Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Harvest of the Arts, Farm Fun Times

Saline was buzzing with activity Saturday with the Harvest of the Arts Festival and Harvest Time on the Rentschler Farm. Well, maybe "buzzing" isn't the exact word for the arts festival. North Ann Arbor Street, rather, was ablaze. A fire broke out in the food court as culinary arts students were cooking on a hot plate. I was there videoing the announcement of who won best of show in the arts component of the festival. All of the sudden, the announcer said there was a fire and asked someone in the crowd to call 911. I turned and saw flames shooting up, and a tent top with a huge burn hole in it. The Saline Area Fire Department was called in. We have video on our Web site and below. It appeared there were no injuries, but we will follow up on the story. I tried calling the fire department yesterday, but only got voicemail.

The Two Twelve Arts Center ran an Imagination Station on South Ann Arbor Street. Director Margie Bovee took photos, like the one above of Fin Seely, 8, of Ann Arbor. Fin and Margie are pictured with Hannah Hotchkiss. In addition, Terri Sibo was teaching arts activities to Mackenzie Hagood, 8, of Saline, as well as Patrick and Molly Collins of Saline, and other children. Robin Sibo, 8, was practicing French knitting.

The artists' booth lining South Ann Arbor Street were full of beautiful and interesting work. I spoke to Carol Lynn of Saline, who makes fire paintings. I had never heard of that process before. Check out our Harvest of the Arts video to hear her explain it. In addition, she's holding an open house 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 1 at 10450 Timber Ridge Trail. For directions, check out her Web site at

I also interviewed Andi Klott of Milan. She makes the cutest knit baby hats. Unfortunately, the video file became corrupted and wouldn't download on my computer. I feel badly as she took the time to talk to me and show her wares. Anyone in the market for adorable hand-knit hats and mittens for kids should e-mail her at

Down Michigan Avenue, I came across Harvest Time at the Rentschler Farm, where I found Linda Klenczar, a student at Two Twelve Arts Center, painting a picture of the Rentschler barn. The farm was sold to the city about 10 years ago and the Saline Area Historical Society oversees it, providing tours and holding special events, such as Harvest Time on the Farm. Inside the farmhouse, Lisa Rentschler was showing visitors the sitting room, Sue Roche showed the parlor, Lee Casper talked about the dining room, and Heidi Roberts and Bob Mottice were giving demonstrations of old-fashioned sausage-making in the kitchen.

Outside Dallas Casey, 4, of Saline joined other children on an old-fashioned ride, while Eisuke Suzki, 21 months, of Ann Arbor admired pumpkins. Sullivan Brow, 9, of Saline painted a pumpkin,
and Katie Fedoronko, 9, of Saline admired Alisha and Lynn Finkbeiner's bunny. The Finkbeiners are volunteers with the Saline Area Historical Society and got hooked up with the organization after the historical society bought one of Alisha's 4-H lambs.

The highlight of the visit to the farm was a special awards presentation honoring Taylor and Charlene Jacobsen for their work in restoring the Saline Mill in Saline Township. Nancy Snyder of the Washtenaw County Historic District Commission presented a plaque to the couple. Among the speakers was Tom Bennett, chairman of the York Township Historic Committee, who nominated the Jacobsens. You can view video of the presentation on our Web site.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Homecoming Brings Back Memories

Covering Milan's Homecoming parade yesterday brought back many fond memories. I graduated from Whitmore Lake High School in 1986 and we had the same kind of hometown spirit back then as Milan has today. A very small and closeknit community, Homecoming in Whitmore Lake was a time to come together and show our community pride. The best part of all, though, was that there were only about 50 students in my class, so everyone had an opportunity to shine. In fact, last year, three friends were in town for the Ann Arbor Art Fairs and I asked a colleague if he wanted to hang out with three Homecoming queens and a Sno-Coming princess. Sure enough, my three friends, Kate Hennings (class of 1986), Lisa Hotz (class of 1987) and Jenny Hotz (class of 1989)
and I all enjoyed our time in the spotlight just as I am sure Sam Day, Kortney Meadows, Tori Turner and Kasey Splitt did this past week.

Although the Milan Homecoming parade was pretty brief at about 30 minutes, it was chocked full of hometown spirit, from the high school marching band, to farm tractor pulling a wagon full of cheerleaders to the class floats, local Scouts, Homecoming representatives and high school drama club. I shot video interviews with representatives from each class talking about their floats, but, unfortunately, my interview of seniors Jena Heath and Kate Klohs didn't work out. Sorry, girls! Somehow the video file got corrupted. But you can see snippets of the others as part of a our parade coverage and a shot of their float coming down the street.

