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Lindsay Macy is in her first year as the head coach of the Finlandia University girls hockey team. She played high school hockey for Owatonna and is a former coach of the Owatonna high school hockey teams. (Courtesy of Stinky Lockers Photography)

Made in Owatonna Days opens up possibilities for local students
  • Updated

The sky is the limit, and that is exactly what community leaders are hoping to instill in the minds and hearts of local students.

High school students in Steele County were able to experience their first in-person Made in Owatonna day in October, and Brian Coleman and the team at Career Pathways is gearing up for the winter session that is set to take place in February.

The theme for the winter event is health science and technology. Coleman, the Career Pathways navigator for Owatonna Public Schools, said he has been working with Stephanie Olson from the Mayo Clinic to coordinate a day for the students to walk through the building and learn about the various aspects of a career in health care.

“We’re hoping to be able to get in the building, but with COVID-19 that may not be realistic,” Coleman said. “We’re also considering talking with dentists, physical therapists, mental health professionals, chiropractors and long term care facilities as options as well. With the pandemic, we have to think outside the box sometimes.”

Coleman said that among students, they sometimes forget just how vast the field of health care is.

“When we think of technology, we often think of computers or phones and advancements in those areas,” Coleman said. “Technology is closely related to health care. There’s X-ray and other imaging techs, phlebotomy and medical research and development for diagnostic tools in the health world.”

Coleman went on to say a major goal for these activities for the students is to open their minds and see the behind-the-scenes areas of hospitals and clinics that many people aren’t aware of.

The first Made in Owatonna day for this year centered around art, visual technology and communications, and had 23 student participants from Owatonna, Blooming Prairie, and Medford high schools and the ALC in Owatonna.

Coleman is confident that more students will garner interest in the program and plan to participate, especially if the theme aligns with their career interests.

Tom Worhach, Community Impact and Fundraising Coordinator for United Way of Steele County, coordinated a student survey following the October session.

“In general we have a very positive review from the students,” Worhach said. “This is the first time they were able to do this in person versus zoom since the February 2020 session.”

Through the survey they found that:

100% of participating students were satisfied or very satisfied with the presentations/ presenters

4 out of 5 students felt good about the art, A/V tech, and communications careers after the presentations

75% of students made their first connection with the business community at Made in Owatonna Day

93% of students felt that art, A/V tech and communications careers sounded fun

The goal of the program is to be innovative and allow students to prepare for their future through Minnesota career clusters and making their career plans post-graduation a reality. The “Compass Team” assists in directing the students on their journey to explore potential career opportunities and emphasize their individuality.

Made in Owatonna Day is a SteeleCoWorks program sponsored by the Bosch Community Fund. It is a partnership with the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, the United Way of Steele County, Owatonna Public Schools and Junior Achievement.

Holiday Lighted Parade returns for 2021, same route
  • Updated

Owatonna is buzzing with excitement for the return of the Holiday Lighted Parade after a hiatus due to COVID-19.

Many are wondering what the fate of the route will be due to the construction happening downtown. Julia Seykora, events director for the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, has been assured that Cedar Avenue will be open and the route will be business as usual.

The route will go from North Cedar Avenue to Central Park, then around the park and on to West Park Square. Seykora said there is a contingency plan in the event the usual route does not work out.

What started out as a small event has been growing each year and gaining popularity as time goes on, said Seykora, adding there was “no question” the parade would happen this year with no COVID-19 restrictions.

“Weather has never hindered people from wanting to come out,” Seykora said. “The parade seems to be something people really love and the excitement is palpable.”

Seykora, who has lived in Owatonna for eight years, is no stranger to the fun of the parade. Each year she has participated in the parade, whether it be with her husband, Ryan, and the Owatonna Fire Department or with the Owatonna Country Club.

The last parade took place in 2019 with more than 70 entries in the parade and over 2,500 spectators. According to Seykora, she has received roughly 45 entries so far, but anticipates more before the application closing date of Nov. 24.

