Today’s youth have never lived in a world without the internet, so one might think their knowledge of old-time radio programs is practically non-existent.
At least locally, middle school student’s aren’t just listening to those old-time radio shows — they’re performing in them. It’s thanks to a program Pauline Jennings started for Northfield Middle School students last month, and soon, she will extend the offering to Faribault youngsters.
Twelve-year-old Kosmo Esplan said he previously watched and enjoyed older TV shows like “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” but his knowledge of old-time radio shows was limited until he started taking Jennings’ acting class. Since then, he’s performed in two broadcasts of the radio show “Challenge of the Yukon,” which aired on KYMN.
“This was kind of a good learning experience, too,” said Esplan. “Now there’s this website that has a ton of different radio programs, so if I have the time I might like to listen to those because they’re just so fun.”
Old-time radio, also known as the Golden Age of Radio, lasted from the 1930s through the 1940s, ending when TV became the preferred entertainment medium in American households.
Much of the programming was controlled by advertising agencies, and featured musical performances, quiz shows, children’s shows serials, situation comedies and soap operas.
Esplan served as Jennings’ production assistant for the first couple shows and thinks she deserves “a very special shoutout” for “orchestrating this event.”
Jennings has directed and starred in performances at the Northfield Arts Guild, but COVID-19 has prevented the usual in-person shows from going on.
“I was going to be in a show for the Guild that was cancelled, and the kids were doing a Purple Door production that got cancelled,” said Jennings. “The stuff I do is around people, and I couldn’t really do those things I had planned, so had to start thinking about other ideas.”
Jennings developed a plan to offer character classes online, and that morphed into the idea to do a radio show for students to perform on KYMN. She emailed several middle school students who signed up for her character class. The rest, like the Golden Age of Radio, is history.
Having completed two sessions with Northfield Middle School students in May, Jennings recently got permission to offer the same program to Faribault students starting in June. Since the program is offered remotely, students living anywhere can sign up.
Each two-week session, the first from June 8 through 19 and the second from June 22 through July 2, will include rehearsals via Zoom during the week and recording on the final day of the program. Jennings said six to eight students per session is ideal for the online format, and the young actors should have some theater experience.
The students who have participated in the show performed parts from “Challenge of the Yukon,” which aired in the U.S. from 1938 to 1955. The show follows the adventures of Sgt. William Preston and his sidekick, the “Yukon King” in the 1890s Gold Rush era.
Esplan said the first KYMN radio broadcast episode of “Challenge of the Yukon” featured a man who was robbed of $25,000 in gold. The second episode’s plot was more complex, he said, involving a murder suspect.
Since the commercials written for the radio show are now outdated, Jennings challenged the young actors to write their own jingles and perform them at the beginning and halfway through the show. Jennings said the young participants were “generous in spirit” as they picked the commercials they sincerely liked best rather than advocating for their own to be chosen.
The first commercial Esplan wrote for the program was about Crazy Dayz in Northfield, and the second commercial, set during the 1900s, advertised a “new” flashlight.
The group used the Garage Band application to edit the commercials and recorded the show via Zoom in one take with no edits. Actors read from the script and added simple sound effects, like knocking and footsteps, during the recording. Jennings later added more complex sounds, like the whooshing wind, and western bumper music, to complete the project. The first couple programs have already aired on KYMN, but listeners who missed the episodes can also play them at kymnradio.net/tag/challenge-of-the-yukon.
“You will have the time of your life,” Esplan said to prospective participants. “I don’t think of it as learning, even though that’s what it is, just because it’s so much fun.”
A plan laying out a detailed vision for Faribault’s future, covering issues such as infrastructure, economic development, housing and the environment got a once over late last month from the City Council and Planning Commission.
While raising minor concerns, commissioners and councilors expressed overall support for the proposed Comprehensive Plan. The product of several years of meetings with numerous stakeholders, the plan is likely to come back before the council for final approval within the next few weeks. Under state law, all localities must produce a comprehensive plan and update it every 10 years.
In order to prepare for what city planners believe will be monumental changes over the coming 25 years, Faribault got a head start in its planning process. In 2014, the council decided to focus additional efforts on planning, an effort which led to the Community Vision 2040 document. In addition to laying out traditional goals such as thriving economic development and a strong public education system, Community Vision 2040 laid out five key values that exemplify Faribault — Sense of Community, Sense of Place, Opportunity, Innovation and Excellence.
