Rochester shows it’s colors with fireworks

 

Silver Lake Park in Rochester, Minnesota, minutes before the Fourth of July fireworks display (Photo by Chad Smith)

Silver Lake Park in Rochester, Minnesota, minutes before the Fourth of July fireworks display (Photo by Chad Smith)

Rochester, Minnesota, held it’s annual fireworks display at SilverLake Park on Friday night to celebrate the Fourth of July.  Hundreds of people turned out and lined up all the way around the park to watch the 30-minute display.  This was far and away one of the best fireworks displays I’ve seen in a long time.  The sonic booms were so loud you could hear car alarms triggered several blocks away.  The display could be seen for many blocks in any direction, and people lined parking lots and their own front yards to watch the fireworks go off.

Silver Lake Park in Rochester, Minnesota (photo by Chad Smith)

Silver Lake Park in Rochester, Minnesota (photo by Chad Smith)

Monique and Kieran Smith waiting by Silver Lake for the Friday night fireworks display in Rochester, Minnesota  (photo by Chad Smith)

Monique and Kieran Smith waiting by Silver Lake for the Friday night fireworks display in Rochester, Minnesota (photo by Chad Smith)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a clip of some of the action on Friday night:

 

 

 

Propane supply replenishing after a rough winter

 

 

Did you know that propane is a key fuel in the United States, as it heats over six millionPropane pic 2 homes in the winter?  According to philly.com, it’s vital to American farms as well, because it runs grain dryers after a wet fall harvest season, and it keeps livestock barns all over the country warm too.

According to reuters.com, propane is becoming a key component on the nation’s farms at the other end of the growing season.  After finishing spring planting, more and more farmers are using propane to power their irrigation equipment, and they’re having success doing it.  Farmers are reporting a significant decline in the amount of fuel they need, which in turn saves them a lot on their overall cost of fuel.

However, philly.com reports that after a brutal winter in the Midwest and Northeast USA, there are questions about the supply of propane.  Despite the fact that the nation produces more propane than it can consume domestically, there was a big shortage of propane during the winter heating season.  The shortage was so bad, 30 states declared emergencies, and loosened certain trucking restrictions on propane deliveries from other areas.  Governments boosted heating aid to low-income residents, and propane dealers were forced to ration the fuel.

Several factors contributed to the shortage.  Field to Field talked with a couple gentlemen who are deeply involved in the propane industry.  Mark Leitman is the Director of Marketing and Business Development for the Propane Education and Research Council, and Phil Smith is the lead energy salesman for the Aurora Cooperative in Nebraska.  They both called last winter a “perfect storm” for the propane industry, and feel the supply will be enough for next winter, and in the years ahead.

 

A farmer works on a propane irrigator engine (Photo from Alexis Abel, Public Relations Council at Swanson Russell)

A farmer works on a propane irrigator engine (Photo from Alexis Abel, Public Relations Council at Swanson Russell)

 

 

 

 

 

The Rochester Farmer’s Market is up and running

“If you stop at the Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market, chances are good you won’t need to hit the grocery store to fill out your shopping list,” said Dave Kotsonas, the Market Manager at the Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market.  “If it’s in season in Minnesota gardens and farm fields, you’ll find it at the Farmer’s Market.”

The Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from 7:30am to Noon at the corner of 4th Avenue SE and 4th Street, featuring produce and so much more (Photo by Chad Smith/Full Sail University)

The Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from 7:30am to Noon at the corner of 4th Avenue SE and 4th Street, featuring produce and so much more (Photo by Chad Smith/Full Sail University)

The Market is open Saturday mornings from 7:30 until noon at the corner of Fourth Avenue Southeast and Fourth Street in Rochester. It operates rain or shine, until the last Saturday in October.  The Market will be expanding hours of operation and locations in June, so check out the website for a complete schedule breakdown.

The goal of the Farmer’s Market is to support sustainable agriculture and the family farm by providing a well-organized retail marketplace for farmers to sell their goods, and thereby improve the relationship between farmers and the non-rural community.

