inBemidji Fall 2022

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Naytahwaush artist Kent Estey poses with a painting at his home, also the site of his art studio. Photo by Annalise Braught.

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inBemidji’s mission is to be Bemidji’s and the surrounding area’s local lifestyle magazine. We strive to enhance the quality of life for the people of the Bemidji area by informing them about all of the amazing people who live in our community. Our concentration is on everything local: fashion, food, health, and most importantly, unique individuals and stories.


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Volume 9, Issue 4

Area artist Kent Estey


Larisa Cooks

Every stranger on the street has a story, so columnist Jennifer Koski gives an off-the-cuff interview of Bemidjian Julie Holub-Rodewald.

Jessica Carter, of Core Health Nutrition & Yoga, offers tips on enjoying Halloween while keeping health in mind.

Body Shop Manager Star Whelan


Happy, healthy Halloween


At Random


A Bob Lowth manager reflects on her experiences as a female in the auto body industry.

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The White Earth artist details his journey of honing his craft and helping others along the way.

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Editor’s Note: Writer Jennifer Koski believes everyone has a story to tell — from the person in line behind you at the coffee shop to the person who delivers your mail. And for 12 years, she’s been proving this theory month after month with her awardwinning “Random Rochesterite” magazine column in Rochester, Minnesota. A recent Bemidji transplant, Koski is now bringing these random, person-on-thestreet interviews to inBemidji.

by Jennifer Koski special to in Bemidji photos by Dacia Bessler

WHAT WERE YOU BUYING WHEN WE FOUND YOU AT TARGET? Hair color. Because at my age you have to dye your hair once in a while!

YOU ADOPTED HER? Yes. She literally looked like what I’d envisioned in my dream. The moment I held Ally, she nestled into my armpit and went to sleep and she was mine. It was like I gave birth to her. She was a true gift. And now she’s going to Hamline University. She is going to make a difference in the world.

vision that I had lost my baby, and I had. I had had a stillborn baby. She felt like my baby’s spirit was in her baby. At the same time, I had a dream about this little, curly-haired, brunette girl in Guatemala. And I got that curly haired baby.

NAME: Holub-RodewaldJulie

go to college to be a PA or doctor, but life takes you in different directions. I moved to St. Cloud, and ended up working as a coordinator in Emergency Medical Services education and as a defensive driving instructor. At the same time, I always worked for the Boys and Girls Club, too, and I loved that. It was a good fit because I’d already been doing summer camps and canoe trips with kids up here.

OCCUPATION: CSA at Delta Dental of Minnesota

WHERE WE FOUND HER: Target Health & Beauty

HOW LONG DID YOU LIVE IN ST. CLOUD? From 1985 to 2012. I loved it there. It’s still home to me. My adult friendships were built there, and my younger brother and his family live there. It’s also where I got into mission work.

school in Haiti. I fell in love with all the cultures, but I REALLY fell in love with Guatemala. It became my heart and soul.

WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP? In high school, I was trained at Leech Lake Ambulance Services to work as an EMT. I wanted to


AGE: 56

WHY WAS IT SO SPECIAL TO YOU? I met a young lady, Lubia, there when she was 14. She was in and out of my life, and then she became pregnant at 24 with a mixed-race child. Because her baby was light skinned, she knew she wouldn’t be able to raise her in Guatemala. A light-skinned child from a poor family would never be allowed in school there. Lubia looked at children as a gift from God, and to give a child up would be hard for her. But she also wanted the best life for her baby. She felt that, spiritually, her baby was meant to be mine.

ARE YOU ORIGINALLY FROM BEMIDJI? Yep. We moved here when I was 4 years old. Bemidji High School class of ‘84.

Guatemalans are very superstitious. She had a

Adoptions became very fearful for Guatemalans at that time. They thought adopted babies were being harvested for their organs, so they were blocking


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WHAT KIND OF MISSION WORK? Health missions, like cleaning orphanages in Guatemala and building a

DO YOU HAVE OTHER KIDS? Yes, my son Ben is 29. He works for the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Department, in corrections. He was 10 when we adopted Ally and they’ve been very close, very tight, ever since.

looked over and there was my sister, my brother, and my cousin all looking at me with their mouths open.

THAT SOUNDS PRETTY GREAT. I’ve never been happier. I’ve had lots of wonderful experiences in life … but to be truly content? That’s where I am right now.

YOU WORK AS A CSA. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? It’s customer service, and it’s the absolute perfect retirement job. I loved being in EMS, but I made the decision to retire from all of that. Both Chris and I work at Delta Dental and we’re so happy. I mean, you get bad calls and people mad at you, but literally, I walk out that door and it’s over. I leave work at work. And we work 3-4 days a week and get paid full time. It has been an absolute gift to us.

