banner.gif (15051 bytes)

News from the week of June 1, 2005

Pavilion name change salutes vets

The building was known as the Tracy National Guard Armory following its construction in the 1950s.

In the 1990s, the arena took on a new role as the Tracy Prairie Pavilion.

Now the Tracy landmark has a new name: Tracy Veterans’ Memorial Center.

The name was dedicated Monday at Tracy Memorial Day Services.

Mayor Steve Ferrazzano said the name would serve as a constant reminder of the sacrifices United States military veterans have given to their country.

“We should always remember that freedom isn’t free.”

New “Veterans Memorial Center” lettering for the building’s exterior replaced the “Prairie Pavilion” signage just before the Memorial Day weekend. Tracy City Council members had authorized the name changes this spring at the recommendation of the mayor and a committee of local veterans. The death of Tracy National Guardsman Lt. Jason Timmerman in Iraq this February sparked the name change idea.

“I want to commend Mayor Ferrazzano and the Tracy City Council for what they did,” keynote speaker Cy Molitor said, as some in the Memorial Day audience applauded.

Future plans calls for a display in the front lobby of the Veterans’ Memorial Center listing names of area servicemen who have lost their lives in active military service.

Speech pays tribute to Jason Timmerman

Keynote speaker Cy Molitor dedicated his Tracy Memorial Day address to Lt. Jason Timmerman, the Tracy man who lost his life in Baghdad, Iraq this February while serving in the Minnesota National Guard.

“I want to dedicate this speech, this meeting, this memorial to a Tracy hero, Lt. Jason Timmerman, and to the others that have given their all for the cause they believed in,” Molitor told a Tracy audience of about 120 people.

Molitor, a 21-year Air Force veteran, recalled that during World War II, an honor roll of U.S. military servicemen was prominently posted in Tracy. Gold stars were painted by the names of people who lost their lives during the war. Molitor said that such an honor roll should be revived today.

“Lt. Timmerman deserves that gold star by his name, just as the others that have given their lives do. But let me tell you, his wife and family deserve to be honored and respected as well. Lt. Timmerman and the others died in our on-going attempt to help free the people of Iraq from terrorism. I believe the people of Iraq deserve a chance to be free and I hope you all feel as I do. Those of us here today that saw the suffering of the people in war-torn countries can understand this much better than those that have not seen it,” Molitor said.

The speaker feared that the significance of Memorial Day is becoming lost.

“There are times when the true meaning of this day becomes distant or vague, lost to commercialism, or drowned in forgetful indulgence. There are times when there is a failure to recognize the magnitude of the deeds of the men and women who held true to the notion that evil and tyranny must not prevail.

“Memorial Day is not about picnics and ball games…The brave soldiers, sailors, fliers and Marines died protecting their country and what it stood for. They died defending a way of life they felt was worth dying for…families, children, freedom, morality, values and responsibility.”

Molitor suggested that citizens ask what each is doing to uphold the legacy of U.S. servicemen.

“Their true memorial is the nation and culture we create from their sacrifice. Are we really giving them the recognition they deserve? Folks, I sometimes wonder.”

End-O-Line church move is perfect marriage in Currie

Nineteenth century pioneer Neil Currie couldn’t have imagined the spectacle.

Thirteen decades after Currie built a store near the headwaters of the Des Moines River and Lake Shetek, the white clapboard church he had helped pay for was moving down Mill Street.

Perched on metal beams big enough for a railroad trestle, the 1872 church floated past the site of Currie’s first mercantile store. Momentarily, the house of worship paused at a bridge spanning the Des Moines, not far from where the Currie family had established a flourmill.

Currie might have wondered where all the horses were Friday. Not a four-legged creature was in sight. The boxcar-sized wagon that his Presbyterian church rested upon was pulled not by draft horses or oxen, but a kind of steamless locomotive.

And the people! Knots of strange spectators watched the procession. Almost none of the men had beards. Many immodest folks were traipsing around with bare legs, and arms.

Even more mysteriously, many onlookers held little black boxes to their faces. Pictures of events that had just happened magically appeared in boxes.

• • •

The moving of the First United Presbyterian Church of Currie Friday to the End-O-Line Museum and Railroad Park Friday was awe-inspiring even for 21st Century observers.

“Wow!,” said Don Sponsel, a Twin Cities man who had been married at the church 53 years ago.

“This is wonderful,” said Maxine Silvernale, a near life-long Currie resident, who was baptized and married in the church. “This is our heritage.”

