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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chassell Old Fashioned Christmas: Music, fun, food for everyone Saturday, Dec. 12

CHASSELL -- Chassell continues its tradition of an Old Fashioned Christmas with several events on Saturday, Dec. 12, in Downtown Chassell and at the Chassell School. The Chassell Heritage Center and Museum will hold an Open House with live music by the Thimbleberry Band and Maple Sugar Folk -- and a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus!

The Thimbleberry Band and Maple Sugar Folk, pictured here at the July 2009 ethnic music event at the Keweenaw Heritage Center in Calumet, will perform again from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, at the Chassell Heritage Center as part of the Chassell Old Fashioned Christmas. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)

In Downtown Chassell

Free horsedrawn sleigh rides, making stops around town, will begin at 11 a.m. and continue through 3 p.m.

Don't miss these events at the Chassell Heritage Center (old Chassell elementary school), which will hold an Open House from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.:
  • Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive at the Center for a visit between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. After visiting with Santa and Mrs. Claus, children may decorate their very own cookies to take home...for free!
  • The Thimbleberry Band will begin playing festive folk and holiday music at 1 p.m. Maple Sugar Folk, who specialize in French Canadian tunes, will sing from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Friends of Fashion present their exhibit, "By Her Own Hands," coming to life, Noon - 3 p.m.
Meanwhile, storytelling, cookies and hot chocolate around the tree will be held at the VFW Home.

Visit the Einerlei to purchase ornaments crafted by 4-H members for the HUMANE SOCIETY BENEFIT TREE. Also at the Einerlei, meet Karl Bohnak from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. for a Book Signing. His brand new book titled Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Almanac is now available.

At Chassell School

Breakfast with the Chassell High School Junior Class will be from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

A Holiday Handcrafts Bazaar will be held from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Contact Marvyl Wilson at 523-4115 for information.

The PATT (Parents and Teachers Together) Cookie Sale will be held from 10 a.m. to Noon at the school. A Chili Lunch and More with the Chassell High School Senior Class will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Chassell Old Fashioned Christmas is sponsored by the Chassell Improvement Association. Contact Nancy Leonard for more information:

Squonk to present "Houghton, the Hometown Opera" Dec. 11 at Rozsa Center

HOUGHTON -- At 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 11, the Rozsa Center will present one of the most unique and truly American operas ever conceived -- with Houghton as the star of the show! Squonk Opera, out of Pittsburgh, creates each of its site-specific operas about the one subject that unifies the audience wherever they perform -- their hometown. This musical multimedia extravaganza is individually structured and modified using the host community as the material source and inspiration.

A scene from Squonk Opera. (Photo courtesy Rozsa Center)

A meta-civic celebration, the show combines a heartfelt toast of the Copper Country with a vaudevillian-style roast, poking fun at our own overblown sense of grandeur.

The Washington Post described Squonk’s local performance as "…an unusual 90-minute ode… including, but not limited to, rock-and-roll, projected videos, aerial footage, dancers, and a puppet show. The elements blend together onstage to create a show that is at once playful and polished. A group of six musicians take the stage in tracksuits, pretending to be Olympic athletes at an over-the-top welcome-home ceremony. Then they all sit down and play stunning, sophisticated music."

In October, Squonk members Jackie Dempsey (Artistic Director and composer) and David Wallace (guitarist and designer) came to Houghton to collect the raw material they needed to construct a show specific to this area. They videotaped interviews with local citizens, made movies of the local streetscapes and researched the town’s history -- including its victories, scandals, icons and idiosyncrasies -- everything that makes the people of the Copper Country who they are. Local schoolchildren drew imagination maps of their neighborhoods, which will be incorporated into an animated sequence projected onstage where local dance groups will join them. Dancers from the Copper Country Cloggers and the MTU Social Dance Club met with Squonk during their residency and will perform original dance routines during the Dec. 11 performance.

Jackie Dempsey, a co-founder of Squonk, says,"We enjoy discovering how each city sees itself, as a whole and within its diverse communities. In this celebration of the host town, we talk about the broader issues of shared humanity and the need for self-definition. Our premise is that every city is new and exciting … at a time when all the national media comes out of LA and New York and focuses on only two cities in the country. All the other towns and cities in America have stories to tell, too."

Squonk Opera has designed a show that allows the audience members to tell their own stories -- in their own words. And Houghton is in good company. Over the past 16 years, Squonk has tailored operas for cities such as Pittsburgh, College Park, Albany, Baltimore, St. Louis, Newark and Charleston. Admittedly, Houghton is the smallest town Squonk has worked with -- which presented its own challenges. But, as Dempsey observed, it also makes the Copper Country one of the most interesting and unique places they’ve worked with. The original idea for the town-specific operatic format was inspired by half-time shows, mummer parades, video documentary art, nationalistic opera, centennial celebrations, political campaigns, tribal displays and local mythologies. Squonk explores the gray area between civic pride and xenophobia, but they do it all with showbiz razzamatazz and rock-n-roll humor.

