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Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

When Jack Loftus and Jack Martin saw a gap in services for safe injection equipment and more access to naloxone to prevent deaths from opioid overdose, they started Southside Harm Reduction Services.
Two years later, they’re leading a crew of volunteers quietly working to distribute and pick up syringes in the Southside as they seek to reduce the stigma and judgement people using drugs experience.
“We recognize that drug use and the overdose crisis is incredibly complex and difficult to deal with, but we also know that everyone has the ability to make positive changes, from reducing stigma to picking up syringes to distributing naloxone themselves,” said Jack Martin. “And we know to embrace every positive change.”

AT RIGHT Luce Guillen (left) carefully places a used syringe into a container held by Michael Neil on Saturday, Aug. 24 during a clean up on the Midtown Greenway, Lake and Bloomington. Neil, a former user himself, says it is important to not just pick up the syringes, but to get to know the people who are homeless in order to know what they need. Plus, then he has some who save their syringes until the next time they see him, knowing he’ll dispose of them properly. “I let them know we love them,” said Neil. “It’s a reflection of where I come from, too.” (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

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Longfellow women earn Fringe award

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Longfellow residents Candice and Sarra Beckham-Chasnoff receive the inaugural Beverlee Award at the conclusion of this year’s Fringe Festival. They saw 57 shows this year, part an effort to be more intentional about how they spend their time and where they seek community. (Photo by Max Haynes)

For the first time, Fringe Festival staff recognized a powerhouse audience member exemplifying support for Adventurous Artists through their spectatorship. The Beverlee Award was jointly given to Longfellow residents Candice and Sarra Beckham-Chasnoff.
This year’s Fringe Festival ran Aug. 1-11. Awardees were announced Sunday, Aug. 11 at the Closing Night Party At Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul.

How many years have you been attending the festival?
Candice and Sarra: We’ve been attending the Minnesota Fringe Festival since the early 2000s. For many years we attended the Fringe on a casual basis, and our attendance has gradually increased. For the past few years, we’ve been seeing 50 or more shows during the 11 days of Fringe. This year we attended 57 shows.

What draws you to the Fringe Festival and how does it build community?
Candice and Sarra: For us, the Fringe is about art and about community. As we’ve been dealing with the inevitable stressors of life and the stress of the world, we’ve become increasingly intentional about how we spend our free time. We try to spend our free time engaging in activities that leave us feeling positive, rejuvenated, validated, and connected. Fringe does all that for us.
At the Minnesota Fringe you can see dance, spoken word, storytelling, comedy, live podcast recordings, puppetry, performance art, and plays of all genres. Some shows address the problems of the world, some shows are an escape from the problems of the world, all of the shows feel deeply personal.
Every artist involved in Fringe has put their heart into their show. It’s truly beautiful to engage with that.
And regarding community, while the Fringe is underway, the Fringe artists, staff, and audience members end up forming a vibrant sub-community within Minneapolis. While buying tickets, standing in line for shows, walking between venues, and attending shows, it is very easy to get to know other patrons and the artists who are milling about. Everyone is talking about the shows they’ve seen, the shows they’re looking forward to seeing, where to get a snack and some coffee between shows. It’s a very fun community, and it’s easy to make new friends!

How do you feel about winning this award?
Candice and Sarra: Winning the inaugural Beverlee Award is one of the most lovely things that has ever happened to us. The award is named after Beverlee Everett. Her son, Matthew Everett, is a Twin Cities playwright and theater reviewer who avidly attends and reviews Minnesota Fringe shows each year. Beverlee would travel from Pennsylvania to Minnesota each year to attend Fringe shows with Matthew, and she was a beloved Fringe presence.
Beverlee passed away in July of this year, just a few weeks before the 2019 Minnesota Fringe Festival began, and the Fringe community was heartbroken. At least one show was dedicated to her, and the Fringe staff also created this award in her honor to recognize an audience member “who exemplifies support for Adventurous Artists through their spectatorship” (quote from an Aug. 5 MN Fringe Facebook post).
We feel honored to think we are walking in the footsteps of Beverlee Everett who was such a warm presence. We are probably most excited about this award because it means the artists know how much we appreciate them. Somehow, from our seats in the back of each theater, our admiration and appreciation of the artists has reached them.
That means a lot to us because we really feel that we can’t thank the artists enough for the beauty they bring into our lives.
~ Compiled by Tesha M. Christensen.

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Take a stroll, hear stories, and connect with community

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Preserve Minneapolis offers historic walking tours of Downtown Longfellow and other locations

Old and new – Preserve Minneapolis Tour Coordinator Katy Epler holds up a historic photo showing Minnehaha Grill with the building as it is now in the background at Lake and 27th. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Take a stroll, hear stories, and connect with community
Preserve Minneapolis offers historic walking tours of Downtown Longfellow and other locations
On a cooling summer evening, about 20 people gathered at the corner of Lake and Minnehaha with their walking shoes for a Preserve Minneapolis tour.
They spent the next hour and a half walking through Downtown Longfellow, learning about the people and businesses that shaped the area.
The tour began at what is now a large parking lot for Target, Cub and the Minnehaha Center, and also ended there.
“We are starting here because it really represents one of the main reasons this area exists today: this historic industrial complex, which for nearly 100 years, starting in 1873, built things here, and attracted people to jobs that fueled residential, then commercial and retail growth of this area,” explained tour guide Cara Letofsky.
In 1873, a bunch of Minneapolis businessmen, including the city’s first Mayor, Dorilus Morrison, established Minneapolis Harvester Works on the site, and by 1880 it employed about 200 men in industrial manufacturing.
As the year’s grew, the company name changed through various mergers, becoming the Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company and then Minneapolis-Moline. The company prospered in the 1930s and 1940s as the Lake St. plant specialized in the production of tractors and engines, pointed out Letofsky, who also drew on information gathered by Eric Hart, Iric Nathanson, and other members of the Longfellow History Project during her tour.

