The cast and crew of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” the fall musical being presented by Pine City High School, may be knocking on your door this Monday evening. But the students won’t be asking for candy, they will be looking for donations of non-perishable food items to be donated to the Pine Community Food Shelf.   This is the sixth year of the community service project, with last year’s effort bringing in over 2,000 items.  The students will identify themselves as members of the production and will not be wearing traditional Halloween costumes.

According to director Brad Mariska, the event serves several purposes. “First and foremost, this is a chance for students to connect with the community and think about the fact that many families are struggling financially and our Food Shelf serves a vital community purpose.  It’s also a great opportunity for the community to see students engaged in service projects and to spread the word about our upcoming performances.  We hope that the community will donate if they are able, and see these students not just as talented actors, singers, and dancers, but also as young people who care about others in their community.”  The tradition began back in 2005, when Mariska directed his first musical in Pine City, “Godspell.”

Performances of Charlie Brown are November 10, 11, 12, 13, 18, and 19.  Tickets are now on sale at several businesses or by calling 320-629-4013.  Group reservations can be secured by calling 320-629-4129.

See and share new ideas for Pine City’s future at open house

  • Celebrate how planning benefits the community

How do you get to work or school? Where do you live? Where do you shop? Many citizens do not realize that these decisions are all impacted by planning.

October has been designated National Community Planning Month by the American Planning Association (APA) as a way to highlight the role of planners and planning in our community.  This year’s theme is “New Ideas for America’s Future”; it reflects on how planners help envision the future and address the needs of communities.  The month-long celebration is an opportunity to recognize how planning shapes Pine City, and the work of planners and the planning profession in creating communities of lasting value. 

Residents of Pine City are invited to celebrate National Community Planning Month in coincidence with events held across the country by attending an open house October 26, 2011 from 5:30 – 6:30 P.M. at City Hall’s Council Chambers (in the Pine Government Center, 315 Main Street S.).  At the open house, one can view the vision boards generated at during the most-recent visit by the Minnesota Design Team; as well as meet local planning commissioners and learn how to get involved in local planning efforts.  Immediately following, the Planning Commission will hold their regular meeting. 

Planning is the process of envisioning, mapping or otherwise conceiving how a community will look, grow, and define itself—its characteristics, attributes, and identity. As our communities continue to change and grow, planners play an important role in ensuring that new developments are designed and built in harmony with existing surroundings.  Planners must carefully balance the needs and desires of residents against the challenges presented by growth and change not just in the physical realm, but also economically and socially. 

Planning also strives to give residents choices. From the type of home an individual lives in, such as a condominium, apartment, town home or single family, to how an individual gets around, whether taking mass transit, walking, bicycling or driving, planning helps ensure communities address the needs of everyone. 

“It’s important to realize that planners are more than just those in the profession,” said Nathan Johnson, Pine City’s city planner.  “Our commissioners and many in the community at a grass roots level are making significant contributions to planning for Pine City’s future.”

Johnson said the City will recognize one such individual as “Citizen Planner” at the event.  To learn more about National Community Planning Month, visit     

The American Planning Association represents more than 44,000 members including professional planners, academics, business leaders, students, and engaged citizens.  APA advocates for good planning practices to keep communities safe, healthy, and prosperous.

GPS 45:93 looks back, plans its future

With the belief that strategic planning for regional economic development is critical, members of GPS 45:93 set out to do just that on Sept. 23 around a large table in the Isanti County Courthouse in Cambridge, Minn. 

GPS 45:93 is a regional coalition working to promote dialogue and collaboration among the region’s public and private agencies in an effort to foster economic development.  Its location, four counties in east central Minnesota (Pine, Isanti, Chisago and Kanabec) places it within two hours of over 80-percent of the state’s population.

The organization’s need to plan was fueled by some regional factors that have come to be, including a higher-than-the-state-average unemployment and poverty rates, and lower-than-the-state-average diversity and educational attainment rates, as well as regional dependence on state aid, decreasing property values, and lack of venture and other sources of capital, among others.

The strategic planning process outlined those perceived weaknesses as well as the regions’ strengths and competitive advantages:  growth, quality of life, available—and affordable—land and workforce, natural amenities, existing regional collaboration, a history of successes, and a strong manufacturing base, among others.