In addition to the edible products, you’ll find a wide variety of craft items.  At different times of the season, you could see things like dried flower and plant arrangements, spun sheep’s wool and woven wool rugs, dried gourd art, wooden toys and whirligigs, goat’s milk soup, and even beeswax candles.

Readers in a Minneapolis Star Tribune reader’s poll chose the Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market as the 2014 Farmer’s Market of the Year.

Here are a few of the sounds of the Farmer’s Market:

Sounds of the Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market from Chad Smith on Vimeo.

 

The Rochester Honkers beat Eau Claire 7-1 in Northwoods League baseball

Over 1,500 baseball fans showed up to see the Rochester Honkers beat the Eau Claire Express by a 7-1 score in Northwoods League baseball on Friday night in Rochester.

Over 1,500 people begin filling up the seats at Mayo Field in Rochester, where the hometown Honkers beat Eau Claire 7-1 on Friday night in Northwoods Leage baseball (Photo by Chad Smith)

Over 1,500 people begin filling up the seats at Mayo Field in Rochester, where the hometown Honkers beat Eau Claire 7-1 on Friday night in Northwoods Leage baseball (Photo by Chad Smith)

The team managers meet the umpires to exchange lineups before the Honkers beat the Express 7-1 on Friday night at Mayo Field in Rochester (Photo by Chad Smith)

The team managers meet the umpires to exchange lineups before the Honkers beat the Express 7-1 on Friday night at Mayo Field in Rochester (Photo by Chad Smith)

After a scoreless first inning, the hometown Honkers erupted for five runs in the bottom of the second to open up an early lead.  Jeff Campbell drove in a run with a double to left field, and Alex Schultz came up with the biggest hit of the game, a bases loaded double to center field that drove in three.  Schultz, the Honkers centerfielder, went two for four on the night, upping his season average to .353, and scored a run as well. Right-hander Spencer Greer got the start on the mound for Rochester, pitching the first six innings without allowing a run.  Greer, a six-six hard thrower, allowed only three Express hits, striking out four, and walking one.  Greer got the win in his first start of the season, and Ryan Fritze went the last three innings, picking up his first save of the season

Righthander Spencer Greer threw six scoreless innings, helping the Rochester Honkers beat Eau Claire 7-1 on Friday night at Mayo Field (Photo by Chad Smith)

Righthander Spencer Greer threw six scoreless innings, helping the Rochester Honkers beat Eau Claire 7-1 on Friday night at Mayo Field (Photo by Chad Smith).

The only Eau Claire run came in the top of the seventh inning on a solo homerun by Express first baseman Tyler Hermann off of Fritze. Right-handed pitcher Andy Davis got the start for Eau Claire, and was roughed up in only two innings of work.  Davis gave up five runs, all earned, on only four hits. Many of the Rochester fans stuck around after the game for a postgame fireworks show at Mayo Field.

Rochester’s Alex Schultz awaits the first pitch to open Friday night’s game against Eau Claire in Northwoods League baseball.  Schultz went 2-4, with 3 rbi’s and a run scored, helping the Honkers beat the Express 7-1 on Friday night in Rochester (Photo by Chad Smith)

Rochester’s Alex Schultz awaits the first pitch to open Friday night’s game against Eau Claire in Northwoods League baseball. Schultz went 2-4, with 3 rbi’s and a run scored, helping the Honkers beat the Express 7-1 on Friday night in Rochester (Photo by Chad Smith)

Rochester Honkers mascot Slider entertains the crowd during a Rochester win over the Eau Claire Express 7-1 on Friday night in Northwoods League baseball (Photo by Chad Smith)

Rochester Honkers mascot Slider entertains the crowd during a Rochester win over the Eau Claire Express 7-1 on Friday night in Northwoods League baseball (Photo by Chad Smith)

Rochester Manager Matt Bowman, in his first year as bench boss for the team, spoke after the game about a solid 7-1 win by his squad:

Honker Highlights from Chad Smith on Vimeo.

