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West End News: March 14


WEN_20130314_Finalcut.mp34.75 MB

I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since I did my happy dance upon hearing WTIP’s broadcast signal for the first time.  At that point, I was just glad to receive repeats of KUMD’s programming from Duluth without having to suffer the waves of static that I had put up with for about 40 years.  Little did I dream that WTIP, “the little radio station that could,” would wind up being a completely independent source of news, entertainment and community-building.  Congratulations to staff, current and past, who, along with the members and listeners, have literally made this one of the finest radio stations in the world.
Here is my list of 15 things I like about WTIP:  Quinn’s exquisite taste in music; Buddy’s tune of the day; live local musicians; the Radio Waves Music Festival; New Orleans All The Way Live; Dick and Norm; First Thursdays; DJ Woodsplitter; the Road House; Naturalist Chel Anderson; Rhonda Silence; disaster information; Sidetracks with Matthew or Caribou and Wildersmith’s turns of phrase.
That list is 14 things.  The 15th thing that I like is what WTIP has done for promoting civil discourse in Cook County.  By exploring important and potentially controversial issues in a fair, even-handed and thorough way, they have made public debate and local decision-making much better.  This is a huge service to our community.
You may remember that at this time last year, we were experiencing an incredible March meltdown.  This whole week had high temperatures in the 50s, 60s and even hit 70 on March 19.  We lost the little snow we had in just a few days. 
I mention this because this year is completely different - and comforting - for those of us who enjoy winter.  Here at Sawbill, we have 33 inches of snow on the ground and there has been very little melting.  The trees are loaded with snow and the wind still has some bite when it blows from the north.  The trails, for skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling, are in absolutely perfect condition.  It looks like winter will hang in there for the next 10 days or so, at least, so my advice is to get out and enjoy it.
Lutsen Mountains Ski Area, perhaps in a slight over-reaction to last year’s heat wave, has made incredible amounts of snow this winter.  It’s worth the price of admission just to see the giant piles of snow scattered around the slopes.  If they wanted to, they could probably stay open until June this year.
Mike Larson, of Lutsen, is preparing himself to ride in this year’s Lutsen 99er mountain bike race.  The 99-mile ride winds through the best of the West End, in a rigorous course that leads from Lutsen Mountains, down to Lake Superior, then back up through the hills and finally back to the Mountain. 
This is the third year for the race, which runs on the last weekend in June, and is organized by the Cook County Visitors Bureau in partnership with Lifetime Fitness.  Mike tells me that in the first year, 78 riders participated. Last year that grew to 350 riders at the starting line. This year they already have more than 350 riders pre-registered to date.  Mike is certain that there will be at least 800 riders this year, which is the limit the race is setting so they don’t experience growing pains. 
The Lutsen 99er is quickly becoming one of the premier mountain bike races in the Midwest and is well on its way to international prominence. As great as the event itself is, the real value comes from letting the world know that Cook County is a world-class biking destination and getting better all the time, which strengthens our economy and culture is a very positive way.
And – I fully expect Mike Larson to at least bring home an age class medal this year.