Families appreciate Hennepin Overland Railroad Museum

Posted on 26 March 2018 by calvin

Historical Society at 2501 E. 38th St. operates one of largest railroad displays in the five-state region

Features of the layout include a steel mill complex, a grain terminal complex, two industrial/warehouse areas, a passenger depot for 15-car passenger trains, and a full branch line that can also be run as a second interchanging railroad. There is also a locomotive/car shop complex, a logging branch line, 1500-car main staging yards, a 150-car branch line staging yard, a fully operating signal system using block occupancy detection, and full digital command and control using Digitrax DCC. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

You don’t have to travel far to view one of the largest operating H.O. scale model railroad displays in the five-state region. The Hennepin Overland Railroad Historical Society Museum at 2501 E. 38th St. sits just a few blocks off Hiawatha Ave. and welcomes visitors weekends from September through April.

The historical society has a long track record of serving the community through preserving the history of one of the industries that the nation was founded on.

“I think the passion of the volunteers/members and the quality of the craftsmanship of the display are evident to anyone who stops in,” remarked Chris Rasmussen, a Richfield resident who has been a member of the historical society since he was 14. “The long tenure of the organization, commitment of our volunteers, and prudent management of the organization’s finances have allowed us to be one of a select few railroad museums in the area that has been able to purchase/own our own facility, which goes a long way towards guaranteeing stability looking forward.”

For Deputy Commander John Roban, the value of the museum lies in the history is preserves. “It’s not just a museum,” he said, “but it’s a history of what took place—and even today how things are moved by railroad.”

Photo right: Deputy Commander John Roban stays with his train as he runs it around the 4,000-sq-ft railroad display of the Hennepin-Overland Museum to make sure it doesn’t run into another. During daytime operating sessions members operate a variety of models and are available to discuss any questions regarding model railroading, bench work, track laying, construction, scenery, wiring, structures, and membership. The museum is open Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4pm, September through April. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The museum is family-friendly with several small toy train tables located near the front of the museum for kids to play on.

“It’s a good activity that everyone should be able to enjoy,” said 40-year member Bill Danger, who joined right after the organization formed and is one of its longest members. “Since the beginning of time, kids have been interested in trains.”

Danger, who will turn 80 this year, remembers living in Eau Claire, Wis. during the war. His dad took him to see the Chicago-Northwestern 400 roll through town each weekend. In 1949, they took the train to the Railroad Fair in Chicago where he rode a Vista Dome Zephyr for the first time. He was hooked and started riding trains more frequently. He became friends with a conductor on the Chicago-Burlington-Quincy route who was stationed out of La Crosse, who showed him around the trains. In those days, you could travel to Chicago and back every day, or from Chicago to the Twin Cities and back.

Then in 1954, he took his first trip out to New York at age 16.

“They got you there,” recalled Danger. “They’re a comfortable ride. You can see the scenery en route.”

He’s been collecting model trains for 60 years and appreciates having a big layout at Hennepin Overland to run the trains on.

Photo left: Eighty-year-old Bill Danger is one of the longest members of the Hennepin Overland Railroad Historical Society. He’s been collecting model trains for 60 years and appreciates having a big layout at Hennepin Overland to run the trains on. Within the south Minneapolis facility, the Hennepin Overland Railroad Historical Society operates a railroading museum, the “Station 2501” museum/hobby shop, and a 65-foot-long by 29-foot-wide HO-scale model train layout. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Passionate about trains
Chris Rasmussen has been involved in the club all his life as his dad, Jim Rasmussen, has been president of the society for over 30 years. Rasmussen became a junior member in 1993. With small kids at home, Rasmussen isn’t able to get into the museum as much as he’d like to, but he helps out in other ways, by managing the social media presence of the organization, working with donors and more.

“I love the attention to detail, the extensive knowledge of the other members on the history of the industry, the passion of the guys on getting the historical accuracy of the models correct, and most of all, spending time with my dad,” remarked Rasmussen.

As a child, his dad bought him a train car or accessory every year for Christmas and his birthday. He built his first H.O. scale model train layout in his parent’s basement starting when he was about 11 or 12.

“I would tag along with my dad to the Hennepin Overland on Saturday afternoons a few times a month when I was a teenager. When the Hennepin Overland moved into our own building I spent most of the summer of 1999 going over there every day after work to get the layout ready for the national model railroad convention,” recalled Rasmussen.

