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News from the week of August 27, 2003

Toot! Toot! It's Tracy Box Car Days

Excitement is building for Tracy Box Car Days.

The 76th annual town celebration begins Friday night and continues through Monday. Thousands of visitors are expected.

“We went back to our normal schedule this year after last year's 75th celebration,” said Tracy Community Development Director Robert Gervais.

The Miss Tracy Scholarship Program will return to its regular night, Sunday, at 6:30 p.m. The program was moved to Saturday night last year to accommodate the Dennis Morgan concert. Fireworks, an addition carried over from last year, will take place after the Miss Tracy program.

A wide variety of Box Car Days activities are planned.

One event that has continued to grow each year is the mud volleyball tournament, said Gervais. The number of teams participating is expected to increase yet again this year.

New this year will be a new Famous Dave's food stand next to the beer tent.

“They have outstanding ribs and will also have sweet corn, so that will be an added bonus this year,” said Gervais.

Also new will be “Cow Pie Bingo,” sponsored by the Fine Arts Council of Tracy. See more information below.

The beer tent will also look different this year. A beer tent is being rented until enough funds are raised for a new one.

“We're looking into raising money for either a new tent or a permanent structure,” Gervais said.

An attempt is also being made to plan more events for Sunday afternoon. This year, a special “bracelet afternoon” is planned Sunday at the midway from noon to 6 p.m.

With the schedule packed with fun activities, there's only one detail left that could have a big impact on the weekend's success—the weather.

“We've been fortunate for the past few years to have outstanding weather,” said Gervais. “We hope to have that again.”

He added that Box Car Day weekend is also a terrific weekend for meeting up with old friends.

“It's a good time for everybody to come home,” he said. “If you want to see some people you haven't seen for a long time, Box Car Day weekend is a great time to do that.”

Box Car Day weekend highlights include:

Carnival & Midway
Midwest Rides & Expositions Carnival & Midway will be open all three days.

On Saturday, there will be kiddie rides only from 4 until 6 p.m. All rides, games, and food stands open at 7 p.m. Bracelet night will be Saturday from 7 p.m. to midnight. The carnival and midway will be open on Sunday from noon to midnight, with bracelet day from noon until 6 p.m. Hours on Monday are noon to 7 p.m.

Burger Night, talent show
The Tracy Area Chamber of Commerce will be sponsoring its annual Burger Night beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 29 in the municipal parking lot. The beer garden will also open at 5 p.m., and there will be a talent show next to the beer garden from 7 to 9 p.m.

A DJ will be playing music at the beer garden from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Street dance
A street dance featuring The Great Outdoors will be held on Saturday in front of the Prairie Pavilion from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Grand parade
The annual Box Car Days grand parade gets underway at 1 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 1. About 130 parade units are expected.

The parade begins at the intersection of Emory and Second streets near Central Park. The parade will go west on Emory to Sixth, south on Sixth to Morgan, west on Morgan to Second street, and north to Central Park.

Miss Tracy
The Miss Tracy Scholarship Program begins at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 31 at Tracy Area High School. Fireworks will follow the program.

Fly-In/Drive-In Breakfast
The annual Fly-In/Drive-In breakfast at the Tracy Municipal Airport takes place from 7 to 11 a.m. on Monday. A pancake breakfast will be served.

Airplane rides will be available, and antique cars will be on display. The Marshall Radio Control Club will also be doing demonstrations.

Road Race
The Box Car Day 5K Walk/Run and 10K Run Road Race, sponsored by Tracy Food Pride, Tracy Publishing Co., Tracy Insurance and Travel Agency, Knakmuhs Real Estate, Viking Coca-Cola, and Tracy Area Medical Services, begins at 8 a.m. Monday, Sept. 1. Registration begins at 7 a.m. at the Tracy Area High School parking lot.

Age divisions are 12 and under, 13-18, 19-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60 and up. Medallions will be awarded to the top two finishers in each age group, and the top male and female finishers overall will receive trophies. Proceeds will go to the Panther cross country team.

