Austin Living Magazine • November-December 2019

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Tis the season When I was a young lad in the single years of my life, I hatched a bold plan to catch Santa Claus in the act of making my Christmas Day happy. The plan was bold and daring at the same time. Christmas Eve I went to bed when my parents told me and then waited for them to go to bed. Once I heard them head upstairs and was satisfied that they were asleep, I hatched my plan. Along with my two cohorts in crime, a pair of labs named Barney and George, I crept out to the Christmas tree and snuggled myself between the wall and the tree itself. There I waited, determined to keep vigil through the night, until of course I fell asleep. My two partners in crime, bored by the lack of hijinks, abandoned me long before that. It was here that mom and dad found me in the Eric Johnson, morning, devoid of my opportunity to meet the Austin Living Jolly Ole Elf himself. It also took away my chance Editor to ask why a tennis racket? That was a long time ago, but it’s still one of my most cherished memories from Christmas time. We have a few stories based on the holidays and we hope that while you are reading them they will help bring back some of your own memories or maybe even think about creating your own.

Looking forward As we put out this final issue of Austin Living Magazine 2019, we would like to take the opportunity to thank you for helping make this magazine so popular. It also serves as a reminder that we have another year coming up quickly so I would like to extend an invitation to share some story ideas with us. It can either be something happening now, or maybe something for next year’s November-December issue. Send you ideas to photodesk@

PUBLISHER Jana Norman EDITORIAL Editor Eric Johnson Contributing Writers Rocky Hulne Eric Johnson Deb Nicklay Michael Stoll Hannah Yang Photographer Eric Johnson ART Art Director Colby Hansen Graphic Designers Susan Downey Colby Hansen Eric Johnson SALES & PROMOTION Sales & Marketing Manager Heather Ryks Sales Representatives Heather Biwer Mike Delhanty Brenda Landherr Heather Ryks NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019 Volume 7, Number 6 EDITORIAL CORRESPONDENCE: Editor, Austin Living 310 2nd Street NE Austin, MN 55912 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reprinted or reproduced without written permission.

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Call 507-434-2220 to get your subscription started today! Austin Daily Herald ~ 310 2nd Street NE, Austin, MN 55912

2 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

For comments, suggestions or story ideas call 507-434-2237. To purchase advertising, call 507-434-2220 © A Minnesota Publishers Inc. publication




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w Individual Therapy w Family Therapy w Marriage Counseling If you or someone you know is struggling, please call Gerard Community Mental Health Services at 507-434-4366.

changing one life CHANGES EVERYTHING November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 3








PICTURE PERFECT Readers share their student’s back-to-school photos.

WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS 10 GAME TIME Austin’s Mason Silbaugh is ready for the big game.

AREA EATS 12 A SIMPLE HOME-COOKED MEAL Bubbles’ Cafe in Adams has been making diners happy since 2006.

THE LIST 16 BREAK OUT THE TURKEY Pacelli Elementary students share some of their favorite parts about Thanksgiving.

HOME & HEARTH 18 AROUND THE TABLE Tips to bring to the table this holiday season.

20 CRAFTING WITH HEART Peggy Young turns hobby into spirited business.

25 AUSTIN ARTWORKS CENTER Featured Artist: Lora Lee Bauer. 4 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

Area groups come together to raise money for cancer research. Christmas in the City has always provided holiday cheer in Austin.

31 NATURE NOTES Make safety the priority before and during the hunt.

TRAVEL 53 CHRISTMAS FROM THE PAST Mayowood Mansion in Rochester takes visitors on a memorable tour.

LOOKING BACK 56 SCENES FROM MARSHALL TOWNSHIP The story of one of Mower’s youngest townships.


BOOK REVIEW 60 FILLING IN THE BLANKS McGhee novel explores mother/daughter relationship among the struggles of Alzheimer’s.

WHY I LOVE AUSTIN 64 NO PLACE LIKE HOME Heidi Schara is proud to call Austin their home.

FEATURED 32 THROUGH CULTURAL ROOTS Mower County residents find connections to heritage through the holidays.

40 HEART OF THE SEASON Helen Holder’s Nativity collection invites people into the spirit of Christmas.

46 CHASING DREAMS Odongongo Oballa finds a way to her goals on the runway.

November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 5

Picture perfect



One of our most responded to photo submissions is always the back-to-school pictures. Year in and year out, we receive more of these pictures than any others and for good reason. Eager, smiling faces ready to hit the books for another year are always fun to see. We’ve been doing this for long enough that even we’re able to track some students’ progress through the years. See more photos on pages 8 & 9


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1. 2. 3.


Aaron Vasquez, Woodson Kindergarten Center. Parents Elizabeth and Salvador Vasquez. Alexis Vasquez, fourth grade Neveln Elementary School. Parents Elizabeth and Salvador Vasquez. Zoe Achenbach, senior at Lyle High School and Foster Achenbach, sophomore at Lyle High School. Parents John and Janelle Achenbach. Lexie Yokiel, seventh grade, Ellis Middle School. Parents Bruce and Tami Yokiel.

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5. 6.



TJ Oldfather, junior, Austin HIgh School. Parents Bruce and Tami Yokiel and Mike Oldfather. Ila Raffelson and Gina Nesvold, reunite at Southgate Elementary School. Parents Lyndsay Hope-Raffelson and Jens Raffelson and Danielle and Kelly Nesvold. Ayden Sorenson, fourth grade, Banfield Elementary and Zoee Sorenson, sixth grade IJ Holton Intermediate School. Parents Jim and Elizabeth Sorenson. Geoffry Lee Yanez, Preschool YMCA. Parents Haley and Eric Yanez.




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9. 10. 11. 12. 13.


Eli Martin, three year old preschool. Parents Caleb and Ariel Martin. Christina Coyle, preschool, Pacelli Preschool. Parents Christopher and Stephanie Coyle. Stephan Coyle, Preschool, Discovery Learning Center. Parents Christopher and Stephanie Coyle. Parker, first grade and Bentley Farrell, second grade Southgate Elementary School. Parents Amy Mullenbach and Luke Farrell. Peyton Ryks, fourth grade. Daughter of Heather Ryks and Joel Ryks.





14. Madisyn Busker junior at Austin High School. Daughter of Jeremy Busker and Crissy Christgau. 15. Izabella Sonnek, seventh grade, Ellis Middle School. Parents are Chad Sonnek and Jessa Johnson. Ruger Johnson, preschool. Parents Zach and Jessa Johnson 16. Ryler Battin, Woodson Kindergarten Center. Parents Cassie Battin and Kody Gates. 17. Ava McFarland, Congregational Preschool. Parent Natalie McFarland. November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 7




21 23

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18. Adalyn Coyle, first grade, Banfield Elementary School. Parent Travis Coyle. 19. Landon Miles, fifth grade, IJ Holton Intermediate School. Parent Michele Williams. 20. Ava Martin third grade, Southgate Elementary School. Parents Caleb and Ariel Martin. 21. Emerson Garbisch, Montessori, Pacelli. Parents Stephanie and Chris Garbisch.

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22. Justice Nelson, second grade, Lyle Elementary School. Parents Amber Barclay, Jeremy Ruhter and Brandon Nelson. 23. Khlover Schulz, freshman, Southland High School and Addie Matheis, third grade, Southland Elementary School. Parents Joe and Kristina Matheis. 24. Lake Farmer, Sophomore, Emily Farmer, freshman, Lily Farmer seventh grade, Caleb Farmer sixth grade and Isaac Farmer fifth grade. All go to school at Grand Meadow Public Schools. Parent Malissa Lambert. 25. Romeo Orozco, second grade Southgate Elementary School. Parents Wendy and Jose Orozco.

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26 31


26. Jaime Miller, sophomore, Austin High School and Justin Miller, senior, Austin High School. Parents Dan and Kelli Miller. 27. Cayden Hansen, freshman, Lyle High School. Parents Colby Hansen and Emily Paulson. 28. Julian Alejo, preschool at the YMCA. Parents Nidia Luna and Jesus Alejo. 29. Hudson Schaefer, first grade, Southgate Elementary School. Parents Bryan and Kylene Schaefer. 30. Peyton Peterson, second grade, Neveln Elementary School. Parent Shirleen Voigt.


31. Jaxson McFarland, Woodson Kindergarten. Parent Natalie McFarland. 32. Kaydence Schaefer, fourth grade, Southgate Elementary School. Parents Bryan and Kylene Schaefer. 33. River Graff, freshman, Austin High School; Sawyer Graf, sixth grade, IJ Holton Intermediate School and Leona Graff, second grade, Banfield Elementary School. Parents Michelle and Nick Graff.

November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 9


Game Time PHOTO BY ERIC JOHNSON Austin football player Mason Silbaugh takes his helmet off for the National Anthem as the setting sun paints the sky yellow and orange. If you have a photo you think would be worth sharing, send it to Eric Johnson at Resolution must be 300 DPI and at least 14 inches wide.

10 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 11


Diners can expect home-cooked meals at Bubbles’ Cafe in Adams.

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A simple home-cooked meal

Owner Janet Heller, a.k.a. Bubbles, purchased Bubbles’ Cafe in 2006.

Bubbles’ Cafe in Adams has been making diners happy since 2006 STORY



Lifelong Adams resident Janet Heller may be a familiar face in town, but her birth name may not quite be so familiar. Heller prefers people call her by her nickname, Bubbles, which she acquired while working the morning shift at Johnny’s Main Event. “There were people in the back room one morning at 6 and I went into the back room and said ‘good morning!’” she said. “They said, ‘Oh my! We have a live one! She’s bubbly!’ So, it just stuck.” The nickname also became the namesake of her restaurant, Bubbles’ Cafe, a staple of the Adams food scene since Bubbles purchased the place in 2006. “It was Feb. 22 at 10:22 in the morning,” she noted about the purchase. “I remember.” Prior to purchasing the restaurant, Bubbles worked as a waitress in Austin and Adams. Restaurant ownership was not something she initially considered, having turned

down the owner when approached about purchasing the restaurant. “Then one day I said ‘I can do this,’” she recalled. Bubbles opted to keep the previous owner’s menu, which contains what one would expect from a small rural town cafe: home-style food at good prices. It includes a selection of soups, salads, sandwiches and sides, as well as a breakfast that runs from 7-10:45 a.m. “It is like home cooking,” Bubbles said. “It’s a small town restaurant; it’s nothing elaborate, just the basics.” Bubbles brags about her biggest sellers, including hot beef and hot pork served with mashed potatoes and gravy and country fried steak with white country gravy. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, Bubbles offers a popular baked chicken special and meatloaf special, respectively. From 5-8 p.m. on Fridays, Bubbles holds her weekly fish fry, a tradition that began before she purchased the restaurant. November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 13

Words of wisdom from Bubbles’.