In the details
The Hennepin Overland is the successor to an unincorporated association of railroad hobbyists formed in 1976 in Richfield that operated in the basement of the Hub Shopping center underneath the Hub Hobby store. In 1985, the Hennepin-Overland (then 1,600 sq ft) moved to Lexington and University in St. Paul (next to the Scale Model Supply hobby store) and was reassembled by 1987. The museum grew to 4,000 sq ft, and then once again found itself looking for space.

This time, the organization decided to buy rather than rent to avoid having to move and reassemble things again—as it is such a time-consuming process, explained Jim Rasmussen.

Photo right: Henry Overzet (right) is one of the youngest and newest members of the historical society. On his left is Roger Anderson. In all, the historical society has about 30 members. Membership is available to those age 14 and older. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

In 1997 the historical society purchased the current building in Minneapolis. After fixing up the old print shop, members began to reassemble the display. In July 1999, the display was opened in time for the National Model Railroad Association Convention in St. Paul.

The railroad display of the Hennepin-Overland Museum currently consists of eastbound and westbound mainlines, a branch line serving the fictitious towns of New Bergin and Summit, a logging line featuring a breathtaking hand-made trestle bridge and a logging camp, multiple upper-level storage yards and industrial spurs, and lower-level storage/staging yards.

There is no prototype for the Hennepin-Overland. It is a freelance layout design. J. Rasmussen estimates that the layout is about 60-70% complete.

There is no particular era represented, though members try to use structures that date to the late steam era (1930-1960).

The main line is a two-track loop enabling continuous running, although reverse loops around the main helix allow it to be operated as a two-track loop-to-loop main.

Operationally the layout could be operated by one person (but somewhat limited) or up to about 15 people.

Features of the layout include a fully operating signal system using block occupancy detection, and full digital command and control using Digitrax DCC.

New members welcome
The society has approximately 30 members. Benefits of membership include the ability to operate trains, as well as to work on the construction of the layout. Members can operate their own trains on the society operating display or can operate the society’s trains if they don’t have their own. The historical society welcomes new members year-round.

Hennepin Overland accepts donations of trains, books, magazines and more. If the trains aren’t the right size for their display, they’re spruced up and sold with the proceeds benefiting the society.

Hours of operation are Saturdays and Sundays 1 to 4pm, September through April. Night trains ran each Saturday in January. Society members spend the summer months implementing major maintenance and improvements to the operating display that require taking it offline for extended periods of time.

The museum typically opens for National Night Out, and can make special accommodations for large groups who want to come in during the summer, or for special events like national conventions when they are held in the area. Admission is a suggested donation of $7 each or $20 per family.
More information at

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Laughing Waters Studio offers Chinese brush painting for all abilities

Posted on 26 March 2018 by calvin

Artist Bob Schmitt said, “It’s with great pleasure that I present the spirit of the Minnesota landscapes I know and love, using ink and brush in the Chinese painting tradition. I’m also honored to add my poetry to these paintings, continuing the Chinese tradition of blending imagery with words.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Artist Bob Schmitt’s relationship with Chinese brush painting started when he was just a kid. To hear him tell it, ”As a 12-year-old, I’d hurry home from school to watch a public television program about Sumi-e (Asian black ink painting). I’d sit there with my ink, brush, and paper practicing the strokes. Now it’s 50 years later, and I’m still exploring this style of painting.”

Schmitt’s training intensified when he took a workshop series with two Chinese painting masters from Toronto in 1995. “Those workshops really turned my artistic world upside down,” he said, “because I received a glimpse into the depth and beauty of Chinese painting. In 1998, I met Hong Zhang, a Chinese painting master who lives here in Minneapolis. I’ve pursued rigorous professional training in Chinese landscape painting and calligraphy with him for 20 years now. The rigor of practice in this tradition has deepened my understanding of these three simple materials: ink, brush, and paper.”

In the handsome yellow bungalow he shares with partner Greg Leier at 3718 Minnehaha Ave. E., Schmitt offers four Chinese painting and calligraphy classes each week. In 2016, their house was essentially redesigned and rebuilt. It now sports a spacious classroom with room for ten students in the back, along with a full gallery and workspaces in the basement. The square footage went from 750 to almost 2,400—and Schmitt’s gracious design garnered a 2017 BLEND Award for the homeowners. This award celebrates builders and designers that best integrate old and new construction, and weave it into the fabric of an existing neighborhood.