Cow Pie Bingo
Sponsored by the Fine Arts Council of Tracy, “Cow Pie Bingo” is a new addition to Box Car Days. The event, which will take place next to Hebig's Electric, will feature a calf corralled in an area with 100 marked-off squares. The person holding the lucky ticket for the square the calf chooses to drop a “cow pie” into will win $200.

Tickets will be sold until Saturday at noon.

Truck & tractor pull
The annual truck & tractor pull will be held Saturday on the corner of Pine and 4th St. South by Tracy Elementary School. Food will be available on-site all day.

Registration and weigh-in will begin at 8 a.m. and the tractor pull begins at 10 a.m. The truck pull should get underway at about 2 or 2:30.

Stock and open tractor classes include 1958 and older, 3500, 4500, 5500, 6500, 7500, and 8500. Out of field classes are 9500, 10,000, and 10,500.

Truck classes are stock two and four-wheel-drive 5500, 6500, and 8500m super stock two and four-wheel-drive 5500, 6500, and 8500, modified two and four-wheel-drive 5500 and 6500, Top Dog, and any truck 10,000 lbs.

The Midwest Outlaw Truck Pullers' Association will provide the sled and track officials.

Kids' Day in the Park
Kids' Day in the Park, featuring Vogel's Exotic Animals, petting zoo, and pony rides, will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday in Central Park.

Children will also have the opportunity to view a fire truck, ambulance, and police car.

Kiddie Parade
The kiddie parade will take place on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Judging begins at 3 p.m., and line-up and registration is in front of the Tracy Nursing Home.

Categories are cartoon characters, wheels, TV/movie, storybook, American Heroes, and miscellaneous.

Arts & Crafts Fair
The 19th annual St. Mary's Arts & Crafts Fair and Flea Market will be held at St. Mary's School on Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. and Monday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Lunch will be available both days.

Many of the exhibitors of past years are planning on returning. In addition to these exhibitors, there are nine new ones who plan to attend. This year a new feature added to the craft and flea market items will be home party demonstrators showing their products and offering them for sale.

The St. Mary's CCW will also be selling pies.

Limited space is still available by calling 629-4319.

Mud volleyball
A six-person team mud volleyball tournament will take place next to the softball complex in Tracy's industrial park beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

About eight teams have signed up for the tournament so far. Other teams are still welcome to sign up by Friday. Call 629-4882 to sign up or for more information.

Paintball tournament
A five-person team speedball tournament is set at Foster Creek Paintball of Tracy on Saturday, Aug. 30. The tournament begins at 9 a.m.

Foster Creek Paintball is located three miles east of Tracy.

Whopper Feed
The Tracy Women of Today are sponsoring a Whopper Feed in Central Park from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Tae Kwon Do
A demonstration by the USA Korea Tae Kwon Do Association will take place from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in Tracy's Central Park.

Miss Tracy Alumni Tea
The Miss Tracy Alumni Garden Tea Party is set for Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in Wesley Hall at Tracy United Methodist Church.

Singin' Safari Road Show
The Singin' Safari Road Show is returning to Box Car Days this year for a 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. performance in the Central Park band shell.

Multi-Purpose Center
The Tracy Multi-Purpose Center at the corner of Morgan and 3rd streets will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 1. Lunches will be served.

Bingo stand
The Bingo stand will be open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday during Box Car Day weekend.

Beer garden
The beer garden will be located in the municipal parking lot. Hours are Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday from noon until midnight, and Monday from noon until 6 p.m. A cover fee will be charged Saturday night only because of the street dance.

Next to the beer garden will be Famous Dave's, which will be serving barbecued ribs and sweet corn Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Softball tournament
Twenty-four teams will face off in the annual Box Car Days softball tournament. The tournament will begin Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at 9 a.m. at the softball complex in Tracy's industrial park.

Museum hours
Wheels Across the Prairie Museum will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. An antique tractor show will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Wheels Across the Prairie on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

St. Mark's Museum will be open Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. and Monday from 3 to 5 p.m.

School starts Tuesday
Increased student enrollment likely

The sound of school bells will ring in the official start of fall next week. School begins for Tracy students on Tuesday, Sept. 2.

Tracy Area Public Schools students will be greeted by some new faces this year—namely new superintendent David Marlette and new high school principal Chad Anderson.