“(The previous owner) would put posters around town and my husband came in and helped and we had a great response, so it has just continued,” Bubbles said of the fish fry. “During Lent we have a tremendous crowd. We serve about 125 to 135, it just depends on the weather and what people have going on.” But of everything on the menu, there is one staple that has carried Bubbles’ reputation throughout the area: Pie! “I make my cream pies from scratch with cream and butter,” Bubbles said. “Most people don’t make homemade pies anymore.” And what luxurious decadent pies they are! With choices including sour cream rhubarb, peanut butter, pecan (grandma’s recipe, according to Bubbles), cherry, peach, blueberry, apple, caramel apple or pumpkin praline, among others, diners will have no trouble finding a piece of pie that suits their tastes. “Some people get upset if I don’t have (the pie of their choice),” Bubbles said. “For example, on Wednesday, if I don’t have my graham cracker pie, my coconut cream pie or my banana cream pie, some people are unhappy. They go so fast.” And what determines which pie is served on which day? “Whatever I feel like making at 3 in the morning,” Bubbles said. And when it comes to making pies, lets just say Bubbles has more than enough experience. “One day I was asked how many pies I’ve made,” she 14 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

said. “I said, ‘I don’t know, I average about 8 to 10 pies a day.’ This was in 2017 and it was determined I’d made over 26,000 pies, and that doesn’t include the pies I do for holidays, the pies I give away with gift certificates, or the pies I’ve done for funerals and weddings.” Adams and the surrounding community has embraced Bubbles’ Cafe, both the staff and the food. “Every spring and fall I have farmers order meals for the workers out in the field in the Northern Coop,” Bubbles said. “We always do lots of fries, burgers and onion rings. That helps my business greatly with them ordering food like that. I’m lucky I live here.” “I never planned on doing this, but I’m very happy,” she added. “It’s a good community and surrounding communities. I have people come here from Rose Creek and LeRoy. I’ve had some come from Spring Valley. It’s a great community and the people are very good. I hope to continue to do this for some time, provided I have good health and help.” Bubbles’ Cafe is located at 19 Fourth St. NW in Adams. Hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday with a fish fry from 5-8 p.m. on Fridays (the grill is shut off). They can be reached at 507-582-3655. At Bubbles’ Cafe, all are welcome. “We’re friendly and we work hard,” Bubbles said. “When we can have fun, we have a lot of fun. We just have good home cooking.” “And the pies!” she added. “Don’t forget the pies!”

First time? If you have never been to Bubbles’ Cafe before, here are a few suggestions from Bubbles herself. H BREAKFAST Served from 7-10:45 a.m., Bubbles offers such choices as a build your own omelet, eggs your way and favorites such as pancakes and French toast, all for a reasonable price. She also offers a breakfast special. H BURGERS No frills, just a simple juicy patty on a bun. You can get it prepared several ways, be it a regular hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, California burger or mushroom and Swiss. If you’re really hungry, Bubbles offers a double patty version of the cheeseburger and bacon cheeseburger (and we could always use more bacon and cheese in our lives). H FRIDAY NIGHT SPECIALS First and foremost is the weekly Friday fish fry: giant pieces of fish with a delicious crunchy batter served with a side of tartar sauce. But that’s not all. Bubbles also offers shrimp, also battered and fried to a perfect crunch, and ribs so tender, the bone simply can’t hold on to them anymore. There is no way to go wrong with any option. H PIE This is not so much a suggestion as it is a requirement! You cannot leave Bubbles’ Cafe without trying a slice of homemade pie! The question is which one to try as Bubbles has many flavors, though not all will be available depending on the day. Even so, the decision is tough, like trying to pick out your favorite child. November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 15


Break out the

Turkey Pacelli Elementary students share some of their favorite parts about Thanksgiving STORY





It’s hard to find anything to really dislike about Thanksgiving. Family and friends. Turkey, stuffing and without argument, pumpkin pie. By now, most everybody knows at least a little bit of the origins of this holiday. According to the History Channel’s website, it’s widely considered that first meal, that would later be celebrated as Thanksgiving, was in 1621 when Plymounth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast. This feast went on for three days and while no official account exists of what was on the menu, we can still imagine the potential for the food that was served. Two centuries later, President Abraham Lincoln finally proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Today, great food is usually accompanied by football and perhaps the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. At Pacelli, six students, representing the six elementary school grades, gave us their ideas as to what they enjoy about their particular celebrations. For this final issue of 2019, we hope you’ll enjoy the traditions of others.

Maw Soe Kindergarten Maw was pretty quite at first, and wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to say. With a smile she nodded when it was suggested we come back to her. When we did she was ready. Maw enjoys spending time with her friend next door. “Sometimes, I like having a play date at her house.” Things aren’t quite so traditional as Maw said her meals will sometimes consist of things like rice and eggs. 16 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

Emilia Churchill

Jocelyn Hernandez

First grade Emilia was ready for her turn, and it didn’t take long to give an answer as to what she liked most about Thanksgiving. “Having my cousins over and playing with them,” Emilia answered as her favorite thing to do over the holiday. After, and maybe before, Emilia and her cousins retreat to the basement to play with her mom’s toys, which she had when she was their age.

Fourth grade Like so many others, food is right up at the forefront for Jocelyn, in particular the turkey. After that, Jocelyn enjoys heading outside and playing with her cousins, regardless of the weather.

Diego Ortiz Reyes

Madeline Klankowski

Second grade Diego had a two-fold answer. He informed us that he looks forward to the chicken and tortillas that are served. After that, it’s time to head outside and get some serious play time in with friends and family.

Fifth grade Klankowski is a family girl and she lists the members of her family coming to town as one of her favorite things. Not only that, it usually results in not just one, but two Thanksgivings — one each for both her mom and dad’s side of the family. The turkey is fine, but there is also the pie, and Madeline was quick to say, that she’s not too picky. And then there is being able to chip in. “Helping my parents make food is fun,” Madeline said.

Casimir Asoggba

Joey Schulte

Third grade Casimir looks forward to one of his friends coming over to spend the holiday with him. While he looks forward to the food, he especially looks forward to what happens with leftovers — turkey sandwiches. It’s hard to disagree with Casimir on that one. Sometimes ice cream and cookies are even involved after the feast. After that Casimir and his family takes the leftovers and shares them with family and friends.

Sixth grade Joey takes in the food, but he doesn’t waste any time when it comes to eating it. His favorite food from the holiday are ham sandwiches. After the food, Joey takes part in what he described as, “the biggest game of hide and seek ever!”

November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 17

HOME & HEARTH Butternut Squash Soup

Around the Table BY JEN HAUGEN, RDN, LD

Tips to bring to the table this holiday season One of the best things about the holiday season is all the different foods that come along with it. Some of my favorites include my cranberry and walnut stuffing (out of this world — ask my husband), my grandma’s scalloped corn, and my mom’s delicious turkey or ham. Another tradition in our family is baking during the holidays, to give to our neighbors and bring treats to others we know as well. Here are a few tips for your edible gifts from the kitchen: • Make a list of your family and friends that love edible gifts. Do you have a favorite pickle recipe you can in the summer that everyone loves? What about homemade jam? Or even a batch of your banana bread. Edible gifts are perfect for those people you see a lot of — friends, neighbors, those you do business with, your mail carrier, teachers and even those party hostesses that are inviting you into your home. • Make sure you are preparing those edible gifts safely. Cook foods to the appropriate temperatures, store them safely, and be sure you are using the freshest 18 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

ingredients. And don’t forget to wash your hands during the preparation of your foods — that’s one big way to prevent the transfer of germs in a big way. No one wants the gift of illness during the holidays. • Time your prep right. Look at the calendar for when you plan to give your edible gifts and plan accordingly. You want to be sure to give the freshest gift you can (minus those that are previously canned). The best time for giving edible gifts is early to mid-December. • Make your packaging special. Small customizable boxes, cellophane bags or even jars can be the perfect packaging to your special treat. • This part is the most special: delivering. Hand-delivering and visiting with those you intend to give this special gift can be the best gift of all. Be sure to have small holiday cards on hand to attach to your gift to write a special note. With these tips, I hope you will be inspired to prepare your own edible gifts this season. Here’s a favorite recipe that I love to make ahead as it makes a big batch and share with a friend.

About Jen Jen Haugen, RDN, LD, is a mom on a mission to making everyday cooking easier so you can live your dreams. She’s a local small business owner, author and registered dietitian nutritionist. She owns her own business as a Pampered Chef consultant where she loves teaching how to make cooking fast and easy and healthy. If you would love to gather your friends for a fun evening of cooking together with tools that get the job done quicker, and learn simple cooking tips to make everyday cooking easier, then call Jen to set up your date: 507-438-7109. Want daily tips? Find Jen on Instagram: www.instagram. com/JenHaugenRD and on Facebook: JenHaugenRD And grab her Real Meals, Real Moms Recipe Package by subscribing to her blog:

Butternut Squash Soup Ingredients


•2½ cups (625 mL) water •2 tbsp (30 mL) brown sugar •1 tsp (5 mL) salt •¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cinnamon •¼ tsp (1 mL) ground ginger •3 cups (750 mL) butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks •2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks (about 1 cup/250 mL) •½ medium onion, peeled and cut into chunks (about ½ cup/125 mL) •2 garlic cloves, peeled •¼ cup (60 mL) dried apple, diced •½ cup (125 mL) heavy cream


•1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil •½ cup (125 mL) rolled oats •½ tsp (2 mL) ground ginger •¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cinnamon •1 tbsp (15 mL) honey •1 tbsp (15 mL) brown sugar •¼ cup (60 mL) pumpkin seeds (pepitas) •¼ cup (60 mL) dried apple, diced


•Add the soup ingredients, in the order listed, to the Deluxe Cooking Blender. Replace and lock the lid. Turn the wheel to select the SOUP setting; press the wheel to start. •When the timer is up, press CANCEL. Remove the vented lid cap and carefully add the cream. Replace the cap and hold the PULSE button for 5 seconds, or until the cream is combined. •Meanwhile, for the granola, heat the oil the 10” (25-cm) Nonstick Fry Pan for 3-5 minutes over medium heat. Add the oats, ginger, and cinnamon and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-6 minutes, or until the oats are golden brown and the spices are fragrant. Remove the oats from the pan. •Add the honey and brown sugar to the pan and cook for 1 minute, or until the mixture is bubbly. Add the oats and remaining granola ingredients to the pan and stir to coat. Remove the granola from the pan to cool slightly. To serve, pour the soup into bowls and top with the granola.

Cook’s Tip: This recipe is prepared in the new Deluxe Cooking Blender from Pampered Chef. It’s a blender that can cook your food and blend it because it has an actual heating element inside. That means you can start with raw ingredients making it so easy for you. It makes the perfect holiday gift.

November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 19

Crafting With heart BY HANNAH YANG • PHOTOS



Peggy Young has been a go-to source for her creations adorning the walls of several customers’ homes.

Young turns hobby into spirited business If Peggy Young’s not busy working at Riverland Community College, serving on the Austin School Board or even showing houses as a real estate agent, it’s likely she can be found working on her woodcrafts. Or one might find her searching lumber yards for straight boards and scrounging for old boards, accessories or anything else that might be transformed into a custom piece. “You wouldn’t believe how long it takes to find a few dozen good boards,” Young said. “Friends have started messaging me or calling me asking if I want to disassemble a barn, haul away an old fence or if I have a use for an old porch railing. Of course I do! Is that really a question?” Despite juggling multiple jobs and responsibilities, Young feels happiest when she’s able to do things that she doesn’t 20 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

consider to be “work,” though it doesn’t mean she doesn’t get frazzled every once in a while when other priorities pop up and the crafting is put on hold. “I may arrive at a property showing with paint on my fingers and sawdust in my hair, but my clients don’t usually mind,” she said. “I know it sounds like a lot, but when you love all the jobs you have, it doesn’t seem so bad. It helps that my son is older now and my husband can entertain himself. Every once in a while, my son will remind me that I haven’t made dinner all week, and that kicks me back into mommode for a while, but he totally gets why I work so hard to make my business successful.” During this time of year, Young finds her favorite schemes and themes to work with. For autumn pieces, her heart

bursts from happiness. Then she will move onto creating Christmas gifts. “Snowmen, Santa’s and manger scenes and verses from hymns and favorite Christmas carols,” she reminisced. “Each year, there seems to be that one ‘hot seller’ and last year it was works from a particular scene in the ‘(National Lampoon’s) Christmas Vacation’ movie. I’ll be interested to see what sells like crazy this year.”

