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North Shore News Hour

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News

The North Shore News Hour includes up-to-the minute weather, North Shore happenings in local news, sports and entertainment, as well as a variety of features from WTIP staff and volunteers. If you miss the North Shore News Hour at noon, tune in for a replay Monday through Thursday beginning at 5:00 p.m.


What's On:
Will Moore at the finish of the RAGBRAI on the banks of the Mississippi River - Submitted photo

WTIP Music Director Will Moore shares his RAGBRAI adventure

WTIP’s Music Director Will Moore took a week off to head to Iowa to take part in RAGBRAI, the Des Moines Register Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. He joined an estimated 15,000 bicyclists on the seven-day trek across Iowa, starting on July 26.

Will checked in from the road, talking to WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs on day two of the adventure. Hear that report from the road here: WTIP music director riding in RAGBRAI across Iowa.

Will survived—and actually enjoyed—the ride from its starting point near the Missouri River on the western side of Iowa to its terminus on the Mississippi River.

Will joined the WTIP Noon News crew on August 3 to share his thoughts on the RAGBRAI experience. Will noted that one of the most enjoyable aspects was seeing the small rural towns along the route. He said all along the way there were Iowans cheering them on, offering spots to rest and providing snacks and entertainment.

The photo above shows Will doing “The Dip,” a traditional celebration of the finish of the RAGBRAI. Riders dip their bike tire in the Mississippi.

Here’s Will answering questions about RAGBRAI, including the big question—will he do it again? 
 

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Dr. Karlee LaFavor in COVID-19 protective gear. Submitted photo

Karlee LaFavor, a 2010 CCHS grad, is now a family practice physician

Since our very first broadcast, WTIP Community Radio has enjoyed interacting with the youth of our community. We have had young people in the studio for youth radio projects and to give us the latest school news report. We have reported on sporting events, plays, and of course graduation ceremonies.

And we periodically check in with these Cook County graduates as they’ve gone on to interesting adventures and important careers in a series called Where Are They Now?

In this segment, WTIP’s Rhonda Silence speaks with Karlee La Favor, a 2010 graduate of Cook County High School, who is embarking on her career as a family practice physician.
 
If you know of a Cook County graduate or someone with ties to our North Shore community that could be featured, please contact Rhonda by calling 218-387-1070 or email rhonda@wtip.org

Where are They Now is made possible in part with funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
 

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Allie Duclos of Lutsen with the first place, world championship trophy at the Hayward Lumberjack Championship. Submitted photo

Allie Duclos rolls to her 4th World Championship in 2021 competition

Fourteen-year-old Allie Duclos of Lutsen is a multi-sport athlete, participating in volleyball, softball and skiing– and log rolling!

She had a great season on the water, culminating in a 1st place finish at the 2021 Lumber Jack Championships in Hayward, Wisconsin last weekend. Allie is a four-time world champion log roller. 

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Allie about the win and about the interesting sport of log rolling. 
 

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The Grand Marais Art Colony is making major renovations at former Dog Haus building . Photo by Rhonda Silence 07-18-21

Major renovations at Grand Marais Art Colony downtown location

Anyone driving or walking along Highway 61 near the Hungry Hippie Tacos building in recent weeks may have been a bit startled by changes to the small building next door at what was the Dog Haus, a pet supply store. The entire front side of the building is gone.

The Grand Marais Art Colony now owns the small building, as well as the former Arrowhead Pharmacy building. Both structures have a long history in Grand Marais. The former pharmacy was once the Grand Marais Post Office. And the Dog Haus was long ago a dress store, operated by Marvel Soderlund.

The Grand Marais Art Colony purchased both buildings in 2019 after the nonprofit outgrew its space in the old church on Third Avenue. The Art Colony began operations there in 1953 and added on to the building in 2005. There was still a need for more room, which initiated the purchase of the downtown properties.

The renovation of the former pharmacy building, now called Studio 21, is complete and the Art Colony has been having gallery exhibits there. The building is open to the public on Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

However, as the Dog Haus building was inspected, it became apparent that major renovations would be needed. Grand Marais Art Colony Executive Director Lyla Brown told WTIP that the building was constructed in 1935 and probably last renovated 40 or 50 years ago.

The current reconstruction includes the installation of in-floor heat for more energy-efficient operations. However, that has been a delay as concrete is in short supply as the Highway 61 project wraps up.