Schmitt seems happily settled into his surroundings and his teaching responsibilities. “For many years, I made my living as a graphic designer,” he said. “I also spent several years teaching early childhood education classes, which means that I’m well acquainted with the learning styles of young children. That experience impacted the way I still teach. I believe it’s important to use each student’s name frequently, and I try to catch everyone doing something right every time we meet.”

Schmitt continued, “I’d guess that the average student at Laughing Waters has been in class for five years or more. I still have one student who was in the first class I taught 14 years ago. People sign up, and they just don’t stop. They receive a lot of individual attention, and also benefit greatly from the support and encouragement of their peers.”

Photo right: From a quote on the Laughing Waters Studio wall, “Chinese brush painting is the experience of life transformed into line.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Schmitt teaches that mistakes are nothing to be afraid of. “Chinese painting is an unforgiving art form—it’s black ink, after all. Once you’ve made a mark on your paper, you can’t take that mark back. You can learn to live with your mistake though, and often what you thought was ‘the tragic error’ turns out to be the best part. It seems like people with a tendency toward perfection are drawn to this style of painting and that, over time, their perfectionism starts to soften. This way of working can be liberating, and quite healing.”

In any of Schmitt’s classes, students are working side by side with many different levels of experience—including none. Schmitt extends an especially warm welcome to those students who think they’re not good at art. Many adults have had a negative childhood experience (often with an art teacher), and that feeling of insecurity has never gone away. He explained, “I have a large percentage of students who don’t think of themselves as being artistic. My job as a teacher is to identify their blocks to creativity, and to help them overcome those blocks.”

A full schedule of classes and contact information can be found at Schmitt will be hosting his annual student art show and Mother’s Day Sale at Laughing Waters Studio at 3718 Minnehaha Pkwy. E., on May 12-13 from 10am until 5pm. He welcomes old friends and new to come and see what artists can create with the simple materials of ink, brush, and paper.

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Zorongo Flamenco’s ‘Garden of Names’ takes the stage in April

Posted on 26 March 2018 by calvin

Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre (3012 Minnehaha Ave.) with Joe Chvala’s Flying Foot Forum and a cast of internationally renowned guest dancers, singers and musicians will present “Garden of Names” in April at The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts.

Photo right: “Garden of Names” takes the stage on Apr. 6-8 and Apr. 13-15 at The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts. The performance is a remembrance of the Desaparecidos (the disappeared) in Argentina’s military dictatorship from 1976-83. (Photo provided)

Performances are scheduled at Cowles (528 Hennepin Ave.) for Fri. and Sat., Apr. 6-7 and Apr. 13-14 at 8pm, with Sunday matinees on Apr. 8 and Apr. 15 at 2pm. Tickets are $30 and are available online at or by calling the box office at 612-206-3600. Groups of 10 or more receive a 20% discount by calling the box office.

Born out of a collaboration between Zorongo’s founder and artistic director Susana di Palma and Chvala in 1991, Garden of Names revolves around Argentina’s Desaparecidos (the disappeared)—the thousands of activists, students, journalists and others killed during a period of state terrorism during the 1970s. Based on Lawrence Thornton’s award-winning novel Imagining Argentina, Garden of Names centers on artists’ vivid imaginations as a tool for survival. From stories of Desaparecidos, names blossom forth in a “garden” of remembering.

“The Garden of Names is this beautiful place where the artist goes to remember those who have disappeared—to speak their names and tell their stories,” explains di Palma.

“By remembering those who are gone, they are present here with us.”

Focusing on political repression and responsibility, di Palma has been exploring a remount of the evening-length piece for several years, presenting an excerpt from the work, titled Las Madres, in 2017 at The Cowles Center.

“During this period Argentina underwent a great struggle, which brought about a new sense of political awareness. It also inspired a women’s movement, Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) which has continued to the present day,” says di Palma. “I think we’re again in a time of examining the world around us and deciding what we, as citizens, must do, so it felt like an important time to retell this story.”

The international artistic team, led by di Palma, includes the Zorongo company and guest artists: Jeanne d’Arc Casas (dancer, Puerto Rico); Manuel Gutierrez Cabello (dancer, Los Angeles/France); José Moreno (dancer/percussionist, New York); Edwin Aparicio (dancer, Washington D.C.); Juanito Pascual (composer/guitarist, Los Angeles); José Cortés Fernández (singer, France); La Conja (singer, New York); and Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum.