OOH, DO TELL. When I was 14, 15 years old, my mom was very protective. I was finally allowed to go to a dance, but she warned me: Don’t get too close to the boys. Chris asked me to dance a slow dance, and he leaned down to kiss me. I

WITH LUBIA? We lost touch in 2009 when they had the sinkholes and big earthquakes. We’ve tried to send messages, but when things calm down with the border, we’ll go back and we’ll look for her.

HARDEST DAY? My dad and stepdad died on the same day, three years ago. My mom was sick, so I went over to make sure my stepdad, Pops, had his eggs. Then I left to go check on my dad, Gene, who was dying. And while I was there, I got the call that Pops died.

WHAT’S SOMETHING I’D BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT YOU? I worked at the Renaissance Festival for 17 years. I have the full garb. Puke and Snot were my best friends there.

WHAT WAS YOUR WEDDING LIKE? We got married at the speakeasy in St. Cloud — Anton’s. My family history is that we used to run booze to that location during prohibition.

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Julie, Chris, Ally and Ben

CHRIS … ? My husband. We reconnected over a cup of coffee in Brainerd, and discovered that there was still something there after a kiss we shared a long time ago.

WHAT’S ONE THING YOUR DAD TAUGHT YOU? Sailing. My dad and I shared a love of the outdoors. We had a sailboat in Duluth for a while, and Cass Lake for a while. In 1975, he bought the Coronado, and that’s when he put it in Leech Lake. We went just about every weekend, and we all learned to swim by falling off that boat.


WHEN DID YOU MOVE BACK TO BEMIDJI? It was August 2012. I was going through a divorce and my dad was terminally ill, so I wanted to be closer to help. Also, Chris and I had reconnected.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT EXTRA TIME? We bought a camper and a hot tub, and we’re spending time together. We look like two little, old retirees, doing everything together. We go camping every month, and we schedule these breaks into our life now. We didn’t know how to do that before.


adoptions. But she was given to us, so it was different. I still had to bribe people to get the paperwork done. I shipped a case of Crown Royal in the purple bags down, because that was like gold down there. I’d put American dollars — $350 was the highest — in the bags to get her paperwork out of the mountains. We had an armed guard go up in the mountains with us, and I have pictures of me having lunch with the people we bribed.

Thirty years later! He proposed in 2013, and we married in 2014. I had said I was never getting married again, so that tells you something.

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Jessica Carter is a Registered/Licensed Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, Lifestyle coach and 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher. She is the founder and president of Core Health Nutrition & Yoga, formerly known as Core Health & Nutrition LLC.

This fear leads parents to struggle with the same dilemmas each year: to trick or treat or not, to forcibly take candy away or not, and ultimately, to celebrate the season or

is the good news — Halloween can be fun again. It’s not all about the candy; it’s also about embracing the changing season. It’s an opportunity to dress up for an evening, and most importantly it’s a chance to laugh and have fun with friends and family.


Use these tricks to guide your Halloween season and not only will you find some relief from the candy onslaught, but you just might form some fun new family traditions.

Halloween can be a scary time of year for parents. Not only do they fear the ghosts and goblins that come out to play, but also the sugar rushes and dental disasters from the plethora of candy intake. This is nearly always followed by the even scarier temper tantrum-throwing toddlers (or teenagers) when that candy is taken away.

The parent’s guide to a happy, healthy Halloween

Stay at Home Tricks:

Trick or Treating Tricks:

Trick #3: Keep moving! Host activities that require movement. Depending on the age, anything goes from a dance party to a spider race. Don’t be afraid to Google for inspiration.

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Trick #5: Ditch the tradition! Consider opting out of your usual festivities and plan a scary movie night with the family, or dress in costumes and deliver treats to elderly family and friends, or host a themed dinner party where a costume is expected but candy and overindulgence is not.

Trick #1: If handing out candy, don’t hand out candy. It’s OK to be “that house.” Consider handing out glow sticks, temporary tattoos, spider rings, cutie oranges or sugar-free gum.

Trick #2: Embrace creativity with healthy food. If hosting a Halloween shindig, consider finding fun recipes that use better food choices; Cuties oranges made to look like pumpkins, bobbing for apples or guacamole for a puking pumpkin.

Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone this Halloween and keep these three things in mind: keep the candy minimal, keep the activity high and keep the fun going!

Trick #1: Limit your trick or treating time. Choose a one or two-hour timeframe and stop when you reach the time limit, even if there are still more houses lit up.

Trick #4: Ditch the sugary punch. Consider offering virgin bloody Mary’s or brew some flavored herbal tea and pour over ice, then add some fruit slides for fun. Consider hot beverages such as homemade hot chocolate where you can control the sugar content.

Trick #2: Eat a healthy meal before trick or treating. Being full will help reduce the snacking during and overindulgence after the fun is over.

