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News from the week of February 9, 2005

Belly Laughs…

Noun. 1) Uncontrollable, deep jovial laughter induced by the outlandishly raucous antics of Tina and Lena.

2) Intoxicatingly funny mental state cast upon Tracy people by ditzy dames with Scandinavian accents.

Lena had a problem.

She’d tried, and tried to keep pace with the other ladies in the Lake Minnewashtub breaststroke race. To no avail. Lena flopped out from the lake hours behind the other finishers, wrinkled and frustrated. She’d been the only competitor to follow the rules.

“You know,” Lena lamented. “I was the only swimmer who didn’t use her arms.”

Lena, and her glib blonde-sidekick, Tina, dished out quips as naturally as hotdish at a Lutheran potluck. The comic duo from Glenwood kept a Tracy Chamber of Commerce crowd roaring Saturday. Imagine Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett after eating too much lutefisk. That’s pretty much Tina & Lena.

“We just love it,” said Sue Edwards, the tandem’s Tina component. “We love what we do. It’s fun to see other people laugh and have a good time.”

The women have been friends since they were teenagers at Canby High School, where both were in school plays, and played in the band. For a time they went their separate ways as adults, both becoming music teachers, wives and families.

Twenty-one years ago—just for fun—they started their Tina & Lena act. They are still having a blast.

Their polished, cornball routine has taken them to hundreds of stages across the Midwest. Their venues have been as big as the Minnesota State Fair, and as glamorous as Las Vegas nightclubs. They’ve performed for school groups, business conventions, county fairs, town festivals, churches, arts events, and parties.

Tina & Lena stay as busy as they want to be, performing about twice a week, year-around. Their families, they say, need to come first. Tina and her husband have five children and “sons-in-love,” while Lena and her husband have four children and “sons-in-love.” Both funny ladies are doting grandmothers.


Playing the audience

Like expert Lake Shetek walleye fishermen, Tina and Lena reeled in unwitting participants from their Tracy crowd.

Tina took off a fur choker (“It’s road kill,” she explained), and instructed banker Ivan Van Essen to put the fur over contractor Dru Larson’s sore knees. Former mayor Claire Hannasch and Xcel Energy manager Keith Rayman were serenaded on an improbable ice fishing expedition. Electrician George Hebig became the butt of a wrenching joke. Larson painfully hit the high notes as the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company C, while loan officer Mary Squires helped Tina and Lena impersonate the Lennon Sisters.

Jenna Schaar, Miss Tracy 2005, became Shania Twain. Becca Gervais, Megan Meyer, and Pam Peterson were discovered to be “The Dixie Chicks.” Mavis Knudson and Fylla Paulsen became two legendary divas from the Grand Old Opry, “Minnie” and “Pearl.” Stodgy publisher Seth Schmidt was unmasked as “Oppie” from the Andy Griffith Show before being reunited with “Aunt Bea” (Jean Hicks).

Tina and Lena confessed that their act was usually a trio: Tina, Lena, and Marlena, (Marlene Buck), who had been given the night off.

Pastor Homer Dobson was the punch line of a joke about two men lost in the Bering Sea. “Don’t worry, I earn a hundred thousand dollars a week,” one survivor professed. “What good will that money do you here,” the other despaired. The wealthy optimist responded, “Don’t worry. I tithed all my earnings to the church. Pastor Homer Dobson will find me.”

Fun with names was a part of the act. Tina marveled over good-looking Mark Pregnant’s (Priegnitz’s) long hair, while Lena gushed about meeting Robert Goulette (Gervais). Deb Schenkoske and Lori Hebig, owners of Lights and Beyond,” were described as ladies who light up a room with their presence, in contrast to some who light up a room by leaving. Tina and Lena found it remarkable the Chris Schons worked for a newspaper called the Headlight-Herald. (“Get it, Headlight?” Lena asked).

The comics proved to be adroit musicians; Tina on the guitar and Lena on the organ and a railroad whistle call. Both could sing. Really.

