Supermom hosts exchange students

Back to school
EW writer Sarah Harmon hosts exchange students
EW writer Sarah Harmon hosts exchange students
By Sarah Harmon
EW writer
When I was in high school, I always loved befriending foreign exchange students. I never would have guessed that ten years after graduation, I would be the host mom of one of them.
Wandering around the Riverwalk Festival in July 2013, I stopped at a booth for an organization that sponsored exchange students coming to America. It turned out I was the minimum age for a host parent, and there was a girl that it looked like would be a good fit. I thought for a few days before deciding to go for it. In that time, the girl I had wanted found another family, but the program director had a profile of a Chinese girl she thought might work. I took a look at Xuan, not expecting to be impressed since I’m more interested in European culture than Asian.
Exchange student Xuan 2013-2014
Exchange student Xuan 2013-2014
Decisions like this should never be made lightly. You are committing to putting a lot of energy and countless hours into helping this student to experience America for almost ten months. After talking to friends and family at length about if Xuan was the right girl and if I was insane enough to do this, considering I was single with two jobs plus volunteer work, I went for it. There are a lot of things you take for granted that you never truly understand until you see your home through someone else’s eyes. For instance, living in a big city in China, Xuan had never been up close to horses, goats, or pigs. I thought she was crazy when she said you weren’t supposed to touch farm animals. We have petting zoos everywhere!
Holidays were another whole new experience. It’s hard for us to imagine meeting Santa for the first time as a 16 year old. Xuan didn’t know what to ask for, so she jokingly chose a unicorn. She left some excellent homemade cookies out for him, and Christmas morning, Santa brought her a toy unicorn. The look on her face was priceless. Old holiday traditions suddenly seem a lot less cheesy when you know this kid will only get one chance in her life to do them.
Sarah and Xuan
Sarah and Xuan
It was a lot of work, mostly because I wanted to be Supermom and do a thousand things with her. (She has the 107 page scrapbook to prove it!) Yes, we had our struggles (she hated American food), but overall I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Xuan cried all the way to the airport in June, and I cried the whole drive home. Despite saying I would take a year off, right now I’m cleaning up Xuan’s old room to welcome Eva from Austria this Sunday. It’s going to be another crazy year of hosting, but I’m looking forward to every minute of it.


Copyright (c) 2014 story by Sarah Harmon

Pink Arrow Pride phenomenon

Watch for a full story on the Pink Arrow Pride phenomenon and the woman behind it-Teresa Beachum of Lowell, MIchigan. Teresa became involved with the Pink Arrow project seven years ago after she received a phone call from varsity football coach Noel Dean.

“We didn’t know our goals then,” she said, “but we raised $98,000 the first year.”

The project has raised over one million dollars in six years to benefit cancer patients, students and programming at Gilda’s Club.

“Because everyone knows someone with cancer,” said Beachum. “Cancer does not discriminate. It strikes the young, the old, the students and retirees.”

Decked out in pink for the Pink Arrow project.
Decked out in pink for the Pink Arrow project.

Meet Bruce Doll-the fair man

Bruce Doll-the fair man
Bruce Doll-the fair man

Meet the people who make the Kent County Youth Fair happen

Bruce Doll is one of many people who make the Kent County Youth Fair happen along with fair manager Jessica Marks

Name: Bruce Doll

 Position: Vice President

 Residence: beautiful Vergennes township

 Education: Studied Computers and computer graphix at the New York Institute of Technology         ( not Oral Roberts University )

Experience: 16 years at the Computer Graphix Research Lab at New York Institute of Technology, 24 years IT Manager at Alternate Postal Direct

Family: My  son Tom and his wife Nicole, and son Justin

 Hobbies: Photography, woodworking

 How did you get started in the fair business?

I visited the Kent County Youth Fair 15 years ago while living in Kentwood and fell in love with it. I sent then a bunch of pictures I took to the board and was asked to attend a board meeting and the rest is history.

 What were some of the early challenges, and how did you overcome them?

My level of knowledge was about the same as the level of technology in use at the fair, very low.  However, the folks at fair, both the board and exhibitors are always willing to share their knowledge about agriculture and animals.  It was a bit harder for me to explain the technology side, when I talked about having a website I did get some blank stares.

 What were some of your early accomplishments?

We updated the computers and software and did some training.  The first website was created.