Trick #3: Find a fun, but smaller treat bag. It is tempting to pull out the pillowcase but choosing something smaller will help create a stopping point for the evening. To get your kids to embrace the smaller size, the bag has to be exciting to carry. The old plastic jack-o-lantern buckets are perfect for this.

Trick # 4: Walk, don’t ride (if possible). Instead of riding in the car from house to house, find a safe place to park and walk the neighborhood as a family to get some bonus exercise. At the very least, have the kids walk door to door and you can follow in the car.

Trick #5: Donate or buy back excess candy. There are many places that will accept donations of extra candy or even offer a buyout. Another option, as the parent, is to offer some incentive to buy back or trade out the candy for something non-food-related. Think of a trip to the zoo, movie passes, screen time… the list goes on.

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By Nicholas Sparks


For the fall edition of Bookmarked, inBemidji has once again partnered with Four Pines Bookstore, located in downtown Bemidji, to pick some recent releases. All titles will be out once the leaves change their hues, so check out these fall favorites!

Carrie Soto is Back By Taylor Jenkins Reid

Kent walked into the gallery where his submitted painting was on display. To his shock and awe, on either side of his painting hung a George Morrison piece.“To be selected was amazing, but to also have my work hanging on the same wall as some of his work – that’s when the tears came,” Kent detailed.

“As a kid, I would be over by the barn and I would be making my own paint out of gravel and dirt. We grew up really poor and with six other kids, there were other priorities,” he said. “There just wasn’t enough money for paints, brushes or canvases. I remember painting on the side of our barn with mud — that’s all I had — but I could see the color.”

FALL 2022 in Bemidji | 13

by Maggi Fellerman in Bemidji staff photos by Annalise Braught

“I went to Grand Portage and I found a rock on the shores. I hung it in my painting and that was the piece I submitted,” he explained, “and sure enough, I was selected to be in a George

Shortly after, Kent made his way into the gallery’s gift shop and picked up a book about Morrison and he bought it. Little did he know that decision would change his life.

Morrison exhibit.”


Kent noted how he left the true painting’s color up to his imagination and was perfectly content, but also remembers wondering if he’d ever be able to see real art in his lifetime.

“Living in Naytahwaush on the White Earth Reservation, there’s nothing here,” Kent said. “I thought about that a lot and I couldn’t really see beyond that, I believed I wasn’t going to have any opportunities.”


Kent Estey captures nature, honors heritage through art

Around seven years ago, Kent Estey was visiting an art exhibit in Fargo when he saw a painting by Ojibwe landscape painter George Morrison hanging on the wall.

Fast forward to a few years ago, he took a long shot and entered one of his pieces into a selection process for a George Morrison appreciation exhibit in “IMinneapolis.thought,‘you know, I’ll try it. Nothing is going to come from this, there are way too many artists,’” Kent said of his thought process on entering theInexhibit.contemplating what type of piece to enter, he recalled how Morrison — who hailed from Grand Portage — always incorporated a horizon in his paintings, so Kent did so as well to pay homage to his mentor.

Now, more than 50 years later, he’s going to museums and galleries to see his own

A White Earth Nation member, Kent has spent his 62 years living on the same piece of land in the small community of Naytahwaush. He is the youngest of seven siblings and was raised in a family of black ash basket weavers and musicians, but he always knew he was different.“Growing up in Naytahwaush, all of our resources were right here in these woods and in our home. We’d gather birch bark and my family made these beautiful baskets,” Kent said. “But I was different, I was a painter in my heart. I didn’t want to make baskets, I didn’t want to play the piano, I just wanted to paint.”Sitting on the back porch of his current home, Kent pointed down

“Sometimesart. I’m still that 6-year-old boy who’s painting the side of the barn and thinking I wasn’t good enough,” Kent pondered. “Now I know I am good enough.”

the road to an old barn, the walls now collapsed, and detailed how his passion for painting was developed as a child.


“I remember going by and I thought it sounded interesting, so I bypassed the art department and walked into the radio station,” Kent said, “and that’s where I stayed.”

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“I think it was fear, I thought ‘you’re just intimidated,’ that’s what it had to be because I didn’t think I was good enough and I knew at some point I was going to be judged by my work,” Kent said. “So, I just keptFearingwalking.”judgment, he made his way through the underground tunnels that connect the campus buildings and ended up in Deputy Hall right outside the school’s radio and television station.

time,” Kent added. “We incorporate the Ojibwe language and culture as much as we can.”

While many may assume an artist like Kent studied art his whole life to obtain his level of skills, he actually never took a single art class in his four years of college.

For many years, Kent painted what he thought other people wanted to see. Deeming himself a landscape artist, he painted his surroundings and described his work during that time as “very Bob Ross.”