And, oh yes, Tina and Lena could also spin a funny yarn.

They related the tale of 94-year-old Uncle Torkelson, who met a lovely lady one noon at Tracy Senior Dining. After a few minutes conversation, Uncle Tork asked the lady to marry him. But the next day, he had to call her on the telephone. He couldn’t remember if she’d said “yes” or “no.” “Oh, I’m so glad you called,” the lady replied. “I couldn’t remember who had asked me.”

The happy couple was soon seen down at John’s RX, where they were seen picking out Preparation-H, Polygrip, and Depends.

“Oh, we were just signing up for the bridal registry,” Uncle Tork explained.

The upcoming Super Bowl gave Tina and Lena an idea about football. Why create a pigskin game for pigs? Imagine, the Pittsburgh Squealers playing the Green Bay Porkers, and the Nebraska Cornshuckers tangling with the St. Louis Boars.

But don’t get the idea that Tina and Lena were all wit and no wisdom.

“How many of you women get up in the morning and make the coffee?” Lena asked.

A thicket of women’s arms shot into the air.

No, no, you’ve got it all wrong…men are supposed to make the coffee, Lena said. After all, it says so in the Bible.

“It’s right there in the book He Brews?”

Sun shines at Chamber banquet

Schelhaas, Miller, Zwach are honored

The Tracy Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet was no place for curmudgeons, pessimists, and naysayers Saturday. Optimism reigned supreme as the group toasted the past year.

“I’m excited about what is happening in Tracy. I’m amazed at everything that Tracy has accomplished,” said Mary Squires, Chamber board chair in 2004. “I can’t wait to see what is going to happen in 2005.”

Robert Gervais, 2004 Chamber director, echoed Squires enthusiasm.

“We have done a lot of good things in the past year,” he said.

Describing himself as an “optimist who sees the glass half-full instead of half-empty,” Gervais said that he will continue to work for projects that bring more jobs and young families to the community. A priority this coming year, he said, will be a campaign to bring a privately operated corrections facility to Tracy.

Ade Miller, Tracy Elementary School music teacher, was honored as the Chamber’s “outstanding citizen.” Milroy area farmer Dave Zwach was named the Chamber’s “distinguished farmer.” Bruce Schelhaas, Tracy Food Pride owner, was honored as ‘boss of the year.” Keith Rayman was cited as the Chamber’s outstanding volunteer.

The “Pelican Pontoon Pussie Cats” of the Lake Shetek area accepted an award for the first-place float in the Tracy Box Car Days parade. Twin Circle Apartments had the second-place parade entry, while Tracy Area Medical Services was third. Midwest Supply was recognized for the best entry in the Christmas Tree Walk.

Dr. Mark Evers and Cookie Cooreman were re-elected to the Chamber board. Tam Schons was elected to a board vacancy.

The banquet was a first for recently hired Chamber manager JoAnn Biren. Gervais, who resigned the Chamber’s part-time manager position to become the City of Tracy’s full-time Community Development Director, was honored with a plaque from board members for his past work.

The event, held at the Mediterranean Restaurant, attracted 140 people.


Boss of Year

“This is a total surprise,” said Schelhaas, after being introduced as the 2005 “Boss of the Year” by Tom and Sue Morin.

A 1970 graduate of Edgerton High School, Schelhaas has been in the meat and grocery business most of his adult life.

Following high school, Schelhaas enrolled in the meat-cutting program at Pipestone Vocational School. His first job was at Mankato Super Valu, where he worked until purchasing the Buffalo Ridge Locker in Ruthton with his brothers.

After getting married to Dawn in 1976, he worked for a short time at Ken’s Super Valu in Tracy before becoming the meat manager at a Red Owl in Brookings, S.D. A stint at a Twin Cities Super Valu followed, but from 1979-1984 he managed the meat department for Red Owl and County Market in Marshall, before purchasing the B&D Grocery in Ruthton.