Politics takes a toll on a Wabasha County Commissioner

“Politics is a blood sport,” according to Aneurin Bevan, a Welsh Labor Party leader in the post-World War 1 United Kingdom.  Deb Roschen of Zumbro Falls, Minnesota, is a District 2, Wabasha County Commissioner who’s been involved in the blood sport on a local level.

Wabasha County, Mn, District 2 Commissioner Deb Roschen (photo from  County Commissioners website)

Wabasha County, Mn, District 2 Commissioner Deb Roschen (photo from County Commissioners website)

“When we, the people, look the other way, we get the government we deserve,” said Deb.  Four years as a county commissioner will come to an end on December 31 of this year, and she’s not sure if the ramifications will ever end for her, and for her family.

Roschen first became interested in politics after her conversion to Christianity, and she developed a passion for moral issues, especially as government affects them.  Her first foray into politics was as a campaign worker for conservative politicians.

She then took the leap into local politics, winning election to the Wabasha County Commission board in 2010.  She said it didn’t take long for her to begin finding things she didn’t like.

“About three months into my first term, I began to turn over stones, looking for answers to questions,” she said.  “I’d ask for information because I like to fact-check things.  I wanted to be sure things were right, and I was learning, which I figured was the right thing to do as a new commissioner.”

Deb said, “I’d ask for more information.  I’d ask why do we do that, or where does this come from.”  She said, “They didn’t want me to know answers to my questions, because then, the curtain gets pulled back on how government is really working.”  That’s when the stonewalling began.

“I’d either not get the information, or I’d feel like I was getting the runaround,” said Roschen.  “I’d wonder if I was getting the full story, and my B.S. indicator was going off.  At that point, I realized that if I wanted answers, I was on my own.”  She said the last three-and-one-half years have found her at the computer every weekend, doing research on the questions she wanted answers to.

“When I’d bring the information I found into Board meetings, I’d say wait a minute, this is what I found,” said Roschen.  “Then, they got mad.”

Deb’s questioning of county government led to an effort to recall her election in November of 2011.  Keep in mind; Roschen had been on the County board for less than one year.

An article in the Winona Daily News website detailed some of the accusations that were filed against Roschen.  They included overstepping her authority, attempting to circumvent open meeting and data practices law, and conflicts with various county employees.  The article does note that the accusations are based on disputed minutes that were kept by County Administrator David Johnson, who the board ultimately fired from his job in late 2011, in what was then called a move to reduce the size of government.

The four-month recall effort ultimately failed, according to another article in the Winona Daily News.   The Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed the recall effort in late February.  Chief Justice Lori Gildea wrote in a court order that the charges against Roschen did not amount to “malfeasance in office.”  Gildea wrote that some allegations failed to show that Roschen “willfully” exceeded her authority, and others didn’t meet the specificity standards to force a recall.

Röschen was involved in a couple different lightning-rod issues in Wabasha County, first as a resident, and the second as a county commissioner.

A copy of the letter from the State Auditor’s Office telling Wabasha County the jail facilty would soon close down (Photo from Deb Roschen)

A copy of the letter from the State Auditor’s Office telling Wabasha County the jail facilty would soon close down (Photo from Deb Roschen)

According to an article in the Rochester Post-Bulletin, The Minnesota Department of Corrections informed Wabasha County that it’s jail would no longer be allowed to continue operations after 2007.   The facility was built in 1916, and in 2003, was authorized to hold no more than 14 prisoners at a given time.  At the time, that meant other inmates had to be held at another county facility, and Wabasha had to foot that bill.

The County held listening sessions and public forums for ideas on how to finance and build a new justice center.  The cost and scope of the new building was another lightning rod for countywide controversy.