- Kent Estey

He recounted how he went to BSU before his first semester and walked through the old building where the art department was located, just to take a peek inside.Hewalked up to the door and looked into the room. Without stepping inside, he turned around, walked away and never went back.

He started giving his artwork to friends and family, but the more he gave out, he

Heading into Bemidji State University with intentions of entering the art program, he came out with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication instead.

He put his degree to use by teaching technology in White Earth for a while before eventually helping to establish an elementary school in his hometown.“I’vealways taught technology or data coordination and even some robotics when that was a big thing, and in my spare time I would be able to teach a little art,” Kent said. “But the last 18 years or so were spent here getting to work with my own community and the kidsKenthere.”explained how before the Naytahwaush Community Charter Elementary School started in 2005 the children in the community had to travel over 30 miles to go to school.

“I think it was fear, I thought ‘you’re just intimidated,’ that’s what it had to be because I didn’t think I was good enough and I knew at some point I was going to be judged by my work.”

“It was an opportunity to do schools differently and the community had a say on the education of the kids for the first


As he read the book, “Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison,” he came across a quote that pulled him out of his funk and away from the expectations others had for his art: “I’m not a Native American artist, I just happen to be an artist that’s Native American,” the bookKentreads.has one of his favorite Morrison quotes on his website, which reads “I have never tried to prove that I was an Indian through my art. Yet there may remain, deeply hidden, some remote suggestion of the rock whence I was hewn, the preoccupation of the textural surface, the mystery of the structural and organic element, the enigma of the horizon or the color of the wind.”

FALL 2022 in Bemidji | 15

found that the feedback wasn’t what he’d hoped to hear. He was often asked to “put something Indian” in his paintings or “paint an eagle, a wolf, a teepee or wigwam.”

“I thought about that for a long time, and I would put the eagle in there and I would try to accommodate that as much as possible,” Kent said. “But then it got really, really old.”Growing tired of humoring others, his heart wasn’t in it anymore and he thought it would be easier to quit altogether rather than keep painting what other people requested.“Iquitpainting for a long time,” Kent said. “Up until I found Morrison’s painting in that exhibit.”

Colors and inspiration hang in Kent Estey's art studio.

Through reading the book and seeing Morrison’s art, Kent came to the realization that there were many ways to honor his rich and diverse Indigenous culture through his art.

with a Gouletlaugh.first heard of Kent when she was working at the White Earth Tribal Community College and had one of his nieces in class. She instantly recognized and related to his unique style of the landscape and environment he spent his life in, because she’s from there, too.

“I really felt he captured the essence of the land he has lived on his whole life, I’ve had people express to me how his pieces make them feel and what it reminds them of,” Goulet said, recalling her first interactions with Kent. “He’s given priority to other things in life, and now he’s able to dedicate himself to work as an artist and I’m really glad he’s been able to do that for himself.”Afterhe took the call, Kent decided to finally give art everything he had. In his garage, which doubles as his art studio, he assembled and submitted his work to the gallery. One of his paintings was selected for the grand opening of the Miikanan Gallery in December 2017 –that painting sold right away.

“That made sense to me and once that realization hit it was like this big explosion of color happened,” he recalled, “and I was finally able to pick the brushes up again.”

People started to notice his work and so created his own website to showcase his paintings. In 2016, he received a call from Karen Goulet, the program director at the Watermark Art Center in Bemidji.“Shesaid she saw my work online and wanted me to submit some pieces for the grand opening of (Watermark’s) Miikanan Gallery. I tried to assure her she had the wrong number and that she was looking for my brother, the black-ash basket maker,” he said

But he didn’t start with landscape art. No teepees, wigwams, eagles or wolves. He tried different techniques and for the first time in 40 years, he didn’t care what other people thought.


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About a year later,

Watermark asked him to come back for a solo exhibition where he had the whole floor to display around a dozen of his paintings.

Kent Estey has this art piece all about his grandmother's life in boarding school hanging up in his art studio, and uses it during his artist talks.

His work became bright, bold and full of color and at long last, his creations finally expressed who he was as an artist.

“I think it’s important that

the world understands that Indigenous art is many things and the spirit of being a person who is Ojibwe can be expressed in many ways,” Goulet said.

“Having a mentor is absolutely essential. The Watermark Art Center has been a mentor to me,’’ he said. “They’ve been a

“Our home faces the west and we have the most beautiful sunsets,” Kent said before gesturing to his backyard. “This is my place and everything I paint starts right here.”

He said a lot of his inspiration also comes from the small flower gardens surrounding his home. Filled with pops of color from bright purple hostas to the intense yellow of black-eyed Susans, the familiar colors are easily spotted in his artwork.

schools and her family was one of the first families to live on the White Earth Reservation when it was first established (in 1867). She told the story of growing up here when she was young, experiencing boarding schools and the loss of the language and land.”Kent mentioned that his grandmother was the first real artist he ever knew and that gave him hope to look beyond his little hometown and become an artist himself.

