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News from the week of March 8, 2006


Spring sprouts at nurseries

Spring has sprung at two Tracy garden centers.

Although the first day of spring doesn’t officially arrive until March 21, the spring planting season is well underway at both Greenwood Nursery and Tracy Floral and Greenhouse.

“It’s a fun time of year,” says Jeff Farber of Greenwood Nursery. “It’s warm in the greenhouses, there is an earthy smell in the air, and our employees are getting their hands dirty.” The green color of emerging plants adds to the excitement, he adds.

“We’re having a good time out here,” says Pam Cooreman, who owns Tracy Floral with Tami Schons. “It’s fun getting all of these plants going.”

Extra hands are busy at both nurseries to help with the spring planting.

Five extra workers compliment Tracy Floral’s normal staff of four people. Seven employees have joined Farber at Greenwood Nursery.

The spring planting activities at Greenwood began the first week in March, whereas some greenhouse planting at Tracy Floral started on the day after Valentine’s Day.

Both Farber and Cooreman declined to estimate how many annual flowers, vegetables, and perennials they would ultimately be tending in their greenhouses.

“It’s in the thousands,” said Cooreman.

“I could tell you, but it would take me all morning to figure it out,” smiled Farber.

• • •

Greenwood Nursery has some 60,000 square feet of greenhouse space, six greenhouses in Tracy and two more at its Marshall site.

“Tracy is the growing site. We some plants up to Marshall to sell,” Farber said.

Tracy Floral has four greenhouses.

Planting at both Tracy businesses in a labor-intensive, hands-on process. Some plants are started from seed, others are nourished from tiny plants called plugs. The planting stage is only the beginning.

“We need to watch them so they grow they way they should, that there aren’t any bugs or diseases, the temperature is right and that they are getting the right amount of nourishment and water,” Cooreman explained.

She calls their greenhouses, “the Bahamas” because of the warm temperatures and the gently breezes that blow through the structures. The Tracy Floral Greenhouses are heated to 68 to 70 degrees.

As tender young shoots grow, plants must be transplanted into different containers.

“The bigger nurseries have a lot of automation. But the cost of that equipment doesn’t make sense for a small nursery like us.”

Small nursery?

Even at family-owned businesses like Greenwood Nursery and Tracy Floral, plant numbers sound staggering.

“We transplanting 11,000 geraniums this week,” said Farber.

• • •

The Tracy nursery operators try to anticipate the plant varieties customers will want to buy. Planting plans are based on past history and experience, and research into what is new and interesting for gardeners.

Cooreman anticipates that a “double wave” petunia will be a good seller in 2005. She says that Tracy Floral will have a host of “new and exciting perennials.” But planting remains an education guess.

“Whatever was hot last year, is not necessarily going to be this year,” Cooreman relates.

Farber tries to have an assortment of new plant varieties and products each year, because avid gardeners typically like trying new things. “That’s what keeps it fun.” Yet choices are limited by Minnesota weather.

“I pretty much try to have plants that I know are going to grow in Southwest Minnesota,” Farber explains. For outdoor summer plants, that means plants that can sustain hot and dry weather.

• • •

Gardeners don’t need to go looking for bedding plants quite yet.

Cooreman says that their peak gardening season typically starts in late April or early May when they host their annual spring open house.

“Everyone is anxious to get started,” said Farber. “But it is pretty early. Around the first week of April, if it starts warning up, we’ll have people starting to look for seed potatoes.”


Barking dogs have bigger crime bite in Tracy than murderers

Crime in Tracy continues to be more similar to “Mayberry” than “Dragnet.”

The Tracy Police Department’s 2005 activity report shows that assistance to the public is the most common police activity in Tracy, much like television’s fictional town of Mayberry on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Unlike Joe Friday on “Dragnet,” Tracy Police almost never need to investigate a homicide. None are listed on the 2005 police report.

The report lists 1,810 police “ICRs” in 2005, a 5.8% increase over 2004. Nearly half the items on the Tracy police blotter involve either “misc. public” (486) or “aid to public” (385) calls.

But plenty of criminal cases also occupied police.

During 2005, police dealt with 17 assault cases, 51 theft reports, four auto thefts, and 41 instances of damage to property. There were seven burglary cases and five disorderly conduct reports. Forty worthless check reports were investigated.

Two bright spots in the police report were a decline in drug-related offenses from ten in 2004 to two in 2005, and a drop in alcohol offenses from 39 to 19. However, drinking while intoxicated cases increased from nine in 2004 to 11 in 2005.

Animal-related calls continued to be a significant headache for police in 2005, although the 134 animal complaints logged in 2005 represented a 17% decline from the previous year.

