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Local tea club celebrating 20 years of socializing

Tea time has a long history of bringing people together throughout the centuries. What many are unaware of is that for the last 20 years, a handful of local women have been gathering for a mutual love of tea and ended up creating an everlasting bond of friendship right here in Steele County.

Jean Krause joined the group shortly after they formed in February 2003, when the group was meeting at the Dunnell House at the Village of Yesteryear.

The Steele County Historical Society Tea Club got its start in February 2003, meeting monthly in the Dunnell House in the Village of Yesteryear. (Photo courtesy of Dodie Ellingson)

“When we first started we would have tea and lunch in the dining room of the Dunnell House,” Krause said. “Whoever was going to be the hostess of that meeting would coordinate lunch and the teas, and often times we would do some sort of easy activity.”

In the early years, the club had around 20 members and eventually the ladies began hosting afternoon teas in their homes.

Dodie Ellingson recalled a time where she hosted the club at her home near Meriden, and when everyone finished their tea and lunch they began getting ready to leave.

“I said to everyone to sit back down and how we should all share something about ourselves that no one would have known about each other so we could become better friends,” she said. “So we all took turns going around the room and we ended up finding out that one member had been on the sitcom ‘My Three Sons’ and another girl was a singer. That’s the whole point of the club — to get to know each other — and we became very good and deep friends.”

Tea time has a special place in Ellingson’s heart, as her mother belonged to a tea club. She had an appreciation not only for the tea, but the community that goes along with being part of a tea club.

“A lot of our members are getting older and many have passed away,” Krause said. “A few years ago we only had 10 or so members, but now I think we’re back up to about 16. It’s great to have more people take an interest.”

Emily Kahnke / By EMILY KAHNKE 

(Left) First gathering at the Dunnell House, then in each other’s homes, the women of the SCHS Tea Club now gather each month at the History Center for tea, lunch and fun activities planned by the hostess. (Emily Kahnke/

Though the monthly meetings typically take place at the Steele County History Center these days, that doesn’t stop the ladies from having the occasional special outing.

“A couple of months ago we went to Jerry Ganfield’s house,” Ellingson said. “We’ll also go and visit other tea clubs in the area or tour historic homes and restaurants. We try to stay local because most of us are getting older and it’s harder for us to plan big outings or parties.”

Whomever is the host, Ellingson said, often plans what tea will be enjoyed, a lunch or dessert and an activity at the History Center. She recalled one month where she shared how her grandmother, who was a fan of drinking loose leaf tea, would read the leaves at the bottom of the cup.

“I thought that would be a fun activity and I know there was a local girl who read tea leaves, but we weren’t able to coordinate something where she could come and read our leaves at the meeting,” Ellingson said. “So I still thought it would be a really fun activity for us, so I read some books on how to read the leaves and we went with it. We all had a lot of fun that day.”

The women often reflect on meetings and members past, since many of the original members have since passed away.

“There’s a lot of memories we like to share,” Krause said. “We’re so blessed to still have the group around and to get new members who we all love getting to know and enjoying each other’s company.”

The History Center has several scrapbooks containing the rich history of the club, which the members hope to see continue for years to come. Anyone interested in learning more about the club can contact MaryAnne Higgins at the History Center.

'Light up the night' with lantern making class at Art Center

A little over a year ago, Christa Kain joined the staff at the Owatonna Arts Center as the Education Coordinator, but she has been integrated at the OAC since she was a child.

Christa Kain joined the staff of the Owatonna Arts Center last year as Education Coordinator. She also teaches several classes throughout the year. (Photo courtesy of Owatonna Arts Center)

Beginning Monday, Kain is instructing the first of a three session class where students will be able to create and take home their own functional candlestick or lantern. Whether you’re a first time potter or have plenty of experience, Kain said all skill levels are welcome.

“I came up with the idea for the ‘Light up the Night at the OAC’ class because I wanted to do something with pottery, but also made sense for the winter time,” Kain said. “People with any skill level can take the class and they’ll get something fun out of it.”

Silvan Durben, creative director of the Arts Center, said having Kain on staff to coordinate events and education has been a great help, but having her around to teach classes is even better.

“Christa had taken classes here many times when she was a child,” he said. “And now she has gone from student to teacher and I think she has a lot of fun doing classes. She has a background in art and really enjoys pottery also.”

Kain said she has taught several classes over the years using various mediums, but she said she is most passionate about pottery.

Potters of all skill levels are invited to create a candle holder or lantern at an upcoming class series at the Owatonna Arts Center. (Photo courtesy of Owatonna Arts Center)

“What I like about pottery is you can pretty much make whatever you want,” she said. “Pottery kind of creates itself and if it doesn’t turn out the way you want, you can try again. I think clay is very forgiving to work with which makes it fun.”

Throughout the three sessions, attendees will first work on creating a foundation for their piece. Whether they want to create a simple candle holder or something a little more advanced like a lantern, Kain will be available every step of the way to guide students in their creative process.

The second session, attendees will be adding the final details to their creations and carving out a space for light to shine through. During the final session, the pieces will be glazed and fired and the students will be able to collect their creations once the firing process is complete.

“Some people think you can just make something and fire it that same day,” Durben said. “Some clays you can, I think, but it’s important to give it a little time to allow the clay to dry for several reasons and that’s why these classes take a little more time than others.”

The Owatonna Arts Center offers several classes throughout the year from pottery to Origami. For those who enjoy painting, an acrylic paint pouring class will be hosted by Beth DeCoux in February. More details on upcoming programming and to register for a class, visit the Owatonna Arts Center website.