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NENA’s Annual Crockpot Cook Off is a winner for the neighborhood

Posted on 26 March 2018 by calvin

Nokomis East Neighborhood’s 2nd Annual Great Nokomis East Crock-Pot Cook Off almost didn’t happen. Originally scheduled for Feb. 24, two back-to-back 6-inch snowfalls caused the sponsoring neighborhood association to reschedule the event for Mar. 10.

There had been flyers available at local businesses but the new day meant that many who would have wanted to attend, couldn’t. Or at least, that’s what the organizers thought.

But, within 15 minutes of opening the doors, the basement of the Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church was starting to fill up with hungry locals. Despite a chilly evening, neighbors came to mingle, a way to cure cabin fever. This year brought in more people than last year and, it is hoped that by next winter’s event, the word will spread to even more.

Photo right: Beth Esposito earned the grand prize with her creamy ‘Come to the Light Side Chicken and Dumplings.’ (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

The contest is a fundraising event with proceeds going to help support NENA’s local initiatives, such as the Bossen Renters Fair, a community block party scheduled for July.

This year’s Crock-Pot Cook Off brought in $520, an increase of $120 from last year’s event. Contestants paid a $10 entry fee and event tickets, $15 for adults and $5 for children, gave attendees a chance to taste all the offerings and to vote for their favorites. The winner received a trophy and congratulations.

The best thing about the contest, said Becky Timm, NENA’s Executive Director, is getting the chance to talk with neighbors. “At some events, you sit at a table with the people you came with, but here, people get up and go to the crock-pot stations. You can have a one-on-one conversation and interact with everyone.”

In addition to the contest, a rock combo ‘My Cousin Dallas,’ was there to entertain the crowd.

Like last year, there were eight contestants bringing selections, some traditional and others, more exotic. This year, for the first time, there were also two dessert offerings.

After allowing an hour for tasters to try all of the dishes, NENA’s Executive Director Becky Timm and sponsor Larry Ouellette, from Bridge Realty and member of the NENA Board of Directors, retired to the church kitchen to count the votes.

This year’s winner was Beth Esposito, whose creamy ‘Come to the Light Side Chicken and Dumplings’ won the top prize. Laura Messman and Pat Wehr won 2nd place with a ‘Hot Tot Breakfast,’ a mélange of tater tots and eggs. And, Carrie Anderson who recreated ‘Grandma’s Grape Jelly Meatballs with a Kick’, took 3rd place with her sweet and sour beef and elk meatballs.

Members of the NENA board had their own unofficial competition, with Karla Arredondo’s Crazy Bread getting the most votes.

Other fundraising events are in the planning stages as well, including an October happening, with details to be released later this year.

Photo below: Contestants in the 2nd Annual Crockpot Contest were (front l to r) Beth Esposito, Laura Messman, Carrie Andersen, Jerome Evans, Lauren Hazenson and (back) Karla Arredondo, Becky Timm, Pat Wehr, Reed Mitchell. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

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MakeRoom Artist Residency welcomes first artists with a ceremony

Posted on 26 March 2018 by calvin

Longfellow resident, creative maker, and Airbnb host Thomas Wegner (featured in the November 2017 Longfellow Nokomis Messenger) held a reception for his first MakeRoom Artist Residency participants on Feb. 24. The idea of offering an artist residency is something that Wegner has dreamed about for years. Artists Keegan Van Gorder and Morgan Vessel were chosen by Wegner from a stack of applicants that stretched from Oakland, CA, to New York City.

Both artists currently live in Philadelphia, PA, and were invited to stay at Wegner’s Longfellow Airbnb at no cost for ten days. They brought many examples of their screen prints and wearable textiles to show and sell, but it was primarily their curiosity about non-traditional ceremonies that fueled their MakeRoom Artist Residency. They came intending to use their time here to meet other creatives in the arts community, to explore local arts resources, and to deepen their own ceremony practice.

The two dozen guests that braved a blizzard to attend Van Gorder and Vessel’s welcoming reception had a chance to experience one of their ceremonies first-hand.

Photo right: Artists Keegan Van Gorder (left), Morgan Vessel (center), and Thomas Wegner (right) at the opening reception of Wegner’s first MakeRoom Artist Residency. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The artists posed a question, “What have you learned about accepting failure?” and gave the audience a few minutes to respond in writing. Their responses were put in a bucket and, one by one were read out loud by audience members—but not by the writer. There were some additional ceremony elements involving putting socks in funny places and enthusiastic heckling. The result was hilarity and a lightened feeling about failure.

