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In this Wednesday, July 17, photo, Bryan Bakke, right, of Union 32 Craft House shows Kelly Ratzlaff how to operate the beer wall at the brew pub in Eagan, Minn. Union 32 is the closest bar and restaurant to the Minnesota Vikings training camp in Eagan and is gearing up for a new season. (Photos by Jean Pieri/Pioneer Press via AP)

Rain stays away for car show Thursday night

OWATONNA—After an afternoon shower—and before another rainstorm—skies cleared long enough Thursday evening for the Crazy Days car show, so the event avoided the fate of last weekend’s Gus’ Station car show at the Steele County History Center, which had to be rescheduled to August 3 due to inclement weather.

Collectors love showing off their vehicles—and seeing those of others—at car shows, but, unfortunately, in a northern climate like Minnesota’s, “you might only get three or four months to enjoy them,” said Landon Von Ruden, who brought his 1982 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Thursday. That’s been “especially true this year.”

Von Ruden brought a 2003 Corvette to this show in 2018, and, “between my father and I, we have” a handful of appealing vehicles, he said. “My dad bought (the Monte Carlo) new in 1982, so it’s been in the family the whole time.”

Von Ruden puts “about 2,000 miles a year” on the Monte Carlo, the preponderance of those taking it to and from shows like Thursday’s in downtown Owatonna, he said. “Like any other car, it doesn’t do well if you let it sit.”

The Monte Carlo gets 33-34 mpg, and “it kind of glides over a bump,” he said. “It’s like driving a La-Z-Boy with a steering wheel in it.”

Dale Jacobson actually won an award a few years ago at this car show with his 1977 Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon, and he brought that vehicle—perhaps his favorite of his fleet—again Thursday.

“It’s unique, with porthole windows, extra gauges,” and a V6, he said. The car has been featured in multiple magazines, including the Swedish publication, “Wheels,” and it’s earned him invites to the prestigious 10,000 Lakes Concours d’Elegance.

Jacobson ordered the vehicle from a Blooming Prairie Ford dealership late in 1976 and received it in March of 1977.

“This”—including rainbow stripes on the exterior—“was how I ordered it,” he said with a smile. “It was the 70s, you know.”

His wife, albeit indirectly, actually “saved the car,” he said. “In the 80s, the 70s were not cool,” so his wife adamantly refused to ride in the vehicle.

Rather than sell it, Jacobson “parked it,” which preserved the car, he said. Had he continued to drive it, “I would’ve driven it into the ground.”

Instead, it remained in storage, until he popped open the automotive time capsule five years ago and “did a 100-point restoration on it,” he said. “I took it down to the base shell,” and “the biggest job was putting the stripes back on it.”

The entire restoration required about a year, but “it’s my hobby,” he said. “It’s a process.”

Paradoxically, the car owes its popularity at car shows to both its uniqueness and its ubiquity, he said. “It’s different—you don’t see a Pinto Cruising Wagon every day”—but, on the other hand, “everyone had, or knows someone who had, a Pinto.”

It’s “now a pleasure vehicle” he rides mostly to and from car shows, and “it drives like new,” he said. Jacobson still has his original window sticker, so he knows he paid $5,475 for the car, “which was a lot of money back then.”

Ron Fuller brought his 2002 Corvette Roadster Thursday after bringing his 1972 Chevy Chevelle last year, he said. A retired Minneapolis automotive teacher, “I’m into cars quite a bit,” and “it’s nice to change things up to give people something different to look at.”

Why does he find his Corvette so attractive?

“It’s a Corvette,” he stated obviously. “It’s really fun to drive.”

Crazy Days concludes Saturday with retail and vendor stores opening at 8 a.m. The Owatonna Sings competition in Central Park starts at 1 p.m.

Anti-apartments: Medford residents express opposition to piece of multi-phase development project

MEDFORD – The infamous “old football field” located on the south side of town has finally sold, but the community of Medford is experiencing unrest over what is slated to be built in its place.

Following a public hearing for the development of multi-phase housing targeted for those ages 50 and up, the Medford City Council meeting on Monday was near maximum capacity with community members wanted to express their concerns and distaste over a particular part of the project.

Phase One of the project, led by Todd Nelson of T. Nelson, LLC, will be the construction of a 16-unit apartment complex, complete with a community room and exercise facility. The complex will be one of three identical buildings that Nelson plans to build on the 16-acre lot, along with six fourplexes and nine single family home residential lots.

