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Caitlin Sievers / CAITLIN SIEVERS 

Latora Lizotte, a Carthage College costume design major, recently won a national distinguished costume design award from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. 

Kraut Fest
Former Kraut Fest co-chair under investigation; 2019 festival canceled

MOUNT PLEASANT — Mount Pleasant Police are investigating Jim Svoboda, the former co-chairman of Kraut Music Fest and former director of Caledonia-Mount Pleasant Memorial Park, according to Caledonia Village Administrator Tom Christensen.

“I am aware of an ongoing criminal investigation,” Christensen said.

Christensen declined to comment further but did confirm that Kraut Music Fest is canceled for this year. He referred any further questions related to the investigation to the Mount Pleasant Police Department.

“We can’t legally discuss an ongoing criminal investigation; however, once the investigation is concluded we will release further information,” an email from Matthew Soens, interim police chief of the Mount Pleasant Police Department, stated.

The statement posted to Kraut Music Fest's Facebook page on Friday announcing the 2019 festival's cancellation.

During a special meeting of the Joint Park Commission on March 21, commissioners put Svoboda on unpaid leave and converted his pay to "an hourly rate when needed and designated by the Joint Park Commission President or Caledonia Village Administrator or designee," according to meeting minutes. The commission then voted to terminate Svoboda's employment effective March 25. He resigned as Memorial Park’s director on March 22.

When asked about Svoboda leaving the village and involvement with Kraut Fest, Maureen Murphy, Mount Pleasant village administrator, stated: “The village cannot legally discuss ongoing criminal investigations.”

Village President Dave DeGroot said Svoboda did resign from the village and added Svoboda was a big part of the organization of Kraut Fest.

“It’s kind of a delicate situation,” DeGroot said.

Kraut Fest’s website appears to have been largely erased, and the festival’s Facebook page has been wiped of any mention of Kraut Fest 2019, other than a post made Friday afternoon announcing this year’s cancellation.

“Due to circumstances beyond our control, as well as the untimely resignation of the parks supervisor and Kraut Music Fest Chair, we’ve lost too much valuable time to continue planning and secure adequate sponsorship for the festival,” the post read.

It continued, “As they say, we are down but not out. We will be exploring all options to bring a bigger and better Kraut Festival back for 2020.”

Any mentions to Kraut Fest 2019 have also been removed from Memorial Park’s Facebook page.

Founder: Svoboda dismissed me

Ray Stibeck, who brought Kraut Music Fest back in 2015, said Svoboda dismissed him in the latter part of 2016, after that year’s event. Svoboda was then chairman of the Joint Caledonia-Mount Pleasant Parks Commission. Since Svoboda’s March 22 resignation as director of Caledonia-Mount Pleasant Memorial Park, Stibeck said he has been talking with trustees of both villages about the Svoboda/Kraut Fest situation.

At the time, Stibeck was the founder of the resurrected event and chairman of the Kraut Fest Committee.

Stibeck said Svoboda had ousted him from the music fest that Stibeck restarted by telling the Parks Commission “that Ray didn’t want to do it anymore.”

“He wanted to handle everything,” Stibeck added.

Knowing now that Svoboda is under investigation for possible embezzlement, Stibeck said, “It adds up.”

“I’m hearing tens of thousands of dollars (are involved),” he said.

As of midday Monday, Stibeck said he had not yet been interviewed by police, but he was expecting that may be likely.

“All my money and investment was basically for nothing,” said Stibeck, owner of the Route 20 bar, restaurant and concert venue.

“The worst thing,” Stibeck said, “is that a good event that I started is going to be shadowed by this scandal.”

Lori Giese, co-owner of Perfecturf Lawn Care, one of Kraut Fest’s sponsors, said she sent a sponsorship check to the festival in February. She said that as of two weeks ago, the check had not been cashed, but it has not been returned to her.

Festival officials never contacted Giese to alert her to any ongoing issues, she said, and she only found out about the cancellation through Facebook. Svoboda also did not reply to an email she sent in March, she said. The Journal Times has also not been able to contact Svoboda.


National Senior League Wii Bowling Playoffs
These seniors can roll: Finding fun, community in online Wii bowling league

WATERFORD — Carol Schoenherr skipped getting blood work done for this. She wasn’t going to miss a playoff match for some pesky doctor’s appointment.

Thursday was the third round of the National Senior League Wii Bowling Playoffs, and her team — the Sparklers of Waterford Senior Living, 301 S. Sixth Street — were facing the Minnesota-based Niners.

At 96 years old, Schoenherr doesn’t pretend to be as spry as she once was. But she’s still pretty good at bowling, on the Nintendo Wii video game system at least.

She’s one of four bowlers on the Sparklers team. After posting a respectable 7-7 record in the regular season, competing remotely against more than 200 teams in other senior living facilities across the U.S., the Sparklers survived third round of the playoffs to make it to the final 24 teams.

Fun and Pickles

It’s been a fun ride this season, which started back in February. They don’t take it too seriously, despite how competitive the team, led by Gene Klug, can get.

“You’ve got to find your spot,” Klug advises his teammates.

In photos: Wii Bowling becomes fun, social tradition at Waterford senior center

Carol Schoenherr, a team member of the Sparklers, bowls on the Nintendo Wii during a National Senior League playoff match Thursday at Waterford Senior Living. Her teammate Gene Klug looks on.