In traffic-related enforcement, 41 speeding tickets were issued in 2005, along with 39 other traffic related citations. Police investigated 34 accidents, down from 47 the previous year. Parking tickets increased from 16 to 41.

Police issued 164 verbal warnings during the year.

“It’s pretty much standard,” said Police Chief Bryan Hillger of the activity report.


Tracy Police Activity

2004 2005

Homicide 0 0

Assault 17 17

Theft 51 57

Worthless Check 33 40

Forgery 5 3

Fraud 1 5

Burglary 7 16

Damage to Property 41 31

Disorderly Conduct 3 5

Domestic 15 3

Misc. Public 397 486

Aid to Public 370 385

Lost Property 3 1

Found Property 15 20

Unsecured Business 152 92

Animal Calls 162 134

D.O.A. 2 1

Alcohol Offense 39 19

Drug Offense 10 2

D.W.I. 9 11

Speed 42 41

Other Traffic 57 39

Accident 47 34

A.O.A. 187 227

A.O.A. Ambulance 85 112

A.O.A. Fire 23 34

Escort 28 23

Verbal Warnings 172 164

Search Warrant 2 2

Auto Theft 2 4

Parking Ticket 16 41

Alarm 7 13

Disturbing Peace 0 0

Juv Offense-Curfew 0 0

Public Nuisance 62 63

Public Address-Hrs. 1 5

Administrative 1 0

Total ICR 1710 1810


Marriage essay chosen for web site

Mai Vue Moua reflects about Hmong wedding customs

By Seth Schmidt

Mai Vue Moua is a busy young lady.

The A-honor roll student at Tracy Area High School is a student council officer, belongs to Peer Helpers, sings in three school choirs, and helps with the Teton yearbook. She has a part-time job, is active in the National Honor Society, and was recently crowned as the Peer Helpers “sweetheart” queen. And, oh yes, she’s also an author.

An essay she wrote for a Challenge English class has been chosen for an on-line companion to the St. Martin’s Guide to Writing. Her essay, “Marriage 101,” reflects upon marriage traditions in the Hmong culture, and her memories of a beloved cousin’s marriage.

“I was surprised my essay was chosen,” the Tracy 17-year-old told Tracy Kiwanis Club members last week. “I do not consider myself to be a good writer. I have trouble finding the right word.”

Her story was one of only five selected from area students for the on-line collection of student writings.

Marriage 101 is Mai Vue’s memoir of a cousin’s marriage. The cousin, Mai Yang, was just 16 when she became a bride. Mai Vue was 13.

The marriage startled Mai Vue because her cousin had known her future husband for only a short time before their elopement and marriage.

“I had no clue she even had a boyfriend,” Mai Vue remembers.

In the Hmong community, Mai Vue said, it is not unusual for girls to get married at a young age. Hmong traditions, she said, place great value on girls getting married at a young age and raising children of their own, she said. Growing up as a young child, Mai Vue had assumed she would also get married as a teenager. But when her cousin became a bride, Mai Vue decided “I wasn’t ready for that.” She was also disappointed that her cousin’s traditional Hmong marriage didn’t fit her romantic view of what a wedding should be.

“My cousin didn’t have a pretty white dress. She didn’t walk down the aisle in a church. There wasn’t a big wedding cake and flowers.”

When she gets married, Mai Vue wants an “American” wedding, white bridal dress and all.

• • •

Mai Vue says that she has accepted her cousin’s marriage and respects her decision. Her cousin is now a mother in Wisconsin and Mai Vue wishes her well. But the Tracy senior has also been struck by the many things her cousin gave up by getting married at the age of 16. Because her cousin and new husband were expected to move to his parents’ house, the new bride had to say goodbye to her parents. Her cousin gave up the chance to take part in school activities, go to college or travel.

Mai Vue says she would miss her parents and siblings, if she suddenly had to leave her home to live with a new husband and in-laws. She definitely wants to attend college and travel before considering marriage.

“Someday I would like to be married but not now.”

Her immediate plans include a trip to Spain this spring with the senior Spanish class. She will most likely attend college at Southwest Minnesota State University, but hasn’t decided upon a major.

“I have so many interests. It is hard to decide.”

• • •

Mai Vue is the daughter of Laos refugees Blia Thao Moua, and Mai Xe Lor. She was born after the family emigrated to the United States. The family has lived in Tracy for 12 years. She has two older brothers, and three younger sisters. Mai Vue says that she really likes living in Tracy.