In 1992, he and his wife bought the Balaton Food Center, and in 1997, they established the Tracy Food Center. In 1998, they took over management of Tracy Food Pride, when the Tracy Food Center and Jack & Jill were combined.

In 2004, the Schelhaas’s became sole owners of Tracy Food Pride, buying out partners Tony and Pam Bosch of Brandon, S.D.

“Thanks to my wife, because without her, I wouldn’t be here,” said Schelhaas.


Distinguished Farmer

“Thank you very much,” said Zwach, after being introduced as the Chamber’s “Distinguished Farmer” by John Zwach. “I really appreciate this. It’s a great honor.”

John Zwach cited his neighbor for his conservation work.

“He has always been very conservation minded.” His accomplishments, he said, include two wildlife ponds, two field windbreaks, thousands of tree and shrub plantings, and putting 165 acres into native grasses.

The 1958 graduate of Milroy High School studied agriculture at the University of Minnesota before beginning farming with his father in Gales Township in 1960. He has been honored as Redwood County’s Conservationist of the Year, and the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Award.

Past community involvement has included Knights of Columbus, property board for Diocese of New Ulm, American Legion Post 274, Redwood County Planning and Zoning board,, and the Farmers Co-op Association of Milroy and the Tri-County Co-op board of directors.

“This year’s distinguished farmer has served his family, community, and country well,” said John Zwach.


Outstanding Citizen

Marge Robinson, described Miller, the Chamber’s 2005 Outstanding Citizen, this way:

“Young and old realize their potential when she gets them to do something.”

Miller, the music teacher at Tracy Elementary School for 20 years, owns the Downtown Tracy businesses “Uniquely Yours” with her husband, Jim.

Robinson saluted Miller for her involvement in many Tracy arts endeavors, such as the Tracy Community Children’s Choir productions of Annie Junior, Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, and Babes in Toyland; and the community theater productions of Music Man and Oklahoma!

The Concordia College graduate is a board member of the Fine Arts Council of Tracy, and is the director of the Free Spirits youth choir at Tracy Lutheran Church. She is a former executive director of Twin Circle Apartments.

The music mentor was taken aback by her selection.

“I was trying to think of all the people I have known who have graduated from Concordia College,” Miller said of Robinson’s introduction. She said that of all the places she has lived, she likes Tracy the best.

“Tracy is home. We hope to stick around. Thank you all very much.”

Purringtons anxious to meet adoptive daughter in China

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

With the nervous excitement of any new parent, Rob and Tammy Purrington are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Feb. 24.

It isn’t a due date in the traditional sense. It is the day they leave for China, where they will meet their new daughter, Christina. It’s also Christina’s first birthday.

For the Purringtons, the real journey began over a year ago. They had been thinking about the possibility of adopting a child for a while. Tammy, a Tracy Area High School math teacher and Balaton native, has twin cousins who were adopted from Korea.

Around Christmas 2003, they received a letter from college friends who were adopting a child from China. The Purringtons decided the time was right for them to adopt. They announced their decision to family on Christmas.

The couple decided to use the agency used by their friends, Bethany Christian Services. They wanted a well-known agency that they could trust. They also wanted an agency with an office in Minnesota.

The Purringtons began the paperwork during Tammy’s 2003 Christmas break from school. They had to get fingerprinted, have background checks, and get reference letters.

“It was like applying for a government job,” said Rob, a Marshall native.

The Marshall couple also had to read books on raising children trans-racially, and learn more about the Chinese culture, which they knew little about before the process began.

The Purringtons’ dossier was sent to China and logged in on June 28.

“From that time on you just wait for the referral,” Tammy said.

Once the paperwork was logged, the application had to be cleared before going to what is called a matching room, and then to a translation room.

Over the summer, the Purringtons decorated Christina’s room in pink and white, with a bear border. They bought toys and books. Tammy said they tried to find books on China, so that Christina would be able to use them as a resource when she got older. It is important to the Purringtons that Christina be able to learn about where she came from.

“Eventually, we would like to get involved in culture camps,” said Tammy. They have also made contact with other couples who have adopted from China.

