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West End News

Clare Shirley

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Clare Shirley

Clare Shirley owns and runs Sawbill Canoe Outfitters at the end of the Sawbill Trail in Tofte with her husband Dan. Clare was born in Grand Marais and grew up in Tofte. Clare is a third-generation Outfitter, and third-generation West End News writer. Clare follows in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, Bill and Frank Hansen, long time West End News columnists.

Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP are made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Check out other programs and features funded in part with support from the Heritage Fund.

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West End News: March 9

Not to go full Minnesotan on you, but I need to take a minute to talk about the weather. Here in the woods of the West End, we’ve been treated to the full range of weather patterns over the last week. One day, we were skiing on the lake in sunshine and warmth. The next, we fell asleep to the sound of rain pounding the roof interrupted only by the occasional flash of lightening. When we woke up, it was once again a winter wonderland with big soft flakes floating down. As I write this, the wind is howling and chickadees are actually being blown right off the railing on our deck.

The rain and melted snow has refrozen into a very hard and thick layer of ice covering the ground virtually everywhere. Now, I’m no Chel Anderson, but it seems the local red foxes are having trouble catching mice. Typically, the foxes will listen for the mice under the snow, then pounce into the drifts in dramatic fashion. I suspect that the hard crunchy snow and thick ice is preventing them from a lot of this hunting activity. I come to this hypothesis after a couple of recent encounters with the cat-like red foxes.

Just yesterday, moments after I had walked in the front door of our crew housing to visit with Jessica Hemmer, a red fox appeared hot on my trail. Rather than come inside, he (or she) stopped just under the bird feeder and spent several minutes scratching spilled seeds out of the crunchy snow. Filling bird feeders is an inexact science in this household, so often we have a pretty decent pile of spilled seed on the ground but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a fox partake in the buffet. Jessica and I watched the fox until it causally trotted off towards my house. I later noticed its tracks up on our deck as well.

Jessica then told me about another close fox encounter this past week. I suppose an alternate hypothesis to the difficult mouse hunting conditions could be that Jessica is simply a fox whisperer. Maybe they just like her company, she is pretty cool. Anyway, Jess was hiking Briton Peak in Tofte a few days ago when she noticed a red fox skirting around the parking lot in the woods. A few minutes into her hike, and there was the fox again, heading straight towards her on the trail. It walked right up to her, gave her a look as if to say “um, excuse me, you’re hogging the path” before sauntering around her and continuing on towards the trailhead. Lest no one believe her, Jess managed to get the whole thing on video. We both wondered if well meaning folks were feeding this fox near the trail head, contributing to his blasé attitude.

While it's tempting to feed these beautiful animals, especially when it seems you could almost feed them out of your hand, doing so is not in their best interest. Rough winters come and go, and with them the corresponding fluctuations in populations. Living so entwined with the natural world, as we do here in Cook County, it’s important that we do not alter the natural patterns and behaviors of our animal neighbors by providing easy meals.

In other canine news, the frequent dustings of new snow on the hard packed ice has been great for spotting wolf tracks. There appear to be three or four wolves that frequent some of our favorite ski trails. Unlike their foxey friends though, we have yet to see anything more than some footprints and scat. Maybe this is the cabin fever speaking, but I think we’ll try stepping out on our back deck tonight for a good howl and see if we can’t start up a conversation.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

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West End News: March 2

This week’s West End News is brought to you with a theme: Civic engagement. Don’t turn down the dial, this is important stuff! Let’s start with the local level.

The townships of Schroeder, Tofte, and Lutsen are all gearing up for their annual meetings, coming right up on March 14 this year. All three townships will hold elections for township positions from 5-8 pm on March 14, followed immediately by the annual meeting. Schroeder will be voting and meeting at the Schroeder Town Hall, Tofte residents can vote and meet at Birch Grove, and Lutsen folks will vote and convene at the Lutsen Town Hall.

