The annual Gala For The Grove was a smashing success again last week, bringing the West End Community together to raise a solid nest egg for the Birch Grove Community School. The generosity of the community is truly a wonder to behold, even if it does happen reliably year after year. Dozens and dozens of raffle and auction items were donated from businesses and individuals from Grand Portage to Silver Bay. The bidding was reckless and occasionally hilarious, with some people bidding against their spouses or even themselves.
It's all for a good cause though, as Birch Grove Community School is the heartbeat of the West End. If we can't support our children, then what good are we?
In the midst of the auction, Charles VanDoren, from Schroeder, offered an interesting auction item. He had four tickets to an alumni football game on July 2nd at Cook County High School in Grand Marais. I think this means that the former Cook County football players will suit up and play against the current football team. While this makes me profoundly grateful that I am not eligible to play, it does mean that Charley VanDoren has agreed to play. He will be the oldest player on the field, representing the alumni as a current three-time and soon to be five-time grandfather. I wish him the most sincere luck and best wishes for not getting hurt. The proceeds from the fun will go to support the girl's basketball and volleyball teams, along with the boy's football team.
A few years ago, my girlfriend, Cindy Hansen, participated in the much less risky alumni cheerleading exhibition. While she did avoid any serious injury, I did notice that the Advil bottle was in active use for a couple of weeks afterward.
While it is great to see Birch Grove thriving, we will soon need to turn our attention to a couple of levy referendum questions that Cook County School District 166 will place on the ballot this November. While I disagree with the system of funding public schools through periodic referendum, I do recognize that it is how things are done now and we should wholeheartedly support the District 166 in their request. Most of our Birch Grove graduates end up attending 166 for their middle and high school years, so we need to keep the system strong for the sake of future generations and the future of Cook County - in my humble opinion.
The Lutsen 99er mountain bike race booked every room and many campsites in the West End for the weekend of June 25th. The race started with 80 riders five year ago and registered nearly 2,000 riders this year and that's with registrations being cut off at 1,800 - all this on a June weekend that didn't come close to selling out in the past. It's just one example of the growth in the tourism industry since the Visit Cook County organization was formed and funded. It's amazing what we can accomplish when we all work together.
The storm of Sunday, June 19, exacted a tragic toll in the BWCA Wilderness, with the death of a fine teacher from Rochester and the serious injury of his 14 year old son. The property damage from the storm, although substantial, paled in comparison to the loss and grief for the Walz family and their larger community in southeastern Minnesota. Our hearts go out to them.
In Lutsen, many trees went down, including a few that fell on renowned sculptor Tom Christianson's Last Chance Gallery. To add insult to the injury to Tom's roof, his larger than life, multi-colored steel moose sculpture was blown over. On the following Tuesday, Tom was surprised to see the moose spontaneously back on its feet. This bordered on a miracle, because the moose weighs a ton, so putting it upright was no small task. After an incredulous posting on Facebook, it came to light that the Good Samaritan was Mike MacMillan and his merry crew at MacMillan's Tree Service. They had been called to remove the trees from the gallery roof and while they were at it, they used their heavy equipment and considerable skills to upright the giant steel moose. It's not only a story of neighborliness, but also an apt metaphor for how the West End community takes care of each other in the practical matters of food and housing and also in attending to our artistic and culture needs. It's just a part of what makes the wonderful West End a great place to live.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.