Early enrollment numbers for Tracy Area Public Schools are up. As of early this week, enrollment was about 25 students above last year's enrollment, a figure that bucks the trend of recent years.

“This is a nice change,” said Supt. Marlette. “It looks like we will gain students instead of losing them this year.” He added that that number could still increase with additional registrations this week.

In another piece of good news, Marlette shared that the cooling systems at the elementary and high school may be on-line sooner than expected. He said earlier this week that some of the insulation for the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning project has arrived and is in the process of being installed. This could mean that the air conditioning in the high school could be up and running as soon as 10 days from now, with the elementary following as soon as 10 days after that.

Bus unloading areas

Supt. Marlette asks that parents who are dropping off or picking up their children from school refrain from using the south driveway at the high school and the west driveway at the elementary school when buses are loading and unloading.

Parents are asked instead to pick up or drop off children at the other entrances.

“It's so congested when the buses are there, there are cars parked, and other cars are trying to drive through,” Marlette explained. “It's not a safe situation.”

Early arrival

High school students who arrive at school early (before 8 a.m.) are being asked to gather in the hallway between the gymnasium and the lunchroom this year.

In addition, high school students are asked to use the north entrance on the first day of school.

Teacher workshops

Teachers return to school with workshops on Thursday and Friday. On Friday, the teachers will hear speaker Corwin Kronenberg, whose topic will be “You Make a Difference.”

New staff members

New to the teaching staff this year is high school math teacher Teresa Hildebrand. The district is in the process of hiring a physical education instructor to replace Bill Tauer, who will still be with the district but has accepted the community education director position in addition to serving as athletic director. Interviews took place early this week, as did interviews for a Title I teacher in the elementary school.

Common Planning Time

Common Planning Time for teachers will be held on the same schedule as last year—the second Friday of each month. The only exception will be during the month of April. Because Good Friday falls on the second Friday of that month, Common Planning Time will be held during the afternoon of Wednesday, April 7. Students will be dismissed at noon that day for Easter break.

Rising costs cloud city budget picture

Large increases in utility costs, rising health insurance premiums, an aquatic center operating deficit and uncertainties in state aid loom on the horizon for City of Tracy finances.

But—thanks to a big drop in bonded debt obligations next year—Tracy City Council members are considering a relatively modest 5% increase in the city's 2004 property tax levy.

The 5% increase, suggested by council members Monday night, will be used on truth-in-taxation statements mailed out by Lyon County this fall unless council members change their minds at their next meeting. Once the preliminary tax levy is certified with Lyon County, the levy can be decreased, but not increased.

City Administrator Audrey Koopman prepared a budget for the council that would have increased the levy by 4%. But the council decided to bump the levy increase to 5% because of uncertainties about state aid in 2004.

The proposed 2004 property tax levy of $686,572 has three parts: debt retirement, other uses, and general fund.

Debt retirement, which represents principal and interest payments on the city's bonded debt, is scheduled to decrease about 18% next year, from $369,749 this year to $313,000.

The "other uses" levy is scheduled to remain at $10,000.

The general fund levy is scheduled to increase about 29%, from $281,784 in 2003 to $363,572 in 2004

The 2004 figures are based upon a 4% increase. The 5% increase suggested by the council increases the figures slightly.

General fund increase

General fund spending in the budget presented to the council by Koopman would increase just over 10% in 2004, from $1,476,291 this year to $1,560,446 in 2004.

In a memo to council members, Koopman said the aquatic center might run an operating deficit of about $46,000 this summer. She indicated that the estimate was preliminary because it was based upon only one month of data. A complete financial accounting of the pool's season won't be available until October or November, she indicated.

The administrator told the council that hopefully the deficit would be less. But she said she was preparing for a worst case scenario by figuring a $46,000 deficit for next year's budget.

Koopman explained later that higher than expected energy costs for heating pool water were a major reason for the unexpected pool deficit. Before the pool was built, consultants for USAquatics had predicted that pool operations would break-even.