Weaving stories of then and now, Cara Letofsky leads a tour in Downtown Longfellow on Aug. 8, 2019, walking in a 6-block radius of Lake and Minnehaha. The AutoZone was once home to three buildings of the Longfellow school campus. All were torn down. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

There were 20 shops in separate buildings at the sprawling plant at its peak, including an engineering department where the original Jeep was designed, located in the building at 2841-47 26th Ave. S., the last remaining building of the Moline campus (now the 7-Sigma building).
At its peak, the site employed 6,000 people.
White Motor Company of Lansing, Mich., acquired Minneapolis-Moline in 1962 and decided to shutter the plant in 1972, laying off the remaining 1,300 workers. When it couldn’t find a buyer, it demolished all the buildings on the site.
“The city then purchased the land and helped redevelop it into a retail mall, anchored by Target’s first inner-city store,” said Letofsky.

Toro gets its start
Nearby, the Toro Manufacturing Company had its start, setting up shop in an old two-story Victorian home at 3042 Snelling Ave. S. The economic depression after World War I threatened to close Toro for good.
Members of the Minikahda Club, who were looking for a better way to keep up their golf course, approached the company. Toro rose to the challenge and began designing lawn mowing equipment. The firm grew on Snelling Ave., eventually occupying more than 70,000 square feet in various buildings and employing 400 people before moving to a new Bloomington plant in 1962.

Large buildings rise 1909-1914
Many of the familiar buildings in Downtown Longfellow were built between 1909 and 1914, including the Coliseum, Lake Street Bank, and International Order of Odd Fellows, with the Fire Station No. 21 preceding it in 1894. Others have since been torn down including the original three-building campus of the Longfellow School (current AutoZone/Aldi site) and Lake Theater.
According to one report, about two-thirds of the residential areas around 27th and Lake had been built by 1911, said Letofsky, and 90% by the end of the 1920s.

Foot trail to transportation corridor
“The story of the Minnehaha-Hiawatha Ave. corridor and its evolution from humble beginnings as a foot trail running between Fort Snelling and the Falls of St. Anthony to the current multi-modal transit corridor that crosses South Minneapolis diagonally, bringing people from downtown Minneapolis to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and Mall of America, is the story of how evolving transit modes also change the urban landscape,” pointed out Letofsky.
In 1865 the Minneapolis and Cedar Valley Railroad Company – forerunner to the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad – chose to lay its railroad tracks parallel to Fort Snelling Road.
In 1886, the streetcar line from downtown reached Lake St. along 27th Ave., then the final piece of the neighborhood framework came in 1888 when Lake Street was chosen as the route on which to construct the cross-river bridge linking Minneapolis and St. Paul.
As residents and jobs began moving out to the suburbs, the streetcars were pulled up in 1954 in favor of buses and cars. By 1933, Hiawatha Ave. was designated as a segment of State Highway 55, which extended from Hastings to Tenney, Minn. Hundreds of homes and businesses were demolished in the 1960s for an 8-lane freeway, but intense neighborhood opposition arose in the 1970s. The freeway plan was abandoned in favor of a four-lane roadway with a light rail transit (LRT) system that was approved in the mid-1980s. The lightrail line began operating in 2004.

Sharing stories
Cara Letofsky is fascinated about how cities grow and change and the stories behind why our communities look how they do.
“It’s fun to do the research on local neighborhoods, then put the changes that happened in the larger historical context. How was this neighborhood impacted by the Great Depression? By Post-war suburban growth? Reinvestment in urban areas? Doing tours allows me to share these same stories of our own community to a broader audience who want to understand how their own communities came to be,” observed Letofsky.
The Cooper neighborhood resident who grew up in South Minneapolis had been a fan of walking tours and Preserve Minneapolis for years. She began as a tour guide in 2012 just as the Lake Street Council’s Museum in the Streets tour panels were being installed. Three tours were given that summer: in Uptown, in Midtown, and at 27th and Lake. (See sidebar)
Since then she has led at least one tour a year, bringing her longtime knowledge of the area and work experience into her tours.
A past board member and president of the Hennepin History Museum, Letofsky runs her own consulting firm, Mill City Consulting, partnering with nonprofits and other community efforts on community-improving projects. Her background includes working for Mayor R.T. Rybak, representing District 8 on the Metropolitan Council from 2015-2019,and founding the City of Lakes Community Land Trust in 2002.
Letofsky has also led the “Dinkytown: Forever Young” tour, and supported Shari Albers’ great tour of the Washburn-Fair Oaks Historic District, the neighborhood around Mia and the Hennepin History Museum. Last year she partnered with the Mapping Prejudice Project and Tina Burnside (now of the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery) on an extremely popular bus tour with Preserve Minneapolis titled, “Housing Discrimination Revealed: History of Race and Real Estate in Minneapolis.”
Preserve Minneapolis was founded in 2003. The non-profit is dedicated to improving the quality of life in Minneapolis by recognizing, preserving, and revitalizing the architectural and related cultural resources of the city of Minneapolis.