According to Nelson, the only thing left to be approved by the City is the plotting of the property. Phase One is scheduled to begin in the spring of next year. The city council had unanimously approved the developer’s agreement with Nelson at their June meeting.

While the overall consensus from the public was that they were in support of the fourplexes and residential lots, the residents in attendance to the city council meeting made it clear that they did not want to see the apartment complexes built.

“I am not against developing that property for townhomes,” said Luke Brown, a resident of Medford. “I don’t think that anybody that owns a home bordering that land wants apartments back there. It all sounds good now until the cash flow isn’t there or someone’s plans change or it is sold to a different developer to do something different. If you don’t allow it to be built in the first place than you won’t have that problem.”

Though the plan is for all the buildings to be rented out to those ages 50 and up in what Nelson calls “independent living,” the community represented at the meeting on Monday expressed doubt in that remaining the case – especially if the developer has a hard time filling the units.

“If [the complex] isn’t filled with the 50-plus, will they be filled with low income or income based people?” asked Amanda Mueller, who owns a home near the property in question. “Because that is something I am against.”

One resident commented that she didn’t want Medford to “turn into Faribault” in reference to Section 8 housing – which is rental housing assistance to private landlords on behalf of low-income households.

“There is nothing preventing the developer form selling to a different developer or a manager who wants a different group than the 50-plus,” Brown added.

Nelson, however, said that he isn’t currently entertaining a plan B for if the 50-plus demographic fails to fill the buildings, stating that he is completely confident that it won’t be an issue.

“I don’t have a backup plan at this point,” Nelson stated. “The 50-plus group is the largest demographic we have coming up in the next 20-30 years. I’ll be able to fill everything.”

An increase in traffic was also a shared concern amongst the crowd, with Mueller stating that an area along 2nd Street SE is already too busy for more than one vehicle to pass through at a time when cars are parked along the street.

“The streets and avenues just aren’t wide enough to take on additional traffic,” Mueller said. “Not to mention the kids in the neighborhood that people don’t look for anyway.”

Another neighbor to the property said that the back door of the apartment complex will be 100 feet from his property with the driveways lining up with one another. He said that there is concern with how they will be able to exit the driveway with all the additional traffic the apartments will create.

Other issues discussed during the city council meeting regarding the apartment complex was the aesthetic of the design. The design currently is drawn so that the back of the apartment to be built in Phase One will face the east, which residents felt wouldn’t be pleasing to the eye or represent the overall look of the community well.

Whether or not an apartment building in Medford would affect property value was also discussed. Medford Mayor Lois Nelson stated that after talking to the Steele County assessor that there is no data to show that an apartment would cause any values to drop.

“I would argue that there is more data out there showing that an apartment complex in the backyard of a single family home does hurt property value,” Brown said.

The question on why the apartment complex has to come in the first phase was also asked at the meeting as residents reiterated that they would rather see the fourplexes that they supported be built first.

City Administrator Andy Welti stated that the developer will have to meet the standards of the city’s storm water requirements, noting that the storm water will have to be retained on site and that no additional discharge from what is currently there will be produced. Without meeting those standards, Welti said the developer will not be able to move forward.

The development plan includes a man-made pond as a response to the storm water requirements.

Todd Nelson stated that the entire project could take up to ten years, with Phase One estimated to be complete by the spring of 2021. According to Nelson, the next phases will depend on the city’s infrastructure and when the city will approve his future projects.

According to Medford City Attorney Mark Rahrick, Nelson will be unable to begin construction until the city council approves the final plat.

During the Monday meeting, the city council approved a preliminary rezoning of the property on a 4-1 vote with councilmember Matt Dempsey opposing.

aharman / By ANNIE GRANLUND 

The old football field in Medford is officially off the market, but not all residents are happy about the plans the new owner has for a multi-phase housing project that will include three 16-unit apartment complexes. (Press file photo)

aharman / By ANNIE GRANLUND 

The Medford Park Board approached the City Council on Monday to request that the council establish a grant funding target with the understanding that the City would cover the remaining portion to construct a neighborhood playground need the water tower. (Annie Granlund/People's Press)

Arts community celebrates Sharon Stark with special party Thursday

OWATONNA—Sharon Stark loved the arts, she was an adroit baker, and she knew how to throw a magnificent party, so there was no better way to remember her life and legacy than for numerous members of the local arts community to gather for a feast, listen to music, and enjoy the company of one another Thursday night.