It took about six months for the Purringtons’ paperwork to be cleared and for them to be matched with a child. They had requested a healthy girl under the age of 12 months, and were matched with Christina.

The Purringtons still don’t know too much about their daughter. They have a few pictures, and have seen medical reports. They’ve been told she likes music and noisy toys, and that she can stand with support. They chose her American name, and kept part of her Chinese name, Min, as her middle name.

They’ll learn much more on Feb. 27, when they meet their daughter for the first time.

The Purringtons leave the United States on Feb. 24. They’ll change planes in Tokyo and fly to Beijing. They’ll spend about two days sight-seeing before traveling to the Jiangxi province.

The Purringtons will be among 19 other couples, six in the Jiangxi province, who are traveling to China to adopt children.

Once at the hotel, Christina’s nannies will bring her to her new parents. The next morning, the Purringtons will file paperwork to become her legal parents at a public office. They will stay in the Jiangxi province for five days while their paperwork is finalized.

From there, the Purringtons will travel to Guangzhou to the U.S. Consulate, where they will go through an adoption ceremony. Christina will go through a medical examination and receive her passport and visa so she can enter the U.S.

They’ll fly to the U.S. as a family on March 9.

Once they arrive back in the U.S., there will be one last check of Christina’s paperwork before she’s declared a U.S. citizen.

The Purringtons are looking forward to getting back home with their daughter after a long journey. Their biggest concern is helping Christina adjust to the 12-hour time change. Mostly they are just excited to have their daughter coming home.

“We’re excited. We’re already planning activities for summer,” Tammy said.

Tammy will be taking some time off from teaching to care for Christina after they return. Both Rob, who owns Southwest ChemDry, a carpet cleaning business, and Tammy will continue coaching speech at TAHS as soon as they return.

The 14-month process has been a time of waiting and planning. Parts of the process, she said, gave them something to look forward to and helped the time seem to go faster.

“It’s kind of been a long but short process,” Tammy said. “It’s been long enough.”

Fifty-six named for Bye-Bye Birdie

A cast of 56 has been selected for the Tracy musical Bye-Bye Birdie.

High school sophomore Celia Brockway, and sophomore Jacob Gilmore are cast in the lead roles. Gilmore portrays Conrad Birdie, a rock-n-roll mega-star who has just been drafted into the U.S. Army. Brockway will play Kim MacAfee, a 15-year-old from Sweet Apple High School, who has been chosen by a publicity-conscious record company to give Birdie his last kiss as a civilian on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The musical—directed by Ade Miller and Jesse James—will be staged Friday and Saturday, April 1-2, and Saturday and Sunday, April 9-10, on the Tracy High School gym stage.

Other principals are Steve Ferrazzano and Deb Miller, who portray Kim’s parents; Michael Martin (Albert Peterson), Birdie’s agent; Mary Zwach (Rose Alvarez), Albert’s longtime girlfriend; Dalton Kirk (Randolph MacAfee), Kim’s obnoxious brother; Jeremiah Martin (Hugo Peabody), Kim’s boyfriend; Emily Baumann (Ursula Merkle), Kim’s friend; Vickie Olson (Mae Peterson), Albert’s overbearing mother.

The comedy is based loosely on the stir created when Elvis Presley was drafted into the Army in the late 1950s. Bye-Bye Birdie opened on Broadway in 1960 starring, among others, Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde.

An initial cast meeting is scheduled Sunday afternoon.. Miller is still looking for men to fill out one group dance scene with non-speaking, non-singing roles.

Volunteers are also needed for a variety of behind-the-scenes jobs, including costuming, staging, lights, sound, and publicity. Anyone who wants to help is invited to call Marge Robinson at 629-3114.