In Schroeder, there is a race for one open supervisor seat. Marion McKeever, known as Bill, currently holds the seat and is being challenged by Rick Anderson. In Tofte, Craig Horak is running for the 3 year supervisor term. Craig is currently appointed to the seat left vacant by Paul James. Jeanie Larson, a current supervisor, is running for the 1 year supervisor term. Sam Crowley is running a write-in campaign for the 1 year supervisor term. If you would like to vote absentee for Tofte, call the town clerk at 370-0763 to get set up. The clerk will also be available for absentee voting on March 11, at the Tofte Town Hall from 10am to noon. Lastly, Lutsen resident Christine Ordemann has announced her intent to run as a write-in candidate for the open supervisor seat. If you’d like to vote absentee in Lutsen, call their town clerk at 663-7002 or email her at lutsentownship@gmail.com. Same as Tofte, you can vote absentee at the Lutsen Town hall from 10am-noon on March 11, prior to the March 14 meeting.

If you aren’t registered to vote, don’t let that deter you! You can register to vote at the polls. So if you’re interested in who is making decisions in your town, what they’ve been up to and what the year ahead looks like, by all means attend the election and annual meetings. Again, the meetings are all at 8pm on March 14, at the Schroeder Town Hall, Birch Grove, and the Lutsen Town Hall.

On the state level, Lutsen resident Molly O’Neill is headed to St. Paul. Last fall, Molly participated in a listening session in Grand Marais held to discuss challenges and successes of women in rural MN. Molly shared her story about the difficulty of living and working in rural Minnesota and paying her monthly student loan bill. Molly’s story is simultaneously very personal and very relatable. As a somewhat recent college and law school graduate, I know more than my fair share of people in the same situation as Molly. They are educated, motivated, and gainfully employed in rural settings, yet still struggle due to their student loan debt. Molly has been invited to share her story in the form of testimony before the Higher Ed Committee at the Minnesota Legislature. The Committee is considering a bill that would establish a loan forgiveness program for individuals working in greater Minnesota. The West End is proud that Molly will be there to represent us!

On the national scene, Lutsen native Jessica Chenevert is in D.C. this week with the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association for the annual Congenital Heart Legislative Conference. The conference brings together patients, parents, providers, and partner organizations to advocate for awareness and funding for congenital heart disease. Inspired by her son Barrett, who was born with Transposition of the Great Arteries two and half years ago, Jessica has become a veteran advocate for more funding, research, and awareness for the #1 birth defect. As the full time social media coordinator for the Association, Jessica is in D.C. telling her personal story as well as supporting other newer advocates. All told, 183 advocates will be meeting with their representatives in the House and Senate to share their stories and ask the legislators to co-sponsor the Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act. This year, they will be asking for 7 million dollars to support surveillance and awareness activities aimed at addressing the public health impact of Congenital Heart Disease across the lifespan of those living with CHD. You can read more about their mission and how you can help at conqueringchd.org. This is Jessica’s third year attending the conference in D.C. Each year she has taken on more of a leadership role, and I feel confident that I can speak for us all in the West End when I say that we are very proud of her!

So there you have it, our very own West Enders are out there making a difference, from right here at home, to St. Paul, all the way to D.C. If you are interested in becoming involved, I encourage you to take that first step. It turns out the old cliché is true, one person really can make a difference.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

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OCA Deep Winter Greenhouse in Finland

West End News: February 23

As is often stated, the West End communities are like a big family. Mostly happy, occasionally dysfunctional, but we certainly have love for our neighbors and are quick to raise a helpful hand when needed. There is perhaps no better example of this than our volunteer fire departments and EMS squads. There is an outstanding amount of training, time, attention to detail, and work that goes into these departments that are here to help us in our times of crisis.

This week, we are celebrating the completion of a vehicle sell and swap of sorts that occurred between the Lutsen, Tofte and Grand Marais EMS squads. Just like a family, the EMS departments negotiated a couple of vehicle sales to each other to help everyone get what they needed. The Lutsen squad is the proud new owner of a new rescue unit. In turn, they sold their Ford Excursion to Tofte. Tofte then turned around and sold their Chevy suburban to the EMS department in Grand Marais. The result is that all three squads now have vehicles that are large enough to carry the appropriate rescue gear when they respond to calls.

