William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009.
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ST. PAUL PARK— Live music and dance are on tap for this year's Stone Soup Fall Fashion and Variety Show. The annual fundraiser runs Thursday, Sept. 27, at John P. Furber Farm in Old Cottage Grove. Since it opened in 1997, the scrappy thrift store in St. Paul Park has sold or given away tons of gently used furniture, clothing and household items to the homeless and financially distressed. The shop has also attracted thrifters, those savvy fashionistas on the prowl for bargains on secondhand scarves, pants, tops and shoes.
COTTAGE GROVE — It's a long way to the top for those who aspire to country music superstardom. But for Hailey James, maybe not. In a little over a year, the Cottage Grove singer/songwriter has gone from playing local talent shows to the regional finals of a national PBS talent search that could send her to Los Angeles, and into the showbiz orbit of agents and music producers.
HASTINGS — A family of five escaped a fire that destroyed their home early Monday morning, Sept. 17 in Hastings. There were no reported injuries to civilians or firefighters. Shortly after 4 a.m., the Hastings Fire Department responded to a report of a structure fire at 7774 South St. Croix Trail Lane S. The blaze, which started in the garage, is under investigation, Hastings Fire Chief Mike Schutt said. "When we arrived the garage was fully involved and the fire had spread to the kitchen and attic," Schutt said. "It's a total loss."
When the call came in for an active structure fire, Jeremy Bourasa responded as any dedicated St. Paul Park firefighter would. He joined first responders from Cottage Grove, Newport and Woodbury to contain an ugly inferno that all but destroyed a home at Hidden Valley Terrace in Cottage Grove.
There's the lingering tang of fresh paint, but the new $72 million dollar Oltman School is an impressive facility.
WOODBURY — To aspire, you gotta perspire. No one has to tell that to the teen singer-dancers of Aspire Music Academy, as they leap and twirl in a warm rehearsal studio at Merrill Community Arts Center. Their group, Adrenaline, is one of several age-specific show choirs at the Academy.
South Washington County Schools seems to have scored well under a new, expanded set of accountability standards known as North Star. Fourteen schools in the district were recognized for significant improvements. But three schools also have been flagged for failure to measure up. They will receive varying levels of assistance. The North Star system replaces the Multiple Measurement Ratings (MMR), which relied heavily on standardized test scores such as the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) and Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS).
District 833 will start the new school year with three assistant superintendents. Kristine Schaefer, who served as the district's Equity Coordinator, will fill that role alongside assistant superintendents Julie Nielsen and Mike Johnson. "I've been involved as an equity coordinator and a lot of the district initiatives with Julie and Mike," she said. "I'm really excited to start working at different a level." Her hiring was approved by the South Washington County School Board at the Aug. 23 meeting.
Like a traveling circus, 40th annual Woodbury Days Grande Parade Sunday Aug. 26 filled the streets and sidewalks around Ojibway Park with bands, costumed characters, gymnasts, dancers, cheerleaders and floats. This year's Community Grand Marshal was the family of the late Bill Hargis. Hargis, the longest-serving mayor of Woodbury, died in April. All 110 spots in the parade sold out, according to the Woodbury Days Council, who organize the event. The following groups earned awards from a panel of independent judges: Most Entertaining: Aspire Music Academy Most Outrageous: East Ridge Robotics Best Business Representation: Central + Priority Pediatrics Spirit of Woodbury: Woodbury Community Ed Gymnastics Best Creative Royalty: Woodbury Ambassadors Judges Choice: South Washington County Marching Band Resurrection Church (Honorable Mention) Woodbury Days was held Aug. 24-26.
If pub crawls aren't your thing, you could have gone on a lemonade crawl Aug. 25 in Cottage Grove. Ten lemonade stands sprang up throughout Cottage Grove, the first city in Minnesota to host a youth education and empowerment program called Lemonade Day. Each year, youngsters around the country are encouraged to learn financial fundamentals by opening their own lemonade stand. Each child who registers receives an Entrepreneur Workbook that addresses such topics as branding, creating a budget, controlling inventory and serving customers.