Besides seeing how inventive each class was with their floats, my favorite part of the parade was a short chat afterward with 10-year-old Sarah Timmerman, her 9-year-old sister Alayna and their neighbor, Nina Palmer. Nina took the girls to their very first Homecoming parade. Of course, it was no surprise when I asked them what their favorite part of the parade was and they said, "the candy." Nina had a lap full of it for the girls to take home.

As I handed off the video camera to reporter Brian Cox at the Lighthouse coffeehouse in Milan so he could shoot the game and I headed home, fond memories came flooding back of my high school days. I remember working on the Homecoming floats, spirit walls and voting classmates to serve as class representatives on the Homecoming (football season) and Sno-Coming (basketball season) courts. I was the sophomore class Sno-Coming princess in 1984 and my prince was David Sherman. He really deserves all the credit for me earning the title as it was his popularity that won him the votes and his crush on me that motivated the class to vote me in to bring us closer together. While the plan didn't really work out, as I was dating someone older who attended Gabriel Richard High School, we maintained a close friendship. Sadly, though, we eventually went our separate ways and (That's us-->)I haven't heard from him in years. I've even asked old classmates about him, but no one knows what happened to him. Who knows, like many people in small towns across America, maybe he was like me, enjoying a Homecoming parade and football game somewhere and reflecting on those many years ago.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

The Newspaper is A Collaboration

In just one month, I will mark my one-year anniversary at The Saline Reporter and The Milan News-Leader after serving as editor of the Chelsea and Dexter papers for six years. When I came here, I wrote a column about collaborating with the community to bring local news to readers every week and I held a couple "Coffee with the Editor" chats at the Drowsy Parrot in Saline, where I solicited information and encouraged people to share news.

Many organizations have been great supporters, sending press releases and information on a regular basis, particularly the Saline Area Historical Society, Saline Rotary Club, Saline District Library, Milan Area Chamber of Commerce and Saline Area Chamber of Commerce. A few teachers also have been helpful, sending information on the Homecoming events, activities in their classrooms, photographs of kids and special events.

My goal is to get these news items in as soon as possible, but sometimes that's not always feasible. Like many newspapers in the state, we're seeing a decline in ad revenue, with fewer ads placed as businesses tighten their belts, which results in a smaller newspaper. The more ads that are placed, the more pages we can add to the newspaper and the more local news it can feature. Unfortunately, as businesses in Michigan struggle in this economy and cut back on advertising, it affects your access to local news, as they're directly linked.

So, I ask for your understanding, particularly in Saline, when you send in a news item. It may not get in immediately; it could be published the following edition or the next, depending on how much space we have available and how much local news is coming in. But, rest assured, it will get in as local news is our No. 1 priority.

Because the Saline and Milan papers are mirrored copies on the press, they contain the same number of pages. Businesses, however, may choose to advertise in one or both. Saline seems to get more advertising than Milan, which leaves more news space in Milan. So, in particular, I am urging Milan readers to contribute more local news, story leads and photographs and asking Saline readers to be a little more patient.

If you submit photographs, please remember to identify everyone as it's our policy to identify those pictured and it creates a better sense of community as you recognize your neighbors and other people you see casually around town. This makes perfect sense to me, but today I had a conversation with someone who did not provide names of the buyers at the Saline livestock auction and I asked her to do so in the future. She wanted to know why, as she hasn't had to in the past. I tried to explain that it helps build community and is essential to a community newspaper.

So, please join me in this collaborative effort. Send your local news, answering the who, what, where, when, why and how, to or I look forward to reading it and sharing it with the rest of the community.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

An amazing feat in Milan

IN Milan last week I had the pleasure of attending the awards ceremony for new grant winners for the Greater Milan Area Community Foundation. This group gave away $30,000 to 13 community charities and growth efforts. I gotta say it was heart-warming to see so many residents touched by the outreach from the Foundation's efforts (and $$$). And, the Foundation was formed only 2 years ago. In Saline, the CARES millage fund has been around 8 years and this month is waiting for confirmation on giving $32k to 2 groups. Good stuff, too, but I have to wonder why more Saline area charities didn't apply for this hunk of cash. The next CARES grant application cycle happens in January. Call the Community Ed office for dates and details and get your charity request in!!

A tasty visit to Saline High School Culinary Arts

Can you say, oh la la? I visited the Saline High School Culinary Arts classroom this morning, for a story I'm working on about Harvest of the Arts (downtown Saline, Sept 29). These junior and senior students are in their third week in the culinary class (through S. and W. Washtenaw Consortium - vocational tech program) and greeted me in their checked chef pants and embroidered chef coats. Very impressive! Instructor, Chef Sam Musto made me a steaming hot espresso (also offered in the morning coffee shop, The Hive, behind the SHS commons) and hunk of banana bread made earlier. These kids are baking pumpkin and apple pies to sell at Harvest of the Arts. Their first crusts were amazing. I've been married nearly 20 years, consider myself a good cook and decent baker, and never once mastered the home made pie crust. Look for these pies on Sept 29 and visit The Hive some morning (I think they close at 9:30 am or so) for goodies.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Everybody Loves A Parade

Everybody loves a parade and especially if your daughter is in it.

