Seventy three pinwheels sit in a Northfield front yard.

Although the pinwheels — a symbol of Northfield High School Senior Kaia Schomburg’s dedication to dance and as a way to honor her during social distancing limitations — are a sign of what isn’t currently possible due to COVID-19, they are a reminder of something more: The power of love and community.

The pinwheels were custom-made by Schomburg’s mother, Jana Hirsch, and her sister, Nika. Schomburg has studied performing arts at Northfield-based Pinnacle Performing Arts Center for nine years, and prior to that took classes at two other studios.

Hirsch, a Pinnacle co-founder, came up with the idea from her fellow co-founder, Alisa Leonard, who died in 2018. Instead of flowers, her co-founder wanted to be honored with pinwheels at her funeral.

“Part of it was I didn’t want this noxious nostalgia to overtake our lives and our year,” Hirsch said. “I wanted Kaia to have memories that were good memories on their own and not say we did this instead of this, or we couldn’t do this, so we did this. We did this because we wanted to have a memory of these pinwheels in our yard and I wanted to remember Kaia in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do in the showcase.”

The display came as a surprise to Schomburg. The pinwheels were set up May 15, right before she was scheduled to deliver costumes to the homes of younger Pinnacle dancers.

“It did mean a lot to me, especially since I couldn’t be there with my friends on that day but also every pinwheel she had labeled a dance I had previously performed at Pinnacle,” Schomburg said.

Dance has played an integral part in Schomburg’s upbringing. She has dance since she was a little girl. When she was 13 she decided she wanted to teach, and began teaching/mentoring other dancers. She also plays piano, guitar and ukulele, sometimes performing at coffee shops and retirement centers in the metro, playing music from the 1960s and 70s.

“Kaia does everything,” Hirsch said. “She teaches so much. She has a couple classes she’s in charge of.”

Kaia is participating in the Northfield Adopt a Senior program on Facebook. A local family has been sending her notes and food items. She has also been receiving messages from her church, Bethel Lutheran.

Schomburg plans to attend the University of Minnesota this fall to study psychology but is aware of the uncertainty surrounding her immediate future. She says despite the current challenges, her community is ensuring she will make it through.

“If I didn’t have my family supporting me and my community supporting me, I definitely would not be able to make it through this year,” she said. “This year’s been super hard. Just knowing that they’re there and they’re supporting me means the world to me.”

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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