Pine Knot News - A hometown newspaper with a local office, local owners & lots of local news

Year in review: Summer provides a bit of normal

 

January 14, 2022

Our monthlong march through 2021 looking back at past issues of the Pine Knot News continues today with the next four months of the year, May through August. It was a summer that saw a return of many regular activities after another Covid-19 pandemic lull in the region. It wouldn't last, as we'll find out in the final installment of the year in review next week.

May

In mid-May, 600 finalists from around the world will gather for the Regeneron International Science and Engineer Fair to dazzle scientific experts with their projects and compete for nearly $5 million in awards, prizes and scholarships. Four Northland students will be attending virtually, three of them from Cloquet: junior Harmony Tracy and sophomores Emily Sapyta and Rowan Rock. Joining them is East High School sophomore Emelyn Beaster.

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When the pandemic suddenly made Minneapolis substitute school teacher Sam Kavanaugh jobless, the Carlton High School alumnus turned it into an opportunity. He went full "Olympic mode" with his training for the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions that aired May 17-28. And he won it all. A total of 15 competitors, including Kavanaugh, faced off for the $250,000 grand prize. Kavanaugh won a total of $156,202 on the popular quiz show in 2019.Review ...

Students at Cloquet High School found out in the afternoon on May 7 that they would not have to wear masks during prom the following evening, and they would be allowed to dance with anyone they wanted to instead of being limited to a pod of six people. And dance they did, starting out following dance song directions in rows and ending with a giant mosh pit in the school's back parking lot Saturday night. Senior prom marked Cloquet senior Casey Essler's second formal dance: the first one was Snoball 2020, held a couple months before the pandemic changed the world.

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Atkins Northland Funeral Home has new owners this month, but don't expect

any big changes, said Bob Atkins. "Very little will change with the ownership transition,"

Atkins said. "The business names will stay the same and our employees will still be here with the goal of continuing to provide exceptional service while growing the business." The new owners are Foundation Partners Group, a privately held funeral services company with operations in 20 states across the country.

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Carlton County Disabled American Veterans commander Stan Heuer was named "Minnesota Commander of the year" by the state DAV.

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The video is amazing. The reaction from Barnum High School sophomores Kate Ferrin and Ava Gran (in photo at top) tells you all you need to know about how big a deal it was to find out last weekend that they are national champions. "We got first in nationals," Gran breathlessly says in an exhilarating reaction recorded online as news came May 8 that the team's national Business Professionals of America project was deemed the best in the country. Days later, Gran was still in a daze. "It's crazy. It's mind-blowing," she said. Ferrin said the "shock" was still settling in.

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For the first time since spring 2020, the May 10 Cloquet school board meeting was open to the public. No one came, but they could have.

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Esko seniors will graduate in a normal ceremony this year, if everything goes the way superintendent Aaron Fischer hopes it does. "Current guidelines will allow only two guests per student," at the graduation ceremony, he said, "but we're expecting the restrictions to be relaxed May 28." Other county schools followed suit, and graduation was one of the only normal things for students more than a year after the pandemic began.

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A man who shot his sister's boyfriend at a funeral on the Fond du Lac reservation in 2019 was sentenced to 110 months in prison on May 17. Shelby Gene Boswell, 29, was convicted in federal court with possession and discharge of a firearm (a .22 caliber rifle) by a convicted felon. His sentence of 110 months will be followed by three years of supervised release.

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Two large community efforts got off the ground in mid-May. The Pine Knot, with support from Sappi, gave away more than 10,000 trees. It was a thank-you to readers still stuck in pandemic mode. The West End Flourish began and was designed to bring some vitality back to the historic West End district in Cloquet with arts and other community events through the summer.

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While military organizations visited local cemeteries last Memorial Day despite the pandemic, members are pleased that this year's events will look a little more normal - including the larger ceremonies at Cloquet's Veterans Park and Carlton's Hillside Cemetery on Monday.