Past helps to ID solutions
“As a history enthusiast, I believe understanding what came before us helps us better understand what is happening today, and can help us identify real solutions to today’s challenges,” remarked Letofsky.
“When it comes to neighborhood walking tours, they are valuable in that they not only get people out enjoying their community, but they also teach people about what came before them, and help people appreciate their community more.
“I mean, don’t you have more appreciation of the Minnehaha Mall parking lot more now that you know it used to house a factory that employed up to 6,000 people?”
~ Contact editor at

Join a tour
>> Milwaukee Avenue Historic District Walking Tour, Saturday, Sept. 14, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., $12
>> Murder and Mayhem: Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery Walking Tour, Sunday, Sept. 15 9:30-11:30 a.,m., $12
>> Neighborhood Movie Theaters Walking Tour, Calhoun Square, Sat, Sep 21 2-4 p.m., $12
>>The Lost Gateway District of Minneapolis Walking Tour, Sunday, Sept. 22 9:30-11:30 a.m., $12
>> Nicollet Island Walking Tour, Saturday, Sept. 28 10 a.m – noon, $12
More at

Stroll for free down Lake St.
>> Residents can take the Museum in the Street tour at three locations along Lake St. at any time by strolling down the streets at their own pace.
>> There are three bilingual heritage-discovery walks with 15-20 stopping points: Uptown: Minneapolis’ Lake District, Midtown: A Place to Call Home, and 27th and Lake: Industry and Transportation Infrastructure.
>> This tour helps foster a sense of historical identity while educating; encouraging the preservation of local historic sites; and promoting knowledge of the stories, events, and traditions of Lake St.
Maps and more at

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What does the life of one young climate activist look like?

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Marianna Hefte will be a junior at South High School this fall. She loves history and English; she competes in debate. She is 16 years old and, like many of her close friends and colleagues, has already been working on climate justice issues for years.
Hefte is part of a fast-growing youth movement for climate action. She said, “When I first learned about climate change as a 5th grader at Dowling Elementary School, I lost faith in humanity. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that activism is a remedy for hopelessness.”
Hefte began cultivating a spirit of activism that has grown steadily stronger over time.
She got involved in the local chapter of iMatter Youth, a group that advocates for city and state level climate policy. In 2018, her chapter wrote a comprehensive, 100% renewable electricity plan for the city of Minneapolis – and delivered it.
Along with other members of the youth movement MN Can’t Wait, Hefte sat with Governor Tim Walz on his third day in office last January – and presented a three-point platform to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the state now, including the Minnesota New Green Deal.
As a member of the Green Tigers Environmental Club at South High School, Hefte went back to Dowling Elementary School last year and gave a presentation to second graders about climate change.
She said, “Talking to kids about climate change is really hard. In the future, I think we’ll take a more discussion-based approach to engaging kids on this issue.”

‘I want to make sure the city is working its hardest’
Most recently, Hefte has been a summer intern for Ward 12 Council Member Andrew Johnson.
Her internship is part of a city of Minneapolis program called Step Up. The program connects youth ages 14-21 to internships in nearly 200 companies, public agencies, and nonprofit organizations.
Her internship has involved working with constituent concerns, researching health issues that impact residents of South Minneapolis like diabetes and the opioid epidemic, and drawing things out of the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan.
She said, “I want to make sure the city is working its hardest not to be reliant on fossil fuels. We only have about 10 years left to solve the biggest threat humanity has ever faced – and we have to make sure our solutions are equitable.”

South High plans demonstration for Sept. 20
Hefte has been inspired by the work of young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, creator of the Friday School Strikes that have been carried out in several countries around the world. Thunberg’s strategy is extremely straight forward. To the adults, she says, “If you aren’t going to do what you need to do to clean up our earth, then we aren’t going to do what we’re supposed to do – which is go to school.” View her TED Talk at Greta Thunberg: the disarming case to act right now on climate change.
Students at South High School will participate in an international strike day on Friday, Sept. 20 (follow details on Instagram.)
Hefte said, “At South, we’ll come to school in the morning and then, at a designated time, all of the strikers will leave school and take the train to the St. Paul Capitol for a rally from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.. I’m looking forward to that. I’m glad so many of my peers are joining this movement.
“We need to keep equity in mind when we organize. People from under-represented communities should be given space to lead these movements because climate change will not affect everyone equally; it will especially hurt people in low-income communities.”

Give your input
Marianna Hefte is one of 19 Minneapolis residents appointed by the City Council and the Mayor to serve on the Community Environmental Action Committee. Members offer advice on issues regarding the environment, climate change, and sustainable development.

The group meets the first Thursday of every month from 6-8 p.m. in different parts of the city. Meetings are always open to the public.

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 5 at Roosevelt Library (4026 S. 28th Ave.)

Email or call 612.673.3014 with questions.

