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News from the week of September 8, 2004

First & latest

Vivian Rolland repeats 1927 parade feat

When it comes to Tracy Box Car Days parades, Vivian Rolland has few peers. She marched in the very first Box Car Days parade in 1927. She's watched the parade many times. In fact, she can't remember ever missing a Tracy Labor Day parade in the 77 years of Box Car Days. She rode through the parade in a vintage sedan, waving at spectators and throwing Tootsie Rolls to children. Her son, Doug, drove the car.
"I enjoyed every minute of it. I saw a lot of people. It was fun," she said.
The world was a much different place when young Vivian marched in her first Box Car Days parade. Earlier that year, Charles Lindbergh had electrified the world with his non-stop solo flight from New York to Paris. Calvin Coolidge occupied the White House. In Tracy, civic boosters organized a town festival to honor its railroad industry.
Vivian still remembers her first Box Car Days. She was seven or eight-years-old.
"I don't remember a lot. I was just little, but I do remember that I was wearing a white dress and that my dad had brought me into town. We were standing in front of the Headlight-Herald office when someone said that it was time to walk over to the railroad tracks for the parade."
Monday marked the first time Rolland had been in the Box Car Days parade since she was a little girl. It was her sons' idea for her to ride in the parade.
"I felt a little foolish at first," she said. But she quickly began enjoying herself. She especially enjoyed throwing candy at the little children along the parade route.

Guys, trucks & mud?

Lady driver meets men on own turf

Welcome to the world of mud racing, where testosterone and high-octane fuel mix as easily as water and dirt.
But don't tell Carol Hinker that men should have all the fun in this gritty sport.
Sunday, the Mitchell, S.D. woman was the lone female driver among 70 entries at the Tracy Box Car Days mud races. If she felt lonely, she didn't let on.
"I love it," she said, perched behind the wheel of her canary yellow truck, affectionately named "Hell, Yeah."
Hinker is a relative newcomer to the sport, shifting gears for her first summer as a driver. But she's been good enough to rank in the top ten of her class with the South Dakota Mud Racers' Association this year.
She got the itch to drive, after watching her husband, Mark, compete at races last year.
The 36-year-old likes being a part of mud-racing's turbo-charged atmosphere.
"I like it when the crowd gets into it and you can hear people cheering their favorite trucks and drivers." She also has a competitive streak.
"I like to win. The guys don't like it to get beat by a woman," she said with a smile.
Her truck is a refurbished 1987 Ford Bronco with a 351 Windsor engine. An authentic Gretchen Wilson autograph tops off a snappy yellow paint job. She got the signature after meeting the rising country singing star at this year's South Dakota State Fair. Her truck is affectionately named after Wilson's hit song, "Red Neck Woman."
What does it take to be a mud-racing winner? More than a good truck.
Drivers need to be quick off the mark when the starting light turns green. And timing has to be just right, as drivers accelerate and shift gears.
"You have to do a lot of things at the right time. You don't have time to think," Hinker said.

Up, up & away

Lightweight craft provides thrills

By Val Scherbart Quist

It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it's a…powered parachute?
You may have seen Ed Engels and Todd Cambronne soaring on the outskirts of Tracy on a calm summer evening. One can’t help but be curious when they come into view. Some are curious enough to stop at the Tracy Municipal Airport to see what exactly it is they are flying. It’s not unusual for them to draw a crowd.
Engels, who is from Milroy, bought his powered parachute in April. He saved for about seven years before buying the nearly new machine. New, powered parachutes like his cost $15,000 to $16,000.
There were several brands and styles to choose from, but Engels chose the biggest one—a two-seater.
Engels admits that his wife, Jean, wasn’t thrilled with the idea.
"She wanted nothing to do with it," he said.
He persuaded her to try it once and if she didn’t like it, he’d give up the idea.
"All it took was the one ride and she was ready to fly again," he said.
The man in Nebraska who sold Engels the powered parachute also taught him how to use it. Engels received his instructor’s license in St. Cloud, and should have his sport pilot license soon. Then he’ll be able to take his wife along for the ride. Until then, he’s limited to giving instruction or demonstrations.

Cambronne, who lives outside of Tracy, bought his powered parachute in early July.
Cambronne has also been interested in flying for a long time. He used to fly radio-controlled airplanes. About two years ago, he was looking at ultra-light airplanes when he called a referral he had been given.
"He told me he sold that ‘death trap’ and had bought one of these," Cambronne said.
Intrigued, he began researching the unique aircraft. The one he ended up buying is one of the originals, which was built in the mid- to early-‘80s. In 1992, the craft was converted, equipped with a single engine, and updated with an electric starter.
He’s had about 10 flights so far, which equates to about three hours. "I try to get out as much as possible," he said.
Cambronne’s parachute isn’t as big as Engels’. It holds five gallons of gas, compared to Engels’ 10. It’s also a one-seater.
But the important thing to Cambronne is that he’s flying.
"This is the poor man’s way to fly," he said. "The take-offs and landings are what’s fun. It’s beautiful when you’re up there, too."

