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News from the week of August 28, 2002

Tracy Box Car Days set for 75th run

Tracy Box Car Days is a tradition that's been 75 years in the making.

This year's celebration—which marks the 75th anniversary of Box Car Days—promises to be one of the biggest and best ever.

“Our goal was to make this a great event that everyone would remember and come home for,” said Tracy Chamber of Commerce Chair Tam Schons. “We wanted to plan a fun, family-oriented event.”

Planning for the 75th, she said, began two to three years ago.

An observance inspired by Tracy's railroad roots, Box Car Days has been long known as one of Minnesota's largest and longest-running city celebrations.

Tracy, selected in 1879 as a division point for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, was once a major railroad center in Southwest Minnesota. In 1927, when the first Box Car Days was celebrated, over 200 men were employed by the railroad in Tracy.

The Tracy Merchants Trade Association sponsored the first Box Car Days, held Sept. 2-3, 1927. A 31-unit parade featured mostly homemade floats, with bands from Lamberton and Garvin performing. A ball game was played each day. A street dance served as evening entertainment.

The second annual Box Car Days added the Box Car Day Queen competition, with Frances Owczarzak crowned as the first Miss Tracy.

Today, Tracy Box Car Days has grown to a four-day affair.

“Events like this help the small towns keep their identities,” said Robert Gervais, Tracy community development director.

Both Schons and Gervais stress that many volunteers are dedicating their time to making the anniversary celebration a success. Over 300 volunteers are helping, Gervais said.

“It's sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, but it's really a community event.”

He added that he has been received many inquiries about the weekend's activities, and anticipates a large crowd.

Miss Tracy to mix dance & tradition

Six Tracy Area High School seniors are competing for the Miss Tracy title Saturday night.

The Miss Tracy Scholarship Program begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Tracy Area High School auditorium. Tickets are available at the door.

Miss Tracy has traditionally been held Sunday evening, but it was moved to Saturday this year to accommodate the Dennis Morgan concert.

A total of $3,000 in scholarships will be awarded.

Participants are judged on scholastic achievement and activities, an interview by the judges' panel, creative and performing arts, fitness, and presence and composure. They will also be required to answer a question on-stage.

Candidates are:

• Brooke Averill, daughter of Becky and the late Gene Averill, sponsored by Tracy Country Club. Brooke will be performing a dance entitled “Hats.”

• Brittany Scott, daughter of David Scott and Valinda Peterson, sponsored by Tracy Fire Department. Brittany will be playing a piano solo, “Warsaw Concerto.”

• Kelly Laleman, daughter of Virgil and Deanna Laleman, sponsored by Tracy Lions Club. Her creative arts presentation is an oral interpretation entitled “Fussy Eater.”

• Emily Vandendriessche, daughter of Carolyn and Dave Vandendriessche, sponsored by Tracy Eagles Club. Emily will be doing an original oral interpretation entitled, “What's in a Name.”

• Katie Bauer, daughter of Bradley and Tammy Bauer, sponsored by Balaton Construction/Balaton Auto Salvage. Katie will be doing sign language to “Tears in Heaven.”

• MaiNou Vue, daughter of Neng Yang and Sai Vue, sponsored by Garvin First Responders and Fire Department. MaiNou will be performing a dance entitled “NCO.”

The new Miss Tracy will receive a $1,300 scholarship. First runner up will receive a $700 scholarship, and third runner up will receive a $500 scholarship. Five $100 scholarships will also be awarded for scholastic achievement, creative arts presentation, fitness, presence & composure, and panel evaluation.

Masters of Ceremonies are Jeremy Trulock and Stephanie Schiller, a former Miss Tracy.

Songwriter looking forward to appearance

Who would have thought it?

Thirty-six years ago, a 16-year-old lad named Dennis Morgan left school and home in Tracy, and hitchhiked to Nashville to pursue a dream of becoming a songwriter.

Defying all conventional wisdom, the dream came true. Three decades after he left Box Car City, more than 900 of Morgan's songs have been recorded by some of the music industry's biggest stars. All told, more than 300 million records, tapes, and CDs of Morgan's music have been sold worldwide. Besides writing songs, the Tracy native has become a successful music producer and publisher. He owns the Little Shop of Morgansongs/Morgan Music Groups, Inc., and Dreamstreet Studios in Nashville.

“It's been a blast, man, it really has,” Morgan says of his career, in a telephone interview from Nashville.

Sunday night, Morgan is returning to Southwest Minnesota for his first major concert in Tracy. The special Tracy Box Car Days Concert begins at 7 p.m. Sunday night in the high school gym.

“I am really looking forward to it,” Morgan says. “I'm going to knock it out of the park as hard as I can.”

Tracy, he adds, remains a special place to him. He still keeps in touch with some of his old high school buddies.

He describes his upcoming concert as “two hours of a lot of hits and some new songs,” with songs made famous by artists such as Eric Clapton, Faith Hill, Fleetwood Mac, Barbara Mandrell “and all stops in between.” Morgan will also share anecdotes about the songs he has written.

Morgan expects to bring about five musicians and technicians with him for the show.

The songwriter/performer is coming to Tracy at the invitation of the Tracy Chamber of Commerce, who wanted to book an extra-special entertainment for the 75th Anniversary of Box Car Days.

“We've had a great response to the concert,” said Robert Gervais. “There are a lot of people in Tracy who remember Dennis Morgan.” As of Monday, about 600 advance tickets had been sold for the concert. It's estimated that the high school gym will hold about 1,000 people.