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Trail-blazing female park keeper paved the way for others

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Longtime Nokomis Recreation Center’s Cindy Waelhoff Lidstone retires

Cindy Waelhoff Lidstone began her long career with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in September 1980, when she was hired as a park keeper trainee. Half a year later, she moved into a permanent position – and a park keeper she remained for just two months short of 39 years.
Lidstone’s first assignment was at South Minneapolis’ Pershing Field, where she worked for 22 years.
She said, “I was 23 when I started there, and only the sixth female park keeper in the history of the city. At the time, I was one of the youngest people on staff. By the time I retired on June 28 of this year, I was one of the oldest. I felt like I grew up in the park system, like we all grew up together.”
Robert Nielsen, an early co-worker, said, “Cindy always had a positive attitude and a great work ethic. I’m sure those helped her get through in the beginning, when the world of park maintenance was very much a man’s world. I know she had to prove herself along the way. She not only hung in there, she went on to open doors for other women to follow her as park keepers and crew leaders.”

“It was kind of scary at first, being so much in the minority.”
~ Cindy Waelhoff Lidstone

A park keeper has a long list of responsibilities but, in short, their job is to keep all aspects of their park looking clean and good throughout the year. That includes maintenance of park buildings, park grounds, athletic fields, and ice rinks – as well as helping park patrons to have a positive experience.
Lidstone said, “Things were very different back when I started; each park had a couple of telephones, but there weren’t any computers. I suppose nail guns had been invented, but we didn’t have one. When we put the ice rinks up, we pounded every nail in by hand.
“The work was very physical in all seasons, but we used to say, ‘The winters would make or break you.’ Working with ice is really hard.”

“Cindy was definitely a trailblazer for us women who followed in her footsteps. Along with the few other gals who survived, she paved the way for the rest of us. Cindy is a real trooper.”~ Former co-worker Mary Mattson

Seventeen years ago, Lidstone transferred to Lake Nokomis Park.
She said, “I grew up a stone’s throw from there. I eventually bought our family home, so I’m still close by. I walked the park grounds for all those years, and just got a cart right before I retired.”
There are plenty of reminders for Lidstone that nearly four decades have passed since she first donned a park uniform.
For starters, when she was a young park keeper there was no such thing as work clothing for women. She said, “We had to buy men’s steel toed boots, and work clothes that were cut and sewed for men. Everything was always a little too big.”
Lidstone claims she had no sense of being a role model for women in the 1980s. She said, “I just needed a job. I couldn’t live with mom and dad forever!”
As it turned out, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board employed half her family. She said, “My two brothers and I worked our whole careers there, and my son has joined the ranks, too. My sister worked as what was called a ‘park matron’ many years ago, helping the park keeper with cleaning jobs.”
Lidstone is still getting used to the new rhythm of retirement. As someone who has worked full-time since graduating from high school, it’s been an adjustment. While she may not miss the alarm clock going off at 5 a.m., she is grateful for her long tenure as park keeper with the Minneapoli Parks and Recreation Board.
She said, “This turned out to be the best job in the world for me. I learned new things every day, until the day I walked out the door.”

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RRR: How wildlife-friendly is your yard?

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Hiawatha resident Daniel Schultz is a hard working real estate broker by day, helping people buy and sell their homes through the company he founded: Flourish Realty. After hours, he is a dedicated gardener and Master Naturalist with a passion for enhancing urban wildlife in Minneapolis – starting in his own back yard.
Schultz and his family began gardening seriously years ago, and got their yard certified as a wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in 2010. He said, “I knew I wanted to be part of a community project after that happened. It made sense to be part of an urban wildlife corridor, and not just a stand-alone property.”
Now the coordinator of the Longfellow Community Wildlife Habitat Project, Schultz is encouraging others to do the same. He said, “So far, we have 56 home gardens certified through the NWF, and we need 150 to be designated a Certified Community Wildlife Habitat. We have three schools certified (four are required), and three businesses (four are required.) We’re making progress.”
Why are Schultz and others working so hard to make this happen? Because whether pollinator gardens are large or small, they provide habitat for threatened wildlife – and the greater Longfellow neighborhood is in a central migration corridor for monarchs and birds.
There are only four elements required for a garden to be certified by the NWF. The garden must provide food in the form of seeds and nectar. Clean water must be available. There must be plants to provide cover, and a place to raise young.
Schultz said, “We’re trying to demonstrate how easy it is to adopt more wildlife friendly practices. Head over to Mother Earth Gardens and buy a few native plants to get started. Consider choosing plants that have a diversity of bloom times, and see what kinds of birds, insects, and animals your yard can attract. Put up a bird bath or a nesting box. It doesn’t take much to make a positive difference.”
With more than half the world’s land mass now used for farming or grazing, the potential for pollinator diversity in urban areas is steadily growing.
Schultz said, “One example is the Minnesota state bee, called the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. According to U of M entomologists, it used to be widespread across the state – but now is making its last stand in the backyards of Minneapolis and St. Paul where native and other friendly pollinator plants offer what it needs to survive.”
To learn more about the Longfellow Community Wildlife Habitat Project, visit The cost for certification is a $20 donation to the National Wildlife Federation. Schultz and members of his team are available to help with backyard consultations or mentorships for new gardeners. Call or text Daniel Schultz at 612-408-0233 or send an email to

4 Components
of a Certified Wildlife Habitat:

1) Food – a habitat needs three of the following types of plants or supplemental feeders: seeds from a plant, berries, nectar, foliage/twigs, nuts, fruits, or sap.

2) Water – provide clean water for wildlife to drink and bathe from a birdbath, lake, stream, seasonal pool, water garden/pond, river, butterfly puddling area, rain garden, or spring.

