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SANTA AND MRS. CLAUS were at the Ortonville Community Center Saturday, Dec. 2, during Santa Days. Shown above with Santa and Mrs. Claus are, left to right, Trinity Paulson, Kyrie Fewkes, Kaydence Grant and DRU Boots. Many kids had the opportunity to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas.

Fire consumes 100 acres in Big Stone Wildlife Refuge

On Wednesday, Nov. 29, on a day when red flag warnings were out for our area, firefighters from Ortonville, Big Stone City, SD, Odessa and Bellingham were called to the scene of a blaze in the area of 400th Street and County Highway 7 in Lac qui Parle County, an area known to most people as the “Bottoms” area of the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge. 

According to Ortonville Fire Chief, Randy McLain,  the call came in at 1:18 p.m. to a ditch fire, but upon arrival, they found that the strong southwest winds had driven the fire into the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge. 

Refuge Manager, Scott Simmons reports that about 100 acres of the refuge was consumed in the fire, which he says, could have been much worse if it hadn’t been for the prompt response of the area fire departments responding to the scene.  He stated, “A potential significant issue was contained”. 

The US Fish and Wildlife Service brought in equipment to fight the blaze as well and were assisted at the scene by  Lac qui Parle Conservation, the Lac qui Parle Sheriffs Department and the Ortonville Police Department. 

Red Flag warnings call attention to limited weather conditions of particular importance that may result in extreme burning conditions. It is issued when it is an on-going event or the fire weather forecaster has a high degree of confidence that Red Flag criteria will occur within 24 hours of issuance. Red Flag criteria occurs whenever a geographical area has been in a dry spell for a week or two, or for a shorter period, if before spring green-up or after fall color, and the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) is high to extreme.

Meander Arts Crawl numbers remain strong in 14th year

Visitors listed the friendly, welcoming artists along with the high quality of art among their lasting impressions of the annual 14th Upper Minnesota River Arts Crawl Meander, according to responses recorded in “passports” following the weekend event. Those responses also indicated that the overall numbers for event remain strong, and in some areas, even increased.

Passports are offered to all who attend the Meander, and those responses are recorded and weighed afterwards, according to Kristi Fernholz, Senior Planner with the Upper Minnesota Valley RDC in Appleton, which oversees the five-county event. 

This year the Meander was held on Sept. 29-30 and Oct. 1 with 39 artists exhibiting in 30 different studios between Granite Falls and Ortonville along the Minnesota River, and from Danvers to Dawson on the adjoining prairie. The artists reported average earnings of $2,870, up from $2,668 in 2016. On average, 11 studios were visited on the auto tour.

Three-fourths of the visitors considered the quality of the art as “excellent,” according to the passport data. One artist recalled a Minneapolis visitor who after entering his studio and looking around, said, “I’m just astounded. I didn’t realize this Crawl even existed, and I simply can’t believe the quality of art out here. You have an incredible artist’s community here.”

She apparently wasn’t alone in her thoughts. In the comments sections of those important passports, both the friendliness of the artists and the quality of their work was solid throughout. Numerous artists were singled out throughout the Meander, yet the overall theme of the comments reverted back to the welcoming and the quality of the art.

“Our numbers indicate that the Meander gets stronger every year,” said Fernholz. “We are also noticing that more and more local area residents are attending the Meander weekend. This year 45 percent of the studio visitors were from the five county (Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Yellow Medicine and Swift) area, up from a little of a third from years’ past.”

A fourth of those attending ventured from the Twin Cities Metro area, and another 15 percent were from out of state. Fernholz added that half the visitors didn’t attend the Meander in 2016, and that a third reported this as their first time attending the three-day event. Of those, 73 percent said they plan to attend again next year and 19 percent said they may plan to attend next year (up from 17 percent in 2016).

Those visitors spent an average of $124 per customer on Meander art (up from $110 in 2016); $43 on food and gas ($36 in 2016); $11 on shopping, other than art ($12 in 2016); and $18 on lodging ($17 in 2016). 

Of the money raised to organize the Meander through sponsors and artist fees, 60 percent was spent on products or services (printing, paper, advertising, graphic design and staffing) within the five-county area. Meander spent nearly $8,000 on advertising in 2017, or about 27 percent of the total budget.

Fernholz added that planning has already begun for the 15th annual Meander, and artists, sponsors, and art enthusiasts are already getting excited. “Meander is,” she said, “the highlight of our year as prairie-based artists.”

OHS vocal Christmas Concert to be held Dec. 11

The Ortonville Vocal Music Department will be presenting their annual Christmas Concert Monday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. in the Ortonville High School Auditorium. They invite you to come for an evening of holiday music.

This concert will feature the Concert Choir, Junior High Choir, Women's Ensemble, and Men's Ensemble as well as the Senior High Mixed Ensemble and Girls Ensemble. 

We're Going up, Have you Heard, and Pat-A-Pan are a few of the Christmas selections that will be performed that evening by the Senior High students.

The Junior High students will be performing a  Joy to the World Medley, Holiday Road, Christmas Time Rap. The Junior and Concert Choir will combine to sing two numbers, In Summer and Heaven Everywhere. This year Mrs. Neu has family members of her students, community members and OHS staff singing along with the Concert Choir on two numbers.  They have been practicing in the evenings to be a part of this concert.

Please join them for cookies and juice in the commons following the concert. The vocal music instructor is Jennifer Neu. Accompanists for this concert are Lisa Berdan, Traci Conroy and student accompanists, Bethany Danielson and Kelsie Ehrenberg. This concert is free to the public, as this is their holiday gift to you.


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