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Jon Weisbrod / By JON WEISBROD 

Owatonna’s Connor Budach takes a swing at a pitch against Rochester Century last week at Dartts Park. The VFW is one of two city baseball teams with at least another week of action remaining. (Jon Weisbrod/People’s Press)

The H3O trio, comprised of Eric, Hans, and Max Heukeshoven, hosts a monthly Jazz Jam at Island City Brewing Company in Winona, usually on the third Sunday of every month from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., and it’s “great,” Eric said. H3O will bring their music to Sunday’s Jazz Jam on the patio of the Steele County History Center, and guests are invited to join them on stage to play. (Photo courtesy Eric Heukeshoven)

special section
A Fabulous Reunion: The Fabulous Love Handles to reunite for concert in Fair Square

OWATONNA — For 22 years, a special band made of Owatonna locals seemed to have that special extra something needed to bring people to their feet.

Every time the Fabulous Love Handles began to play at the Steele County Free Fair, the area would be swarmed with people of all ages dancing to their music, whether it be in Fair Square or inside the Beer Garden.

Despite the group of nine buddies hanging up their instruments and officially retiring in 2018, the Love Handles are preparing to reunite once again for the Fair Square stage on Tuesday of the 2019 fair.

“It’s great because everybody is on board for it,” said Steve Reinhardt, the drummer for the Love Handles. “This will be fun.”

The infamous Owatonna band initially called it quits when their keyboardist Mike Chinander moved out to Oregon. Reinhardt said that though Chinander’s move was the final nail in the coffin for the band, the group had already started to taper off how many performances they would take on in a year.

“Collectively we had decided that once a month was enough so that everyone could kind of do their own things,” Reinhardt said. “Guys were retiring and had other interests.”

When the end came, Reinhardt said he couldn’t necessarily label it as “sad.”

“It was kind of an end-of-an-era feeling,” he stated. “We hated to see it go, but we knew it was going to happen.”

With Chinander’s return to Steele County, however, a spark was once again ignited for the band as they prepare for another show that has proven over the years to be a true crowd pleaser.

In the beginning

It was the spring of 1997 when Reinhardt’s friend Greg Northrup called him up. Northrup was trying to get a band together for a benefit at the Rochester Country Club and Reinhardt and his brother Dave were known “basement jammers.”

After the Reinhardt boys were on board, Northrup collected a few other musicians in the area and they began to practice for what they believed would be a one-time thing as a band with no name.

“We would have these rehearsals prior to that first gig that would end with us sitting around for a couple hours trying to come up with a name,” Steve Reinhardt said. “We always came up with some pretty hilarious things.”

During one of those sessions, Steve Reinhardt said that he blurted out “love handles,” to which the sound guy March Schuster responded with “fabulous.”

“And just like that we decided on Fabulous Love Handles,” Steve Reinhardt laughed. “It was just supposed to be a funny things, but it was catchy and the people liked it, so we kept it.”

After that “one-time gig” at the Rochester Country Club, the Love Handles received a phone call from the biggest annual event in southern Minnesota — the Steele County Free Fair.

Love Handles at the fair

“The first time we played the Beer Garden we didn’t know what to expect. It was only our second gig,” Steve Reinhardt said. “We walked in and the place was so packed that I think we all had a little bit of stage fright.”

Though when the lights went down and the music started to ring through the building, the Love Handles forgot about their nerves and did what they do best: they had fun.

“Our main goal is to get people on the dance floor. We love it when they’re dancing so that’s what it’s all about for us,” Steve Reinhardt said. “The crowd appreciated us and we were so happy to have them come support us. We hoped that had as much fun as we did.”

After their fair debut, Steve Reinhardt said that their phones starting ringing off the hooks with possible gigs all around the area. Throughout the years the performed at almost every venue in Owatonna, frequented the Twin Cities area for events and fundraisers, and traveled throughout the southern half of the state and into Illinois.

The fair, however, remained as a special place for the group as the happily returned year after year.