Van Gorder explained, “If this kind of goof-making seems silly, it’s because it is. Creating these non-traditional ceremonies is about formalizing play, valuing nonsense, trusting yourself, and connecting with others. It is not about being rewarded with money, or other conventional measures of success.”

At week’s end, Vessel said, “This was our first real residency experience, and I didn’t know in what ways it would be valuable until I got here. Keegan and I are just getting started formalizing our work around ceremonies, and Thomas is just getting started offering his residency program. We think we were a good fit for each other. The opportunity to focus on growing our art was wonderful.”

“We were able to visit several Minneapolis art-making places,” Van Gorder added, “the Northern Clay Center, an Open Studio event at the Vine Arts Building in Longfellow, the Walker Art Center, the High Point Center for print Making, and the Textile Arts Center.”

“While we were here,” Vessel said, “we came up with an idea for a monthly ceremony subscription through a new Instagram account we created. That felt like a big step. Our platform of ceremonies has the intention of using humor to talk about things in a way that encourages people to be more unguarded, to get ‘unstuck.’ Usually, when friends meet up with each other, it revolves around buying a meal or a drink or going to something that costs money. These ceremonies, they’re about doing something weird and funny—sharing an experience instead of a commodity as a means of connecting. It feels like a nice way to care for people.” To subscribe to their email newsletter, contact Morgan Vessel and Keegan Van Gorder via email at

Wegner launched his second MakeRoom Artist Residency on Sat., Mar. 17th by welcoming Wisconsin sculptor Jordan Jerschele. Themes in Jerschele’s work include psychology, values, mythology, and sometimes draw from the realm of science fiction.

Looking ahead to next year, Wegner will re-open the application process for the MakeRoom Artist Residency in late 2018 on his website www.make– He plans to offer two ten-day residencies again in 2019: the first in February and the second in March. This year he received a total of 34 applications, the applicants ran the gamut from emerging artists to well-established professionals.

“One of the criteria I used for choosing the artists,” he said,”is to ask myself, is their work something I want to see more of in the world?”

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Nokomis area inspired mayor to originally move to Minneapolis

Posted on 26 March 2018 by calvin

The Nokomis neighborhood played a vital role in newly elected Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s (photo right) decision to move to this city.

“I remember racing in the Twin Cities Marathon in 2007,” Frey said in a recent interview. “It was a very competitive race.” It was around Mile 14 that he passed a leg of the race in the vicinity of Nokomis. “There was a beautiful bridge, and the sun was shining on the water. It was a spectacular fall day,” recalled Frey. He said he was running alongside another contestant, and that racer commented “My goodness. This is an extraordinary city.”

“It was this setting that first drew me to move here,” Frey said. He went on to take fourth place in the Pan American Games, graduating from law school at Villanova University in Pennsylvania and moving to the Twin Cities in 2009.

In 2013, he was elected as a City Council representative for the Third Ward and after one term on the Council made his bid for the mayoral race.

Now in his third month as mayor, Frey has said Minneapolis is a divided city.

“There are divisions between the police and communities of color, between businesses and activists,” he claimed. “There is a division within the DFL party. We need to be bridge builders,” he noted. “We have to be willing to listen and hear each other out.”

Considering what his biggest challenge as mayor will be, Frey cited the need for change. “We need to be the party for change….and we need unity,” he stated. But he admitted that change does not come easily. “The only thing hated more than the status quo is change,” he said.

Regarding education, Frey has said that a consistent partnership between the public schools and the city is not only desirable but essential. He said that in the past, the mayor and the school board would meet on a monthly basis and he would like to bring that collaboration back.

The achievement gap has been a factor in Twin Cities education for many years. Frey said he proposes to lessen that gap by starting to talk specifics. “It’s not enough to acknowledge it. We need clear action, focusing on policy itself,” he noted.

Frey is also a believer in the value of vocational education. “Having vocational training in our schools should not be the exception to the rule—it should be the rule, and the city has a role to play. I believe our schools should offer vocational training in welding, painting, glazing, and even coding. You can teach a 5-year-old to code and, by the time they have graduated, they have a direct pipeline to a living-wage job, whether or not they go on to college.”

Another issue facing the new mayor is the lack of affordable housing and homelessness in the metro. “Those two issues go hand-in-hand,” he said. “Affordable housing is at a crisis level. Everyone should have a home.”

Frey said homelessness ties directly into the lack of affordable housing. “We are perpetually recycling the homeless,” he said. He said the financial costs of keeping the homeless on the streets are three times as much as it would be to give them housing. “There are costs of institutions, incarceration and emergency care. We need affordable housing throughout the city,” Frey added.

