“The Music Man” hits the Pine City Stage August 18

PINE CITY, MN—  Stepping and dancing their way to the stage later this summer is an energetic group of actors and actresses from across the region.  A summer musical performance of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” is sure to delight audiences of all ages.

The cast of 48 is excited to perform this class musical.  When Harold Hill, a traveling con man, arrives in River City, he convinces the locals to start a band by purchasing the uniforms and instruments from him. His intention is to flee as soon as he receives the money. Librarian Marian Paroo suspects Harold is a fraud, but holds her tongue since her moody brother, Winthrop, is excited about the band. As Harold begins to develop feelings for Marian, he faces a difficult decision about skipping town.  

This Heritage Players production comes together under the director of Becky Schueller and musical direction of Jennifer Hansmann. “The Music Man” will perform for one weekend only with evening shows beginning at 7PM on August 18, 19 & 20 and the final matinee performance on Sunday, August 21 at 1PM.

Tickets for the  production are $15/Adult, $12/Seniors and $10/K-12 Students.   Guests that purchase their tickets in advance at Voyageur Bottle Shop, Cabin Coffees, or online through the Heritage Players website can take advantage of a $3 discount per ticket.


Free Technical Training for Local Businesses

Is your Pine City area business listed online for Google Search?

Can your business be found on Google Maps?

OntheMaplogoIf not, you may be missing potential customers or not have all the business traffic you could have.  Current statistics on Internet usage show that presently 97% of consumers look online for goods or services, and most are using Google Search or Google Maps.  However, nationally only 37% of businesses have ‘claimed’ their listing on a search engine – a process which involves working with the search engine company to validate your business and to gain access to own and change or upgrade the results people see when your business pops up during a search.

A local partnership in Pine City is working to improve the results for all businesses in Pine City and to improve how local businesses appear when people – particularly visitors – search here for goods and services.  The Pine City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Pine County Office of Economic Development (PCOED) are spearheading a project this summer to provide one-on-one technical assistance to local businesses with that goal of improvement in mind.

The project, using grant funding from the Greater Pine Area Endowment, will use a combination of paid technical expertise and volunteers to reach out to area companies, go to their places of business, and walk them through the process of claiming, validating and upgrading their results in Google and Google Maps – at no cost to the business.

“We scanned search results for our member businesses in the Chamber,” says Chamber Executive Becky Schueller.  “We found that, out of 215 members in the Chamber, only 70 businesses had claimed their listing on Google Search and Maps.  59 more showed up on a search but had not claimed their listing.  The rest couldn’t be found at all. So two-thirds of our members either have no presence or perhaps incomplete and inaccurate information.”

While the summer project is not limited the Chamber members, Schueller feels that the same percentages apply to non-members as well.

Pine County Economic Development Coordinator Robert Musgrove dug into some of the inaccuracies and incompleteness on those businesses that did have a listing but hadn’t claimed it.

“We had a convenience store listed as an auto repair shop,” Musgrove explains.  “We had retail stores showing up on the wrong side of town on Maps.  Many didn’t list their hours of operation. These are the kinds of problems you see when a business hasn’t claimed their listing.”

Musgrove noted that search engines also aren’t used just by visitors to find restaurants or hotels.

“They’re searching for auto body shops and medical clinics and pharmacies and local attractions and attorneys – you name it,” he stated.

Beginning in early July, the partners will be reaching out to area businesses to schedule sessions with the technical expert when they can set up a listing or claim and correct a faulty one.  The only limitation is that, because of the conditions of funding from the Greater Pine Area Endowment, the business must be located within the boundaries of the Pine City school district.  The project will begin in early July and last into the Fall.

To begin with, an online signup sheet for technical assistance is available at http://tinyurl.com/GYBOPineCity  businesses that want to jump right in.  Businesses who want the service may also contact the Chamber Office – even if they are not members – at info@pinecitychamber or at 320-322-4040 or by contacting the Pine County Office of Economic Development at 320-591-1625 or robert.musgrove@co.pine.mn.us.

Wild personnel make trip to Pine City to meet and greet fans

1 - Kurtis Gabriel

Kurtis Gabriel

Members ofwild road tour the Minnesota Wild will soon visit Pine City as a part of its 2016 Wild Road Tour Schedule.

