Photos and Story by Alexis Mercer
Newaygo's annual Christmas Walk, where the streets downtown are closed to traffic other than the horses and carriages that pull people down the middle of the road to see the full view, was held on Friday, December 5.
Businesses stay open late, Newaygo Jazz band performs on stage, the Christmas tree that elementary students decorate with handmade ornaments gets lit, vendors sell (or give away) hot chocolate, donuts, popcorn and an array of other treats, and people of all ages are able to walk and enjoy the town together to somewhat unofficially kick off the Christmas season.
The NCCA-Artsplace Holiday Card Contest had 536 entries this year from Newaygo County students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The 2019 contest winners were selected by local graphic artist Nate Bender.
The award winning selections were from A’Brehn Aprile from Big Jackson School, Dana Rumsey from Fremont Christian School; Aiven Warmbein from Newaygo Elementary School; Francesca Crescenzo from White Cloud High School; Abigale Hoaglin from Grant High School; and Claire Magers from Fremont Middle School. The selected students received 20 cards of their design as well as having their original design framed. The award winning cards are available for purchase at NCCA-Artsplace.
The winning entries will be on display through December 28 at NCCA-Artsplace, 13 East Main Street in downtown Fremont.
Ready to try a new direction when it comes to gifting? Tired of looking around with no clear idea of what to get then settling for a quick panic grab of something that will likely never see the light of day again once opened? Want something practical and yet a little fun? A gift that is likely to be remembered?
How about meat?
I’m talking bacon, sausage, chops, maybe a loin or two or even some combination of pork related products. After all, while aware of the number of vegans and vegetarians among our readership there remains a great deal of folks whose carnivorous habits have been maintained for the better part of their lives.
And they really really love meat.
But you don’t want to gift someone just any meat, correct? You want high quality stuff. Something a bit special. A meat that says “Merry Christmas”.
Well, we have an idea...
Years ago Jay and Sarah Cleveland decided to strive for a more self sufficient lifestyle. They bought acreage, built a house and began to add outbuildings as their livestock grew to chickens goats and eventually the hogs.
“It started out to be just raising meat for our family then we last year we became a state licensed meat processor.” Sarah explained.
And so began the story of Happy Hog Farm, a local opportunity for carnivores to get a hold of some quality pork raised by folks who truly care for the animals in their keep.
Sarah talks of the farm and their livestock with such a deep and abiding love for what she and Jay have built from a desire to tend to their animals in a humane manner.
“We want the animals we raise to enjoy their time here. We want them to have good lives,” she explained.
From the tour we took on behalf of SWK the animals were indeed well cared for.
The goats welcomed me with an attempt at a nibble on my jacket that might have been successful had Sarah not warned me of their less than selective feeding options.
From there we visited a couple of moms-to-be in their farrowing stalls. All the hogs are born on the farm and not purchased elsewhere as piglets.
We also met their Livestock Guardian Dog, an impressive Great Pyrenees named Tao who eyed me with what seemed like more than a trace of suspicion. My hunch is Tao performs her duties well given her vigilance regarding my presence.
The Clevelands are a busy lot with 3 school age children at home and Jay’s regular job consuming a lot of time but they are committed to delivering a high quality product raised locally without corn or soy in their diet and raised with caring and kindness as well.
While Sarah handles the business end of HHF her gratitude for her husband’s contribution runs deep.
“Without Jay none of this would be possible,” she stated. “He works so incredibly hard on every single one of his days off of his regular job to keep this farm running and he is the main meat cutter in the shop.
“His role is so vital.”
Their porcine prowlers have ample room to mill about doing their thing (mainly rooting and digging) on the HHF grounds. Unlike large operations who keep their livestock confined and contained these pigs can go ‘hog wild’ in a wooded area where they are allowed to roam about a bit. Their diet is free of GMOs and their ability to have a varied fare produces a more flavorful taste.
As Sarah called them out of the barn for an appearance they pushed and nudged to get a little attention from her.
This past summer Happy Hog Farm set up shop on Saturdays at the Grant Farmers Market and won over a following and are now offering CSA’s where an early investment brings fresh meat to your door all year round.
Sarah has become a sausage creator blending mixtures of spices and flavorings to add a personal touch to their product. She admits the taste testing is run through the family first for approval.
