The Murrells come full circle
N3- Hit the Road Joe has long been a food lovers favorite resting comfortably in its cabinesque headquarters just outside of Croton. Since the pandemic HTRJ, like many smaller venues, transitioned from inside dining to take out providing dinners three nights a week out of their Elm Avenue locale. The N3 Nibbler section updates their takeout offerings each week and from time to time Chef T. (aka Tracy Murrell) has added a Saturday pizza night, a move proven to be popular among those of us who savor a good pie. Their offerings have thrust them into ‘where to find the best pizza’ conversations throughout the community.
The demand has been so high that changes were necessary and we caught up with the engaging personality that is Chef T. to have her describe their latest venture and how it came to be.
“Faced with the new challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic we were forced to close our doors and scramble for new avenues in keeping the business afloat. As you know I just took over Jan 2020! (https://www.nearnorthnow.com/news/the-torch-is-passed-at-hit-the-road-joe) So I decided to do Dinners to Go through the drive-thru three nights a week which has been going well and will continue to be offered to our patrons.
I have chosen not to re-open inside service at this time due to the half capacity regulation and for the safety of my community. It just isn't worth being staffed and stocked for only a handful of inside customers, as well as the obvious health concern of having people sitting at tables without a mask.
At this time we must go back for a little history lesson on Jeff and Tracy Murrell and Pizza and Cooking and training in things related to Pizza and Cooking… And lions and tigers and bears.
After less than a year of dating, we bought a pizza shop in Grand Rapids on the corner of Michigan St. and Fuller, promptly changing the name to “J. Morello’s Pizzeria” (Our name is Murrell, which is not very Italian sounding). Jeff brought a wealth of pizza experience, learning the craft from years working on Leonard St under Sam Vitale himself.
We always knew that we wanted to do pizza again together. During this time with the pandemic, the organic opportunity arose to slide into another avenue of serving the community and still keeping the business alive. That’s when we decided to try the wood-fired oven. We could combine Jeff’s pizza knowledge with my culinary training to create truly artisan pizza creations keeping true to HTRJ’s roots and ideals of homemade goodness prepared fresh.
The first oven was just a small dome type oven which could only cook two 12” pies at a time and the phone was ringing off the wall. We could not keep up and wait times were commonly over two hours. We quickly realized we were onto something and the good feedback and orders kept coming. It was obvious there was a demand for artisan pizza in our area.
WIth that realization, my husband decided to build a new larger oven that would be wood-fired but customized for larger capacity while still having the sustainability of cooking with wood and maintaining that Artisan quality! He did it and it is truly a masterpiece. We can now cook up to 10 pizzas at a time if needed. We are still working out a few kinks but feel that we are ready to move forward and start offering our crafted pizzas every Saturday starting on Halloween night!!!!
I haven't given up on the cafe and breakfast but at this time while we are navigating through these uncharted waters of 2020 this seems to be the direction Hit the Road Joe will be pursuing, at least for now!!
It is our hope that we can maintain reputation and offer something new to our community….
There's no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box in your lap."-Kevin James
N3- Terry and Andrea Grabill have occasionally regaled us with wonderful stories and photos from the world of birding. We are happy to announce that they have agreed to do a Q&A column for all of us who share a fascination with our feathered friends.
How can I make the birds that come to my feeders safe from window collisions?
Bird-window collisions are a real problem at homes with large windows. The very opening that allows us to better view birds often puts them in danger! Many backyard birders enjoy having a lively bird feeder that is easily viewed from the comfort of our homes and can, unfortunately, cause collisions that often are fatal.
Often, collisions result from birds leaving feeders in a panic, perhaps to avoid predators such as hawks or domestic cats (more on that in another edition). Cover items near the feeders can give an escape path that does not include the window. Windows give the illusion of a clear path to safety.
Bird-window collisions can be reduced by having items in your windows. If a bird can see the reflections of landscapes in windows they think that they can keep going safely. So, by tastefully placing items in the window that breaks up the sense of safety and being able to continue flying, the birds will know that there is a danger to them and they will have time to correct and change their path. Here at the BirdGoober home, we have strung 4-5 silver holiday bulbs on fishing line and hung them in our upper windows. We’ve not had a collision there in years! Many online retailers sell window clings and treatments that are designed to reduce the dangers.
While standing outside, medium sized black birds flew in the same direction, not as an organized flock, but in a steady stream that lasted for several minutes involving possibly hundreds of birds. What are these and why do they do this?
In Michigan, late August is the time for blackbirds to gather in flocks to roam the countryside feeding in preparation for their migration south. These mixed flocks can contain thousands of individuals of several species, including common grackles, red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, and European starlings. The cloud-like river of birds can be very impressive! As we finish this edition, a flock of at least one hundred perched in the hardwoods in our backyard.
Blackbirds come together in flocks in the fall as they are getting ready to migrate. People always say there is safety in numbers, right? So, birds instinctively do the same! People notice blackbirds more because it’s a “cloud of black moving in the sky” which is great because at least people are noticing the birds! Birds tend to fly in flocks for safety from predators as well. When you are travelling hundreds of miles to migrate and it’s better to have a group for safety…just like humans!
