2018: A year in Review A look back at the happenings in the Rushford Peterson Valley

TRI-COUNTY RECORD STAFF

With another year lying out in front of us like a promise, it’s time to take a whirlwind tour back in time and review the stories of the past year. Here are some of the highlights from the files of the Tri-County Record.

Business

Members of the Farmers Co-Op Elevator in Rushford voted to merge with Iowa-based Farmers Win Co-Op in late December 2017.

The Tri-County Record’s Business Honor Roll featured 76 local businesses.

The Rushford City Council approved plans to establish the development of six duplex housing units in the Himlie Business Park on Rushford’s north side. Construction began in the spring.

Ridge Road Outdoors, a new retailer specializing in hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor sports, holds monthly sales in the building formerly used as a warehouse by Tri-County Electric on Elm Street in Rushford. The company also relies on internet sales to market outdoor goods at a large discount.

In May, Semcac received a “Best Places to Work” award from Workforce Development Inc.

Three local cooperatives (Mabel Cooperative, MiEnergy Cooperative, and Spring Grove Communications) announced plans to merge their services as MiBroadband, a company devoted to bringing broadband technology to underserved rural areas in southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa. 

Government

In January, the Rushford City Council swore in new councilors Sally Ryman and Andrew Linder. Mayor Chris Hallum began his fourth consecutive term.

The EDA (Economic Development Authority) continued its work to promote the city and its businesses. Among ideas adopted by the EDA were the development of cards that contained an “elevator speech” highlighting the city, and the installation of information kiosks and maps around Rushford.  

Both the Rushford and Rushford Village councils considered plans for the potential future expansion of Rushford to the west, on lands currently owned by the Woxland family.

During the November election, Peterson Mayor Tim Hallum ran unopposed for another term, while three people ran for two Peterson council positions: incumbents Dave Colbenson and Gail Boyum retained their seats. Lisa Price ran unopposed for a third spot on the council.

In the City of Rushford Village election, Mayor Gordon Johnson and councilor Chad Rasmussen ran unopposed, while outgoing councilor Richard Smith received 27 write-in votes and was re-elected.

R-P School District voted to approve the continuation of an operating levy referendum for the R-P school district, but rejected an increase for the same. Voters also elected three new members to the R-P School Board, voting in Chris Grindland, Kathy Wade, and Jeff Michel. Incumbent board member Joyce Iverson ran unopposed to retain her seat.

In December, City Administrator Tony Chladek reported that possible redevelopment or repurposing of the old R-P school buildings in Rushford was highly unlikely. Chladek felt the city should pursue plans to purchase the buildings.

In December, the City of Rushford Village wrapped up a project which replaced the Benson Lane crossing.

The Peterson City Council adopted an ordinance that allowed them to turn over delinquent utilities from city residents to the county to be added on the property tax due for the year. 

School news

Mitch Thompson, long-time math teacher and coach, passed away from an apparent heart attack on Dec. 30, 2017. R-P teachers, staff and students, as well as community members gathered in the R-P school auditorium to celebrate the life of the venerated teacher in January.

The R-P district held an online auction of items that remained in the old high school and elementary school buildings. Prior to the auction, area residents were concerned that old trophies and banners would be part of the sale and therefore no longer available to be viewed by the public. These items were removed from the auction. Later in the year, the school held a similar auction for items stored at the Peterson Middle School, but the only items auctioned were those in outside storage sheds.

In February the One-Act Play “Tammy: A coming of age story about a girl who is part T-Rex” placed second at the Three Rivers Conference competition and went on to win the Sub-Section competition.

Olivia Hoff and Michael Ekern were named runners-up in the MSHSL “Triple A” award that honors students who excel in Academics, Athletics and the Arts.

In March, veteran teacher Terry Pelzl announced plans to retire from coaching, ending a 35-year career. Later, MSHSL Basketball Coach’s Hall of Fame member Tom Vix announced his retirement from coaching. Vix’s teams made 16 state tournament trips and captured three state titles.

The R-P boys won a thrilling Section 1A basketball title and advanced to the MSHSL state tournament, where they placed sixth.  Three members of the team (Ben Ansell, Landon Skalet and Jake Paulson) were named the All-Conference first team, while Dawson Dahl and Payton Hahn received Honorable Mention honors.

LARP’s Carter Jonsgaard captured 4th place in the MSHSL State Wrestling meet at 113 pounds.

R-P’s Knowledge Bowl Team 1 advanced to the MSHSL State Meet. Members included Jordan McNamer, Matt Strapp, Mike Ekern, Anna Kjos, and Olivia Hoff. 

Nine members of the R-P speech team advanced to the Section Meet. Jordan McNamer, competing in the “discussion” category, advanced to the MSHSL State Speech Meet.

The Foundation for R-P Schools announced they would be offering a $500 scholarship for students pursuing a vocational/trades career path following graduation from R-P.

