Howard City to host 9th annual Harvest Festival

By Ryan Jeltema • Last Updated 7:21 pm on Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ken and Joane Cook are the grand marshals of Saturday’s annual Harvest Festival in Howard City.

HOWARD CITY — This year’s Harvest Festival grand marshals have resided in the village for half a century.
Ken and Joane Cook will preside over the ninth annual festival Saturday in Howard City. He is 73 and she is 72.
The Cooks’ first date was the freshman-sophomore banquet at Howard City High School. Ken was a sophomore and Joane was a freshman.
They went steady, graduated in 1956 and married in 1957. They have two sons, Greg and Randy, and six grandchildren.
Ken Cook attended Ferris State University before going to work for the Kent County Controller’s Office for seven years. He switched jobs and worked for Lamb Oil Co. in Amble for three years before working for Steelcase for more than 30 years.
He retired in 1997.
Ken Cook served on the Howard City Village Council from 1976 to 1984. He began volunteering for the Howard City Fire Department in 1962 — earning $3 per run — and will enter his 50th year as a firefighter in January.
He was a medical first responder for 25 years and remains on the Zoning Board of Appeals, of which he has been a member since 1972.
Joane Cook took a job as secretary to the assistant superintendent for the Kent County Board of Education (now the intermediate school district) after she graduated from high school. Three years later she had a son and became a stay-at-home mom until 1973, when she was hired as a paraprofessional at MacNaughton Elementary School.
She later worked there as a secretary before retiring alongside her husband in 1997.
The Cooks winter in Florida, but call Howard City home. They attend First Baptist Church and volunteer much of their time there.
“We just like the small-town atmosphere,” said Ken Cook of the village.
The couple were surprised and honored to be named grand marshals of the Harvest Festival. They will ride in the grand parade and judge the scarecrow contest Saturday afternoon.
“We had no idea that we would ever be considered for it,” Joane Cook said. “It was something that we were not expecting.”
Ken Cook will be up bright and early Saturday morning cooking chicken with his fellow Howard City firefighters in Ensley Park.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said of the autumn festival.
Harvest Festival Chairwoman Cheryl Scott said organizers have added several new events to the festival this year, including a master balloon twister, a 5K walk/run, VFW bingo and a Hometown Idol singing talent showcase.
The festival also will feature a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new downtown streetscape with State Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, and State Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes.
“This event wouldn’t be possible without the countless hours that the volunteers donate to provide the community with a Harvest Festival everyone can enjoy,” Scott said.

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