One of Peggy Young’s bigger creations rests against some wood in her workshop.

Finding the holiday spirit through entrepreneurship

From seasonal home decor to signage with a special meaning behind them, Young has been in the craft scene for quite some time. As a means of earning money to pay for her college tuition in her early 20s, Young would start with small things that wouldn’t take up a lot of space. Eventually, her crafting space spread into the kitchen and living room, and now, Young’s crafts have taken over the double garage, where she sands wood and then brings everything indoors to paint. Before that, however, after giving birth to her son, she ended up quitting the wood craft business. “Well, sort of,” Young said. “We haven’t parked in the garage for years now. Whoops.” Even though crafts were a hobby of Young’s, she managed to turn her passion into a lucrative opportunity. What first started off as a means of paying her college tuition turned into a way for Young to be able to pay for her son’s college tuition this time around. These days, her crafts fund Christmas gifts, family vacations and other things that wouldn’t be within reach without it. “I won’t lie, the extra income is nice,” she admitted. “Crafts allowed me to graduate from college with no student loan debt. Over the years, I was able to support my son’s baseball addiction with money earned from making wood creations. I won’t be retiring early or getting rich by doing crafts, but the extra money sure does help.” Young didn’t really start doing craft shows until her sister-in-law Annette Huffman asked Young if she’d be interested in being a part of some craft shows with her. The idea intrigued Young, and she decided to take a chance. “I said ‘Sure! Why not?’” Young recounted. “Started small again, and then all of a sudden, something happened.” November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 21

Peggy Young’s creations are perfect fits for walls needing a homey touch

Suddenly, Young and Huffman began receiving custom orders and signage became very popular items. Young and Huffman started being invited to more craft shows. Huffman creates her own items and Young makes hers. Although different in types of crafts, the two women are able to blend together their products and successfully draw customers into their booths. Sometimes they would do a one-day inperson sale and a number of “take our things and drop them off to be displayed” sales that last for three to eight weeks depending on the season. Although it’s hard to determine or estimate, Young speculated that she probably made items that reached the “thousands” and the length of time it takes to make something depended on what the item was. If it’s something typical, she would make one in about 45 to 60 minutes. There were other items that have multiple components that might take longer. Each piece starts out as either reclaimed wood, straight board or plywood. Then for a regular sign, she would cut the sign blank, base coat it, sand the blank, paint it again to get the true color and a smooth surface, letter the sign, cut and stain the frame boards and assemble the frame on the sign. To save time, she would do a few at a time. If it’s a sign that doesn’t get framed, it’s cut, painted, sanded, lettered and then stained for an aged look, or if it’s a cut-out character, all bets are off. It could take an hour or it could take two days, Young said, but it really depended on how intricate the item was. Custom orders take longer for sizing, colors and lettering. 22 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

She usually abides by what the customer wants, and other times, she would send requests over to Huffman if it’s something within her realm. Over the years, Young’s favorite piece to make are family monograms that are unique to each family, but because they are each unique, they take time to plan out and execute. Once Huffman took over the IJ Holton Craft Sale a few years ago, she grew the event into something that’s wildly popular and brings community members over to find their perfect gift, while at the same time, helping their schools. Though Young and Huffman only personally host two sales each year, they participate in many others. “Each spring and fall we have barn shows in Grand Meadow, Wabasha and Odin,” Young said. “These are the sales when we drop off our goodies and the show owners display them with the wares of other artists. We do in-person shows in Osage (Iowa), Owatonna, Zumbrota, Austin and Blooming Prairie.” This venture grew even more when Young started selling woodcrafts in boutiques in Waterville, Rochester and the Eagan Outlet Mall, and both the Rosedale Mall and Southdale Mall in the Twin Cities. Though there were more invites, she and Huffman identified which places their items sell best and made a commitment to their families that starting Dec. 1, they would be done with their crafting for the year. Huffman and Young both have different approaches and styles when it comes to their pieces, but it works. Huffman’s sports-themed porch signs are very successful, while Young focuses more on large interior signs.

“We still have custom orders for Christmas gifts,” she said. “But, we cut way back for that month before Christmas.” Sometimes, mixing family into a business might turn out messy for some people, but Young and Huffman love working together. They make their own crafts at their respective homes, and then go to shows together. The two even work in the same office at Riverland, yet they don’t grow sick of each other, and craft shows are a chance to talk about other things aside from their work. This dynamic works and they love it. “We bounce ideas off of each other all the time,” Young said. “Sometimes, we’ll show up for an event having made the same type of item, but our styles are different, so it’s never been a big deal. I never would have started this up again if it weren’t for her. When I get stressed or frustrated, she calms me down, or more often, reminds me that I’m not alone in the chaos. She’s going through the same thing. We spend a lot of time laughing while we’re peddling our wares. She really is one of my closest friends and I feel pretty darn lucky to be able to spend those times with her.”

Bringing in the lumber From July through December, Young’s kitchen looks more like a woodshop than a place to have breakfast. Although her family hasn’t exactly been fond of seeing how much stuff the kitchen can hold, they do know how much it means to Young to be able to do her crafts and how happy it makes her. So, they just roll with the punches, or in this case, walk around the mess and support her hobby. “They see the fun I’m having and graciously work around the wood piles,” she recalled. “My husband shakes his head when he sees me covered in sawdust and paint, stressed out about deadlines and maybe cursing a little because I just shot a nail through the front of a sign, but he knows it’s worth it in the end. He loves the fact that he can score points by buying me a table saw or a new nail gun or a pile of plywood instead of a fancy purse or spendy shoes. My son, he just wants to know when the counters will be cleared off and how much I made at the sale. Every once in a while, he’ll give me a ‘Hey, Mom, that’s really cool’ and then I know I’ve made something pretty special.” Once boards are obtained, Young cuts, paints, sands, paints again. She then letters and frames the signs. For more tedious pieces, it’s a lot more trial and error. Then, she will cut, size, re-cut, paint and assemble her finished products. Usually starting in her shop at 5 or 6 a.m., Young may not be back inside the house until 10 or 11 p.m. For creating custom pieces, those types of items take even more time since she needs to start the design from scratch. “The time just flies when I’m out there,” Young said. “My busiest season starts late July or August, and runs through the end of the year. I generally try to take January and February off, but then the spring season kicks into gear the craziness starts all over again. Summer is really busy with special orders for weddings.”

During the holiday season, Young receives orders as early as September and sets off to create lasting memories for those who request a special touch for their loved one’s gift. Keeping prices reasonable, Young found success in creating a business out of something she loves. “We usually charge what we would be willing to pay,” she said. “We are notoriously cheap. Over and over we hear folks at the shows say, ‘these prices are so reasonable’ or ‘is that all it costs?’ It makes us wonder for a minute whether or not we should raise our prices, but every time, we decide to keep them where they are. We want everyone to be able to afford what we make.” Even though the process may be time-consuming and orders are flying in, Young loves the adrenaline rush that comes with creating a memorable present for someone who wants to put thought and care into their gift-giving experience. “There is something pretty special about knowing that I’m creating a gift for something as important as a wedding, or proposal or a birthday,” Young relished. “Knowing that the piece will be hanging in someone’s house for years...that’s a pretty big deal.”

Materials for some of Young’s creations lay waiting to be assembled in her workshop. November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 23

Peggy Young cleans off some newly created signs in her workshop.

A gift with meaning During the holidays or special occasions, Young has received plenty of requests from friends, family and community members to create a unique present that holds a lot of meaning. One of the most unique pieces that Young remembered creating was a sign with coordinates of where a couple got married, guest books for weddings, or even during somber events, where she was asked to create a “final call” piece for a fallen police officer’s funeral. “That was humbling,” Young said. “One of my favorite parts of this business is hearing how one of my pieces has touched the hearts of the recipients. If I can make a keepsake for a family or a reminder to a newly single parent to just keep going, I feel like I’m having a little impact on someone’s life. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to show a house to a client and find one of my pieces hanging on the wall. It’s definitely a source of pride to know they considered my work worthy of their living space.” There were also moments where Young was embarrassed by something she made, often thinking she would never recreate those types of pieces again. “Not every piece can be a win,” she said. “I’ve made some real stinkers. Some of those have been named ‘kindling’ and have adorned the inside of our fire pit.” 24 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

This endeavor wouldn’t have been possible without the support of her family. Her mom would show up at the perfect time, and sometimes Young would find her boards all stained or framed or base-coated. Young’s grandmother will sometimes show up out of the blue and ask if she can help. Young’s husband, Matt, will also help and has often helped engineer her displays for shows. Her son, Ross, will help unload the lumber, load the finished piece and move things around in the shop while Young’s niece helped out for a day base-coating blanks. “I know they really want to help, but even more, I think they actually like just hanging out together,” Young thoughtfully said. “We talk and laugh. It’s great.” As the holidays approach and some search for the perfect gift to wrap and put under the tree, Young finds fulfillment in hearing stories of how one of her creations inspired others, made them laugh or recall a memory from the past. Each creation is a challenge, and the excitement for Young still lives on in her heart. Even if crafting may not last forever, she wants to savor the memories and make someone’s holiday something special. “Until then, I’m going to tackle my list of orders and my wish list of things I’d like to make,” she said. “I’ll enjoy the ride.”

Austin ArtWorks Center Featured Artist

I became fascinated with art as a little girl. My Lora Lee Bauer grandmother had a boarder Painting, sketches and who would let me sit in his pottery: $3.50 - $200 room and watch him paint oil landscapes. My best grades in school were in art. I sketched my way through school drawing mostly fashion and had a dream of becoming a fashion designer some day. I designed my own clothes and my very talented aunt would sew them for me. Continuing my education in art wasn’t financially feasible and so I became employed, got married, had three children and divorced. In the early years I did a few oil paintings on consignment, but it was hard painting with little hands around. After awhile I just lost interest and didn’t have the time. I took a couple of painting classes but didn’t do anything really until I retired from work and joined the Austin Area Art Center. I enjoyed instruction from other members along with classes from other area artists. Now a member of the ArtWorks Center, I have dabbled in pottery, made greeting cards and enjoyed Jim Wegner’s open studio and the occasional painting class. I am still hoping to be the next Grandma Moses.

November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 25


Bringing it all together

The Hormel Institute’s Shujun Liu, from left, at the Eagles Telethon.

Area groups come together to raise money for cancer research STORY



Each year, for nearly 24 hours in January, the 5th District Eagles Cancer Telethon brings together people from Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and beyond to raise money for cancer research. It is the longest running telethon in the United States and 2020 will mark its 66th year. Emceed and produced by NBC partner KTTC, the telethon is filled with entertainment, stories of hope, and check presentations from people who raise funds throughout the year. Over $16 million has been donated to cancer research over 65 years of the Eagles Cancer Telethon, and over $3.267 million has been donated to The Hormel Institute 26 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

since it became a major philanthropic partner in 1999. “We give our deepest thanks to the many generous people who give their time and money for the great success of the Eagles Cancer Telethon,” said Gail Dennison, director of Development and Public Relations for The Hormel Institute. “The gift of research is a gift for everyone. Teresa Chapman and in the past, Bob Collier and their families are at the front of a long list of amazing people who work to raise funds leading to research and discoveries to prevent and control cancer. We all come together so people can live longer, healthier lives, uninterrupted by cancer.”

