Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.
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Ethan Greene, an eighth-grader at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, won the school's National Geographic Bee on Dec. 20. The school bee was the first round in the 30th annual National Geographic Bee, a geography competition designed to inspire and reward students' curiosity about the world.
Plans are moving forward to turn the last industrial property on the riverfront in downtown Hastings into a mixed-use space. City Council will vote at the Jan. 2 meeting whether or not to approve four actions related to the sale and development of the former Hudson Manufacturing building located at 200 W. Second St. They will also decide whether to authorize a parking ramp use agreement for the former First National Bank building at 119 W. Second St.
St. John's Lutheran Church hosted their first living nativity earlier this month. About 400 people came to the event in the block of Seventh and Eighth streets between Eddy Street. A stable was set up across the street from the church. Cookies, coffee and cider were served in the church and portable firepits were set up for people in need of warming up. Live animals from Wild Thing Zoo Attractions in Arlington, Minn., were at the event. A petting zoo area was located in front of the church.
Seasonal sounds could be heard coming from the Hastings High School Arts Center on Saturday, Dec. 16. The HHS music department presented the 2017 Holiday Concert, "Peace on Earth Good Will to All." The concert program included performances by the freshmen women's chorus and women's chorus, freshmen women, men's chorus, women's choir, concert choir, Bel Canto, select chorale, ladies vocal jazz, Fortissibros, and vocal jazz. All choirs joined together for the opening and concluding songs of "I Saw Three Ships" arranged by Mack Wilberg and "Peace, Peace" by Rick and Sylvia Powell.
Dakota County will join several Minnesota counties in taking action against pharmaceutical companies and distributors in the sale and manufacture of opioid drugs. "Companies that manufacture, distribute and market these drugs are causing a cycle of destruction in Dakota County," Dakota County attorney James Backstrom said.
The cause of the fire at Thorwood Rentals and Retreats is still undetermined. The Hastings Fire Department requested the state fire marshal to assist in the investigation. Bruce McLaughlin, investigator with the state fire marshal, said the fire department contacted them for assistance due to the historical nature of the building and the significant loss due to damages. John Townsend, assistant fire and EMS director, said the state has assisted in other fires in the past. "We tend to use them or have them assist when we have some larger (fires)," Townsend said.
Walking down the aisle at the grocery store, a child looked up at Thomas "Tomo" Riley and said, "Look mommy, it's a pirate." With his best voice, Riley responded with an "aaargh" and the child's face lit up. He said he was worried kids would be afraid of him at first, but time and time again he hears from them it's actually kind of cool. Riley lost his right eye to cancer and he now wears an eye patch. He continues to fight his cancer, but he has found ways to heal.
Some Minnesota school districts will gather for a January vote on whether to dissolve the Technology and Information Educational Services (TIES) collaborative. The group is owned by 48 member districts, including Hastings School District. "I am very fearful of how the spiral downward is going to start going quite quickly for a business model that is no longer working," Hastings Superintendent Tim Collins said during a board meeting earlier this month. Collins attended a meeting with the members of TIES. He said the feeling in the room was for TIES to dissolve.
One local author is bringing back the phrase "you smell barn" with the release of her new book. Hastings resident Janet Letnes Martin and her co-author Suzann Nelson recently released a new book called "Growing Up Rural: You Smell Barn." "It's a humorous book of what it was like from the clothes that we wore to the peddlers that came to the farm," Martin said.
Thorwood Rentals and Retreats, located at 315 Pine Street, caught fire early Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Officials said the call came in at 5:30 a.m. Firefighters were still working to put out the fire at 9 a.m. Once it has been put out, firefighters will investigate the cause of the fire. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.