What is typically an event full of excitement and cheers was met with a somber, emotional moment.
Near the start of the Defeat of Jesse James Days grand parade Sunday, the children of Jane Moline led the raid re-enactors. Instead of riding in the parade, Molly and Gus DeMann led their mother’s riderless horse, adorned with her jacket, boots and cowboy hat. Chaz DeMann followed his siblings on horseback.
Moline, of Dundas, died Sept. 3 after a two-year battle with an aggressive brain tumor known as glioblastoma. Moline was a longtime supporter and volunteer for Defeat of Jesse James Days, first getting involved in the event in 1975 and eventually becoming Defeat Days’ first female general chair in 1987. She and her husband, Chip DeMann, where heavily involved for decades with the raiders and re-enactments of the failed 1876 raid. Moline ran the street side of the raid re-enactments and all three of the couple’s children have been a part of the performances for a number of years.
When the group reached the judging table on Division Street during the parade, there was a serious — albeit brief — moment of silence as they remembered and honored the woman who dedicated so much of her life to Northfield’s biggest event. Each raid re-enactment over the weekend was dedicated to Moline.
Wayne Eddy, the former owner of KYMN Radio and longtime radio personality, served as the announcer during the parade alongside Lisa Peterson, president and CEO of the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.
Saturday at DJJD
Saturday’s Defeat of Jesse James Days events, bank raid re-enactments and the riverfront arts festival, drew particular interest.
Although attendees in the handicapped section of seating for the re-enactments wore face coverings, masks were few and far between elsewhere at the packed festival. A surge of COVID-19 cases spurred by the Delta variant may have deterred people from going to the Minnesota State Fair, but not DJJD. Hundreds lined the sidewalks of Division Street to watch re-enactors create a vision from September 1876, the James-Younger Gang’s foiled bank raid in Northfield.
The two “dead” outlaws had the most dangerous role, as the fleeing horses thundered past their heads where they lay in the street. Real blackpowder smoke filled the air and realistically loud reports from townspeoples’ rifles and the gang’s six-shooters likely made many wish they had taken event staff up on the free earplugs they had offered earlier.
Although this year’s festival brought risks, it also brought benefits. Each year about 50 different artists travel to Northfield’s downtown parks by the Cannon River for the Riverfront Fine Arts Festival, operated by the Northfield Arts Guild. Madi Hughes, visual arts manager for the guild, said the influx of tourists from out of town helps raise the profiles of art creators from the Northfield area.
“Our local artists, it’s really good for them to get wider recognition,” she said.
The opportunity was meaningful given the fact the guild was coming off a dry year with no festivals, Hughes said.
“Different artists handled it in different ways, and we’re glad to have some stuff back up and running now,” she said.
Both local artists and more far-flung participants gather to display and sell their creations.
Geralyn Thelen has been coming to the festival for the past 13 years, this year with a display full of resplendent glass-ceramics. Thelen makes them via three (soon to be four) kilns at her home near Northfield, the same kilns that birthed “Spreading the Love,” a heart-themed sculpture installed last year near the intersection of Division and 6th streets.
Asked what makes her work so popular, Thelen ascribed it to the bright colors common throughout her pieces.
“My work is very colorful, and during the pandemic, people need color,” she said. “They need to be excited.”
Thelan has been making glass art professionally for ten years, and was attracted to it initially because of the challenge, she said.
“Just to program a kiln is a 32-step process,” she said. “Just like when you’re baking a cake, sometimes things go right, and sometimes, things go wrong.”
Thelan teaches aspiring glassmakers out of FiftyNorth as well as her home. But before the next generation of glassmakers can assume the mantle, the current generation must survive to teach them. It was only the efforts of the Northfield community as a whole and the Arts Guild specifically that kept Thelan in business during the early part of the pandemic, she said. When she couldn’t do any art shows, the Guild stepped in and sold her art for her.
Throughout the Defeat of Jesse James Day weekend, attendees of the annual event had the opportunity to travel back in time 145 years.
Replacing the paved roads for dirt, volunteers that participated in the bank raid reenactments were clad in authentic dresses and frock coats worn in the 1870s. Crowds of all ages lined the sides of the fences and the bleachers on Division Street, right were history took place.
On Sept. 7, 1876, area residents began what they thought was just a normal day. After eight bandits rode into Northfield, with the intent of robbing the First National Bank, that would soon change.
Three members of the James-Younger gang entered the bank and ordered the three bank employees to open the safe, but were told that the door was locked and couldn’t be opened.
Back on the street outside of the bank, Northfielders began to arm themselves when one of their merchants discovered the robbery in progress. Also discovering this taking place, two gang members jumped in their saddles and fired pistols yelling for everyone to leave the area or face being shot.
Sources indicate the first to fall was a Swedish immigrant, Nicholas Gustafson, who remained on the street, not understanding English. He was wounded in the head and died several days later.
