Katrina Styx has been a reporter for the Hastings Star Gazette since 2010. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in journalism from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. Prior to coming to Hastings, Katrina reported for weekly newspapers in Jordan, Minn., and River Falls, Wis.
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Hastings firefighters kept busy over the weekend, responding to numerous medical situations and two structure fires within 24 hours. Following a motorcycle crash Saturday that resulted in two people being transported to Regions Hospital, firefighters were called to a house fire in the 1200 block of Eddy Street. When they arrived, responders were unsure if anyone was still inside the house, so they entered the structure to do a rapid interior search while starting to combat the fire.
Every day at lunch, Carolyn Bentson sits with a special group of students. They are making their way through high school with special educational needs. Some have physical challenges; others face cognitive difficulty. Bentson, a sophomore at Hastings High School, started eating her lunch with these students after a friend gave her the idea. The high school runs a program, the Special Education Student Aide program, which brings typical high school students together with students with disabilities to help them through the school day.
This summer, kids ages 4 to 12 in Hastings and Cottage Grove have a new opportunity to be active. Mojo Kids Exercise Company is a non-profit organization just launched by Jenny Wilcox, a Cottage Grove resident and Hastings native. The idea behind the program is simple: get kids outside and moving in a non-competitive environment and engage healthy behaviors at an early age.
At midday Friday, May 31, a few dozen people gathered downtown to take advantage of a special opportunity. The United Way of Hastings coordinated a bridge walk event, giving the Hastings business community a first-hand look at the city's new landmark. The walk happened just days before traffic moved from the old bridge onto the westernmost two lanes of the new bridge. There was still work to be done, so walkers were given reflective vests and hard hats to keep them safe in the construction zone. Several community and business leaders attended the event, as did Rep.
Lance Klapak, owner of Wildside Graphix in Hastings, is starting a new business venture. He recently opened a new bait shop in the lower level of his building. Klapak has owned Wildside Graphix for 22 years. An avid outdoorsman who fishes and hunts "just about everything," he said, he started thinking about opening a bait shop last year, when Hastings' last shop, Killroy's Sk8 and Bait, closed. "It came out of necessity," he said of his store. Without a local bait shop, anglers in Hastings have had to go to Prescott, Wis., for any live bait.
Work is officially under way for the new addition to Las Margaritas. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday morning to commemorate the event. The addition will more than double the restaurant's existing space, bringing its total capacity to 186. It will include about 2,000 square feet of indoor seating with a full bar and another 800 square feet of exterior patio dining space. The addition will keep with the existing Spanish-inspired style and color.
Melanie Mesko Lee is officially Hastings' new city administrator. She was voted into the position at the council meeting Monday evening. Local government work is something Mesko Lee has wanted to do since she was young, she said. She got her bachelor's and master's degrees in public administration and right after college took an internship at the state senate. A second internship brought her to the City of Oak Park Heights, and that turned into a two-year position.
Hastings firefighter/paramedics rescued a teenage boy from the Vermillion River Saturday evening, shortly before 8 p.m. "When we found him, he was in the river down by the Ramsey Mill ruins," said Fire and EMS Director Mike Schutt. Responders are unsure how, exactly, the teen got into the river in the first place because of conflicting reports. He was with a group of friends, some of whom had also been in the water but were able to get out on their own. Responders used special water rescue suits that allowed them to go into the treacherous moving water.
Down in the Ozarks, Amanda Neuharth's grandmother is practically a living legend. Violet Hensley, now 96 years old, has been nicknamed the "Whittling Fiddler," the "Stradivarius of the Ozarks," and the "Fiddle Maker," and with good reason. Hensley builds fiddles by hand, using techniques taught her by her father and some of the simplest of tools. She's made 74 fiddles and still does some work on them today.
Hastings' building official, Tom Bakken, looks forward to winter every year. An avid skier, he spends much of his free time on the slopes when they're open. This year, he set himself a goal: ski 58 times - once for every year he's been alive. He didn't start the 2012-2013 winter season with a goal in mind. But as he got going, he decided he'd like to make it out at least 50 times this year. Last year he downhill skied 43 days.