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News from the week of December 14, 2005


Fine arts, athletic needs discussed

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

The proposed move of the former Mediterranean banquet room to school grounds for use as a wrestling facility is raising many questions for the District 417 school board.

The questions don’t hinge on whether the move is a good idea, but rather whether building a new combination gymnasium/fine arts facility might be a better one.

Karl Campbell of the Panther wrestling booster club, gave the board a rundown of estimated costs for moving the 3,500 square foot banquet facility to the school site. Campbell’s numbers included what it would cost to move the facility with labor donated, and with labor costs added. At an earlier meeting, Campbell indicated that parents of wrestlers would likely be willing to donate a good share of the labor.

The total estimated cost for the move, with labor donated, is $120,750. The total cost, with labor costs added, would be approximately $159,200. Of that, approximately $14,000 is anticipated for moving costs.

Campbell also provided numbers showing what it would cost to build the same size building—50-by-70 feet—new. Estimates are that it would cost $147,700 to build a building of the same size with labor donated, and $199,400 with labor costs added.

Campbell said he had spoken with an engineering firm, and they indicated that they would like to do a code analysis before the move.

Because the facility is a wood structure, it cannot be directly connected to the school building. A breezeway, which could be made of non-combustible materials, could connect the two, however. A breezeway would eliminate the need for bathrooms in the facility.

Board members acknowledged that a wrestling facility is badly needed, but questioned whether another option might meet more needs for the district and community.

“Is it time for the school to consider an addition instead?” asked board member Eric Fultz.

Some suggestions included a new gymnasium, locker rooms, and a fine arts facility.

Superintendent David Marlette told board members they would have to decide whether they think the community would support this option. He estimated that to build such a facility would cost the district $2-3 million. He felt that realistically, it would be two to three years before such a project could come to fruition. However, he added, it could be sooner if public support is strong.

Marlette and Activities Director Bill Tauer agreed to contact other district that have built such facilities and get a better idea of what it would cost. They will also work on determining what the district’s needs are, in addition to a home for the wrestling program.

“If you want to do it right, you really need to separate the gym from the theater,” Tauer suggested.

Coaches resign from Panther volleyball team

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

The Panther volleyball program has lost its head coach and assistant coach. The resignations of head coach Katie Gervais and assistant coach Beth Lanoue were accepted Monday.

“This really saddens me,” Superintendent David Marlette said as the District 417 school board considered Gervais’ resignation. “She’s really a good coach. She has built a very good program.”

In her letter of resignation, Gervais cited several reasons for leaving the volleyball program, including her desire to spend more time with her family. She also cited issues with athletes and parents as a reason for her resignation.

Under Gervais’ seven-year head coaching tenure, the Panther volleyball team won two state championships, in 2001 and 2004.

While Gervais will no longer coach volleyball, she will remain in the district as a business teacher.

Marlette said he was also sad to see Lanoue leave the program.

“She just felt she and Katie were a team,” he said.

In her letter of resignation, Lanoue cited many of the same reasons for leaving as Gervais.

New dentist sought for Tracy clinic

The Dental Health Center of Tracy is looking for a new dentist.

A letter sent to Dental Health Center patients announced that Dr. Brandon Ulstad is leaving the practice to start his own dental practice in his hometown of Madison effective Jan. 1. Dr. Ulstad has been with the Dental Health Center for four years,

Dr. Ulstad’s departure leaves Dr. Randy Johnson as the Dental Health Center’s only dentist. Recruitment efforts are underway to attract another dentist for the practice, according to the letter. Dr. Johnson will continue to provide dental care for Tracy patients. However, appointments with Dr. Johnson after Jan. 1 will be scheduled in the Dental Health Center’s Marshall clinic while recruitment efforts continue for another dentist.

The Dental Health Center clinic in Tracy will remain open. Receptionist Nancy Iversen will manage the office Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., and Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon. Dental hygienist Lezlie LaVoy will see patients in the Tracy clinic Thursdays. She will also see patients in Marshall on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

“We will continue serving you with the same excellent dental care that you have received in the past,” stated Dr. Johnson in the letter. “Thank you for your patience while we continue to actively recruit another dentist for our practice.”

The Dental Health Center has operated in Downtown Tracy for 20 years. It’s Marshall office is located next to the Marshall Post Office, at 304 West Lyon St.

School planned Friday, Dec. 23

There will be school at Tracy Area Public Schools on Friday, Dec. 23.

One school calendar mistakenly noted that there would not be school that day. However, a full day of school is planned Dec. 23.

A Nov. 29 snow day for Tracy schools will be made up, Monday, Jan. 16.


Sunday service aims to offer comfort & hope

An ecumenical “service of comfort and hope” is planned at the Tracy United Methodist Church Sunday, Dec. 18, at 4 p.m.

