Sandy Josephson of the SPMH was in a festive mood during the Old-Fashioned Christmas in the Opera Hall on Saturday.

Opera Hall Old-Fashioned Christmas is No. 1 feature

For the first time in many years, the Opera Hall above the historic Big Store building, now the public library, brought many people together for an "Old-Fashioned Christmas".
The Opera Hall, which was used for many of the town's events years ago, was decorated for the holidays and offered refreshments for the many people who attended.
It was rewarding to see the Opera Hall used for a community event again. It formerly was used for plays, musicals, bands, basketball games, roller skating, social parties, meetings and much more.
The Society for the Preservation of Minneota's Heritage (SPMH) did a terrific job hosting the event and received many compliments from those attending.
"We hope that this was the first annual Old-Fashioned Christmas," said SPMH President Wendy Sarazyn.
Those attending the event participated in a sing-a-long, made holiday crafts, had Christmas and had photos taken, and listened to instrumental and vocal music. There was a hot chocolate bar, as well as apple cider, bars, cookies and snacks.

Perhaps one feature story that generated the most interest and comments came following an Outside Looking In column discussed a story that happened on March 29, 1946 about three elementary-aged boys skipping school in Minneota to "see the world" with only a flashlight, a few coins in their pockets, a Bible and a jar of pickles. We labeled them the Pickle Boys, although we did not know their identity.
After the Mascot did much research and made numerous phone calls, the identities of these boys were discovered. The boys, 9 and 10 years old at the time, were Walt Gislason, Jon Gunderson, and Robert "Buzz" Lovell.
The boys planned to walk or hitch-hike to Canby by nightfall, and then set out for North Dakota the following morning.
Gunderson, now living in Ottertail in northern Minneota, read the column and contacted the Mascot.
"We weren't really running away from home," he said. "We were ust exploring."
Gislason, who passed away recently, was contacted at his home in Maple Grove and joked "Those were the glory days. We just decided to walk one day to see how far we got."
We were unable to contact Lovell, whose father, Robert Lovell Sr. was the superintendent of Minneota Public Schools during the time the boys skipped school.
A woman in Porter invited the boys into her home and then called the school to report that they were safe.

Jackie Skillings, who taught for many years at St. Edward's School, passed away unexpectedly in 2020. To memorialize her, the school secured a location behind the school that they called "The Jackie Skillings Garden Area.= in a ceremony on July 24.
A plaque affixed to a fence surrounding the reading area included a plaque with Skillings' photo and a a little history about her. There was also a large Adirondack chair with a plaque that reads: "Jackie Skillings, Teacher, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Friend."
"Jackie was an avid reader and she really wanted the kids she taught to be readers, too," said her husband, Joel. "She valued reading. This was a really nice thing they did for her."
Two benches are also dedicated in her memory with a small plaque on each one with the inscription "You will never be forgotten."
During the same ceremony, the late Jane Hennen was also honored with three memory benches. Several of her grandchildren attended St. Edward School.

Mitzi Buckingham maintained a sense of positivity despite being diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer and stage-4 colon cancer. The two cancers are unrelated to one another.
"I'm going to keep fighting the beast," she said in a confident voice. "I've never been angry at God or anyone. I've had a wonderful life. I've had wonderful parents. I have a wonderful husband, kids and grandkids. I have wonderful friends. And I have Jesus."
The friends she referred to are "Mitzi's Prayer Warriors", which consist of family members and friends who have supported her throughout her ordeal and are fundraising to defray medical costs.
Buckingham graduated from Minneota High School in 1980. Buckingham continued to battle the beast throughout 2021 and has passed 50 rounds of chemotherapy. Yet, she continues to stay positive despite several setbacks. She has attended as many of her grandchildren's events as she can.
"I'm going to do everything in my power to keep fighting the best," she repeated.
Mitzi and her husband, Scott, have been married for 38 years now.
"It's been tough on him, too," she said. "But he's always there for me. He's been great."

The Minneota Area Mission Group embarked on another "Helping Hands" journey, this time to Mississippi where they assisted homeowners with various projects and repairs.
The group makes a mission trip every other year to help those less fortunate in other parts of the country. This marked the fourth mission trip in the last eight years for the Minneota kids and adult chaperones.
"I went on the last two mission trips and they were great learning experiences," said Chloe Davis. "It helps you see the world from a different angle, and helping people who need the help is amazing."
While in Mississippi, the 25 kids and eight chaperones performed such duties as re-shingling the roof of a home, replacing a subfloor, sheet-rocking, painting inside and outside a home, organizing a warehouse, installing a wheelchair ramp, and much more.
"The kids are amazing," said Terri Myhre, who coordinates the mission trips. "There is no whining or complaining. Everyone pitches in and does their part. I can't say enough good things about the kids."

