NPS Art Department Brings Imagination to Life
Photos and Story by Alexis Mercer
For five years, the Newaygo Public Schools Art Department has been making the imaginative creatures in elementary students’ minds a reality.
In February of 2018 all 2nd grade students at Vera Wilsie Elementary were asked to draw a monster. They were asked questions like “Where does it live?” “What does it eat?” “What language does it speak?” and “What is its favorite color?” Some of the students’ teachers asked them to make a Thinking Map to help them create a story about their monsters. The students at Newaygo High School were then given the drawings, stories and Thinking Maps to begin their own process.
HS students were taught or reviewed how to shade and make objects look 3d. They read the stories and looked at the Thinking Maps to create a plan to redraw the 2nd graders’ drawings. After their new drawing was complete, they worked on making pattern pieces to cut out of fabric.
At this point, volunteers from the community came in to NHS to help students review their plan with them and make suggestions to let them know what would work and not work. Students were shown how to sew basic stitches on the sewing machine and then how to stuff and add details.
Volunteers were Nancy Myers, Diane Beerman, Miriam Strohpaul and Marti Vi. These women are all quilters and artists who live in the community.
The goal of the NPS Art Department Teacher Jennifer Hurrle is “for the students to learn to respond emotionally to others artwork. Collaborating with other students creates an emotional bond that creates lasting memories. Students have begun to look forward to this every year and ask when the big event will be. This project involves all subjects in learning. Every student, no matter what their main interest is can find a piece of this project they like, whether it is language arts or math or the art itself. We use math to make patterns and figure out seams. We use LA to write about their experience and read the bubble maps created by the 2nd graders.”
Hurrle’s favorite part of the entire project is watching the big reveal when the 2nd grade students are bussed over to the high school and the high school students get to show off their creations. As Hurrle says, “watching the big kids’ faces react to the little kids opening their ‘presents’” is priceless. Her second favorite part of this project is watching the high school students have that moment when they "get it" while they are learning how to sew. Many boys have now gone on to create pillows and fix their backpacks or other such projects.
The first year of this Monster Project began with just one 2nd grade class, which then switched to the entire 2nd grade the 2nd year. Each year of the project students from both buildings have created a collaborative mural.
This year the Art Department began to create a collaborative mixed media art piece that will hopefully chosen by a venue to be in Art Prize. Last year was the first year they entered a special "collaborative art" category for schools. While it was unfortunately not chosen by a venue at Art Prize, the Newaygo Library has chosen to have it installed there instead.
Turtles All the Way Down Book Review
By Alexis Mercer
Best-selling author John Green hits another one out of the park with his book Turtles All the Way Down. Known for titles such as The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, and my personal favorite, Paper Towns, Green has become a household name. Three of his books have been turned into major motion pictures.
Green describes adolescence in a way that is relatable to all ages. And while his books may be classified as “Young Adult”, I don’t know a single adult who has read his books who think they are adolescent in content, verbage or character.
In Turtles All the Way Down, Green tackles anxiety in a coming of age female.
The book opens with Ava, a sixteen-year-old suffering from crippling, spiraling anxiety. She and her best friend Daisy get themselves involved in a missing persons hunt. Ava went to camp with a boy when she was younger, who happens to be the son of the billionaire Russell Pickett, who has disappeared. Originally Daisy and Ava are interested in the hundred thousand dollar reward for information leading to his whereabouts. But then Davis, Russell’s son, becomes a part of the investigation in a way that Ava couldn’t have predicted.
The reader becomes deeply entwined in Ava’s spiraling thoughts and anxiety while she is trying to be a daughter, friend, girlfriend, student and teenager.
I was unsure about reading this book for a few reasons. I loved Paper Towns so much that I didn’t want to ruin my thoughts of perfection of Green as an author. And mostly, I had heard it was written about a main character who suffered from anxiety. It is a topic that hits close to home and I wasn’t sure if it would be too heavy.
My own story involves a battle with anxiety. I have come to realize that it originally began as postpartum anxiety, though of course at the time, I wasn’t aware of it, nor did I even know that was “a thing.” While a few brief periods of my own experience have been crippling, the majority of my anxiety has been controllable. But that doesn’t lessen my empathy and compassion for anyone who ever experiences any level of anxiety.