Rather than focusing solely on infrastructure and providing other basic city services, the vision focused on the broader goal of improving quality of life. In order to piece together a truly inclusive vision, the city held public meetings and consulted a wide variety of stakeholder groups.
The product of conversations with those stakeholders was a three part Journey to 2040 plan. That plan included not just an updated comprehensive plan, but the Downtown Master Plan and the Parks, Trails and Open Spaces plan, both of which were approved last year.
City Planner Dave Wanberg said that the two additional plans are not common for a city of Faribault’s size. They were developed, he said, because stakeholders believed so strongly that a vibrant downtown district and high quality parks are central to Faribault’s future.
Both issues were touched on heavily in the comprehensive plan update, with city planners building off their existing work. Beyond that, the plan is designed to accomplish three goals.
First, it documents the city’s existing assets and functions as a marketing tool. A brochure and a five minute video will be produced to market the community to individuals and businesses.
Second, the updated Comprehensive Plan will, much like the other two parts of the Journey to 2040 initiative, provide a broad “roadmap” and goals for all city boards and commissions to follow as they develop relevant initiatives.
Third, the city will immediately begin taking tangible steps to implement the Comprehensive Plan updated when it is passed. A top priority will be to complete a significant update to the city’s zoning map.
Wanberg emphasized the importance of using zoning and other changes to boost its housing stock. While many other communities in Greater Minnesota are projected to shrink, Wanberg said he expects Faribault to continue to grow — but only so long as it continues to enjoy robust economic investment.
In order to continue to win the trust of businesses, the city will need to make significant progress on addressing a regional workforce shortage, which has been exacerbated locally by a severe housing crunch.
The housing shortage has proven a particularly difficult issue for Faribault to tackle because local property values are consistently lower than in southern Twin Cities metro communities like Lakeville and Burnsville, driving developers away.
That illustrates the delicate balancing act the city has in its relationship with the Twin Cities Metropolitan area, and to a lesser extent Rochester and Mankato, as those communities complement each other while also competing for housing and investment.
Wanberg said that in the future, his models suggest about half of Faribault’s workforce will live in the Twin Cities, and about half of Faribault’s residents will work in the Twin Cities. He said Faribault needs to maintain that kind of balance so that the city can make the investments needed for continued growth.
Investing in Faribault
Faribault can achieve sustainable growth, Wanberg said, but only if the city couples its affordable cost of living with improved quality of life, including a variety of recreational activities so that residents can have fun without having to go to the Twin Cities.
Wanberg added that improving quality of life and providing opportunities for Faribault’s underserved communities is also a key piece. Currently, more than 40% of Faribault residents under the age of 18 are persons of color, and many live under significant financial stress.
“It is critical that the younger population of today have access to safe, quality housing, healthy foods, and a plethora of educational opportunities because they will be Faribault’s labor force of tomorrow and the foundation of the community’s aspirations for growth,” the report says.
The report warned that failing to provide such opportunities would hinder the city’s potential for future growth. Wanberg said that expanding affordable housing opportunities, additional community gardens and other measures will need to be considered to help Faribault’s most vulnerable populations.
Last weekend, local DFLers endorsed a nearly complete slate of candidates for the Minnesota legislature, setting the stage for what is sure to be an unorthodox general election campaign.
All 144 state representatives and 67 state senators are on the ballot this fall for two-year terms. State representatives serve always two-year terms, while Senators are elected to four-year terms in years ending with 2 and 6 and two -ear terms in years ending with 0.
2020 will be the last election under the current legislative boundaries. Once the state has received 2020 Census data, legislative and congressional districts will undergo once-a-decade reapportionment to ensure equal representation.
Due to the pandemic, redistricting could be delayed this year. Last month, the Census Bureau announced that it would push back its timeline for getting comprehensive information into the states by July 31, 2021, well after the 2021 session will end.
Under legislative district boundaries first used for the 2012 elections, Rice County is divided into two Senate districts. Each has two House districts, though only two of those districts cover portions of Rice County.
Northfield and Dundas are in Senate District 20, represented by Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake. Draheim represents a majority of Rice County as well as most of Le Sueur County and southern Scott County.
Faribault is currently in Senate District 24, represented by Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault. Jasinski represents not only Rice County but also all of Steele County, except for Blooming Prairie, and portions of Dodge and Waseca counties.