2011 NHL Entry Draft - Portraits

Mario Lucia

The Pine City stop will include recently-signed Wild forwards Kurtis Gabriel and Mario Lucia, the son of legendary Gopher coach Don Lucia and brother of Ali Lucia of WCCO-TV. They will be joined by former Wild forward Wes Walz and Wild television analyst Mike Greenlay.

The Road Tour will stop at the Pine City Civic Center on June 21 from noon to 1 p.m.  

The 2016 Minnesota Wild Road

3 - wes walz

Wes Walz

2012 NHL All-Star Game - Mascot Portraits


4 - mike greenlay

Mike Greenlay

Tour will conclude with the Summer Bash and NHL Entry Draft Viewing Party from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, June 24 at Xcel Energy Center.  It will feature interactive games, photo and autograph opportunities from Wild players and NHL Alumni, a live broadcast from KFAN 100.3 FM and more.  The 2016 NHL Entry Draft will take place at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y., June 24-25.

Freedom Fest Event Schedule 2016

The Freedom Fest event schedule has been finalized and flyers will be available this month at locations throughout Pine City.  There are a number of new events coming this year that organizers are excited to bring to the community to share.

The events begin on Wednesday, June 22nd with a Free Community BBQ from 11am – 1pm at Pine Technical & Community College.  Not only can you enjoy a great lunch, but tours of the college campus will also be available.  Find more information at http://www.pine.edu.

The Pine City Ambassador Candidates will host the annual “Meet the Candidates” Bingo night on Thursday, June 23rd at the Pine City High School.  Tickets for bingo and the $1 raffle tickets are now available from both Senior & Little Miss candidates, or from the Chamber Office.  Bingo starts at 7 PM.

The event schedule on Saturday at the Fairgrounds includes a few new activities…. including a Swap Meet organized by the Stewards Car Club, the Waterball Competition hosted by the Pine City Fire Dept, and a Flag Disposal Ceremony hosted by the Pine City Girl Scouts.   Check out the full event schedule here:

2016 Event Schedule

Pine City market ready for its first hotel in more than 40 years

Pine City is ripe for a hotel, according to a market study of the area.

“We’ve been ready for some time,” asserted Nathan Johnson, Community Development Director.  “Now we just have the data to back it up.”

Consultants examined four sites, two on the north and two on the south side of town.  The sites were the JPL site at on the 1200-block of 8th Street NW (site 3 below) and the Pine City Freeway Investments site on the 1300-block of Northridge Drive NW (site 4) near Exit 171; and the RCF Holdings site on the 1200-block of Hillside Avenue SW (site 2) and the Pine City Interchange site at 1542 Hillside Avenue SW (site 1) near Exit 169.

Hotel Sites

Pine City, in partnership with the EDA, Initiative Foundation and Greater Pine Area Endowment, hired Growth Services Group (GSG) of Missouri in January to determine the feasibility and possible success of bringing a hotel to town.  Consultants determined the town could sustain a 42-room hotel with a business center, banquet space to accommodate greater than 25 people, hot breakfast, fitness room and a pool.

Despite a number of other hotels within 20 miles of Pine City, including a giant 563-room hotel at Grand Casino Hinckley, consultants pointed to a 6.5-percent increase in area lodging from 2009 to 2015 as a reason the market area could sustain another provider of overnight accommodations.

“With wedding venues, major community events, the North West Company Fur Post, a growing business community and our area lakes, we have plenty of travelers to house for the night, especially in the warmer months,” explained Johnson, adding, “Not everyone wants to stay at a casino 15 miles away.”

GSG’s report recommendations said, “Review of demographics and community interviews suggested that a mid-level to upper mid-level hotel would be ideal and provide the amenities to meet the community’s needs.  This type of hotel would be well received and provide a new tier to effectively draw guests back to Pine City from the nearby surrounding markets.”

The cost to develop such a hotel would be about $109,000 per room, or about $4.6 million for a 42-room building.  Consultants predict five years after the development the hotel will have an average yearly occupancy rate of 65.7-percent and the average daily rate would be $101.83.

Pine City had a number of hotels in its early years, the last of which was the Agnes Hotel which stood until 1974.  Two roadside motels remained since then, one 20-room facility (the Old Oak Inn) which is set for demolition due to redevelopment of the site, and another 12-room facility, the Gail Motel, which has operated since 1955.