“It seems that everyone we know has been touched by cancer whether it’s a friend, loved one, or themselves. By raising funds for research we can get into the fight and not watch from the sidelines. This is our way to have an impact on research for ALL types of cancer. It gives us hope!!” Teresa Chapman, Executive Director of the Eagles Cancer Telethon.

Brand new this year, The Hormel Institute will offer Eagles Cancer Telethon Post Doctoral Fellowship Grants to between two and four scientists, competitively awarded and independently selected. This plan will fund new innovative research projects important to further discoveries and would not be possible without the Eagles Cancer Telethon contributions. Past donations are still at work, providing critically important technologies for all HI scientists used to further research. Science and technology work hand in hand and have pushed discoveries and innovations to accelerate answers. The Hormel Institute strives to provide the best possible technology available to keep researchers on the cutting-edge of innovation and The Hormel Institute’s International Center for Research Technology (ICRT) is home to some of the world’s most innovative cancer-fighting technologies — many of these provided through the Eagles Cancer Telethon. “The many people who raise Eagles Cancer Telethon funds are committed, passionate and continue to inspire everyone around them,” said Teresa Chapman, Eagles Cancer Telethon executive director. “They are the reason we are able to fund so many research grants and I truly believe those dollars raised have made a difference in the fight against cancer.” The Lyle Area Cancer Auction raises money all year to donate to the Eagles Cancer Telethon in January. The group, based in Lyle with fundraisers all over southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, has raised over $2.6 million to support cancer research since 1980. Events are held all year but the group is known for its spectacular two-day live auction held the weekend of the Eagles Telethon, culminating in the group showing up in Rochester at the end of the telethon for a final check presentation. The Blooming Prairie Cancer Group is another local organization that supports the Eagles Cancer Telethon as well as supporting The Hormel Institute directly. The Blooming Prairie Cancer Group is a community service organization that helps local community members who are battling cancer with resources and support as well as donating to the Eagles Cancer Telethon. If you have driven through Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, at the end of August, you have seen the moving Field of Flags they create each year to honor. The Eagles Cancer Telethon is Saturday, Jan. 18 to Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota, and the public is welcome to attend and watch in the audience. KTTC provides live streaming of the entire telethon on and

Lyle Area Cancer Auction co-chair Larry Ricke calls out a bid on a t-shirt during the auctions opening night in 2013. Austin Daily Herald file photo

5TH DISTRICT EAGLES CANCER TELETHON Executive Director: Teresa Chapman,, 507-358-4744 Total $ Donated: Over $16 million $ Donated to The Hormel Institute: $3.276 million

66TH ANNUAL EAGLES CANCER TELETHON • Jan. 17 – Kick-off dinner (requires ticket), live and silent auction (open to public) • 8 p.m., Jan. 18 to 4 p.m., Jan. 19 Live Eagles Cancer Telethon

Eagles Cancer Telethon Events/Fundraisers: Austin Eagles, Carpenter Iowa Pool Tournament, Swing for a cure, Rushford Peterson Cancer Auction, Owatonna Cancer Auction, Geneva Cancer Auction and Wild Game Feed, Geneva Cancer Run, Albert Lea Cash for Cans and Auction, Kick off Dinner and Auction, Lyle Area Cancer Auction and Smoke out Cancer, BS Wednesday, Strike Out Cancer, Maple Valley Golf For a Cure, Snowball Tournament, Kasson Hockey, Rochester Title Homes for a Cure, Radke Family Golf Outing, Many Breakfasts throughout the area (Chatfield, Iowa, Rushford, Rochester, Kasson, etc.) AND SO MANY MANY MORE Events Throughout SOUTHEASTERN MINNESOTA, IOWA and WISCONSIN. November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 27

Festive city Four-year-old Scarlet Williamson gives Santa Claus a high-five after getting her picture taken with him during Christmas in the City.

Christmas in the City has always provided holiday cheer in Austin BY DEB NICKLAY • PHOTOS Christmas in the City, Austin’s premier holiday event, has been in place a long time, even though it looks far different than it did when it was first celebrated. Back then — over 30 years ago — the celebration was held exclusively in the downtown and was established upon the recommendation of the Downtown 28 | Austin Living | November–December 2019



Association. The names of business owners Gretchen Ramlo, Bonnie Mogen and Jean Hastings pop up in conversation when people speak of the early beginnings, as well as that of the late Larry Haugen, who was the executive director of the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce at the time.

The Austinaires are annual performers during Christmas in the City.

Ramlo, who operated Gretchen’s, a clothing store, recalled the association was happy with the customer traffic brought in by the newly-created Cedar River Days, a forerunner to Freedom Fest. “Cedar River Days had just taken off,” said Ramlo. “So we thought, ‘We need something for the winter.’” That turned out to be Christmas in the City, established in 1988. There is little question as to the reason for Christmas in the City’s enduring success. Austin merchants dove into the celebration with a sleigh-load of holiday cheer — and a willingness to do lots of work. Memories of the first years are a bit foggy, said Hastings, longtime owner of Hastings Shoe and Repair. “But there has always been a good turn-out, especially by families, I do know that,” Hastings said. “It’s always been a fun night. The music, the kids coming in for treats. I always had doughnut holes, because I knew both the kids and adults would like them.” Meeting Santa was the main event during the first year, said Ramlo, and he continues to be the centerpiece for the celebration that today encompasses every quadrant of the city and covers four nights. But in its first year, Christmas in the City was held on one night, on the day after Thanksgiving. “There was an alley behind my shop and that’s where we would get Santa ready for the kids,” Ramlo said. As now, the Chamber Ambassadors played a big role in preparations. She said among a host of good Mr. and Mrs. Santa couples, she most fondly remembered the late John O’Rourke as being among the best. O’Rourke was the mayor, too, and was one of Austin’s best cheerleaders. “John and his wife just loved playing Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus,” she said. “John would have a ball talking

with the kids; he’d pull them right up on his lap and start chatting away. But we had to tell him one year, ‘John, you can’t talk to every child for five minutes — we’ll never get through them all!” “I also remember Santa coming down Main, with all the kids following Santa to the stage where he would light the decorations, and they were all holding light sticks,” Ramlo added. Holding the celebration in changeable Minnesota weather wasn’t without its challenges. Ramlo said. “We have had every kind of weather,” she said. “I remember slush — eight inches deep, in the middle of the street. Trying to get through that — ugh.”

Payton Christianson spreads peanut butter on a pine cone at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, part of Christmas in the East. Christmas in the East is a fairly new addition to the Christmas in the City line-up. November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 29

Families enjoyed a horse-drawn wagon ride, complete with Christmas carols during Christmas in the East.

different nights in the southwest and northwest parts of But the show always went on, although there was one the city, to give those businesses a chance to participate. year when Chamber members decided that holding it on Finally, a few years ago, Christmas in the City Saturday, instead of the Friday after Thanksgiving, came to the east end as well, said Jeanine Nelson, might make it even more successful. who heads up major events for the Austin Area “We got a huge backlash, huge,” Ramlo said Chamber of Commerce. with a chuckle. “We changed it right back the next The move to expand the celyear.” ebration is a sign of not only the Today, Christmas in the City event’s changeable nature, but a encompasses four nights. The first community’s love of the event. night, always held on the Friday “Christmas in the City has been following Thanksgiving, is the celadapted to meet the needs of the ebratory kick-off in the downtown. city and I think everyone appreciThis year the kick-off is from 5:30ates that,” she added. 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 29. Kids, as they Photos with Santa, wagon rides have for years, are invited to walk and business treats are offered in with Santa and others to the stage the other quadrants as well, with where Santa flips the switch of the Sterling Main Street being “home holiday lighting displays. Wagon base” for the Christmas in the rides, live entertainment, kids’ train Southwest and Jim’s Marketplace rides and other activities, goodies for Christmas in the East. Although and crafts prepared by individual the Christmas in the Northwest was businesses are the traditional feainitially centered in the now-gone tures. Oak Park Mall, all the businesses Activities may shift a bit each have continued with their own year. For instance, during last offerings, too. year’s kick-off, kids enjoyed everyNelson noted that the expanthing from learning a dance with sion also allows families who the Sugar Plum Fairy (Bridget’s cannot make one event to attend Dance Conservatory) and makClara Hamer makes her own apple crisp at another that is more convenient. ing a necklace (George’s Pizza); Super Fresh Produce Bakery during Christmas The full list of activities being to writing a letter to Santa (Spam in the Northwest. planned by individual businesses Museum) or making a Polar in each area is still being compiled and will be printed in Express bookmark (at Sweet Reads Book and Candy). brochures to be handed out just before the season begins. Believe us — that is just a small sampling of treats and This season, the 31st annual event will be held on activities. Nov. 29 (downtown kick-off), Dec. 3 (northwest), Dec. 5 At some point — no one really recalls the exact year (southwest) and Dec. 9 (east). — it was decided to expand the celebration, to be held on 30 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

Nature Notes

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News from the Minnesota Department of Natural Reources

Waterfowl hunters: Make safety the priority before and during the hunt Watching the sun rise over a marsh is an aweinspiring experience, a memory bank deposit that for many duck hunters is as valuable as the number of birds they bag. Yet, every year some duck hunters find themselves in bad situations, the result of falls into cold water, mishaps with their firearms, or other incidents that may forever cloud what’s supposed to be an enjoyable experience. Each year, duck hunters are involved in firearms-related As Minnesota’s incidents that lead to injury or waterfowl hunting death. The three most common season gets underway factors are careless handling, not knowing the safe zone of Saturday, Sept. fire and not being sure of what’s 21, Department of beyond the target. follow these tenets of hunting to stay safe Natural Resources this hunting season: conservation officers remind hunters to •Treat each firearm as if it is loaded. ensure their hunting •Always control the muzzle of and safety gear is the firearm. •Be sure of the target and what’s in good condition beyond. before heading afield. •Keep finger off the trigger and Once they’re hunting, outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot. adhering to the key tenets of safe firearms handling is the best way to reduce the risk they’ll be involved in what could be a life-changing incident. “Safe hunts are successful hunts, but they don’t just happen on their own,” said Jon Paurus, DNR Enforcement Division education program coordinator. “It’s up to hunters to put themselves in safe situations.” For those who use boats during their hunt, that means thinking of themselves as boaters. Wearing a life jacket is the best way to avoid drowning. Colder water this time of year increases the likelihood of cold water shock and hypothermia. Duck hunters should tell someone else where they’re going and when they plan to return, and have a communication device such as a cell phone or radio along with them. Overloaded boats also are susceptible to capsizing or swamping, so it’s important to pack only the gear that’s necessary and distribute it as evenly as possible.

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507-373-2311 • Thorne Crest is owned and operated by American Baptist Homes of the Midwest, a not-for-profit provider of senior health care since 1930.

November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 31

Through cultural roots BY HANNAH YANG • PHOTOS



Mower County residents find connections to heritage through holidays


he holidays can mean something different to each person, especially when it comes to family traditions. Your grandmother may make a special kind of bread every Thanksgiving, or you count down on a special calendar with the children, who are anxiously waiting for Santa Claus. Maybe there’s a special place you go to with your spouse that has a special memory associated with it. Whether it’s something minor, or something big, traditions have a powerful way of connecting people to each other. For some, rediscovering their roots and finding customs that have long been passed down from generation to generation, may be the biggest holiday gift of them all.

