.

Last week, I interviewed Tim Marsh, a Belleville resident who will be the featured artist at the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair in July.

One in awhile, you meet someone in an interview, and the exchange of words and ideas just flows. I spent two hours with the man, and really enjoyed getting to know him.

There was an interesting comment the other night in the board meeting from Van Buren Township resident Larry Fix, on the condition of Haggerty Road in the township.

I agree with him – it is atrocious in the stretch of Haggerty north of I-94 , but Larry said that the improvement plans are about three years off - a tough pill to swallow for someone like me who travels the road a few times each week. It’s become a washboard surface that is a jarring experience – I wince and grimace as I hit each “ripple” in the road. What causes those, anyway?

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