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FEATURE S April 2015 Volume 10, Issue 4


14 A FAIR time

We take you behind the scenes of a regional science fair.

18 Hey, Teach!

Educators that are making a difference in your kids’ lives, which benefits us all.

22 Working together

Partnerships between higher education and industry are mutually beneficial.

About the Cover

Eric Koser of Mankato West High School poses in his classroom. Pat Christman’s photo offers a great view into his “lab.”

MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 3




6 From the Associate Editor 8 This Day in History 9 The Gallery

Pam Bidelman

10 Beyond the Margin Of melting ice and tasty beer 12 Day Trip Destinations Science Museum of Minnesota



35 Food, Drink & Dine 38 Food Cocktail gardens 40 Wine White Zin 41 First Draught Two Hearted Ale 42 Happy Hour Kombucha 44 What’s Cookin’? Cheese!


48 Then and Now Flood of ‘65 52 That’s Life Field trip time! 54 Garden Chat Potatoes 56 Your Style Crocheted skulls 58 Coming Attractions 61 Faces & Places 64 From This Valley Key West adventures


Coming in May

54 4 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE


April shower will bring May flowers ... So let’s grow! We’ll bring you stories of gardeners and growth.


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Designed and built for the bold

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From The Associate Editor


April 2015 • VOLUME 10, ISSUE 4 PUBLISHER James P. Santori EDITOR Joe Spear ASSOCIATE Robb Murray EDITOR CONTRIBUTORS Nell Musolf Pete Steiner Jean Lundquist Sarah Johnson Leigh Pomeroy Bert Mattson Ann Rosenquist Fee Heidi Sampson Joe Tougas Leticia Gonzales PHOTOGRAPHERS John Cross Pat Christman PAGE DESIGNER Christina Sankey ADVERTISING Ginny Bergerson MANAGER ADVERTISING Jen Wanderscheid Sales Theresa Haefner ADVERTISING Barb Wass ASSISTANT ADVERTISING Sue Hammar DESIGNERS Christina Sankey


Mankato Magazine is published by The Free Press Media monthly at 418 South Second St., Mankato MN 56001. To subscribe, call 1-800-657-4662 or 507-625-4451. $35.40 for 12 issues. For editorial inquiries, call Robb Murray at 344-6386, or e-mail For advertising, call 344-6336, or e-mail

6 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

By Robb Murray

Confession time.


t’s February, circa 1982, and the gymnasium of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic school is full of science fair kids. Todd Hurley’s doing acid rain again. Pete Boulay is killing it on weather. Debbie Rohlik has brought the house down with her project on glaucoma. And then there was me. And the world’s saddest, most pathetic “science fair” project. This was back in the day, folks, when Mom and Dad didn’t do the heavy lifting. At least mine didn’t. It was all me. I had to come up with the board, do some creative stenciling and basically figure out exactly what my science fair project would be. The only thing I was interested in that was remotely scientific was photography, so that’s what I did. My project was a deep, souldriven journey into the heart of the photographic arts. And when I say “deep, souldriven journey,” I mean I threw a handful of cameras onto the table and cobbled together a science fair board that, by today’s standards, would be laughed out of the building. I did take home a ribbon that year: Honorable Mention. I was one of a handful of kids who pulled in the ribbon they gave to the kids who just ... didn’t ... get it. The pity ribbon. That’s the kind of student I was. So, yeah. Science, while I absolutely love it, hasn’t been anything I’ve ever had an aptitude for. But I live in a community where science is valued. In our schools, more kids are taking Advanced Placement classes than ever. At Mankato West High School, in fact, there will be 780 AP tests taken this

spring, many of them in the sciences. This month we bring you the “Science!” issue of Mankato Magazine, and we think you’re going to love it. Science fairs have come a long way since an underachieving slacker tried to snap-shot his way through a project. Our science fair feature this month takes you behind the scenes of a science fair. We talk to judges, coordinators, students — even the woman who gets the winners’ certificates ready. It’s a nice look into a world you may know on one level, but never got a chance to peek behind the curtain. We also take you into the classroom. Nell Musolf’s wonderful story on science teachers who make a difference will make you wish you were back in high school again. These are the teachers who inspire our bright young minds to greatness. They go the extra mile. Do whatever it takes. And our Day Trip Destinations feature gets up to the Twin Cities again. This time we remind you how amazing the Science Museum of Minnesota is — always worth the trip. In Food, Drink and Dine, get ready to be taken to wine school, and to learn a few things about Zinfandel And, if you’re ready for a literary journey that may change forever the way you look at billboards, check out the magnificent essay by Joe Tougas, a community treasure if there ever was one. His essay is an absolute must read. Thanks for reading! MM Robb Murray is associate editor of Mankato Magazine. Contact him at or

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History —

By Jean Lundquist

Saturday, April 29, 1933 Parking Limits Will Be Enforced Starting Monday Rigid enforcement of parking regulations in Mankato will begin Monday Chief of Police Pat Henry announced today. From 9 a. m. to 6 p. m. each weekday the parking limit on Front street will be one hour and on the cross streets in the business district from Front to 2nd the limit will be two hours. Front Street will have a one hour limit on Saturdays up to 10 o’clock in the evening. All officers have been instructed to issue tickets for double parking except for the purpose of loading and unloading. Officers will issue tickets without warning to those who double park. Visitors will be immune from parking regulations if they secure a visitor’s courtesy tag from the police department. Visitors however, may not speed, park in restricted zones, near fire plugs, or break other uniform traffic laws. Friday, April 7, 1911 Trouble Aired In Police Court This Forenoon, But The Authorities Did Not Press It, And Lighter One Of Drunkenness Preferred John Miller of Good Thunder was arrested there yesterday by deputy sheriff Ed Ario and brought to the city, and this forenoon was given a preliminary hearing on the charge of threatening to kill, preferred by his brother, August Miller. The affair is alleged to have taken place Sunday last. Had Been Drinking

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The defendant says that he had been drinking a good deal on Sunday, having four beers in the forenoon and some alcohol mixed in the afternoon and he does not remember just what occurred, but he says that he did not threaten to kill his brother and did not have a gun in his hands. He said that both sons live with their father in the village and there is a gun in the house, but he has not seen it for a long time. One Charge Not Pressed The charge of threatening to kill was not pressed, but a new charge of drunkenness was preferred against John Miller and he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 days in the county jail. The other charge, he was told, would not be revived if he kept sober and out of trouble and stayed away from his brother. John Miller is 22 years old and his brother 29. Wednesday, April 7, 1954 Family Has First Male Child In 75 Years New Ulm — The Milliman family is celebrating the arrival in its midst of the first boy born in the last 75 years. Mrs. John E. Webster, the former Virginia Milliman, gave birth to the infant at Union Hospital on Sunday. She is one of eight Milliman daughters. The last Milliman male until the new arrival was Mrs. Webster’s father, who died five years ago at 70. Thursday, April 23, 1959 Pink Green Chicks Result from Injection Of Eggs Wells — Pink and green chicks made their debut in Wells this week as residents stared, did a double take, and sought reassurance they were not in need of optical attention. It all began when Howard Soost, Wells High School freshman, saw on a TV show an experiment resulting in colored chicks. He interested his uncle, Albert Soost of the Walnut Lake Hatchery in experimenting with the idea. They enlisted the aid of Howard’s science teacher, Neil Slinde, who obtained the necessary information, and the experiment was launched. Eight chicks on the 16th day of incubation were inoculated with vegetable coloring through a hypodermic needle inserted carefully into the center of the egg. Last Monday, four days after the injection, three eggs burst open to reveal two green and one pink perky chicks … Soost said the chicks will retain their gay hues until they lose their down, when they will revert to their natural color. The coloring in harmless to the chicks, and is a decided improvement over the common practice of dyeing chicks at Easter time.

8 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

The Gallery — Pam Bidelman | By Nell Musolf



MUSE All Pam Bidelman needed was a nudge


lthough she worked as a career social worker, St. Peter artist Pam Bidelman always had what she called a “longing” to develop her more creative side. Work, raising her two daughters and having a household to run kept that longing at bay until 1990. It was then that Bidelman joined a drawing group and was at long last able to release her inner artist. “As my kids started growing up and needed me less, I realized that there was a true longing inside of me to do something artistic,” Bidelman recalled from the home she has lived in with her husband Mike for 41 years. “A part of me was truly heartsick that I hadn’t been able to do that and I found myself envying the people who could.” Finally responding to her not-so-dormant muse, Bidelman purchased a tiny watercolor kit that came with tiny sheets of paper and tentatively started to take a few steps down the artistic path. She began by setting up a regular time to paint after coming home from work. Bidelman painted while her husband prepared their dinner. “I tried to teach myself,” Bidelman said, “but watercolors were hard. I don’t think I’m meticulous enough to be really good at them.” When Bidelman’s husband gave her a set of oils for Christmas that year, she knew that she had found her medium. “I fell in love with oils,” Bidelman said. “My paintings have anywhere from 10 to 50 layers of paint on them and I love that I can create the exact color that I want and I like bright colors.” After retiring in 2003 Bidelman became even more serious about her art and asked people she knew in the artistic community if they thought that she had what it would take to go forward as an artist. After getting positive feedback from many different artists, she plunged more fully into her painting. An emerging artist grant from the Prairie Lakes Regional Art Council in the mid-2000’s encouraged her even further. “The PLRAC is such a wonderful group,” Bidelman said. “They are so supportive of artists in southern Minnesota and enable so many people to do things they normally couldn’t do.” After painting for several years Bidelman was feeling stuck in her art and a little bit stale. That was when she

applied for a mid-career fellowship from PLRAC to help her find a mentor. Bidelman was awarded the fellowship in 2010. “I assumed that my mentor would be someone who would help me improve my painting,” Bidelman said. “That wasn’t quite what I got.” Instead she worked with Cheryle Melander, a ceramic sculptor, a mentor who helped her learn about installation art, an experience she doesn’t believe she would have ever had otherwise. Working with her mentor Bidelman painted images on lengths of plastic that were then dried and placed between sheets of Plexiglas. The Plexiglas sheets were then hung from the ceiling of the gallery. “I learned so much from that experience,” Bidelman recalled. “It was fabulous. What I learned about installation art is that it takes a lot of effort and collaboration. I have so much admiration for artists like Liz Miller who do installation art. It’s a lot of work.” Bidelman paints a great deal of women and said that she has heard that her paintings have a watching quality to them. Her paintings range from smallish to quite large and the bright colors she loves are predominant. Bidelman said that she thinks her paintings look best when they are hanging. “They can be large and they are definitely colorful,” she said. “The need to be on a wall so that the colors can really be appreciated.” Bidelman works out of a studio in her home and said that she typically spends about three hours a day painting. Working is a joy to her and she compared it to knitting or any other solitary occupation where her mind is free to roam and she is being creative at the same time. Bidelman does commissioned work and also sells her paintings through the Stones Throw Gallery. She has had shows at the Carnegie Art Center and also participated in the Art Crawl events. All in all she is impressed with the artists she has met and pleased to be one of them. “I’m part of such a supportive community,” she said. “It is truly fulfilling,” Bidelman said. “Even better than I imagined it would be.”

MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 9

10 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE




By Joe Spear

Spring hopes are eternal, but also black As the ice melts, the beer gets cold


he robin’s return as a sign of spring is a myth. Many stick around bird feeders all winter. If you want a serious ornithological sign of spring, you’re better off relying on the Red-winged Blackbird, various bird experts advise. Male Red-winged Blackbirds arrive first to their potential northern nesting places, but they don’t come unless there is a ready food source, mainly live insects. A robin, on the other hand, will forage for any kind of food, berries or bird seed whatever the season. So when you see the Red-winged Blackbird, it’s a good sign of spring, or at least that there are now live insects in the swamps. They also aggressively stake out the nesting territory. As of March 16, there were only two sightings of Red-winged blackbirds in Minnesota, one in St. Louis Park and one in Fergus Falls, according to the website. So we should be wary of jumping the gun despite the near 70-degree temps. The late arrival of the blackbird, however, does not stem the enthusiasm of little girls on pink bikes with pink baskets riding down the driveways past piles of melting snow. Nor does it damp the enthusiasm of the spandex wearing “pro biker” in spring who is still riding on the shoulder of the road instead of the designated bike path, just like last fall. Ugh. Bard owls begin their hooting: “Who cooks for you.” The grill covers come off. Smoke billows through the neighborhood with smells of brats, garlic-marinated steak and wild-rice stuffed pork chops. Mary and Dennis Buschkowsky also help us with the timing of our spring enthusiasm. They have been reporting the Madison Lake ice-out date to the state climate office and climate change researchers in New York for three decades. It’s the date all the ice is completely gone from the lake. A spring 2013 Free Press article detailed their efforts. As the ice remains thick and massive on the lake the Buschkowskys can just relax in their home and watch it. But as the weather warms, and ice disappears from their view, they travel around the 1,400 acre lake as many as three times a day, using binoculars to see the last chunks of ice melting away. They’ve sometimes gone out at midnight to check to make sure their ice-out date is a solid climatological measure. The ice houses have been pulled off the lakes by midMarch. It’s a state law. The fisherman’s transition begins. Old men in dirty seed corn caps move from the sedentary life sitting in the dark confines of an ice house to the sedentary life of sitting in a fishing boat for hours at a time, can of beer in the cupholder. The American brewing industry ups its production of

beer in cans to accommodate summer and spring festivals and those of us who have a garage fridge that needs restocking. It’s another sign of spring brought to us by the United Steelworkers Union. The Aluminum Association says craft beers, in particular, are a new market for can makers. “Nearly 500 craft beer brewers use aluminum to can more than 1,700 different beers. Protection from light and oxygen are two key benefits in addition to the unparalleled sustainability of aluminum packaging,” according to the industry’s website. Beer in cans is making a comeback. Executives from Summit and Schell’s told the Star Tribune last year that they can be more competitive because the aluminum cans are one sixth the weight of a bottle and they can therefore greatly reduce their shipping costs. Kyle Marti of Schell’s told the Star Tribune: “In the summertime, there are a lot of places you can go with cans that you can’t go with bottles.” Think of the beach or golf course. The Lienenkugel Brewing Co. has known about the summer and beer consumption connection for decades. The company announced the release of it’s “Summer Shandy” around March 1, about a month ahead of time this year. You can go on the World Wide Web and find out how close you are to a Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, a 4.2 percent alcohol by volume beer that is a mix between beer and lemonade. In early March, the Leinenkugel website’s “beer finder” showed you could get one within 50 miles of Mankato, at the Heartbreaker’s Bar and Grill in Chaska. 16 ounces for $5.25. If you really want a good deal on the Shandy, your drive will be significantly longer. You can buy a six pack of 16 ounce cans of Summer Shandy for an incredible $5.69 at Flannery’s II beer store at 1071 Summit Ave., Oconomowoc, Wis. Is that a real place? Yes. It is 285.6 miles from Mankato. Seems like a long way to drive for a good beer price. But who knows. Might be worth it. By March 7, the online beer finder showed Mankato liquor stores and bars had Summer Shandy in stock. And if you’re looking for a reason to crack that first can of beer from the garage fridge, it’s good to know a can made from recycled aluminum uses 95 percent less energy than one made from raw materials. So we lift our can to the signs of spring and tip our hat to those who help us think about summer in March and April. Joe Spear is editor of Mankato Magazine. Contact him at 344-6382 or MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 11

Day Trip Destinations: Science Museum



| By Leticia Gonzales

If you’re into space exploration, the Science Museum of Minnesota is the place for you this spring and summer.

With science ...

Anything is possible A trip to the Science Museum can bring out your inner child


ith nearly a million visitors a year, the Science Museum of Minnesota has been combining research with play in St. Paul since its creation in 1907. Tana Barnhart, a 40-year-old mother of four from Brooklyn Center, has fond memories of taking school trips to the museum when it was located in the Arts and Science Center on Wabasha. “My absolute favorite was Iggy the Iguana,” she said. Barnhart now shares her memories of the museum with her own children, ages 4, 8, 11 and 13; she has been taking her children since her oldest was a preschooler. “I love how the whole museum is set up for a hands-on experience,” said Barnhart. “I’ve always learned best by doing, and at the Science Museum each station is set up to teach

12 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

something in a tactile way. There are of course artifacts that are not available to touch, but there are often workers there with something related that they will talk to you about and have things for you to do or touch. It’s very much a play-tolearn atmosphere.” Despite the span in age between her children, Barnhart said there is never a shortage of activities. “Now that I have children ranging from teenager to preschooler, I love that the Science Museum has something for everyone regardless of age, she said. “There are layers of learning there that will appeal to young and old.” Whether it’s the Dinosaurs and Fossils Gallery, where you can encounter the mounted skeleton of the 82-foot-long Diplodocus, or the Human Body Gallery, where you can

observe your own cheek cells from a microscope, the museum exhibits aim to engage. The museum features three floors of permanent galleries, which also include an Experiment Gallery, Cell Lab, Science Buzz, Mississippi River Gallery, Collectors’ Corner, Collections Gallery, and Big Back Yard. In addition, two temporary exhibits as well as two Omni films are rotated at the museum each year. One of those rotating exhibits is Space: An Out-of-Gravity Experience, otherwise known as The Space Exhibit, which opened in the museum’s Great Hall this February. “It is going to take visitors to the world of outer space where only a few have experienced,” said Kim Ramsden, Director of Communications at the Science Museum. “We have hands-on activities, and we also have a walk-through research lab.” Visitors will not only be able to see where astronauts live and work while in space, they will also be able to see what it feels like in the rotating Destiny lab. Guests can also participate in experiments such as playing with a water and air press to launch their own water rocket. Along with the 10,000-square-foot exhibit, there is the Omni film, “Journey to Space,” which is shown on a dynamic screen that is nine stories tall, and seven stories wide. “It’s the perfect complement to the space exhibit,” said Ramsden. “It will take the viewers to the next frontier.” When you walk through the museum’s atrium, you will also be greeted by a 36-foot tall and 40-foot wide giant astronaut, waving to visitors. “We are really excited to go all out,” said Ramsden. “If you like space, the Science Museum is the place to be this summer.” The astronaut, titled Escape Velocity, was an art installation project from the 2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The museum purchased the piece, which features animatronics and is equipped with a camera in its front window. In addition to the exhibits and galleries, there are other rotating performances all geared toward Science and how things work. “We have a live theatre in the atrium that has shows that run every half-hour,” said Ramsden. “Those shows change frequently.” The shows range in activity from experiments on stage to dropping objects from the top-level floor of the museum’s atrium. “We like to keep it vibrant,” Ramsden said. “We try and have something new and different each week, in addition to the favorites that don’t change.” Depending on the day of the week, there may be different enrichment activities or stations set up throughout the museum. “There is a lot to see and do,” said Barnhart. “We’ve never done the whole museum in one trip, but that’s part of the fun of having a membership. It can be a different experience each time you visit. See your favorites and try something new.” From building giant structures out of uniform laundry baskets to making body casts using tape and plastic wrap, Barnhart said the time spent exploring at the Science Museum has ignited something new in her children. “My kids are talking about the things they have learned, asking more questions, and wanting to retry some experiments at home,” she said. “They are talking about how they can improve on what they did to make it better next time. But, I think they are starting to realize science is a part of our everyday lives.”

Playtime for Parents


pril 9, 2015: 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Leave the kids and strollers behind for this Science Museum hands-on activity for adults only (21+ with valid ID). The Fermentational Informational event allows visitors the chance to “put beer under the microscope and celebrate the biology, chemistry and hand-to-mouth physics that delight your senses.” Features limited beer sampling from local breweries, fermentation demonstrations, beer density experiments, and presentations by experts. The exhibits will also be open, giving adults a chance for a fun night out with appetizers, friends and trivia. Visit or call (800) 221-9444 to make reservations for more information.

If you go What Science Museum of Minnesota, 120 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul When Sunday, Tuesday & Wednesday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday, & Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Mondays Space: An Out-of-Gravity Experience runs through Sept. 7, and “Journey to Space” runs through Aug. 23.

Admission FREE for Members (yearly membership rates range from $69 to $99) Non-Members: Museum Admission OnlyAdult $13, Child (4-12) $10, Senior (60+) $10; Omnitheater Only- Adult $8, Child (4-12) $7, Senior (60+) $7; Omnitheater & Museum Admission- Adult $20, Child (4-12) $17, Senior (60+) $17 Visit or call (800) 221-9444 MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 13



Each year, southern Minnesota’s best and brightest compete for ribbons and certificates at the science fair


By Robb Murary

n an hour, this room will be exploding with intellect. Kids will be running circuits around mountain bikes and explaining the water pollution of complex organisms. They’ll be talking aquaponics, homeopathic therapies and bioinformatics. They’ll be assembling three-sectioned boards, preparing to talk to judges and dressing oh so smartly. But for now, the room is empty … except for Maya Miller and her dad, John. “We lacked a little info,” says dad, chuckling about their early arrival. This is the 64th annual Southern Minnesota Regional Science and Engineering Fair, middle school and high school division. Organizers have been planning this event for, literally, 12 months. From preparing award certificates to encouraging teachers to encourage students to lining up judges for the event, A LOT goes into getting the science fair ready for the hundreds of kids who participate. In a way, it’s all for the moment that first kid walks through the door of Minnesota State University’s Centennial Student Union Ballroom. In the case of this year, it was Maya. At 7:02 a.m., her entrance into the ballroom kicked off a whirlwind day of middle school and high school science exhilaration. Take a walk with us behind the scenes of an allAmerican science fair.

Early bird …

For the Miller family, this was the year and project where the kid was going to do everything herself. Including figuring out what time to be at the science fair. Maya was leaving nothing to chance. She didn’t want to be late. So they got their early. Real early. 14 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE



Photos by John Cross Maya attends Dakota Meadow Middle School, which doesn’t have a science fair. So this was her first run through this year with the whole presenting-a-project-toa-judge thing. (Other schools have in-house science fairs where, after competing at school, the best projects then move on to regionals.) “This year mom and dad didn’t do anything,” dad says. If you’ve walked through the projects of a science fair you’ve no doubt seen the ones where mom and dad really, really did their best. The lettering is perfect, graphs are created and presented to a degree of sophistication that seems perhaps beyond the level of a 7th grader. Use of color looks like something out of “Project Runway.” This a common practice, and not altogether useless. Having mom and dad’s help has its advantages. It can show kids new ways to do things, show them how extra effort can pay off, and the involvement of mom and dad can also result in kids being more engaged in the project and ultimately learning more. But there’s also something to be said for going it alone, figuring things out for yourself, having the gumption and moxie to tackle a huge project and take it all the way to the regional science fair. That’s where Maya Miller is at. She’s the boss of her project examining short-term memory and aging. She’s the captain of this ship. Whether is sinks or sails, she’ll know it was all because of her. “I liked it,” she said, straightening the three-sectioned board on her table. “I’ve had their help in the past, but it was a lot of fun to try it on my own.” Added dad, “It’ll help her be more responsible and thoughtful. You know, there are deadlines you need to MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 15

Science fair participation is down at the junior and senior high school levels, but many say the lessons learned go far beyond the classroom. meet and things to need to make sure you get done.”

And the winner is …

Before any award certificates can be handed out, there needs to be someone in charge of making sure certificates will be available, and that they’ve got the right names on them. At this year’s science fair, that person is Haley Reed, an MSU student from Madelia. “I’ve got everything on an Excel spreadsheet,” she said, very sure of herself. “This year we’re a lot more organized.” This year, she says, things will be different. Last year, they struggled. They’d planned to print out the certificates, hoping a laser printer would give the certificates a professional feel. What they didn’t plan on was one printer overheating, and another running out of ink. They were forced to scramble to get certificates printed in a timely manner. This year, they’ve decided to do away with the magic of electronic printing and go with a more personal approach: hand-written names. Reed says she’s been practicing her penmanship so that, when the time comes, she’ll be able to deftly scribe out the names of whatever kid wins a particular award.