 What goals do you set for yourself?

I always try to make things better and provide a better experience for the general public and our exhibitors.  Programs such as Reading-for-Rides and the Handi-Capable day are always being tweaked.

 How do you accomplish them?

Lists — I am a list person.  I make lists and check off items as I get them done.  This is especially true during fair where I have a list of what needs to be done on each day.  This year the list was about 5 pages long.

 What motivates you?

When I hear people say the week of fair is the best week of the year. When I see hundreds of kids showcasing their projects.  When I see the smiles of the kids.  When the general public visits the fair, I hope that they realize how much work goes into the projects that the exhibitors do.  They learn what hard work is, and it shows in the quality of the projects.

 How do you want your peers/customers to view you?

I believe that you have to be passionate about what you do.  Yes, you can do something if you are not passionate about it, but the difference between doing something and doing something amazing comes when you are passionate about what you do.

 What gives the fair competitive advantage?

We provide a safe family friendly fair.  We have hardworking people who are great at what they do all coming together into what is fair. We provide a great experience for folks and it keeps them coming back year after year, generation after generation.

 How do you integrate technology and innovations into the fair?

We use a fair management software package that helps us with the exhibitor and livestock sale.  Our website, www.kcyf.org has all of the information about the fair for the general public and for exhibitors.  We use eventbrite.com to register people for various events, constant contact for our email blasts and of course, facebook.

How has the fair changed over the years?

It has changed significantly behind the scenes, but we try to keep our “look and feel” close what we have been doing for years.

 How do you make big projects happen? How long does it take ready for the fair?

When a project arises, there is almost always someone to take charge of it, otherwise we will volunteer someone.  We have a wrap-up meeting 2 weeks after fair and then we begin working on the next years fair.

 How do you make the fair thrive in hard economic times?

  We try to keep our prices down on rides and fair food.  We provide a good value. Our parking is one of the few ways that we make money to support our operating budget. Without our parking revenue, there probably would not be a fair.

How do you feel you have most contributed to the fair?

I have this problem with the word “No” in that I don’t use it much.  I currently manage the technology.  I also am the sponsorship and entertainment coördinator.

 What do you like most about it?

It just makes me happy.

 What makes you successful?

Again being passionate about what you do and also having great people who share the passion.

 What does a good/bad day at the fair look like?

There is no bad day at fair.

 What was new at the fair this year?

We had a dodge ball tournament, princess tea, and scavenger hunt, disc golf, Audacious Hoops, Alpacas! We had a new educational area that will be growing every year.  We added a book exchange to the Reading-for-Rides program that was a great success.

 Where do you see yourself and the fair in five years?

I see the same culture of our  fair in a new location that will provide us with the venue to improve what we do now and add more and more fun and educational aspects to the fair.

Copyright (c) 2014 All rights reserved by Emma Palova

Ella Konecny with flagship sweet and sour pickles.

Storefront preview

Hi to all,

I will soon be opening a brand new virtual storefront on all Emma Blogs. I will feature Czech-inspired products such as the Palinka (r) line of canned products.

The products such as the sweet and sour dill pickles are all home-made from an old family pickling recipe. The secret recipe has been handed down from generation to generation.

My mother Ella Konecny pictured in the featured photo started canning in the USA during her second immigration in the late 1970s. She didn’t like the sour taste of American pickles or the color.

She would stand up and imitate our grandpa Joseph making a grimace from the sour taste.

“See they twist your mouth,” she said. “We have to start making our own.”

Ella most likely learned how to can from her own mother Anna.

Mom and dad still grow their own cucumbers for pickling. But the weather hasn’t been great for pickles. Ella is also the woman behind the brand name “Palinka.”

My husband Ludek and I are the third generation canning these goodies in our outdoors kitchen.designed for this purpose. Because as  the Czech saying goes, “Be prepared to answer when winter asks you what you did in the summer.”

We use only fresh pickling cucumbers sorted by size and cut to the favorite spears, slices or whole. We can other vegetables like red beets and gardiniera mix.

We also make salsa and marinara sauces with either Merlot and basil or Cabernet-Sauvignon with garlic, as well as barrel-aged sauerkraut.

We plan to add more products in the future.