Knowing first hand what anxiety looks like gave me a true appreciation for the mastery with which Green tells his tale. He did justice to the issue while also telling a story that was entertaining, amusing, enjoyable and credible.
I, a singular proper noun, would go on, if always in a conditional tense.
In researching John Green further after having read this book, I came to find out that in addition to his gift with words, he has also suffered from anxiety in his own life. Which explains why the words on the page come alive in a way that I don’t feel could be explained by someone who has never experienced it for themselves.
Time Magazine published an interview they did with Green on the novel and mental illness. I found it fascinating. You can read it here - http://time.com/4976944/john-green-turtles-all-the-way-down-mental-illness/
I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Whether you have experienced anxiety, know someone who has, or just want to read a quality story with realistic characters, this book will not disappoint. At a time when so many young people are experiencing varying degrees of anxiety over the events around them they can’t control, this book is a timely read for all ages.
John Green took 5 years to come out with a new book after his 2012 hit The Fault in Our Stars. If he takes another 5 years before his next book, I will count the days knowing that the time will be worth it.
Friday Night marks the 3rd anniversary celebration for Newaygo Brewing Co. and among other special nuances this weekend there will be music.
Lots of music.
The Jetts take the stage from 7:30-11pm Friday night then Jack Leaver does an afternoon acoustic show from 1-5 Saturday before giving way to the The Big Boss Band who will rock the place properly from 7:30-11pm.
Saturday is an opportunity to take part in the 4th annual Walk for Autism at the Fremont High School Football Field. Registration is free and starts at 9:00 a.m. The walk will start at 9:30. Pledges are welcome, but not required. The theme will again be Superheroes, giving tribute to the heroes of our community, including law enforcement, firefighters, first responders, EMT's, health care providers, teachers, veterans, and active duty service men and women.
Great cause, great folks, and perhaps one of those wonderful spring days that just beg for you to get outside for a bit.
For more information go to www.IwalkforAutsim.com.
For more information about the Newaygo County Autism Community find us on Facebook, or go to newaygocountyautismcommunity.org.
From 3-5pm at Loomis Lodge you can take part in a Cookie Decorating Fundraiser to help support Bella, the newest addition to the Newaygo Police Department and currently the lone quadruped in the squad.
Do Not Forget Take Back Day!
Medications can be dropped off Saturday, April 28th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office in White Cloud or Hometown Pharmacy in Newaygo. This event is free and anonymous; people participating will not be asked any questions when dropping off medications.
Items that will be accepted include: prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, ointments, sprays, inhalers, creams, needles, and pet medications. Items that will not be accepted include: bio-hazardous materials and household hazardous waste.See the story at:
Get ready to channel a bit of the Roaring Twenties when the Newaygo Community Choir takes to the stage of the Dogwood Center in Fremont at 3pm Sunday for a nostalgic journey back in time to the flapper era that turned the world and its music upside down some 90 years back.
Choir members have been prepping both vocally and sartorially (see story at https://www.nearnorthnow.com/features-and-fun/dressing-the-part.
Admission to the concert will be free with open seating. A free-will offering will be collected during intermission. A punch reception and opportunity to meet the singers, dancers and musicians will follow the concert.
Go get ‘em Near Northians. It is, after all, Springtime at last!
By Alexis Mercer
I am having a hard time typing this story because every muscle in my body is sore. Do ears have muscles? Because those are sore, too.
The good news is that it is the good kind of sore. You know what I mean. There is a good sore and a bad sore. My college volleyball teammates and I used to laugh hysterically as we knew we had reached a point of no return when we had “two-a-days” (two practices a day) for tryouts and we would have to fall on the toilet our leg muscles would be so exhausted.
This is that kind of good sore. It’s the “I accomplished something” sore. It may not have been fast and it may not have been pretty, but I did it. So I earned this waddle that I have going on, and probably will for two more days.
If you’ve followed my running stories, you’ll know that I run with a partner whose name is Lindsey. She beat breast cancer and wanted to start running again after her doctor cleared her for activity. I had just gotten over a broken leg thanks to one bad step on a walnut shell while I was running this past fall. We were both at ground zero. Nowhere to go but up.