Koopman's memo listed a 22.5% increase in employee health insurance premiums, a 10% increase in workmen's compensation premiums, an expected $5,000 decrease in insurance dividends and a $15,000 decrease in transferred profits from the municipal liquor store as other factors in the increased general fund levy. A 30% increase is budgeted for utility costs in the municipal building, as well as a $4,750 increase in street utilities.

Koopman said that the city was "looking for other options" in health insurance, but didn't know how successful those efforts would be. The administrator said that employees would bear part of the increased insurance costs.

The city's proposed 2004 general fund budget is based upon a 3% salary increase for the city's 15 full-time employees. In dollar terms, the 3% wage increase would cost the city about $15,000 next year. Koopman said she based the 3% increase on averages obtained from state labor statistics and other communities.

The budget presented by Koopman made numerous cuts from the spending requested by department heads on August 4. Administrative travel, conferences and schools, equipment and miscellaneous spending were trimmed $3,200, city hall maintenance and repair was cut $5,000, and police requests were cut $1,700. Other cuts included $500 building inspection, $2,325 fire department, street lighting $1,500, street department $5,500, cemetery, $9,000.

Utility expense were adjusted upwards for many department budgets.

Council members added a spending cut of their own, deciding that the $500 spent annually for Internet service at a city hall office for council members was not worth the expense. Mayor Steve Ferrazzano said he hadn't realized the Internet service was costing the city that much.

Bonded debt reduction

Koopman said that the reduced bonded debt levy was due mainly to bonds dating from 1988, '92, and '94 being either paid off or refinanced at lower interest rates.

Earlier reductions

Earlier this year, the council cut its general fund spending by about $97,000 in response to a $149,000 reduction in state aid. The council also had increased the city's property tax levy for 2003 by about $90,000 in anticipation of state cutbacks.

Councilman Russ Stobb observed that the $90,000 cushion from the increased levy will likely be gone at the end of the year, with roughly half of the $90,000 used to help compensate for the lost state aid that wasn't covered by budget cuts. The remaining half of the $90,000 could be needed to cover this year's aquatic center operating deficit, if earlier projections prove correct, he indicated.


Six vie for Miss Tracy scholarship

Outgoing Miss Tracy Brooke Averill will pass on her title to one of six Tracy Area High School seniors Sunday night.

The 2004 Miss Tracy Scholarship Program is set for 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 31 in the high school gym. The long-standing Box Car Days tradition will return to its regular night after a one-year Saturday night stint last year to accommodate the Dennis Morgan concert.

A total of $3,000 in scholarships will be awarded. The 2004 Miss Tracy will take home a $1,300 scholarship. The first and second runners up will receive $700 and $500 scholarships, respectively.

Participants are judged on scholastic achievement, creative arts presentation, fitness, presence and composure, and panel evaluation. An additional $500 will be split into $100 scholarships for the top candidates in each of these categories.

Sandy Fultz, who is co-program director with Jesse James, said those who attend can expect an excellent program.

“It's going to be a very entertaining show,” she said. “The girls have been really awesome to work with all summer.”

Candidates are:

• Emily Rayman, daughter of Keith and Julie Rayman, sponsored by Midwest Supply. For her creative arts presentation, Emily will be performing a dance.

• JeRae Kathman, daughter of Bill and Jayne Kathman, sponsored by the Tracy Fire Department. JeRae will be giving a speech for her creative arts presentation.

• Jonna Grunden, daughter of Jay Bosacker and Al and Mary Grunden, sponsored by the Tracy Eagles Club. Jonna will be doing a dance for her creative arts presentation.

• Mollie Goltz, daughter of Don and Gail Goltz, sponsored by the Tracy Country Club. A dance number is Mollie's creative arts presentation.

• Stefanie Hebig, daughter of George and Lori Hebig, sponsored by Tracy Kiwanis. Stefanie's creative arts presentation will be a speech.

• Tina McIntire, daughter of Randy and Robin McIntire, sponsored by the Tracy Lion's Club. Tina will be performing a song for her creative arts presentation.

Masters of Ceremonies for the program are Jeremy Trulock and Mary Poss. The 2004 Miss Tracy candidates and the 2003 Miss Tracy royalty will present the opening number. The Twisters dance team will also be giving a performance.