32 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 33

Axel and Jennifer Gumbel make Christmas a time to combine both American and German traditions for their children: Finn, Lilli, Elli and Max.

The spirit of Advent When Axel Gumbel grew up in Germany, he fondly remembered having Sunday morning breakfast around the advent wreath. It was the one day out of the week he and his family would be able to relax and let life slow down. Away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Gumbel transports himself back to his childhood every Christmas. He went with his family to church on Christmas Eve, and then arrive home to be greeted with the surprise of all the presents hiding underneath the tree. It was those memories that Gumbel carried with him to the United States. “That was pure magic to me, as I had no idea how that could have happened,” he said. “About 35 years later, I now suddenly understand why my father always had to run home ahead of us, and it’s not because he really needed to go to the bathroom.” Although the Gumbels live in LeRoy, the family takes care in incorporating some of Axel’s German customs into the holiday season. There were memories associated with each tradition and there was a purpose. “Not being able to take my kids to Germany as much as I would like, I do enjoy incorporating some traditions from my childhood into their lives over here,” Gumbel said. “I just think it helps them realize that there are other customs and traditions in other countries, which will hopefully turn them into curious and tolerant world citizens. The Christmas season is probably the main time of the year, where my kids are exposed to some tried and true German traditions.” To mark the start of the Christmas season, the Gumbels light the four candles on an advent wreath every Sunday 34 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

morning during the advent season. Traditionally, the German advent wreath is made from evergreens with thick red candles, but the family uses a metal stand instead since they could not find a similar wreath in the United States. Then, just as Axel experienced growing up, the children would gather around the wreath and enjoy Sunday morning breakfast together. When the candles are lit, it means Christmas will arrive soon. “It feels as though there is one area where cultural heritage can still be easily detected, and that’s food,” Gumbel noted. “I’m thinking of things like lefse, krumkake or lutefisk. It seems like food is a very easy way to pass on a piece of your culture, and I certainly try to do this myself when I cook.” Despite not being “overly attached” to his German heritage, Gumbel noted that combining some of his childhood customs into the Christmas holidays helped combine two worlds that he grew accustomed and he finds pride in both cultures with which he identifies. “I am not overly attached to German customs and traditions,” he said. “While I enjoy carrying some of them forward, I just as much enjoy creating new traditions that might be a combination of American and German culture. After all, I think that’s what life is all about.” Each year, the family awaits the arrival of Nikolaus (different than Santa Claus), who comes to visit the Gumbel’s children: Max, Lilli, Finn and Ellie, from Dec. 5-6. The children lay out their shoes in front of their bedroom doors and the room gets cleaned the night before. If Nikolaus finds the children well-behaved and with a clean room, he’ll drop little gifts into their shoes, with some nuts and fruit.

“Our younger kids are still a bit hesitant to go to bed the night before Dec. 6,” Gumbel said. “As they say they might be afraid if they happen to wake up when Nikolaus comes. But, there is also much joy once they wake up and see shoes stuffed with little goodies. It may be the only morning of the year when we allow them to have sweets for breakfast.” During the Christmas holidays, the Gumbels also enjoy using an advent calendar that counts down the days until Christmas starting on Dec. 1. Axel and his wife, Jennifer, bring down a special calendar for the occasion, one that was handmade by Axel’s grandmother out of a sack cloth with 24 little red gnomes sewn onto it. He noted how each gnome had a metal ring attached to it, and little gifts can be tied to it. However, as the kids grow older, it is getting difficult to give each child something fairly. So, Axel and Jennifer both started a new tradition in their family that taught the children that it was better to give rather than to receive. They set up an empty tote underneath the calendar to put in food items for the LeRoy Area Food Shelf, which is delivered after the holidays. “It’s important to me to incorporate a deeper meaning to the holidays, so a service project like a food collection is perfect for young kids like ours,” Gumbel said. “That philosophy was always stressed at our house and my school back in Germany.” Though not a priority to pass down traditions stemming

from his German roots, Gumbel believes that there was something magical about being able to share something with his children that he experienced growing up. “I feel good about instilling them with a piece of my culture,” he said. “It will probably really hit home, when my kids have kids on their own, and I might witness how they’re passing something on from Grandpa Axel, who grew up in Germany. I bet it will feel great to observe that.”

A family together makes for a happy home Wafting from the inside of Alicia Bakery is the smell of freshly baked bread and other confections. Jose and Alicia Torres, owners of Alicia Bakery, were busy preparing for the upcoming season and traditional Mexican holidays set for November and December. It’s during this time that Alicia Bakery will be at its busiest. Sitting with her parents was their daughter Jessica Meza, who loves this time of year and anxiously awaits the upcoming holidays, where her family and the Mexican community in Austin celebrate their cultural customs and traditions. It’s a magical time where there is dancing, great food and music. That was something that Jose and Alicia wholeheartedly agreed with, as they work at the bakery and take in orders to have special types of bread created for the occasion.

Jose and Alicia Torres display a fresh Rosca de Reyes, served during the holidays. November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 35

Like the special pan del muerto — bread of the dead — that Jose makes from a family recipe, adding his own personal touch. The community will swoop in during preparation week, and pick up the bread to use as an ofrenda (offering) to the spirits of their deceased loved ones. They prepare for Dia de los Muertos near the end of October into early November, and then move onto preparing for December for even more celebrations like the birthday of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Las Posadas. Growing up and living in Morales, Mexico, Jose and Alicia held their own traditions that were deeply rooted in their heritage. They cherish the holidays as a way to celebrate the history of their people, to remember their roots and to build a strong familial connection with their children. Since immigrating to the United States from Morales, Mexico in 1989, the Torres family has moved from California to Minneapolis before settling down roots in Austin during the last 16 years and opened the bakery. Being a third-generation baker, Jose wanted to bring his own flair to his wares. For Jose, bringing his own holiday traditions to Austin meant sharing them with everyone who wanted to be a part of a joyous occasion. Whether it’s through parties or even through food. Alicia Bakery makes large amounts of Rosca de Reyes, or Three Kings Bread, commemorating the three wisemen who followed a star to Bethlehem, where they presented gifts to the infant Jesus. The bread created into a circle, holds various candies and guava fruit, symbolizing the jewels on the wisemen’s crowns. Instead of using another traditional form of flavored paste in the cake, Jose uses his own twist and adds coconut instead. Tradition states that if someone were to slice into the bread, and find a tiny figurine of baby Jesus inside their slice, they were chosen to host a gathering in February with their friends and family. As a child, Meza’s parents proudly instilled in her and her siblings the desire to learn more about their heritage and incorporating traditions that Jose and Alicia had while growing up in Mexico. “We, as a family, want to celebrate our traditions with our children,” Alicia said. “There’s so much passion during the holidays and a lot of work goes into making sure things run smoothly. There’s so much pride and satisfaction that comes with sharing this with others.” Since Mexican tradition states that families don’t open gifts until Jan. 6 as a way of representing the gifts presented by the three wisemen, they eat Rosca del Reyes that day as well. The Torres family relishes traditions like the celebration of the birthday of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12. Families erect altars inside their homes and gather to say a rosary nightly. In Austin around 12 households participate in those rosaries, Alicia Bakery being the last stop before heading to the church for Mass, entering the church for the celebrations. After service, the parishioners enjoy hot chocolate and bread that Jose donates to the celebration, as well as having dances and a mariachi band perform songs for the Virgin Mary on 36 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

her birthday. During these moments, Jessica loves seeing her father dance in his special costumes and spending time with her husband and mother. Her siblings join her, and the family is together again in a swirl of colors and lights that spark the holiday spirit inside. “The holidays are a time to keep these traditions alive and I don’t plan on stopping these traditions,” she said. “My father is so grateful to be able to bring his traditions here and wants to share it with others as a means of gratitude. My future children and grandchildren will get to experience these memories too. It brings my dad so much joy to see others celebrating with us.”

During season of blessings, let there be hope for the new year When the seasons change, and winter arrives with its cold grasp, the people are celebrating the new year, the Apolos of Austin celebrate the Karen New Year, a time when there’s reverence, jubilation and community gathering. There are be dances, food and music, and lots of joy. Austere Htoo Apolo anticipates the Karen New Year, as it is a time for family and a time to also reflect on their journey that brought them to the United States several years ago. “For the Karen people, (New Year’s) is the most important date of the year,” Apolo said. “It is similar to Thanksgiving Day, by thanking gods or God for the great harvest year, and asking the spirits to continue to be with them and bless them for the next year.” While the holidays usually conjure up memories of happier times and partaking in family traditions such as caroling, sledding or even attending a church service for Mass, it’s also a time where some are mourning or attempting to heal from a past that stripped them of joy, when it felt as if there were no holidays worth celebrating. The journey that brought Apolo and her family to the United States was not one that was caused by normal circumstances. They were one of many Karen refugees who suffered traumatic losses under the dictatorship of the Burmese government in Myanmar. Years of civil war resulted in the persecution of the Karen people. Apolo and her family were left no choice, but to flee their home and resettle at a refugee camp in Thailand. It was during this time, when the people couldn’t connect to their traditions and customs, at the risk of being harmed or killed. All holiday traditions included, except one. “The main reason why we do not follow a lot of our Karen rituals and celebrate all of our holidays was because both of my parents were both in Myanmar,” she said. “They were being oppressed and were not allowed to celebrate their roots except for the Karen New Year.” As a child, the significance of her heritage wasn’t as important to Apolo, but now as an adult, she would do anything to remember what her people celebrated. Her family

didn’t involve many of their Karen traditional rituals such as knowing the dances, playing the traditional music with their instruments and other aspects of her culture. Yet, Apolo learned how to read, write and speak in the language. It seemed minor, but to her, it meant preserving a culture that was once under siege and at risk of being completely eradicated from the world. Apolo recalled that during her time in the refugee camp in Myanmar, she didn’t have too much attachment to her culture. Her parents felt more obligated to keep themselves from practicing any traditions out of fear for their lives. Yet, the Karen New Year was the only holiday that was recognized throughout Myanmar and it was a special time for them. Since moving to austin, the family has continued celebrating the Karen New Year, where the traditions and customs were centered around community and involved special dances that represent national pride and building unity with each other. This year was different, as the Karen New Year follows the lunar calendar, when this time, two dates were marked to celebrate the new year: Jan. 6, 2019, and one planned for Dec. 26. It’s during the Karen New Year that Apolo loves watching the don dance that’s performed by dance groups accompanied by traditional Karen instruments as a way of reinforcing community values. Among the celebrations, there will be colorful outfits the Karen would wear that symbolize different things and have different purposes. Although she and her family felt safe celebrating in the United States, Apolo couldn’t help but feel as if there was something missing in the festivities despite feeling welcomed. “We do feel welcome to celebrate our new year here in the U.S. and Austin,” she said slowly. “However, it did not feel the same when we celebrated it back in the refugee camp. Cities like St. Paul host a huge celebration and it brings back our old experiences from being back home.” Having to leave behind a home with a rich history and culture where there were those who wanted to destroy any piece of evidence of the Karen people, Apolo was determined to keep her heritage alive by passing down traditions to her children and grandchildren in the future. “I believe that it is important to understand where we came from, and what made us,” she said. “It is to maintain my roots and I (will) encourage my children and grandchildren to do the same. Karen people have rich history and we have suffered from wars and have been discriminated against for years. It would be a shame if my future kids do not know and understand the struggle their grandparents and their people have faced.”