We started small. A 5k to get our feet wet. They got wet...cold and wet at the Fremont Frostbite. So we upped our game and set our sights on the Kent City Ridge Run 15k in March. The mantra we gained from that race is that the “wind keeps us honest.” As did the hills. Lots and lots of hills for 9.3 miles.
Our next step was a half marathon. We decided on the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon on April 22.
If you are a runner, or used to be a runner, or have thought about being a runner, you’ll know that there is a big difference between a 5k and a half marathon beyond the obvious difference in length. The training becomes crucial. A lot of people could go out and run a 5k after not having trained and still manage to get out of bed the next morning. But a half marathon? Unless you’re a superhuman, it would be awfully difficult to trudge through 13.1 miles without serious training.
So we trained. We met Tuesdays and Thursdays to run shorter distances, ran a few times a week on our own and either met on weekends or at least shared our distance run success with each other via text messages and pictures of our routes. I even dragged her into speed repeats on the track when she would let me. “It’s fun,” I said.
Lindsey went to Florida for a week and sent me smiling, happy run photos while I was freezing in Michigan. Then it was my turn to take a trip to the Keys and I sent my drowning-in-sweat selfies like any good running partner would.
Last weekend we needed to run 6 miles to taper down (this is run speak for running less the week before your race to give your body a chance to be fresh for the event). It just so happened that Snowmageddon was hitting as we were running. Sleet, wind, snow, rain, hail...we ran through it all. In fact every time we ran under a huge limb hanging over the road we would say “NO WHAMMIES!” We managed to survive the last long run and we were ready.
Race day was perfect. We arrived early enough to find prime parking (for free), we managed to choose relatively smart clothes for temps that began in the low 30s and quickly rose to mid-50s; we were excited and ready.
The race course was beautiful. We ran along the river for most of the miles. At one point Lindsey said “I am in the ‘grateful to be running’ mode.” I couldn’t have agreed more. We were thankful to be out there participating in a race where women of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and stories were running with us.
We came up to the mile 5 marker as the lead pack of women raced in the opposite direction, at mile 8. Everyone around us cheered and clapped and encouraged them to continue with their phenomenal pace.
I can’t honestly say the whole race was easy. We may have trained and we may have been ready, but running a race is never easy. We pushed our limits and boundaries and dug deep to cross the finish line.
We did it. And were even smiling as we crossed the line.
So even though every single muscle in my body aches today, my heart and mind are happy. We set a lofty goal and we accomplished what we set out to do.
I might not be able to walk without a shuffle or waddle for a week. But I’ll take this good sore feeling anytime. It is worth it.
Unity Day at Newaygo High School
Photos and story by Alexis Mercer
You are enough.
Every Newaygo High School student and staff member was given a shirt donning that slogan on Wednesday, April 18. The entire day of "alternate instruction" was spent getting that message across to the students.
NHS has taken time to build a culture of inclusion through an alternate day of instruction for several years now. The first year it was three days of anti-bullying messages and activities for students to participate. Since then, it has evolved into a day that students and staff look forward to all year long.
Theresa Westcott has been the coordinator for the Regional Special Olympics events that have taken place at NHS for many years. Last year she helped Newaygo become a Unified School, which means that in addition to hosting the Regional Special Olympics, NHS would host a "United Game" where special education students participated with and against other students in the school. This became part of the Lions United Day.
In addition to students being able to participate in the United Game, other activities took place throughout the day that helped students interact with each other in ways that aren't possible during the course of a regular school schedule. Some of those activities included board games, painting rocks for the #rockinNewaygo project, juggling, and card games.
For the last hour and a half of the school day, the students gathered in the gymnasium and had the unique opportunity to listen to Beacon Light, a rapper with a message of self-love and acceptance. His entertaining show filled the students and staff of NHS with a positive message and energy.
Funding for the shirts and Beacon were made possible through a grant funded by the Special Olympics for the messages of anti-bullying and unification of all students.
For more information on Beacon Light, go to his website at http://beaconlightmusic.com/
Wellspring Dance of Kalamazoo will bring modern dance to the Dogwood Center on Friday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. The performance will feature new works and classic Wellspring repertory.