“Given the positive results of the study, the uptick in commercial and residential development activity along with all the city has to offer in amenities, including the wide range of annual events that draw visitors to our great community, our hope is that hotel developers will be drawn to our market,” said Mayor Carl Pederson.

Copies of the study are available on the City’s website.  Contact Johnson at 320.629.2575, ext. 105, or by emailing njohnson@pinecitygov.com with questions regarding the study.

New planning commission appointment sworn in: Chris Fossum

  • City seeks student rep for Commission.  Applications available at City Hall.
Chris Fossum 2015

Chris Fossum

Chris Fossum was given his oath of office by Chair Frank Christopherson at the most recent Planning Commission meeting May 24.

Fossum, age 39, lives in the Hazel Park Addition near the fairgrounds.   He works as a data coordinator and a business services representative for Pine Technical & Community College.  He is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, having earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.

“It is my goal to be a productive and effective team member by upholding and enforcing the rules of conduct, bylaws, statutes and ordinances to support opportunities, growth and sustainability to the Pine City community,” said Fossum, in an application to the City seeking the mayor’s appointment.

Mayor Carl Pederson appointed Fossum to serve out the remainder of Dan Rydberg’s term, who passed away in March.

The student representative position remains unfilled at this time.   Gracie LeBrun held the position, but she graduated with the Class of 2016 and plans to attend the University of Northwestern in the fall.

Planning Commission meetings are held the Fourth Tuesdays of each month at the Pine Government Center in the Council Chambers beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Is Austin, Minn. really more than Spam?

  • Small-town city planner’s visit reveals a lot about Austin

A recent free weekend, a rarity, I decided to visit what was considered “greener pastures” for a dynamic, past music educator at Pine City High School, Brad Mariska.  Brad had set out for Spamtown USA after his time in Pine, leaving a huge hole to fill in the local music program.  During Brad’s short tenure, Pine City was thrice named a “Best Community for Music Education in America” by the NAMM Foundation.

But Austin had to look good on paper for Brad.  The southeastern Minnesota city located near the Iowa border is another one of those vibrant, All-American small towns.  As it turns out, Austin is the only city in Greater Minnesota with a Fortune 500 company.  There is a sense of pride there, one that can be appreciated by a band director whose students perform about town at the various school activities and town functions.

Before Brad left, I recall several visits at Nicoll’s Café, downtown Pine City, whereby Brad would help share his vision for Pine City.  I came to find out that, overall, this band director has a real appreciation not only for music, but also for cities… and their respective people… and their respective people’s hopes and dreams.   Conversations with him were fascinating for a city planner such as myself.

2016-05-31 21.15.46

Breakfast with a side of Spam at Kenny’s Oak Grill in Austin.

After a few years of vicariously (mainly through social media) seeing the energy Brad brought to the Packers’ band program in Austin, I had to go check out this city for myself.  I’d been to Albert Lea and Rochester and other regional hubs of that area, but unfortunately I hadn’t made it to this place some 25,000 Minnesotans call home and I wanted to know what it was like.

Further, I wanted to see what the relocation meant for Brad, and how the health of the city really was.  After reading a 2014 article in the Star Tribune, “Midwest Traveler: Austin, Minn., is more than Spam”, I had to see if Austin offered something more.

I had been wanting to visit for some time, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was the gorgeous Wikipedia page that was created for Austin.  On it, I discovered so many things I did not even consider about Austin, that there exists an arts community and a recreational haven with a plethora of things to do besides visit the new Spam Museum.  I simply could not believe the quantity of parks and trails in Austin, probably some of the most per capita of anywhere in the State (28 parks).

Things I really enjoyed about my visit:

  • Vision 2020. I came across many people who knew about, and even bought into, Austin’s Vision 2020.  It’s rare when a planning and community development initiative is well known across a community, and generally supported.
  • Souvenirs.  There was an aisle in the main local grocery store, Hy-Vee, with a label called “canned meats”, perfect for the tourist who wants to get stocked up on rarer flavors of Spam.
  • Walkability.  The community was very walkable, with a highly-developed sidewalk network with few gaps.
  • Car chargers. An EV-owner, I really appreciated the charging stations in downtown Austin, near shops, restaurants and the famous Spam Museum.
  • Diversity.  From my initial walk through an Austin neighborhood, I noticed a lot of diversity.  With almost 4,000 Latino residents, 1,000 black or African Americans, and 600 Asians, Austin is more diverse than the typical Minnesota city by a long shot.  Over 2,600 residents of this city were foreign born, of which over one-in-ten people living in Austin were primarily coming from Latin America.