A tradition in the Hmong culture calls for older sisters to get married first. If a girl wants to get married before an older sister, the junior sister is supposed to give money to the unmarried older sister.

“I hope my sisters have to pay me,” Mai Vue laughs.


Tootsies need plus-sized help

Toot-Toot Tootsies, don’t cry. Your local friends will find you suitable apparel for the upcoming Tracy Miss Tootsie Pageant on March 24.

At least that’s what organizers for the upcoming gala pageant spoof are hoping.

Ten Miss Tootsie contestants have been selected. But volunteers are having trouble finding plus sized garments and shoes to fit all of the male contestants.

What’s needed?

Evening gowns and other formal wear, sized 20 to 26.

Women’s shoes, preferably heels, in sizes 10 to 12.

Any extra large or plus sized women’s skirts, tops, or dresses are welcome. Large gaudy necklaces and clip-on earnings are also being sought..

All items can be brought to Uniquely Yours in Downtown Tracy.

Ade Miller and Jesse James are directing the show, which will be a fund-raiser for the Fine Arts Council of Tracy. The event will be held on the Tracy Area High School gym stage.

Names of Miss Tootsie contestants have not yet been announced.


Condo idea discussed

The Tracy Economic Development Authority is discussing the possibility of building owner-occupied townhouses.

“This would be a nice fit to the housing that we have,” said Community Development Director Robert Gervais Friday.

Tracy does not have any townhouse-style, owner-occupied housing. The four-plex apartment units that the EDA owns on Third St. East and Fifth St., Gervais said, have a waiting list of 14 to 16 parties. Some of these people would be candidates for owner-occupied condominiums, Gervais said.

Owners would belong to an association that cooperatively maintained the townhouses, and handled lawn and snow removal expenses. Gervais said that vacant lots on Union Street, south of O’Brien Court, would be a good location for a townhouse project.

EDA members took no action, but felt the townhouse idea was worth pursuing. Consensus was that owner occupied apartments would appeal to “empty nesters” and independent retirees who want to own their own home, but don’t want to be tied down with home maintenance.

Lisa Graphentee of the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership, said that her organization was willing to work with the EDA on a townhouse project. She said that the housing partnership was also willing to work with the EDA in developing additional rental housing using Essential Functions Bonds as a financing source.

EDA members also agreed to check with members of the Tracy Redevelopment Authority to see if that board is interested in assisting with a housing project.

• • •

Other business at the EDA’s March 3 meeting included discussion of an economic incentive package to attract an information technology services company to Tracy. Gervais and EDA commissioner and city council member Tim Byrne visited a company in North Carolina last month, and Gervais said the company president was “very interested” in establishing operations. Gervais indicated that he is working on a package to be presented to the EDA and city council at a later date. The ballroom addition of the former Mediterranean Club is a potential site for the company, Gervais said.

Another key to attracting the company, Gervais said, is the availability of a trained work force. Gervais and EDA members discussed the possibility of running employment ads for the company.

Gervais briefed city council members about the prospective company and the North Carolina trip on Feb. 27. Mayor Steve Ferrazzano told Gervais to “do whatever it takes” to attract the company.

Speakers tested at Fairmont

The Tracy Area High School speech team met some challenging competition this past weekend at the Fairmont Speech Invitational, placing eighth out of 24 teams. Eight local entries advanced to the final round.

Worthington won the meet, followed by Fairmont, St. Peter, Mankato West, and Marshall.

Stealing a first place trophy and going straight No.1s in all of their rounds, including the final round, were senior Brad Lanoue and junior Celia Brockway in duo interpretation. Senior Danielle Thooft was fourth in serious poetry. Senior Jenna Fischer received a sixth place ribbon in informative.

Seventh place finishers were Lanoue in creative expression, juniors Jessica Mason in humorous and Allison Rasmussen in serious prose, and seventh grader Tara Norstegard in storytelling. Freshman Skylar Carlson was eighth in humorous.

Receiving blue ribbons and just missing the final round by one point were senior Bobbi Buyck in storytelling, sophomores Ben VanMoer in storytelling and Jeremiah Martin in serious poetry. Red ribbon recipients who missed the final round by two points were Brockway in storytelling and junior Emily Gilmore in serious drama, and sophomores Rachel Stobb in serious drama, Jordan Christiansen in informative, and Pat VanNevel in creative expression.

Next week the team divides for two competitions.

Six team members will compete for the first time at the Southern Minnesota chapter of the National Forensics League tournament in Eagan on Friday with semi-final rounds beginning on Saturday. Other team members will travel to Montevideo where they will see many of their sub-section competitors.

Events start at 9:15 am and are open to the public at no charge.