Tofte’s purchase of the Ford from Lutsen was funded in part by a grant from the North Shore Health Care Foundation. The Foundation awarded $7,500 to the Tofte EMS, despite not typically funding this type of equipment. They made an exception though, thanks to the high level of cooperation and the mutual benefit to all the EMS groups. North Shore Health Care Foundation Executive Director Karl Hansen says they were thrilled to contribute to such a good cause.

I’ve always known that Finland, Minnesota, is home to the Organic Consumers Association or OCA. What I didn’t always realize was just how big a deal the OCA really is. According to their website, the OCA is a non-profit organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. They represent over two million online and on the ground network members, including several thousand businesses. And their home base is right next door in Finland!

This past weekend the OCA and the Northeast Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership hosted an open house at the OCA in Finland highlighting their new deep winter greenhouse. What is that? I’m so glad you asked! A deep winter greenhouse is a passive solar greenhouse, built to be used to grow produce throughout the winter. The greenhouse has a large south-facing wall designed to capture the maximum amount of solar energy. The base of the structure has a 4-foot deep rock heat sink, and fans are used to circulate the warm air. The result is an environment well suited to growing crops that thrive in low-light and low-heat conditions.

The partnership is working with producers and community groups across Minnesota to test a prototype design of these greenhouses. The OCA will be tracking the results of their work in this greenhouse, providing information to help develop local food economies. Support for the project comes from the University of Minnesota Extension, MnDRIVE Global Food Ventures, University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment and a consortium of agriculture lending banks.

Access to local, high quality, produce is an important part of a healthy community. Obviously, that can be a challenge for communities like ours, where the growing season is so short. We are so very fortunate to have organizations like the OCA right here among us, working diligently to develop and implement creative and sustainable solutions to these long-time problems.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

(Photo by Trevor Huggins)

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Ethical owl photo

West End News: February 16

What do birders and Harry Potter fans have in common? Both are delighted with the irruption of owls we are experiencing this winter. Every several years, the conditions align in such a way that the elusive owls are seen with some regularity along the backroads, and even in backyards, of the West End. I’ve seen residents and visitors alike posting pictures of Great Gray, Barred, Saw-Whet and even Snowy owls so far this year.

These photographs are being taken and shared by amateurs and professionals. Irruptions of owls create an opportunity for everyone to observe these magnificent birds in their natural habitat and perhaps even capture a great picture. This has given rise to a great ethical debate. That is, is it ethical to bait owls in order to get an action shot?

Baiting owls is the practice of releasing mice, often purchased from a pet store, in the vicinity of an owl. The owl, rendered almost helpless by instinct, will pounce on the mouse, giving photographers the money shot. Owl baiting is not illegal in Minnesota. What is illegal, is releasing an animal (in this case a mouse) in a State Park, State Forest, or Wildlife Management Area.

Here is the debate. Some owl baiters are professional photographers under pressure to get the much sought after action shots. Some will only offer an owl a few mice, on infrequent occasions, away from roads. Others argue that owls are starving, so feeding them mice is actually doing them a favor.

The other side points out that baiting owls often does much more harm than any potential good. From a photography standpoint, selling pictures of baited owls is not the same as capturing an owl hunting naturally in the wild. These staged photos are tantamount to fakes to many photographers. More importantly, the practice of feeding a wild animal is harmful to the owl. First, there is the problem of introducing pet store mice to these wild raptors, there is no guarantee that the mice are disease free. Second, the owls quickly become habituated to people. This is why owl baiting is different from feeding birds at your bird feeder, those birds retain their sense of self-preservation. Habituated owls are also more likely to be hit by cars, once they are accustomed to being fed by people near roads and vehicles. Third, feeding owls changes their wild behavior. Routine access to an easy food source can have a detrimental effect on owls’ hunting behavior and even their migratory patterns.

I invite you to draw your own conclusions about the practice of baiting. Personally, I will be more aware of a photographer’s ethical practices before hitting the ‘like’ button, or purchasing a print.