Taking all but 7 minutes, when it was over, two of the robbers lay dead on the street, two more were badly wounded. As the remaining six gang members fled to the south and the west, a large manhunt was organized. Though Frank James and his brother, the notorious Jesse James were not caught after the botched raid, the Younger brothers were captured and Charlie Pitts was killed after a furious gun battle near Madelia, Minnesota, two weeks later.
Heroes on that September day included: J.S. Allen, the merchant who first sounded the alarm; A.R. Manning, who shot a horse, wounded Cole Younger and killed gang member William Chadwell using only a single-shot rifle; Henry Wheeler, who killed robber Clell Miller and wounded Bob Younger with an old Army carbine he found in the lobby of the Dampier Hotel; and the one who gave the most that day, bank cashier Joseph Lee Haywood. Haywood died because he would’t open the bank vault and betray the trust of the owners of the bank.
The weekend’s James Younger gang re-enactors were Danny Anthony, Jim Bracher, Chip DeMann, Chuck DeMann, Gus DeMann, Jerry DeMann, Molly DeMann, Trip DeMann, J.B. Dudley, Kevin Dudley, Mike Dudley, Wayne Eddy, Sean Francis, Derk Hansen, Jay Hellerud, John Hellerud, Ben Jirik, Jesse Kuchinka, Jon Medin, P.J. Medin, Al Quie, Dan Quie, Jess Radtke, John Radtke, Jeff Thies, Foster Transburg, Fred Transburg, Herman Transburg and Dan Voight.
The Northfield City Council approved next year’s road construction plan Tuesday following testimony from residents fearful of what might happen to Ziggy’s convenience store and repair shop should a 100-foot long median be installed on the street adjacent to the property.
The city plans to install a concrete median at the spot as part of a years-long effort to institute a “quiet zone” in Northfield wherein new safety infrastructure would allow the Union Pacific railroad to not blow its train horns when passing through city limits.
The Ziegler family — Pat, Lynn and Andrew — took over the former Amcon gas station in 2016 on Water Street/Hwy. 3, and renamed it Ziggy’s.
In a 6-1 vote, the council authorized a plan to resurface some streets in 2022, including St. Olaf Ave, alongside Ziggy’s. City staff estimate the entire project will cost about $4.75 million, but it was just a small portion of the project that particularly raised the ire of the public commenters Tuesday.
The controversy originated in one of the concepts put forward by engineering firm Short Elliott Hendrickson. The median, Ziggy’s owner Pat Ziegler told the council, would threaten his family’s business. He urged the council to consider a design option which calls for double stop arms at the rail/road intersection instead of the median.
Ziegler said the engineering firm had given him an alternate plan wherein the tanker trucks could pull into the small engine repair shop and then back into the gas station instead of going into the gas station directly. That alternate plan wasn’t feasible, he said, since the site also hosts two food trucks, which would block the truck’s path, Ziegler said. Furthermore, the tanker trucks arrive more or less randomly, with no set schedule, he said.
“Having the food truck move to accommodate that would not work well,” Ziegler said.
Ziegler was followed in public comments by resident Patrick Tomczik, who was clearly outraged.
“I’m so happy that our friends from St. Paul [referring to SEH engineers] are back here,” Tomczik said sarcastically.
Tomczik went on to scream at the council members, accusing them of not listening to the public.
“You’re going to put Ziggy’s out of business, because you want something that you want, but you’ll put him out of business,” Tomczik said.
“You are forcing this down our throats, and that’s not right!” he continued.
Council Member Brad Ness moved that the council approve the road plan, with the stipulation that there would be no median on St. Olaf Avenue.
“I think if we put a median in there, there’s a business that will not be here within months, after that is installed,” Ness said.
A third commenter who had followed Ziegler and Tomczik appeared not to know what a quiet zone was, mistakenly urging the council to do something about the train noise if they were so intent on creating a quiet zone.
Council Member Jessica Peterson White explained that the quiet zone was, in fact, intended to prevent train noise. The 2022 road construction work at the St. Olaf intersection was intended to satisfy what Peterson White described as a nearly unanimous wish by Northfield residents to stop the trains from blaring their horns, she said. To stop the train horns, it was necessary for the city to fulfill very stringent requirements from the railroad by putting in certain alternative safety equipment at each intersection.
“We’ve just got to do it one intersection at a time, until we’ve got them all done, and then we can go to the railroad and say ‘Okay, can you please stop it?’” Peterson White said.
The goal for Ziggy’s to remain in business was also shared by the council, Peterson White said.
Mayor Rhonda Pownell used her remarks to contest the commenters’ notion that the city did not listen to the public. She said she opposed Ness’ motion to eliminate the median, calling it premature.
“I’ve heard our city staff say they would come back to us after working with the business owner, and the land owners, and whoever else [they’re] working with… that’s the appropriate time, from my standpoint, that we would be giving direction on how to handle the east side of St. Olaf Avenue to be able to accomplish that quiet zone,” Pownell said.
Peterson White then made a motion to amend Ness’ motion, taking out the part of the motion that would preclude a median being installed. She explained that although she also did not want the median there, she agreed with Pownell that the moment was too early in the process and there were no alternatives to the median that were yet agreed upon by the interested parties.