In January 2007, the County Board authorized a Minneapolis-based architectural firm to proceed with building a new facility that was expected to cost no more than 25 million dollars.  A citizen group called Concerned Citizens for Wabasha County distributed fliers encouraging residents to turn out for listening sessions, and push for a new building that would cost no more than 7 to 8 million dollars.

The County board authorized the architectural firm to proceed with the project on a unanimous vote in April 2007.  The Concerned Citizens group circulated a petition, asking Commissioners to reduce the cost of the facility, which they termed as a “fortress to honor tyrants, and a palace for criminals.”  The petition drive was unsuccessful, as the Board proceeded with the project, which they called a “Chevrolet, and not a Cadillac,” and the new facility opened in 2009.

The controversy over the new jail facility was the catalyst that inspired Roschen’s tumultuous foray into county politics, and she was elected in 2010 to a four-year term.

After “turning over stones” in the first three months of her term, Roschen began to question the validity of the driver diversion program run by Wabasha County law enforcement.

The County law enforcement had operated a “safe-driving” program since 2003, in which drivers cited for some traffic offenses to pay a flat 125-dollar fee to take a class and maintain a clean record.  The problem was whose coffers the money went into.

According to the kstp.com website, the county had been keeping all of the money it earned from the program, instead of giving the state a cut like it would if violators had been issued a ticket and paid a fine.

 

Despite an opinion from the Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and the State Auditor Patricia Anderson calling the report illegal, Wabasha County continued the program until a group of citizens from Wabasha County filed suit to stop the program.  Commissioner Roschen was among the group that filed suit.  The mprnews.com website reported that Minnesota Third Judicial District Court Judge James Fabian issued a permanent injunction stopping the program in early January 2014.  KSTP.com filed a report after the decision was announced:

The group’s attorney, Eric Kaardal, was quoted on mprnews.org as saying the Judge made the right decision.  “People who were pulled over for traffic violations in Wabasha County were being offered an illegal alternative to a ticket,” he said.  “They were shaking down people rather than giving them tickets in order to fund their own county programs.”

“I hope this wakes people up,” said Roschen.  “The rule of law says Safe Driving (program) is illegal, but not in Wabasha County.”  She said, “We justify our behavior by the end means.  We need money in our county, therefore, it’s okay to run this scheme.”  She called it Robin Hood behavior.  “It’s okay to take from people, as long as you think you’re doing good with that money.”

She said her effort to “do the right thing” has produced negative fallout:

 

Attack ad aimed at Roschen, which ran in the Rochester Post-Bulletin, funded by Mn Teamsters and Law Enforcement Employees Union (Photo from Deb Roschen)

Attack ad aimed at Roschen, which ran in the Rochester Post-Bulletin, funded by Mn Teamsters and Law Enforcement Employees Union (Photo from Deb Roschen)

In addition to her private data being scanned over and over, her husband Jim and daughter Meagan had their private data accessed many times too.  She said that’s not legal:

 

 

Roschen said her family has to live with the knowledge that their private data is out there, and can be accessed by anyone who might want to hurt their family.

An Op-Ed Piece in the Wabasha County Herald, written by Editor Mike Smith (article provided by Deb Roschen)

An Op-Ed Piece in the Wabasha County Herald, written by Editor Mike Smith (article provided by Deb Roschen)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The political fallout has hurt their extended family too:

 

 

What has she learned from the last four years of turmoil:

 

 

She said, “I had to learn a costly lesson, but I’m a better person for having gone through the last four years.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stearns County outdoorsman honored for 30 years of conservation efforts

Mel Roehrl and his family (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Mel Roehrl and his family (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

87-year-old Mel Roehrl’s voice dripped with emotion as he recalled one of the biggest moments of his life. “Honored, humbled, and tearful,” he said. Mel had no idea that work he began almost 30 years ago would result in something that would outlast him, and be here for future generations long after he said goodbye to this life and moved on to the next.