Kent Estey leaves this nature painting hanging in his studio to remind him of his growth as he's changed styles over the years.

Since then, Kent has been able to share his work in a number of galleries across Minnesota, including the All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis, the Wilder Foundation and Friedli Gallery in St. Paul and the MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, to name a few.


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“She keeps me grounded, without her I’d have 10,000 thoughts going through my mind at the same time,” he said. “We have a wonderful relationship and she’s seen a lot of art with me and has taken me to places and galleries that I would have never gone to.”

For those struggling to get their start or to take their work to the next level, Kent’s advice is to find a mentor.

While most of his work is bright and colorful, he also has some with a more somber tone. One such piece, titled “Tribal Memories,” is a collage of newspaper clippings from stories about his grandmother, Josephine Robinson, who grew up during the early years of the White Earth Nation.


Kent paints nonfigurative, non-objective pieces using a number of mediums such as acrylics, wax, stone and metals. He’s inspired by nature and a walk in the woods is usually all he needs to provide his next piece of artwork — and he’s definitely not afraid to use color.“My work is all about color. My wife and I take walks in the woods or by the lake, looking in the water I can see these beautiful colors when the sun is shining or the flash of light on top of the water,” Kent said. “Those are the things that capture my attention and that’s what I try to put on the canvas. Something beautiful, but simple.”

“I use that piece when I do my artist talks,” he said, gesturing to a piece hanging in his studio. “The (Star Tribune) interviewed my grandma in 1978 and those are pieces of her story. She was a product of the boarding

“Then we would start to talk about color and movement. Pretty soon, the kids would start to tell stories about their fears or disappointments. There’s so much healing involved in art, and when you accept that and start to share it, it’s really special.”

“Kent has a distinct voice and it’s been really exciting to watch him grow as an artist.”

“(Watermark) found me, and if I hadn’t responded to that phone call I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today,” Kent said.

“I tell this to people because I’ve gone through it, to just put your work out there, let go of all the fear of where you live or where you came from,” he said. “Once people start putting themselves out there it can do so much, not just for the person creating it, but also for the person who receives it.”

“(When teaching art classes) kids would come down to the art room and we would start breathing exercises and I would always tell them, ‘when you come down, you calm down’ and we’d take all that energy into calming ourselves down,” Kent recalled.

Having someone to push you out of your comfort zone also helps, and for Kent, that’s his wife Becky.

properties that come with the process.

Art is more than just about the visual appeal in Kent’s eyes. It also has healing

Kent acknowledges the power of art, but also the fear of putting work out for people to see.

Kent admits that it can be difficult for some, as it goes against Ojibwe people’s cultural tendencies to put themselves out there, but also feels people are working hard to get away from that and be proud of theirThiswork.year, Bemidji was host to the first-ever Anishinaabe Art Festival, where Indigenous artists could be celebrated and give the community a chance to see their work for possibly the first time.

“I kept hearing in my head ‘finally, finally,’ people were seeing our work for what it really was – art. There are people who are sitting in their homes beading and sewing one stitch at a time and doing this beautiful work, but you’d never know,” Kent said. “I think some Native people find it really hard to promote themselves, and I’ve had to work through that issue, too.”

thing to ‘wow, here’s what Native people can do. It was a beautiful experience,’” he continued. “It took me a long time to be content with my work, so I understand just wanting to sit in your studio or apartment and never show off your work, but you just have to do it anyway.”

- Kent Estey

Kent left off with a bit of advice he wished he would have been told earlier in life.“Don’t let other people put you in a box and tell you who you are just because you’re Native,” he said. “Paint what you feel. If art is your thing then express yourself.” n

“The art festival was really a celebration of Indigenous culture from this crafty

But Kent hopes that if he promotes himself and talks about his work, hopefully, others will too.

18 | in Bemidji FALL 2022 219 Bemidji Ave. N • Bemidji, MN 218-444-3898 24 Flavors of Delicious PaniniIceNEW!www.BigRiverScoop.comSuper-PremiumCreamSandwich! We help ourcommunity reachtheir dreams fnbbemidj m2 18 -751 -2 43 0 Land of 10,000neighb ors

“Paint what you feel. If art is your thing thenyourself.”express

tremendous support system and pointed me in all these directions. It’s not just me, you have to have people who believe in you.”

DIY: scarf pumpkin

• A scarf • Pillow stuffing • Thin yarn, or a thick piece of thread • A wooden stem • Buttons (optional) • Leaf (optional) • A hot glue gun Supplies:

by Elizabeth Stark in Bemidji staff

Fall presents a great time to pick up a craft and for the fall issue of inBemidji, we have a do-it-yourself pumpkin that can be crafted from any sort of seasonal scarf.