"'Community' is a current vital issue," Dempsey says, "but it’s also a comic creative challenge, allowing us to explore what makes opera life-like and life operatic … or not!"

Join Squonk Opera at the Rozsa Centerat 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 11, for "Houghton, the Hometown Opera." See the operatic debut of friends and family members as we celebrate the culture, customs and craziness of the Copper Country -- in a way you’ve never seen before!

The annual Friends of the Rozsa Christmas Tree Silent Auction to benefit the Class Acts Program will conclude during the intermission of Squonk’s performance.

Sponsored by the James and Margaret Black Endowment.

Ticket prices for the general public are $25 and $20; MTU student prices are $20 and $15 (MTU student ID required). To purchase tickets contact the Rozsa Box Office at 487.3200, The Central Ticket Office (SDC) at 487.2073, Tech Express (MUB) at 487.3308 or go online at No refunds, exchanges, or late seating, please.

Buellwood Weavers Guild Exhibit opens Dec. 10 at Arts Center

HANCOCK -- An Opening Reception for the Buellwood Weavers Guild Exhibition will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tonight, Thursday, Dec. 10, in the Kerredge Gallery at the Community Arts Center in Hancock.

2009 is the International Year of Natural Fibers. In celebration, the following artists will give demonstrations during the opening: Spinning by Jeanne Medlyn; Knitting by Jessica Speer; Weaving by Lynn Anderson.

The Buellwood Weavers Guild was founded in the early 50s by Dorothea Buell. This exhibition, sponsored in part by the Upper Peninsula Power Co. (UPPCO), continues through Dec. 24.

Please note: The Arts Center has extended hours during December: Sunday, Dec. 13 and 20, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.; Monday, Dec. 14 and 21, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. The Arts Center will be closed from Dec. 25 - Jan. 1.

Happy Holidays to All!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Club Indigo to present British film, buffet Dec. 11

CALUMET -- The Calumet Theatre's Club Indigo presents the annual family pre-Christmas celebration, beginning with a buffet from the British Isles and concluding with the showing of Millions, the film that made Danny Boyle famous -- just before he won the Academy Award for his film Slumdog Millionaire.

Millions is a feel-good fantasy about a pair of young British boys who talk with saints, find a huge stash of money and look for ways to give it to the poor -- a story filled with laughs, chills and quirky commentary about the world in which we live.

The movie will be shown at 7:15 p.m., Friday, Dec. 11, preceded by Chef Cormac's buffet at 6 p.m. Movie and buffet costs $18; movie alone is $5. For the buffet, call the theatre to assure seating at 337-2610.

Club Indigo is a food and film event sponsored by Mu Beta Psi music fraternity.

Stupak: Stimulus funds to expand Head Start programs, create new jobs

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) announced the Baraga-Houghton-Keweenaw Child Development Board, Inc., and the Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency have received a total of $1.5 million to expand Head Start programs in Northern Michigan. In total, 22 new jobs will be created as a result of the grants. The funding has been awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of the stimulus, or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), to support the enrollment of additional children and families in Head Start programs as well as create new teaching and other positions in Early Head Start programs.

"Head Start programs are vital to giving millions of children the foundation they need to prepare for school and a lifetime of learning," Stupak said. "This stimulus funding provides immediate economic benefits by creating jobs in our communities, while also making a long-term investment in Northern Michigan, giving more children an opportunity to attend and gain educational benefits from Head Start programs."

Baraga-Houghton-Keweenaw (BHK) Child Development Board, Inc., has received $477,491 to expand services to an additional 38 pregnant women, infants, toddlers and their families. Additionally, four full-time home visitors, one full-time literacy specialist and two part-time teachers will be hired to staff the Early Head Start expansion program. Program options will include home-based services for 30 families and center-based care for eight families. Innovations include a focus on intensive family literacy activities to increase parent-child interaction and to improve child and family outcomes for all 133 families served by the Early Head Start program.

Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency has received $1,038,871 to expand services to an additional 108 pregnant women, infants and toddlers. Additionally 15 new jobs will be created as a result of the funding. The award will expand services in Alpena, Arenac, Iosco and Ogemaw Counties as well as in previously unfunded counties of Alcona, Crawford, Montmorency, Oscoda, Otsego and Presque Isle. Home-based programs will be implemented for all expanded counties.