By popular demand, Birch Grove School is now selling spiritwear. Now you too can rep your favorite West End school with a cool blue shirt sporting the Birch Grove logo. Adult and kids T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, and beanies are all available. The online store is only open until February 28, so be sure to place your order before then. A link to the online store is included the West End News text on the wtip.org website here.

We were happy to return to so much new snow after our trip to Paris. We were even happier that Bill and a few friends pitched in to shovel all that snow off our roofs while we were away, now that’s a good house-sitter! While in Paris, we visited the Le Marais neighborhood. Le Marais is full of unique and forward thinking concept shops. While window shopping we saw three different Minnesota companies being featured. That’s right, the fashionistas in Paris are wearing Red Wing boots and Minnetonka Moccasins! We also spotted some Epicurean kitchen utensils in the famous concept store Merci. It appears Le Marais and Grand Marais have more in common than one would expect.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

(Photo by Danielle Fortin)

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The 1982 Cook County Board of Commissioners, with the County Attorney and Auditor - Frank is far left

West End News: February 9

This is Bill Hansen. I’m best known for being the father of Clare Shirley, who is the normal author of the West End News, but she is on vacation this week.
 
When Clare’s grandfather, Frank Hansen, was a Cook County Commissioner back in the 1980s, I remember that much of the discussion at board meetings revolved around the shortage of housing for people who live and work in Cook County. The housing shortage was hurting economic development because people who were solidly in the middle class, like those who worked for the Forest Service, the clinic, the schools, the sheriff’s department, and so on, literally could not find an affordable place to live. At one county board meeting in that era the commissioners all agreed that the problem was so serious that it had to be addressed that year.
 
Frank, if he were alive, would have turned 95 last week and would have been delighted that the “project of the year” for 1983 was finally coming to fruition in 2017. After years of hard work by a lot of people, the first of a series of housing developments - targeted toward people who live and work here – is about become a reality. 
 
One Roof Community Housing, a non-profit housing developer based in Duluth, is planning to build 16 units of housing in Lutsen, starting construction this spring. One Roof has a long and successful track record of developing housing for working people, including hundreds of housing units in Duluth. I’ve been a supporter of One Roof for years and have been hoping they would do a project in Cook County. They are the right people for the job.
 
In an ideal world, private developers would just build houses and sell them to us for a reasonable profit and all would be well. Unfortunately, geography and market forces keep that from being a viable option here - and in many, many communities around the country. One Roof, along with an impressive list of partners, including the Cook County Economic Development Authority, the I.R.R.R.B. and the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development, are finally cracking this tough nut and we will all benefit.
 
This project is not for seasonal workers. The large resorts in the West End are already housing their seasonal workers in housing they built at their own expense to the tune of millions of dollars.
 
Every piece of this housing puzzle has been fitted with the other pieces to provide well built, energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing housing that middle-income people can afford. This isn’t cheap housing by any means, but it is decent, dignified, and reasonable. I’ve been a little amused by the people who suggest that the rents are too high. Of course, the rents are too high! It would be great if those who think the rents are too high would suggest ways to lower them. Every part of this effort has been undertaken with the intent to keep rents – and costs - within reason. That is the whole point.
 
The really good news is that a similar, probably larger, project is coming soon to Grand Marais and another to Tofte. Once those are done, if there is still need - and there probably will be - projects can be done where they are needed. Thank you to all who have worked so hard to craft a real-world solution to the serious shortage of housing in Cook County!
 
It is always heart warming to see how our community rallies to solve problems and help those in need. Angela Cook, who works at the courthouse, has been dealing with very serious and costly health issues for two years. Her co-workers, the congregation at Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte, and West End community members are holding a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at Birch Grove Community Center on Saturday, February 25, from 5 to 7 pm. There is a related raffle in progress, with many cool and valuable prizes donated by local businesses. You can buy tickets from the gals at the courthouse, at Tofte Holiday Station, and at Zoar Church.
 
As I always say about great events like this, be there, or be square.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen, filling in for Clare Shirley, with the West End News.
 

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Clare Shirley

West End News: February 2

Clare Shirley is the voice of the West End News. Clare is a fifth-generation local, and third-generation canoe outfitter, from Cook County's West End.