FALL 2022 in Bemidji | 19 wanwammmkkkkwnnwn..r | 505 BwiG A N. FFF GGeDec.nJwJJaJWemrrrreeAAViiiSSSP 505 172 Spirit Ave Providing Indoor Comfort for your Home and Business. Need Furnace Maintenance this Fall? We Can Help! FREE ESTIMATE! We Take Pride in Your Comfort. Stop in or call us today to get a

With a warm cup of tea hitting your hand and the crisp smell of leaves hitting the ground, what’s better than autumn in Minnesota?

This craft is fun, creative and makes for a great inside project on a rainy day. Take some time to enjoy this festive centerpiece!



Wrap the yarn or piece of thread around the ball of scarf, then cut the yarn pieces and hot glue them as needed so they fit snugly onto the pumpkin.


Unwrap the scarf and cut it into a 20-by24-inch square, or any size that works for you.


When the yarn or thread is placed, glue the stem onto the top of the pumpkin.

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1 2 3 4 5

Glue the buttons on the front of the pumpkin, and place a leaf (ours was homemade from some cord) on either side of the stem.



Repeat as necessary, tightening the yarn to create the pumpkin look (we used four sections of thread to divide the pumpkin into eight rind pieces).

Place a ball of stuffing in the center of the scarf square. Take the edges of the scarf and wrap them around the stuffing, then hot glue the pieces together.

Holding her head high

Day in and day out, Star Whelan manages all of the moving parts at Bob Lowth Ford in SomeBemidji.peoplemay not expect to see a female employee working at an auto body shop, let alone being the body shop manager.Butfor the past nine years, Star has done just that — with just a little more estrogen involved.

As the manager Star’s duties range widely from writing estimates, answering phones, ordering car parts, managing payroll, vacuuming in the shop and washing cars.

With so much on her plate, a typical day hardly ever parks in her lot.

Star autoperspectivebringsWhelanfemaletobodyshop

photos by Annalise Braught

FALL 2022 in Bemidji | 21

“I show up every day, grab the bat and swing,” she said. “You’re expecting parts, they don’t show up. Or you’re expecting this and it’s for the wrong side (of a car). You just never know. I haven’t had a ‘typical’ day in probably a couple years.”

by Daltyn Lofstrom in Bemidji editor


Looking back on her 20 years in the auto body industry, Star noted several changes that, despite happening, have solidified her commitment to the job.Supply-chain issues are one such challenge that Star has had to maneuver around, particularly

“It’s always been about efficiency, but I’m kind of out of my element because we’re having to make appointments for estimates and we have to check on parts, then wait until all the parts come in,” she said. “Cars aren’t coming in and out as quickly. A lot of times you might lose a job here and there because (the customer) couldn’t wait for parts. That’s definitely a struggle.”Starnoted frustration with not being able to provide all the answers for a customer when part shortages extend beyond the shop’s“I’mcontrol.verymuch a ‘let’s figure out a solution’ kind of person. Somebody’s got to know an answer,” she said. “After a couple years, my customers are a lot more understanding because they’re also running into the issue whether they’re looking for lumber or a home or just about anything. It was very, very frustrating in the beginning (of

“The estimator at the time retired, so I got trained in on how to write estimates which

– and customers keep her coming back day after day.



With the family continuing on to open a detailing shop and Brad working on cars out of his garage for friends and family, Star found it easy to follow in her dad’s footsteps.

had one of its technicians covering office duties at the time Star decided to make a switch.“They kind of needed everything here. I’m kind of a one-person shop here and tackle a lot,” she said. “It’s not always nice to wash the cars and vacuum, but I do it.”

Born in Bemidji, Star’s family moved around throughout her childhood.Crediting her dad, Brad, as a major influence in her career path, Brad had sold cars at Hanson Ford in Grand Forks, N.D. before opening a J.D. Byrider shop in Duluth.

I was all for,” Star mentioned. “I wanted to keep doing that because you never see the same car and you never see the same

after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.


added. “My technicians and my customers, they make it easy. They make me want to come back.”

“It was always going on and always an interest,” she reflected. “It did just come naturally to me and I wanted to know more and more.”Prior to Bob Lowth, Star spent around 10 years at Sam’s Auto Body in Bemidji having started as an office manager before transitioning into a shop manager role.

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Though some duties may not feel Star’s love, the interconnectedness of Bob Lowth’s auto body team –currently sitting at five members

“I really enjoy every technician out there (in the body shop). We’re like a family here,” Star

“When I first started, I had some older gentlemen out there who would think ‘she


“I’ve gone to a few places to get my oil changed and there are females doing it. And people are a lot more receptive to it,” Star said before reflecting on her own experiences.

the pandemic) and now we’ve learned how to deal with Recruitingit.” qualified technicians throughout northwest Minnesota is another difficulty, which Star partly contributes to the limited educational opportunities surrounding auto body detailing jobs.