“We had about 16 years in a row at the Beer Garden and then we moved to the Fair Square stage outside for the last six years,” Steve Reinhardt said. “We have a very long run at the fair and we are very appreciative of it. We had great crowds every year and we just can’t thank them enough.”

Best of friends

Spending all those years together making music, Steve Reinhardt said that they were more than just band mates. The group of guys became great friends.

“We’ve all now each other really forever,” Steve Reinhardt laughed. “Since the early ‘70s we’ve all been good friends. Our two horn players are from the Cities so we didn’t know them until the band started, but we’re good buddies with them now, too.”

Their camaraderie was both undeniable and unshakeable throughout the years, including when they lost one of their own. Greg Fischer, who had been one of the lead singers for the Love Handles, died in 2015 after being a fundamental part of the band for 18 years.

“He had been a very integral part of the band so losing him was extremely hard,” Steve Reinhardt said. “We battled through it, though. We were going to call it quits, but decided that he wouldn’t want us to do that.”

Carrying on Fischer’s legacy, the Love Handles continued to return to the stage for four additional years before dissolving due to Chinander’s relocation.

Reuniting on the Fair Square stage, Steve Reinhardt stated that they’re ready to have just as much fun as the first time they walked into the Beer Garden 22 years ago.

“It was always all about getting the boomers on the dance floor again,” Steve Reinhardt said. “It’s always been about our fans.”

The Fabulous Love Handles will be on the United Prairie Bank in Fair Square on Tuesday, Aug. 13 during fair week. The reunion concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. and is sponsored by Dean Velzke, Ameriprise Financial, Harland’s Tire and Auto Center, Kappy’s Collision Center, and Owatonna Floor Covering.

Along with the Reinhardt brothers, Chinander, and Schuster, the Fabulous Love Handles consists of Dale Anhorn, Scott Rogness, Danny Uptadel, Mark Roessler, and Jeff King. Northrup left the band after a couple of years. Local musician and vocalist Barry Gillespie frequents the stage with the Love Handles, performing anywhere from three songs to entire sets.

Family Day moves to North Market

OWATONNA — After years as part of the schedule for the downtown Owatonna farmers market, Family Day moved over to the North Market for the first time Tuesday, and — with the benefit of a cloudless sky and moderate temperatures — attracted a significant audience.

There’s “quite a good crowd tonight,” said one of Tuesday’s vendors, Laura Hoffman, who began appearing at the North Market last summer with her Popped Treats from Wolf Creek. “It’s perfect weather.”

The North Market, which debuted last year, is conducted each summer Tuesday in the parking lot of Grace Baptist Church. For Family Day Tuesday, the market offered numerous activities for children — including a yoga class, scavenger hunt, coloring, Plinko, and food sampling — from entities such as Mayo Clinic, Steele County Public Health, Allina Health, Hy-Vee, and Owatonna Public Schools.

“There are so many fun things going on,” said Jenny Kath, coordinator for the North Market. “They’re making cucumber cars with fresh fruits and vegetables over there.”

Indeed, at a booth operated by Steele County Public Health and the school district, youth could create boats and cars using various produce. They could also each pick up a book on nutritional eating.

As is the case every Tuesday, children could also purchase fresh produce using Power of Produce tender. The PoP Club debuted at Medford’s farmers market in 2018 and was added to the North Market this year through financial support from The United Way of Steele County’s Strategic Impact Fund.

The PoP Club is a farmers market incentive program for children ages 4-11. Parents/guardians can sign their children up for free to receive a weekly $2 market voucher to spend on their own fresh fruits/vegetables or plants that grow food.

The PoP Club “has been going really well” this summer, said Kath, a registered dietitian and member of the Healthy Eating Coalition of Steele County. Youth could also pick up Allina Bucks Tuesday and use them to buy food, as the North Market makes a point to accept myriad methods of payment.

Among the families in attendance Tuesday were Luke Kaplan, his wife, Ashley, their son, Liam, 4, and daughter, Addi, 3. Addi, in particular, relished the yoga session offered by Katie Berg, a part owner of Owatonna’s Solid Yoga.