The Initiative Foundation’s Dan Frank and Sandy Voigt were on-hand to facilitate the meeting.  Frank is the program manager for community development and Voigt is the business development specialist at the foundation.

They suggested that the group look beyond the region’s characteristics and look internally, into the organization of GPS 45:39, now in existence in its twelfth year, though first as Northern Technology Initiative.  The organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats became apparent and were discussed.

“Though we have a credible history, what does GPS 45:93 mean outside of the organization?” asked Sam Griffith, city administrator of Sandstone, Minn.  “There exists a lack of awareness.  What does our name say about us?”

Some of the goals that came out of the session included focusing more on economic development and marketing, and less on workforce development and organizational development. 

“Workforce development is being done elsewhere, in other agencies,” said Sara Trieber, current president of GPS 45:93 and a staffer for the Corporate Commission of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.  “And, we’ve already established our organization.  It’s no longer in development stage,” she added.

Now, GPS 45:93 can turn its energies to economic gardening, economic strategy and the like.  It has already completed business retention and expansion visits in its respective communities, as well as a network of ‘go-to’ people in each community.

Now that the group has a new name and identity, and all that goes along with that—a logo, tagline, Web site, etc.—it can create and implement a marketing plan. 

“We’ve come a long ways in a relatively short time,” said member Dr. Robert Musgrove, president of Pine Technical College, adding, “And, we realize we have a bright future if we are all working together.  We are of the philosophy that if one wins, all win.”

The tagline for GPS 45:93 is, “Your point of opportunity”.  Its precise coordinates, 45-degrees North (latitude) and 93-degrees West (longitude), when extended to their full six digits, lead to a point on the map near where four partner counties—Pine, Isanti, Chisago and Kanabec—touch.  Abbreviated, it leads to a simpler URL for its website,  There, one can find useful links, testimonials, and information on the members of the consortium.

So long, Brookdale Center, and the future of the ‘Dales?

In 1956, the first indoor mall in the country opened up in Edina, Minn., called Southdale.

In ’62, Brookdale opened.  Success was seen in these gigantic, indoor malls.  Rosedale opened in 1969 and Ridgedale, in ’79.

Today, a rebirth is taking place at Brookdale Center’s location, the first of the ‘Dales to close its doors (in 2010) after 49 years of serving as the northwest metro’s premiere regional shopping destination.  The site, after suffering setbacks in recent years, has now found a new life as a future lifestyle center, called “Shingle Creek Crossing”.

City Staff from the City of Brooklyn Center hosted a presentation about Brookdale’s history this past July for planners across the state.  They also discussed Shingle Creek Crossing’s future.

Perhaps the rapid growth of Maple Grove’s Arbor Lakes development was one of the hits taken by Brookdale.  The perception of the mall as an unsafe place was perhaps another.  Barnes and Noble’s closure in 2009 was not only a sign of the economic times and retail bookstore realities, but it proved beneficial for Pine City’s library project, where all of the book display shelves were dontated.

The future development will be anchored by a Walmart and play to Shingle Creek more.  Other specific tennants are yet to be determined.  With newer, further-flung retail developments springing up around the metro, such as Arbor Lakes, are the fate of first-ring suburban malls in jeopardy?  Will we ever see a Pinedale?  Sound off.  It’s your blog too.

Tickets NOW on sale for “Charlie Brown” musical

  • General Admission and Reserved options available

Now, local residents can purchase tickets for Pine City High School’s fall musical, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”  The fall show has become a highlight of the school year and recent successes have drawn thousands of spectators from Pine City and beyond to see “Guys and Dolls,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and more.  This year’s show is directed by Brad Mariska and comes to the stage 30 years after first being performed by Pine City students in 1982.

This year’s cast features four talented and experienced seniors: Sean Kehren in the role of Charlie Brown, Ben Miche as his buddy Linus, Renee Schminkey as the faithful sidekick Snoopy, and Laurel Anderson as Charlie’s spunky little sister, Sally.  The leads are rounded out by two outstanding juniors: Courtnie Blazek as Lucy (Charlie Brown’s arch-nemesis!) and Adam Martin as the piano-playing, Beethoven-loving Schroeder.  There are a total of 26 students in the cast and dozens more serving as members of the crew.