Palinka (R) line of canned goods such as the sweet and sour dill pickles made from an old family pickling recipe.  The prices will be $6 per pint and $9 per quart. The gift packages of three different varieties in a wooden carved Michigan box will be $39.99 Stay tuned for the official opening on all Emma Blogs soon.
Palinka (r) line of canned goods such as the sweet and sour dill pickles made from an old family pickling recipe.
The prices will be $6 per pint and $9 per quart.
The gift packages of three different varieties in a wooden carved Michigan box will be $39.99
Stay tuned for the official opening on all Emma Blogs soon.


I will also present  my blog design and writing services in an app Emma Blogs format coming soon.

Let me know what you would like to see in this big marketplace by emailing me at emmapalova@yahoo.com

Or you can comment on any of the sites of Emma Blogs. These are:








I am looking forward to this new venture.


Emma Palova

http:// emmapalova.com



Kent County Youth Fair

Come to the fair
By Sarah Harmon
EW writer Sarah Harmon in Paris
EW writer Sarah Harmon in Paris
If you’re a country boy or country girl, the first week of August in Lowell, Michigan is a little slice of heaven. For the past eighty years, the Kent County Youth Fair has been serving up some of the best free entertainment on this side of the state. The barns are always filled with dozens of cows, pigs, goats, horses, chickens, and rabbits, but this fair is about a lot more than checking out the animals from local farms. The kids and teens involved learn valuable lessons from the months they spend preparing: getting up at 4am to feed their calf, training their animals to behave properly, and putting together presentations for judges. All we often see is a barn full of critters, but what the Kent County Youth Fair staff see is a group of kids who will become hard-working, talented, and confident adults.
The biggest day of the fair is the auction on Thursday
The biggest day of the fair is the auction on Thursday
Not a big animal lover? No matter your age, they’ve got something perfect for you. Ionia County may have a circus, but Kent County has Audacious Hoops! After watching one of this group’s energetic performances, you will never look at a hula hoop the same way again. The best part is that Audacious Hoops offers classes in two Grand Rapids locations, so you have the opportunity to learn their techniques for next year’s fair.
Kids are running to the library to prepare for Tuesday August 5. In a brilliant collaboration with KDL, the KCYF is once again offering Reading for Rides where kids who read five books can go on all the rides free noon to 4pm. After all that reading, don’t worry if your child complains about having no new, interesting books in the house. This year, as part of Reading for Rides, there will be a free book exchange where they can drop off old books and pick up some new ones.
Between the talent shows, Bingo, karaoke, and tractor pulls, it’s remarkable just how much they can squeeze into one week at the fair. Every day is different, so you can bring the family to Non-profit Wednesday then come back for a whole new experience on Handi-Capable Friday. However, if you can only make it once, Saturday is the time to go. The day’s events include an artist creating sidewalk art, dollar rides, and disc golf. You won’t regret a day or more at the Kent County Youth Fair, but if you miss out, you’ve got a whole year to wait for your next chance.
Here are some of the fair highlights:
Monday Aug. 4th Carnival rides open $14 mega pass specials
Tuesday Aug. 5th Reading for rides, kids read and ride for free
Wednesday Aug. 6th Wristband special $18 mega pass, community day
Thursday Aug. 7th Agricultural day, livestock auction, small animal and large animal sales
Friday Aug. 8th handi-capable day, family line dance with Lia’s line dancing and dance
Saturday Aug. 9th Kids day, sidewalk chalk fun, princess tea party, puff the dragon pedal pull
Tractor pulls are on Monday with weigh in at 6 p.m. and open event at 7 p.m.
Team tractor pull is on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and draft horse demonstration at 7 p.m.
Draft horse pull is on  Wednesday at 7 p.m.
For more information go to http://www.kcyf.org
Copyright (c) 2014 story by Sarah Harmon

Emma Blogs LLC


Follow Emma Blogs LLC team as we roll into summer and fall for a magic time. Advertise and email emmapalova@yahoo.com for rates.

Originally posted on ehealthbeauty:

Follow the EW flagship team as we move ahead with our rolling portfolio of blogs. We will be bringing to you health, beauty and fashion news. The main Internet journal is at http://emmapalova.com

The focus at ehealth will be on wellness, prevention and living a happy full life.

The old-fashioned beauty of hydrangeas cannot be substituted.
The old-fashioned beauty of hydrangeas cannot be substituted.