In back rooms …

Sydelle McCabe delivers a polite reminder to the group of 30 or so judges. “OK, you’ve got about 10 minutes to finish those muffins and then you’ll need to be out there,” she says, her ample voice bringing a slight hush to the breakfasting scientists, Army soldiers, high school teachers and others who have signed up to judge. Being a judge means getting to first stop by this room, 16 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

behind the ballroom where all the science is happening, and ingest as much coffee, scones, orange juice, danishes and bananas as they can handle. It’s a buffet of deliciousness, really, and is reserved only for those those who answered the call to judge. And for the woman in charge of getting those judges out there. “OK, ladies and gentlemen, those kids are waiting for you,” McCabe says, and slowly the judges rise from their chairs, toss their paper plates and polystyrene cups into rubbish bins and head to the ballroom. McCabe has been involved with science fairs for more than 15 years. Why? “Just to see what kids can do. The creativity, the imagination! One year, a little boy built a hover craft,” McCabe said. “I’m sure my mouth was hanging open. I mean, this was a fourth-grader!” This year, McCabe is a room coordinator, meaning she monitors a room full of judges and makes sure they head out to do their judging on time. In other years, she’s been one of those judges. She remembers grilling the kids about their particular project, whether it was the ins and outs of potato power or which candles burn the fastest. But she says she always had a few questions she’d ask of every participant, questions that sort of get at the heart of why science fairs exist in the first place: Why did you choose this project? Did you have fun? And what would you do differently if you did this project again? One thing she says she’s worried about is the declining participation numbers. While exact numbers weren’t available, organizers confirmed the number of kids in the junior high school and high school science fairs is way down compared to 10 years ago. One speculated that standardized testing may be scaring teachers and schools away from making time for encouraging science fair participation. And

and says there are researchers doing work right now that show participation in science fair can actually improve standardized test scores. So he says he’s working to get more kids at Dakota Meadows interested. Eventually, that may even mean holding a science fair at Dakota Meadows. “I didn’t want to bite off more than I can chew my first year,” he said. Still, he says, they encouraged kids to do science fair. And while there wasn’t much classroom time devoted to the progression of projects, he said he made time for kids to come in after school to get help if they wanted. And not all the lessons can be measured in beakers or charts. “If you learn nothing else,” Guldan said, “you’ve learned job interview skills. You can now communicate with someone so they can understand you.”

And if you don’t believe him …

one could hardly blame them. We’ve become a testing society. Ever school’s funding can be impacted by negative results on standardized tests. With such high stakes, it wouldn’t be surprising if that were contributing to the declining numbers. But that can’t be the only reason. McCabe says she hopes numbers pick up. Fast.

Life lessons …

In addition to learning everything there is to know about the effects of activity monitoring systems on the pregnancy rate of dairy cattle, or maximizing carbon sequestration in a freshwater photobioreactor, there are other lessons to learn by participating in a science fair. Tim Guldan is new to Dakota Meadows. But science — and the idea of the science fair — is in his blood. When he was in high school his science fair projects took him all the way to nationals. His parents participated in science fairs, too. He, too, laments the declining numbers of kids involved in science fairs,

Jonah Butler probably doesn’t belong in a feature article about the value of a science fair. The truth is, he would live and breathe science whether he was able to participate in a science fair or not. The Sibley East High School phenom has enough college credits to be a junior, and he’s hoping to get a letter soon from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology inviting him to enroll. He’s been doing science fairs annually since fourth grade, focusing on renewable energy for the last four. “I never cease to be amazed what can be accomplished through science,” Butler said. Like Guldan, Butler said there are benefits to participating in science fair that have little to do with science. “Being able to communicate effectively, whether you’re a doctor, scientist or a farmer — everybody needs to be able to communicate,” Butler said. He says he remembers that first science fair in fourth grade, remembers how nervous he was and how awkward he felt. Yes. Jonah Butler, the young man who has gone on to win national science fair competitions and has been attending school on the post-secondary education option, was once a scared little kid setting up his tri-fold board at his school science fair. He’s come a long way. “It was very intimidating. I stuttered and was just very intimidated,” Butler says. “Doing this has increased my confidence level.” MM

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MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 17

Eric Koser of Mankato West High School has earned a reputation as a teacher who makes science matter to his students.


When you’ve got the right teacher at the head of the class, learning complex concepts can be so much fun. Story by Nell Musolf | Photos by John Cross 18 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

“Making things relevant is more important than making them fun.” — Eric Koser


h, science class. Be it biology, chemistry or physics, it’s a fairly safe bet that most people far preferred the dreaded rope climb in gym to anything even remotely scientific. At least, that’s how it used to be. Thanks to many amazing and dedicated teachers in the Mankato area, science these days can actually be fun. Yes, fun! Well, if not a laugh riot, then at least informative and far more enjoyable than the rope climb. Over at West High School Eric Koser, spends half of his days teaching physics and the other half serving as a Continuous Improvement Coach for ISD 77. As a physics teacher, Koser strives to make science relevant. “Making things relevant is far more important than making them fun,” Koser said. “If a student can see how what he is learning is relevant in his own life, then it takes on an importance to him and in turn becomes something that he enjoys. So my goal as a teacher is to guide them in the learning process.” Koser guides his students by asking “lots and lots of questions.” “When I ask students questions that gives them the opportunity to figure out the answers on their own. I’m leading them but they’re doing the work,” Koser said. Koser has ample time to question his students during the ninth grade physics class he teaches. Hanging on the wall of his classroom is a poster that reads: “Ever tried, Ever failed, Fail again, Fail better,” a mantra that he is fond of telling his students. “Science is complex and failure is always a possibility but the goal is to try,” Koser observed. “Every time you

fail, you learn something so that the next time you can fail better.” In another classroom that serves as a storage facility for everything physics, Koser displayed a few of the items that he uses to help his students connect what they’re learning to the rest of the world. “There are physics properties all around us,” Koser said. As a demonstration he dropped a steel ball into a container of dried beans. A few shakes later and the steel ball disappeared. A few more shakes and a plastic ball rose to the top and a teacher has just given an example that looks like magic but is actually physics in motion. In addition to his educational duties, Koser also serves as the coach for West’s YES! Team, a group of students who look for environmentally sound ways to reduce waste on the school’s campus while raising students’ awareness of their impact on the world. The YES! Team’s most recent venture was the installation of water stations around the school where students can refill their water bottles instead of tossing them after one use. YES! also did a feasibility study on the Styrofoam lunch trays the school cafeteria was using opposed to plastic trays. The group discovered that the plastic trays were less expensive and far more environmentally friendly, which inspired the cafeteria to change from Styrofoam trays to plastic. Koser gave his students all the credit for the work they did. “They do the work,” Koser said. “I’m there as their coach but the kids do the work.”

MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 19

Sue Goebel teaches science at Loyola High School. She says variety is one of the keys to keeping students interested. Loyola High School Over at Loyola High School, Sue Goebel has been teaching science for 34 years. A co-worker, Ryan Kuisle, has been behind the Bunsen burners for three. Goebel teaches anatomy, ecology, AP biology and chemistry to 11th and 12th graders while Kuisle handles biology and physics for 9th graders. When asked how they made science fun for their students, both Goebel and Kuisle had reactions similar to Koser’s. “Our ultimate goal isn’t fun but we try to incite excitement in our students,” Goebel said. “If we can get students to be curious about science then it becomes fun to them.” Kuisle agreed. “The more engaged a student is, the more interested she is in learning.” Kuisle likes to take advantage of the beautiful grounds surrounding Loyola High School to help students find that engagement. His biology classes regularly venture outside to see what is going on with Mother Nature. When the weather isn’t agreeable, students can observe the variety of animals, snakes and insects that have found a home in Kuisle’s classroom. “The animals are great,” Kuisle said. “The first place kids go to when they walk in here is over to the cages to see what kind of animals live there.” Goebel said that keeping variety in science lessons also helps with student engagement and that, over the years, she has seen how students can learn even without really being aware that they are learning. “Today’s students love technology and will happily use any new gadget they’re given. What they might not realize at first is that the gadget they’re using is actually a piece of scientific equipment that they’ll use again in future classes,” Goebel said. “For example, we give our kids Vernier probes (sensors that are used in classroom 20 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

experiments). They’re fun to use but they’re also a valuable learning tool.” Kuisle also employs a more old-fashioned technique. Every week he writes 12 scientific words on the whiteboard. He then has his class pull them apart by prefix and suffix, thus teaching them what makes up the words. This instills in them the ability to look at words they don’t know and decipher them. “Research like that is very important,” Goebel observed. “Learning how to do research will help students for the rest of their lives.” Goebel is also in charge of Loyola’s science fair. Two of her students (sophomores Elaine Adams and Ella Haefner,) were working on a complex experiment involving water from various towns in the state, the chemical additive Triclosan, and a whole lot of patience. The high school students displayed an excitement not always present in classrooms. “Triclosan [an ingredient added to many consumer products to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination] is found in 75 percent of all tested urine as well as in breast milk. Research has shown that it’s highly toxic and it’s so prominent in everything,” Adams said. She added, “If I didn’t care, this wouldn’t be fun. But I do care. And that makes it fun and interesting.” Goebel summed up her approach to teaching science: “We want to get through to the kids in a way that they’ll start asking their own questions and become more curious about the world around them in the process.” East Junior High School Over at East Junior High School, Mike Shores is the 7th-grade life science teacher as well as a coach for the high school’s VEX robotics team. Shores said that when students come into his classroom with an ‘I can’t do that’

Mike Shores of Mankato East Junior High School says it’s OK if students fail; failure is important to the process of science. or ‘this is too hard’ attitude he gets around such notions by incorporating inquiry and guided inquiry labs into his coursework. “The labs allow students to develop their own experiments to solve a problem,” Shores said. “Students are given a set of materials and some guidance on how to use them but little instruction on the procedure they must follow.” Shores said that at first students can be a bit frustrated by the lack of instruction. However, after trying several experiments, they develop a deeper understanding of the material and hopefully the attitude that they can tackle problems and material they thought would be too difficult. Through labs and discussion, Shores stresses the importance of failing and how important it is to the process of science. “I tell my students that they are not unlike professional scientists when they don’t know how to do something. The important thing is that they try,” Shores said. “If their approach or experimental method does not work, then they use it as a learning tool and change their approach for the next attempt.” Shores also makes it a point to share with his students that he doesn’t know everything either. By engaging in research with his classes his students see their teacher learning and problem solving, too. “I feel it is important that they see me as a partner in inquiry and that they see me excited to learn new information,” Shores said. In addition to at least one lab activity a week Shores also tries to relate the curriculum to what students are naturally curious about. “Our life science material allows us to talk about our bodies and how they work and how we fit into the ecosystem of earth,” Shores observed. “These topics

usually bring about many questions for the students.” Answering questions and taking time to be curious are two important strategies Shores uses to keep his students engaged. “I will often let student questioning take the class in different directions because I feel that questioning is the heart of science,” Shores said. “Students want to know about so many different things. I try to indulge their questions so they stay curious and continue to ask. Parents can help by answering their kids’ questions or working with them to find answers to their questions. If kids are repeatedly turned away when they want to know about their world, they might just stop wondering about it.” Shores also uses humor to keep his students interested in science. “Some science topics can be difficult to master when the vocabulary is tough or the concepts are complex,” Shores said. “I try to use humor and songs in an effort to help students make connections and remember complicated material.” One last tidbit about science: most of us took biology, chemistry and possibly physics when we were in high school without wondering why we took them in that order. Now students take physics first followed by chemistry and then biology because educators have determined that order is more logical and effective. So what was up behind that old school order? “It was alphabetical,” Koser explained. MM

MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 21

Student in South Central College’s mechatronics program have a high probability of landing a job when they graduate. Shown here are (from left) instructor Alex Goff, and students Nick Wilde and Nicole Emerson. Photo by John Cross


Area higher education institutions take their science – and collaboration – very seriously


By Heidi Sampson

n a Tuesday morning at 8 a.m., 11 South Central College Mechatronics students, one female and 10 males, sit around a series of tables watching Glen VonMaluski of Warner Electric, an industry partner and consultant to the Mechatronics program, explain through virtual computer simulation how to operate and troubleshoot an industrial robot. “Glenn brings real world experience into the classroom,” said Alex Goff, Instructor of South Central College’s Robotics class. “This particular type of an industrial robot, a Phanex, specializes in repetitive motion jobs within a factory setting. However, although the robot is available for virtual simulation on our computers, the robot is also available on a much smaller scale within our lab classes where we simulate reallife situations, troubleshoot if problems arise, as well as develop creative-design tasks for the robots to complete.” Mechatronics, a fairly new program, is one of three advanced manufacturing programs at South Central College, 22 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

the other two being welding and computer-integrated machining. Mechatronics integrates mechanics and electronics. SCC students gain knowledge and hands-on experience in electricity, fluid power, sensors, control systems, robotics and programmable controllers — components that are used in a wide variety of industrial automation systems, machines and equipment. “Mechatronics is a word we came up with that combines mechanical systems and technical skills with electronics and automation,” said Barb Embacher, dean of workforce education and training at SCC. Mechatronics students can prepare for careers in fields such as manufacturing, energy, medicine, electronics, agriculture, biotechnology and automotive. “Our students are finding positions across the community and even across the nation,” Embacher said. South Central College’s Mechatronics program has a rather unique aspect for students as they are able to take part in the