One of the dance selections, "Citadel" describes the difficulty humankind has in coming to consensus within our communities, and includes a beautiful piano score by Chad Lawson. The program will also include a flowing quartet, "Now is the Masterpiece," originally performed at RADFest 2017.
Now in its 37th season, Wellspring Dance performs throughout the year, providing a unique and authentic voice in modern dance which serves to inspire, engage and educate. Wellspring also presents the annual Midwest Regional Alternative Dance Festival highlighting emerging and established contemporary dance artists from throughout the Midwest and beyond. Wellspring offers dance classes to youth and adults alike and holds dance intensives and dance camps each summer.
Dancers at the performance at the Dogwood Center will include Alexis Harris, Rachel Miller, Dasan Mitchell, Carolyn Rabbers, Jasmine Statzer and Maddie Korff.
Cori Terry, Wellspring's founder and Artistic Director, was born in Brooklyn and attended the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She completed her dance training in New York City and joined the Erick Hawkins Dance Company in 1974. Cori performed and taught in major cities throughout the United States and Europe. In 1980, Cori came to Kalamazoo as artist-in-residence at Western Michigan University. Then, in the 1980-81 season she formed Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers.
Highlights of Wellspring's history include critically acclaimed performances and collaborations with Artichoke Dance Company and Naumburg-winning eighth blackbird of New York, Zephyr Dance and XSIGHT! of Chicago, Susan Van Pelt from the University of Ohio, Detroit Dance Collective, Eisenhower Dance Ensemble, Ariel Dance Company, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Fontana Chamber Arts and Cavani String Quartet.
Tickets are $15.00 and are available through the Dogwood Center Box Office, NCCA-Artsplace in downtown Fremont, or on-line at www.dogwoodcenter.com. For information, phone 231.924.8885. The Dogwood Center is located one mile east of downtown Fremont.
By Mollie Swendrowski
Certainly it goes without saying if you’ve read any of my pieces that I love Disney. If you haven’t read my pieces: 1. Why?! and 2. I love Disney. Another thing that I love is my job as a nanny (although this potty training business we are currently involved in is for the birds). Recently, these two loves collided when I was granted the opportunity to accompany the family I nanny for on a vacation to Disney World.
Until that point I had never been to Disney with children (crazy, right?) and the extent of my travel with toddlers involved loading up the kids in the mini-van and taking them on day trips in the area. I knew it was going to be a task to shuttle these twin toddlers everywhere, but I was feeling confident about our odds seeing as it was three against two.
Anyone who has traveled with kids can tell you two things for certain: it closely resembles herding cats and children require STUFF. Lots and lots and lots of stuff. That they can’t carry. They need all of the things, and also want all of the things, but can carry virtually NONE of the things.
We left on a Sunday afternoon and returned that Friday afternoon. The plan was to spend three days at Disney with one “rest” day not spent at the park, but split between a fun character meal at Disney and our AirBnB. Keeping in mind that the twins were just shy of 3 on this trip, I think the plan of attack worked perfectly.
It is already exhausting and over stimulating to be at Disney for a full day for adults, so for small kids it can be double the amount we feel. We arrived at the parks around 9 am and ended up heading home between 5 and 6 the days we went. The kids were both a bit too excited to get good naps in to really stretch the days much longer than that.
All in all I was impressed with how Ruby and Dean handled the whirlwind trip. It’s a lot to ask of kids because it is so outside the lines of any normal routine they experience. At home, Ruby is the more outgoing and talkative of the two, whereas Dean likes to observe in a slightly more quiet manner. However, they switched roles at Disney, and Dean was in his ELEMENT. He much preferred to run and explore on his own than to be stuck in the stroller. Miss Ru LOVED the character meet and greets and would have spent all day holding Minnie Mouse’s hand, her brother on the other hand was not as impressed.
The collective sibling favorite was “Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room”. Mr. Dean, who has a delay in his speech, can now ask for “Tiki ROOM!” by name, and it never fails to make me a little misty-eyed when he does because words are not easy for him. Yet he loved something at Disney so much that he was able to learn how to ask for it, and is now encouraged by his own success that his vocabulary is growing daily.
People keep asking me why we decided to take them since they are still so young, especially since I’ve been pretty outspoken on my thoughts about what is an appropriate age to take children. “Why spend the money when they aren’t going to remember anything about the trip?” While I still think it depends on the child, the idea that they won’t remember anything about the trip is now questionable to me.