Brown assures the public that the front of the building will return, again with large glass windows, as well as a wider door, which will provide better handicapped access. When it is open again, it will be the Grand Marais Art Colony Studio 17.  There may be a retail business in the former Dog Haus building.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Lyla Brown about the changes to the buildings and the future use of these downtown properties. 
 

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Kelly Swearingen - Photo by Rhonda Silence

City Councilor Kelly Swearingen resigns her post

At the end of the Wednesday night Grand Marais City Council meeting, Councilor Kelly Swearingen made an announcement that was a surprise to many. Swearingen, who was serving as Acting Mayor at the July 28 meeting, read a prepared statement announcing that she was resigning from her council seat.

Swearingen was appointed to the city council to fill a vacancy in 2018.

Swearingen said resigning was not a decision she made lightly and she wished her colleagues the very best as they move forward with city business. Mayor Jay DeCoux acknowledged that her decision was the right thing for her at this time, but said he would miss her counsel. The two ran against one another in the last mayoral race and earned regional recognition from the media for their civil campaign.

Hear more about the announcement in this report.

 

The day after the meeting, WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Swearingen to learn more about her decision to leave the council. Swearingen reiterated that her departure was for personal reasons and not due to any conflict with any of her city council colleagues. In fact, she said she appreciated their hard work and the friendships that had been forged during her time on the council.

Councilor Swearingen also gave the usual city update, talking about the copier replacement for city hall and a letter sent from the city to the U.S. Coast Guard requesting that the agency reconsider the closure of the North Superior Station in Grand Marais.

Here’s Rhonda Silence with more. 

 


 
The Canada geese in the Grand Marais harbor seem unimpressed by the boat launch work underway. Photo by Rhonda Silence

An update on the DNR boat launch improvements in the Grand Marais harbor

Work is well underway on the boat launch improvements in the Grand Marais harbor, in the Grand Marais Recreation Park. Truckloads of large boulders have been traveling through the municipal campground and rocks are being shaped into a longer break wall than existed in the past.

When completed, the new break wall will have a walkway on the top, allowing handicapped access to the lake.

This is year one of a two-year project, focusing on the break wall and boat launch. In 2022, there will be changes to the parking area. That work will begin next spring. 

Click here to see a drawing of the overall plan: Parkside Public Access Plan

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Kent Skaar of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division to learn more.

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There was always a crowd at the Gunflint Canoe Races. File photo, Rhonda Silence 2019

Gunflint Canoe Races look different in 2021

Although the work of the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department goes on, the major event that so many folks look forward to each year, the Gunflint Canoe Races, was canceled for 2021. A smaller, resort-staff-focused event was held this weekend. WTIP checked in with fire department representative Michael Valentini to talk about the work of the fire department and about the role he had played at the large canoe races in the past.

Valentini shared information about the Gunflint Fire Department, which serves probably the largest fire district in the state, covering over 200 square miles. The fire department is actually even larger, as there is an agreement with authorities in Ontario to respond to emergencies on the Canadian side of the border lakes, as Gunflint can reach that area long before Canadian responders could.

The fire department has three fire halls—the MidTrail or Poplar Lake Hall, the Gunflint Lake Hall, and Seagull Lake Community Center and Firehall. Each hall has a variety of equipment, but the halls on the upper Trail area are stocked with medical and search and rescue equipment. The ambulance is kept at the MidTrail Firehall as it is centrally located on the Trail.

Valentini notes that the majority of calls are for medical emergencies and search and rescue missions. In this interview, he shares details of just one of the recent long and difficult rescue operations in which the Gunflint volunteers participated, working with the U.S. Forest Service in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. 

Asked if the Gunflint Fire Department is on edge with the current high fire danger, Valentini points out that the fire department and emergency medical personnel are always on high alert. However, he said residents are experiencing more tension with the smoke from Canadian fires in the air and the drought conditions. He said the fire department recommends that anyone with a fire protection sprinkler system get it running now.

Valentini also confirmed that yes, many of the activities at the Gunflint Canoe Races were canceled in part due to the uncertainty around COVID-19 during upfront planning, but also because of the difficulty in finding volunteers at the event. Three property owners associations, the Gunflint Lake Property Owners Association, the MidTrail Property Owners, and the Seagull-Sag Property Owners Association have hosted the event for decades.