Learn, Work, Earn initiative, a Minnesota Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Project. Learn, Work, Earn emphasizes a standardized core curriculum, employer-driven apprenticeships, and cooperative education opportunities that lead to industry-recognized credentials in manufacturing. “The apprenticeship programs offers a contextual learning environment,” said Embacher. “Our students are able to learn the theoretical aspects of their chosen fields built around what businesses need and want, while applying that knowledge base to real world training. It’s a more blended approach to learning, as students are able to attend classes, work within their field of interest, and get paid for their work.” Mason Collins of Waseca, Cole Wersal of Mankato and Jacob Cobhall of Janesville are three of South Central’s students who have taken advantage of the apprenticeship program during the final semester of their course work. Mason received an internship as an Electro-Mechanical Assembler for V-Tek Inc. of Mankato, which builds tape and reel machines for loading components into embossed carrier and paper tape. Cobhall received an internship as a design engineer for Pheumat Systems, Inc. of Mankato, a leading bulk flow solution provider for industrial-sized grain bins. Wersal has an internship as a Maintenance Technician for 3M of New Ulm, where he spends the majority of his time covering the floor so that if a machine breaks down, he fixes it. He also spends a good deal of his time doing preventive maintenance on machines. It’s important to note that all three students were accepted by their number one choice for an internship, and all three have job offers should their internships work out during their final semester. “The age group in Mechatronics is fairly widespread,” said Cobhall. “We have those who are just out of high school all the way up to 50-year-olds in class. Ten years ago when I graduated from high school, this program wasn’t available but I knew that I liked taking things apart and putting them back together again. So, I went out and got a job. When this program first came out, I watched it for a year or two to see what would happen, but I am so glad I decided to come back to school. This is what I’ve wanted to do all along.” Promoting STEM Through Youth, Teachers, and Institutions When it comes to mutually-beneficial collaborations, it’s hard to find a better example than the one in place between the Minnesota Center for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence and industries it’s working with. MNCEME is a consortium that includes two-year academic institutions located throughout Minnesota as well as Minnesota State University in an effort to develop diverse, forward-thinking engineering and advanced manufacturing talent for Minnesota Industries. “Our consortium involves eight two-year institutions throughout the state of Minnesota, with Minnesota State University operating as the lead institution,” said Kent Carlson, Director of the Minnesota State University’s MNCEME program. The primary goal of MNCEME is to assist in the creation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related degree programs, encourage professional development, and foster collaborative efforts among consortium partner institutions, industry and academia. MNCEME’s efforts to promote STEM-based classes begins with Project Lead the Way for K-12 students, which offers a comprehensive curriculum emphasizing critical thinking, creativity,

innovation and real-world problem solving. The hands-on, project-based program engages students on multiple levels, exposing them to areas of study that they typically may not pursue while providing them with a foundation for college and career success. “MNCEME assists in holding five different summer camps for middle school children,” Carlson said. They hold 3-day and 5-day camps, depending on the particular camp’s structure. Camps include 3D Printing, which is the process of creating a three dimensional project; Scrubs Camp, which assists students in exploring the medical industry within Mayo Clinic Health System and the Mankato Clinic; Girls Explore STEM, which is a camp designed to encourage young girls to consider STEM-related fields; Multicultural STEM Camp, which encourages diverse backgrounds to also consider STEM-related fields; and finally there is ZAP Camp, a STEM solar energy and robotics camp. “As with all of our camps, we hope to introduce STEM to students by showing them what is possible, as well as in sparking an interest in college pursuits within their futures,” Carlson said. The MNCEME program also holds annual STEM-related student competitions held at MNSU, such as the Rube Goldberg machine design competition for high school students, the Mavbot Robotics Competition for middle school, high school, and college students, as well as Math Counts, a mathematics problem-solving competition for middle school children. A unique aspect of MNCEME’s outreach is their involvement in the K-12 school systems. They assist in holding Minnesota Science Standards Workshops for middle school teachers, which organizes and outlines the science content that should be taught in grades K-12, and ensures that Minnesota schools are producing scientifically-literate students. For instance, the “Teach the Teacher” program is designed to provide teachers with the knowledge they need to effectively teach engineering concepts to students. The workshop delivers engineering content not only through lectures, but also through hands-on activities the teachers could theoretically take back to their own individual classrooms for application. “At the college level, we’ve also helped South Central College, Alexandria Technical College, and Hennepin Technical College, develop an AAS degree program in Mechatronics,” said Carlson. “Mechatronics is basically the fusion of mechanical and electronics. Think of it as the computer control side of things.” Conservation Practices and Civic Engagement MSU’s Water Resources distributes data and provides support to those interested in improving water resources within the state of Minnesota. One particular project of the Water Resources Center is the Le Sueur River Watershed Network, which exists to encourage and empower citizen collaboration while nurturing land stewardship ethics among those who live, work and use the watershed area for recreation. What’s a watershed? A watershed is a land area that drains water to a particular stream, river or lake. The Le Sueur River Watershed Network consists of more than 700,000 acres of land, with 84 percent of it being used for agricultural purposes, such as growing corn and soybeans. One of the two main areas of interest for the Le Sueur River Watershed Network is targeted conservation practice, which means looking within the Le Sueur Watershed Network MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 23

for areas in need of conservation improvement. The Water Resource Center creates a database of the various areas throughout the watershed network, recognizing problem areas while analyzing and identifying ways to assist in improving water resources. Rick Moore, watershed research specialist, Ben Von Korff, water quality specialist, and Andy Meyer, geographic information science (GIS) or computerized mapping, aide each other in producing the necessary data to present viable options for improvement within the targeted communities. “The Water Resource Center’s three main areas of interest are GIS work, Water Quality Monitoring and Planning, and citizen engagement,” said Moore. “We collect information and distill complicated science down so decisions can be made, as well as to help inform ground work.” MM

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Fade to Beige. A private tour of romance on the road


By Joe Tougas lease don’t bother trying to find her. She’s not there.” — The Zombies

I don’t know what her long red hair smells like and I don’t know her views on Iranian nuclear talks or her favorite Replacements song. I cannot tell you what she likes to read or what she does for a living. But over the past year or so I have imagined learning all of this, gradually, over long, lazy stretches of coffee, popcorn, House of Cards marathons and other trappings of togetherness. Maybe you have a relationship or two like this, the kind that has to be imaginary because of circumstances. That’s what’s going on here, and the circumstances in this case include me being in my 50s, on the road a lot and her being a billboard. Which, yes, on the surface sounds cold and flat and maybe a little bit weird. But like everything else there’s a lot of wiggle room beneath the surface. And that’s what I found immediately impressive about her: How she effortlessly emerged outside of the bland universe that is stock photography without having to compromise anything. She’s not doing a pouty, come-hither look. She’s not trying. She just is. Here’s our story: I drive to the

30 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Twin Cities from Mankato a lot. For the first hour of the trip, I’m driving a beige Honda and having beige thoughts about normal, beige things. The cream in the coffee gives it a beige tint … you get the idea. But then, at the one-hour mark, up ahead and to the right, she starts coming into view on a roadside billboard on Highway 169 near Jordan. That’s right, I think. It’s her. I check my speed, hit the signal and move over into right-side lane. I get closer to her. Closer. Checking my speed as I approach, not wanting to slow down too much. Down to 55 m.p.h. 54. 53. And there. THERE she is, above the gleaming fenced-in fleet of the Bobcat dealership and just before the Chaska turnoff. I get two, maybe three seconds of her gaze, which I swear is pulsating out of that poster and into my veins. It is full-on eye-to-eye contact followed by the swift and cruel physics of moving forward. She’s gone and I

can’t even see her in the rear view mirror. And though she’s no longer in sight, she’s still running through my mind while I wait for the green light near the Holiday station and its red digital gas price. What’s going on in that world of hers, I always wonder. What is she saying/ asking/seeking? Why is she surrounded by family? Is she a patient around whom loved ones have gathered? They are in a clinic ad, after all. Is that smile of hers to reassure me that she’s fine? Or is it just her birthday and I’m worried about nothing? And of course on a larger issue, why is this an issue? Why is this person the one who emerged from the hundreds if not thousands of daily ad images, most of which are for products slightly more provocative than health care. Never mind her, what am I yearning for in that photo? Why, for instance, did I not click the link on CNN’s website that read: “You’ll drool over these Sports Illustrated swimsuit models” yet driving along 169 I risk running my van into the ditch over a woman positioned next to the words “The New Family Clinic You’ve Been Waiting For.” It’s not like I don’t have family. Like her, I have three generations of loved ones. Check my Facebook page, a few of us are right there at the top. We’re not grinning like our lives depend on it, but it’s a nice shot. Is it because romantic relationships are too complicated for my attention span and I subconsciously want to get submerged in a soft-focus world with a soft-focus woman where there’s nothing to get anxious about except anxiety itself, which neither of us have ever experienced save for that one time we thought we were going to be apart for a day? “It’s green.” “What?” “It’s green,” she says with just the hint of a question mark in her voice and tilting her head toward the traffic light. And sure enough, she’s right, as she always is. I give her an apology that blames her. “I’m sorry … I got lost in thinking about you, about us, again. You know how I get.” And she smiles that smile, the same one she gave me when we met during our senior year at law school. Just kids, then, really. We were so crazy about each other we decided against becoming lawyers and chose instead to operate a Bobcat dealership in Minnesota. Twenty years and thousands of ‘cats later, we haven’t looked back. I hit the gas and we make our way toward yet another evening of theater at the Guthrie, late-night jazz at the Dakota and a 2 a.m. return to the very large and clean home we share with three generations of very non-complicated family members with attractive white teeth. It’s a nice life and we are fortunate to be troubled by very little of late. Ever, actually. Business has been good, good to

the point where she has been able to take time off and explore her longtime interest of modeling for health care facilities. This has been timed perfectly with Obamacare and all. Lots of demand for healthy looking middle-agers and as her agent Morty always says, she looks great. He always adds that I’m a lucky, lucky man. This happens every trip and I don’t snap out of it until I’m around Shakopee. And it’s a routine I’ve come to accept and even enjoy. Until a few weeks ago. I didn’t ask for it to happen but my guard was down and I needed gas. And as I swiped my card at the station on Belgrade Avenue in North Mankato a woman looked up at me from her driver’s seat with a smile that basically said: Are you kidding me? A soft-focus world in the suburbs? No getting hurt, no highs, no lows and no risks? No living? Just very clean whites and drab conversations about getting your driveway heated for the winter? Is this where you really want to spend your drive time? It was as though she’d read all the terrible poems I tried to write in college, the ones about not compromising one’s self. I felt a little foolish. What had I been thinking up there in Jordan looking up and — come to think of it — being looked down upon for a few fleeting seconds of fantasy? Here, in a reasonably sized Cenex ad on top of a gas pump, was a woman at my own eye level knocking me out with some tough love, with the kind of sensibility that evaporates in those early stages of romance. Here’s a woman not awash in a white glow among picture-perfect models, but buckled into a mini-van full of goofballs trying to horn in on her picture while she drives them to a soccer game. Her eyes look ready to put her feet up and open a beer and her hair smells like unleaded premium. I’m a little in love. With her, the eye contact is longer and I’m on my feet. Her smile isn’t one of pity, it’s of knowing what the real world is about. And knowing is alluring as hell. I think I’m going to stay with her a while and absorb. Gas prices are going up again, so we’ll be seeing more of each other. As for Jordan, we’ll always have what we had. We’ll still meet eyes on every trip. But on the next one I have to let her know there’s somebody else. And it’s not about her being better or smarter or prettier or anything like that. It’s about reality, sweetheart, and we have to take it or leave it. MM Joe Tougas is a Mankato-based writer

MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 31


By John Cross

32 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE


epending on the vagaries on nature, annual ice-out dates are moving targets in southern Minnesota. Records kept since 1950 by the Lake Washington Improvement Association list the earliest ice-out date on that popular lake northeast of Mankato as March 8 in 1987 and more recently, in 2000. The latest ice-out date recorded by observers was April 24 in 1975 and again in 2013. The average ice-out date is April 4. But long before the ice is classified as officially gone, spring’s inexorable advance has it in full retreat as beneath an ever-strengthening sun. Nevertheless, there always are a few anglers willing to push the boundaries of good judgment for one last crack at a mess of panfish through the ice. Some might call it fishing. Others would call it brinksmanship. MM

MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 33

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422 Park Lane, Mankato, MN | 36 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Robb Murray, Associate Editor, Mankato Magazine

southern mn style

Ha! I was right. In a cozy little bar in White Bear Lake a few months ago I finally tried this beer I’ve been meaning to give a chance. It’s called Two Hearted Ale, and it’s got a picture of a fish on the label. The label, frankly, doesn’t do much to draw me in. But the name, and the image of a fish ... It sort of transports me to the days when I was falling in love with the writing of Ernest Hemingway. One of his short stories, “Big Two-Hearted River,” is a mesmerizingly sparse journey into the minutiae of a fishing excursion. At the time I’d never read anything like it — and haven’t since. It’s not my favorite Hemingway piece, but it’s right up there. What does this have to do with great food, beverages and dining? Nothing. But the beer is a great one, and it’s the topic of Bert Matson’s beer column this week. Turns out I was right about Two Hearted Ale. Bert says so. I suppose it’s appropriate to kick off another Food Drink and Dine section with thoughts of one of the greatest America writers. Hemingway, as you probably know, was the kind of guy who knew how to appreciate the finer things in life, and that includes food and drink. He probably would have laughed right along with Leigh Pomeroy and his story about scraping together all the money he could to purchase a couple of bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1970, which apparently is a very, very, very fine wine, the kind Papa himself probably sipped upon during his days in Paris, Key West, Cuba, Mt. Kilamanjaro or wherever else he partied throughout his macho life. And had he been alive today, he would have gotten a kick out of Sarah Johnson’s piece on cocktail gardens. Because the man, as legend has it, could drink anyone under the table. The idea of a cocktail garden probably would have given him a good chuckle. Food Drink and Dine is a hoot this month, folks. Enjoy!

food, drink & dine

“The Short, Happy Life of That Beer I Drank the Other Day,” or “A Farewell to Beers”

MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 37


By Sarah Johnson

southern mn style


“Cocktail Gardens” It’s fairly easy to get one started

ocktails are enjoying a creative Renaissance these days, and enthusiasts have started a new trend: the cocktail garden. Renewed interest in kitchen gardens, community gardens, farmer’s markets and edible landscaping has contributed mightily to enthusiasm for garden-to-glass cocktails. A cocktail garden is simply an herb garden dedicated to the enhancement of delicious beverages, alcoholic or otherwise. If you grow herbs, you might already be growing one without realizing it. Cocktail gardeners make cocktails, flavored waters and other beverages by growing their favorite ingredients and creating personalized combinations: cucumber-basil, blackberry-mint, strawberry-jalapeno, watermelon-lime … The possibilities are almost limitless, and it’s a lot of fun being a “botanical mixologist,” too. “Every great drink starts with a plant,” is their motto. Perhaps the best part is how easy it is to grow herbs. Even those without a green thumb can be wildly successful. Nicollet County Master Gardener Margie Nelson agrees enthusiastically: “Almost all herbs are really easy to grow and use.” Here are some tips for starting your own fabulous cocktail garden: 1. List your favorite summertime drinks. Like bloody Marys? Plant cilantro, chives and dill. Big fan of mojitos or juleps? Grow your own mint (in a pot to keep this hearty plant from spreading). Cultivate berries and fruits if your tastes run towards champagne, spritzers, margaritas or wine. 2. Don’t forget the veggies. Cucumbers add a refreshing zip to a wide variety of drinks: Think gin and tonics, vodka collins, and lemonade-type cocktails infused with cucumber. Cherry and heirloom tomatoes are great muddled with strawberries and sugar and then shaken with ice, vodka optional: “summer in a glass.” 3. Turn up the heat: Jalapenos, habaneros and serranos add a pop of spice to martinis, tequila drinks, bloody and virgin Marys, pina coladas and margaritas. Line the rim of your glass with chili powder. 4. Grow a great garnish with edible flowers such as nasturtium, lavender petals or violets. You can also save a few whole berries, cucumber slices and herb leaves for garnishing with both flavor and flair. 5. Double your pleasure with herbs you like to cook with, too. Fresh herbs are generally very easy to keep alive either outdoors or in your kitchen, and it’s one of life’s greatest simple pleasures to be able to pluck some fresh basil for tonight’s pasta sauce, sage for the pork roast, rosemary for the potatoes … 6. Seriously consider container gardening for your herbs, to keep them from going invasive and to allow for portability so you can move them indoors during the cold season. They also look terrific as a grouping in attractive containers, whether vintage or whimsical. “One of the great things about herbs is that they can be

38 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

grown in pots,” Nelson says. Use that ability to your advantage. 7. Add a cocktail table and chairs to your outdoor garden. Guests love the clever presentation of herbs and the fun elixirs you create, so carve out a little space in the wilderness for relaxation and conversation while you imbibe with friends. (Also great for quiet time alone, of course, perhaps watching the sun set with a glass of herbed wine or fruited water at the end of a long day.) 8. Keep it on the sunny side. “Most of these herbs really need sun,” Nelson says. 9. Nurseries (such as Gardeners Supply Co. of Vermont and Territorial Seed Co. of Oregon) are now offering cocktail gardening kits for those who aren’t sure of what they want to plant. Offers include the “Drunken Botanist Plant Collection” which includes the usual herbs and fruits as well as hops, olives, rhubarb and figs. There are also collections specifically for lovers of rum, gin, tequila, vodka and whiskey. Some pairing tips: Dill works well with cucumber, vodka and gin. Cilantro complements tomato- or tropical fruit-based drinks. Most people adore its grassy earthiness. Others think it tastes like soap, so know your audience. Lavender loves lemony drinks, sparkling wine and champagne. “Lavender is spicy and floral,” notes Nelson. “The flowers have the strongest fragrance, but you can also use the leaves.” Rosemary enhances sparkling wine, gin and vodka with a rich, pungent, piney flavor. “Rosemary is highly aromatic and has a good strong flavor,” says Nelson, making it a good pair with fruity summer drinks. Lemon verbena adds a bold citrus flavor and floral aroma to fruity drinks. “Lemon verbena has got an intense aroma and also combines well with lavender and mint,” Nelson says. “Use it sparingly as the lemon scent is very strong.” Basil brightens anything made with tequila, rum, gin or vodka. “Basil has a cloverlike flavor,” Nelson notes. Have fun with different types of mint. “Spearmint is the common ‘garden’ mint,” Nelson notes, while chocolate mint and peppermint are two other well-known varieties, but there are also orange mint, apple mint, lemon mint, lime mint, banana mint and pineapple mint. “Bowles mint is the most recommended for sauces or a sweet drink.” And some not-so-well-known herbs are also good choices, according to Nelson. “Borage can be added to wine,” she says, “and woodruff is also good in wine.” Sweet cicely has anise-flavored leaves that some people adore.

Rhubarb Basil Cocktail makes one drink

3 medium to large basil leaves, rolled and cut into thin strips 3 tablespoons rhubarb purée (recipe follows) 1 1/2 ounces vodka ice club soda

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Put the basil in the bottom of a glass and press with the back of a spoon to bruise slightly. Add the rhubarb purée and stir. Add vodka and ice cubes and top with club soda. Garnish with a basil leaf. Rhubarb Purée makes about 2 cups 12-13 stalks of rhubarb 3/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup water Chop the rhubarb into small, 1/2inch pieces. Put in a medium saucepan with the sugar and water. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the rhubarb through the strainer, pressing to get as much of the rhubarb out as possible. Discard the leftover fibrous bits.


Cocktail Garden Planting List

Basil • Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries) Chives • Cilantro • Cucumber • Dill Edible flowers for garnish (nasturtium, violet, hibiscus) Jalapeno • Lavender • Lemon balm Lemon verbena • Lime tree Mint (chocolate, spearmint, Bowles) Rosemary • Sage Tomatoes (cherry and heirloom) Watermelon

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MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 39

Wine & Beer

Wines By Leigh Pomeroy

A brief history of CA varietal wines


southern mn style

oday our wine store shelves are stocked with dozens of wine varietals ranging from light whites like Pinot Grigios to heavy reds like Syrahs and Shirazes, but it hasn’t always been this way. In fact, most European wines are labeled by their place names, like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or their estate names, like Ch. Lafite Rothschild. California wines, however, evolved a bit differently. Basically, the California wine industry was wiped out by America’s experiment with Prohibition. After Prohibition was repealed, existing grape growers and entrepreneurs raced to get their wines on American store shelves, so they labeled their California products after names they thought familiar to the public, like Chablis for any generic white and Burgundy for any generic red. Yet some California winery owners with deep European roots recognized the uniqueness of the flavors dervied from individual grape varieties. For example, Louis Benoist, a Frenchman who owned Almadén Vineyards, created a Grenache Rosé made from, at that time, one of California’s most widely planted red grapes. Back in the 1950s and ‘60s it was the most popular varietal wine in America. It was developed to compete with Lancer’s, which had a bit of fizz, and Mateus, both rosés that came from Portugal, and the ubiquitous Blue Nun Liebfraumilch from Germany. All these wines finished with at least a touch of sweetness. Meanwhile, true wine aficiandos in major cultural centers like San Francisco and New York, could avail themselves of classified growth Bordeaux, grand cru Burgundies and the best Champagnes, all from France, at prices that seem ridiculously low by today’s standards. For example, I remember piecing together a large portion of my meager savings in 1973 to buy a couple of bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1970 — an outstanding vintage — for $22 per bottle. In today’s terms, adjusted for inflation, that’s $116, still a lot of money but far less than what the 2010 Lafite (an equivalent vintage) goes for, which is at least $800 but more like $1,000. Then I was working for $2.50 an hour in a wine shop, equal to $13 today. Today, people working retail in 2015 are lucky to get $10 per hour. In the late 1960s and the early 1970s is when California vintners and the wine drinking public really discovered premium varietals. Actually, the family-owned vineyards of Napa Valley like Inglenook, Beaulieu, Beringer and Charles Krug, along with a handful of others throughout the state, had been making varietal wines for the upscale markets on the West and East Coasts since before Prohibition. But in the 1960s and after they were being joined by a crop of new or newly resurrected wineries like Heitz

40 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Cellars, Chalone Vineyard, Chateau Montelena and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, among others. And then there was Robert Mondavi Winery, established in 1966 by Cesare Mondavi’s second son, who had been pushed out of the Mondavi family-owned Charles Krug Winery for advocating winemaking and wine marketing ideas that didn’t sit well with the more traditional members of the family. In 1976, California varietals like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, really got a shot of adrenalin because of the now-legendary Judgment of Paris at which Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon bested their French competitors. But even then the top two selling Napa Valley varietals were Chenin Blanc and Gamay Rosé. Both finished with a hint of sweetness. In fact, in the early 1970s, prior to the Judgment of Paris, Warren Winiarski, owner of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, was having trouble selling his Cabernet Sauvignon as his customer base wanted more of his slightly sweet White Riesling. I know this for a fact because Warren hired me as a consultant in 1974 to help promote his Cabernet. Throughout the 1970s two other top selling California whites came from Wente Vineyards in Livermore, the varietal Grey Riesling and the winery’s chenin blancugni blanc blend they called Blanc de Blancs. But the mosty popular varietal wine of all was Sutter Home’s ubiquitous White Zinfandel, a marketing stroke of genius developed by Bob Trinchero, who, like Robert Mondavi, was the son of a Napa winemaking family with a Stanford MBA education. It was pink and lightly sweet, like the previously popular Almadén Grenache Rosé, Lancers and Mateus. Yet the brilliance of Trinchero’s White Zinfandel was not just getting it into nearly every store and on almost every wine list in the country, but that he could get zinfandel grapes — lots of zinfandel grapes — for next to nothing. In the mid-1970s there was a glut of zinfandel, and growers around Lodi, where a lot of it is grown, were happy to get just $60 per ton. That’s $260 in in 2015 dollars, compared to nearly three times as much it fetched in last year’s harvest. In fact, for a number of years White Zinfandel was so popular that if you went into a restaurant and asked for, simply, Zinfandel, the server would bring White Zinfandel without even asking. Once when this happened to me I said, “No, I want red Zinfandel.” The server replied incredulously, “Zinfandel comes in red?” Since then the varietal offerings from California and elsewhere have expanded to many more choices, which is absolutely wonderful for the wine consumer. But that, I’m afraid, is best left to another Mankato Magazine wine column. Leigh Pomeroy is a Mankato-based writer and wine lover

First Draught By Bert Mattson

Beer is a solution!


t is perhaps politically incorrect to say. Carbonation is the process of dissolving carbon dioxide in a liquid — the liquid of interest being beer, of course. The product of an act by which a gaseous substance is homogeneously mixed with a liquid is properly labeled a “solution.” There it is: beer is a solution! The point isn’t purely academic, there are practical applications. Spicy foods from around the world are often accompanied by a dairy-based condiment. In Mexican or Central American cuisine this could be crema or sour cream. In South Asian cuisine, raita, a yogurt based condiment, is common. Out of Buffalo, New York we see a side of blue cheese dressing with hot wings. Luckily for lovers of spicy food, casein, a protein in cow’s milk, has a detergent effect on capsaicin. Capsaicin is the active component in chili peppers responsible for a burning sensation when eaten. In other words, dairy calms the heat of hot peppers. Carbonation obviously enhances the overall appeal of beer drinking. It adds to the experience through our sense of touch --commonly characterized as “mouthfeel” among fanatics. Carbonation increases the aromatic experience by carrying volatile compounds to where they are more easily detected by our sense of smell. Further, carbonation and carbonic acid amount to what is called “bite,” which can offset “fatty mouthfeel” from food eaten while drinking beer. So, while the dairy element in a spicy dish can calm the heat, the carbonation in beer can keep dairy fat from coating the palate. Now we’ve established that beer is, in fact, a solution for cutting fat!