The flow of these clouds of black can be mesmerizing to watch. Flocks of starlings, especially, are known to flow in the air in what’s called a murmuration. Research has shown that in these sky-dances, individuals key in to the motion of the six nearest birds and the result is a beautiful black cloud that seems to move as one.
BirdGoober is Terry and Andrea Grabill, of Newaygo. They have been birding together since they met and love to share their passion for birds with people of all ages. Please send your birding questions to the Grabills at email@example.com or visit their website www.birdgoober.com.
Classical guitarist Paul Vondiziano will be at the Dogwood Center for the Performing Arts Friday, November 6 at 7:30 p.m. on the main stage. Vondiziano is a prestigious guitarist who plays music from Bach to Mediterranean composers with brilliant technique.
Vondiziano’s performances typically include works such as Fernando Sor’s "Mozart Variations Op.9”, Manuel Ponce’s “Suite in A Minor”, J. S. Bach’s “Prelude-Fugue-Allegro”, Joao Guimaraes’ “Three Brazilian Pieces”, Carlo Domeniconi’s "Koyunbaba Op. 19”, as well as some of his own original pieces.
Vondiziano was born in Larnaca, Cyprus where he began his study of the guitar at the age of eight. He continued his education in the United States in both philosophy and music, and holds a Master of Music degree from Duquesne University in Pennsylvania. Following his studies he returned to Cyprus, where his performance activities led to further engagements and tours in Europe. Since his return to America he has been active as a performer, and continues to make appearances abroad.
This talented guitarist has collaborated with various musicians and ensembles and has performed as concerto soloist with ensembles such as the Cyprus National Chamber Orchestra, Boise Philharmonic, Kalamazoo Symphony, Plymouth Symphony, and various university–related orchestras. He has had well received solo performances in Athens, Greece, Nicosia Cyprus, Sotogrand and Jimena in Spain.
Tickets are only $15 and are available at www.dogwoodcenter.com, through the Dogwood Box Office, downtown Fremont at NCCA-Artsplace or click here. Seating style is reserved seating with social distancing. Seating is limited to 75 total. Masks worn over mouth and nose will be required at all times in the Dogwood Center. For information, phone 231.924.8885. The Dogwood Center is located one mile east of downtown Fremont.
Discover the Big Top Within with Cirque Amongus at the Dogwood Center on Saturday, October 31, from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.! The half-day Circus Camp will promote teamwork and self-esteem while introducing children, ages 6 to 12, to a wide range of circus skills.
There will be an abundance of fun as participants laugh and giggle while they ride unicycles and tiny bikes, walk a tightrope, do magic tricks, stay atop a rolling barrel, swing on a trapeze, or learn to juggle! Participants will also have the unique opportunity to see a performance by Cirque Amongus instructors!
Advanced registration is required. Please include your phone number when registering so we can contact you with details before the class. Registration will be limited to 20 participants total, which will be broken up into 4 small groups of 5 participants each for activities.
Each participant will use hand sanitizer between activities and equipment will be sanitized between groups. All participants will be required to wear masks, no food or drinks will be provided but participants are encouraged to bring a water bottle. Each participant will take a brief health survey prior to entering the facility.
The cost for the morning is $20 per child. Children must be ages 6 - 12 years old to participate in this full morning of activities between 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
The program is funded in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council and Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
Register at www.dogwoodcenter.com, through the Dogwood Box Office, downtown Fremont at NCCA-Artsplace or click here. For information, phone 231.924.8885. The Dogwood Center is located one mile east of downtown Fremont.
Dogwood Center for the Performing Arts, 4734 S. Campus Court, Fremont, MI 49412
The NCCA-Artsplace Fall Community Photography Contest is a free annual contest for all ages and all levels of skill. The 2020 contest had 51 entries and award winners were selected by Dee Burkle of Awards and More.
The first place award was given to Aeriel Stroven of Fremont for her photograph “Autumn Umbra”. Second place was awarded to Avery Geisen of Grant for the entry “Fragmented” and Amalie Jansen of Fremont was awarded third place for “Flowers in the Sunrise”. An Honorable Mention award was given to Susan Gilliland of Hesperia for "Into the Woods".
All entries will be on display through October 31 in the corridor gallery at NCCA-Artsplace, 13 East Main Street in downtown Fremont.
On the Run: Events without the Busy Buzz
By Alexis Mercer
Most cross country meets that the Newaygo High School team attends throughout a typical season are large; consisting of hundreds of runners per race, with multiple races per day.
The Michigan State meet that takes place in mid-September, for example, would often contain more than 500 runners toeing the line per division. The gun would go off indicating runners could begin and the ground at Forest Akers Golf Course would tremble with the impact. With five high school divisions (both boys and girls) and also a college division, this meet meant thousands upon thousands of runners, spectators, and volunteers from the break of dawn until the sun was setting.