3) Cover – provide at least two places to find shelter from the weather and predators: wooded area, bramble patch, ground cover, rock pile or wall, rosting box, dense shrubs or thicket, evergreens, brush or log pile, burrow, meadow or prairie, water garden or pond.

4) A Place to Raise Young – provide at least two places for wildlife to engage in courtship behavior, mate, and then bear and raise their young: mature trees, meadow or prairie, nesting box, wetland, host plants for caterpillars, dead trees or snags, dense shrubs or a thicket, water garden or pond, or burrow.

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Eat & Art on Lake: a community meal

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Event at Moon Palace Books celebrates immigrant and refugee-owned restaurants

The patio at Moon Palace Books is turning out to be the hot spot in Downtown Longfellow this summer. On Saturday, Aug. 10 from 6-9 p.m, yet another great event is taking place.
Eat & Art on Lake: a community meal, will be held there in celebration of Lake Street’s diverse immigrant and refugee-owned restaurants.
The celebration is the culmination of local illustrator Cori Lyn’s year-long project called, “What We Feed Ourselves,” and a launch for her new book by the same name.
In her project, Lin (who is a neighborhood organizer as well as an artist) explored the nature of food and culture.
She said, “I was interested in learning how immigrant communities feel their ethnic foods are being represented here in Minnesota. I spent time talking with the owners of five restaurants whose food will be served at the community meal: the restaurants are Moroccan Flavors, International Cuisine Bar and Grill, Willo Somali Bakery, Taqueria las Cuatro Milpas, and Gandhi Mahal.
“Through our conversations,” Lin continued, “I learned what the chefs of these restaurants cook and eat at home with their families. I tasted the foods they love, and made watercolor illustrations of several of those dishes. The interviews and watercolors make up my book project, along with personal essays written about food and home by local writers Anniessa Antar, Isela Gomez, Maryan Abdinur, Christian Alberto Ledesma, and Aarohi Narain.”
The event is being hosted by the Lake Street Council and Visit Lake Street. Lake Street Council Executive Drector Allison Sharkey said, “Lake Street has historically been a welcoming place for people new to the Twin Cities to open businesses. We estimate that, over its six mile stretch, more than 65% of Lake Street’s 2,000+ businesses are immigrant-owned.
“This event is a an opportunity to learn about how immigrants and refugees in Minneapolis pass on their food traditions to the next generation, while adapting those food traditions to make a living as restaurant owners serving the broader community. “
Eat and Art on Lake is funded by Minnesota State Arts Board, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the City of Minneapolis, Twin Cities LISC, and State Farm Insurance.Moon Palace Books is located at 3032 Minnehaha Ave. There will be a program from 7-7:30 p.m. with comments from the Lake Street Council, artist Cori Lyn, and three short readings from writers featured in the book. Tickets are available for $10 at
Follow Cori Lin’s work at or on Instagram.


“It is critical in these times to get out of our homes and get to know our neighbors. We need to be having conversations with each other about what drives people to leave their homes thousands of miles away, and come to Minnesota. Now is also the time to speak out and celebrate the economic contributions of immigrants and refugees throughout our state, and especially in our own neighborhood.”
Allison Sharkey, executive
director of Lake Street Council

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Metro Work Center collaborates with local businesses

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Cast metal during Make-and-Take event at Moon Palace Books Aug. 6
For the sixth year, metal artists Jess Bergman Tank and Sara Hanson have been awarded a Community Arts Grant through the Metropolitan Regional Arts Program. They’ve spent the last two months working with participants of the Metro Work Center, a day program for adults with developmental disabilities that operates out of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.
The Metro Work Center is in its 50th year of serving differently-abled adults in that location, but many people don’t realize that their program exists.
Bergman Tank said, “One of the goals of this project is to bring our artists into relationship with others, as part of a shared community. We’re making art together, but we’re also helping to build a climate of mutual understanding.”
Each year, business partners in the community are identified as places that will support the Metro Work Center art-making process and provide an eventual place to exhibit finished sculptures. For example, past business partners East Lake Library and the Third Precinct Police Station both have sculptures on display. This year’s business partners include the Riverview Theatre, the Riverview Café, and Mother Earth Gardens. There is no cost for business partners to commission a work of art.
No one knows what a sculpture will look like when the collaborative process begins. Several visits are made to each of the business partner sites, and the Metro Work Center artists have an opportunity to talk with people working there. They’ve brainstormed questions beforehand such as, “What do you like about your job? What are people doing around the neighborhood? What kind of food do you serve?”
Hanson said, “The metal sculptures we make reflect the conversations our artists have had with staff. They learn a lot about what people do in their jobs through these conversations. We have several participants at Metro Work Center who aren’t mobile enough to come on the site visits, so we take pictures and bring back to show them. Our artists are also very aware of textures, surfaces, and objects in the different workplaces. During this grant cycle, you may see us making clay impressions of coffee mugs at the Riverview Café, or of an Art Deco lamp at the Riverview Theater. All of these things can eventually be incorporated into our metal sculptures to tell a story.”
To celebrate the completion of this project, there will be a Make-and-Take event at the Moon Palace Books Plaza on Tuesday, Aug. 6 from 12-2 p.m.
Artist Sara Hanson said, “We’re excited to extend our collaboration to the greater community. Both Jess and I will have our portable foundries on site. Between us, we have many years of experience casting metal in diverse locations. The metal will be HOT, but the event will also be very safe – it’s appropriate for all ages. Come to the plaza to experience a live metal pour, and the chance to create and take home your own small, cast metal art object at no cost.”
The event is also an opportunity to learn more about the Metro Work Center. Participants Rickeem and Clyde (pictured above, second from left and second from right) will be program ambassadors that day. They both currently work at former business partner sites, doing cleaning and yard maintenance at Alexander’s Import Auto Repair and the Longfellow Dental Clinic.
Jessica Bergman Tank is available for community art making with her portable metal foundry, which she transports with a front loading cargo bike. Her business is called Pedal to the Metal: Traveling Foundry. She can be reached at Sara Hanson recently bought a retired MTC bus, and is in the process of converting it to a mobile classroom and foundry. The name of her business is WOW Mobile Metal Lab, and she can be reached at