The goal of the Early Head Start Expansion program through ARRA is to increase the number of pregnant women, infants and toddlers served in Early Head Start. Financial assistance is competitively awarded to provide child and family development services for low-income families with infants and toddlers ages birth to three years and pregnant women who are not currently being served by a Head Start or Early Head Start program. Early Head Start programs are funded to provide early, continuous, intensive and comprehensive child development and family support services.

Finnish American Heritage Center to show family Christmas film Dec. 10

HANCOCK -- The Finlandia University Finnish American Heritage Center will show the Finnish film Joulutarina (A Christmas Story) at 2 p.m. and at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10.

A Christmas Story reveals the untold childhood of Santa Claus. Set against a breathtaking landscape, this magical film tells the story of Santa’s life as he overcomes personal tragedy and hardship in his youth to develop a heart filled with love for children around the world.

A Christmas Story is a holiday film for the entire family and a story of selfless giving and lifelong friendship. Dubbed in English, the film is about 90 minutes long. It was the first big-screen Finnish Christmas film and became a huge box office hit.

There is no charge to attend the film, but donations are accepted.

The Finnish American Heritage Center is at 435 Quincy St. , Hancock. For information, call 906-487-7549.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Finlandia student designers find Jacquard Fabric "Priceless"

HANCOCK -- Three Finlandia University Art and Design juniors and a BFA alumna have benefited from an exchange arranged by Finlandia associate professor Phyllis Fredendall.

The Victor Group of New York City has woven for each student-designer five yards of upholstery-weight Jacquard fabric, which is valued at $40 to $60 per yard.

Pictured here, from left, are Ansley Knoch, Juice Demers, Susie Danielson, Phyllis Fredendall and Amanda Moyer, with their Jacquard fabric designs woven by the Victor Group. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo courtesy Finlandia University)

The four young women, however, view the Jacquard fabric as "priceless."

Fredendall directs the Fiber Arts and Fashion Design program for Finlandia’s International School of Art and Design. In the Spring 2009 semester section of her class, "Jacquard Design," the now-woven patterns were designed.

"This is the first time we have worked with Victor Group," said Fredendall. "The details were worked out by phone and e-mail, and earlier this month I visited their studios in New York during a recruiting trip there."

The Victor Group weaves fabrics for commercial uses, such as upholstery for office and hotel furnishings. The company produces leading-edge textiles and is known for its leadership in operational and product ecological sustainability, according to their website.

As part of the exchange, the Victor Group owns the student designs, which become part of Victor’s design library.

The opportunity began when Fredendall contacted the German company, EAT, makers of DesignScope CAD weaving software. EAT develops electronic textile patterning and related industry software.

"We had been working with another company that notified us that they were unable to continue to weave for us," Fredendall explained. "So, I contacted EAT and asked them for help finding another opportunity to have our designs woven. They sent a notice to users of DesignScope software, and Ann Reinhard, senior CAD designer at Victor, replied that she was interested in working with us!"

Fredendall noted also that Linda Allen, design manager at Victor, who had offered the students critiques of their designs during the Spring 2009 semester, is interested in contributing to the education of future textile designers.

So how will the young fabric designers use the Jacquard fabric?

"That’s the million dollar question," said junior Susie Danielson of Kingsford, Mich. "It’s very precious fabric."

Danielson’s design is based on a lotus flower.

"Ask me in a couple of years," added Amanda Moyer of Livonia, Mich. "Maybe I’ll make a coat one day.”

Moyer’s design is titled, "Celtic Knot."

Juice DeMers of Vulcan, Mich., is planning to use some of the fabric to make handbags to sell at this spring’s annual Finlandia Fusion Fest. Her design is named "Juice Squid."

Finlandia alumna Ansley Knoch ('09) of Hancock was a teaching assistant for the spring weaving class. Her fabric design pattern is Nordic-inspired. Knoch said she plans to give some of her fabric to her mother to refinish a rocking chair that Ansley was rocked in as a baby.

Fredendall also created and had woven a Jacquard design; her design is called "Pink Pears." She, too, is uncertain how she’ll ultimately use her five yards of Jacquard.

The Jacquard mechanical loom was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801 and was originally controlled by punch cards; today the looms are computer-controlled power looms.

"The loom simplifies the process of manufacturing textiles with complex patterns, such as brocade, damask, double-weave, and tapestry," Fredendall said. "The Jacquard style of weaving is the most complex structure in weaving because threads can be manipulated individually. As a result, detailed images with large repeating patterns can be designed and woven."

For additional information, please contact Phyllis Fredendall at 906-487-7376 or

Editor's Note: Photo and text courtesy Finlandia University.