And the results?
Well, a package of “Seriously Good Hot Dogs” that came home with us lived up to their name the evening after our visit. As Sarah had explained the texture differs from most ‘traditional’ dogs one gets at a grocery store but the taste was superb and when garnished with just a touch of some really good mustard they moved from superb to sublime. The experience has admittedly altered my personal weenie world a bit.
The Happy Hog Farm has gift certificates available because if you leave pork chops under the tree Santa may not get them but a furry friend could very well nose them out and besides you’d have to keep it in a cooler which might give away the whole surprise even if the cooler was wrapped and all.
So yeah, gift certificates.
And if meat gifting may not suit your needs, hitting them up for some main course Christmas Dinner material could certainly be in the offing and add a nice local touch to the feast.
Because if the rest of their meat proves to be as tasty as those hot dogs?
I’m in. Way in.
You can contact Happy Hog Farm through their facebook site
Or by giving them a call at 616.446.4059.
The Spanish-Language (English supertitles) theatrical presentation El país sin nombre (the country without a name) will be presented by Grant Middle School students in the Grant Fine Arts Center at 6pm on Wednesday. It is a short comedy about the importance of memory.
Doings this weekend
For many years the Friends of the White Cloud Library have been putting on a dinner event with small decorative trees and wreaths on the auction block (silent auction block, that is). Swiss steak is the star of the dinner held at the Eagles Club and proceeds will go toward the groups efforts to help the WCCL the well loved oasis of fun and learning in the county seat. Friday 4:30-7pm, 8 bucks a plate and some truly fine looking trees and wreaths on display for perusal and purchase.
Friday at 6pm is the Christmas Walk a time honored downtown Newaygo tradition that has closed the streets to all but horse drawn carriages wandering carolers and holiday revelers for over a decade. It is all the chestnut roasting, wagon riding, Santa sitting fun one can have in a 2 hour binge. If you’ve never been, it is a wonderful way to generate a little seasonal spark. And if you have? You’re likely a regular.
We recall being at the inaugural St. Nick Kick when a collection of brave souls took off in a bit of a snowstorm to benefit the Newaygo Cross Country program.
Man, has it grown. The SNK has become one of the area’s ‘must’ runs and they do it really well and we’re not saying that just because Newaygo Cross Coach Alexis Mercer is the N3 Editor.
Well, maybe partly but it’s still a great race and if we ever decided to extend our footwork beyond trips to the mailbox this would be the race we would run.
Saturday afternoon you can head back up to the Cloud for more Christmas doings from Noon to 3pm. Lots of events and activities and Santa will be making an appearance as well.
Bellewether has their annual open house Saturday from 11am-3pm featuring pet photos with Santa, their always enticing dog and cat calendars, pet (and human) goodies and toys because pets can never have enough toys. Microchipping is also available so if Bowser or Sylvester tends to wander this process provides a little insurance should they get a bit lost.
Not had your fill of craft shows? If you want to travel to GR Saturday 9am-3pm the one they annually hold at West Catholic has been one of the premier shows in our Metro neighbor to the south for many years but if you still have the itch and want to keep it local check out the one at Grant Christian School starting at 10am.
Got a wreath-making desire going? The Howard Christensen Nature Center where you can fashion a grapevine wreath with foraged cuttings and personalize it with trimmings. Everything supplied, including refreshments for the bargain price of 10 bucks for non members and a mere fin for members.
Our columnist Megan (Megan Again) has organized a caroling tour of some local nursing homes for Sunday.
Here’s the skinny straight from the keyboard of writer/singer/domestic goddess Ms. Wirts.
Join me my friends and family in spreading joy this holiday season by singing some classic carols together!
We will meet on Sunday December 8th at 12:00pm in the parking lot at Fountain View Retirement Village in Grant. We plan to also travel to the Newaygo Medical Care Facility in Fremont, meeting there at 4:00pm. Dress festively! I will provide song lyrics and a loud voice. Raven will be bringing her ukulele, otherwise we will be doing this acapella. Invite others to join! The more the merrier!