Once your spot is identified, it’s easy to find strikes — Klug rolled a personal-best 257, with eight total strikes including six in a row, on Thursday.

There are 280 teams divided into 35 conferences in the NSL. The Golden Girls, also playing out of Waterford, won their conference with a 13-1 record, but couldn’t pick up enough splits to survive the playoffs.

Joanne Perhan — a member the Golden Girls who is known for her catchphrase “Pickles,” which she says whenever she misses her spot — bowled for more than 30 years in her younger days. Now she’s come to love her semiweekly bowling sessions: one practice a week, one match online.

“It’s been great, great fun. We look forward to it,” she said, waving a pompom as she cheers on the Sparklers.

Like Perhan, a lot of other seniors bowled in their youth. Schoenherr is one of them.

“I’ve always bowled,” Schoenherr said. “This is easy and it’s fun.”


Waterford Senior Living residents, including Golden Girls team member Joanne Perhan at right, cheer on the Sparklers during their Wii Bowling National Senior League playoff match on Thursday.

Google+ helps police catch alleged crook

MOUNT PLEASANT — A cell phone linked to a Google+ account reportedly stolen from an area home helped police track and later arrest one of two suspects allegedly responsible for a wave of burglaries that took place in April.

The game’s longevity

The Nintendo Wii came out in November 2006, and its appeal hasn’t dwindled much.

The record for most perfect 300 games in Wii bowling is 20,000 (not a typo). That milestone was reached in 2015 by an octogenarian from Onalaska, John Bates, according to Guinness World Records.

Some studies have indicated that bowling on the Wii can improve balance, but the results weren’t conclusive.

What is conclusive is that, at least in Waterford, Wii bowling has brought people together.

Video games certainly aren’t only for kids, not anymore at least. A 2015 study found that nearly a fourth, 23%, of all video game players in the U.S. were older than 50.

Friendship and community

“It’s such a social, fun activity,” Rhiannon Noble, the center’s activity director, said. “I think it’s really important, as people age, to stay active and especially stay social … We’re breaking that stigma that, at a senior care facility, there’s nothing to do.”

Noble said she found out about the league through word of mouth from other senior activity directors around the country and state.

Dennis Berkholz, the commissioner of the NSL, says in a video promoting the league: “Residents are really having fun when they bowl in our league, and they’re also making new friends … and developing a team spirit.”

The Sparklers’ playoff run doesn’t come with a trip to the Super Bowl or Disney World, but it was all anyone could talk about at Waterford Senior Living.

“I have to do something in my old age,” Schoenherr laughs.

“I think it’s really important, as people age, to stay active and especially stay social … we’re breaking that stigma that, at a senior care facility, there’s nothing to do.” Rhiannon Noble, activity director at Waterford Senior Living

Morry Gash 

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo is fouled during the first half of Game 1 of a second round NBA basketball playoff series against the Boston Celtics Sunday, April 28, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash

Pete Wicklund /   



Mount Pleasant
Racine Honda plans new dealership on Frontage Road

MOUNT PLEASANT — Racine Honda is working through village approvals to begin construction of a new, 43,850-square-foot sales and service dealership along the East Frontage Road.

The Mount Pleasant Plan Commission last week recommended approval of a rezoning of 13.1 acres at 1701 S. East Frontage Road from Business Park to General Business. The site lies between Brooks Tractor, 1609 S. East Frontage Road, to the north; and Thomas Hribar Truck & Equipment Co., 1821 S. East Frontage Road, to the south.

The future Racine Honda site — to replace the existing dealership at 9501 Washington Ave. — involves two parcels that will be combined. The southern parcel is currently vacant, and the northerly parcel is currently occupied by Car Castle, 1701 S. East Frontage Road, which will be demolished.

The project is slated for completion in spring 2020.

The Plan Commission’s recommended approvals of the final certified survey map and rezoning action are scheduled to go to the Village Board May 13. Honda has also submitted a site plan which is scheduled to go to the Plan Commission May 22.

This would be the third time that Home Run Auto Group, which owns Racine Honda, has moved a local dealership toward Interstate 94. Home Run first built a new, $6 million Racine Toyota on 9 acres at 13348 Washington Ave. That 32,000-square-foot dealership, which replaced the old one at 6801 Washington Ave., opened it in spring 2016.

That August the company broke ground on a new, $6 million Racine Hyundai on 6 acres at 13313 Washington Ave. The new 22,000-square-foot Hyundai replaced the old one at 9503 Washington Ave., adjacent to the present Racine Honda.

Location, location, location

At almost 44,000 square feet, the future Racine Honda will be the largest of the three newest Home Run Auto Group dealerships and twice the size of Racine Hyundai.

Calls on Monday to Racine Honda were not returned. However, when Racine Toyota opened its new dealership in 2016, General Manager Pat Carr said the new location — easily visible from I-94 — was selected partly to reach out to the county’s west end.

“The western county was not really aware of us; this is more central,” Carr said. “We want people to understand they don’t have to go to Milwaukee to buy a car.”

Initially, access to the future Racine Honda will be from the existing East Frontage Road. But at some point, when the Frontage Road is rerouted, it will flow along the east side of the future Racine Honda and access will be from that side, said Sam Schultz, Village of Mount Pleasant community development director.