General Admission tickets for Charlie Brown can be picked up at four Pine City businesses at Chris’ Food Center, Cabin Coffees, The Flower Box, and Pine Center for the Arts.  Reserved Seating is also available starting Monday by calling Em Dunkley at the High School: 320-629-4013.  Reserved seating was first introduced last year and was a very popular option, with only about 85 reserved seats available for each performance.

The performance dates for Charlie Brown are November 10, 11, 12, 18, and 19 and 7pm, as well as November 13 at 2pm.  All performances are at the Pine City Elementary Auditorium and the doors open for each performance 45 minutes prior to curtain.  General Admission tickets will also be available at the door for each performance but they cost $1 extra.

For more information or to make a group reservation, contact Mariska at 320-629-4129 or by email:  You can also visit for more information or search for the event on Facebook.

An Observer’s “Mach” Day in the Life of a Commuter

  • 5:15 a.m. — In the wee hours of the morning, with just a few sips of coffee in me, I ran out the door, running a bit late en route to the Customer Appreciation Event to show appreciation for existing riders of the Rush Line buses.  There was good news to share with riders:  Another year of service was guaranteed funding.
  • 5:17 a.m. – Pitch black sky, it’s easy to notice that Mn/DOT hasn’t replaced the burned-out lights on the ramps leading to and from I-35 from County Road 7/Hillside Avenue in Pine City.  As a consolation, Walmart SuperCenter’s sign is now completely lit after months of having a few lights burned out on it.
  • 5:30 a.m. – Driving by Rush City, very dark yet, the new blue neon wrap around the Holiday StationStore sign brightens the sky more than the Minnesota State Correctional Facility lights.  The traffic begins to pick up.  Ensuring everyone was alert, the driver a few cars ahead swerves across the centerline and then corrects himself.  Was it a coffee spill or related to a cell phone?
  • 5:45 a.m. – Passed a beige van with a “Dragon Hockey” bumper sticker in the back window, possible evidence that there are commuters from Pine City, or perhaps Rush City, since the Dragons are a co-op of the two schools in the sport of hockey.
  • 5:47 a.m. – Was passed by a Buick with a “Pine County Fair” bumper sticker, perhaps further evidence of the commutershed from the north.
  • 6:03 a.m. – Passed the No. 285 leaving Running Aces on County Road 97 toward its next destination.  A white pop-up tent is set up at the Mn/DOT Park & Ride, where riders for the next bus are already gathering.
  • 6:05 a.m. to 7:40 a.m. – Conversing with a Councilor from the City of Columbus, the Multimodal Transportation Manager for Anoka County’s Highway Dept., Kate Garwood, and her intern and other Rush Line staff, and welcoming the hundreds of riders who waited in line and boarded the 285 and 288 toward one the other of the Twin Cities.  Some of the buses were standing-room only. 
  • 7:45 a.m. – En route to Pine City… A few afterthoughts:  With spotting a few familiar faces, the localized bumper stickers on the way down, and noticing a sport utility parked at the park-and-ride with the words “Snake River Outfitters” on it, it was easy to see that Pine City contributes to the need for transit options to serve the commuters going to and from the Twin Cities daily.  It was a nice event, complete with breakfast snacks, one’s choice of coffee or hot chocolate, and even enough promotional ice scrapers to go around—though I hope we won’t need them for a while yet.

This Weekend in Pine City: Autumn “Stay-Cation” Ideas

Economic hardship is still forcing many to cancel travel or vacation plans and instead make the most of “Stay-Cations.”  

Anderson's Rock Creek Relics 2011 Corn Maze

Definition of Staycation:  A vacation spent at home or near home, doing enjoyable activities or visiting local attractions.  –


Here are some ideas to offer the perfect solution: Activities that not only will please everyone and are close to home, but are either free to the public or nominally priced…

Stay up-to-date with other goings on in Pine City at the Area Chamber of Commerce Web site.

More public facilities improvements underway

A rendering of the completed Pine City Fire Department, presently under construction.