If you’ve any small ones at home or have the rep at being that ‘Fun’ aunt call up and get tickets to the Velveteen Rabbit production at the Dogwood Sunday at 3pm. If you know the story you will love this version and so will the littles you bring. If you don't know the story you will still love it and perhaps be buying yourself the book for Christmas.
And Sunday night you can wrap up the weekend with the annual River Country Community Choir Concert at the Grant Fine Arts Center beginning at 6pm. Over 50 folks will be tuning up their vocal chords to entertain attendees with some really fine choral arrangements for just a free will offering as the price of admission and proceeds heading to Love INC.
We know, we know it’s a lot and there is likely more on the way but hey, January and February are going to give you ample time to hunker in and do a little hibernating so get out there and revel folks.
A visit to The Original Print Shop
"It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
Putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace.”-Joni Mitchell.
If you’re a Joni fan you know the song referenced above turns into one of her episodic offerings of angst driven laments to love lost.
But the part we quoted from the start of the song rings true because yes it is indeed ‘coming on Christmas’ and if you are like many out there who eschew Black Friday and barely log on during cyber Monday, you my friend, likely have some serious shopping to do.
We at SWK perceive your present pursuing perturbation and will take a stab at helping by stopping into a few places and hopefully delivering the skinny on some novel gifting opportunities.
Perplexed about presents? Today’s visit may be right up the proverbial personal alley.
A bit over a year ago Steve and Genji LeClair launched The Original Print Shop in downtown Fremont by hosting an epic inaugural peek attended by dozens of community and business leaders and following up with the grandest of grand openings.
Since that time the ‘user-friendly’ enterprise has made its mark in our parts for their exceptional customer service to be sure but most of all for their ability to innovate.
“If you have a vision, we can put it into place.”
Those were the words of Emily Anson who kindly showed us around a bit while patiently answering our queries.
While they are adept at business cards, banners and the usual printing needs , TOPS offers a slew of gifting ideas and the crew who ply their craft at the shop embrace any challenges that come their way.
“We specialize in unique and there are few things we can’t reproduce.”
The shop is loaded with idea items as custom ornaments, shirts, aprons, wine sets, coffee mugs combine with little surprises at every turn. Each item begs to be personalized for the kind of gift that reaches beyond the item and into a heartfelt memory.
We pressed Emily for her favorite among the items and she revealed her attraction to the comfortable looking sweater blankets while of course pointing out the ability of the shop to personalize these and adding “as we can any item.”
But let’s just say you have an idea. A concept, really.
Maybe an old family photo that might bring a laugh when on a shirt or stein, or perhaps an image that bears reproducing in a different format like in a jigsaw puzzle or a Christmas stocking.
“If you don’t know if it can be done, we can do it,” was the phrase Ms. Anson employed.
So, those of you out there who might be weighing a few ideas, contemplating some concepts or nudging along a notion or two?
Here’s your shot at finally bringing to fruition the great idea that most years comes to mind too late to do anything about it. Turning "what I should have done.." into a premier presenting production.
Embrace it! This is your year!
And the kind and clever creators at The Original Print Shop?
They are there for you.
Beginning Monday the store will be presenting the 12 Sweet Deals of Christmas, a candy inspired initiative offering new daily deals a dozen days in a row.
The Original Print Shop is located at 29 West Main Street. They are open 8:30am-5:30pm Monday through Friday and from 10am-2pm Saturdays.
Tell them Ken sent you and you will likely hear that familiar refrain…
By Marsha Reeves
Most everyone has heard of a Farmer’s Market, and we have several good ones in our area. But you may not have heard of an AUTHOR’S MARKET. On Saturday, November 30th (Small Business Saturday) Flying Bear Books and Studio 37 Gallery in Newaygo are teaming up to host one from 10 AM to 4 PM.
Eleven local authors will be set up with their books to sell (and sign) at both Flying Bear Books and Studio 37, downtown on State Road in Newaygo. You get to talk to them, ask them about their books and writing, visit about whatever you’d like and check out the books written by our impressive LOCAL AUTHORS! Who knew so much talent has been lurking in the woods around here?