Austere Htoo Apolo shows off a traditional Karen dress worn during celebrations for the Karen New Year. November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 37

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40 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

Heart of the


Helen Holder’s Nativity collection invites people into the spirit of Christmas Story




Eric Johnson

November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 41

Like so many things, Helen Holder’s collection of the Nativity started with just one — a simple scene she created in 1968 using origami. Similar to that first scene, Holder had another simple idea of just buying one every year. To date, her collection has 930 ‘All of the Nativity scenes, so it doesn’t take a different varieties mathematician to and ideas figure out that it went well beyond one a people have, year. it says to me “I said to myself that Jesus came that every year I would buy myself a new one,” for everybody.’ Holder said through a growing smile. “But Helen Holder once you start looking ... there are just so many.” To walk into the Holder’s house is akin to walking into an art gallery. There are Nativity scenes everywhere, ranging in size and style as well as country of origin. On a coffee table there is a Nativity from Nigeria next to a more traditional set one might

find in most any store here in the United States. There are Nativites that hang from the halls, perched on a piano or a bookcase. Everywhere you look is a new vision of an old story depicting the birth of Jesus Christ, surrounded by Mary and Joseph, the animals of the manger and wise men who came from far off lands. “All of the different varieties and ideas people have, it says to me that Jesus came for everybody,” Holder explained. The Nativity was first staged in 1223 by St. Francis of Assisi, who sought permission from Pope Honorious III to reflect the Nativity how we see it today. It was a manger scene complete with live animals, according to the Franciscan monk St. Bonaventure, who is thought of as writing down the only historical account of St. Francis’ Nativity. It was used in companion to St. Francis’ preaching of the birth of Christ. However, for those who study the Bible, they may notice that the Nativity we see today isn’t exactly how the Bible relates it. Of the four gospels in the New Testament, only Matthew and Luke talk of the birth. In Matthew’s account are the wisemen, while Luke speaks of shepherds only, but they are never mentioned as being together anywhere else in the Bible. It also doesn’t mention the various animals that would have been kept in the stables. But, for Holder, much of what the Nativity relates is spiritual.

Helen Holder’s Natviity collection features a vast variety of scenes, many of which are from different countries.

42 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

Helen Holder holds just one Nativity scene out of 930 in her collection.

November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 43

“There is a lot of tradition mixed in to Nativities,” Holder explained. “The historical part isn’t really the important part. The idea is to make it a personal thing.”

The collection It takes a lot to store 930 Nativity scenes. It requires 102 containers to be precise. The collection takes on average three weeks to set up. Helen’s husband, Bill, will bring a small number of containers up at a time, returning them to the basement after Helen has removed and placed the scenes. Of these scenes, 50 are from different communities, though they are not all ethnically representative of those countries. The smallest Jesus of the collection is part of a scene that was carved into a watermelon seed, while the largest is two feet tall. Helen’s collection has grown with scenes purchased from traveling, stores, catalogs and auctions just to name a few. She also gets more than a few from friends who know of her collection. “A lot of people think of us,” Helen said. “It’s really amazing what people find.” Holder does admit the unpacking of over 900 Nativity scenes is a balancing act sometimes. “The boxes are put out and some things go in the same place, others go where I have space,” she said. While the collection officially started in 1968, Holder didn’t recognize it as a true hobby until 1970, when she spent nearly $200 for a set. “When I spent $180 for the Hummel set in 1970, I decided this would be my hobby,” she said. But amongst all of these in her collection, there is one that stands out among the rest. One year Holder assigned members of her family a part of the Nativity for them to draw or create.They were then assembled to give a real family feel to the scene. “... everybody has a piece,” Holder said with a broad smile

Open to the public The idea of opening the collection to the public wasn’t in the plans at first. In those early days, the Holders only invited friends over to see the collection, but as interest grew, the couple decided they could do some good by letting people come tour the Nativity scenes. The first year was in 2002, on the same night as Christmas in the City. For a small donation of $1, the public could take the tour. All the money from the donations goes to the Salvation Army. As people take in the enormous collection, Holder starts to notice certain reactions, and in that she finds the most joy. “The fun part is different sets trigger memories of their own Christmas,” Holder said. “It’s interesting to see which ones capture their attention.” This year, Helen said that all of the Nativity scenes should be up by Nov. 16. People who wish to visit the home and her collections should call 1-507-433-2643 and have that dollar bill ready.

Reason for the season Helen and her husband care a lot about the Nativity, not just as a collection or hobby, but a as a sign of faith. Helen herself is current secretary of Friends of the Crèche, a group dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the crèche (French for cradle) tradition. Having a Nativity in the house at Christmas not only displays the Christian faith of the season, but it is also a chance for people to put themselves into the scene and be a part of it. “Jesus came specifically for you,” Helen said. “You look at this event and put yourself into it.” And as people put themselves in that moment, it acts as a window connecting the person directly to Jesus. The Nativity is a chance for each household to actively be a part of an important event to Christians around the world.

This Nativity is from France, one of 50 sets from other countries. 44 | Austin Living | November–December 2019


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46 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

Chasing Dreams Odongongo Oballa finds a way to her goals on the runway





November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 47

48 | Austin Living | November–December 2019


ome dreams are well worth the wait, and Odongongo (Odie) Oballa is a perfect example of that.

For years, that dream was to become a supermodel, and as things stand now, she is well on her way, having recently moved to Los Angeles, California, to pursue that dream. But that dream came with some trials as well, having endured some of the worst things humanity can do to one another. In 2003, Odie, and her family, which includes Oballa Oballa — the current LeadMN president — fled Gambella, Ethiopia, after the Gambella genocide, which claimed the lives of 424 people in a span of just 24 hours. Her family fled to Kenya and eventually ended up in the state of Washington. But during the time in between, Odie was already formulating her dreams of being a supermodel, even though at the time she saw them as simply that — a dream. “Since I was a kid, I’ve had this crazy dream of becoming a supermodel, but those dreams were just dreams because as someone who lives in a refugee camp, where everything is limited, I never thought they would even become true,” Odie said. “Life in a refugee camp is tough and people are mostly living there just by pushing days without any hope of something new or good apart from praying to God to keep us alive under Odongongo the hot sun.” The initial start to her dreams was hoping to simply return to Ethiopia and compete in the Miss Ethiopia pageant or to just take part in modeling of some sort. But after fleeing Ethiopia, those dreams were put on hold. The family left Washington, and arrived in Austin. At that point, the dreams took a back seat to simply getting to know her new home. Odie said she was afraid of what people might think of her. During her time at Austin High School, she did the high school thing, which included going out for track and field and even advancing to the Minnesota State High School Track and Field Meet in St. Paul. But, the idea of being a model was still pretty set in her mind. It was just a matter of getting past the doubt — both from others and from herself. Odie felt that some of that had to do with her skin color. “When I started modeling a lot of people didn’t believe in me,” Odie said. “I was losing confidence. Whenever I go out

and talk about modeling, other people would say there is no dark skin people who are models.” It was during her time at Riverland Community College that she started to seriously revisit the idea of becoming a model. “During my second year in college, I started taking pictures to build up my portfolio,” Odie said. “I sent out emails to agencies in Minneapolis. I began getting recognition and notoriety as a model.” Odie started gaining momentum and was invited to fashion shows, which in turn resulted in larger and larger shows. Her confidence in her choice to follow modeling was rising as well. She felt at home in front of the camera. “It was amazing,” she remembered. “I felt so comfortable in front of a camera.” She started walking shows where agencies like IMG, Next Model, Wilhelmina, LA Models and NTA were in attendance. One of the biggest was Industry Network, which featured 100 models. It was at this show that she took first in the Runway competition as Oballa well as the Bikini category and second in Print. It resulted in her being named Model of the Year. “After the competition, I received callbacks from 13 of the 15 agencies in attendance,” Odie said. She eventually chose to sign with NTA Model Management. At that time, Odie and her boyfriend made the move to L.A. Things by this point we’re moving very fast; far faster than they had been in Austin. However, the big decision itself to move to California — away from everything familiar — was another challenge. “It’s a difficult thing,” Odie said. “I left my family and my school. It was tough leaving family behind, but I wanted to achieve my goals. Things have been going fast.” But the work took over and it’s been keeping her busy. “As soon as we got there we started working fast and making connections,” she said. “We were eventually invited to the BET Experience where I got the opportunity to walk in BET’s “Rip the Runway for top designers such as Karl Kani, Milano and Sprayground.”

My main hope is to be the face, to open more doors for dark skinned people. I don’t see dark or brown skin being presented in a good way. I want to be one of those people to change it.

November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 49

However, just because she signed with an agency doesn’t mean she just gets to sit back and wait for the invites. At this point, Odie can work to find her own work. “They don’t book me like that,” Odie explained. “I book my own stuff. I reach out to designers and people who scout models.” It’s a lot of work, but she’s often reminded of how worth it it’s been for her to achieve her long held dreams. It’s a chance for Odie to represent and continue to promote the idea of more women of color walking the runways. It’s a reflection of how Odie wants to take on those challenges and be a leader. “My main hope is to be the face, to open more doors for dark skinned people,” she said. “I don’t see dark or brown skin being presented in a good way. I want to be one of those people to change it.” Even though she is currently living her dreams, there is more that Odie wants to pursue. And it’s as achievable now than it’s ever been. “My big dream is to one day have my own designs or shows to help the young kids who have the same dream too and put their dreams into reality,” Odie said.

My big dream is to one day have my own designs or shows to help the young kids who have the same dream too and put their dreams into reality.

Odongongo Oballa

50 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

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Christmas fills up every portion of Mayowood Mansion. 52 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

Christmas from the past Mayowood Mansion in Rochester takes visitors on a memorable tour BY ROCKY HULNE • PHOTOS PROVIDED BY THE HISTORY CENTER OF OLMSTED COUNTY If Christmas caroling and watching the snow fall isn’t enough to get you into the spirit of the season, perhaps a trip to Mayowood Mansion in Rochester will do the trick. The mansion, which is located at 3720 Mayowood Rd. SW, Rochester, MN 55902, offers Christmas tours throughout November and the first half of December, allowing visitors to take a peek into holiday history. Every year Mayo picks a different theme and this year, the tour’s theme is a “Victorian Christmas,” which is when Christmas emerged as the traditional holiday as we know it as today. Kathy Dahl, Mayowood Mansion Tour Coordinator, said the mansion glows a little brighter around the holiday season and she’s excited about the Victorian theme. “The mansion will be decorated like the time of Queen Victoria’s reign. That’s when the first Christmas trees were introduced, along with Christmas cards, gift giving and the idea of a big Christmas dinner,” Dahl said. “We’re going to highlight some of those Christmas traditions that began in the 19th century.” Mayowood is a 38-room mansion that was completed in 1911 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. It will have 17 of its rooms decorated for the Christmas tour. The decorators include members of the Mayo family and a variety of volunteers, who are given a tree to work with. They are allowed to use their own personal ornaments and lights. November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 53

The dining room of Mayowood Mansion sparkles for a holiday feast.

