When people think of October, pumpkin patches, apple orchards, costumes and candy often come to mind. For Kenyon-Wanamingo alumnus Brian Christensen, who has always shared a love for pumpkins and carving them into intricate sculptures, his recollections of the month of October are slightly different.
Last year, the Kenyon native answered a call for artists at the Minnesota Zoo, where Passion for Pumpkins hosts a show called ‘The Jack O’Lantern Spectacular,’ escalating his devotion for carving pumpkins into sculptures. In the absence of that event this year, Christensen was able to put his creative efforts toward carving a Knight-themed pumpkin after receiving a request from K-W’s 5-12 Instructional Coach/Dean Cheryl Dahl to bring a fun twist to K-W’s Homecoming celebrations.
Dahl said she follows Christensen’s Facebook page, The Sketchy Rebel, and always enjoys seeing his artwork. She also remembered that he carved pumpkins for the Minnesota Zoo in the past. Due to COVID-19, Dahl said some of K-W’s regular homecoming activities had to be modified, so the Student Council came up with a pumpkin carving contest everyone could participate in safely.
“This made me think of Brian’s talent, so I contacted him to see if he would be interested and was so excited that he agreed to make us a pumpkin,” said Dahl. “I knew it would be amazing. And I thought it was pretty special that he was K-W alumni!”
After having to wait an entire year to be able to carve pumpkins again, Christensen was heartbroken to find out that the show at the Minnesota Zoo wasn’t going to happen this year. This made Dahl’s request even more special.
“When Cheryl reached out about creating a fun homecoming-themed pumpkin for the school, I was ecstatic to have an opportunity to put one out for people to see in my home community,” said Christensen.
With this particular design, Christensen said he chose to include poses that showcase strength and honor, two core values of a K-W Knight. The pumpkin itself, he says, is a small sample of what happens at the Zoo in a typical October.
The school spirit pumpkin was on display in the K-W Auditorium during Homecoming week, and also for those able to attend the football game Friday night. Throughout the course of the week, Dahl said the students were drawn to Christensen’s creation and couldn’t believe someone could create such fabulous artwork out of a gourd.
“It is a beautiful work of art and I am amazed at his talent,” added Dahl.
A fundamental art form
Christensen says he’s been an artist for as long as he can remember, though he received minimal formal training. He primarily works with graphite on paper, but has experience with a plethora of traditional mediums.
“Graphite, to me, seems to be the most fundamental art form there is and the base measurement in determining success in other mediums — no matter the medium I end up using for a piece it nearly always begins with a pencil,” said Christensen of his preference of media.
The K-W-themed pumpkin took Christensen about 10 hours to create. To incorporate different colors into the pumpkins, the pumpkin skin acts as the neutral mid-tone. If he needs to go darker, Christensen said he uses an alcohol-based black ink, usually a Sharpie marker diluted with isopropyl alcohol.
“This allows the tones to remain transparent for the light to pass through. Anything lighter than the skin tone of the pumpkin is achieved by either carving into the pumpkin with a clay sculpting tool or by simply sanding with sandpaper to remove or gradient the skin,” said Christensen of the process.
In a non-pandemic year, the Zoo’s Jack O’Lantern Spectacular is a spectacle of over 5,000 lit up pumpkins. Last year, Christensen was fortunate enough to be one of the artists creating the intricate Jack O’Lanterns for the show. He said he created somewhere between 30-40 pieces for the show over the course of the month, with each piece ranging from four to 30 hours to complete and taking on a story of its own.
“It was quite amazing and magical what happened at the Zoo last year,” said Christensen. “To date, that has been the only pumpkin-related event that I have been a part of but I am so excited for the coming years.”
Community members looking to get into the Halloween spirit safely, have several opportunities to do so in Kenyon and Wanamingo.
Vote for your favorite scarecrow, shop American-made
From 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday Oct. 29 to Sunday, Nov. 1 and Nov. 5-8, community members can swing out to Curt and Marlene Morrow’s residence to vote for their favorite scarecrow while on their way to attend the 47th Annual 100 Ladies and Gentlemen Craft Sale, at 45986 Hwy. 56, Kenyon.
Residents are invited to walk through the rows of scarecrows and vote for their favorite. The creator of the winning scarecrow receives prize money. Marlene Morrow encourages all to consider entering the contest next year. In the past, different organizations, such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, as well as several senior citizens participated in the contest. This year there is an array of creations ranging from some traditionally styled scarecrows to one made of found metal objects to others with a specific theme. Although coated with layers of snow, sleet and rain over the last week, they remain in the vibrant, festive fashion they were created.
For last-minute decorations or to get a head start on upcoming holiday shopping, the regional craft show event is available and features items handmade by exhibitors.