Both districts lean Republican, though they were represented by DFL senators until 2016. That year, President Trump won both districts by double digit margins, helping Draheim and Jasinski to victory. In 2018, Sen. Amy Klobuchar was the only DFL candidate to carry either district.
On the Republican side, all of District 24’s incumbents will seek re-election. Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, is seeking his second term, Rep. Brian Daniels, R-Faribault, his fourth, and Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca, his fifth.
Currently, the three face no primary challenge. Similarly Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake, thus far faces no intraparty opposition in his bid for a second term representing District 20.
However, both House District 20A and House District 20B are facing contested nominations. In 20A, several Republicans are seeking the endorsement to succeed retiring Rep. Bob Vogel, R-Elko New Market.
In District 20B, Lonsdale’s Joe Moravchik, a retired police officer and teacher, and 2018 candidate Josh Gare, a Montgomery truck driver, are battling for the Republican nomination to face Rep. Todd Lippert, DFL-Northfield.
Republicans will endorse Draheim and settle both nomination races via a virtual convention on May 21. Delegates to the convention were selected at Republican precinct convention at the end of February
The DFL didn’t even hold a virtual convention to decide its local nomination races. Instead, delegates cast their votes for party officers, candidates, delegates and resolutions virtually, by mail or over the phone between April 25 and May 4.
In Senate District 24, DFLers endorsed Faribault resident Roger Steinkamp to run against Sen. Jasinski. A native of Renville, Minnesota, Steinkamp earned his degree in agricultural education from the University of Minnesota.
He’s traveled across the world as an agricultural educator and taught classes close to home as well. He also founded an import substitution business here in Minnesota, selling products derived from sheep.
Steinkamp briefly served as executive director of Farmamerica, the Minnesota Agricultural Interpretive Center. Located on Hwy 14 between Waseca and Janesville, Farmamerica was established by the legislature in 1978 to highlight and celebrate Minnesota’s agriculture industry.
This is Steinkamp’s first run for public office, though he was recently appointed to Faribault’s newly created Environmental Commission.
Steinkamp described himself as a relative political newcomer who hasn’t traditionally affiliated with either major party. Recently, he decided to become more involved, driven by issues like the environment and health care.
“I’m still in the listening stage,” he said. “I’m not a practiced politician, so I look forward to hearing from people about what their priorities are.”
Steinkamp said that he knows many farmers are increasingly concerned about climate change. He promised that if elected, he would immediately begin seeking bipartisan solutions to reduce the state’s carbon footprint.
“It’s taken awhile to get ourselves into this place (with climate),” he said. “It won’t be easy to fix it, but we don’t have a lot of time. We need truly bipartisan proposals based on science.”
Steinkamp said he’s also concerned about health care, having lacked health insurance at times himself. Having lived abroad in countries with universal health care, he said that he strongly believes that the U.S. should also move towards some form of universal health care.
“We have some very clever people in government, so I don’t understand why we haven’t been able to figure this out like other countries have,” he said. “I believe that health care should be a human right.”
Rounding out the DFL’s local slate of candidates is a political newcomer, Ashley Martinez-Perez. A first time candidate, she’s running for the District 24B seat currently represented by Rep. Brian Daniels, R-Faribault.
A second generation immigrant, Martinez-Perez was born in south Texas. She moved to Waseca in 2005 and to Faribault in 2010. As a working mother of five children, she says she knows the struggle of living paycheck to paycheck.
Martinez-Perez said she has long been conscious of political issues and had become increasingly dissatisfied with Daniels’s conservative record. After attending precinct caucuses, she decided to mount a campaign against him.
Martinez-Perez promised that if elected, she’ll work to make the cost of living more affordable for working people. She said that in recent years, Faribault’s working class has been squeezed by a lack of affordable childcare, housing and health care.
“I talk to people and they say, ‘I work hard, yet I’m still not making a living. ‘I don’t have enough money to buy food. We have to pay so much money for childcare. We have to pay for transportation just to go to the grocery store.’ And that needs to change,” she said.
Having seen members of her family deported, Martinez-Perez promised to be a strong advocate for Faribault’s immigrant community if elected. She says she’ll push hard to allow the state to issue drivers licenses to undocumented workers, a proposal opposed by Daniels.
District 24B is traditionally Republican and has become more so in recent years, though until 2015 the district was represented by a DFLer, Patti Fritz. Undeterred by the challenge, Martinez-Perez pledged to wage a vigorous campaign.