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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For much of last week's run of the Dakota County Fair, it seemed like Mother Nature was determined to keep people at home. If it wasn't 95 degrees and so humid even stepping outside seemed like a chore, there were storm clouds and lightning to make people think twice about taking a trip to the fair. But when the weather cooperated, this year's fair appears to have been success. Don Storlie, president of the Dakota County Agricultural Society and manager of this year's fair, said workers did the best they could dealing with situations that were sometimes challenging.
The Dakota County Fair is a remarkable event. It's one of the rare opportunities in this world to indulge guilt-free in massive quantities of artery-clogging food, ogle livestock and cheer as strangers ram headlong into each other in an event that is the daydreams of any driver trapped in rush-hour traffic sprung to violent life. Really, what else do you need? The fair is also instructive. If you're paying attention, you can learn a lot, and not just about what a Holstein looks like or what it feels like to feel your arteries actively close off.
By the time warning sirens sounded Friday morning in Farmington the most serious damage had already been done. According to Dakota Communication Center interim director Diane Lind warning sirens were activated in Farmington at 3:46 a.m. Aug. 13. But by that time, many residents in neighborhoods hit hardest by the storm were already outside examining homes that had been damaged, garages that in some cases had been demolished and trees that had been uprooted or snapped in two. The DCC, Dakota County's central dispatch center, is in charge of activating sirens countywide.
The news probably won't come as a surprise to many of the Farmington homeowners who were affected, but the National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado touched down in the city early on Aug. 13. The EF-1 tornado had winds of up to 105 miles per hour, though most of the damage was done by winds with a maximum speed of 70 to 90 miles per hour. The storm, which hit around 3 a.m. last Friday, did significant damage to homes in a narrow path that began south of 195th Street and just east of Meadowview Elementary School and ran northeast for about a mile and a half.
Last weekend I rolled out to Watertown, South Dakota, passing endless corn and soybean fields. The dew point was palpable, as if steam was rising from the infinite corn leaves as they breathed oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. Sweat has nowhere to go when the air is so heavy you could wring it out like a dishcloth. I passed one steamy small town after another. I've noticed a lot of small towns adopt themes. For example, Lindstrom is definitively Scandinavian, with a water tower shaped like a coffee pot and Swedish street signs. Olivia is the corn capital of the world.
Mary Hince doesn't get out much anymore. She has a bad back, and some other health issues that make getting around difficult. But that's OK. She watches church services on TV in her apartment at Trinity Terrace and goes out to eat occasionally with family members. For the most part, she's happy. Hince has had a good life. She spent 55 years married to a man she loves and still misses, she's got eight children and she's even gotten to live out a few of her dreams. Hince grew up in Rosemount.
Every year around this time community newspaper employees from across the country sort through the best work they've done over the past 12 months and send off entries to compete for recognition as some of their state's best journalism of the year. Given the general consensus about journalism's future that might seem a little bit like competing for the title of prettiest girl on the Titanic, but hey, an award's an award. We've won our fair share of awards over the years in the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Better Newspaper Contest, but I've seldom had any role in handing out the awards.
A Farmington building that has been home to a medical clinic and a preschool will disappear sometime in the next few weeks. Rich Ludwig, administrator at Trinity Care Center and Trinity Terrace, said the building attached to the former Sanford Hospital has become a burden. It's expensive to maintain and there has been little interest from potential tenants. The building is attached to the former hospital, but its heating, cooling and other systems are separate, and the building has deteriorated rapidly since it's been vacant. "It was a really, really tough building," Ludwig said.
There's not a lot of common ground between bank balances and blacksmiths' anvils. Dealing with one is a mostly mental pursuit, the other mostly physical. Kate Aspenwall likes it that way. She's got two jobs to keep herself busy. One exercises her brains, the other her biceps. During the day Aspenwall is a personal banker at Roundbank in Farmington. She likes the job, and she's good at it. But she gets restless sitting at a desk all day. She likes to be up and moving. "I get bored pretty easily," Aspenwall said. That's where Kate's Farrier Service comes in.
Halfway through the filing period, the ballot is starting to shape up for November's District 192 School Board election. It looks like there will be at least one person left out when the votes are counted. As of Aug. 10 four people had filed to run for the three available seats. Veronica Walter, who was chosen in 2008 to fill the term of board member Terry Donnelly, will defend her position on the board.