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News from the week of February 5, 2003

Playground swings on city grant hopes

A grant application to help pay for new playground equipment at Sebastian Park is being finalized by the City of Tracy.

Monday night, Tracy Planning Commission members reviewed plans to install two clusters of play equipment near the new Tracy Aquatic Center. The assortment of slides, swings and play devices is envisioned for the grassy area southwest of the pool, and west of the parking lot.

Estimated cost is about $71,000. A state and federal LAWCON grant is being sought to pay half the expenses, or about $35,500. The City of Tracy's share would be an outlay of about $24,000, plus about $11,500 worth of "in-kind" services performed by city workers and volunteers.

The grant application is similar to an unsuccessful request made last year. Revisions have been made to this year's plan to improve handicapped accessibility.

Besides new playground equipment, the Tracy grant application also proposes the construction of a nearby picnic shelter.

If Tracy's application were selected for funding, grant money would be available for construction next year.

Civic-minded achievers honored

Anna Gene Burke, Dean Salmon, Harold Deal, and Chris Schons received special awards at the Tracy Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet Saturday night.

Burke, a retired teacher, was named Tracy's "Outstanding Citizen." Salmon, operator of Salmon Automotive, was honored as "Boss of the Year." Deal, a longtime farm operator in Springdale Township, was named the Chamber's "Distinguished Farmer" for 2003. Schons, the office receptionist at Tracy Publishing, was recognized with the "Outstanding Chamber Member" award.

Also at the Chamber banquet, Dr. Mark Evers succeeded Tam Schons as chair of the Chamber's Board of Directors. Three new members—Lori Hebig, Kim Thormodson, and Nancy Beech—were elected to the board.

About 180 people attended the banquet, held at the Mediterranean. Over $1,700 was raised from a "silent auction" of merchandise and services donated by Chamber members.

Hot dog!

Singing kids bite into wiener-flavored jingle

Frankfurters have a whole new aura these days at Tracy Elementary School.

Since returning from their Christmas break, students have transformed the lowly wiener into the noble stuff of art, music, and drama.

And that's no baloney.

"The children have had a lot of fun with this," relates music mentor Ade Miller, who has coordinated the multi-faceted wiener schnitzel learning.

For the several weeks, students from kindergarten through grade five have practiced singing a wiener jingle made famous by a fellow named Oscar Mayer. Thursday and Friday, students will divide into small groups during music classes and sing the Oscar Mayer jingle while being taped on video. The performances will take place in front of murals that students helped create. Young performers will also don costumes they have picked out.

Afterwards, a student vote will select the best act in each grade. Each pupil will be asked to critique his or her own performance.

Sixth graders aren't singing jingles themselves. But they have worked on designing and creating the backdrops.

A dozen student groups have also been selected to participate in the Oscar Mayer Talent Search School House Jam contest. Video of each group singing the Oscar Mayer jingle will be submitted for a state and national contest. Oscar Mayer is giving $10,000 to the state winner's school music department. The national winner would earn an additional $15,000.

Hotbed of crime?

Not Tracy during '02

Tracy continues to be a relatively safe and crime free corner of the world, an annual police report indicates, even though several serious crime categories increased last year.

Tracy police investigated 27 assault reports during 2002, nearly double the 14 reported in 2001, according to the department's annual activity report. Police investigated 49 theft cases last year, a 25% increase from 2001. Burglary cases rose from six to 11, and damage to property calls rose from 24 to 34.

On the positive ledger, there were no homicides in Tracy for the eighth-straight year. The police department's annual "ICR" or "initial complaint report" doesn't even list a category for armed robbery.

Tracy police did investigate 26 worthless check cases, six disorderly conduct incidents and ten alcohol-related offenses. There were two auto theft reports, six drinking-while-intoxicated tickets. Police investigated one drug-related offense during the year.

Domestic disturbance calls plummeted from 19 in 2001 to five in 2002. Animal complaints continued to increase, spiking from 116 calls in 2001 to 146 in 2002.

Continuing a past trend, the most common police call involved helping people. Forty-five percent of the 1,936 reports filed by Tracy police in 2002 were either "aid to public" (386) or "miscellaneous public" (495).

Honored Pine River teacher learned ABCs in Tracy classrooms

A 1967 Tracy High School graduate is the "teacher-of-the-year" in the Pine River-Backus School District.

Linda Henkel, daughter of the late Lester and Ethel Henkel, grew up on a farm near Tracy. She has been an elementary teacher at Pine River Elementary School since 1974. A former student of St. Mary's School, Henkel earned her undergraduate degree in education from Southwest State University in 1973.

An article in the Pine River Journal describes Henkel as a teacher who "arrives at school early in the morning and stays late."

How early? How late? Some children think that the teacher lives at school, the newspaper reports.

"Every child is beautiful," Henkel told the Journal. She bases her teaching methods around the opinion that children, like adults, learn best with hands-on activities and practice.

Her students are her No. 1 priority.

Joanna Olson is top Tracy entry at Schwan's tourney

The Tracy Area High School competed in two weekend tournaments. Some students competed in Marshall and others in Canby.

Twenty-five Tracy students were among 500 other speakers from 18 teams from central and southern Minnesota in the two-day Schwan's Speech Spectacular. The Panthers finished in 11th place, ahead of larger schools such as Mankato East and Jackson County Central.

The Schwan's Speech Spectacular tournament has four rounds of preliminary competition followed by qualifying rounds of quarter-final, semi-final and final rounds.

Joanna Olson led the team with impressive performances in both the informative and extemporaneous reading categories. The senior advanced to semi-finals in the extemporaneous reading category followed by a sixth-place finish in informative category

"It is great to see such strong leadership from Joanna Olson. She knows how to take charge and lead the team at tough competitions," said Coach Tamara Purrington. Storytellers Dani Jones, Bobbi Jo Buyck and Celia Brockway battled their way into quarter-finals but did not advance to semi-finals. They each received quarter-final ribbons.

The Schwan's Speech Spectacular attracted some of the top AA Speech programs in the state, including Eastview, Eagan, Benilde-St. Margaret and Marshall.