In April, 11 members of R-P’s FFA team advanced to the state convention. Two teams advanced in Horse Judging and Livestock Evaluation, and one individual advanced in Dairy Handling.

Mary Ellen Dean was named the “Fillmore County Teacher of the Year” in May, the final month of her 38-year career in education. Dean had announced her retirement from R-P earlier in the year.

Forty-five seniors were recognized as the first class to graduate from the new R-P school building in early June.

R-P’s baseball team captured the Sub-Section and Section titles and advanced to the MSHSL State Baseball tournament.

R-P/H Track & Field athletes Nicole Blagsvedt and Cullan Olson, both shot-putters, advanced to the MSHSL State Track & Field meet by placing in the top six in their events at the Section 1A meet. Blagsvedt finished 13th overall, and Olson finished sixth place and All-State Honors.

R-P’s trapshooting team had another successful season. Quentin Douglass advanced to the MSHSL state tournament, and four shooters (Douglass, Breena Pehler, Brady Gile and Ben Maynard) qualified for the USA Clay Target League’s first National Tournament in July.

In response to complaints about bullying and concern for behavior on school bus routes, The R-P School Board voted in June to install video cameras in the district’s school buses.

In August, the R-P School Board agreed to sell the Peterson Middle School buildings for use as an aviation training facility that would educate mechanics and pilots. Only three months later the prospective buyer, Roger Anderson, reneged on a purchase agreement he’d signed with the district.

At the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, the district welcomed eight new teachers: Jackson King, Meredith Johnson, Ben Mahlke, Sydney Huntley, Hannah Pape, Joel Hinke, Wendy Feldmeier, and Tracy Agrimson.  

In October, R-P schools inducted eight new students into the National Honor Society: Jasmine Schueler, Ayla McNeill, Leah Himlie, Landon Skalet, Nolan Mueller, Abbylyn Malone, Peyton Hoiness and Chloe Bunke.

LARP’s cross country team sent two runners to the MSHSL State Cross Country Meet in Northfield, Minn. Sophomore Luke O’Hare placed 41st and senior Aidan Ellinghuysen placed 97th.

In November, the R-P school district said goodbye to its second teacher in 11 months. Rod Anderson, who graduated from Rushford High in 1986 and returned to teach middle school math at R-P in 1998, passed away November 25. HIs Memorial Service was held in the R-P school theater.  

R-P students presented the musical “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” at the All-School Play in November.

R-P’s bowling team advanced to the State Meet in late November.

The R-P School Board began the process of searching for a new superintendent to replace Superintendent Chuck Ehler, who will retire at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Local news   

Over 200 bidders attended the Rushford Cancer Crusade and raised over $26,000, which was then donated to the Eagles Cancer Telethon in Rochester.

City of Rushford Public Utilities workers continued to remove ash trees to combat the spread of EAB (Emerald Ash Borer) disease. City crews have identified 160 ash trees on city property; they cut and burned 40 trees in 2017, 70 more in 2018, and hope to complete the project in 2019.

In March, the annual food drive by the Boy Scouts brought in 1,200 pounds of donated food items for area charities.

In April, the Ferndale Country Club announced the hiring of Chris Austin as new manager, following the leave of Kevin Ritter. Austin would be dismissed only weeks later and replaced by former Ferndale employee Trey Ritter, who later resigned his position. After the close of the 2018 season, the Ferndale Country Club Board held a meeting and agreed on a plan for restructuring to proceed into the future.

Two eight-and-a-half-foot ceramic gnomes, named Gustav and Gunnar, arrived in Peterson and are displayed at the Peterson Station Museum and along the Root River Trail. The gnomes arrived just in time for Peterson’s annual Gammel Dag Fest held in mid-June.

Rushford resident Glenn Woxland underwent a successful heart transplant surgery in an operation that lasted 12 hours.  

Roger Michaelson, pastor of Rushford Lutheran Church, retired in June after a 32-year career spanning several parishes. In the fall, RLC welcomed Pastor Steven Chellew and wife Lisa to the church.

The Rushford City Council learned that the remains of Joe Johnson, among the first casualties of the attack on Pearl Harbor, were to be returned home. Johnson’s remains had been interred in a mass grave, but were finally identified through advancements in genetic testing. Johnson was buried with full military honors at Rushford Lutheran Cemetery in July.

Rushford Days highlights included: the naming of Morgan Rye as the winning button artist; Faith Eide was voted Miss Rushford Peterson Valley, with Peyton Hoiness as First Attendant and Sadie Stiever as Little Miss; the O’Donnell family named Grand Marshals; Leigh and Kayla Volkmann took over organizational duties for the annual Car Cruise and Car Show; the musical “Mary Poppins” was presented by RASA.   

Area residents Darren, Noah and Mason Chambers, and Isaac Rasmussen participated in the World Horseshoe Tournament, held in Florence, S.C. in July.

