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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Longtime volunteer honored at Heritage Fest

Story reposted from The Daily News in Greenville.

As this year’s Heritage Festival kicked off Thursday morning with a dedication service, there was one member sitting in the audience who received some unexpected recognition.

“There’s somebody right in front of me here today that we want to say a very special word about,” Montcalm Community College Dean of Arts and Science Dr. Gary Hauck said. “A young lady who just turned 96 last week and who has been helping with the Heritage Festival for over 20 years.”

Flora Phelps of Stanton was then led up to the bandstand with a huge smile on her face to receive flowers, applause and a special “Happy Birthday” song from the audience.

In 1996, Phelps came to the Heritage Festival as the master gardener who handled practically all of the floriculture and other landscaping work around the village. One year later, Phelps began assisting with historic displays and demonstrations in the village’s log cabin. Shortly after that, she and her husband Max took over the doctor’s house, where they continued to work for years to come.

“Flora and Max have done a tremendous job at restoring the doctor’s house, and that’s something we’re all very grateful for,” Hauck said. “Flora has always been very faithful, gracious, sweet and helpful, and we just love her so much.”

Along with annually working at the festival, Phelps often leads school tours through the village throughout the year, as she has an extensive amount of background knowledge about the location’s history.

“I love the people who come here, talking to them, getting to be a part of all of this and understanding the history of the whole place,” Phelps said. “I’m always looking forward to getting to return.”

While Phelps didn’t know that she was going to be honored during Thursday’s opening ceremony, she was certainly grateful for the recognition.

“I have enjoyed my time working here at Heritage Village,” Phelps said. “I hope that you will all feel free to come out to see me at any point during the festival this year, and it’s also so good to see a large crowd gathered here today. It really makes me feel joyful in my heart.”

Hauck also took a moment during the opening ceremony to add his own thanks to the Heritage Festival, as he’s been a part of the event for the past 10 years.

“It’s been a true delight to join the great group of folks who put this on year after year after year,” he said. “Even though I’m retiring from Montcalm Community College in a few weeks, I won’t be retiring from the village — I’ll be here until I’m too old to find my way out, so get ready to continue to see me for more years to come.”