WW II planes to highlight airport `fly-in'

The roar of three World War II airplanes will enliven the Tracy Box Car Days “fly-in” Monday morning.

A restored B-25 “Mitchell” bomber, owned by the Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, will be flying into Tracy at about 8 a.m. Two privately owned North American T-6 trainers will also be flying into the airport.

The restored military planes are three of dozens of airplanes expected for the 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. fly-in. Both airplane and helicopter rides will be available for purchase.

Other attractions include a pancake breakfast, from 7 to 11 a.m., an antique car show, and model airplane flying demonstrations by the Marshall Radio Control Club.

The T-6 “Texan” was known as “The Pilot Maker” during World War II. The most widely produced trainer ever built, the T-6 was used as an advanced plane for pilots who would eventually fly high-performance fighter aircraft.

The two-seat aircraft has a 600 hp. engine, capable of speeds of 205 mph. The 29-foot long plane has a wingspan of 42 feet.

A delegation from Tracy, California is expected at the fly-in. The Tracy Chamber of Commerce is expected to give the group a “key to the city” in a brief ceremony.

Garvin, Walnut Grove are big winners in sewer grants

Walnut Grove and Garvin are among 33 rural Minnesota communities selected for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants and loans. The money is to be used for sewer and water improvements.

Garvin is receiving a $1.1 million grant and a $278,000 loan. Walnut Grove is earmarked for $2,430,000 in low-interest, long-term loans, and a $1,240,000 grant.

All told, Minnesota communities are receiving $40 million in USDA grants and loans to improve wastewater treatment, storm sewer, and water systems. The allocations, announced last week, are funded through the Farm Security and Rural investment Act passed by Congress earlier this year.

Walnut Grove City Clerk Karen Erickson says that the community is very happy with the promised $1,240,000 grant. The $2.4 million in loans can be paid off for a period of up to 39 years, at an interest rate of 4.5%. User fees, in the form of increased water and sewer rates, and a new storm water charge, will be used to pay back the loans, she said.

The money earmarked for Garvin will be used to build a new sewer collection system for the town's approximately 85 users. Sewage will go to a 10-acre underground drainfield south of town.

“It's a big boost for us,” said Mayor Jim Julien. “It can only help us.” He said there is already one family in town that plans to build a new house next year once the new sewage system is installed. Building a new house in Garvin that would be impossible today, Julien said, because of the inadequate sewer collection and treatment system.

'T-tommy's' is coming

An historic building in Currie is taking on new life this fall as a restaurant.

T-Tommy's Mill Street Grill is expected to open in early October in the former Mill Street Mercantile building. Owners Tom and Tammy Buesing of Slayton are excited to be bringing the restaurant to Currie.

Initial talks about buying the building began nearly a year ago, Tom Buesing said.

“The first few months we spent just seeing if it was feasible,” he said.

Buesing got his start in the food service business 25 years ago as a dishwasher at Valhalla Steakhouse on Lake Shetek. He has since leased restaurants, but has never owned his own. For the past four years, he has leased the Corral Supper Club in Fulda.

When considering buying their own restaurant, the Buesings knew that they wanted to stay in the area. They also wanted to find an area with potential, and believe the Currie/Lake Shetek area has it.

“The lake is a big draw for this area,” Buesing said.

The purchase was finalized in June, and work began to transfer the mercantile building into a restaurant.

The Buesings worked with the Currie State Bank, EDA, and Small Business Association in their quest to buy the building. They received a $24,000 low-interest loan from the EDA.

The building created an exciting prospect for the Buesings, who are interested in history and have remodeled three old houses.

“It's a good fit for Tammy and I,” he said. He added that the building is rich in character. “It's quite striking when you drive by.”

The building was constructed in 1880 by Currie's founder, Neil Currie, and is a focal point of the town's business district. It was remodeled by the Currie Area Restoration Enterprise (CARE) about six years ago and reopened as the Mill Street Mercantile. That business closed in the fall of 2000, and the Currie building has been empty since.

The building is now in the process of undergoing the transformation from mercantile to restaurant. Joe Schreier Construction of Currie is doing the work on the building.

When T-Tommy's Mill Street Grill opens, it should have seating for about 120 people, between the lounge and dining room areas. Elevated seating will be available in the front window area for added atmosphere. A partial wall is being installed to separate the lounge (smoking area) and the non-smoking dining room. The Buesings are still searching for an antique bar to complete the experience.

While Buesing says it's a nice change to start from scratch with his own restaurant, it has been a long road with all the regulations that have to be followed. The Buesings would like to be able to someday use the building's top floor, which has a tin ceiling and a stage, but at this time the project isn't feasible due to the cost it would take to bring it up to code.

Buesing said T-Tommy's will offer a wide selection of food items, while remaining reasonably priced for the everyday customer. While the menu hasn't been finalized quite yet, staples will include steak, shrimp and fish, chicken, Mexican food, and pasta. Additional, unique items may be offered on a nightly special basis.

While the main menu items will be similar to many area restaurants, Buesing said, he plans to set T-Tommy's food apart with unique side dishes.

“We plan to focus on a variety of different side items—things you wouldn't find anywhere else” he said. Nachos and black bean salsa will be another specialty.

Buesing is confident that T-Tommy's will be a good fit in Currie, and has appreciated the support of the community.

“One thing that's been really nice is all the positive comments we've heard,” he said.