Berg conducts a weekly yoga class for children in her studio, and “it’s been very popular,” she said. “A lot of it is the exact same” as adult yoga classes — “we work on breathing and do different yoga poses” — although, in the youth courses, “we play more games and dance to more songs.”

When she was an elementary school counselor, Berg witnessed firsthand the high stress levels of children, and she attained her yoga instruction certification in the hope of attenuating their distress, she said. Yoga can ameliorate a litany of issues, including anxiety and ADHD, as “the breathing really helps you regulate emotions.”

The Kaplan family tries to stop by the North Market on a regular basis, especially when weather conditions are favorable like they were Tuesday, Luke said. Additionally, “we only live a block away, so it’s nice to take a little walk and (be) outside in such an open family (atmosphere).”

And it’s never too early to plant the seeds of salubrious food selections in children, he said. “We try to encourage (Liam and Addi) to eat healthy,” offering them the chance to “pick out something special and then eat it.”

Hoffman, who resides in Lonsdale, had no trouble getting attendees to sample her various flavors of popped treats Tuesday, she said. “Maple pecan is the best seller, and our newest is Tutti Fruitti.”

“I love farmers markets, because everyone talks to you,” Hoffman added. “You meet a lot of people, they want to try what you have, and you want them to try it.”

The North Market will continue operating each Tuesday from 4-7 p.m. through Aug. 20.

“It’s been a tough spring,” in terms of inimical weather, but “we have great produce now” at the North Market from “some really amazing growers,” Kath said. “We want to promote nutrition, education, and community involvement.”

Library announces end of day-after-Christmas sale, starts perpetual book sale

OWATONNA — For more than two decades, Owatonna has had its own holiday tradition that came in the form of a sale.

On Dec. 26, people gathered their Christmas money and headed over to the Owatonna Public Library for the annual book sale, snagging up best sellers and literary classics for a steal of a deal.

Last week, however, the library announced via Facebook that the annual sale at the end of the year would be no more. In its place is a shelf on the second level of the building near the stairs filled with books, DVDs, and CDs, as a perpetual book sale.

“The sale was going well, but it was getting to be a problem staffing it,” said Mark Blando, the library director. “A lot of people behind the sale will be retiring in the next couple of years, so we all agreed to transition to a perpetual sale. It just came down to people not having enough time to put it together.”

A continuous book sale is not a new concept for libraries. It is not even a new idea for the Owatonna Library itself. Blando said that for many years the library has had a cart of books for sale located on the second floor in the larger reading area, but the cart and its contents experienced a makeover so as it could appropriately take the place of the large annual sale.

“Normally the cream of the crop or the more desirable items that we received were reserved for the book sale,” Blando explained. “The cart was more things that we couldn’t use on the book sale, but now everything is put on the display and we are constantly rotating the materials.”

Blando said that they never had media items on the cart prior to now, but that the library had recently received a large donation of various items shortly before the staff agreed to discontinue the annual sale and make their ongoing sale more prominent.

The love that had been developed over the years for the annual book sale did not go unnoticed, Blando assured. He stated that the decision to end the sale was an incredibly difficult one for the entire library staff.

“The main thing we were thinking about was the effect it would have on the people in the community,” Blando said. “It’s become a tradition for the day after Christmas to head down to the library for the sale, but talking to the staff we all agreed that this was the best course of action to take.”

Despite the sale coming to an abrupt end, Blando asserted that it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a permanent decision. He said that there is always a possibility that down the road the sale could come back in another form, especially if they receive numerous and large donations.

The prices for the everlasting sale will reflect rock-bottom prices so many people lusted after during the after-Christmas sale. Small paperback books will go for a dime or a quarter depending on the condition, hardcover and large softcover books will be on sale for $.25 or $.50 also dependent upon the condition, and DVDs, CDs, and audiobooks will be sold for $1 unless marked otherwise. The library will except cash or checks made out to the Owatonna Public Library.

Donations for the library book sale can be made at any time by calling the library at 507-444-2460 and setting up a time to drop off. The library staff requests that the size and contents of the donation be shared prior to drop off to assure that all materials can be accepted.

All money raised from the sale goes to the general fund for the library.