The church, originally erected in 1872 or 1873, is thought to be the oldest church building in Murray County. After several days of painstaking work to jack up the structure from its foundation, the church was moved to a new home next to the Sunrise School house at End-O-Line. After a restoration project is completed this summer, the historic church will re-open as a museum exhibit. A dedication program is planned over the Fourth of July weekend. First United parishioners will continue to use the church for services during the warm-weather months.

Silvernale feels that the arrangement is ideal. The First United congregation, which has dwindled to fewer than 14 active members, will continue to have a church home. Secondly, the church’s move to End-O-Line will assure the church’s long-term preservation.

The estimated cost for the church move is $65,000. A gift from Currie native Zorada (Silvernale) Hoge will pay for the move. Zorada was one of nine children of lifelong Currie area residents Perne and Dora Silvernale.

• • •

The First United Presbyterian Church was originally called the Lake Shetek Church. According to a 1982 account published by the Murray County Historical Society, the congregation was organized on Sept. 3, 1871. The congregation’s first service was held in a rove at Lake Shetek. A traveling preacher conducted the services. The historical society account tells that a 20x32-foot church was erected in 1873 at a cost of $900. Neil Currie donated land for the church and contributed part of the cost.

A Murray County history written by Maxine Luehmann lists 1872 as the church’s construction date, and the dimensions of the church as 24x40.

The original church was subsequently added onto several times.

'Wheels' plans June 14 open house;
museum opened 20 summers ago

It’s been 20 years since the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum opened its doors on June 1, 1985.

In celebration, the museum is sponsoring an open house on Tuesday, June 14, for the Tracy community. The event will be held from 1 to 8 p.m.

The idea is to raise community awareness of the museum, said curator Mary Lou Ludeman.

It’s been nearly 30 years since Ludeman, current museum president Dorthey Pamp, and others began planning work on the museum.

Of this original group, Ludeman and Pamp are the only ones still involved with the Wheels Museum. That era will soon draw to a close as both plan to retire at the end of the summer.

Looking back, both women have fond memories of the museum’s history.

“We have 12 buildings and we have a wonderful story about each one of them,” Ludeman said.

At its start in 1976, Ludeman was president and Pamp vice president of the museum board. Land on the west end of Tracy was donated to the museum by the Wixon family. The museum was chartered in 1977.

The first museum building was a barn from the Arnold McDaniels’ farm. The barn was destroyed in straight-line winds in 1981. In 1982, what is now the museum’s main building was constructed.

It took some time to collect the artifacts needed to open the museum’s doors. Many of the items came from board members’ homes.

A ribbon cutting for the museum was held June 1, 1985.

The main building has changed many times since its opening. Originally, the fire engine and farm tools were in the main building. Other changes were made as showcases were collected.

Ludeman and Pamp credited a group of hard-working men, which included Merle Firebaugh, Marlo Triplett, Ted Drackley, Gordon Holland, and LaVerne Holm, with helping with much of the manual labor at the museum.

The next addition to the museum was the car barn. The museum had begun to accumulate more machinery, which was kept in an open-sided lean-to. Then the museum received some pieces from a man in Walnut Grove that needed to be stored indoors and a pole barn was constructed.

John Kosse, who was on the original museum committee, encouraged the museum to bid on the train—one of the museum’s showpieces. Bob Reiter and Harold Knutson from Tracy’s two banks agreed to loan the museum the money.

Within about three months’ time, the loan was paid off through donations and enough extra money received to buy the caboose. The museum later acquired a box car, which was donated by the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern (DM&E) Railroad.

Ludeman calls many of the Wheels Museum’s buildings “little miracles” that were on the verge of being destroyed. The barbershop, for example, was found in a grove and was going to be torn down.

Another rescue story is that of the log cabin. The cabin was discovered by Jim and Tom Gervais, who had bought a farm by Bear Lake and were in the process of tearing down the buildings.

A board on the house was flapping, and one of the brothers tore it off. Underneath was a log. The cabin came to Wheels Across the Prairie after first being offered to the Murray County Historical Society Museum and End-O-Line Museum. Art Peterson completed repairs before the cabin was shingled and finished.

Other buildings that have been added include the post office, which is from Amiret; the District 91 schoolhouse from Murray County; and the summer kitchen from south of Balaton. The town hall is the most recent addition to the museum. The hall is still in use, and has been a nice addition for the museum to use for meetings as well, said Pamp.

Ludeman said she has one last dream before she hangs up her hat as curator: a music hall. There are many musical artifacts, including an organ, jukebox, pianos, and smaller instruments that could be housed together and make room for new exhibits, she said. Among those new items are some artifacts from the Laura Ingalls Wilder era that are coming in from St. Paul.