Featured Authors are:
Nan Pokerwinski, Gabe Schillman, Sandy Bernard, Susan King, Tim Hawkins, KL Stedman, Joan Young, Joseph Sparga, Wendy Kok, Ron Robotham, and Ken Ra. Five of the authors are from Newaygo County and six are within a 50 mile radius of Newaygo. Their books are about all kinds of things: Childrens Books (including a delightful mystery), Poetry, The Supernatural, Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Nonfiction/Memoir, and Sci/Fi Fantasy. The books these authors are offering have titles like “The Snitch, The Witch, and The One Who Was Rich”, “Autumn’s Moon: The Beast Within Saga, “Mango Rash” and “Gabriel and the Woodlings”
This is a rare opportunity to find out what’s going on in the local literary scene as well as to find some very special holiday gifts. Come check it out!
Take 3 "Together for the Holidays" at Dogwood on December 12
Featuring vocalist Lauren Jelencovich with musical trio Take 3, the program “Together for the Holidays” features a variety of holiday favorites including "O Holy Night", "The First Noel", "Silent Night", "White Christmas", "Let it Snow" and many more. This unbeatable collaboration of holiday tunes is a perfect way to usher in the holidays! Join us at the Dogwood Center on Thursday, December 12, 7:30 p.m. for a wonderful performance!
With a flair for the wild and unexpected Take 3, brings the refinement of a rigorous classical music background and infuses it with rock-star charisma. Whether performing their take on pop, jazz, movie themes, or classical tunes, they bring roof-raising energy to their performances and have been exhilarating audiences across the country. No strangers to the stage as individuals, they have made an impact on the music scene as soloists, touring the world with Yanni, recording tracks for film and television, and as soloists in front of symphony orchestras.
With her limitless enthusiasm and vast gifts as a performer and entertainer, violinist Lindsay Deutsch, is a charismatic and captivating presence on today’s music scene. She has thrilled audiences world-wide with her passion for music and brilliant display of technique and musicianship. She has toured as a solo violinist with Yanni.
Vocalist Lauren Jelencovich has garnered great acclaim for her affecting and sparkling portrayals of opera and musical theater roles throughout the United States and abroad. She has performed at venues including Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the Santa Barbara Bowl, and toured extensively with Yanni.
Born and raised in Southern California, cellist Lila Yang is passionate about promoting classical music to the younger generation of listeners as well as bringing it to less-reached communities throughout the world. Ms.Yang serves as faculty at Cal State Music Clinic.
Pianist Irene Kim's performances have been heard across North America and Europe in recitals, chamber ensembles, and as a soloist with top orchestras around the globe. Irene’s professional training has been centered at the Peabody Conservatory, where she recently received her Doctorate in Musical Arts.
The presenting sponsors of Take 3 with Lauren Jelencovich at the Dogwood Center are HS&C Wealth Management - a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. and H&S Companies. Tickets are $25.00 for adults and $10 for children 18 and under, 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.
Lots of pre Holiday doings on tap
Ok, so when the Board of Public Works decided to move recycling in White Cloud to alleviate the ongoing problem of unwanted and illegal dumping of non recyclables. (Really? You think a toilet or a chair or paint cans are recyclable? Sheesh) they wanted some signage so they sent off an order for a brand spanking new one.
Uh oh. Apparently sign folks don’t have access to spellcheck because the sign came back spelled Recyclying. BPW Chair Dale Twing has sent the sign back with detailed instructions as to the correct spelling.
And he didn’t need spellcheck.
Things at the North Pole apparently haven’t heated up to the point of needing the boss around so Santa is making an early appearance at Havemens Hometown Pharmacy in Newaygo from 1-3pm Saturday.
Rumors surrounding the possible appearance of HHP front liner Melissa Bergsma as Mrs. Claus have not been substantiated.
Who doesn’t love a parade? And how about fireworks? There’s a lotta love out there for fireworks given the incredible half-life on fb when it comes to comments on our local ‘works store.
Well, in Sparta Friday night you can get both with a parade beginning at 545pm and fireworks starting at 7pm.
Check out the Sparta Today site for more info.
Saturday’s Drop-In Art at the NCCA Artsplace features feather design from 11am-noon details at
Got Music? We do.
Friday brings the Denise Anderson Connection to the RiverStop Saloon starting at 830pm.
New Brew Co Acoustic Lunch series features Coty Bouchard Saturday Noon-4pm.