Valentini is one of those volunteers, serving as the emcee for the canoe races, as well as a MidTrail event. He has had a lot of fun doing that over the years and said he will miss it. There are some online activities, starting on July 26, to try to offer some feeling of the canoe race camaraderie. That information can be found on the fire department's website Gunflint911.org.

The proceeds of the canoe races benefit the Gunflint Fire Department, helping maintain the fire halls and keep equipment—such as the ARMER radios needed by responders—up-to-date.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Michael Valentini of the Gunflint Trail Fire Department to learn more about all of this, as well as a final question—will there be a Gunflint Trail Fire Department calendar for 2022? Click and listen to find out. 
 

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Joan Drury enjoys a treat at her beloved bookstore. Photo courtesy of Drury Lane Books

Community to gather to celebrate life of author, women's advocate Joan Drury

Joan Drury is a legendary figure here on the North Shore. The community lost this author, business owner, advocate for the arts and housing, and so much more in November 2020.

On Saturday, July 24, starting at 3 p.m., there will be a Celebration of Life for Joan. It will of course be held at her beloved bookstore at the end of Wisconsin Street in Grand Marais, Drury Lane Books.

There will be poetry, song, and remembrances.

Before the event, WTIP thought it might be nice to speak with one of the people who knew Joan best. WTIP’s Rhonda Silence sat down with Joan’s daughter, Kelly Kager, to talk about writing, books, and Joan’s legacy of helping other women follow their dreams. 
 

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Changes are proposed for the zoning and covenants at the Cedar Grove Business Park. Image courtesy of ProsperityNorth.com

EDA special meeting for hiring new director, considering fire redevelopment funds

The Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) will be holding a special meeting Tuesday, July 20 at 4 p.m. The meeting will be held at the new EDA office at 425 West Highway 61 (most recently the pharmacy building).
 
There are two discussion items on the special meeting agenda. The EDA will consider the personnel committee recommendation for the hiring of the next executive director. Current Director Mary Somnis announced her intention to retire over a year ago. 
 
The other topic is a request from Joel St. John, a developer, for use of Fire Redevelopment Funds. The Northland Foundation established this fund after the devastating fire in downtown Grand Marais in April 2020. The EDA has oversight of the funds, which are meant to revitalize the vacant lots that once were home to the Picnic and Pine gift shop, the Crooked Spoon restaurant, and the White Pine North gift shop.
 
St. John is the owner of the Mayhew Inn on Wisconsin Ave. He is seeking funding from the Fire Redevelopment Fund to build something on at least one of the lots, along with the Joynes Department Store parking lot. According to EDA President Howard Hedstrom, St. John is in the process of purchasing the parking lot.
 
WTIP checked in with EDA Board President Hedstrom after the last regular EDA meeting to learn more about other EDA activities, such as lot sales at Cedar Grove Business Park for a commercial laundry operation, about changes to zoning that will offer more uses in the business park, and about the possible formation of a county Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA).
The formation of an HRA is also on the agenda for the Cook County Commissioners at their committee of the whole meeting  Tuesday, July 20. That meeting starts at 10 a.m. in the county commissioners’ room at the Cook County courthouse.

Here’s Rhonda Silence, speaking with Hedstrom about all this and more. 
 

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Highway 61 in this section will be opened later this week.  Photo by Rhonda Silence 07-18-21

Changes coming to the Highway 61 construction this week

Motorists traveling through the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Grand Marais Highway 61 construction project will see some changes this coming week.

Starting Monday, July 19, the construction area between 8th Avenue to 3rd Avenue will move to the lakeside of Highway 61. When motorists head into Grand Marais from the south, they will still be directed to one lane of traffic, with a concrete barrier separating them from construction. However, they will now travel on the lakeside of Highway 61.

The work in that area will likely be ongoing until September.

Sometime this week, the highway from 3rd Avenue West to Broadway Avenue will be reopened, probably by July 22.

A final layer of pavement will be added when all the work is done, so for now there may be some uneven surfaces, so motorists should be mindful and pay attention to direction signs.

Pedestrians too should be careful as work is being done on the bike/walking trail alongside the highway.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Edward Welch, the MnDOT Grand Marais project engineer to learn what’s ahead for the project.  
 

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