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Column: The coolest things in town

News programs in December and January are usually stuffed with Top Ten lists. Although they are a handy way to fill a little space in a column, until two weeks ago I hadn't yet resorted to them. Then for the first time ever, I decided to cull the best of Farmington into one giant list, which I branded the Top Ten Coolest Things in Farmington during 2012. In my last column we explored a few of these cool things. Now we are ready to get to Farmington's top five coolest things in 2012.

The fifth coolest thing in Farmington is our new grocery store. The Family Fresh market opened in July, and it is truly lovely to have a deli again in Farmington. Although I enjoyed the cheap prices at the experimental discount market that preceded Family Fresh, it sure is nice to be able to pick up a baked chicken and a tub of fancy olives for a holiday dinner.

Coming in at the tail end of 2012, the fourth coolest thing is the new Pizza Ranch. Although the Ranch is may technically be in Apple Valley or Lakeville (it's in that Bermuda triangle near Pilot Knob and 160th Street), it's definitely close enough for Farmington residents to enjoy. As a longtime fan of the Iowa-based Pizza Ranch chain, I eagerly awaited the opening of the newest location on Dec. 3. The draw of Pizza Ranch is not just the piping-hot pizza, it's the giant salad bar and heaven-baked Cactus Bread they serve for dessert.

The third coolest thing in Farmington is the Park and Pond Clean-up. Although the day of the 2012 clean-up effort was chilly and rainy, dozens of volunteers turned out to pick up trash. Despite stepping into a puddle of murky water early in the morning, I persevered through cold toes and collected an entire garbage bag of refuse. Multiply that bag by a hundred or two hundred, and you get an idea of the massive load of trash volunteers picked up. Our parks and ponds were sparkling clean by lunchtime.

The Dakota County Fair is the runner up to the coolest thing in Farmington for 2012. For the first time ever I spent more time enjoying the exhibits than the demo derby. This year I finally took the time to browse the artwork of Dakota County residents, and take in the gorgeous zinnias and giant zucchini grown right here in our fertile soil. The fair showcases the results of talent and hard work.

Cue the drum roll, please. We are ready for the coolest thing in Farmington! This year's top coolest thing is the 2012 Dew Days Celebration. People enjoying cheese curds, live music and iconic cans of Mountain Dew packed the downtown streets. As the Dew Days princesses handed out awards for the classic car show, the crowd cheered and held up their soda cans. The band struck up a rock song after the awards, and people danced in the middle of Oak Street. Dew Days was a mix of the elderly and the young, families with little children and couples out on dates, all enjoying the same music outside under the same hot summer sky. It was a perfectly wonderful celebration here in our small town, a representation of our collective spirit.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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