"It's been a pretty hard year for veterans," said Gary Dahl, senior vice commander of both the Cloquet VFW and DAV organizations. "We're just trying to make sure we catch up with people that have died over the past year. It's important for the families."

June

Attention, potential lifeguards: Preteens will soon be begging you to apply for a job at The Beach at Pinehurst Park this summer. That's because a staff shortage is requiring a major change in beach rules as it prepares to open June 14: All children age 12 and under will be required to wear lifejackets while in the water. Cloquet Community Ed director Erin Bates said the rule "applies to all, whether or not they have had swim lessons in the past." If staffing levels ramp up, the rules may be revised, Bates said. The mandate held fast all summer.

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In what will go down in state golf history as one of the most memorable dramatic individual finishes in high school play, Sam Baker won the Class AA State Boys Golf Championship June 16. Add to all of that, the Cloquet boys team won it all as well. Baker beat Beck Erholtz of Staples-Motley by one stroke. They traded the lead back and forth over the last few holes before Baker birdied two of the last three holes to emerge on top at the Ridges at Sand Creek golf course in Jordan.

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After two decades of effort, Twin Lakes Township will get its waterline, with clean healthy water and plenty of it. Local officials, waterline constructors and political dignitaries gathered June 10 outside the Four Seasons events center in Carlton for speeches and an official groundbreaking. "Wow, it's really happening," said Twin Lakes Township chair Diane Felde-Finke, admitting that she got a little choked up when she was practicing her speech at home before the ceremony.

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A fire June 13 at Larson Commons senior apartments in Cloquet left one woman with severe injuries and her apartment damaged. She would eventually die from her injuries. It raised questions about what would happen in case of a bigger fire. According to the Cloquet Area Fire District, a call came in around 9:30 a.m. about a fire inside an apartment with a possible trapped victim. Upon arrival, fire crews forced entry into the apartment and found the residence full of smoke with zero visibility. Crews found and removed the occupant, Nancy Carlson, then quickly extinguished the fire.

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Annual celebrations came up for debate after most were canceled in 2020. Most towns decided to go ahead with festivities, including Cloquet, under some modified conditions to keep people safe during the continued pandemic. For example, in Cloquet, the Fourth of July parade and fireworks were on, but a huge gathering at Veterans Memorial Park was nixed.

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There aren't too many requirements for the new high ropes course that opened June 12 in Scanlon: you simply have to be 8 years old or older, at least 35

pounds and not over 275 pounds. No experience is necessary. "It's like a pace-yourself kind of course, no need to race through it," said Cliff Langley, owner and operator of High Ropes Minnesota, a sister company of Swiftwater Adventures, which offers whitewater rafting on the St. Louis River.

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Consolidation between the Carlton and Wrenshall school districts is no longer on pause. It's dead. The Carlton school board on June 21 voted to remove consolidation from its list of future options for the district. Left on the list are two expensive options for district residents: turning the South Terrace elementary into a preK-8 school and releasing high schoolers to another district, or creating a new preK-12 school at South Terrace. It would study a tuition agreement with Cloquet for the balance of the year, only to vote down that idea in December on a tie vote. The agreement would have sent students in grades 9-12 to Cloquet, with the district retaining just an elementary/middle school, eliminating its high school.

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After serving as pastor for the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Cloquet for the past 10 years, Father Justin Fish celebrated his last mass here June 20. He liked to joke that he'd spent a quarter of his time on Earth here.

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Things really are getting back to normal. Always a bellwether of spring with its March opening, Gordy's Hi-Hat is now signaling the end of the pandemic by ending its carhop-style of service.

On June 17, the popular local burger joint announced they were transitioning back to counter service only, after trying to provide both carhop and counter service for several weeks.

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The Cloquet boys and girls track teams were dominant throughout the regular track season, winning by a large margin at many track meets this spring. But when the Section 7AA meet was held, only two athletes from Cloquet qualified for the state meet: Olivia Jameson and Nathan Genereau. Coaches are looking forward to next year, when track will have three classes at state instead of two.