Pastor Kaye Brandt, United Methodist pastor, explains that the services is meant especially for people who are feeling some type of loss or sadness as Christmas approaches.

“ Christmas is a season of joy, festivity and celebration, but not for everyone. As images of smiling faces and brightly-decorated Christmas trees surround us, it only serves to accentuate the sadness that some persons experience as Christmas draws near,” the pastor says.

The festive Christmas season, she feels, can accentuate the pain of those grieving the death or absence of a loved one. Christmas can also be a difficult time for people feeling sadness or despair because of health problems, financial difficulties, the loss of a job, or the end of a relationship or marriage.

The informal community service, Pastor Brandt explains, is “intended to provide comfort and hope for all who gather.”

A Christmas tree will be decorated with angels symbolizing faith, hope and love. The angels will be presented to people at the service. People who have recently lost a loved one can call the church office (629-4576) to have the name of their loved one written on an angel. The name of the person remembered will be “lifted up” at the service as the angel is presented to a family member.

“All persons gathered will have the opportunity to take an angel home and to light a candle representing our hope which rests in Emmanuel—God-with-us,” Pastor Brandt said.

Father Brian Mandel of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and Pastor Douglas Gjerset of Tracy Lutheran Church will also participate in the service, which will include hymn singing and a candle-lighting ceremony. Refreshments will be served following the service. The public is invited.

Deutz barn nativity begins 20th season

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

The Christmas story is familiar to most. Mary and Joseph, weary from their travels to Bethlehem, arrive in the city to find there is no room for them to stay at the inn. Instead, they find shelter in a simple stable, where Jesus is born among the animals.

For the past 20 years, Pat and Rose Deutz have welcomed visitors to their farm south of Marshall and have shared both hospitality and the story of the birth of Jesus through their Christmas barn.

“When we first bought this place, I thought we would just put some animals downstairs for the kids to see,” said Pat Deutz.

Then, a priest from Marshall suggested that the upstairs be used to hold a special Christmas Mass.

Back then, the barn was just an average barn. The Deutzes and several neighbors had what Pat refers to as a “board meeting,” during which they moved boards and prepared the barn for visitors.

“There was a board meeting where something actually got done,” he said.

That first year, the Deutzes called people and invited them to the Christmas barn. Over 400 people attended. Now, word spreads mostly by word of mouth, and through area churches.

“That first year was interesting, but I’ll never forget the reactions of the people who came,” Deutz said.

In the years following, the Deutzes said, they always started out the year thinking maybe they would have the Christmas barn again. And every year, family, friends, and neighbors have gathered to help them prepare, and to help when school kids come to visit.

“I never thought it would go this long,” Pat said.

He said the Christmas barn has become something of a tradition for many people in the area. Some attended as children and now return with their own children.

“Some people have been here all 20 years,” he said.

There have been many changes throughout the years. The Deutzes have made the barn more streamlined in order to better handle the people who come through. Wiring in the barn has been updated to make the barn safer.

A walk through the barn is something better experienced than described. It takes a moment to become accustomed to the dim lighting inside. Soon, rustic-looking animal pens and cages come into view.

This year, the Deutzes will have miniature and regular-sized donkeys, bunnies, puppies, lambs, white doves, and cows in the barn. There’s a place for Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. There’s room for Santa Claus too, when he can come, and the shepherds.

Upstairs, bales of hay topped with planks serve as church pews in a setting that is rustic yet majestic. Here is where Mass is held, and where Duane Murphy, who the Deutzes call “the singing shepherd,” provides musical entertainment.

Murphy, who has provided music for the Christmas barn for 20 years, has written several songs for this unique ministry.

“People are just in tears when he’s done,” Pat said.

Each year, the Deutzes play host to between 3,000-4,000 people, and bake about 1,000 cookies for the school children who visit. They say they don’t know how long they’ll keep doing the Christmas barn, but enjoy the message it sends during an ever-commercialized holiday season.

“It’s a lot of work, but it means something,” Pat said.

• • •

The Deutz Christmas Barn is located six miles south of Marshall on Hwy. 59, and 3/4-mile west on Co. Rd. 20. Visitors are welcome during any of the following times, which have been scheduled for Mass and school visits, but a pass is required for Christmas Eve. To request a pass, call (507) 532-2972.

Thursday, Dec. 15: Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s School K-1, 9:45 a.m.

Friday, Dec. 16: Lynd Public School Preschool-2, 1 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 17: Tracy St. Mary’s Mass, 7 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 18: Knights of Columbus Mass & potluck, 4 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 20: Marshall Holy Redeemer School & Wee Care

Wednesday, Dec. 21: Tracy St. Mary’s School Mass, 9:30 a.m.

Tyler/Lake Benton Youth, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 24: Tyler/Lake Benton Mass, 1 p.m.; Milroy St. Michael’s Mass, 4 p.m.