Saturday night at the 7 Mile Inn fans of Backwoods Express can get their fill Saturday starting at 9pm.
And next Wednesday, incidentally one of the biggest bar days of the year (go figure, day before a family holiday). If you’ve got someone heading home for a visit who would like to reconnect with friends and maybe explore the possibility of relocating back here in this vibrant and versatile slice of bi-peninsular living have them pre register (free drink ticket) for the doings put on by The Right Place at Lakes 23 or even just show up.
New eatery bridges the distance in time, space between Newaygo and central Mexico
An offering from: The Clandestine Culinarian
On M-37, during a late November lunch hour, La Paloma was a beacon in the cold. Barely two weeks open, the restaurant attracted a steady stream of diners that picked up as noon approached. In the spare yet spacious dining room, Spanish mingled with English. The menu, still in its infancy, didn’t stray far from the standbys. Tacos. Burritos. Tortas.
La Paloma and its food, however, owes its soul and its inspiration to San Luis Potosí, 2,026 miles south of its current home in Newaygo, in the modest space that used to be River City Pizza.
That’s where the sign just inside La Paloma’s front door, under the counter, comes from. The weathered marquee once graced a taco stand there, an enterprise of the family two generations earlier, announcing its barbacoa and gorditas. Today, the matriarch behind the stove prepares her comida as they would in central Mexico.
La Paloma’s tacos reminded my dining companion of the ones he used to get in west Grand Rapids 40 years ago when Central American migrants first put down roots along the Grandville Avenue corridor and made their tacos the only way tacos should be made: meat nestled in two fluffy soft corn tortillas, studded with chopped onions and cilantro.
At La Paloma, the tacos come three to an order, at $9. The meat options, for now, are steak, pork and chicken. Somewhere down the road, more exotic cuts but wholly appropriate to tacos from central Mexico could be added to the starting lineup. Lengua, or beef tongue, most likely. Tripe is already making a cameo at La Paloma, in its Sunday menudo, the bright restorative soup of cow stomach cooked for hours until meltingly soft, adding an unctuous silky beefiness to the caldo and swimming together in red broth with other good things, like onions and corn.
When the stars align, that tripe might someday jump from caldo to tacos.
For today, we feasted on steak tacos and steak torta.
First, the tacos.
La Paloma piles generous heapings of chopped, tender steak, perfectly seasoned and seared. The trouble with many places that claim to put steak in their tacos is the sad mistreatment of the steak itself. Too many places throw a hunk of meat into a tepid pan. The pan eventually musters the energy to come to heat. The meat slowly turns grey. Water seeps out of the beef, which is effectively boiled. Adding insult to injured beef, these places also tend to skimp on the salt and pepper. The result is bland, wet and leathery beef, disintegrating the corn or flour vessel in which it rides.
Not so at La Paloma.
The steak is briskly cooked on a scorchingly hot surface. Salt, the unifying spice, is generously added. The matriarch in the back robustly seasons the steak. Fond and microscopically crispy bits of charred beef cling to the steak, even after it is chopped and ladled into the double blanket of corn taco.
In the torta, for $7, that same sliced and chopped steak reclines on a bed of creamy beans, diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce. Sliced avocado and cheese straddle the steak. Everything goes between a bolillo (BOW-lee-yo) bun, the slightly sweet, sturdy plate-sized bun that is toasted just before serving, glistening, and the only bread any self-respecting torta should ever be made from.
And because half the fun of eating most foods is the saucing, La Paloma conveniently leaves squeeze bottles of green and red salsa out for anyone to grab, whenever they want to, however often. Tomatillos undergird the salsa verde. Chile de arbol provide the foundation for the salsa roja. The green salsa packs a gentle heat that dances among the slight tanginess of the tomatillos. For the red salsa, heat lingered under the smokiness and sugar of the chile de arbol. Do you need either salsa? Should anyone watch a movie on mute?
The wind outside may have been howling, and old snow still crusted the side of M-37. But with that torta and those tacos in hand, a glass of horchata – sweet rice milk laced with cinnamon – to wash everything down, everyone in La Paloma’s dining room should be forgiven if they felt, through the magic of food and however fleetingly, as though they were in San Luis Potosi.
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