Covid changed all that.
Michigan State was canceled. The Portage Invite (the only invite we attend where schools from other states were allowed to travel to participate) canceled.
Other meets weren’t canceled completely but altered to meet the safety requirements given by the MHSAA and allow runners to still compete.
CSAA schools have added JV races to allow everyone to be able to participate as opposed to limiting the number of runners who can attend. Hill and Bale, an early season meet, limited the teams to 10 and allowed 7 runners per gender to compete.
So when Allendale sent out information saying they were changing format to allow all schools who had originally participated to be able to compete, I was thrilled. My athletes love the Allendale course. Its elevation change is perhaps 1 ft total. They run quickly and the weather most often seems to cooperate being that it is held in early October. Not too hot, not too cold.
There were annoying complications, like parents having to sign up early for spectator passes and an online system that wasn’t easy to navigate. But we would get to compete!
Allendale put on a lesson in event planning, however. The teams would be split up into geographical regions. 7 regions total competing between Friday evening and Saturday all day. No more than 7 teams per region and each team could then allow 10 runners to participate. Results would be compiled from all regions and handed out the following week.
All of this was impressive and I was grateful to them for finding a way to make the race work for our athletes.
But I have to say, as I pulled in to the nearly empty parking lot at 4:00 on Saturday afternoon, and found my team huddled in the location where we would have normally put our team tent, coolers, food, bags, and blankets, only with their one extra layer of clothing over their uniforms, I could only think of one description for what I was feeling: eerie.
The masses of people. The rolling off a bus at 6:30 am having watched the sun rise on the way to the meet. The smell of the caramel corn being made in person as you ordered right at the half mile mark. The volunteers holding back crowds to cross the track in order to get to the start line on the East side of the field. Sprinting through parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends who happen to live nearby and are so excited to watch a race to get to a point on the course where you could scream for your school’s athletes and be heard. Hearing over the loudspeaker to stay off the football field unless you are a runner.
It was all missing.
I’m grateful for any chance to compete in a safe way. I’m grateful to Allendale for being brave enough to rework a well-oiled machine and find a new format for their race. I’m grateful that my runners put their hearts on the line and ran the course with pride regardless the number of competitors in the field.
But I can’t help but think about just how eerie it all is.
Fremont’s Harvest Festival has Hay Art, Beer Tent & More
Ok no parade. We get it.
One of the best parades in the region has always been the Harvest Festival version, a cavalcade of marching merriment that provides an avenue for the innovation of entrants and generally a boatload of candy for kids on the curb.
Toss in an election year and the route would be seeing local and regional pols turn out to deliver a few waves, a few handshakes and hopefully some prime sweets for the kiddos since no one running for office wants to be remembered as a purveyor of cheap candy.
But not this year.
Festivals have mostly gone by the wayside in this era of pandemic produced postponements.
And this will certainly not be anywhere near the same as previous Harvest Fests.
But hey, there’s the ever popular Hay Art Contest, a Porch Decorating Contest, Downtown Sales Specials, a Dessert Contest…
And a Beer Tent.
Yes, Brew Works is hosting not only a beer tent but one that will include entertainment as the always entertaining group Yard Sale Underwear will be cranking out the tunes starting at 6pm.
So drive around and take in some Hay Art, help our local businesses by patronizing a store or two, hit the farmer’s market Saturday morning…
And pay a visit to Brew Works. It might not be a parade, but hey, when’s the last time you were at a good old small town festival beer tent?
Check out the Fremont Chamber of Commerce facebook page for more info.
And here’s your guide to Hay Art.
2020 Hay Art Locations List
Semlow Chiropractic 119 N. Stone Road
Gerber Life Insurance Corner of Stone and Hemlock
West Michigan Family Dental 517 N. Stone Road
Church of the Living Christ 605 Hemlock Street
Pathfinder Elementary 109 W. 44th St.
CBD Store of Michigan 37 E. Main Street
Five Star Real Estate – Wakefield Team 37 E. Main Street
Fremont Area District Library 104 E. Main Street
Fremont Lions Club Veterans Park
Crop Walk 2020 – Church of the Living Christ Veterans Park
Fremont Rotary Club Veterans Park
Fremont Area Chamber Veterans Park
WISE Veterans Park
The Original Print Shop 29 W. Main Street
Elsies Ice Cream Station 104 S. Division
Edward Jones – Lou Deleguardia 46 W. Sheridan
Fremont Dental 111 W. Dayton St.
Kent Scott Family 336 E. Elm St.
Fremont Christian Elementary School Decker Street
Vallejo Family 703 Connie Avenue
Ulnar Lawn Care & Newton Electric 7315 W. Lake Drive
Fremont Regional Digester 1634 Locust Street
Fremont Middle School 500 Woodrow Avenue
Compass Credit Union 115 S. Stone Road
Snipperz 937 W. Main St.
True North 6308 S. Warner Ave.
Laughing Stock Farm 9230 S. Warner Avenue
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