Open house planned for unusual earth home

By Brady Averill

Bruce and Anna Jeanne Flesner waited almost 25 years to build their dream home. Just a year ago, they moved into their brand new, almost functioning fantasy pad. Next week, they’ll share it with the public.
Their dream home is one of a kind. It’s a Terra-Dome earth home, built by Terra-Dome Corporation out of Grain Valley, Mo. Only a few earth homes dot the Southwest Minnesota landscape. The Flesner home is one of them, creating interest among neighbors and passersby.
"There’s a lot of questions. We’ve had so many (visitors)," Bruce said.
Many have asked to see the house when it’s finished, Anna Jeanne said. Now, the Flesners are ready to do that. They've scheduled an open house for the weekend of Sept. 11 and 12, from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. Curious visitors will be greeted with a tour of the 1,600-square-feet home.
The Flesners fell in love with the earth home design more than two decades ago.
"I followed the concept of earth homes as far back as the 1970s," Bruce said.
They came up with the idea of building an earth home in 1979, when friends of the couple moved to Kansas City, Kan. They found an article in a Kansas City newspaper about an earth home, designed by Terra-Dome Corporation founder, and shared it with the Flesners. They still have the clipping.
"We held on to that idea," Bruce said.
Their old farm home, south of Milroy, was no fantasy pad. The house had little window light and its living quarters were hardly spacious.
The new stucco earth home, a piece of art with side-by-side windows along the entire southern side and a curvaceous overhang front, was built near the old farmhouse. In comparison, the old home is an eyesore.
Anna Jeanne calls the earth home a "dream." Waiting 25 years to live in it was well worth the wait. They did their research, saved money and waited for the right time to execute their plans.

EDA remains interested in downtown property

The Tracy Economic Development Authority is continuing to investigate options to gain control of the former P Plus Asian grocery property in Downtown Tracy.
EDA members would like to obtain the property for two reasons: 1) Tracy Area Medical Services has expressed interest in developing the site as a wellness center; 2) The EDA holds a past-due mortgage on the property for about $15,000.
Last week, EDA members discussed securing the property either through a foreclosure procedure or a purchase at Lyon County's delinquent tax sale later this year. Consensus was that the tax forfeiture sale would be the easiest and least costly route to pursue.
If the property could be acquired, it would be the EDA's intent to lease the property to the hospital, if TAMS goes forward with plans for an off-site wellness center.
Robert Gervais, community development director, told commissioners that Lyon County's tax forfeiture sale was scheduled in December. The minimum bid that the county would accept, he said, is its assessed value of $23,400. Gervais said that it was his understanding that liens would disappear with a tax sale.
Gervais also indicated that a private individual has expressed an interest in purchasing the property, and spearheading the development of the property for the TAMS wellness center.
Commission members said they'd like to have that happen.
"I'd rather have a private person do it, rather than us," said Chairman Dennis Fultz.

Fly-in attracts 40 planes, hundreds of pancake eaters

Interest in Tracy's Box Car Days "fly-in" continues to soar.
The Monday morning event at the Tracy Airport attracted about 40 pilots and hundreds of people.
"It was our best one ever," said organizer Homer Dobson.
A steady stream of spectators congregated around the airport for nearly four hours. About 750 people were served a pancake breakfast by the Mediterranean in an airport hangar.
Besides looking over the approximately 40 airplanes that flew into the airport, spectators also saw about two dozen automobiles and motorcycles.
Airplanes that flew into the show included a World War II vintage T-6 military trainer, and a Chinese Yak owned by Glen Smith of Amiret. Other distinctive aircraft at the show included a Beachcraft Mentor, Diamond Star, an RV-4, and a plane able to land on water.
Both helicopter and airplane rides were popular. Midwest Aviation of Marshall provided the airplane rides. Midstates Aviation of Ham Lake offered helicopter rides.
Weather conditions were favorable, with party sunny skies, temperatures in the 60s, and winds at eight to ten knots.
Dobson feels that a combination of factors is fueling the fly-in's popularity. The Monday holiday tied to Tracy's big Box Car Day celebration, is one big advantage, Dobson said. Pilots also like Tracy's airport.
"We get many, many favorable comments about our airport," he said. Dobson thanked all who helped with the fly-in, especially the Mediterranean staff, who catered the breakfast.
"They do a tremendous job."