For the second year in a row, Rushford hosted the Fillmore County Relay for Life with the theme “Give Cancer the Boot.” The July 13-14 event raised $86,988, with more donations expected in the months to come. 

The Culpepper and Merriweather Circus came to Rushford for a pair of crowded shows on Aug. 2. Local veterinarian Tom Taggart examined the animals before the performance and was impressed by their condition and treatment. 

Renovation of the Peterson Station Museum, which included exterior painting and the replacement of windows, was underway and recognized in a ceremony in September. 

Norsland Lefse contributed lefse that was a key ingredient in “Uffda Ale,” a beer produced by Beaver Island Brewery that was premiered at the Minnesota State Fair in late August.

The R&B/Blues band “The Jimmys” appeared at the first ever Root River Jams event, a free, street celebration sponsored by the City of Rushford, in early September.

The annual “Taste of the Trail” event kicked off on Sept. 8 with Peterson and Whalan hosting. Rushford and Rushford Village were featured two weeks later.

In October, Maynard “Mush” Ukkestad was buried in the Oakwood-Sherwood Cemetery east of Rushford on Highway 16. It was the first funeral held in the cemetery in 140 years, and marked years of work to re-establish and re-open the cemetery by the Ukkestad family and the cemetery board. 

Historic re-enactor Arn Kind entertained a full Rushford American Legion Hall with tales of life for the soldiers of the Civil War. Kind later returned to give the same presentation for R-P students in December.

Area residents and veterans Ben Wenzel and Paul Skalet visited Washington, D.C., as part of a Freedom Honor Flight. 

The 39th annual Takkefest meal was held Thanksgiving Day in the Rushford Lutheran Church basement.

Individual achievement

In February, Chad Rasmussen, long-time volunteer firefighter, was named Chief of the Rushford Fire Dept. Rasmussen replaced former chief Paul Corcoran.

Rushford Lions Club member Larry Bartelson received two awards at the Midwestern Lions Convention in February: the “International Leadership Award” and the “Hometown Hero Award.”

Area residents Joyce Iverson, Jolene Hartwick and Jo Malmin were featured in the TCR for their participation in “Habitat for Humanity” projects across the globe.

Rushford’s John Bruihler was selected to attend the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership Class.

R-P grad and Eagle Scout award-winner Jeremiah Munson spent the summer as an intern at NASA Research Center.

Bertram Boyum not only celebrated his 100th birthday in September, he remains the oldest active auctioneer in the state.

Craig Colbenson, retired R-P Ag teacher, received the FFA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his years of dedication to FFA students and projects over the course of his career. His award was presented at the Minnesota State Fair.

The Metz Hart-Land Creamery received the “Producer of the Year” award for 2018 from the Minnesota Milk Producer’s Association.

R-P student Merrill Schroeder received his Eagle Scout award from the Boy Scouts of America for his work in creating a warming house for the Rushford Municipal ice-skating rink located near Creekside Park.

Rushford-area farmers Josh and Stephanie Dahl were honored as one of eight finalists for the “Outstanding Conservationist Award” by the state Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) association.

John DeGeorge, R-P grad and a 21-year employee of the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department, was elected Fillmore County Sheriff in November.

Arts

Micah Hanson, owner of State Farm Insurance in Rushford, was named the 2019 Minnesota State Turkey Stamp contest for his painting of two gobblers.

R-P grad Isaiah Schick played in the Rose Bowl Parade and at halftime with the University of Oklahoma Marching Band.

In April, the multimedia show “And Then They Came For Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank,” featuring local actors Kristin Burdey and Annika Bakkum-Ekern, was presented at the R-P auditorium. 

The R-P School Board approved funding to hire additional help for Forrest Musselman’s theater program as he put on the fall All-School Play. Musselman requested the hire of a choreographer, a technical director, a choral director and a band director. 

SEMBA’s annual bluegrass festival, held at Cushon’s Peak Campground, was held in May for the 19th consecutive year.

Area artist Pam Jenkins was featured as an “Emerging Artist” during the Bluff Country Arts Tour.

Polka legend Mollie B and her band “Squeezebox” performed at the third weekend of the City of Peterson’s Sunday Music Series held in July.

Girl Scouts Grace Buchanan, Olivia Thompson, Carina Bieberdorf and Zenessa Anderson completed a huge redecorating project that included a painted mural, of the DNR Visitor Center Room connected to the Rushford Area Historic Depot. The work was part of the girl’s Silver Award project. 

The Rushford Women’s Club hosted its 38th annual Arts & Crafts Fair in October, announcing that this would be the final year of the popular event.

R-P grad and professional singer Mariah Ciangiola joined the Rushford Lutheran Church Praise Team as they opened for the Winona Brass Band at its annual Christmas Concert, held in the R-P school auditorium.