This year, Morrow said there are about 80 exhibitors, less than previous years to allow for a more organized arrangement. There are also 12 new exhibitors this year, but Morrow says the regulars also keep coming up with new ideas. To recognize 2020, she created an ornament decorated with a mask and toilet paper.
In lieu of the COVID-19 guidelines, Morrow says they have Plexiglas barriers installed at checkouts, put circles on the floor to ensure social distancing, require all to wear masks and ask those with symptoms to stay home. Two different jars separate clean (sanitized) pens from used/unsanitized pens, and Morrow says she sanitizes shopping basket handles after each use.
As a smaller venue, she and Curt are able to ensure all safety measures are being followed.
Those who may have health concerns, therefore not wanting to be in a crowd, are encouraged to set up a private showing by calling 507-789-6223. Marlene says they are open Monday-Wednesday by appointment for those interested doing some shopping in this format.
Trunk or Treat in Wanamingo
Wanamingo Lutheran Church invites everyone to join its Third Annual Trunk or Treat event from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 31 — Halloween Day — at Riverside Park in Wanamingo.
Youth are invited to dress up in their Halloween costumes and travel from car to car to receive candy. There will also be a food truck available for those who would like to linger and get something to eat for lunch.
Kids Street Party
Another opportunity for youth features a Kids Street Party held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, on North Main Street in Wanamingo, hosted by Blondies Butcher Shop.
The “COVID friendly” outdoor event will feature a picture area, petting zoo, free hotdogs, trick or treating, mini donuts and popcorn.
K-W Community Ed & Kenyon Parks and Rec Trunk or Treat
Kenyon-Wanamingo Community Ed and Kenyon Parks and Rec’s Trunk or Treat event (originally scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31 in the Kenyon-Wanamingo High School parking lot) has been canceled due to a low number of hosts.
Similar to many cities in the state, the city of Wanamingo is continuing to develop uses for the COVID CARES Act funding by Nov. 1, when all expenditures have to be made by.
The city received $82,648 and has already allocated part of those funds toward technology upgrades that will allow residents to easily access council meetings and allow the city to offer remote meetings, online video training and video meetings.
At its Oct. 19 meeting, the City Council allocated $43,340 to the Fire Department for a first responder rescue rig, purchased in March, to supplement rescue calls with the current rescue rig. A memo to the council from City Administrator Michael Boulton indicates there were concerns about Fire Department staff being able to socially distance while providing sufficient first responder patient care before paramedics arrived on scene. The first responders also wanted to have sufficient time to sanitize rigs between calls.
The council placed the rescue rig replacement, a total cost of $61,740, on the Capital Improvements Plan for replacement in 2023. This rig would eventually replace the existing rescue rig. No specific funds have been budgeted or set aside for replacement of the rescue rig by the city or townships, allowing them to use federal relief funds towards the rig.
Along with the city’s $43,340 contribution, the following townships: Cherry Grove ($3,500), Minneola ($3,880), Roscoe ($2,420) and Wanamingo ($8,601) contributed coronavirus federal relief funds for the rig.
After the resolution passed, Mayor Ryan Holmes said the city talked it over with the townships at their meetings.
“We appreciate their time,” said Holmes of the townships. “…and [the new rig] looks nice.”
Although the council approved using a portion of federal relief funds toward technology upgrades in August, they approved the invoices of the various items at the October meeting. All of the approved items — six tablets, two laptops, a video/audio system for City Council Chambers, a projector for City Council Chambers, an additional projector for the Community Center and video/audio system for City Hall to monitor public interaction — have arrived and add up to $6,087.
After receiving a question from Council Member Jeremiah Flotterud if council meetings would be livestreamed next year, Boulton said the meetings could be available for livestreaming as soon as the new system is set up, possibly as soon as November, pending the installation process.
“We’re pretty excited,” said Boulton of installing the technology upgrades. “We’re going to work with maintenance staff to make a bracket for the projectors in the Council Chambers and Community Center.”
Boulton plans to present the council with an additional list of expenditures the federal funds might be used for — the payroll for city, pool and maintenance staff, and for the additional work and cleaning/sanitizing efforts created from the pandemic.
2020 Roadway Improvement Project
As the days near closer to the end of the construction season, the council received a request for a third pay request for its 2020 Roadway Improvements Project, which is about 84% complete.
The top layer of asphalt was in place in early October as were a number of spots around town. The remaining portions of the project will be completed over the next month.
A previous post on the city’s Facebook page said the project has been hampered due in part to COVID-19 shutdown/slowdowns, delays for private utility work, needed soil corrections and a busy construction season leading to issues coordinating subcontractors.