Charlie Pesch, owner and operator of Big Dipper Honey in Minneota, travels to Texas twice a year to bring his colonies of bees to a warmer climate to pollinate and multiply, and then to bring them back to his home in town to harvest the honey from the hives.
A devastating winter storm in Texas left many people without food, water or electricity. Pesch wanted to help the people there so he loaded up his flatbed truck with provisions, including food, water and supplies.
Pesch donated $400 of his own money and after posting a message on Facebook, donations poured in. By the time Pesch left Minneota on February 21, donations have climbed to over $4,000.
The city Pesch brought the provisions to was Naples, Texas, a small town with a population of 1,310, close to the same size as Minneota. He left the food and supplies at a local food shelf.
Many of the monetary donations were spent locally for food, water and supplies, including $1,000 worth of items at Brad's Market. Store owner Brad Minnehan gave Pesch the supplies at cost. Bolt's Lake Benton Grocery store donated a carload of food, water and supplies.

Minneota 2014 graduates Joshua Bot and Tanner Thooft were among three seminarians of the Diocese of New Ulm who were ordained to the transitional diaconate on June 5 in New Ulm.
Those two, along with Nathan Hansen of Darwin, were ordained by Bishop Emeritus John M. LeVoir at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. All three students attend the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.
Bot and Thooft's home church is St. Edward's in Minneota. Bot is the son of Deacon Bruce and Juanita Bot. Thooft is the son of Scott and Deb Thooft of Lynd.
"Similar to Tanner, I thought about priesthood the summer around second grade," Bot said. "But I didn't really know that it was God asking me to do it until the end of my third year of seminary at age 21."
Approximately one third of those who enter the seminary become priests.
Thooft and Bot admittedly were apprehensive at first about making such a powerful decision on their life.
"My greatest fear was that I was going to lose all of what I thought made me who I am," Thooft said. "I was going to have to give up my love of farming. However, God showed me that I was not going to lose who I am, but that he led all the people who had made this impact on my life."

Minneota resident Chris Swoboda has spent 27 years of active duty in the Minnesota National Guards. Recently, the Minneota resident was promoted to Sergeant Major (E-9), the highest ranking a member of the National Guards can achieve.
Swoboda is currently based out of Montevideo where the 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery (1-151) FA) headquarters are located.
The members of Swoboda's 1-151 FA battalion are prepared to support the State of Minnesota with troops capable of assisting in a disaster.
"When we are on call, there are some National Guard members already in the Twin Cities to provide security and other things. If things get out of hand and a lot of people gather to protest, they might call and tell us they need 100 Guards to come and help."
Swoboda has done three federal deployments. His first was to Bosnia in 2002-03, and to Kuwait in 2009-10 and 2018-19.

Mike and Dawn Vlaminck, along with 10 youth from St. Edward's Church, embarked on a pilgrimage to Colorado from July 14-18.
The youth that took part were Natalie Bach, Kaci Callens, Kate Hennen, Lane Loyson, Kaitlyn Ludwikowski, Halle Pederson, Georgia Rabaey, Maddy Van Keulen, Joe Verschelde and Dylan Vlaminck.
Dawn teaches a ninth-grade religious education class at St. Edward's and decided to take the kids to a pilgrimage to Colorado last year. It turned out so successful that they went again this year.
"My hope for this pilgrimage is that our youth realize that sometimes we need to take a rest from our busy schedules," Dawn said. "So, we chose a place where we can hear God talking to us and show us what His plan is for us."
The group arrived in Golden, CO on the first day where they visited Xavier Cabrini's Shrine, a Catholic shrine where people to pray and explore.
They also visited Saint Catherine of Sienna's Chapel on the Rock, went hiking and river rafting, and had prayer time.

Dan "Peanuts" Kloos still has fireman's blood running through his veins. After all, he spent 27 years as a volunteer fireman at St. Leo, including his last 10 years as Fire Chief.
Because the personable Kloos wanted to give something back to the fireman, he purchased a 1948 white GMC pumper truck from the City of Canby and has decorated with decals of the Peanuts comic strip to reflect his nickname. The front door of the truck has a decal of Snoopy with the words "Peanuts Fire Brigade" under it.
His plan is to use the truck to carry the coffins of former fire fighters from the area to show respect and gratitude to that profession.
"Any towns around here can use it," he said proudly.
When Kloos won a bid for the truck during an auction, he had it towed home and, with the help of many others, including his son Austin, and got it running again.
"It was originally green," Kloos noted. "The Canby Fire Department had it painted white when they were using it."

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