There is not a day that goes by where Ruby doesn’t say to me, “Swenny, we go see Mickey and Minnie! Mama was there, Dada was there, ‘brudder’ was there, you were there! We meet Belle and Cinderella! We saw Tiki Room! Brudder LOVE Tiki Room!” While watching
Daniel Tiger (the new age Mr. Rogers for those who are not familiar) the other day, Daniel asked his audience where they could go if they could anywhere, and Miss Ru exclaimed excitedly, “Go see Mickey and Minnie!”
Their mom made a photo book with pictures from the trip and we look through it almost every single day. Dean loses his mind over the picture of him running across the bridge into Adventureland. Ruby particularly loves belly laughing over the photo of her “picking her nose” in front of the carousel. (The things that make toddlers laugh, am I right?)
A seed of serious Disney love was planted with the twins in Florida. And you know, maybe they won’t remember anything specific about this trip long term. But for now the magic is still alive with them, and I will personally always cherish the memories we made together as I lived out my true “Mollie Poppins” dream.
New Exhibition Coming to the Grand Rapids Public Museum
Grand Rapids– The Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) announced today tickets are now on sale for the newest traveling exhibit, Be the Astronaut,opening June 16. Visitors will experience what it is like to be an astronaut including the challenges and excitement of spaceflight!
Visitors take command of futuristic space vehicles, chart their course to the Moon, Mars and beyond and land and explore highly detailed digital re-creations of actual places in the solar system built using data from NASA space probes.
Be the Astronaut teaches STEM based content via a fusion of the physical exhibit with state-of-the-art video game technology. Visitors have their own crew of virtual experts throughout every stage of the exhibit. These digital characters will help visitors learn what’s needed to fly a spaceship, pilot a lander, and drive a surface rover — then will be there as visitors climb in the simulators to actually perform these feats, in a thrilling narrative adventure that spans the solar system.
“Through STEM based hands-on activities that are scientifically verified by NASA experts, this exhibit let’s our community travel to space from right here at the Grand Rapids Public Museum,” said Dr. Stephanie Ogren, Director of Science at the GRPM.
Tickets are now on sale for Be the Astronaut, and can be purchased by visiting grpm.org/Astronaut or by calling the Museum’s front desk at 616.929.1700.
Admission to Be the Astronaut is $12 for adults, $7 for children, $9 for Kent County resident adults, $4 for Kent County resident children, and $2 for all Museum members! Tickets include general admission to the Museum.
In each space capsule, a monitor serves as the ‘windshield,’ giving visitors a first-person view of their adventures. Touch-screens and an industrial-quality joystick put visitors in command.
During missions, the entire cockpit comes alive with animated lighting effects, game visuals, and sounds that make visitors believe they are astronauts. Special companion robots will move about the hall and interact with visitors.
The focus of the exhibit is on the concepts common to all space flights and invites visitors into a futuristic storyline as the framework to communicate these ideas.
The experience is scientifically verified by experts at NASA for accuracy and feasibility.
This exhibit will run from June 16 through September 16, 2018.
Community Choir Jazzes up Costumes for Roaring 20’s Concert
Story and photos by Jane Drake
Brenda Huckins-Bonter is the enthusiastic force behind an effort to jazz up the attire of the Newaygo County Community Choir members for their upcoming concert of “Roaring 20’s Music” on Sunday, April 29, at 3 p.m. at the Dogwood Center for the Performing Arts in Fremont.
She has been scouring her own closets, local merchants and a theater company for costumes that will evoke a vision and feeling of the 1920’s. As an art and theater teacher for 35 years for Grant Public Schools, Huckins-Bonter also knows the importance of costuming in any performance.
“When people are in costume,” she said, “They take on a different persona. I just know the choir members are going to feel the music more when they look the part.
“Joseph has done an amazing job of putting together a great program of fun music, and helping us singers really enjoy and feel it,” she went on to explain, “But I think when we’re on the stage, the visual is a really important element that will enhance the audience’s enjoyment, too.”
