Friday, July 31, 2009

Big Lemon at the Grimm County Fair

Neighborhood lemonade stands are nothing unusual.

And you’ve seen lemonade concessions in portable huts, shaped like lemons.

What you probably haven't seen is anything quite like the I Love Fruit! (ILF) lemonade stand at this year's Grimm County Fair. It’s shaped like a lemon - nothing new there - with a big porthole instead of the usual rectangular opening. And, the giant lemon is still attached to a section of stem.

It's portable: although with a main section that's 12 feet long by nine and a quarter feet wide, it needs a 'wide load' permit to go on Minnesota roads. This colossal ersatz citrus has built-in refrigeration for its stock of lemons, and air conditioning for the staff.

Loonfoot Falls native Cherrie Baum has been involved with ILF's development for over a year now. 'I'd love it if people use these at county fairs,' she explained. 'The ILF concession is probably best suited for amusement parks like Valleyfair, though, and other areas where the stand can stay in place year-round.'

The ILF stand at this year’s fair is a test-run, to see how people like it.

Each year around 30,000 people come to the Grimm County Fair to look over farm equipment, eat fried candy, enjoy the midway, and check out livestock: so the ILF stand should get a good looking-over.

Provided that Saturday and Sunday aren't like today.

About three inches of rain thoroughly washed the streets this afternoon: and kept people at the fair in the exhibit buildings.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Frustrations of a Small-Town Journalist

Daniel Nelson graduated from Loonfoot Falls High School back in 1999, got a degree in Journalism from Foggton University four years later, and started work here a couple weeks later. He did a good job: although Nelson clearly wanted to get past merely assisting the editors.

On his own time, he'd study Loonfoot Falls, looking for the story that would put his name on the journalistic map. He became convinced that there was an expose just waiting to be written about Rasmussen's department store, downtown.

There'd been a Rasmussen's in Loonfoot Falls for about a hundred years. The current owner's grandfather started the store as a clothing shop, and some of the fourth generation is working there, learning the ropes. And, as often as not, there are "SALE" signs in the windows.

Dan Nelson found the store's frequent sales quite suspicious.

After three years Nelson gave up, dropped his notes and a letter of resignation on Mr. Johnson's desk, and left town. His notes, weighing about two pounds, made their way to my desk this year. My hat's off to Dan Nelson: he'd done a particularly thorough job, not just collecting information about Rasmussen's, but analyzing the store's records.

Those sales? He'd discovered that Rasmussen's was getting the season's stock off the racks to make room for new merchandise. Not every store has sales that often, but there wasn't anything illegal, or unethical, about them.

Don't worry about Dan Nelson. He's now the editor of Morlock's Voice, down in Minneapolis.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"I am a Feather for Each Wind that Blows" and Other Cheerful Thoughts

A chill wind drives leaden clouds across the sky. Trees wave their branches: beckoning, perhaps, for sunlight and warmth to return; or gesturing supplications against the boreal force.

It's been downright chilly in central Minnesota this week. Winds like this and highs in the sixties are fairly normal during autumn: but this is mid-July.

I should have said, "average during autumn". "Normal" in Minnesota covers a lot of ground. As they say: Minnesota doesn't have a climate: it has weather.

I think a writer overstated it a bit when, discussing "the future" (as imagined in 1964), he described living in Antarctica this way:

" too can take up residence in a barren desert of ice and snow where it's dark six months of the year and blizzards howl as they blast flesh-cutting shards of ice through the subzero air.

"A bit like living in Minnesota, actually." (Tales of Future Past, Futurama '64 (4), David S. Zondy)

There are, after all, many calm days during a Minnesota winter, and the sun is above the horizon for several hours. Of course, you can see the sun best on those days when it seems too cold for clouds to form.

My reason tells me that summer will return, along with blue skies and sunshine are not merely dim memories from another life; legends of an age when joy and laughter had not forsaken humanity, when wind and rain didn't have the ducks walking; tales recalling that epoch when I didn't have a cold.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Loonfoot Falls Community Theater: Recycling Keeps Them in the Green

I caught Flora Ellert, Loonfoot Falls Community Theater's Dramatics Director, in a talkative mood this week. LFCT has been working on this summer's show: something called "Magic: A Fantastic Comedy."

That play wasn't what we talked about, though. I'd mentioned that the LFCT hadn't done a musical since "Doctor Jekyll, Please Don't Hyde!" in 2004.

Flora Ellert didn't say what that musical's royalties were, but I learned that stage musicals can cost between $250 and $500 for each performance - just for the right to use a script and music. Comedies and dramas, she told me, run around $65 for opening night and $35 a show after that. Then there's the matter of paying for each copy of the script, or a fee for the right to make photocopies.

"Sure: It's fun; it's art. It's business, too, sort of," she explained. Loonfoot Falls Community Theater is a non-profit outfit, with everybody volunteering their time. But, she pointed out, besides the royalties there's rental for the rehearsal and performance space, and generally some expense for sets, props, and costumes.

"We save quite a bit on our sets. Einar Johnson's something of a genius when it comes to re-using materials each year," Flora explained. Einar created Dr. Jekyll's laboratory out of pieces of sets for a Victorian sitting room, an apartment's kitchen, and PVC pipe that's been ship's rigging, trees in Sherwood Forest, a telescope and lamp posts.

Frances Robinson applies the same recycling principles to the theater's costumes. But that's another topic.

Friday, July 3, 2009

July Fourth Memories

It's good to be back. I spent a few days last week at the 'vacation' house of a friend of mine, and did a bit of mowing and fixing while I was there.

While I was not watching television or surfing the Web, I started thinking about July Fourth celebrations I'd been at, or heard about.

Oakwood, just down the road, puts on a fine Independence Day fireworks display. When I was growing up, the family would go there every year, say 'OOH,' 'AAH,' swat mosquitoes and, sometimes, listen to my father tell about his teen years and the Foggton July Fourth fireworks show that ended early.

As he told it, that Independence Day had started with a heavy overcast, so that by the time the display was supposed to start, around local sunset, it was already quite dark. Then it started to drizzle on the people in River Park.

The organizers should probably have canceled right then. The drizzle hadn't dampened people's spirits (sorry: I couldn't resist that), but it had a bad effect on the fireworks. The mortars should have been lobbing shells high above the crowd. Instead, fiery flowers were going off so low that hot, glowing pieces were hitting the ground.

Then one of those flash-and-bang shells shot up, fell back, hit the ground and exploded.

My father says the people in front of him stood out like black cutouts for a moment. It was as if a lightning bolt had struck.

That ended the show.
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