Principal Roles

Albert Peterson - Michael Martin

Rose Alvarez - Mary Zwach

Conrad Birdie - Jacob Gilmore

Mr. MacAfee - Steve Ferrazzano

Mrs. MacAfee - Deb Miller

Kim MacAfee - Celia Brockway

Randolph MacAfee - Dalton Kirk

Hugo Peabody - Jeramiah Martin

Ursula Merkle - Emily Baumann

Mrs. Mae Peterson - Victoria Olson


Gloria - Pam Peterson

Mayor - Keith Stanton

Mayor’s Wife - Val Hayes

Mrs. Merkle - Ethanie Schmidt

Mr. Johnson - Jim Miller

Mrs. Johnson - Jan Mason

Mary - Sue Nackerud

Murphy - Sue Kluge

Lee - Muriel Coulter

Lois - Mev Jackson

Roxy - Diane Ferrazzano

Mitzie - April Green

Yvette - Robin McIntire

Violet - Bev Holland

Lily - Dar Ford

Rose - Carla VanDeWiele

Dahlia - Rosemary Krueger Martin


Helen - Allison Rasmussen

Suzie - Molly Miller

Nancy - Maria Schmidt

Penelope - Julia Olson

Lidia - Jessica Mason

Margie - Megan Gilmore

Gidget - Maisee Vue

Audrey - Emily Gilmore

Barbie - Bekah Zens

Gretchen - Mariah Schelhaas

Wendy - Melissa Noerenberg

Lacey - Nicole Hansen

Donna - Jackie Coulter

Peggy - Michelle Lenertz

Marilynn - Megan Landa

Colette - Rachel Stobb

Cindy - Mallory Fultz

Judy - Lindsey Daniels

Marsha - Danielle Thooft

Alice - Emily Miller

Dawnette - Christy Her

Debra Sue - Kayla Van Keulen

Rex - Levi Miller

Buzzy - David Jones

Percy - Kyle Lessman

Freddie - Chia Thao

Harvey - Ben Van Moer

Ewold - Kyle Peltola

Karl - Ben Ziemke

A river runs throught it?

Drainage ditch could be attractive feature to new addition, EDA told

Native prairie grasses along a gently winding waterway… spacious yards on irregular-shaped lots…quiet cul-de-sacs streets and parks…all conveniently located near schools, a church and the open countryside.

What is it? The vision for a new housing development in South Tracy.

Tracy Economic Development Authority members looked at four potential layouts for a new housing development on what is now known as the former Central Livestock property Monday. I&S Engineers & Architects of Mankato drew up the plans,

The 30-acre site, which is north of Front Street in the Broadacres Addition, has been suggested for a new city housing development, as well as the location for a new drainage ditch.

I&S Engineers suggest that the open ditch could become an attractive part of a new housing development, if the ditch were attractively landscaped with native prairie grasses, trees and shrubs. The drainage structure, it is recommended, should be marketed as a “waterway” rather than a drainage ditch.

All four designs feature lots that are at least 125-feet wide. The proposed open ditch extends from near the intersection of South Fourth and Front streets, northeast toward the railroad tracks, where it would link with another drainage ditch.

In two sketches, the waterway skirts the housing development on the west and northwest. Each design has more than 30 lots. Two designs have the waterway running through the center of the development, with residential lots to both the north and south.

All designs would allow houses to be built along the north side of Front Street, where there is already a paved and underground utilities. No estimate was made for the cost of streets and utilities in the rest of the proposed development.

I&S Engineers did not charge the EDA for the development drawings.


Drainage issues

The discussion about a housing addition on the Central Livestock site surfaced last year, when consulting engineers for the city proposed the new drainage ditch to alleviate the period flooding that occurs in Southwest Tracy. City leaders discussed the possibility of purchasing land from owner Dave Anderson.

The idea of also utilizing the land for a new housing development emerged later. EDA members had been talking about developing a new housing addition. It was suggested that if the city needs to buy a portion of the Anderson property for the drainage ditch, it was cost-effective to look at the site’s potential for new housing.

Tracy City Council members have expressed support for moving ahead with the drainage-ditch improvement. City leaders are now waiting for action on the proposal by a county ditch authority.