He has cited the following vision for preserving and creating affordable housing units. Frey would like to dramatically increase funding for affordable housing and create more deeply affordable housing in areas with greater economic opportunities. He has stated he would like to increase the timeframe during which housing must be kept affordable and would like to build more affordable housing in wealthy and predominantly white neighborhoods. Frey promotes funding the purchase of at-risk affordable housing to keep it affordable, and he would like to seek an increase in funding the budget for public housing. He also wants to increase the stock of affordable owner-occupied multi-family housing and support green affordable housing.

Considering his success in winning the mayoral race as a newcomer to the city and after only one term as a City Council member, Frey attributed his win to a broad-based coalition that had a positive, forward-thinking message. A message that also promotes changing ideas.

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NENA News: NENA Annual Elections and Community Meal scheduled Apr. 26

Posted on 26 March 2018 by calvin

Do you live in the Keewaydin, Minnehaha, Morris Park or Wenonah neighborhoods? Have you wanted to be more involved in your community or are you just curious about what is happening in your neighborhood? This is the event for you.

NENA is a growing community-based nonprofit organization serving four unique, welcoming neighborhoods with over 14,600 residents and dozens of businesses in the southeast corner of Minneapolis. NENA is dedicated to bettering the quality of life and building a sense of community pride by sponsoring actions which help our environment, businesses, and homes.

Please join us on Apr. 26, 5:30–8pm at Crosstown Covenant Church (5540 30th Ave. S.) to elect NENA Board Members for your neighborhood, enjoy a free meal from Dominguez Family Restaurant, and help determine community goals for 2019 and beyond. You also get to connect with neighbors to the soundtrack of a jazz performance from Huge If True. Children’s activities will be provided to better accommodate families wanting to attend this meeting.

Curb Appeal Matching Grant Lottery
Nokomis East residents (Keewaydin, Minnehaha, Morris Park and Wenonah neighborhoods) are encouraged to sign up for the Curb Appeal Grant Lottery and get their upcoming exterior home project entered to win a matching grant up to $500. The deadline to enter is Apr. 20, and winners will be announced during the Apr. 26 NENA Annual Meeting. Visit for more information and to register.

Monarch Habitat Workshops open for registration
NENA is offering its 12th annual, newly revised Grow Monarch Habitat Workshop and native plant sale, on May 19, 9am-12pm at the Nokomis Community Center, 2401 E. Minnehaha Pkwy.

The 2017-2018 monarch population is down 15% from last year. As monarch numbers have continued to plummet in recent years, researchers and naturalists are urging people to create monarch habitat, especially throughout the Midwest Corn Belt—the monarch’s traditional breeding grounds. There is an urgency to replace lost habitat that once held the monarch’s host plant, milkweed, alongside essential nectar plants. This how-to workshop will provide the information and essential plants to get started. Our urban and suburban gardens can help make a critical difference!

This year, the two new workshop presentations will be offered consecutively to cover different aspects of being a monarch/pollinator habitat gardener. Both sessions are taught by Vicki Bonk, a Nokomis Naturescape stewardship leader for over 20 years and native plant gardening speaker. Each session will be followed by Q&A time.

“Grow Monarch Habitat – An Introduction to The Essentials of Gardening For Monarchs” is a 45-minute presentation covering the monarch life and migratory cycle and how these two cycles determine the habitat components. The current environmental status of the monarch butterfly and other pollinators is also addressed.

NEW! “Grow Monarch Habitat – A How-To on Planting, Maintaining and Expanding Your Garden” is a 45-minute presentation designed to expand on previous years GMH workshops and cover some new ground.

Attendees are offered the opportunity to purchase a Monarch Garden-to-Go Kit to start or expand their monarch/pollinator habitat. The kit is available in 2 choices and contains 12 local native host, nectar, and shelter plants to get you started. There is a registration fee of $32 ($36 value) for the kits, with a May 11 deadline. Workshop and native plant sale attendance is free.

These kid-friendly* sessions offer a wealth of information for both beginning and advanced gardeners. Space and Monarch Garden-to-Go Kits are limited, so registration is suggested. For information on the Grow Monarch Habitat Workshop, the Minneapolis Monarch Festival or the Nokomis Naturescape, please visit NENA’s website or email

Sign up for NENA News
Your Guide to News, Events, and Resources! Get your neighborhood news delivered to your inbox every other Wednesday. Sign up today at Once you sign up, you’ll receive updates on news and happenings in your neighborhood.