Mel is an outdoorsman, and has a love affair with the outdoors that began at an early age:

 

His love of hunting led to a greater enjoyment of being outdoors, and that passion for the outdoors has grown and changed over the years too:

 

Roehrl was a 22-year veteran of the Stearns County Volunteer Fire Department, but had to step away as it began to interfere with his full-time job. However, after some much-needed time at home, Mel began to get restless. An avid hunter since childhood, Roehrl’s ears perked up when he heard about a local meeting involving hunting, and the ringneck pheasant. That combination was all it took to give him some post-volunteer fire department direction. Mel Roehrl met Pheasants Forever for the first time, and the rest was history:

 

After keeping a promise to his family, Mel needed an outlet for some restless energy, and his love of the outdoors was the perfect catalyst to get him back out into the wilds again:

 

The Stearns County Pheasants Forever chapter was born, and took off shortly thereafter. Only the ninth chapter in the nation when it was born, the Stearns County Pheasants Forever organization has purchased 34 plots of land with the money it raised, and added more than 4,700 acres to Minnesota’s Wildlife Management Areas and the Waterfowl Production Areas.

For 30 years, Mel worked hard to conserve our natural resources and the outdoors, and did so at an age when most would be content to sit on the sidelines. Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota DNR honored Mel by naming a 300-plus acre Wildlife Management Area after him. Eran Sandquist is the northern Regional Representative for Pheasants Forever, and said Mel is truly deserving of the honor:

Joe Duggan, Pheasants Forever Vice President of Corporate Relations, speaks at the Mel Roehrl WMA dedication (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Joe Duggan, Pheasants Forever Vice President of Corporate Relations, speaks at the Mel Roehrl WMA dedication (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

 

Mel was a giant in outdoor conservation for three decades, and Sandquist said the Wildlife Management Area would continue that work for generations to come:

 

Mel Roehrl and the sign that will bear his name on the Wildlife Management Area, dedicated in his honor on May 8, 2014 (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Mel Roehrl and the sign that will bear his name on the Wildlife Management Area, dedicated in his honor on May 8, 2014 (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

 

After a lifetime of working and playing in the outdoors, Mel came up with his favorite saying, “If you go hunting with your boys, you won’t have to go hunting for your boys.” Mel looked back on a lifetime of being in the outdoors with friends and his family:

 

The Mel Roehrl Wildlife Management Area will benefit the environment for generations to come (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

The Mel Roehrl Wildlife Management Area will benefit the environment for generations to come (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Mel’s love of the outdoors, perfectly captured on the back of the Wildlife Management Area sign (photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Mel’s love of the outdoors, perfectly captured on the back of the Wildlife Management Area sign (photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

 

 

 

 

 

SE Minnesota farmers struggling with second straight year of planting delays

Time is getting short for SE Mn farmers to get their crops in the ground (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Time is getting short for SE Mn farmers to get their crops in the ground (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Farmers in southeast Minnesota had a tough 2013 season, and it started right away in the spring.  After a long, cold winter, spring saw continued cold temperatures, heavy rain, and a freak snowstorm in early May that the National Weather Service office in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, called a “historic event.”

Planting Wet Spring

Farmers in SE Minnesota are seeing their share of wet fields this spring (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Turning the calendar forward to 2014, Lisa Behnken of the University of Minnesota Extension office in Rochester told farmers in the area to forget about last year.  Unfortunately, that’s been hard for farmers to do as this spring looks a lot like last year, with colder-than-normal temperatures, and excess rainfall.  In fact, KTTC Television called April one of the “wettest ever,” in the Rochester area.

Lisa Behnken of the University of Minnesota Extension Service in Rochester, Minnesota (Photo from Extension website http://r.umn.edu/academics-research/extension/staff/UMR_EXTENSION_STAFF_L_BEHNKEN.html)

Lisa Behnken of the University of Minnesota Extension Service in Rochester, Minnesota (Photo from Extension website

Behnken talked about planting progress so far in 2014.  She said there has been more progress than last year, but not a lot:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farmers hope their planters will get moving in their fields sooner rather than later (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Farmers hope their planters will get moving in their fields sooner rather than later (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Farmers need sunshine and warm temps to get their seeds planted (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Farmers need sunshine and warm temps to get their seeds planted (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

The Rochester Beacon Academy is aiming for the fall of 2015

Beacon Final Cut from Chad Smith on Vimeo.