That's how Pam Bruckner felt this afternoon as she gathered with friends Toni Ellicott of Saline and Jennifer Holcomb of Ypsilanti. Bruckner, whose daughter, Cindy, won the title first runner-up in the Miss Saline pageant Tuesday night was proud as could be when I captured the ladies, joined by family and friends, on video for our Web site. She said her favorite part of the parade was watching her daughter come down Michigan Avenue in a bright, shiny, red Mustang.

Toni Ellicott, just as proud of her child, who plays an instrument in the high school band, said her favorite part of the parade is the Saline High School Marching Band. Both women were among hundreds who lined the main drag at 1 p.m. for the Saline Community Fair Parade. The fair marked its 72nd anniversary this year. Among the highlights of the parade were floats built by past and present members of the Saline Steer Club and Saline Lamb Club. Both marked milestones this year as the steer club celebrated its 60th anniversary and the lamb club hit 55.

The Saline Reporter featured the Saline Steer Club in a feature story in the Sept. 6 edition. You can check it out on our Web site.

Other highlights of the parade were the Miss Saline pageant winners, Grand Marshal Wes Exelby, the Miss Poppy girls, Saline American Legion, Red Hat Society ladies, Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell, Saline Twirlettes, Saline New Horizon Band, antique cars and fire trucks. For the children, I am sure, it's all about the candy. And there was plenty of it.

If you haven't made it out to the Washtenaw County Farm Council Grounds yet, today is your last chance to experience the 2007 Saline fair. Events continue until about 9:30 p.m. The Fiddlers ReStrung hit the stage at 7:30 p.m. and two drawings are scheduled at 9:30. If you're into smashing metal, the USA Demolition Derby State Finals are at 7 p.m. I am on my way over for one more taste of it to round out my video coverage of the fair. Maybe I'll see you there. Please be sure to check out all of our coverage in the newspaper and online, including our videos of the Miss Saline Pageant, fair parade and fair.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Sept. 11 should be day of renouncing fear

The day the World Trade Center was attacked remains undefined in the American consciousness. Six years after one of the most horrific days in our nation’s history, Americans have yet to resolve the depth of Sept. 11’s impact on our national identity.

An indicator that we continue to grapple with the tragic event’s shock to the national psyche is that there is still no unified understanding of how the day should be marked.

Americans know what to do on Independence Day, Memorial Day and Election Day. We even have traditional ways of spending Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Those days are well delineated.

But I do not know what to do on Sept. 11, a day so unlike any other national day of honor we have not dared to christen it with a name. It stands stark and stripped. It is 9/11. That is all. There is no “day” that follows. Perhaps we intuitively understand that to give the day a name would heighten the risk that it may evolve into a holiday, and that it can never be.

So I wonder, how should we honor the date? What should the day involve? What should the day signify?

I have personally struggled with how to recognize the sixth anniversary of 9/11.

Surely it is a day of remembrance for the thousands of innocent Americans who lost their lives. And so there will be ceremonies, moments of silence, the tolling of bells, and the laying of wreaths. That is all proper and fitting.

Surely, too, it is a day of reflection as Americans wrestle with the wound inflicted on us as a nation. So there will be discussions and editorials, addresses and prayers, and all that is proper and fitting, as well.

But I have concluded that Sept. 11 should be more than a day of reverent commemoration. It should be more than the media’s repeated showings of the monstrous and cowardly act; more than dramatic accounts of the countless feats of heroism that took place as ash and smoke filled the New York skyline.

Sept. 11 should be a day of not only remembrance and reflection, but a day of response. It should be a day of defiance. It should be a day on which every one us stands up and shakes a fist.

Terrorists attacked American civilians who were simply going about their daily business on Sept. 11 for the sole purpose of instilling fear within us.

Sept. 11 should be a day when we proclaim they failed.

It should be a day when we renounce fear. When we announce to the world that we will not cower. We will not lead our lives afraid.

About a year after the towers fell, a friend told me she had never been so afraid as she was the weeks following the attack. She was afraid for her children and for the world they would inherit.
Her fear has subsided somewhat since, but it has not vanished. It’s still there, lingering, smoldering. And it rears its ugly head every time the Department of Homeland Security ratchets up its terror alert from yellow to orange.

Sept. 11 should stand as a day for my friend and all Americans to confront and banish their fear.

Sept. 11 should serve as a reminder not only of what happened that day but also as a reminder that Americans will not forego the rights and privileges we have spent more than 200 years fighting to secure.