Note that carbonation intensity is perceived as higher at lower temperatures. Chilling a beer increases bite. However, avoid viewing the relationship between beer and, say, blue cheese dressing, too mechanically. Flavor is also important. It is widely accepted that higher alcohol and more boldly hopped beer be avoided with spicy-hot food because these may emphasize the burn … but the piney hops of an IPA and piquancy of blue cheese play well together. Some of the bitterness and alcohol that risk fanning the flames are blunted by a creamy dressing, drawing out exchanges between malt, spice, hops and cheese. Two Hearted Ale by Bell’s Brewery is a grand candidate for such an experiment. Anyone who tastes flat cola realizes that carbonation offsets sweetness. Indeed it offsets residual sweetness from corn adjunct in Mexican-style Lagers. Still, some sweetness remains to contrast the salty-spice of a taco. A corn tortilla resonates with flavors from the adjunct while cilantro makes an herbal echo for aromatic hops. In addition to cutting fat from sour cream, carbonic acid imparts a faint sourness which compliments a spritz of lime. For this project, Big Wood Brewery’s Amigo Grande should prove simpatico. Barkeeps often reach for something carbonated when they wish to mix a refreshing cocktail. Under these circumstances beer becomes an ingredient. The best options for this purpose pose an interesting question; for now you’ll have to find your own solution. Bert Mattson is a chef and writer based in St. Paul. He is the manager of the iconic Mickey’s Diner.


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MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 41


Happy Hour

southern mn style


By M. Carrie Allan | Special


The Free Press

What the heck is kombucha? Proceed at your own risk

rtichokes are one of my favorite foods, yet I’ve often wondered what masochist first took it upon himself to eat one. Ditto crabs, rambutans and the so-called “Rocky Mountain oyster.” That some items ever became foodstuffs for humans seems explainable only by ravenous hunger. The artichoke, basically an enormous thistle, a fat fist of green shark teeth protecting a few scant ounces of delicate vegetable heart, seems designed to defend itself against our gustatory interests. Questions about the wisdom of our ancestors’ culinary choices returned to me the first time I tried kombucha. I knew that the drink was based on very old food traditions. I’d also heard healthconscious friends extol its virtues, claiming it had reenergized them, given them the skin and hair of youth, mitigated their digestive ills, babysat for their children and cured them of every ailment save perhaps the tendency toward hyperbole. Still, when I peered into the clear, brownish liquid and saw little floating strands of what I now know to be culture but looked a bit like pond scum, I thought, Really? I never see strands of slime floating in my Coke Zero; if I did, I’d probably be on the phone with a lawyer, making plans to quit my day job. Accustomed as most of us are to the industrial sameness of most bottled beverages, the look of kombucha might initially give you the heebie-jeebies. And yet the drink was delicious: tart, lightly sweet, fizzy. The commercial brands show real variety in terms of flavor, says Daniel Lieberman, one of the founders of D.C.’s Capital Kombucha, which makes flavors including basil-lemon grass and mango-chili. Even with the mildest formulations, some people might never come around. “I think there’s a range of food products, whether it’s pickles or kimchi or certain vinegars, where there’s a dividing

42 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

line: You either love it or hate it,” he says. “Like the first time you ever eat a stinky cheese. Some people are just completely off-put by it, and other people eat it and six months later they’re craving it. It’s like a switch goes off in your head.” Once I mixed some kombucha with gin and tonic syrup, I was sold; the resulting highball was crisp and tart. Further experiments rang a familiar bell: Many kombuchas remind me of vinegar fruit shrubs and can be used similarly. The ones that have gone through a second fermentation stage have the added appeal of carbonation. Many of them mix beautifully with spirits. “You’re playing with that same shrub acidity with the added benefits of what kombucha brings to you,” says Kavita Singh Brar, co-owner of New Heights restaurant in Washington and its tiny downstairs hoochery, the Gin Joint. Singh Brar started drinking the stuff for its purported health benefits. A passionate exerciser, she says kombucha worked for her, helping her get back into running after she started experiencing joint pain last year. Too much was not great for digestion, but “two cups a day and I was good.” I beat back renewed squeamishness when I grew my own SCOBY, the weird colony that sits atop a batch of sweetened tea and causes its fermentation into kombucha. The name stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” (If you think that’s unappetizing, try out “zoogleal mat.” It’s no wonder people call them SCOBYs; the scientific terms are unappealing mouthfuls, whereas SCOBY sounds like that hippie guy in college who was always playing hacky sack on the quad.) A SCOBY is the mother of all kombucha; you can’t brew your own without one. You can buy a SCOBY online, but if you’re comfortable with sterilizing jars and keeping things clean, you can grow one. It’s time-consuming but not difficult.

Keep the environment warm — 72 to 85 degrees — and keep checking to make sure no molds are forming. It “takes some tending to, like a high-maintenance plant,” says Lieberman. “You want to be saying hi to it every few days.” Mine took longer than I expected — SCOBYs want to be snuggly warm, and it was chillier than optimal in our house — but after about a month, there it was, ready to start brewing. I felt an odd, uneasy pride over bringing into the world what looked like the offspring of a booger and a hockey puck. My unease hasn’t ceased now that I’ve brewed a few kombucha batches and found my SCOBYs multiplying like Tribbles. Right now I have one sitting atop a blueberry-ginger batch and another lurking above a green-tea-and-raspberry combination; when they’re ready, I’ll find their offspring, more baby SCOBYs, lurking in the jars. If I have time between making drinks, I might start naming them.

Kombucha G&T

1 serving Ingredients Ice, 2 ounces dry gin, 3/4 ounce tonic syrup, such as Small Hand Foods or Tomr’s brand, 3 to 4 ounces plain kombucha, such as GT’s Enlightened Original Organic Raw Kombucha, Twist of lime peel, for garnish Steps Fill a highball glass with ice. Stir together the gin and the tonic syrup in a mixing glass until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture over the ice, then top with the kombucha. Garnish with the twist of lime. Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.


Makes 2 starter-culture disks Making kombucha starts with a live, symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or SCOBY. You’ll need two wide-mouth quart-size jars, cheesecloth and rubber bands for this recipe.Do not use reactive vessels for brewing kombucha or for storing the SCOBY; glass is best. And, should mold ever form on the SCOBY or in the kombucha, discard both and start over.

Ingredients 2 quarts water, 1 tablespoon black or green tea leaves, 1/2 cup sugar, 12 ounces store-bought raw kombucha, such as Capital Kombucha brand Steps Sterilize the empty jars by boiling for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Transfer jars to a dish towel. Boil the 2 quarts of water in a pot over high heat; remove it from the heat and add the tea. Steep for 30 minutes, strain, reserve the tea. Add sugar to tea and stir until dissolved. Let cool to room temp before adding kombucha; do not rush this step by adding the kombucha to the tea when it’s still too warm or you’ll kill the cultures. Stir gently and divide the mixture between the jars. Cover each jar with a double layer of cheesecloth; secure the cheesecloth with rubber bands. Place jars in a warm, dark place (between 72 and 85 degrees). After 2 to 4 weeks, you’ll see the SCOBY disks form on the surface of the tea; they can then be used to ferment batches of kombucha. You won’t want to drink the tea, which will have become quite sour.

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What’s Cooking By Sarah Johnson

southern mn style

Addictive Foods


Who can resist a good hunk of Havarti?

heese addiction is a terrible thing. I know, because I have what’s called an addictive personality. That doesn’t mean that anyone who meets me becomes unable to resist my many charms; instead it means I am likely to become addicted to very bad things if I don’t tread carefully. I’ve battled a few biggie addictions before and won, including alcohol and cigarettes, but I still fall flat on my face when it comes to cheese. I admit it: I’m a sucker for the pressed curd of milk. Traveling through Wisconsin becomes a nightmare of pressure as I struggle to keep from pulling in to every Cheese Shoppe on the interstate. Dreams of cheddar, gouda and mozzarella fill my sweaty nights, and many’s the time I’ve snuck down the midnight stairs, grabbed a hunk of havarti and devoured it, standing in a deserted kitchen, lights off, alone with my shame. Classic symptoms of addicton, no? Unfortunately cheese is a legal product and is sold EVERYWHERE, even to kids! Not only that, cheese is central to the American diet and nobody seems to be concerned about me. Perhaps I should take that as a sign to quit worrying, but easier said than done. Finally science is coming to my rescue. Seems they’ve discovered that cheese really does contain traces of addictive substances. Some of the feel-good chemicals come from casein, a milk protein that’s concentrated during cheesemaking. Our digestion breaks down casein, creating morphine-like chemicals called casomorphins. But that’s not all. Milk also contains traces of morphine itself, produced in the cow’s liver. Why, you may ask, is there morphine in my morning moo juice? Such natural drugs are likely beneficial to calves for two reasons: They have a calming effect, which is awesome, and they hook the calf on milk, compelling it to nurse so it gets all the nutrition it needs — which is not so awesome, at least for us folks eating milk products plundered from the hungry calves of the world. If you’ve ever seen a hungry calf attack his mother’s teats like there’s no tomorrow, you know what these scientists are talking about. Those sweet babes act like they’d drop a few hay bales on your head in a dark barn if you tried to take away their milk stash. Once an addiction is identified, the addict has two choices: Try to be a hero and quit, or (my preferred yellow-bellied route) try to live with the ongoing addiction without going b r o k e /m a d /o b e s e / friendless from the cheesey body odor. Various

44 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

strategies can be employed, such as denial, moving out of the Dairy Belt, switching brands, and 12-step groups (mentally substituting the word “cheese” every time “alcohol” or “drugs” are mentioned). Accepting my eternal cheesiness, and the eternal cheesiness of the cosmos, as natural states has become my latest strategy for coping with my affliction. Buddhism is heavy on the concepts of desire and attraction and offers many insights into my plight, all of which I cheerfully ignore whenever I pass the cheese curd stand at the carnival or a farmer’s market stall selling locally crafted cheeses. Buddhists would call addiction a very strong, persistent negative attachment, often causing guilt and self-loathing at our perceived helplessness, clearing the way for addiction to steamroll our good intentions again and again. Yup. Bingo. The Buddha had it down, baby. But he also warned that life can be taken too seriously. So go ahead. Eat that cheese if it makes you happy. You know it will. Morphine’s like that.

Welsh Rarebit

4 slices dense, hearty brown bread 1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese 5 tablespoons dark ale (NOT beer) 2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper 1 pinch cayenne pepper Salt and pepper, to taste Preheat a broiler. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet. Place under the broiler and toast, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, 30-40 seconds on each side. Remove from the broiler. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cheddar and the dark ale. When the cheese melts, add the butter, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and cayenne, and whisk together until smoothly melted and combined, 1-2 minutes. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Cut each piece of toast in half diagonally and arrange around the edges on a flameproof platter. Pour the cheese mixture over the toasts so they are covered completely. Place the platter under the broiler and broil until the cheese bubbles and starts to scorch in places, about 2 minutes. Remove from the broiler and serve piping hot. Sarah Johnson is a cook, freelance writer and chocolate addict from North Mankato with three grown kids and a couple of mutts.



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Now Flood



| By Jean Lundquist

North Mankato during the ‘65 flood — boating on Belgrade.