The Rochester Beacon Academy of Rochester, Minnesota, is aiming for a fall, 2015 start. The Academy is a charter school, which means it falls in the public school category. However, the curriculum will be a little different from the norm.

The school will feature things like smaller classroom sizes, more structure in the daily schedule, smaller numbers of students in the hallways in between classes for easier transitions, and more individualized attention for each student. According to pathfindersforautism.org, this may be the perfect setting for children diagnosed under the autism spectrum. These children require much more structure in the learning environment, with a lot of routine in how material is presented. They also like small class sizes, require help with social skills, and need lots of individual attention. All of these requirements are part of the intended curriculum at the Academy.

According to webmd.com, no child under the autism spectrum will learn the same ways as others will. In fact, the Academy will offer different options for students, such as those who need to be up and moving will be allowed to do things like squeezing stress balls, just to get some of their “wiggles out.”

While the Rochester Beacon Academy may be a good fit for students under the autism spectrum, anyone who wants to attend the Academy may do so. No diagnosis of any kind is required to attend the school.

Small Dog Rescue is saving the smallest of man’s best friend

The dosomething.org website wants you to know that homeless pets outnumber homeless people by a 5-to1 margin. In fact, they say that only 1 out of every 10 dogs born in this country will find a suitable home. Small Dog Rescue in Rochester, Minnesota is doing something to combat stray dogs, especially the smallest ones.

Small Dog Rescue is committed to the rescue, rehabilitation, and placement of dogs twenty pounds and under. Most of the animals surrendered by their owners. Reasons vary, but most of the time the owners simply can’t care for their animals anymore. A good example would be a senior citizen who’s entering a retirement home, and can’t have pets there. Small Dog Rescue would rather take the animals in than see them simply let loose on the street to fend for themselves.

Surrendered pets are then placed with fosters, who care for the animals until a suitable adoptive home can be found. The adoption process is rather extensive, but the sole purpose is to match each dog with the right home, so the match is enjoyable for the animal and for it’s new owners too.

Homewardtrails.org estimates it costs American taxpayers roughly 2 billion dollars each year to round up, house, kill, and dispose of homeless animals. Small Dog Rescue is doing what it can to reduce the burden on taxpayers, and at the same time, trying to bring happiness and love to the smallest types of man’s best friend.

Minnesota Children’s Museum offers little ones the Inventors Workshop

The Inventors Workshop from Chad Smith on Vimeo.

The Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester, Minnesota, believes that children can learn to love learning at an early age. The Museum offers a program called the “Inventors Workshop.” It’s targeted at kids in their preschool years, which experts say are key years at getting kids started on a path toward successful learning.

The Museum sets up supplies in it’s art room, and children are let loose to create what they will. There’s no limit except how far a child’s imagination can take them. They are free to create whatever they like, using the scissors, pencils, crayons, colored paper, and other raw materials.

It may look like the children are just playing with things, but the parents.com website says it may look like fun and games, but there’s an intense amount of brainwork going on. Young children learn through play and creative activity, so as they assemble the raw materials into creations, they’re learning things like problem solving and physics.

The babycenter.com website calls play “the business of childhood.” Play allows the child free rein to experiment with the world around him, and the emotional world inside of him. While it looks like child’s play, there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes, including problem solving, skill building, and overcoming physical and mental challenges.

The Museum collects donated cardboard boxes, bottles, food containers, and different types of supplies throughout the year, and then reuse them for the art program. The Museum staff hopes visitors draw inspiration from the different exhibits and things going on around them, and will create something unique.