FALL 2022 in Bemidji | 23

In conversations with college instructors, Star highlighted increased female representation throughout the industry whether in insurance adjustment roles or doing the nitty-gritty shop work.

She mentioned that Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls used to offer auto body classes, but those have since been retired. This has led more of Bob Lowth’s recruitment efforts toward the Twin Cities.

“If you look anywhere, everyone has issues with staffing,” she mentioned. “It’s tough to bring people to Bemidji unless they already have a family (or other ties) here.”

o’clock, now I’m on to my second job which is being a mother,” Star said. “My kids don’t need me bringing any of my problems from work to home.”

“In an industry you wouldn’t really see a female in, but there she is doing it,” she said.


this year. Brad was born in Kalispell, Montana, and lived in the area for about 10 years before the family moved to Bemidji.

don’t know what she’s talking about’ and say ‘can I just talk to one of your guys in the shop?’ So I had to learn to deal with that and still hold my head high.

“When I come to work, I come to work. And when I turn the lights off and I lock the door at 5

“On the other hand, I’d have women coming in to get an estimate and they’d feel at ease coming to a place with a female. They feel like, for some reason, I’m being honest,” she continued. “Ten to 15 years ago it was a little bit tougher, but I think times have Recognizingchanged.”these cultural shifts, Star encourages anybody with the interest, ambition, drive and goals to get involved in whatever field they desire.

Loving Bemidji for its

“That was the first time I’ve been out that way. It was beautiful,” Star said. “Now I understand why he wanted to go back there and now Grandma Whelan, that’s all she wants to

Star’s grandma, LaVerne Whelan, was named the grand marshal of the Bemidji All School Reunion parade having graduated from the “old” Bemidji High School in 1940 and celebrated her 100th birthday earlier this year on April 9.

On top of possible return trips to Montana per new tradition, the family also enjoys more domestic activities.


Star’s three daughters range from ages 14 to 23, and each have their own distinct personality. Star explained that her middle child is like her twin who enjoys commercial and residential painting and getting her hands dirty every day.

- Star Whelan

summers – and not so much for its harsh winter season – Star takes in every bit of family time sheAftercan. her dad, Brad, passed away in February 2021, the family headed out to Hungry Horse, Montana, to spread his ashes over Father’s Day weekend

“Every Tuesday night, we keep up the tradition of Tuesday night darts,” Star said. “Dad had opened up his garage and behind his garage was his man cave, so (since he passed) we’ve kind

Though every workplace comes with its stressors and pressure, Star has managed to strike a good work-life balance.

Star experienced a bit of a learning curve when she had her youngest son despite growing up as the only girl in her family with two“Atbrothers.40,Iwas blessed with a little boy. So after raising these girls, what do I do with a boy?” Star recalled with a laugh.

do is make her way back there.”

“I don’t think there’s anything in the shop that a woman wouldn’t be capable of,” she said. “We work as a team here.”

With her son currently starting kindergarten, she added, “he’s just the sweetest thing, but he’s already starting school. Time is just going by so fast.”

She also noted her love of camping, fishing and the nearconstant hustle of running her kids around for sporting events and their other activities.


Star holds this same•755PaulBunyanDrNW,Bemidji•755PaulBunyanDrNW,Bemidji

“I just can’t see myself doing anything else. I just can’t,” she added. “I honestly see myself doing what I do and being here until I Withretire.”anyother challenges that are thrown her way, Star is confident that she will overcome them because of her two biggest mentors: her dad and herself.

philosophy for herself, as well.

“My biggest mentor has always had to be myself, and then definitely my father,” she detailed. “I do so many things in my life that I learned from my dad and I say ‘thanks for teaching me that.’”

of done the same thing at our house.”Starexplained that Tuesdays are ideal for darts since Mondays have already passed and it’s a nice reminder that everyone is going to make it through the week.


“For over 65 years our mission has been to provide our customers with a shopping, buying, service and ownership experience that satisfies your needs and exceeds your expectations in a comfortable supportive environment.”

