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Rambling River Center in Farmington celebrates 35 years

The Rambling River Center in Farmington invites all to celebrate its 35th anniversary with a festive Luau party Friday, Sept. 8 with food and live music. The senior center offers daily activities like Zumba fitness open to the general public, not just seniors. Kara Hildreth / contributor 1 / 2
Rambling River Center’s leader Missie Kohlbeck stands beside a wall quilt that hangs in the Empire Room designed by seniors years ago to celebrate Farmington’s 125th anniversary. Seniors created quilt patches to tell the story of Farmington’s history and landmarks. Kara Hildreth / contributor 2 / 2

Rambling River Center is ready to celebrate its 35th anniversary next week with a Hawaiian luau and the public is welcomed to attend the party planned with tropical festive food and theme music.

"We are super excited to celebrate 35 years in the community," said Missie Kohlbeck, center leader and parks and recreation supervisor for the city of Farmington.

"When it first opened in the early 1980s, it was the coming together of two groups, one that met in a basement of a church and one from the fairgrounds," Kohlbeck said.

The Farmington Area Senior Citizen Center opened its doors on Aug. 31, 1982, in the old location on Third Street with 250 locals in attendance. The center opened with three-year grant funding from the Metropolitan Council.

The first senior center offered a large dining room, kitchen and social area. The first-year grant funds were used to renovate the former garage and furniture store into a senior center. The second year's funds paid for a program administrator and coordinator, Cathy Denison, who took over leadership in August.

Then the senior center moved into the old city hall building that was also home to the library. A large fundraising campaign was led by seniors to renovate the building and the new building was renamed the Rambling River Center.

"We held a huge fundraising campaign and borrowed money and paid it back early in three years because we received great support from the community," Kohlbeck said.

The advisory held a naming contest and the name Rambling River was chosen.

"When we renamed it, we wanted to get ready for the Baby Boomers and take the "seniors" name out," Kohlbeck said.

Today the building offers more space and divided rooms to host all kinds of recreation, learning and social groups.

Today Rambling River Center membership comes in around 400 members with 300 household mailing labels since some members are husbands and wives.

The Rambling River Center building includes a large banquet room with attached kitchen open and this venue to open for the public to rent for host all kinds of large and small parties and social events. Members play cards and games in the Empire Room and yoga classes are offered in this space during the evening.

A group of men regularly enjoy coffee in the Nicolai Board Room, named after the family that runs the community Castle Rock Bank.

The Ross Room, named after the family who runs Happy Harry's Furniture, offers members a space for crafting, arts, woodcarving and a dulcimer group to play lovely music.

"We offer Zumba like dance aerobics and a new Zabeat class and anyone is welcome to come and it is not just for seniors," Kohlbeck said.

Building relationships over the years has been rewarding, Kohlbeck said. Seeing all the family connections at the center over the years has been a blessing, she said.

Fred Schmidtke, chair of the Rambling River Center Advisory Board, serves as a leader and for years his mother was heavily active at the senior center.

"Fred's sister Pearl also comes and participates in events, and Pearl's daughter is Kris Akin, who helped found Farmington Journey. So, it is really interesting to see all the families and connections over the years," Kohlbeck said.

Mildred Jacobson, who was integral in the original senior center campaign, designed a fundraising button back in 1980. Her daughter Julie is now active in the center's activities.

Rambling River Center offers a busy calendar with daily and weekly activities throughout the year. Connect on Facebook or go online at www.ci.farmington.mn.us.

Farmington Journey is a new partnership with Farmington School District to offer all kinds of activities, events and trips for seniors who want to explore life in their golden years.

"We want people to know that even though they may not come now, this will be a good place to go in the future and a great place to give support now because our center is not just people sitting around playing games and drinking coffee and not everyone here are gray-haired seniors," Kohlbeck said.

If you go:

What: The public is invited to celebrate Rambling River Center's 35th anniversary with a festive Luau party.

When: 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, a catered dinner will be served by Divine Swine, and 6:15 p.m. music will be provided by Luau Hawaiian Collective band.

Where: Rambling River Center, 325 Oak St., in downtown Farmington

Tickets: The Hawaiian party menu is roasted pork, turkey and trimmings. Reserved tickets are $18 and can be purchased at Rambling River Center or call 651-280-6970.

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