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Transition Longfellow schedules Movies, Parents Group, gardening classes

Posted on 26 March 2018 by calvin

The volunteers with Transition Longfellow create opportunities for South Minneapolis neighbors to get to know one another while also learning how to live more sustainably and prepare for changes ahead. Visit for more details on these and other activities.

Prepared Parents
The Prepared Parents Group will meet Sat., Apr. 7, 10am to noon, at Longfellow Park, 3435 36th Ave. S. Feeling alone in trying to raise your family with a less wasteful, less materialistic lifestyle? This group is a place where parents can talk with one another about raising resilient kids, living a sustainable, low-waste family life, and preparing your family for extreme weather and other challenges. Kids are welcome; toys available. The group is for parents with kids 10 and under. This group is free to all interested.

Step-by-Step Preparedness Emails
Each Friday, Transition Longfellow sends out an email with actions you can take that week to become more prepared for extreme weather. April emails will focus on having supplies to shelter in place. Sign up for the series at the website, where you can also find past emails.

Book Group
The Book Group meets Thurs., Apr. 12, 6:30pm, at Moon Palace Books, 3032 Minnehaha Ave. They will discuss “Humane Critter Control: Natural, Nontoxic Pest Solutions to Protect Your Yard and Garden” by Longfellow master gardener, Theresa Rooney. Her book shows many ways to use protective barriers, outsmart insect invaders, use scent to your advantage, and more. The methods she presents not only control wildlife and insects safely and humanely but are healthier for children and pets as well. The group is free; books available for purchase.

Movie Night
Movie Night is scheduled for Fri., Apr 13, potluck at 6:30, movie at 7pm, at Walker Community Church, 3104 16th Ave. S. Share a meal, then watch the documentary “GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth.” The filmmaker, Dave Gardner, will be attending.

This film asks the most critical question of our time: How do we become a sustainable civilization? Rather than dispensing facts about climate change, peak energy, and biodiversity loss, it looks at the cultural barriers that prevent us from acting rationally.

Why are population conversations so difficult to have? Why is a roaring economy more important to us than human survival on this planet? Hooked on Growth asks us to examine the beliefs and behaviors we must leave behind, and the values we need to embrace in order for our children and grandchildren to survive and thrive.

Veggie Basics Class
The Veggie Basics Class is taught by Hennepin County Master Gardeners, and provides everything you need to know to start your first vegetable garden. This 4-week class runs every Saturday morning in April, from 10am to noon at the Gandhi Mahal community room, 3009 27th Ave. S. Cost is $10. You can register at the door. Limit 20 people.

Help build a community of food growers!
Volunteer for Chard Your Yard Garden Install Day planned this year on Sat., May 12. Chard Your Yard is Transition Longfellow’s signature project, helping neighbors grow some of their own fresh, healthy food by installing 3’ x 5’ raised-bed vegetable gardens in home and apartment yards. To meet the goal of 24 gardens installed, the group needs another 20 volunteers for 3 hour or 6-hour shifts (with ample breaks for food). Volunteers share breakfast and lunch. All participants can attend the event wrap party! Sign up on the website:

Sign-up to receive a Chard Your Yard raised bed begins Apr. 1. Cost is $65, with a limited number of discounted beds available for persons with disabilities, low-income and senior citizens, thanks to sponsorship by the Longfellow Community Council. Discounted beds must be in the Longfellow, Cooper, Howe, or Hiawatha neighborhoods. Non-discounted beds can be installed anywhere in the 55406 ZIP code.

Transition Longfellow invites community members who value food growing in our area to support this project with a donation of food or beverages for the volunteer teams. Contact the group through their website.

Get rid of grass?
“Get Rid of Your Kentucky Bluegrass: Switch to a Low Maintenance & Native Habitat,” is the planned presentation on Thur., Apr. 19, 6:30pm, in the Gandhi Mahal restaurant community room.

Want to get away from that loud, smelly gas lawn mower? You can! Imagine your yard as a cooling carpet of plants that fix carbon in the soil, provide habitat for pollinators, and require very little maintenance from you.

Douglas Owens-Pike, Project Manager at Metro Blooms, will present planting options that reduce maintenance and increase habitat for both sunny and shady locations. He will bring copies of his book, “Beautifully Sustainable: Freeing Yourself to Enjoy Your Landscape” for purchase, with a percentage of sales benefiting Transition Longfellow.