Too wet to forget


Flood of ’65 left indelible memories

s river towns, Mankato and North Mankato are no strangers to spring flooding. Until the Army Corps of Engineers dikes came in the 1970’s, yearly devastating floods were expected. They were not welcomed, but they were expected. Starting in March, earthen dikes would be moved into place in anticipation of the April snow melt and the resulting floods. Fifty years ago this month, in 1965, Mankato experienced the highest river levels ever recorded here. The dikes didn’t hold, nor were they tall enough to provide protection from the raging water that overtook the Minnesota River Valley. The flood in 1965 outdid all others when the river crested at nearly 30 feet at 3 a.m. on April 10th. On April 6th, National Weather Bureau Climatologist Joseph Strub was quoted in the Mankato Free Press with a headline declaring “Mankato Dikes Go Up; No Immediate Danger.” On April 7th, the Free Press carried a story about “throbbing rivers” flooding the valley. Ice had broken unexpectedly, and the flood waters came immediately. Still, Strub told Free Press reporters that the flood would crest at 19 feet. He then upgraded the crest to 25 feet. The dikes were set for 27 feet, though at that level, no one was sure the dikes would 48 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

hold. Crest estimates rose to 26.5 feet, then 27.5 feet. No one knew the highest river levels in the recorded history of Mankato were at hand. No one removed the animals from their cages at Sibley Park Zoo. No one thought it was necessary. Larry Braam remembers that time. “My dad was working at the Mankato city dump, which used to be along HWY 169 north toward St. Peter, when he saw that the dead lions, among other animals, were brought out there to be buried,” he reported in a Facebook post. The river rose rapidly. Sandbagging efforts seemed unable to keep up, though there was a valiant effort among townspeople and college students. Also on Facebook, John Scott Haack recalls making the most of his time sandbagging. “Can’t remember exactly where we were sandbagging but it was heavy dirty work. We made light of it and sang 99 bottles of beer on the wall as we passed them along. TV cameras took some pictures and that evening, we were on the Walter Cronkite news.” Linda Quaday Howk recalls joining the forces and singing songs on the sandbagging line. “I hooked up

The Century Club had seen better days. with a couple of college girls and went to sandbag. After Everyone living and doing business in downtown all that’s where the boys were. We did sing 99 bottles of Mankato and North Mankato was affected by the flood. beer, but also sang Baby the Rain Must Fall. We had a Allison Myers Gulden’s family owned a store on the good time while helping to save downtown. We thought Mankato side of the river. “I recall the basement of our it was fun. It was part of the innocence of youth I guess.” store, La-Vogue, being filled with water, shoe boxes and The Little Theater at Mankato High School, now clothing floating in the filthy water.” Mankato West, was described as looking like an indoor While schools let out and residents evacuated, many swimming pool in the flood waters. people worked feverishly to stem the flow Across the street, Madsen’s grocery store of flood waters into town. That meant was full of water. “Old Man River Goes those workers needed to be supported. Shopping at Madsen’s,” shouted the Marcia Dimmel recalls making headline. sandwiches for the workers. “My mom Shopping carts half full of groceries and I had just made about six dozen egg were abandoned in the aisles when the salad sandwiches for the workers when alarm came that the flood waters were on the radio they announced that egg, there. Motor boats later raced across the tuna and chicken salad sandwiches could parking lots of both the school and the not be accepted. They would spoil too grocery store. soon! I think we sent them anyway.” Visit to order your copy Beth Larson Kramer was 12 in April, of our commemorative book. In a time of shared adversity, Galen 1965, and her father was a teacher at the Nicks was impressed at the lessons high school. “When the dike broke behind Madsen’s and taught. “I was impressed of the town effort with started flooding the slough, we all went down to the everybody working together.” school. I remember when part of the south wall gave way For Heidi St. Peter, though, the memories are not fond, under the water flooding the basement of the school. I even softened by the passing of 50 years. “We were remember people carrying sporting equipment up from awakened by our chest freezer banging against the the basement and me carrying it up into the first floor basement steps. It had floated across the room. Lost a hallway. One of the biggest concerns was for the ton of Beatles 45’s in that flood.” gymnasium wood floor. It was spared though. We lived The Army Corps of Engineers came to the rescue of on the bluff above the Blue Earth River across from the Mankato River Valley in the 1970’s and erected flood Lehillier. I remember watching the river rise higher and walls. The cement dikes that have surrounded the river higher with the huge ice chunks crashing into the Hwy since then have been criticized by some for not allowing 169 bridge next to Honeymead. It sounded like thunder. residents and visitors to view or interact with the river. After the dike break behind Madsen’s, west Mankato was But for some who remember the flood of 1965, that’s a cut off from the rest of the city. Thankfully we still had good thing. MM water and electricity.” MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 49

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1765 Commerce Dr., N. Mankato, MN 56003 MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 51

That’s Life By Nell Musolf


Field trip, anyone?

was always the mom who volunteered to go on field trips when my kids were growing up. Of all the volunteer opportunities open to parents, field trips were far superior to baking chocolate chip cookies or sitting at the back of the classroom cutting out name tags shaped like pumpkins. I loved going on those trips because a) they got me out of the house; b) I didn’t have to drive on the highway; and c) we got to go to all kinds of neat places like the Minnesota Zoo, the Guthrie Theater and the planetarium at East High School. So when the opportunity came around to be a chaperone on the Mother of All Field Trips — a trip to New York City with my younger son’s orchestra group — I leaped at the chance. New York City! Here was my chance to see Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square. Sign me up! But in spite of my enthusiasm to pretend that I, a middle-aged mom from the heartland, would be able to pretend that I was starring in a Woody Allen movie for a few days, I did have a few trepidations. Such as just what exactly did chaperoning a group of high school students in New York involve? “All you have to do is sit on the bus,” I was told. “Easiest thing in the world.” That sounded pretty good to me as I have always been a champion when it comes to sitting anywhere. Besides, even if chaperoning did involve a little bit more I had to keep my eye on the prize: a trip to the Big Apple that might be my only journey there in my entire life. The day finally arrived when we climbed aboard three chartered buses and began to wend our way east. Once on the bus I learned the good news that chaperones got a seat all to themselves and the bad news that the four girls I was in charge of chaperoning were identical. They each had long, straight brown hair and they were dressed in interchangeable clothing. The longer I was on the bus the more I realized that ALL of the kids looked alike to me with the exception of my son. I fell into the embarrassing habit of making a comment to one of them and then repeating the same comment to another one (to save on having to make conversation) only to be told, “You just told me 52 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

that two minutes ago.” The highlight of my inability to tell any of the students apart came when one of the teachers asked me to check off students as they got onto the ferry that was taking us from Ellis Island to the Statue of Liberty. Keep in mind that there were about five million other high school students from all over the country paying a visit to Ellis Island that day, half of them girls with long, straight brown hair and the other half boys who apparently shopped together for the same uniform of jeans and hoodies. “Did all of our kids get on?” the teacher in charge asked as the ferry took off. “We didn’t leave anyone behind, did we?” “I sure hope not,” I told him. Fortunately, we didn’t and by that point I was beginning to strongly doubt that this chaperoning gig was going to be the sitting-on-a-bus-lookingat-skyscrapers piece of cake that I had been led to believe. By the end of the first day I realized that going to New York and visiting the Minnesota Zoo had little in common. Over the next three days the students and the chaperones were on the move from seven in the morning until eleven at night. By the time we crawled back onto the bus to finally head back home my feet felt like they had swollen to the size of pontoons and the prospect of spending a day and a half in airconditioned numbness was quite sweet. Only the air conditioning broke somewhere in Pennsylvania and we were having a freakish warm spell that drove the temperatures inside the bus to somewhere around 120 degrees. The pontoons at the end of my legs became aircraft carriers and when we finally got off the bus in East’s parking lot I felt like someone who had just walked from New York to Minnesota via the Sahara Desert. But in spite of having to deal with identical teenagers, an incredibly long, hot drive home, and a complete lack of privacy for five days, I’d do it again in a New York minute. Nell Musolf is a mom and a freelance writer from Mankato.

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MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 53

Garden Chat By Jean Lundquist

Garden time draws near If you ask me, this is the most wonderful time of the year


he old saying is that potatoes need to be in the ground by Good Friday. This year, that means by April 3rd, so there’s no time to waste. I won’t make that deadline, but I never do, no matter how early or late Good Friday lands on the calendar. I would love to be in the garden in early April, but my garden never is dry enough to work the soil this soon. Many years ago, I tried to help the garden dry sooner by talking Larry into getting out there with the tractor as soon as he could without getting stuck in the mud. Because our soil is so heavy, we wound up with caked mud as big as a bowling ball, and just as hard. Now, we just wait. Nothing grows in or through those things, and knocking those bowling ball sized mud cakes apart was hard work. I always try to follow instructions for planting specific seeds, including, “Sow as soon as the soil can be worked.” I just accept that means May for me. However, there are things to do this month. I’ll be moving my seedlings out from under the lights in the basement to my greenhouse. Though, actually, it’s a hoop house, heated only by the sun. This is also a good time to feed the little darlings a bit of fertilizer. The important part of fertilizing seedlings is to make sure the fertilizer is not so strong that you kill them instead of nurturing them. Fertilizer that is too hot will cause them to damp off at any stage of growth. Fish emulsion is a good fertilizer to use, if you think you have a greenhouse that raccoons can’t break in to. If your plants are still in the basement under lights, be sure you can stand the smell before you go too hog wild with the fish emulsion. That scent will linger for several days. I’m going to make some worm compost “tea” to fertilize this year. I’ve used it before on office plants, but I have not ever “brewed” enough to use on my seedlings. To make this magical elixir, you first need red worm compost. This compost is very rich, being comprised of — ahem — worm poop. To make a teabag, use cheese cloth, or, as I will be doing, use a thin old sock. Soak it in water, and the result is your fertilizer. It has done wonders to perk up the plants along the windowsill in my office, and I know it will be spectacular on my seedlings. For a variety of reasons, I’ve never been big on fertilizing. One reason being that my garden has always been so big, that an increase in produce could have been overwhelming. However, cutting down in size again this year, I need to increase 54 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

production in another way. Fertilizing is what I’m going to do. I’m also going to incorporate more compost into my garden this year. If you have heavy soils like we have here, it does wonders in helping to loosen it up a bit and let it drain. If you have sandy soil, it helps to retain water. (I don’t know how it knows the difference.) Last spring I had four yards of compost delivered, and it seemed like a mountain when I started moving it with a shovel and a wheelbarrow. After the first day, I decided it was time to learn how to use the tractor, and the mountain disappeared. This year I will start the process with the tractor! The mountain of compost did not make a noticeable change in the density of my soil, however. The nice thing to know about incorporating compost into a garden is that you will never use too much — you can never ever put too much compost on your garden. Maybe someday I’ll get my garden soil amended to the point that it drains early, should I live that long, and I can work the soil sooner. When that happens, I’ll be planting on Good Friday. If you can get out to your garden early, in addition to potatoes, you can also plant peas, radishes, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. If you ask me, THIS is the most wonderful time of the year! Jean Lundquist is a master gardener who lives near Good Thunder.

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Your Style By Ann Rosenquist Fee

The Future of Fashion is in Your Crochet Basket

Thought fashion of the future was all about self-zipping pants and other technology-driven novelties? Me too. We were wrong.


he Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in unexpected and sometimes enormous objects, including a Rotterdam, The Netherlands, recently mounted a double-decker bus, the Wall Street bull, grocery carts and smash hit exhibition titled The Future of Fashion more. is Now, showcasing fifty new and For The Future of Fashion is Now, Olek established designers. crocheted a human skeleton on a chaise The show drew more than 83,000 people. lounge. The metallic gold yarn stayed close I couldn’t make it. to the bones, showing every contour and But I read everything written about the hollow. Forehead doves and ribcage doilies show, and watched the ArtTube statements added color and dimension. Her point was by the six designers who made new work to “…turn the spotlight on what lies beneath specifically for the exhibition including the clothing while still shaping it,” she said England’s Craig Green who made menswear in a statement for the exhibition. merging elements of conventional business Olek’s point in general is to highlight the clothes and religious garments, an inseparability of life and art, mind and body, expression of the blurring lines between culture and place. And to do it by professional and personal life. And Holland’s employing old-school materials and Iris Van Herpen who made a 3D-printed craftsmanship in new places, on a new dress that formed gradually as a magnetic scale. liquid dripped onto the waistline. You can see how this could work for us. If Wondrous and provocative and inspiring The slightly disturbing yet intriguing you don’t already know how to crochet, stuff. And while I see no reason why we work of Agata Oleksiak. You’ve never your mom does. She could teach you in a can’t import it all to our local style scene — seen crochet like this. weekend. And then, armed with (I mean, with our own local touches, like craftsmanship and a sense of humor, you perhaps we could infuse the ubiquitous blue can start making garments that make Oxford business shirt with the special brand of statements. sacredness found at Good Counsel’s Center for Earth A sweater with a map of Old Town so you can look Spirituality and Rural Ministry? Maybe dip those shirts down and remind yourself to shop locally once in a while. in the juice of beets from the Center’s organic garden? Or A headband in the shape and colors of the Minnesota maybe get the kids from MSU’s Automotive Engineering River where it runs through town, to keep our immediate Technology program to take a break from fussing over natural environment — wait for it — top-of-mind. solar cars and spend some time on formalwear with Or, you know, bigger-scale. If you’re one of the people reflective panels to keep area high schoolers warm in thinking about how to repurpose Mankato’s post office, January as they walk coatless from the parking ramp into you might crochet the post office. (The actual post office. the Verizon Wireless Center for the annual Job’s I’m just saying.) If you love/hate St. Peter’s pearly gates, Daughters dance?) you might lovingly/hatingly encase them with fibers that — it might be unreasonable to think we can embrace it blend with the nearby grasses. all at once. We are a practical people with not much time Olek likes to differentiate her work from yarn-bombing, to mess around holding our skirts flared out so the the street art trend in which yarn is crocheted, knitted or magnetized waistlines don’t deactivate our credit cards wrapped around an object in the public environment. or stick us to our garage doors. Noted. I’m not so much worried about whether we call Thusly, I’ve done us the favor of choosing one theme ourselves yarn-bombers or artists or fashion futurists. I’d that promises to have the most traction here in greater just like to see what we can do for the future of fashion Mankato. Not for retail shoppers, necessarily, but for the with some yarn, craftsmanship, work ethic and creatives in our midst who might wish to contribute to Midwestern imagination. the evolution of a particular new direction in fashion-asart. Work by Olek (Agata Oleksiak) is my pick. The Ann Rosenquist Fee is executive director of the Arts 36-year-old Polish artist who grew up “with a miner’s Center of Saint Peter and a vocalist with The Frye. work ethic … in a place with no colors” crochets She blogs at

56 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE


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Coming Attractions: April 9-11 -- MSU Theatre: The Pirates of Penzance 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday -Ted Paul Theatre, Minnesota State University -- $22 regular, $19 discount, $15 MSU students -- 507-389-6661 10 -- Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus 7:30 p.m. -- Bjorling Recital Hall, Gustvus Adolphus College -- 507-9337013 11 -- LIV AVEDA Salon and Spa presents Comedy Earth Month Event 6 p.m. -- Mankato Brewery -- 1119 Center St., North Mankato -- $45 11 -- Theodicy Jazz Collective Jazz Vespers 6 p.m. -- Christ Chapel, Gustavus Adolphus College -- 507-933-7013 11 -- University of Minnesota Trombone Quartet 1:30 p.m. -- Bjorling Recital Hall, Gustavus Adolphus College -- free -507-933-7013 12 -- Gustavus Symphony Orchestra’s Home Concert 1:30 p.m. -- Bjorling Recital Hall, Gustavus Adolphus College -- free -507-933-7013 12 -- Mankato Symphony Orchestra: Music on the Hill: Inspiration 2 p.m. -- Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel -- 170 Good Counsel Drive, Mankato 13 -- MSU: A Little Chamber Music 7:30 p.m. -- Elias J. Halling Recital Hall, Minnesota State University -- $9 general, $7 students -- 507-389-5549

58 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

14 -- Women’s Chorus Invitational Grand Concert 4 p.m. -- Christ Chapel, Gustavus Adolphus College -- free -507-933-7013 16-19 -- MSU Theatre: The Pirates of Penzance 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday -- Ted Paul Theatre, Minnesota State University -$22 regular, $19 discount, $15 MSU students -- 507-389-6661 17-19 -- How I Know the World: The Gustavus Dance Company in Concert 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday -- Anderson Theatre, Gustavus Adolphus College -- 507-933-7353 19 -- Gustavus Jazz Lab Band Home Concert 1:30 p.m. -- Bjorling Recital Hall, Gustavus Adolphus College -- free -507-933-7013 19 -- Mankato Symphony Orchestra: Symphonic Series: The Jewish Soul 3 p.m. -- Mankato West High School -1351 S. Riverfront Drive, Mankato 19 -- MSU Performance Series: Lucy Kaplansky 7:30 p.m. -- Elias J. Halling Recital Hall, Minnesota State University -- $15 general, $13 students -- 507-389-5549 21 -- University Percussion Ensembles 7:30 p.m. -- Elias J. Halling Recital Hall, Minnesota State University -- $9 general, $7 students -- 507-389-5549 22-25 -- MSU Theatre: Venus in Furs 7:30 p.m. -- Andreas Theatre, Minnesota State University -- $10 general, $9 discount, $8 MSU students -- 507-389-6661

23 -- University Jazz Big Bands 7:30 p.m. -- Elias J. Halling Recital Hall, Minnesota State University -- $9 general, $7 students -- 507-389-5549 24 -- Mankato Area Lifelong Learners: An Evening with Maud Hixson 7:30 p.m. -- Treaty Site History Center, St. Peter -- $15 -- 507-389-2011 24 -- University Concert Bands 7:30 p.m. -- Elias J. Halling Recital Hall, Minnesota State University -- $9 general, $7 students -- 507-389-5549 25 -- Mankato Symphony Orchestra: Haydn Go Seek: The Donkey 11 a.m. -- Mankato YMCA -- 1401 S. Riverfront Drive, Mankato -- free 26 -- Gustavus Percussion Ensemble Spring Concert 1:30 p.m. -- Bjorling Recital Hall, Gustavus Adolphus College -- 507-9337013 26 -- University Spring Choral Concert 5 p.m. -- Saints Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church -- 105 N. Fifth St., Mankato -- $9 general, $7 students -507-389-5549 28 -- MSU Community Orchestra 7:30 p.m. -- Elias J. Halling Recital Hall, Minnesota State University -- $9 general, $7 students -- 507-389-5549 30 -- University Contemporary Ensembles 7:30 p.m. -- Elias J. Halling Recital Hall, Minnesota State University -- $9 general, $7 students -- 507-389-5549

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Faces & Places

Photos By Sport Pix

Anthony Ford Pond Hockey Tournament 1

1. This year the winner for the youth tournament was a team that flew up to play on “real ice” for the first time all the way from Florida. (They were amazed when they first stepped foot on the lake.) 2. The winners of the 2015 Anthony Ford Pond Hockey Tournament holding their trophy. 3. There were nearly 40 youth hockey teams that entered the tournament. 4. The tournament kicked off with the adult games on Feb. 7th with sunshine and drinks to get it started. 5. In between games players and spectators could warm up around the Cambria fire rings. 6. The Cambria dragon came out to Lake Washington to help cheer on the teams. 7. About 30 adult teams participated in the tournament.







MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 61

Faces & Places

Photos By Sport Pix

Are you smarter than the 5th graders 1. Mankato West Football Coach Mark Esch converses with Stunt Monkey about the question he was given. 2. Stomper tries winning over the 5th graders before he begins his round of questions. 3. The last group of 5th graders reads one of the many questions they had to answer. 4. K & G Gymnastics entertained the audience between celebrity rounds. 5. Another Celebrity team participant was TJ and Lisa from radio station Country 93.1. 6. Emcee Stunt Monkey goes over the rules with scorekeepers Maggie Cruse from Mankato West and Kos Adam from Mankato East. 7. The 5th graders lined 2 up with their teacher 3 and principal.



62 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE




Faces & Places

Photos By Sport Pix

Dancing with the Mankato Stars


1. Pastor Patrick Patterson enjoyed dancing with his partner Brenda Martinson. 2. Dance Express also showed off their dance moves during the intermission. 3. The judges for the event were (left to right) Kaylee Lundblad, Steve Duea and Savannah Cole. 4. Travis Schaefer gives his dance partner Jolene Wall a dip while performing. 5. KEYC meterorologiest Jack Gerfen and dance partner Jessica Alstad perform with a Musical Theater dance style. 6. Mitzi Roberts makes her impressive entrance before dancing with her partner, Kevin Cockerill.






MANKATO MAGAZINE • April 2015 • 63




By Pete Steiner

This land is your land

…from Minnesota to the Key West Island… Those words aren’t in Woody Guthrie’s song, but the rhythm fits. My wife and I had never taken a winter vacation together. As a teacher, Jeanne declined to take time off during the school year. Now retired, she agreed to a road trip: We would drive 2300 miles to gain 30 degrees (Minnesota had a mild January). But we got much more — a fascinating trucker’s-eye view of this great land. Through Alabama and Mississippi, where I had never set foot before, we stopped at fast food joints, run-down motels, and truckstops. We’d eavesdrop on soft southern drawls: “…gonna be 70 today, think I’ll dig me some worms and go fishin’.” We overheard the talk about lanky LeRoy: “You mean the one, was always smiling’?” “Yep, they found him DEAD!” “DEAD?!” “Down south o’ town. Musta been a robbery, ‘cause he wasn’t into none o’ that bad stuff.” In Key West, we mingled with the transvestites and other colorful, welcoming locals at one of the greatest jam sessions I’ve ever heard — guys who’d played with Bonnie Raitt and Bob Dylan and Poco, gathered at the Green Parrot on a Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life of a friend who had died. •••• In Sanibel, where we stayed for a week with friends, the only imperative was to get to the beach in time for the always spectacular sunset. The incessant rolling of the waves deposits countless shells on the beach 24/7, shells that had recently hosted living creatures. It’s testimony to an infinite marine universe we rarely see, except when it’s deposited on shore to be ground into the fine white sand we love for sunbathing. The original inhabitants of Sanibel, the Calusa Indians, believed all people and animals would be re-incarnated as everLOWER life-forms until they disappeared. Did that mean I was strolling on particulate remains of someone’s ancestors? •••• Sanibel is home to the world-class Ding Darling wildlife refuge, where birders with massive camera lenses flock to see rare species like the sublimely pink roseate spoonbill. Ospreys, called fish-hawks because of their prowess at plucking prey from the waters, are thriving in south Florida. From our lanai deck, I watched one that had caught an 18-inch fish, take it to the edge of a condo rooftop, and spend an hour-and-45 minutes dismantling it there, while fending off six crows. Talk about leisurely dining! •••• Chickens roam free in Key West, one of the hippest places on the planet. Still, I don’t want the Mankato city council to revisit that issue. A rooster crowing regularly near Hemingway’s 1930’s residence made me think, even ol’ Ernest would have found that rooster as disruptive as 64 • April 2015 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

the telephone he would not allow in his writing study. Duval Street is noisy, bustling, full of life. Stores hawk t-shirts with slogans that are unprintable here. But the island is not totally profane: the 10:30 mass at the Basilica of the Sea is full of worshippers. A mile away, different worshippers wait in line to take selfies at the monument that marks the supposed “southernmost point” in the USA, just 90 miles from Cuba. We stroll past “Better than Sex”: it’s a dessert restaurant. •••• Florida’s marketing is superb, calling it “the sunshine state.” But they don’t tell you of the ubiquitous heavy traffic. Nor do they publicize growing concerns about exotic mosquitoes that carry formidable viruses like dengue fever and chikungunya. Still, we completely forgot it was January by the time we had to head back home. •••• At night in the motel beside the freeway, I am awakened to recall Emmylou Harris’ line: “I’ve come to listen for the sound of the trucks, as they roll down on I-55; I pretend that it’s the ocean…” But we’re heading away from the ocean now, back to the flatlands of Minnesota. We’ll have to dig our winter jackets out of the nook where we buried them in the trunk. At the truckstop near St. Louis, the trucker headed to Chattanooga says loudly to no one in particular, he’s sure glad he’s not stuck in historic snows up near Boston: “Couldn’t make no money that way!” •••• In Lamoni, Iowa, just off I-35, there’s a cozy coffee shop with great sandwiches. At the convenience store a block down, cars in for a fill-up park next to Amish horsedrawn carriages. You momentarily contemplate the satisfactions of a simpler life. He’s got one horse, we have 185. Then you climb back in, and 185 horses again propel you through the 21st century. •••• South of the Mason Dixon line, as snowbirds in the Land of Cotton, we’d tell folks where we came from, and they’d scrunch up their faces and fold their arms tightly to their midsection and make that shivering gesture. COLD! That’s all they’d say. By the time these words are printed, the trees here will be shimmering with new leaves of luna moth green. And then will come lovely May. We would tell our southern friends, come in May, the blooming time. Or in September or October, during hurricane season. You might find Minnesota is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Peter Steiner is host of “Talk of the Town” weekdays at 1:05 p.m. on KTOE.

Kato mag 4 15  

People, Places, Lifestyles of the Minnesota River Valley

Kato mag 4 15  

People, Places, Lifestyles of the Minnesota River Valley