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Multiple sinkholes and utility line breaks frustrate residents

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Some homeowners south of Lake Nokomis are leaving the neighborhood, and others worried about paying high project bills

That’s how much Andrea and Dave Vogeo are paying to repair their water line.
The Vogeos have been living in their home on 16th Ave. S. between Edgewater and E. 57th St. since 1976, and are both retired. They are in their 70s, and live off Andrea’s Social Security check. On June 24, 2019, they began dealing with a water break, having trouble washing dishes, doing laundry, taking showers, and more. The break wasn’t fixed for a month.
“It’s frustrating,” Vogeo said.
They have also been dealing with a tree limb that came down in a storm.
“It was a bad week,” she stated.
When the Vogeo’s line broke, they peered into the hole and saw chunks of asphalt inside, pieces that should have been removed with the repair to their neighbor’s break the year before. They suspect that the rubble left in the hole contributed to their line break, and they think that the city or prior repair company should be covering the cost of this fix.
The Vogeos are just the latest in a long line of issues that have occurred along this stretch of street since 2015.
In all, there have been nine sewer line breaks, one water line break, and too many sinkholes to count.

A domino effect
The issues on 16th between Edgewater and 57th St. Started in 2015 with a resurfacing project. When they ended for the day, workers left the machines parked at the north end of the street. They started to sink within a few hours, recalled Joan Soholt, who lives along the street. A manhole and two utility laterals to homes were damaged, and it took about six weeks to repair them.
Soholt recalls getting a letter from the city that the utility lines had been checked before the street work, and they were all found to be in good working order.
Since then, eight homes built around 1940 have dealt with utility line breaks. The area in the middle of the block has been the worst, with four houses dealing with the hassle of sewer and water line breaks – and the associated bills that are getting higher and higher with each project as fewer companies bid on them.
When Soholt’s line broke in 2015, she had a $4,500 bill.
The city received only one bid for the Vogeo project. At $18,500 it’s three times higher than what the Swansons paid last year.
“No one would take the bid because no one wants to work in our area,” observed Soholt. “They know the headache of this street.”
She added, “The contractors said that no other company wants to bid on the Nokomis area because it is not easy with the groundwater and higher water table, and they have plenty of other opportunities for jobs in easier locations citywide. They have to put extra workers on the job and bring in extra equipment which escalates the price even if the job does not require pumping.”
Plus, these bills are coming on the heels of the resurfacing assessments each homeowner paid in 2015 that ranged from $2,000-$2,400.

Why isn’t the city dealing with water issues?
Erik and Monica Swansons moved from Michigan to South Minneapolis six years ago, and have loved the area. They thought they’d found their long-term house when they bought their bungalow along 16th. But they’ve decided to move out and have put their house up for sale – leaving behind a sewer line in good condition for the new owners.
They’re not the only ones leaving. So are the residents across the street who are dealing with their second utility line break in the past few years, observed Soholt.
“What makes this worse is the city’s incompetence,” E. Swanson said.
Their sewer line detached in March 2018, but it took three months for them to receive a letter from the city about the project because of misinformation on the address from the city which prolonged the repairs. At one point Erik called, and was told that his line was fine.
He eventually got a letter with information on the three companies that had bid on his project. The lowest bid by InnerCity was $5,200 – a bill the Swansons were responsible for paying.
In Minneapolis, homeowners are responsible for paying for water and sewer line repairs from the connection in the middle of the street and for the wye connection to the sewer main, according to an ordinance change in February 1992. There is nothing that holds the city accountable to make sure the main is in good condition before repairs are made, pointed out Soholt.
“Most cities will pay for the line up to the meter in the house,” observed Swanson. Additionally, in Minneapolis, residents are officially required to maintain the line from the middle of the street into their homes.
“How do you maintain something that is nine feet under the ground?” Swanson asked. “I don’t get it. If it is in the house, you can maintain it. We can’t monitor what’s underground.” Swanson pointed out that every utility bill he receives from the city lists a maintenance fee, and he questions what that is for.
Homeowners can opt to pay the entire cost at the end of the project, or put it on their property tax bill and pay a 5% interest fee each year on the balance. Some residents can qualify for deferments, but interest continues to accumulate on the total amount and must be paid when a property is sold. The city bids the project out. Homeowners can solicit bids themselves, but then they can’t attach it to their tax bill and have to pay it off themselves right away.
The Swansons had just bought a cabin, and paying for that and a utility repair bill stretched their budget too far. Six months after the first repair, the line required additional work. Luckily that was warrantied by the repair company who fixed it at no charge.
Swanson said he’d be less angry about this if he didn’t pay so much in taxes, a bill that last year was about $6,000. “I don’t mind paying taxes, but I want something out of it,” he said.
Vogeo agrees. She’s frustrated that the city is using millions of taxpayer money to create bike paths but not repairing its streets and utility lines.