Brad’s most important lesson to Star revolves around the idea of putting in the work to achieve your“That’sgoals.what you gotta do. Work for it because nobody is going to do it for you,” she left off. “I feel like I owe it to dad because of his encouragement and listening to him along the way, and I feel like he’s still guiding me. It’s been my biggest encouragement.” n


With no signs of hitting the brakes, Star looks forward to the future within her occupation and life in Givengeneral.theever-changing nature of her job, she anticipates a lot of employee training surrounding electric vehicles and continuing to support her team as they support her in “It’sreturn.going to be all new. Those poor service techs and body men,” she said lightheartedly. “It’s going to be interesting what the years forward are going to show, but all of the guys who have been here, everybody stays here.”•755PaulBunyanDrNW,Bemidji

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½ cup Buffalo wing sauce

1 pound box elbow pasta

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

½ rotisserie chicken, shredded

2 cups shredded colby-jack cheese

Photos by Annalise Braught in Bemidji staff

FALL 2022 in Bemidji | 27

Cook pasta per box instructions and set aside. In a large skillet on medium heat, heat cream cheese and processed cheese loaf cubes until melted and well blended (stirring constantly). Add shredded chicken, Buffalo wing sauce, ranch or blue cheese dressing, milk and 1 ½ cups of the shredded cheese to the cheese mixture and mix well. In a large mixing bowl combine the pasta and Buffalo chicken mixture. Mix well. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish and top with the remaining ½ cup shredded cheese. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree preheated oven for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and top is golden brown.

Chicken chowdown

½ cup ranch or blue cheese salad dressing


The Larisa Cooks kitchen has found power in poultry this fall with each recipe making use of half a rotisserie chicken. Check out these recipes for a buffalo chicken mac and cheese, chicken broccoli pasta salad, chicken stuffing casserole and Mexican lasagna!

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened


½ cup milk

2 cups cubed processed cheese loaf

½ rotisserie chicken (shredded)

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drizzle with a little olive oil to prevent sticking. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crispy and chop into pieces. In an extra large bowl whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing until combined and smooth. Add in the cooked pasta, chicken, broccoli, craisins, celery, bacon, shredded cheese and scallions. Mix all ingredients until well coated. Enjoy right away or refrigerate until ready to serve.


2 tablespoons honey

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

½ cup craisins

1 pound bacon (chopped)

For the dressing:

1 pound box radiatore pasta

1 cup mayonnaise cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)


Chicken Broccoli Pasta Salad

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3 cups small broccoli florets

½ cup diced celery

4 scallions, diced

2 cups shredded cheese

3 teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon pepper


1-2 cups shredded cheese ½ teaspoon garlic powder ½ teaspoon onion powder ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon pepper

1 package soft tortilla shells (taco or burrito size)

Bake in a 425 degree preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is brown.


6 oz boxed stuffing mix ½ rotisserie chicken (shredded) ⅓ cup sour cream

Prepare boxed stuffing mix per box instructions. In a large mixing bowl combine shredded chicken, sour cream, cream of chicken soup, mixed vegetables, shredded cheese and seasonings. Mix well. Transfer to a greased 2-quart baking dish and top with prepared stuffing mix.

1 24-ounce jar of your favorite salsa

Chicken Stuffing Casserole

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½ rotisserie chicken (shredded)

In a large mixing bowl combine shredded chicken, taco seasoning packet and salsa. Mix well. In a 9x13 baking dish sprayed with nonstick spray, cover bottom of pan with tortilla shells (cutting them in half makes it easier to cover the pan).

Add half of the chicken mixture, top with shredded cheese, top with another layer of tortilla shells, then add the rest of the chicken mixture followed by the rest of the cheese.

10 ½ oz cream of chicken soup

Bake in a 400 degree preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and the stuffing is browned.

Mexican Lasagna

1 packet taco seasoning


1 15-ounce can black beans (drained and rinsed)

3-4 cups shredded cheese



3 cups frozen mixed vegetables

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30 | in Bemidji FALL 2022


It’s time to start thinking about this year’s costume for Bemidji’s many Halloween-themed events. In the meantime, can you spot the 6 differences between these two pictures?


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Beltrami County Solid Waste • 218-333-8187 • Click on: Solid Waste tab BELTRAMI COUNTY RECYCLING GUIDE Not Accepted Cartons, plastic bags, film and wrap, plastic foam; Styrofoam™, food waste, paper cups and plates, glass dishes, drinking glasses, window glass and ceramics, trash, containers that held hazardous products; oil, antifreeze Paper • Mail, office and school paper • Magazines and catalogs • Newspaper and inserts • Phonebooks Boxes • Cardboard • Cereal and cracker boxes • Shoe boxes, gift boxes, electronics boxes Glass • Food and beverage bottle and jars Metal • Food and beverage cans Plastic* • Empty Water, soda and juice bottles • Milk bottles • Ketchup and condiment bottles • Dishwashing and detergent bottles • Shampoo, soap, and lotion bottles • Yogurt, pudding and fruit cups • Margarine, cottage cheese and other containers • Produce, deli and take out containers

• Clear, rigid packaging from toys and electronics *Look for this symbol - Only “containers/ bottles” with a 1, 2 and 5 can be recycled in Beltrami County. Toys and large plastic furniture are not recyclable. DISCOVER YO UR CALLING. PURSUE YO UR PA SSION. Applynowat


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