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On June 28, county commissioners approved a $2.066 million bid for a new hangar at the airport, along with a bid for $660,000 to relocate and upgrade the fuel system. The majority of the costs are being covered by federal and state grants; there are fees for use of the fuel system. When the project was originally announced in 2020, the estimated cost was closer to $1.5 million. Of that cost, $1.2 million was covered by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Opportunity Zone program, along with $291,718 in state funds and $14,464 in local money.

July

In a normal year, the oppressive heat over the Fourth of July weekend may have kept people home or at the lake. But 2021 isn't a normal year. We are free to go about our community business as the Covid-19 pandemic eases. And as the temperature gauge rose into the mid-90s

Sunday, people kept flocking to downtown Cloquet for the 11 a.m. parade. Not everyone made

it through the entire lineup, seeking shade here and there or some other cooldown. Because of a lack of vaccinations for children, events at Veterans Park did not take place. It's questionable

how long the young could have withstood the heat after the withering parade experience. Water bearers were the unofficial heroes of the parade. The grand marshals were health care workers.

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Sixth District judge Robert Macaulay, 64, will retire Aug. 31. Macaulay served as a Carlton County judge since he was appointed in February 1995 by Gov. Arne Carlson, winning elections in 1996, 2002, 2008, 2014 and 2020. Prior to his appointment, he served as an assistant Carlton County attorney from 1984 through 1995.

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Nancy Klassen, longtime finance director for the city of Cloquet, is retiring. Her last day will be Sept. 30. "I already tried to tell her no. That didn't work," city administrator Tim Peterson

joked with council members during the July 6 council meeting. Klassen won numerous accounting awards for her work for the city of Cloquet and the Cloquet Area Fire District.

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Elk could soon be roaming Carlton County again, as a result of a longtime effort by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The Band has submitted a proposal to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to expand the state's elk numbers and range by moving 100-150 elk from existing herds in northwest Minnesota to the area of the Fond du Lac Reservation and Fond du Lac State Forest in Carlton and southern St. Louis counties.

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The Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College graduated this month every single student who enrolled in the law enforcement training program two years ago. The students made it through the difficult program and faced other challenges from Covid-19 and the rethinking around the use of police in light of the turmoil across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Some also lost jobs and housing while training.

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Gordy Lundquist, founder with wife Marilyn of the legendary Gordy's Hi-Hat restaurant, passed away July 6 at the age of 93. He was home in Florida with Marilyn by his side. The couple started the popular seasonal restaurant in 1960. A public memorial was held on the restaurant grounds in September.

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Sam Kavanaugh, a 2009 Carlton grad who recently won the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, will have the seat of honor as grand marshal of the Carlton Daze parade July 25.

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A tiny Carlton County department gained national recognition for work it did to limit person-to-person contact during vaccination clinics held during the pandemic. Geographic Information System coordinator Jared Hovi and GIS specialist Siona Roberts were awarded the prestigious Special Achievement in GIS award for their work creating a digital tracking system for residents wishing to be vaccinated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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In the wake of the pandemic when substitute teachers were in short supply, Cloquet school board members approved raising the daily pay for substitute teachers to $150 a day, up from $116 a day. Other schools in the county have raised their rates as well.

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After three glorious days of perfect weather, Hermantown's Taylor Sundbom emerged as the champion of the 90th annual Cloquet Invitational golf tournament July 10, shooting a total three-under par. It was the fourth time Sundboom has won the tournament hosted by the Cloquet Country Club. Recent high school state champion and Cloquet star Sam Baker finished two strokes back.

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After missing last summer due to the pandemic, a new version of an annual Christian music

festival will return to Cloquet's Veterans Park on Aug. 14. The Wood City Music Festival will now be known as the Wood City Worship Festival and will focus on worship and prayer along with music.