What’s with the sinkholes?
The issues on her street spurred Soholt to take action, and she began asking questions trying to figure out what was happening. Her street isn’t the only one on the southwest side of Lake Nokomis that is dealing with sinkholes and utility line breaks.
“Edgewater is like the Grand Canyon,” Swanson observed. A football field length of pavement has been repeatedly repaired due to sinkholes west of 16th.
One day, emergency vehicles were called because a sinkhole developed and caused a break to a gas line on park land south of the lake.
Soholt’s search for answers has led her to question why the water table in the area is rising. She learned about homes near Solomon Park just south of her where residents have lost half of their backyards to standing water and dealt with sewer back-ups in their basements. She’s spoken with people at Hope Lutheran Church (5728 Cedar Ave.) who are dealing with an elevator that has rusted because of standing water.
She questions the volume of water coming down Minnehaha Creek, and how the weir is used at Lake Nokomis. She noticed that when the culvert under Highway 62 from Mother Lake was closed last year for repair, the lake level dropped. It rose again right after the culvert draining water from Richfield into South Minneapolis was re-opened.
Together with other concerned citizens, she formed the Nokomis/Hiawatha Water Sustainability group, which is tracking water issues in the area and advocating for comprehensive water studies.
“We’re the epicenter,” said Soholt.
“We are aware that increased precipitation is the cause of the problems. What we are questioning are current water management practices in light of the forecasted changes. How can communities upstream equitably manage their own water runoff locally without sending it all downstream where it is adversely affecting other communities?”

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Building community through sailing

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

On a picture perfect summer evening at Lake Nokomis, the water was calm and the west side dock was brimming with activity. A group of five kids and a couple of adults climbed into a sailboat and, after a momentary untangling of the rigging and a gentle push, they were off. Just then the wind picked up.
“It’s magic,” said the man who helped them launch.
Meet Longfellow resident Tim Brandon – sailor, boat caretaker, mentor – or “The Mayor,” as he is known by the regulars of this 50-boat marina.
Brandon is there most summer evenings (Nokomis is on his way home from his job at MSP Airport), offering assistance and encouragement to youth and adults alike.
Minnehaha resident Len Schmid, whose boat Tag You’re It is bouyed here (and who said he might have been responsible for Brandon’s nickname), called Brandon a regular “person about the lake.” Ask anyone who knows him and they’ll tell you what a tremendous resource and great guy he is. Over the course of the five years he’s had a buoy here, Brandon has helped bail, patch, rig and rescue scores of boats, from on shore and out on the water.
“He’s here every day. He helps everyone,” said Schmid. “We’re lucky to have him here.”
Sailor Siri Anderson said Brandon was very supportive when she didn’t have anyone to sail with, and Melanie Benoy said he helped her get her whole boat rigged.
Lending a hand comes naturally to Brandon.
“I’m very familiar with launching [a] boat and getting super frustrated,” he said.
Brandon began sailing as a kid on Clear Lake, California’s largest natural lake, then became a recreation director at Konocti Harbor Resort. He later joined Cal Sailing Club in Berkeley, where he met his wife, Dori. He eventually became a senior skipper in San Francisco.
Lured to Minnesota by a full-time job at Northwest Airlines (now Delta), he settled near Lake Nokomis, bought a boat and named her Doribelle, after the nickname Dori’s mom gave her as a child. Five years ago, he got a buoy on Nokomis, and he’s been a mainstay at the marina ever since. He chuckles at the “mayor” moniker and describes himself as more of an unofficial harbor master.

Youth Sailing Resources offers opportunities for kids
On this glorious summer evening, it was all about getting kids on the water. Brandon serveson the board of Youth Sailing Resources (YSR), which brings volunteer skippers and youth sailors together weekly to sail. YSR cofounders Patrick O’Leary and Jim McKie were here tonight, too.
According to O’Leary, YSR started as a nonprofit to support the Sea Scouts (a co-ed youth sailing group for ages 14-21) and to open up sailing to people who may not otherwise have the opportunity. They don’t offer classes or formal instruction. Rather, they give sailors the experience of being out on the water. All must wear a lifejacket and follow basic safety precautions, and all are shown proper care of the vessel. Sailing tips from experienced sailors, of course, flow freely.
“We wanted to make it a version of a community-based thing,” said O’Leary.

What’s the catch?
For it to work, they rely on volunteer skippers and depend on the generosity of the broader sailing community to lend their boats, as well as donate boats no longer in use. It’s a model Brandon already knew worked, from his experience at Cal Sailing.
On the low cost to participate in YSR people often ask, “What’s the catch”? There isn’t one. But maybe if people use the resources, they’ll buy into it. Maybe volunteer. Maybe one day lend a boat.
McKie cruised away from the dock on one such boat, the Avalon, on loan from a Nokomis sailor.
“If there’s two boats out, it’s a race,” said McKie, grinning. “Whether the other boat knows it or not.” He attempted to catch up to Brandon, who was now sailing with Benoy on a catamaran, but caught them at the wrong angle.
McKie explained how to gauge wind speed by the surface of the water: Silver water is calm; darker water is windier; white again (as in whitecaps), might be a good 10-15 knots. A huge part of sailing is reading signs and getting a feel for how the wind reacts.
“Kids think they can do something. The wind shifts, and they’ve got to adjust,” said McKie. “A good life lesson.”
YSR has served various youth groups over the years, including Young Life, TreeHouse, and Cub Scouts. With Lake Street-based Urban Ventures, they created an annual sailing event, which last year brought 110 kids to Lake Nokomis to sail for an afternoon – up substantially from the 20 or so participants when it first launched six years ago.
The overall goal? To have a good time on the water.
“They need to have some fun,” said McKie. “There’s a lot of boredom. If I can find a way for them to have fun, give them some excitement”– That’s what it’s about. With that, they build some responsibility for the machines they operate, and they build community, which is “so important in this day and age,” McKie said.