“Everybody is thrilled to see the home,” Dahl said. “The themes and decorations are different every year. You always see something new. People often get inspired for ways to decorate their own homes. We invite people to come on out. It’s a wonderful event.” Dahl encouraged anyone interested in the tour to think about going in November, because the December dates fill up fast. Dr. Charles Horace Mayo and his wife, Edith, were the first ones to live in the mansion, and they stayed there until 1939. Dr. Chuck Mayo and his wife, Alice, lived in the mansion until 1965, when they turned it over to the Olmsted County Historical Center. Mayo Clinic took control of the mansion and its 10 acres of land in 2013. “The Mayo family wanted the home to continue to be used and enjoyed by the community,” Dahl said. “Mayo (Clinic) has made many wonderful restorations to the home. There’s always a project to be done.” All tours include a trolley ride from the historical center to Mayowood and back and they last approximately one hour. Christmas tours will be held at Mayowood from Nov. 2 to Dec. 15. Tours run daily at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and there will also be a 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. tour on Dec. 6 and Dec. 14. The tour will be closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving day, Dec. 10 and Dec. 11. Tours cost $25 for adults and $10 for children who are ages 3-12. The mansion is open for regular tours from late April to early October. 54 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

A bright Christmas setting inspires in this sitting room at Mayowood Mansion.

One of the many rooms decorated for Christmas including a collection of Santa Claus figures.

Five places to visit near Mayowood Quarry Hill Nature Center: Just minutes from downtown Rochester, Quarry Hill Nature Center is a great place to go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Rental equipment is available. For more information, visit 701 Silver Creek Road NE, Rochester, MN 55906. 1-507-328-3950 Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester: Need to get the kids out of the house? Then visit this museum for children, which includes “smart play” environments that will challenge children in a way that helps them learn while having fun. For more information, visit 1643 N. Broadway St., Suite A. 1-507-218-3100 Douglas State Trail: Don’t let the falling temperatures keep you from getting outside. This state trail offers much in the way of biking, hiking, in-line skating and horseback riding. And in the winter — snowmobiling. For more information, visit 1-507-206-2847 Salem Glen Vineyard & Winery: Stop by for a glass of wine at this secluded winery just outside of Rochester and nestled among the trees. For more information, visit 5211 60th Ave. SW, Rochester, MN, 1-507-365-8758 The Rochester Civic Theatre Company: The area is filled with shows and plays and the Civic Theatre Company is one of those stops. In December they will be performing “Elf the Musical,” Dec. 6-22. For more information, visit 20 Civic Center Dr. SE, Rochester, MN. 1-507-282-8481 November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 55


A group of men taking a break on the Studer farm. Rudy Jech is leaning against a barrel with his arms crossed in the center of the photo.




The story of one of Mower’s youngest townships In its early years, Marshall Township went through a bit of an identity crisis and now has the distinction of being one of the county’s youngest townships. First founded in 1858 as York Township, it was quickly annexed into what was then Brooklyn Township (now Windom Township). If was officially settled in 1870 as Beach Township, but at the first annual meeting in 1871, the name was changed for the last time to Marshall Township. According to the 1884 Mower County history book: “This was one of the townships of land that was thrown onto the market in an early day, and was bought by speculators, who held the land at high figures.” 56 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

This high cost of land initially slowed settlement of the area. The first person to settle in Marshall Township was Helge Errickson, a Norwegian immigrant from Wisconsin. He arrived in the spring of 1856 and built the first house — a log cabin with “puncheon” (otherwise known as dirt) floors. Errickson left the area in 1871, but settlers continued to trickle into the township. John Osmunsen arrived the next year (his daughter, Hannah, was the first baby born in Marshall Township) and Gilbert Anderson and Ole Tollefson came in 1860. In spite of its slightly disorganized beginning, Marshall Township continues to enjoy a quiet existence as one of the younger townships.

Andrew and Hannah Wiste family. Hannah was the first child born in Marshall Township.

A car accident in the township. Both cars had to be shipped back to the manufacturer because there was no garage in the area to make repairs.

The Ray Craft farm in section 7.

Grain Elevator in Marshall Township.

Threshing on the Oscar Studer farm. November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 57

As temperatures go down, there is still plenty to do in Austin. All dates, times, and locations subject to change.

Nov. 1

When: 7 p.m. Where: Knowlton Auditorium, Austin High School This concert features award-winning violinist Timothy Chooi. For more information or tickets, email

perspective to the classic musical comedy. Prince Dauntless hasn’t had any luck finding a bride, until along comes the unconventional Princess Winnifred—but can she pass the test? Carried on a wave of wonderful songs, by turns hilarious and raucous, romantic and melodic, this rollicking story of royal courtship and comeuppance provides for some side-splitting shenanigans. Chances are you’ll never look at fairy tales quite the same way again. Tickets available at

Nov. 2

Nov. 29

When: 5 p.m. Where: Holiday Inn Austin Conference Center Enjoy social hour, delicious meal, music and entertainment, raffles, games, and a silent and live auction. Tickets $40. Friends of the Hormel Nature Center receive a $5 coupon to use towards raffles, games or auction items. All proceeds go to the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www. or call 507-437-7519.

When: 4:30-8 p.m. Where: Downtown Austin Annual event welcoming the holiday season with music, food, crafts, and lots of fun, leading to the parade that brings the man of the hour and the lighting of the community Christmas Tree. For more information, call 507-437-4561.

Nov. 11

Dec. 2

When: 8 p.m. Where: Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Free program, held outside the Interpretive Center. For more information, go to or email

When: 7 p.m. Where: Jay C. Hormel Nature Center The change in season brings on a completely different way of life in the United State’s first national park. Find out how survival is possible in this frozen landscape with Matt Freecheck as he shares his stories about “Winter in Yellowstone.” Sponsored by Austin Izaak Walton League. Free program in the Interpretive Center, open to the public. For more information, go to or email info@

Austin Artist Series - Timothy Chooi

17th annual Thanksgiving Feast Fundraiser

Transit of Mercury

Nov. 20-24

“Once Upon a Mattress”

Christmas in the City

Winter in Yellowstone with Matt Freecheck

When: 7 p.m. (20-23) and 2 p.m. (24) Where: Frank W. Bridges Theatre, Riverland Community College If you thought you knew the story of “The Princess and The Pea,” you may be in for a walloping surprise! This modern interpretation not only puts a twist on the well-known fairy tale but also brings a new

Dec. 3

Austin ArtWorks Center

Hormel Historic Home

• Nov. 1 . . . . . . • Nov. 2 . . . . . . • Nov. 9 . . . . . . • Nov. 9 . . . . . . • Nov. 16. . . . . • Nov. 16. . . . . • Nov. 16. . . . . • Nov. 22. . . . . • Nov. 23. . . . . • Nov. 30. . . . . • Dec. 4 . . . . . . • Dec. 7 . . . . . . • Dec. 7 . . . . . . • Dec. 11 . . . . . • Dec. 14 . . . . . • Dec. 14 . . . . . • Dec. 14 . . . . . • Dec. 21 . . . . .

• Nov. 1 . . . . . . 2019 HMVET Gourmet Fundraiser, 6 p.m. • Nov. 11. . . . . History Happy Hour: In Honor of Veteran’s Day, 5:30 p.m. • Nov. 14. . . . . Historic Treasures Lecture Series, with Jaimie Timm, 11:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m. • Nov. 21. . . . . Holiday Card/Game Party, noon to 4 p.m. • Nov. 22. . . . . Holiday Tea, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. • Nov. 23. . . . . Soup & Santa, 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. • Nov. 23. . . . . Holiday Open House, 3-6 p.m. • Dec. 6 . . . . . . A Handmade Christmas, 4 p.m. • Dec. 7 . . . . . . A Handmade Christmas, 9 a.m. • Dec. 9 . . . . . . History Happy Hour, 5:30 p.m. • Dec. 12 . . . . . Healthy Living Lecture Series: Healthier Holiday Treats, presented by Jen Haugen, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information, call 507-434-0934.

Second Floor Gallery Opening: Members Show, 5-7 p.m. $5 Kids Studio: Buried Treasure, 10:30 a.m. to noon $5 Kids Studio: Torn Paper Planets, 10:30 a.m. to noon Family Art Studio, 1-3 p.m. $5 Kids Studio: Owl Painting on Canvas, 10:30 a.m. to noon Polymer Clay Handing Animals with Layl McDill, 1 p.m. Part Time Ex’s - Music at the Bank, 7:30 p.m. ArtRocks Open Jam Session, 7-9:30 p.m. $5 Kids Studio: Cupcake Trinket Dish, 10:30 a.m. to noon $5 Kids Studio: Egg Carton Folk Ornaments, 10:30 a.m. to noon Felted Gnomes, 6 p.m. $5 Kids Studio: Prints and Patterns, 10:30 a.m. to noon Embroidery Class “Elfonso” 1 p.m. Evergreen Landscape Painting w/ Katie Stromlund 6pm $5 Kids Studio: Reindeer Painting on Canvas Family Art Studio 1-3 p.m. (free) Polymer Clay Nativity 2 p.m. $5 Kids Studio: Holiday Ornaments (clay) 10:30 a.m.

58 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

Christmas in the Northwest

When: 5-8 p.m. Where: Northwest Austin Christmas in the City continues with a focus on the businesses in the northwest corridor. Fun for the entire family. For more information, call 507-437-4561.

For more information, call 507-433-4243.

Sola Fide Observatory Viewings

For more information, call 507-437-7519 or email • Nov. 9 . . . . . . 8-10 p.m. • Nov. 23. . . . . 8-10 p.m.

Dec. 5

Christmas in the Southwest

When: 5-8 p.m. Where: Southwest Austin Christmas in the City continues with a focus on the businesses in the southwest Sterling Mall and surrounding area. Fun for the entire family. For more information, call 507-437-4561.

Dec. 9

Christmas in the East

When: 4:30-8 p.m. Where: Eastside Austin Christmas in the City continues with a focus on the businesses in the east, including the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. Fun for the entire family. For more information, call 507-437-4561.

Dec. 13

Christmas in the County Pre-Sell Bake Sale When: 3-5:30 p.m. Where: Mower County Historical Society Administration Building Get a jump start on your holiday baking. This annual fundraiser will feature homemade cookies, lefse, candies and goodies galore.

Dec. 14

Christmas in the County When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Where: Mower County Historical Society Join the MCHS for an old-fashioned Christmas. Silent auction, horse-drawn wagon rides, kids activities, visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, food stand, bakes sales and much more. A raffle drawing will be held at 3 p.m.

Austin Bruins Schedule

Go Bruins! Tickets can be purchased at Hy-Vee, Jim’s MarketPlace Foods, Games People Play, Holiday Inn or at the door at Riverside Arena. All games start at 7:05 p.m. at Riverside Arena unless noted otherwise. • Nov. 2 . . . . . . • Nov. 9 . . . . . . • Nov. 15. . . . . • Nov. 16. . . . . • Nov. 22. . . . . • Nov. 29. . . . . • Dec. 13 . . . . . • Dec. 14 . . . . .

vs. Minnesota Magicians (Albert Lea Youth Hockey Night) vs. Minnesota Wilderness (Austin Packer Athletic Night) vs. Aberdeen Wings (Military Appreciation Night) vs. Aberdeen Wings (Post Game Skate) vs. Minnesota Magicians (Ladies Night) vs. Minnesota Wilderness (Black Friday Blackout) vs. Minot Minotauros (Teddy Bear Toss presented by Power 96) vs. Minot Minotauros (Austin Youth Hockey Night)

Events at the Paramount Theatre For more information, call 507-434-0934. • Nov. 8 . . . . . . • Nov. 9 . . . . . . • Nov. 20. . . . . • Nov. 29. . . . .