“We’d like to see closer to 70 entries like in years past,” Seykora said. “We’re making that final push to get people to sign up.”

The businesses downtown are excited for the return of the parade as well. Char Esch, owner of Central Park Coffee, said it will be great to see people coming together again downtown.

“We love this tradition and will be happy to see downtown lit up to kick off the Christmas season,” Esch said.

Central Park Coffee, along with several other downtown businesses, plan to open their doors later than usual to accommodate the crowds.

A new tradition was started for the parade in 2019 with a trophy for the best parade entry. Tom Brick of Owatonna Shoe and his staff will be heading up the program following the parade at Central Park and acting as judges for the contest.

In years past, the parade has acted as a fundraiser for the MainStreet Projects, but this year Seykora says the $25 entry fee to the parade will go toward the lights and decorations that will be seen around Central Park.

The parade will take place on Thursday, Dec. 2. Line-up for participants will begin at 5 p.m. on Front Street, with the parade beginning at 6 p.m.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be the last entry in the line and the program featuring the contest winner and carolers will start shortly after the parade concludes. Cookies and apple cider will be available at the park courtesy of Remax, and burn barrels will be lit throughout to keep people nice and warm.

Medford park gets long-awaited makeover, increases accessibility

There’s no denying that one of the best places to be during the summer months is at Medford’s most popular park.

Straight River Park is a go-to stop for play and fun. With the city pool on top of the hill, a basketball court, baseball diamond, volleyball courts, tennis courts, picnic tables and pavilions all surrounding the playground, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Now, thanks to a grant found and secured by former City Councilor Marie Sexton, the park will be more easily enjoyed by everyone next season. In July, the city was notified it would be receiving a dollar-per-dollar matching grant of $21,600 from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to make much needed repairs and upgrades to the park.

The work began this fall to install a paved trail down the east side of the park, leading up to the pool. The trail has since been completed, and while the powerlines in the park will have to be buried next summer, the improvements to the park are already making an impact on the community.

Administrative Director of Operations Jed Petersen said the projects never would have taken off without the passion and hard work provided by Sexton, who is a special consultant for the city to seek and help apply for various grants.

Sexton, however, says the work is much bigger than just one person.

“Projects happen when supportive players work together, someone is willing to keep at it and citizens have good ideas,” Sexton said. “Citizens, the city of Medford, the Medford Fire Relief Association, Steele County Parks Department and numerous organizations have enabled [this project] to happen.”

According to Sexton, it was Nick Sorenson with the Medford Park Board who first had the idea of adding a paved trail to the park for accessibility purposes. Both Sexton and Petersen made note of the struggle young families with strollers often faced when wanting to bounce between the playground and the pool on a summer day.

“Their only options were to load everyone up in the car and drive around or try to push those strollers up a grass hill,” Petersen said. “This trial has alleviated that problem and made the park and pool more accessible.”

The final part of the project, moving the overhead power lines underground, will be done by Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric next summer. Petersen said burying the lines should not interfere with the work that has already been done.

With the matching funds, the city was allowed to both fundraise and enlist in-kind services for their half of the project money. Sexton said Federated Insurance contributed $1,000 to the project and the local fire relief association gifted $4,300 to help meet the needs of the city’s financial responsibilities toward the grant. Sexton said they are still looking for in-kind donations, and hoping to even expand them to outside the scope of the project to help enhance the park even further.

“We would love to see some memorial bench donations,” Sexton said.

Though the updated park will likely not be fully enjoyed by the public until next year, Petersen and Sexton said it’s wonderful to see a project that truly benefits the community come to fruition. Sexton said she hopes it will also ignite other Medford residents to come forward with other ideas they may have for the city and see what they can turn into a reality.

“People have good ideas,” she said. The new look at Straight River Park is her proof.

Sidewalk Love

(Photos courtesy of the City of Owatonna)