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Skijoring in Montana

West End News: January 26

I know I’m not the first to tell you but, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is all set to make its way through our lovely West End again this year, starting on Sunday, January 29. The race runs nearly 400 miles and is the longest sled dog race in the lower 48 states. It’s a qualifier for the famed Iditarod race in Alaska and as such draws some really world class mushers.

You can check out the mushers and their dog teams between 9am and 11am on Sunday, January 29, at the start point, the Highway 2 gravel pit in Two Harbors. You can park at the Lake County Fairgrounds and ride a free shuttle bus there. At 11am sharp, the race begins.

If you want to see some action a little closer to home, there is a checkpoint on the Sawbill Trail at the intersection with the 600 Road. For the uninitiated, that’s about 5-1/2 miles up the Sawbill Trail, which starts in Tofte right by the Tofte General Store. If you want to catch them, teams will probably be rolling into the checkpoint between 5pm and 10pm on Sunday, and leaving again starting around midnight.

When I was little, I don’t think there was anything more exciting than hanging out at the Sawbill checkpoint, watching the mushers feed and care for their dogs while they took some much needed rest time. I remember being particularly impressed with the famous musher Susan Butcher. My parents still have one of my childhood drawings of Susan and her team.

Perhaps it’s that fond childhood memory that got me interested in skijoring, as a fan if not a participant. In Minnesota, skijoring is the practice of cross-country skiing while being harnessed to a dog, who is hopefully pulling you in a nice straight line. If you’ve been up to Sawbill in the last year, you’ve likely met my favorite skijoring team, Huckleberry the springer spaniel, and my husband Dan. Huck is nothing if not enthusiastic, but after about a mile of pulling he suddenly finds every last twig on the side of the road irresistible, and needs to stop, frequently, to investigate.

If this were the Wild West End News, we’d be talking about a whole different kind of skijoring. In Montana, where we used to live, they take it to a whole other level. Those skijorers strap on downhill skis and are pulled behind horses, using the same kind of tow rope you’d see a water skier hang on to. The intrepid skier holds on for all their worth while their horseback riding partner pulls them through a course, complete with turns and jumps. It’s quite the spectacle that makes me sort of appreciate Huck’s laid back approach to the sport.

We’ve been resigned to mostly skiing on the road up here, as the lake is totally covered in a deep layer of slushy water, hovering dangerously underneath a few inches of snow. I discovered this the hard way, when Huck decided to head for the Alton portage against our better judgment. I marched out to retrieve him, and within seconds my boots were full of icy water. My dad Bill has made falling through the ice up here something of a yearly tradition. While I very much value lots of our family traditions, this is one that I’m willing to let go of. I hustled back to shore as quickly as I could, and sloshed home cursing the January thaw.

The thaw is right on time though to inspire dreams of open water and summer Boundary Waters trips. Permits to enter the Boundary Waters can now be reserved for this coming summer. Check out www.recreation.gov to snag a permit for your favorite West End entry point to our beloved canoe country Wilderness.

(Photo courtesy of Rebecca Connors)

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West End News: January 19

Music has long been a favorite pastime of many West Enders. After all, what else are you going to do when it gets dark at 4 pm? Whether it’s practicing in your living room, performing for a crowd, or going out to enjoy your friends’ tunes, music often brings us together. This week we have some particularly exciting music news, though. Lutsen’s own Cobi (known to us as Jacob Schmidt) will be performing live on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on Monday, January 23.

Many locals will remember hearing Cobi play his guitar in a number of different settings when he was growing up in Lutsen. Most recently, he was home playing a few shows with his equally musical brother, Josh, who plays with the Minneapolis-based band, Step Rockets. Cobi’s 2016 single, Don’t You Cry For Me, has been played more than 20 million times, and counting, on the popular music streaming service Spotify. A simple Google search for Cobi, Don’t You Cry For Me, will show his music video for the song. You can also check out his music and videos on Facebook, just search for Cobi. So go look him up, show him some love from his hometown, and don’t forget to tune in to The Tonight Show on NBC on Monday, January 23, to see him live.

Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte is bringing people together every Wednesday night this winter for soup, conversation, and, you guessed it, music. On Wednesdays, from 5:30 to 7, you are invited to join a fun group of folks at Zoar. Soup is provided (rumor has it that it’s always delicious) and Dave Gustafson provides some musical entertainment. It’s a nice way to break up your work-week with a little socializing.

Lutsen Resort is happy to announce that Chef Ian Heieie has joined the resort to lead their culinary team. Ian comes to Lutsen by way of the popular Minneapolis restaurant, The Bachelor Farmer. To celebrate, they are holding a “Meet the Chef” dinner on Saturday, February 4, at 6:30 pm. It will be an intimate 4-course dinner presented by Chef Ian with wine pairings by Lutsen’s North Shore Winery. Chef Ian will be serving dishes prepared with a farm-raised Mangalitsa boar from Yker Acres farm down in Carlton. I can personally attest to the excellent quality of Yker Acres pork, so I imagine this dinner will be outstanding. Cost is $50 per person, and for reservations call Lutsen Resort at 1-888-887-5502.

Lake Trout fishing is open now, and the January thaw has people heading for the lakes. Winter campers up in our area have gone as far north as Cherokee Lake, giving us some insight into conditions on many inland lakes. They report that there is a fair amount of slush still in some spots, so snowshoes are recommended for travel. Overall, the ice thickness is generally around 15 inches, although one group did encounter thin, bad ice on Brule where the Temperance River exits the lake. The same group actually fell through the ice on another small lake where flowing water at the inlet and outlet has apparently kept much ice from forming. They were prepared so no harm done. So while you’re out there chasing lunkers, be sure to check ice depths and be aware of your beautiful, but unforgiving, surroundings.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

(Photo courtesy of Ken Lane on Flickr)

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Sawtooth Mountain Clinic

West End News: January 12

Former West End resident, and Sawbill Outfitters employee, Shannon Grace-Anderson had a unique experience to kick off 2017. On New Year’s Day, she opened an email inviting her to an event with President Obama at the Blair House in Washington D.C. After some investigation, she discovered that it was not a scam and in fact she had been personally selected to attend an interview with the President by Vox journalists regarding the Affordable Care Act.

It all began with a thank you letter. Shannon grew up in Duluth, and, being a good Minnesotan whose parents raised her right, Shannon wrote President Obama to express her gratitude for his work. Shannon is a registered nurse who has dedicated her career to working at a community health clinic in Madison, Wisconsin. Before the Affordable Care Act, Shannon said that approximately 50% of patients at the clinic were uninsured. Today, only 14% of her patients are without insurance.

The clinic that Shannon works at is one of more than 1200 federally qualified community health clinics in this country. It just so happens that another of those clinics is located right here in Grand Marais, our very own Sawtooth Mountain Clinic. These clinics are local, non-profit care providers that provide our communities with access to high quality, comprehensive healthcare, regardless of financial ability to pay. Navigating access to healthcare and health insurance can feel overwhelming. We are very lucky to have such an outstanding clinic staffed and run by our friends and neighbors here in Cook County. If you need help figuring out health insurance, please give the clinic a call at 218-387-2330. They can and will help you.

Gunnar Frahm, son of West Ender Renee Frahm, is at it again. As if being a senior in high school, honor student, and Eagle Scout wasn’t enough, Gunnar is starting a band. Not just any band, though -- Gunnar is hoping to start the Silver Bay City Band. In his spare time, he has been attending the Northland Foundation’s Age to Age planning program. This program is designed to strengthen relationships among all ages and offer adults and young people the opportunity and resources to work together to benefit their communities.

When Gunnar got wind that the Silver Bay Vets home is planning to build a band shell, he saw his opportunity. The idea is to establish a community band of all ages that would get together once a month for fun, friendship, and of course, music. So dust off that old clarinet, put new strings on your banjo, and send Gunnar an email to let him know you’re interested. You can reach him at hurdleman14@gmail.com. You can always call WTIP if you didn’t quite catch that.