Veterans Day Film Special - “Saving Private Ryan,” 6:30 p.m. Galactic Cowboy Orchestra, 7:30 p.m. World Series Music: LADAMA Project, 7:30 p.m. Jane Taylor Dance “Nutcracker” Ballet, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 15

“Home for the Holidays” with the Austin Symphony Orchestra When: 2 p.m. Where: Knowlton Auditorium, Austin High School Celebrate the holidays with our great symphony orchestra and guests, the MacPhail Austin Community Children’s Choir, along with narrator Lisa Deyo. Program includes “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Bill Holcombe, “Song of the Sandman Dream Pantomime” from “Hansel & Gretel” by Engelbert Humperdinck, and “On Christmas Day” by Steven Amundson. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, go to

Dec. 16

Jacob Burkhart Jazz Concert

When: 7 p.m. Where: Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Enjoy an evening of holiday and nature-themed jazz featuring former Nature Center summer intern, Jacob Burkhart. The concert is free, but please RSVP by Dec. 15. Concert will be in the Ruby Rupner Auditorium. For more information or to RSVP, call 507-437-7519.

Dec. 20-22

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” When: 7 p.m. (20-21) and 2 p.m. (22) Where: Historic Paramount Theatre

A Matchbox Children’s Theatre production. The audience will catch the Christmas spirit as the six children in the notorious, horrible Herdman family volunteer to star in their town’s Sunday school Christmas pageant, and end up teaching everyone the true meaning of Christmas. Tickets $10 for adults, $6 for children. For tickets or more information, go to or, or call 507-434-0934.

• Dec. 6 . . . . . . Northwestern Singers and Riverland College Choir: A CommUNITY Christmas, 7 p.m. • Dec. 7 . . . . . . Tuba Christmas, 11 a.m. • Dec. 8 . . . . . . Tony Alonso - And Heaven and Nature Sing, 2 p.m. • Dec. 10 . . . . . Lorie Line 30th Year Celebrating Christmas, 7 p.m. • Dec. 15 . . . . . SimpleGifts with Billy McLaughlin, 2:30 p.m.

Movie Matinee and Movie Night at the Paramount Theatre Held every Wednesday at 3 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m., unless noted otherwise. Tickets are $5; no advance ticket sales. For more information call 507-434-0934. • Nov. 6 . . . . . . • Nov. 13. . . . . • Nov. 27. . . . . • Dec. 4 . . . . . . • Dec. 11 . . . . . • Dec. 18 . . . . .

“Coco” “The Goonies” “Pink Floyd’s The Wall” “Gremlins” “The Polar Express” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 59


FILLING IN THE BLANKS McGhee novel explores mother/daughter relationship among the struggles of Alzheimer’s BY LISA DEYO, AUSTIN PAGE TURNERS keeps secrets of the past deep within I read “Never Coming Back” by her; and the very gentle bartender Alison McGhee while on a “bucket Christopher, who reminds me of list” trip with my 89-year-old mom every Nicholas Sparks hero figure. and sisters. Since the book is about On a literary note, McGhee a mother/daughter relationship, it chooses to add threads to her writing seemed the perfect time to read this that keep a reader enthused and inbook, one would think. However, terested. Clara and her mother have the fictional mother has early onset a running theme based on the show Alzheimer’s disease. Okay, maybe Jeopardy that is amusing. The other not so perfect to read on my trip. thread that I found fascinating is Oh, and in addition, the single Clara’s job as a wordsmith and how woman and the only daughter, is she is continually creating, adjusttrying desperately to find out the ing, and twisting words and phrases details of her birth and earliest in her head. She even goes as far as years, which have left her feeling explaining her use of punctuation in love forsaken. Hmmm – maybe her thoughts. This was an interestnot the cheeriest book to read on ing way to create more depth in her a bucket list trip?! But in reality, character. reading “Never Coming Back” on For those who attended the our trip together taught me a new play, “Good Morning, Miss America” mantra: “Meet the person where they during the ArtWorks Festival, there are at.” were similar dynamics in the mother/ “Never Coming Back,” written daughter relationship as in the book by McGhee, who is a Minneapolis “Never Coming Back.” The play, author, is the story of Clara, a written by former Austinite Phyllis Yes, also had 32-year-old single woman who returns to her a grown daughter attempting to assist a mother childhood home in the Adirondacks to care for as she develops Alzheimer’s. Audience memher mom, who has been diagnosed with early bers, like me, wanted to stop the daughter from onset Alzheimer’s. Clara is continually coached showing her anger in the situation. We wanted by the care facility’s staff to meet her mother to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. “where she is at,” communicative or confused We (maybe just me personally) wanted to walk and irate. This wouldn’t be that difficult if the away from the play (and the book) with a perdaughter Clara hadn’t been determined to get sonal mission to appreciate aging and capture truths from her mom about her birth and missthe stories and histories around us while we still ing details of her earlier life. There is angst and can. sorrow, no doubt as with any story based on Alison McGhee Clara’s story may not be the cheeriest story this disease, and yet McGhee fills the story with as we may find our own personal stories that have beauty and friendship in a setting that rivals the similar situations that are difficult, whether it is disease, beauty of our north woods. aging, or unexpected situations. Clara’s story does, however; McGhee weaves in colorful characters who could achelp us grasp acceptance of circumstances. The approaching tually carry their own stories quite easily. Clara’s college holiday season is the perfect time to capture the stories, cherfriends who resemble hippie throwbacks; the larger-than-life ish our relationships, and “meet people where they are.’’ Annabelle Lee who tells it like it is, and boldly too, and yet 60 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

TURN THE PAGE If you liked reading “Never Coming Back,” Lisa suggests you also try reading the following books: “Dear Sister,” is written in a similar style of the popular children’s series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” using handwritten notes and pictures. My fourth grade class laughed loudly but also sighed many times as we followed the older brother’s letters to his newborn sister. The letters continue for the next dozen years until he goes off to college. All ages will enjoy and understand this book! “Someday” has been a popular gift book for new parents since it’s release in 2007. McGee uses simple but profound language as she views all the possibilities in a child’s life. My favorite line — “Someday you will call a song to the wind, and the wind will carry your song away.” This book is also recommended for graduation and Mother’s Day gifts. “Making a Friend” makes one want to go back to childhood, making a snowman, enjoying winter delights, and creating that imaginary friend so very special to a child. McGee allows that snow friend to live through the seasons via the different forms of water. Once again, she uses her beautiful choice of words to tug on the heartstrings. “What you love will always be with you.” November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 61



Rawhide, is it really safe? BY MICHELLE NELSON – OWNER, PET AUTHORITY As pet owners we strive to keep our pets healthy. We feed them a high-quality food, exercise them daily, schedule regular vet checks, but oftentimes we buy just whatever is in the checkout lane at the grocery store for their chews and treats. We have all been guilty of it, thinking, “it’s just a treat, what harm can it really do?” Today I want to take a look at the commonly purchased rawhide, you will quickly understand why I choose not to sell it. The name rawhide itself is quite deceptive as there is absolutely nothing raw about it. Completely processed from beginning to end, rawhide is really a by-product of the leather industry, not the beef industry like you would think. That being said, it is not subject to the same rules and regulations as other dog chews. Let’s take a closer look at how Michelle rawhide is made and then I will let you Nelson decide if this is a wise choice to feed your dogs. Step 1: Cattle hides are shipped from slaughter houses to tanneries for processing. The hides are treated with a chemical to prevent spoilage during transportation. Upon arrival at the tanneries, hides are soaked and treated with either an ash-lye solution or a highly toxic recipe of sodium sulphide liming to strip the hair and fat off the hide. It is then treated with chemicals to puff the hide so it can be split into layers; the outer layer goes to shoes, purses, car seats etc. and the inner layer is made into gelatin, cosmetics, glue and rawhide. Step 2: In the post-tanning stage, hides are washed and whitened with a solution of hydrogen peroxide and/or bleach.



Additional chemicals are used if further whitening is needed. Step 3: Rawhide can then be basted, smoked or tinted with FD&C Red 40 and sodium benzoate, both of which are a low-dose poison to our pets. Step 4: In order for rawhides to “last forever,” glue is added. These glues often contain lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium salts, or formaldehyde. I know many of you are using rawhides to keep your pets teeth clean, but what starts out as a hard piece of hide is quickly turned into a slimy glob of goo that has absolutely no dental benefit. There are much healthier and safer options than rawhide, my favorite is raw bones or chicken necks (also great for cats), bully sticks, no-hides, beef cheek rolls etc, all of which are great for cleaning teeth. If you are still insistent on feeding rawhide, look for Organic, USA made rawhide to purchase. Initially rawhide needs to be bigger than your dogs head and once it is half its original size, throw it away as it can then be easily swallowed and can lodge in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. Sometimes abdominal surgery is needed to remove rawhide compactions from the stomach or intestines. If the blockage is not removed, it can ultimately lead to death. I personally have had several customers that had to have rawhide compactions surgically removed from their pets. So the next time you come across that big, white rawhide bones, my suggestion to you is to keep on walking, as we decide how healthy our pets are going to be.

LOCATIONS to better serve you


The Pet Authority (est. 2005) 2014 E Main Street | Albert Lea MN 507-373-2505

62 | Austin Living | November–December 2019

The Pet Authority of Austin 803 18th Ave NW | Austin, MN 507-396-2770


November–December 2019 | Austin Living | 63


No place like home Heidi Schara

Heidi Schara is proud to call Austin her home BY HEIDI SCHARA • PHOTO As Dorothy suggests in the “Wizard of Oz,” there really is no place like [my] home of Austin, Minnesota. My husband and I have called this wonderful community home for 20 years. In that time, we have raised two children and both enjoyed incredible careers in education. I imagine that each resident has a slightly different view on what makes Austin so special. To my family, education, sense of community and local shopping are what stand out. The educational opportunities our community provides are second-to-none. The excellent educators in the Austin Public School system have challenged, cared for, and supported my children. Engaging teachers inspired our daughter to love math, which has become part of her career path. Patient teachers helped our son reach incredible growth and self-confidence. Teachers here truly care about their students. They work tirelessly to ensure learning occurs for so many diverse students. We also have access to excellent higher education through Riverland Community College. We are so fortunate that The Hormel Foundation is investing in the future of our community through the Assurance Scholarship program, providing access to students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to enroll in college. 64 | Austin Living | November–December 2019



Education leads to many opportunities including a greater sense of understanding, tolerance and acceptance. Our community has taken steps to be more inclusive thereby easing the transition for our migrant, refugee and immigrant families. Living in such a diverse community is a blessing, which allows us to learn about many different cultures and traditions. Programs like Autism Friendly Austin also foster inclusion by helping businesses and community members communicate more effectively with those who have Autism. All of these efforts help our diverse population feel safe and give all of us a sense of belonging. The “Eat.Drink.Shop.Austin” program also is important to the fabric of our community, serving as an important reminder to shop locally. When we invest our dollars here at home, we boost our local economy. There are not many towns our size where you find authentic fish tacos, amazing homemade malts and yummy shredded pork just to name a few. With a short trip downtown, I can buy shoes, clothes, a new book and artist-made jewelry. We are so lucky to live in such a vibrant community! Austin has been my family’s home for more than 20 years. We are here to stay because there truly is no place like [our] home!


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Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin Call 507-433-8758 to schedule an appointment.

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