“She knew how to give a party,” said Silvan Durben, creative director of the Owatonna Arts Center. “She had really good taste, too.”

Thursday’s festivities were scheduled to be conducted outdoors on the lawn between the OAC and the Little Theatre of Owatonna, but, due to rain, the event moved inside the arts center.

“Thanks to Silvan and the arts center for making it happen,” said Mike Jensen, president of the LTO board. “Silvan jumped in with both feet.”

Durben and Stark were longtime pals, and she often assisted at the OAC with picking up art for displays, hanging pieces for exhibitions, and, of course, decorating for the arts center’s annual Christmas extravaganza, Durben said. “Both of us have a passion for Christmas.”

Stark, who died last year, left money to the Little Theatre of Owatonna, which in turn established the Sharon Stark Forever Fund, and Thursday’s festivities were the official kickoff for that foundation. Funds will assist the LTO in continuing operations and keeping local theater affordable for everyone.

In addition to the party, Thursday was also opening night for “The Last Five Years,” a play Stark had seen Mara Ostermeier-Schack perform in Wisconsin and hoped to see produced in Owatonna. Additional performances are at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

As delightful as it was to see so many familiar faces Thursday, it was equally enjoyable to reconnect with individuals who returned specially for this event, Jensen said. “People are coming back.”

That included Ostermier-Schack, naturally, who is honored to co-star in “The Last Five Years” and contribute to the celebration of Stark.

Stark, a founding member of the LTO who served as its executive secretary for more than a half-century, “adopted” various theater children over the years, and “I was one of the fortunate ones,” Ostermeier-Schack explained earlier this month. They remained in touch when Ostermeier-Schack moved out of Owatonna, with Stark regularly traveling to see her perform, including in “The Last Five Years.”

“She was a mentor in my life and a really great lady,” so “it was really hard to lose her,” said Ostermeier-Schack, who resides in Wisconsin. Fulfilling Stark’s goal of performing “The Last Five Years” in Owatonna, but without her in attendance, is “bittersweet,” although “I know (Stark) will be there in spirit — front row.”

Stark’s fingerprints were evident all around the arts center Thursday, including utilizing her signature shoes as centerpieces at tables, Jensen said. And, of course, attendees walked through an exhibition of her jackets and shoes to reach the dining room.

Those closest to Sharon broached the idea of an exhibition with her jackets and shoes before her death, said Nancy Casperson, a friend of Stark’s. They could have added her glasses to the exhibit, too, since she “probably had 50 pairs, because they had to match her outfits.”

“This was her life, the arts,” said Terry Casperson, Stark’s second cousin and Nancy’s husband. Thursday’s party “was Sharon to a T.”

“She loved to be involved and was involved in so many things,” from the LTO, to the OAC, to the Steele County Free Fair, said Nancy. “She was a busy lady.”

“A fabulous baker,” Stark regularly shared her treats with the staff of her favorite organizations, including the LTO, OAC, and SCFF, Nancy added. “Known for her pies,” the “first Thanksgiving without them was very hard.”

Thursday’s desserts were throwbacks, from the cookbook the LTO put together for its 35th anniversary, Jensen said. Individuals who contributed recipes for that cookbook were invited to bake them Thursday.

The exhibit of Stark’s jackets and shoes will continue inside the arts center through this Sunday.

Victoria Bartkowiak has to fill Stark’s inimitable shoes as LTO executive secretary, and “it’s a lot of work,” she said. Armed with a theater degree, Bartkowiak has always been “backstage on the technical side,” so “it’s been quite an experience to learn the business side.”

“There’s a big learning curve,” but it’s been “amazing,” she said. “I learn something new every day, and that’s a good thing.”

Trying to replace Stark is “hard,” and “we miss her dearly,” she said. “I’m sitting at her desk, and I’ll find little slips of paper, and I try to figure out what those notes mean.”

The LTO was Stark’s “baby, and she watched it grow up,” Bartkowiak said. “I know we will continue.”

Of course, Stark’s donation to establish the Sharon Stark Forever Fund will help that work continue.

“It will forever fund the theatre,” Bartkowiak said. “That way, Sharon will be with us forever.”