While Ludeman and Pamp plan to retire from their positions, they won’t be deserting the place they’ve worked hard to make successful.

“We’ll still work here to help keep it going,” Ludeman said. “We would like to see it continue.”

Wheels Across the Prairie has an all-volunteer staff and board of directors. All money received by the museum goes back into its displays. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Steps taken on proposed Morgan St. redevelopment

The Tracy Economic Development Authority is moving ahead with a plan to redevelop a 268x175-foot parcel along Morgan Street.

At its May 9 meeting, the EDA authorized a $2,100 offer on a house at 72 Morgan St. one of five houses that EDA members would like to acquire and raze to make the way for new housing construction. The offer has subsequently been forwarded to the owner, Luiz Hernandez of Marshall, but no agreement has been reached.

The $2,100 offer was less property taxes and special assessments owed on the property.

The 72 Morgan house is one of three vacant houses among the five structures. The properties, on the north side of Morgan and east of the First St. intersection, have addresses ranging from 78 to 58 Morgan.

Heirs of the Arlene Blanchette own a second unoccupied house. Santos Pastrada, address unknown, is the owner of record on the third vacant house.

Della Van Meveren and Maria Martinez own the other two houses, which are occupied.

A tax-increment finance district has been proposed to assist with the redevelopment. A developer has expressed interest in building a new house on the property, if a tax-increment district is established. It has been suggested that the five existing parcels be divided into two, 134 by 175-foot lots.


Other recent EDA business includes:

Loan okayed

A $17,000 loan was approved for Kim Daniels and Keith Peterson of Daniels-Peterson Construction of Tracy. The loan will be used to help purchase the former Tracy Bottling Company warehouse owned by Al Zender, at 438 South St. The ten-year-loan will have an interest rate of 2.625%.

Daniels and Peterson explained to EDA members May 9 that the building would be used for their construction business, and that they would also have a first mortgage on the property. Minnwest Bank South was willing to finance 100% of their financing needs, Daniels and Peterson indicated, but they were also seeking a loan from the EDA because of the lower interest rate.

“We need to keep people like you in town,” commented Sandi Rettmer, Tracy city council member on the EDA.

As collateral for the loan, the EDA is taking a secondary position on the South St. warehouse.


JOBZ acres transferred

Ten of Tracy’s 163 Job Opportunity Building Zones (JOBZ) acres have been transferred to the City of Hutchinson.

The Tracy EDA agreed to give up ten of its JOBZ acres, after receiving a request from Hutchinson.

Robert Gervais, Tracy community development director, told EDA members that it is unlikely that Tracy will need all of its 163 acres. Perhaps by helping out Hutchinson, Tracy might someday receive a business lead from Hutchinson leaders, Gervais said. Financial considerations between communities, Gervais said, are not allowed for JOBZ acres.

JOBZ acres offer tax-saving incentives for business developments and expansions that create jobs. In January of 2004, Tracy was allocated 163 JOBZ acres. A total of 116-acres are located in the Tracy Industrial Park. The remaining 47-acres were allocated for a triangular-shaped piece of agricultural land bounded by the railroad and the Highline Road on the northwest edge of Tracy.

Crops: Bring on the heat
By Kyle Lessman

Unseasonably cool spring temperatures are slowing the development of area crops. But while cool, wet conditions are a concern, local crop observers are still upbeat.

“Things are looking pretty good throughout,” says Jodi Dejong-Hughes with the Lyon County Crops and Soils Department. “The corn popped up a little yellow, but some sun should green it up.”

Shannon Christenson, the manager of the Amiret Grain Elevator agrees, “We have the chance for a very good crop. Everything is in place for a great year.”

With farmers in the fields early this spring, most farmers are either done with their planting or almost done.

“One hundred percent of the corn is in and we have right around 90% of the beans planted in this area,” estimates Christenson.

Cool weather has slowed germination and plant growth.

“The cold weather just slowed the whole process down.” Christenson explains, “The corn, even though it was in early, is not that developed. It took a while for the corn to germinate because the soil temperature needs to be at least 50 degrees, and with colder temperatures in April and May that just didn’t happen. There just have not been enough heat units.”

“We are definitely behind on growing degree days,” agrees Dejong-Hughes. “We could definitely use some heat for the corn and beans.”

Dejong-Hughes states that when compared with the regional numbers “we are a little behind on a five year average, but when compared to the past couple years we aren’t too far off.”

Both Christenson and Dejong-Hughes agree that in order to have high yields to occur again this fall, two things need to happen.

“We need heat and timely rain, but heat is the major factor right now,” said Dejong-Hughes.