Coming soon is Emma Palova’s personal story about her cataract eye surgeries and bouncing back after almost complete blindness.

See story Waiting for Dr. Verdier on http://emmapalova.com

I wrote about Dr.Verdier while freelancing for the Grand Rapids Magazine and Advance Newspapers about 10 years ago. At the time I did not expect I would be needing a surgery so soon.

“Hello youngster,” greeted me Dr.Verdier during evaluation last month.

“You’re the youngest person in here,” said the anesthesiologist later in the surgery room.

“Yes, everything is relative in this world,” I said.

I am…

View original 18 more words

Bannister Dozinky Harvest Festival 2009

Czech traditions in the US

Czech traditions continue in the US


EW Emma’s Writings

Bannister, MI- Always held on the first Sunday in August, the Czech Harvest Festival in Bannister is by far the best kept secret around.

I discovered it while writing for the Ionia Sentinel-Standard, I received a press release from an insurance agency in Owosso about 13 years ago.

The one-paragraph press release was simple, but it did entice me to explore the “Dozinky” Harvest Midwest style.

Czech dances in Bannister, MI in traditional costumes custom made in Czech and Slovak republics.
Czech dances in Bannister, MI in traditional costumes custom made in Czech and Slovak republics.

“Come and sample traditional Czech fare of dumplings, pork and sauerkraut. Dance the afternoon away with polka. Watch the dancers in their colorful costumes,” the press release read.

Since then, we’ve been going to the festival at least every two years.

Following is a video interview by Brianna Prochaska with some of the younger participants of the “Dozinky” Harvest Festivals held all over the USA.

My personal favorite is the accordion music by mostly local people. As the old Czech saying goes, “There is a musician in all Czechs.”

What amazes me is that the language is the hardest to keep alive for  more than 100 years of Czech immigration to the US.  Most festival organizers and women chefs do not speak Czech. But other than that, a small group of people has preserved everything from costumes, dances, music to food.

The universal word here in Bannister is “kolacki.” Kolacki are traditional Czech, Slovak, and Lithuanian pastries filled with cottage cheese and raisins topped with plum butter. Kolacki are a festive dessert used at celebrations such as weddings.

Festive kolacki
Festive kolacki


The food is a complete Czech feast consisting of dumplings, sauerkraut, pork, ham and chicken. The ham and breaded chicken are American changes. But the cucumber salad with sour cream is as Czech as it gets.

Traditional Czech fare of pork, sauerkraut and dumplings
Traditional Czech fare of pork, sauerkraut and dumplings

And as I watch the dancers in Bannister every year or so, listen to the accordions, enjoy Czech food, and check out the old paintings in ZCBJ Lodge in the middle of nowhere, I admire the people behind this event. Most of them have never been to Czech Republic let alone at a classic “veselka.”

The men carry ladies up in a traditional Czech dance.
The men carry ladies up in a traditional Czech dance.

What the Dozinky organizers  have recreated, preserved and continue to pass on to next generations is almost a miracle. I can safely say that most people in the old country don’t know how to dance polka, czardas, or mazurka. The Czech Harvest in Bannister is a testimony that human spirit and determination will always prevail.

The lead dancers are Tom and Diane Bradley. Diane also teaches the youngest troop of dancers.

One of all time favorites for the little ones is the song, “Mela babka ctyri jabka a dedousek jen dve,” or in English: Grandma had four apples, while grandpa had only two. “Give me an apple, grandma, and we’ll be equal.”

According to  the chairman of the festival Tom Bradley’s “Pamatnik” published for the 100th anniversary of the ZCBJ Lodge in 2011,the Czechs and Slovaks immigrated to Central Michigan around 1904 from Chicago and Cleveland. They were recruited to work the sugar beet fields. Eventually they worked on their own farms. And the recruiters had to look for different workers from big cities.

The Dozinky Harvest Festival will be held on Aug. 3, 2014 with dinner served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $10 for adults and $3 for children. Get in early, the food does run out.

Authentic gifts such as garnet jewelry and Czech cookbooks are also available.

The program begins at 2:30 p.m. with Bill Nemanis. The dance starts at 4 p.m. at ZCBJ Lodge.

The dinner is preceded by a mass with polka arrangements at the Chuch of Cyril and Methodej.

For more information go to : http://www.czechevents.net/events

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova, video by Brianna Prochaska

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