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Jay Shogren played in Cloquet July 17 more than 40 years after his last performance

Here. "I'm pretty sure the last time I played was at the Golden Gate on New Year's Eve 1979-1980," said Shogren, a 1976 Cloquet grad. He found a spot in his schedule between tour dates. The Nobel Prize-winning environmental economist turned to music in his 50s.

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The St. Louis River is still running, but it's the lowest Minnesota Power's Chris Rousseau has seen since around 2005. "Right now we're about 7 feet below what we consider a normal-high pond," Rousseau said of the Thomson Reservoir, where the water has receded substantially,

leaving beaches of drying mud and docks that serve no boats. National Weather Service meteorologist Ketzel Levens said the St. Louis River is measuring 2.23 feet in Scanlon, down from a high in April of 8 feet. The overall average for the past year is about 4 feet. After an especially wet August and fall season, the drought in the area subsided.

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The Pine Knot had a July 30 story on a new twist in policing. Thanks to a state grant, social

worker Troy Homstad from the Human Development Center is working with four law enforcement agencies: the Cloquet, Fond du Lac and Moose Lake police departments, along with the Carlton County Sheriff's Office. Homstad has been working out of an office at the Cloquet Police Department since April.

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The Superior City Council voted July 20 to support the transfer of burial lands on Wisconsin Point to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The strip of land was once home to a vibrant Ojibwe community and represents the end of the Ojibwe migration story. At least seven generations were laid to rest at a cemetery on Wisconsin Point.

August

Carlton County will be bustling with activity early this month with Esko Fun Days, the Honey Bee Festival, Wrenshall Brickyard Days, and Ma & Pa Kettle Days all coming back after last year's Covid cancellations.

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Demand is high in Minnesota for $100 vaccine incentives, prompting the state to set aside even more money for the program. As of Aug. 10, more than 30,000 people had applied for the bonus for getting an initial Covid-19 shot between the end of July and the middle of this month. That exhausted the $2.5 million that Gov. Tim Walz had put toward the incentive.

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After being canceled last year due to Covid-19, the Carlton County fair was back for four days through Sunday, Aug. 22. It was busy.

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Fall sports were a go in mid-August as practices began for county teams. There were a few hiccups and cancellations due to Covid-19 cases but the seasons went along as well as could be expected. It was a bit of normal returned to school districts.

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A bit of history burned in a training fire on Aug. 14. The nondescript wooden two-story apartment building on Cloquet's Dunlap Island was a 1918 fire survivor. According to the "Stories of a Century" book on Cloquet's history, former owner Glenn Stone said the apartment building was constructed in 1890 as a hotel and tavern. It survived the 1918 fire, but 20 or 30 years later was set on fire on two different times by the same girl, who apparently didn't like living there, or so the story goes. Stone bought the building to use as a warehouse and then decided to remodel it as an apartment building. Its condition declined in recent years and early this summer the last tenant moved out.

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County fire departments assisted in fighting the large Greenwood Fire in Lake County alongside departments from across northern Minnesota. The largest forest fire in Minnesota in 10 years, it was sparked by lightning and detected on Aug. 15 about 40 miles north of Two Harbors. It wasn't controlled until September. It burned 26,797 acres, or more than 41 square miles, and destroyed 15 homes and cabins and more than 50 sheds and outbuildings.

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A petition circulating in the Wrenshall school district asks that an appointment to the school board made Aug. 16 be blocked. The hasty vote-in of Bill Dian to replace new school principal Michelle Blanchard - made with no discussion among board members - rankled enough people with its lack of transparency to get the petition going. Such petitions are allowed under state law and it caused the board to make a new choice in October.

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With Covid-19 infections ramping up but no state of emergency in Minnesota or nationally, decisions on how to keep kids safe at school this fall have been left up to local school boards. Masks have become controversial, with some residents asking boards to simply recommend rather than require them, while others say they won't send their unvaccinated children to school if they aren't required. Districts across the county applied various remedies, some going with masks and others not. By the end of the year, most schools went to mask-wearing policies when case numbers triggered the change.

 
 

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