A fireworks display will follow the Miss Tracy program.

Bike path winds through Swift Lake

A new bike/pedestrian path is taking shape in Swift Lake Park.

Grading was completed last week for a 6,000 foot paved trail through the park. Paving is expected in late September, with completion targeted by Oct. 15.

The 10-foot wide path begins south of the existing Swift Lake Park entrance off of Lyon County Highway 11. The trail proceeds east, south of the park road past Swift Lake and the campground, before turning south along a service road. The trail passes south of the North Star Modular Homes plant before intersecting with East Fourth Street.

The $131,666 project also includes a paved shoulder along County Highway 11 and painted bike lanes and signage along South, Pine, and South Center streets. The City of Tracy's share of the project is just over $26,000.

McLaughlin-Schulz of Marshall is the general contractor.

Knights of Columbus will celebrate 50th anniversary

It's 50 candles for local Knights of Columbus members.

The Marian Council 3750 Knights of Columbus plans a 50th anniversary banquet Sunday, August 31. The banquet, which will be held at the Mediterranean Restaurant in Tracy, follows an 11 a.m. Mass at St. Mary's Church. Father John Persons is the keynote banquet speaker.

The organization received its charter in 1953. Dale DeSmith is the organization's grand knight. Other officers are: Donald Zeug, financial secretary; Trent Goergen, chancellor; David Zwach, advocate; Joe Van Keulen, warden; Mike Rohlik, recorder; Stan Rohlik, treasurer; John Zwach, guard; Dr. Richard Brown, guard; and Gorden Blanchette, Lawrence Platz, Robert Ochocki, trustees. Charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism are the fraternal order's guiding principals.

The Knights of Columbus sponsor an annual "Ladies Night" for church women and a free-throw contest for youth. The group provides financial support for Birthright, San Lucas Mission, Pennies for Seminarians, Pro-Life Minnesota, and Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.

The Marion Council traces its roots to Knights of Columbus members in Walnut Grove. According to the 1985 centennial history book for St. Mary's parish, a group of Walnut Grove men belonged to a Knights of Columbus Council based at St. Ann's Parish in Slayton. The Walnut Grove area Knights wanted to form a council in Walnut Grove. District Knights of Columbus officials discouraged the Walnut Grove location, but encouraged the establishment of a new council in Tracy.

The "Marion Council" name was selected because the Catholic Church had designated 1954 as "The Marian Year," in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of the Immaculate Conception. The new council included members from St. Mary's Parish of Tracy, St. Michael's of Milroy, and St. Paul's of Walnut Grove.

The council's first officers in December of 1953 were Grand Knight F.V. Carey; Deputy Grand Knight Edward Saelens, Chancellor Charles Baxter; Recorder Wilfred Green, Treasurer Joseph Zeug, Advocate John Zwach; Warden Lloyd Turbes, Inside Guard Charles Stearns, and trustees Peter Lanners, Vincent Ford, and Jack O'Brien, Father Richard O'Connor was the first chaplain. James Gregg was the first financial secretary, with Joseph Dietz becoming the first lecturer. The council had 99 charter members.

According to Marion Council 3750 records, 25 of the organization's charter members are still living today. They are:

Clifford Alcorn, Walnut Grove; Eugene Buyck, Tracy; Tom Carey, Anchorage, Alaska; Jan Dallenbach, Northfield; Ed Hansen, Tracy; Linus Guggenberger, Rockville; Edward Honetschlager, Lucan, Clarence Janis, Manson, Iowa; Heye Lamfers, Tracy; George Lanoue, Tracy; Robert Lanoue, Tracy; Leonard Lanoue, Tracy; Earl Maertens, Marshall; Richard McKenna, Peoria, Illinois; Austen Molitor, Spring Valley; Steve Ourada, Mankato; Lloyd Pommier, Long Prairie; Ted Ruppert, Tyler; Charles Stearns, address unknown; Glenn Surprenant, Tracy; Vernon Turner, Annandale; Arnold Wyffels, Motley; George Zender, Battle Lake; Harry Zwach, Marshall; Paul Zwach, Tracy.