Huckins-Bonter said she was excited when she learned choir director, Joseph Jennings, selected music of the 1920s as this year’s spring concert theme. “It’s one of my favorite eras,” she said. “I just love the whole style of it – the clothes, the music, the jazzy feel, and of course, Art Deco design.”
Jennings said he was glad Huckins-Bonter was willing to take on the job of coordinating costumes for the concert. “She’s gone at it with a real drive and flair,” he said. “She’s been really helpful to everyone explaining the types of attire people wore then, and the styles that make you know the clothes are from that decade.”
Huckins-Bonter said she enjoyed her search for costumes, and was grateful for the assistance she received from Lion Heart Productions, Costume Craze, and Sally Hetler of Steep in Time.
The concert of choir arrangements will also include music performances and accompaniment by Shaunna Baker on piano, and the Fremont High School Orchestra strings directed by Julie Anderson. Also, for the first time in the choir’s history, professional dancers will also be featured. Paul Carryer of Detroit, and Julianna Schoon of Lansing, will perform period dances like the Lindy Hop and Charleston.
Admission to the concert will be free with open seating. A free-will offering will be collected during intermission. A punch reception and opportunity to meet the singers, dancers and musicians will follow the concert.
By Megan Wirts
What is a smile worth?
Some would say that it’s priceless. Some have even said that they are free. Well, none of that is true, at least not in my house. There are few phrases that will strike fear in a parent’s heart and put intense strain on their bank account as, “Your child needs braces”.
NOOOOOOO! NOT THE B WORD!
Words and phrases like braces, orthodontist and phase 1 (there will be more than one phase), are enough to make a dad openly cry in the orthodontist’s office.
I don’t know a single parent who while snuggling their tiny toothless newborn looks dreamily at them and thinks, “I sure hope you have a significant underbite and teeth crowding, I can’t wait to see you with braces.” Not a single one. But it happens to the best of us. There is nothing you can do to avoid it when you are genetically blessed with overbites and crooked teeth. I knew that it was in the cards for us as soon as my daughter’s adult teeth started to show up. I figured we would have plenty of time to prepare for it, but she apparently is a fast tooth loser and when she was 7 years old she had her first orthodontic appointment. I had done my research, I knew it was going to be pricey. The thing that really surprised me was how little our dental insurance would contribute. Seriously insurance companies?!?! It’s not nearly enough. Which leaves us parents to contemplate doing it ourselves, with some pliers, paperclips and rubber bands, or getting on a payment plan.
We chose the payment plan.
She was finished with all three phases (I told you there would be more than one), by the time she was a 6th grader, just in time for her little brother to start seeing the orthodontist. Yay! (insert heavy sarcasm). We had truly hoped that our boy would be able to bypass the braces, but he too inherited my genetic disposition for big front teeth and crooked cuspids. I’ll be honest, after we left his first orthodontic appointment, I was very grateful to have only two children. Bless those of you with large families and crooked smiles, I hope your insurance is better than ours.
I love my children and I am happy to be able to afford even the payment plan to give them beautiful smiles, but I really would rather spend that $10,000 I put in their mouths on a swimming pool or a tropical vacation. I could buy a fancy camper and not have to sleep in a tent when we go camping or even a new car. I could get myself a new wardrobe, including fancy shoes and designer purses. I could get new furniture. We could have gone to Disney World! Heck, I could have even put that money in their college fund!! But no, I am an excellent mother with priorities and responsibilities and so they both got braces.
Our son has had his braces for about one week now. He wanted them. Desperately. Some kids are mean, and they teased him endlessly for having front teeth that were not exactly straight. He would come home and tell me about it and I would immediately want to know their names, where they lived and who their parents were! Then he and my husband would calm the mama bear in me down and we would give him a pep talk about how it doesn’t matter what those jerk faces say (ok I didn’t say jerk faces…it might have been worse) and that he is more than just his teeth. He is a brilliant, smart, kind hearted, funny and all around amazing kid. Then we armed him with some good comebacks if those little you know what’s, decide to pick on my kid again and we also promised him that we would get him braces when the time came.
Now, whenever either of them complains about anything, like not going to Florida or Myrtle Beach, like everyone else did over Spring Break, I tell them to, “Look in the mirror and smile. There’s your spring break. It’s in your mouth.”
“Now go brush your teeth. Those things are expensive!”
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