“There are many options — I hope — around that property to ensure that Ziggy’s can have the access they need, and we can still have the improvements needed to eventually enact a railroad quiet zone,” Peterson White said. “But it’s not, at this point, sufficiently clear to me that that can be done without that median there. I’m not interested in tying staff and our engineers’ hands, and just removing this one tool at this stage.”
As Council Member Jami Reister explained, no matter what the council did Tuesday, it would not mean definitely one way or the other whether a median would be installed by Ziggy’s.
The main motion would simply be authorizing staff to start work on the plans and specifications for the project.
Peterson White’s amendment passed, and then the overall motion to begin planning the streets project passed 6-1. Pownell voted against it, explaining she took issue with how some of the bike lines were laid out.
Organizers say this year’s fourth annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration will be bigger than ever.
The festival has outgrown its roots in the Northfield Public Library and has moved to Central Park, said Angelica Linder, outreach coordinator for the library. 2019’s event drew about 1,200 attendees.
“It has become a community event, not just a library program,” Linder said.
Linder said the festival came into being because there were no other major events that celebrated Hispanic culture, and the timing coincides with the national Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
It serves a dual cultural purpose: awareness of the Hispanic way of life among non-Hispanic residents of the Northfield area, and pride in that way of life among the Hispanic residents themselves.
About 9% of Northfield’s residents were Latino/Hispanic, according to 2019 U.S. Census estimates.
Some families may visit other countries in order to stay connected to their roots or to experience new things, but not all families have that privilege, Linder said. The conventional Hispanic-themed celebration in America, Cinco de Mayo, celebrates a patriotic holiday for Mexico but neglects the cultures of other Latin countries like Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia, all of which have émigrés in Northfield, Linder said. She said the Hispanic Heritage Celebration serves as a means of learning about a variety of cultures in an organic, fun way.
Linder’s own experience as a transplant from Colombia informed her work in helping to create the festival, she said.
“Having this platform to show more diversity and cultural events was an amazing opportunity, just to be able to… bring that palate here, to town,” Linder said.
Linder holds the same hope for her own children as she does for other Hispanic families in Northfield: that they remain connected to their origins and history.
Attendance at the 2021 Hispanic Heritage Celebration is free of charge. The celebration, to be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m Sept. 18., will feature both traditional and contemporary Spanish language live music performances, and food trucks featuring cuisine from three different Latino cultures. There will be dance performances featuring styles originating both in Mexico and in old Spain. Attendees will also have the opportunity to learn how to Latin dance themselves. Northfield Mayor Rhonda Pownell and U.S. Rep. Angie Craig are scheduled to give remarks.
Imminent Brewing will operate a beer garden from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. featuring a beer created specifically for the festival, the proceeds of which will go toward next year’s Hispanic Heritage Celebration.
For a full schedule of events, visit guides.mynpl.org/hhc.
For more than three decades, Troy Dunn has asked his loved ones to sacrifice for his job and the people he’s served.
It’s time, Dunn says, to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction.
On Tuesday, the Rice County Board of Commissioners unanimously, but reluctantly, accepted Dunn’s retirement. His last day will be Friday, Nov. 12.
Dunn plans to move out of state, a relocation he says, that will accommodate his wife Tara’s job.
“Many times in this job family has had to take second place. It’s time for family to take first place again,” he said, referring to the nights, weekend and holiday work as well as the emergency calls that interrupted plans. “The sacrifices my wife, my siblings and my son have (made) over the years … This is the right thing to do.”
Commissioner Dave Miller said that he wanted to vote no on the motion, but knew this was something the longtime sheriff wanted.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with you, Troy, said Commissioner Jeff Docken. “You are very compassionate, yet know how to do your job. … You will be missed, not just by this board, but by the citizens of Rice County.”
Dunn, who grew up in Rice County, started his career with the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department. He later joined the Kenyon Police Department before moving back home and becoming a Rice County Sheriff’s deputy. In 2018, he was elected without opposition to his third term as sheriff, which he said would be his last.
But life had something different in mind. Dunn says he and his wife made the decision for him to retire together, and he’s at peace with it.
The next step, said County Administrator Sara Folsted, is for her and the county’s Human Resources Department to recommend a replacement. The timing of the retirement means that person will serve the remainder of Dunn’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2022. Dunn will also recommend his successor, and has already publicly endorsed his chief deputy, Jesse Thomas.
Thomas, also a Rice County native, and a Bethlehem Academy graduate with 25 years at the Rice County Sheriff’s Office, indicated earlier this year that someday he’d like to be the county’s sheriff.
Dunn, whose pet projects include traffic safety and reducing domestic violence, has no plans for his retirement, but says he’d like to look for something part time once he gets settled, just to keep him busy and socially engaged. He insists that he won’t be a stranger, and will be back to visit family and friends.
“I’m looking forward to being a little more anonymous,” he said, “golfing and biking and seeing what the next chapter brings.”