Minor critiques:

  • Far-flung hotels. The majority of hotel rooms are north of I-90, which is not very enticing to walk downtown, south of the freeway.
  • Hidden public facilities. The newer detention center, which I’m sure cost county taxpayers a great deal, seems to be hidden from the Main Street streetscape with a memorial and shrubbery.
  • Address numbering. The address numbering system is off-kilter.   For example, one of the McDonald’s is located on the 900-block of West Oakland Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets, but its address number is 1009.  There are countless examples of this throughout town.

Extraordinarily interesting or uniquely Austin:

  • The city’s name. I found it interesting that Austin was named after Austin Nichols.  The town bears his first name, not his last like the vast majority of other towns named after people.
  • 2016-05-31 21.21.49 (2)

    Rydjor Bike Shop

    One of a kind places. The downtown Rydjor Bike Shop and Paramount Theater are among them.  You will know them when you see them.

  • Frank W. Bridges Theater.  There is a theater here apparently at the community college named after someone still living, another rarity.
  • Unique meeting spaces. There’s the Hormel Historic Home, the upstairs of the Austin ArtWorks Center, and the gay-owned Coffee House on Main.  Lots of classy meeting space for your gatherings.
  • The Meeting. Apparently, “The Meeting” takes place on Friday nights at Dusty’s Bar & Lounge, downtown Austin.  It is less a meeting and more an end-of-the-week release for teachers, Hormel workers and other professionals in the community; the clientele was definitely not a typical bar crowd in a small town.  I’m not sure how long this establishment has been around, but “The Meeting” is already a tradition.
  • Barbecue.  Who knew some of the best bar-b-que I have ever come across would be in Austin, Minnesota, and not Kansas City or Austin, Texas, for that matter?   The place is called Piggy Blues Bar-B-Que and it is entirely worth it.
2016-05-31 21.17.00

Upstairs at Austin ArtWorks Center

Similarities with Pine City:

  • County seats. Both cities are county seats of their respective counties, Pine and Mower.    And, both, historically, have had to struggle to maintain county seat status.  Apparently, the Mower County capitol was originally in LeRoy but apparently men on horseback came and stole the county papers during the middle of the night and made Austin the capitol.  In Pine County, Sandstone and more centrally-located Hinckley have unsuccessfully vied to be the county seat in the past.
  • Business loops. Both are located on freeways but also have officially-designated Business Loops running through them.   Only a small handful of cities across the state have business loops:  Albert Lea, Faribault, and Pine City (on I-35); Worthington, Fairmont and Austin (I-90); and Moorhead (I-94).
  • Wikipedia pages. Both Pine City and Austin have stellar Wikipedia pages related to their aesthetics, structure, writing style, coverage and factuality.   The world can learn a lot about these communities virtually and, quite possibly, be inspired to visit.
  • Arts Destinations. It is not hard to access art in either community with active arts organizations galore.

Obviously, on my next visit I’ll be sure to visit the J.C. Hormel Nature Center and the infamous newly-opened SPAM Museum and Visitor Center.  But, for this trip, I was more than satisfied with my time here.  Austin is definitely more than Spam.  Although, I did buy over $70 of the “Miracle in a can” before leaving town.

Nathan Johnson writes about cities and people, and he has been nationally-recognized as an “Outstanding Small Town and Rural Planner”.

Network 2 Learn Training Session Offered by Pine City Chamber

On Wednesday, May 18th the Pine City Area Chamber will host the next Network 2 Learn opportunity.  These training events are provided at a low cost to any business in the region interested in taking part in the event.  This month’s session will focus on “Uncovering Your Business Challenges” and help owners and managers to navigate the growth of their company with successful outcomes.   Contact Becky to get registered by Monday, May 16.05.18BusinessGrowth

East Central Minnesota Pride Moves, Scheduled for June 5

Sunday, June 5, the small town of Pine City, Minn. will again be the setting of one of the few rural LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) pride celebrations in the world, ‘East Central Minnesota Pride.’

2016 marks the twelfth anniversary of this event which offers music, food and a rendezvous of friends, family and community in a new location—downtown Pine City in the Robinson Park town square.  Having moved from across the Snake River in Voyageur Park to the heart of Pine City, this year’s gathering promotes the theme “Pride in the Heart.”