Looking ahead
“Save Money, Drop a Car” with Pat Thompson (Transition ASAP), Leslie MacKenzie (Transition Longfellow) and the folks from Hour Car. Planned for Mon., May 21, Pratt School, 66 Malcolm Ave. SE (see community ed catalog for the time). Have you dreamed of escaping traffic jams and parking tickets? Ready to put that car insurance money to a better use? This class will help you understand the true cost of your personal vehicle(s), and identify strategies you can take to reduce your personal vehicle use. You may find you can drop a car altogether.

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Letters to the Editor

Posted on 26 March 2018 by calvin

Questions posed for Falls stairways
Why are the stairs at Minnehaha Falls closed during the winter? Is it for safety reasons? Then why not maintain them? There would be a cost involved, but it would be much less than the cost of patrolling them. Only one set of stairs would need to be maintained.

The main stairs have 109 steps, and if they were open, there would be no reason to use any other stairs. You can’t reasonably close them saying you are afraid it will encourage people to try and climb behind the falls. You can’t close the bank because someone might rob it. Using it and enjoying it is why the park is there.

If you don’t want to maintain them then why is there not a real barrier there? An actual, physical barrier, not a board you can simply step right over.

I have personally talked to Park Police officers who wondered the same thing. Concrete highway-divider style barriers would be easy to place and remove and would certainly deter the vast majority of people going down the stairs. The cost of this would be much, much less than patrolling them.

There is no way to keep everyone out of the bottom of the falls in winter. The side of the park by the VA home is wide open all year round, and anyone who wants can access any part of the park from that way.

It makes me wonder if the real focus of the Parks Department is to find a deterrent for safety reasons if they are deemed unsafe and they won’t maintain or block them. If that were the case, it would seem obvious one of these other courses would be better than what they are doing now.

The other day I saw a park police officer sitting in a vehicle not on the side of the falls from the main stairway, but the other side. I could not figure this out. Is the reason they are patrolled to act as a deterrent and keep people safe or was it to hand out citations to people who violate the flimsy security measures taken?

I could think of no other reason for an officer to be parked there. And if they do find a violator, do they give them a warning, which would seem obvious if the aim was safety? Or do they cite them?

I have lived in the neighborhood for almost 20 years and seen variations on the security ever since I moved here, but never anything that has worked, even marginally. It is time to do something that works better. There is no perfect solution, but there are certainly better solutions than what is being done now. Handing out citations to people for ‘trespassing’ in their own park is not the answer.

Dan Currie

Thanks to the Southside Singers
I recently attended my second concert given by the Minneapolis Southside Singers. Even better than the previous year!

Today there are so few groups that cater to the age group of 60+ for men and women who have retired from careers as professional musicians or theater performers, teachers, or those who just have a love and passion for the arts. The Minneapolis Southside Singers provides them with an opportunity to express their artistic abilities and participate in a safe, fun, musical environment. All the while making and creating new friendships. Whether they are in wheelchairs, depend upon walkers, oxygen tanks or can still do a dance on their own, the joy and enthusiasm that radiates from every person on that stage is contagious and delightful! Exceptionally heartwarming.

So, once again I THANK YOU because I left with that bounce in my step, a smile on my face, and a warm heart. I look forward to the next concert and supporting this incredible group of forever young folk known as The Minneapolis Southside Singers!

With gratitude,
Dorothy Benham
Professional Singer & Performer
Miss America 1977

Editor’s note: The Minneapolis Southside Singers are always looking for new people, 55+, to join their group. They practice every Monday, 1-3pm, at Trinity Lutheran Church of Minnehaha Falls, 5212 41st Ave. S. You can just show up, or if you would like more info, contact Clarice Johnson, 612-729-4984.

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Public Input Meeting planned on 28th Ave. Bridge replacement

Posted on 20 February 2018 by calvin

Minneapolis Public Works plans to replace the 28th Ave. Bridge over Minnehaha Creek in 2019. The bridge is between 48th St. E. and Minnehaha Creek Pkwy. within Minnehaha Creek Park. (Illustration right and photo below provided)

This work will require detouring 28th Ave. at the bridge for the duration of construction.

Public Works is seeking public input regarding design objectives and priorities for the replacement bridge and any related issues or concerns.

The meeting is planned for Mon., Mar. 19, 5:30-7pm, at St. James on the Parkway, 3225 E. Minnehaha Pkwy. For more information, please contact Jack Yuzna, Bridge Engineer at 612-673-2415 or

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