At the core of our founding principles is the right to live without fear. We shall not be afraid to speak; we shall not be afraid to worship; we shall not be afraid to assemble.

Living in fear is un-American.

We have taken to battlefields and to our own streets so that we do not have to live in fear and on Sept. 11 we should remember that, too.

That’s what I intend to remind myself again and again on Sept. 11.

The terrorists failed.

As an American, I will not live in fear. I refuse to. And now there is a day on which I will reaffirm that conviction to the world.

That day is Sept. 11.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Something About Mary

There's something about Mary.

That's what judges Patricia Visel Aungst, Scott Kemp and Genevieve Thompson decided tonight when they voted Mary Ciotta, a 17-year-old senior at Saline High School, Miss Saline. Mary joined 10 others in competing for the title during the Saline Community Fair. She takes home an $800 scholarship, $200 savings bond, as well as many other gift packages, certificates and goodies from local merchants.

I had a feeling as soon as the contestants walked on stage that Mary would win. She was among my top three, with a wide smile and an air of confidence, sophistication and friendliness about her. I thought Mina Onuma and Lauren Ferin also had good chances. In fact, I thought Mina answered the impromptu question the best. Video of all three, as well as the other contestants, should be posted on our Web site sometime Thursday, so you can see for yourself.

In addition to Miss Saline, Mary won Miss Congeniality, an honor bestowed upon her by fellow contestants. Lauren Ferin won second runner-up and Cindy Bruckner won first runner-up. Both are also given hundreds of dollars worth of scholarship money and prizes. Lauren and Cindy are also 17-year-old seniors at Saline High School. Lauren has a background in dance, piano and voice, while Cindy is 2007 Miss Majorette of Michigan and a member of 4-H. Mary was a top 10 qualifier in the Teen Miss Michigan Outstanding Pageant. There's no doubt her experience in pageants helped her win, as she had the poise and grace needed to capture the title, and will represent Saline well in the coming year.

I was impressed with the contest, which was well organized and entertaining. Taryn Hartman, Miss Saline 2002 and a 2007 graduate of the University of Michigan, served as emcee. She did an excellent job. There's no doubt her communications studies at U of M came in handy. Also representing U of M at the pageant were the Harmonettes, the second oldest a cappella group at the university and one of two all-female groups.
They entertained the crowd with several songs before 2006 Miss Saline Stephanie Soisson expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to serve the community and the three winners were announced.

What an enjoyable evening despite the mosquitoes and late night as I head into deadline day with about two dozen more pages to proofread and several stories to edit before wrapping up our next edition.

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See you downtown? What, you don't go downtown? Why the heck not?

I'm working on a story about the vitality and future of our downtowns for an October regional report for Heritage Newspapers (that means I'll have the chance to look at, not only my lovelies Saline and Milan, but also Manchester, Chelsea, Dexter and Ypsilanti. Now, what I'd like to know from YOU is how you view your downtown. Please, please, take a moment to email me (or blog herewith) on a few matters:
  1. why do you/don't you shop in your downtown?
  2. what would encourage you to shop/eat/walk/visit in your downtown?
  3. what advice would you give to city planners about your downtown?
  4. Describe your downtown, in 10 words or less.

Thanks and I'll look forward to reading your comments and to writing my story for the Oct 17 issue. (Those who know me will think it most unusual that I'm planning this far ahead! Very impressive, eh?)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day . . . should just be called Day-off Day

Labor Day. There is very little labor going on, however. The newspaper office is empty save for myself, and even I moseyed in around two this afternoon, wearing jeans, sneakers, and a ballcap. The phone has been silent. There are no e-mails, except for the ones inviting me to invest money in Nigeria or to purchase some confidence-boosting snakeoil.

I'm not a big fan of Labor Day. It ranks for me right at the bottom of the holiday ladder, not far behind Columbus Day.

If, like me, you ever wondered how we came up with this crazy, idle holiday, you can read about Labor Day's history at (where else) the U.S. Department of Labor's Web site.

The problem with Labor Day, of course, is that there's still work to be done; just no one's doing it. Everyone's putting it off until Tuesday, which in some industries might not be a problem, but at a weekly paper it can cause a real crunch. No one bumps back deadlines because, "Oh, sure, Monday was Labor Day, go on, take a little longer." That doesn't happen.

I think we should call the first Monday in September something else (Day-off Day, for example) and give Tuesday (the day we have to make up all the work we didn't do on Monday and then some) the name Labor Day. Or if everyone insists on continuing the 115-year-old history of Labor Day, we should christen the Tuesday following as "Two-Days of Labor Day" or "More Labor Than You Had Yesterday Day." Of course, then we'd have to take Tuesday off as well, and that would really set us back.

My disdain for the holiday aside, I hope everyone had a swell Labor Day. Now get back to work.

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