Take it With You Live Radio Theater“We’ve managed to overcome all of the obstacles thrown our way by the people who are less open-minded than us, and yet we’re still here,” said Ariel Dunbar of Pine City, a member of the East Central Minnesota Pride Board.  “We’re still growing stronger”.

Neighberz Band

The Neigherz Band

Headlining Pride is Minneapolis-based, British singer-songwriter Katy Vernon.  Also performing are North Branch-based The Neighberz Band, no stranger to East Central Minnesota, and Duluth-based “Take It With You” live radio theatre.  Twin Cities Public Television’s Val Mondor returns as this year’s emcee and Geo Montecillo will deejay.

This celebration serves the five county region of East Central Minnesota, Pine, Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec and Mille Lacs Counties, and attracts attendees from the hubs of the region such as North Branch (pop. 10,087), and even its tiny villages, like Denham (pop. 34).

Geo Montecillo

Deejay Geo

East Central Minnesota Pride involves many collaborators including East Central Minnesota Men’s Circle, East Central Minnesota Purple Circle, East Central Minnesota chapter of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Rural Aids Action Network, Rainbow Health Initiative and OutFront Minnesota, among others.

Katy Vernon

Katy Vernon

Several businesses throughout the region support and help sponsor the event as well, and this activity is funded through a grant from the East Central Regional Arts Council through an appropriation from the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the State’s General Fund.

This rural part of Minnesota has seen much change over the last twelve years.  Most recent Census data show that in 2010 Pine City and its surrounding townships have become some of the gay strongholds of Minnesota, with the most same-sex coupled households of anywhere else outside of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Val Mondor

Val Mondor

East Central Minnesota Pride kicks off the first such celebration in Minnesota each year during what President Obama has declared as “Pride Month,” June.  The other Gay Prides in the state are in Fargo-Moorhead, Duluth-Superior, Mankato, Rochester and the Twin Cities, all of which are in metropolitan areas.

“Our goal has always been to provide caring support and friendship for LGBT people living in the rural area of Minnesota,” said Don Quaintance of Centerville, a founding Pride Board member.  “This event brings people from all walks of life together in friendship, community and progress in understanding.”


Key Details

  • Date: Sunday, June 5, from Noon to 5p.m.
  • Location: Robinson Park, 200 5th Street SE, Pine City, MN
  • Performing: Katy Vernon, The Neighberz Band and “Take It With You” live radio theatre
  • Admission: $10 suggested donation for food
  • For more information, visit eastcentralminnesotapride.com.

Pride Flier Final.jpg

Pine Technical & Community College now offers MMSC training courses

PINE CITY, Minn. – Motorcyclists, or those looking to get their motorcycle endorsement, have a new training site to go to for Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center rider courses. Pine Technical and Community College in Pine City, Minn. started offering the Basic Rider Course, Intermediate Rider Course and Moped Rider Training this season.

Last year, 61 motorcyclists were killed in 57 crashes on Minnesota roads, according to preliminary reports. That’s up from 46 fatalities in 2014. Thirty-three of those crashes were single-vehicle, involving only the motorcycle. All of these crashes are preventable.

Training is vital to motorcycle safety. The Basic Rider Course helps riders with no experience learn essential motorcycle control skills and earn their motorcycle license. The Intermediate Rider Course helps riders build upon their existing skills and help turn them into better riders. Courses start running in May.

Why take the Basic Rider Course?

  • Riders can get a license and learn essential motorcycle control skills in one course.
  • It’s designed for beginning riders with no previous riding experience and helps returning riders.
  • It’s thorough: Riders spend 4.5 hours learning motorcycle basics in the classroom and 10 hours practicing and mastering basic rider techniques on the range.

Why take the Intermediate Rider Course?

  • It covers skills crucial to safety: Control, finesse, counter steering, cornering, swerving and braking.
  • It’s affordable: The course is $55 for five hours of riding time.
  • Practice makes perfect: This is a great opportunity to tune up your skills early on in the riding season.
  • It opens the door for more advanced courses: After you master the Intermediate Rider Course, the MN Advanced and Expert Rider Courses are next on the list. These courses will turn you into an expert rider, using the same techniques designed to train and keep police motor officers safe in any riding or traffic situation.

How do Riders sign up?