If you’ve been around Pine City in recent years, you’ve made a some adjustments, some popular, some favorable and some controversial.  First, there was new public works facility in the early 2000’s.  Later in the decade came the new Pine County Courthouse, which relocated from downtown to the northern freeway interchange area, followed by a new water treatment plant and by the new post office, which also relocated from downtown, but this one to the southern freeway interchange area.  The elementary school then added a new gym, media center and more classrooms.  Next, the libary underwent an expansion and renovation.  City Hall moved to the former courthouse building (the Pine Government Center).  And, now the fire hall is having its turn being rebuilt, and the armory is getting a remodel.   All this activity in 10 years… All a part of the plan.

All of the aforementioned public facilities were listed in the 1998 city comprehensive plan.  It listed the conditions of each of the facilities on Pg. 36, saying that the library, public works building, schools, courthouse, post office and armory each had expansion needs.   It gave a five-year timeframe for the library, and though the project wasn’t completed by 2003 as planned for, it happened none the less.  There appeared to be a lot of foresight that went into the city’s plan.

Highway 61 Film Festival rolls in Oct. 14-15

Movie lovers from all over Minnesota are getting ready to settle down to a feast of films this weekend at the first ever Highway 61 Film Festival in Pine City.
The festival will feature comedies, action, horror, drama, documentary and animation in 39 short and feature-length movies over Oct. 14-15. 
Doors open at the Pine Technical College Auditorium (900 4th Street SE) at 6 p.m. Friday for the first session of films, with a late-night session to follow at Danny C’s BeachRocks (10762 Lakeview Shore Drive) at 10 p.m.
On Saturday morning at 11 a.m., another session of films begins with a family-friendly selection of movies for young and old at Pine Technical College. 
Saturday goes back to the grown-ups at the 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. film sessions, and the night will be capped off with a horror double-feature and celebration at Danny C’s BeachRocks starting at 10 p.m.
Tickets for each daytime session of films at Pine Technical College are only $5, while there is free (donation requested) admission to the late-night shows at Danny C’s BeachRocks. All funds go to the nonprofit Pine Center for the Arts.
Each session of films promises its own highlights. Some of these include: 
  • Friday night’s 6:30 p.m. session includes a film by Shane Bauer, one of the American hikers who was recently released from Iran after two years in captivity. “Songs to Enemies and Deserts” was co-directed by Bauer and David Martinez. A special message from Bauer’s mother, Pine City native Cindy Hickey, will be read before the film. 
  • Friday’s late-night session at Danny C’s BeachRocks will feature “All Over the Walls,” a documentary featured at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival. The short film “Night Surf” won directing and screenwriting honors at the MCTC Excellence Awards.
  • On Saturday at 2:30 p.m. the session includes a variety of intriguing dramas and comedies capped off by “Lambent Fuse,” the winner of the 2011 Twin Cities Film Fest for Best Minnesota Feature. 
  • On Saturday at 6:30 p.m., a series of exciting thrillers and hilarious comedies will come to an end with “Ghost from the Machine,” a psychological horror film which was recently picked up by Universal Studios to be remade into a major motion picture. 
  • Saturday’s late-night session at Danny C’s BeachRocks is a horror double-feature including “Attack of the Moon Zombies” by legendary Minnesota director Christopher R. Mihm and the horror/comedy freak-out “Potpourri.” 
For a full listing of films and their descriptions go to or visit the Highway 61 Film Festival Facebook page. 
Also, on Friday and Saturday nights, drivers and pedestrians will see the walls of Pine City come to life with photos projected by local photographers in “Pictures on Buildings.”
Come to one film session, or come to all – but don’t miss the Highway 61 Film Festival!
Read on to see more about the program and the films that will be shown.

Operation Community Connect Bus Schedule

This year, Horizons will be partnering with Arrowhead Transit in hopes of increasing the availability of Operation Community Connect (OCC).  Since the event is open to the entire county, providing a means of transportation is necessary in order to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to attend. Listed below are the bus stops and schedule for OCC. Arrowhead will be at each for location for approximately five minutes.

Thursday October 13th:

  • Sturgeon Lake Little Store 10:15am
  • Willow River BP gas station 10:30
  • Banning Junction 10:45
  • Chris’ Food Center-Sandstone 11:00
  • Tobies Parking Lot-Hinckley 11:20

Arrive in Pine City at 12pm.

There will also be two pick-up points in Pine City:

  • Super America 12:30pm
  • Pine City Library 12:45

Departure from OCC will be at 2:30pm.