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Owatonna senior tailback Conner Grems (2) fights off Rochester Mayo defenders during one of his runs. (Stephen McDaniel/

Conner Grems (Owatonna FB)

Unique jewelry experience now offered downtown
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Piercings and tattoos have been popular forms of permanent self expression for decades, if not centuries. Trends have varied over the years, but a new permanent trend is taking downtown by storm.

Many men and women have jewelry they rarely — if ever — take off, but there’s certainly a difference between jewelry you don’t take off, and jewelry you can’t take off. Permanent jewelry has been popping up at jeweler centric conventions, shows and other events for a few months, and is now available at Kottke Jewelers in downtown Owatonna.

Emily Kahnke / By EMILY KAHNKE 

Lauren Kozelka first learned of the jewelry trend in February and instantly knew she wanted to offer it in her store. (Emily Kahnke/

Owner Lauren Kozelka said she first saw the trend popping up on Instagram in February, and then again at an event in Texas where she knew immediately she wanted to offer the jewelry at her store.

“I was like, ‘we have to have this,’” Kozelka said. “Not a lot of forward movement was happening with it, and I felt we should just have to figure it out. I knew immediately that it was something I really wanted.”

A couple months later, Kozelka learned that one of her trusted vendors attended a vendor show in Las Vegas that she was unable to attend with a set up for permanent jewelry.

“They were selling the welder we needed, but they said it would take about three months to ship,” Kozelka said. “That was a little longer than I was willing to wait, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Emily Kahnke / By EMILY KAHNKE 

Kottke Jewelers has been offering permanent jewelry for a couple months, and it has already been wildly successful with hundreds of pieces soldered so far. (Emily Kahnke/

Kozelka said she went out on a limb and contacted the manufacturer directly to get her hands on the soldering machine. Luckily for her, she was told she could have one in her store within a few weeks.

Kottke Jewelers officially announced they are providing the service of permanent jewelry in July, and in the few short months since, hundreds of customers have come from all over southern Minnesota to get their wrists, ankles and necks adorned with permanent dainty chains.

Kozelka said plenty of friends, sisters, mothers and daughters, as well as solo customers, have come in excited for the process and to be early on the ever-growing trend.

“As far as I know, we’re one of the only jewelry stores in the area that offers this,” she said. “We’ve had people coming from as far away as Rochester and Mankato.”

Lisa Cochran is one local customer who jumped at the chance to have her ankle accessorized with permanent jewelry.

“It’s such a fun and cool thing,” Cochran said. “I will admit I was a little skeptical at first, only because having an anklet I wasn’t sure how it was going to feel with different shoes, but I forget I have it on and it’s cute and comfortable.”

Cochran said the process was quick, easy and painless. While 20 minutes is usually blocked out for the process, Kozelka said it rarely takes that long.

“The most time consuming part is picking out the desired chain and measuring and cutting it,” she said. “The actual soldering part only takes a few seconds.”

Customers have the choice between three different metals and several chain style options, and price points vary by the type of metal and the number of inches used for the piece. Once a customer decides on a metal and style, the desired length for the piece will be measured and cut. From there, a small link is used to bind the chain together, and a small piece of leather is placed between the bracelet and the skin. A couple zaps with the soldering machine later, and the piece is permanently affixed together.

“Obviously we can remove it if someone decides that, but the jewelry is very durable and will last a long time,” Kozelka said.

Lex Lewison of Steele County exhibited a Grand Champion dairy steer at the Minnesota State Fair. (Carson Hughes/

state fair cow

Annual Food and Brewfest returns for 13th year
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A trip to Eritrea in east Africa, Sweden or Spain would count for several hours in a plane and thousands of miles of travel. In a couple weeks, guests need only travel a handful of miles outside of Owatonna to experience culinary delights from these countries and more at the 13th annual World Foods and Brewfest.

Brian Coleman, pictured here at the 2021 Brewfest, has been an active member of the Alliance for Greater Equity since its inception in late 2020. (Photo courtesy of Brian Coleman)

Traditionally held at the History Center in February, the overwhelmingly positive response from moving the event in 2021 to Oakview Weddings and Events and having it during warmer months due to the COVID-19 pandemic inspired the Alliance for Greater Equity (AGE) to do the same again this year, according to event lead Ashlan Zurbriggen.

“We decided to have it at Oakview last year because the History Center was just too tight and we needed more space,” Zurbriggen said.

“The response was so amazing we thought, why not do it that way again? Oakview is such a popular venue during the summer, we were lucky to be able to get one of the final spots.”

The event will showcase traditional foods from 10 different countries, ranging from sweet to savory. Additionally, each entree will also be paired with a beverage from a local home brewer.

One brewer from Owatonna is bringing a unique beer brewed without the use of hops. The dark Gesho beer is a popular beverage in Eritrea and other east African countries. Abel Tekeste, owner of Hiwet Products, has been developing authentic Eritrean flavors and beers from his home for the last four years.

“Hiwet when you translate to English means ‘life,’” he said. “Hiwet was also my grandma’s name. She was an entrepreneur and inspired me to be an entrepreneur.”

One unique beer that will be available at the brewfest is a dark gesho beer. It is brewed with gesho instead of hops and is a common staple in east Africa. (Photo courtesy of Hiwet Products LLC)

He is currently on a mission to scale up the production of his beers in a commercial or co-manufacturing company, but has yet to find a viable partner.

Also new this year to the event is sponsorships. Zurbriggen said after Sue Schroeder passed the reins off on the event, she wanted to make some changes for AGE’s biggest annual fundraiser.

“Our mission with the Alliance for Greater Equity is to build a cohesive community with unity and dignity and a sense of belonging for everyone,” Zurbriggen said. “With adding the level of sponsorships, we’ve been so supported by the community and it’s really helpful. We are so grateful for that.”

The event, originally called Culturfest, began in 2010 as a primary fundraiser for the Cultural Diversity Network. In late 2020, CDN merged with the Better Together Committee to become the Alliance for Greater Equity. The funds raised at the Brewfest will go into the education pillar of the Alliance which aims to provide learning opportunities and resources to increase equity, create meaningful change and empower new perspectives on race and cultural differences. The funds also help provide scholarships to several graduating seniors according to Zurbriggen.

Menu items include authentic mango sticky rice, kimchi soup, bratwursts, homemade sauerkraut, carrot bars with cream cheese frosting, Moroccan watermelon cucumber salad and much more. Zurbriggen said the silent auction this year will exclusively feature consumable items, or gift certificates to authentic cuisine restaurants in and around the metro and beyond.

“Food and drink, in my opinion, is something that truly encompasses human connection, and has for generations,” Zurbriggen said. “If we are able to do that, the mission at the Alliance will be realized and people will get to try foods from other cultures and learn about the diversity within our community.”