Sailing is many things
Sailing means different things to different people. For Brandon it can be very meditative, following the wind.
For Jen Wood, another Nokomis sailor, it’s “an exercise in humility”; early in the season she prefers sailing her boat, Beulah, in gentler winds.
On the previous night, Sea Scouts Gina Sutherland and Ryan Bohara sailed with YSR. Each has risen through the ranks in the Scouts – Sutherland the seniormost, as a boatswain ( bos’n), and Bohara a bos’n’s mate – and it’s clear sailing is part of their lifestyle.
Sutherland likes that Nokomis is “a very active lake,” with places to swim and people fishing.
Bohara loves racing. An active member of Sea Scout Ship Mendota #248, he and his mom, K.D. Bohara, make the trek from their home in Victoria, Minn,, to Nokomis weekly. He’s thrilled Wayzata will be hosting one of the nation’s qualifying regattas in August for next year’s William I. Koch International Sea Scout Cup (which will be held in Galveston, Texas). Two other Mendota 248 Scouts were selected (among 10) to sail for a week with the U.S. Coast Guard aboard the tall ship Barque Eagle.
K.D. Bohara, who chairs the Mendota 248 committee, especially loves being at the lake and seeing everyone’s setup. She shared pictures of a couple of memorable boats launched from trailers at Nokomis, one in the shape of a disk and another fashioned by placing a platform across two canoes and adding umbrellas, chairs and coolers – instant pontoon.
On this night, she brought her nephew Bode LeRoach for his first time sailing. “It was fun,” he said.

‘Calm down, take your time, be thorough’
As this evening drew to a close, Brandon gave a few pointers to Andreas Kocher and Vithue Chumara of St. Paul on storing the sail and closing up the Rebel they had just sailed. “Not a lot of people know how to sail,” said Chumara. “[Learning this] use of the wind, it’s a really good technical skill.”
Kocher said he’s struggled with ADHD, and that sailing has taught him how to “calm down, take your time, be thorough.”
He added, “A lot of kids should learn how to sail. It’s a great time. It’s a great way to spend the summer.”
Lake Nokomis seems to be the perfect place to do it.

‘Switchy twitchy’
The wind can be what Schmid described on the group’s Facebook page as “switchy twitchy.” It’s the same on all three Minneapolis lakes, he said: Bowls surrounded by trees, where the wind pushes downward and in. “You can sail two minutes and have it switch directions,” he observed.
Nokomis can also get what Brandon calls “big air” and – even on this little lake – swiftly become dangerous. It requires people to be on top of their game. Short of a storm, Brandon will go out in the big gusts, suggesting the Doribelle can handle maneuvering to and from the dock better than most boats.
McKie enjoys the challenge and said he and O’Leary will go out even when it’s “blowin’ like snot.” Having sailed in different parts of the world, McKie maintains, “If you can sail on an inland lake in Minnesota, you can sail anywhere in the world.”
More than for the wind and water, though, sailing Lake Nokomis is about the people there.
“It’s an amazing community,” said Siri Anderson, who said Nokomis is very unpretentious. “This community has become more important to me than my church.”

‘Everything I do started on a summer day on this lake’
Brandon, as administrator for the Lake Nokomis Sailing Facebook page, often posts videos of the conditions on the lake. He welcomes new sailors and boats and posts any mishaps. Recently, he alerted the community to a boat that was sinking due to a leak, which he managed to safely maneuver to shore. He said there have been times he’s posted that he could use a hand, only to arrive at the boat launch to have three cars with volunteers waiting. That’s really what its all about for him, being there for each other and creating lasting memories.
“At some point [new sailors] will say, ‘Everything I do started on this summer day on Lake Nokomis.’”
To get involved n Youth Sailing Resources, call Jim McKie or Patrick O’Leary (contacts available on their Google site). The Sea Scouts hold their annual weekend regatta on Lake Phalen Aug. 10 and 11.

(Photo courtesy of Tim Brandon)

Flotation, flotation, flotation


If Tim Brandon has a mantra for sailors, it might be this: “Have you secured your masthead flotation?” He recently posted on the Lake Nokomis Sailing Facebook page a photo of a Hobie catamaran that had capsized due to, in his opinion, the skipper “hot doggin’ it.”

Pictured above is the boat, floating sideways, its mast across the surface of the water. Clearly visible on the end of it is an empty gallon jug, which is all it takes to keep the mast from submerging – and taking the boat with it.

“The masthead flotation made all the difference,” Brandon said.

Brandon said the lake is only 14 feet deep on average, much shallower than the length of most masts, which are 20+ feet on up. That means capsized boats without the flotation run the risk of driving their masts into the mud. YSR youth who want to can practice capsizing and righting the boat with a skilled skipper.


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