The recent cold snap has given way to yet another fresh snowfall. Our closest neighbor here at Sawbill is Joan Beard, who had some poorly timed furnace issues this last week. She, her dog Lady, and her seven chickens stayed with us while things got sorted out at her place. Having never hosted chickens before, I wasn’t quite sure what to do, but we got them set up in our heated workshop for a couple of nights. Apparently the chickens felt quite at home nestled in between the table saw and the snowmobile, as they started laying eggs before long.

Between Joan, the chickens, and a steady stream of winter campers it’s been busy in these woods. The snowy conditions here in the West End are perfect for winter fun. Whether you’re a skier, snowshoer, snowmobiler, or dogsledder, be sure to get out and enjoy the natural beauty of the West End.

For WTIP, this is Clare Shirley with the West End News.

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Clare Shirley - the new voice of West End News

West End News: January 5

Nothing says winter in Minnesota like a good old-fashioned get-together on the ice. This year marks the 11th Annual Hockey Day Minnesota. The headquarters for Hockey Day is an outdoor ice rink in Stillwater, where hockey games will be played throughout the day on January 21.
 
How can you celebrate this veritable holiday in the West End, you ask? Lucky for us, James Coleman has organized a Hockey Day gathering to take place starting at 1pm on Saturday, January 21, at the outdoor rink at Birch Grove in Tofte. This event is open to everyone, regardless of your skating ability. It is free and there will be a potluck, so bring your best hotdish to share. There are even some skates available to borrow at the rink, if you are lucky enough to find some in your size. Don’t know how to play hockey? That’s ok, it’ll be our little secret. The good news is, you’re still invited to come play on the ice. The rink is in great shape and is equipped with lights so the fun will last as long as your hand-warmers.
 
Grand Marais’ own Jay Arrowsmith-Decoux will be teaching a ServSafe class at the Clair Nelson Community Center in Finland on Monday, January 9. According to the Center’s website, the course is designed to fulfill requirements for Minnesota state and local health departments. The course will train, test, and certify you in the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe program for safe food service. The full certification course will run from 8am to about 5:30pm and costs $170, which includes the textbook and exam. A shorter renewal course takes place on the same day from 8am to noon and costs $70. The class is open to ages 15 and up. Certification is good for three years, with a one-year grace period to get recertified. You can sign up online on the Lake Superior School District’s website: https://isd381.cr3.rschooltoday.com/public/costoption/class_id/3587/public/1/sp/
 
After the ServSafe class, you can head over to the Birch Grove Task Force Public Meeting. The meeting will be held on January 9 from 6:30 to 8pm at Birch Grove in Tofte. Everyone is welcome to attend. The purpose of the meeting is to identify interests and concerns surrounding the working relationships between Birch Grove Community Center, Birch Grove Community School, the townships of Tofte, Schroeder, Lutsen, and all other interested parties.
 
These entities all have a long history of doing great things for the West End. The meeting will serve to share information and bring to light ways in which these important parties can work together moving forward.
 
The plan is to form a committee to mediate a master agreement among all interested parties. A mediated settlement is a consensus agreement that all interests can live with. It advises, but does not replace, the legal decision-making powers of government bodies and non-profit organizations. Simply put, if you are interested in what is going on with all these entities, you are welcome to attend and participate in the meeting on January 9. If you can’t make it to the meeting, you can submit your interests and concerns to Bill Hansen. He can be reached by email at Bill@sawbill.com, or by phone at 218-370-1353.
 
Last winter West End residents and visitors to Lutsen bid a happy retirement to Rosie Somnis, the long-time manager of Rosie’s Café in the Main Chalet at Lutsen Mountains. Rosie promptly came out of retirement this Fall, however, to help get the Café up and running for another busy winter season. On January first this year, Rosie came back for one last day, really this time, to commemorate her 50 years of service at the cozy chalet. Rosie ran a tight ship, making the best burgers around and keeping things “Rosie Clean.” She was a familiar face to many characters over the years. Generations of skiers have grown up under her watchful eye, another example of how the West End is really just one big extended family. Have a very happy retirement Rosie, you deserve it!
 
For WTIP, this is Clare Shirley with the West End News.
 
 
 

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