"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Leading up to the Fair, summer rules

The period between Prairie Pioneer Days (PPD) and the Fair is the height of summer in Morris. This summer has seemed pretty laid back. PPD seems to be lacking some of the features it once had. I don't take notes so I won't venture to list them. It's still a nice social gathering. Morris had nothing like this when I was a kid. We had the one-time celebration of the Centennial in 1971. You would think we could have had carry-over from that.
I'm one of the diminishing circle that remembers the Fall Festival. Any event held in fall is going to face some risk in terms of weather. Finally some people felt we needed to shift the community celebration to summer.
had many special bells and whistles for many years. The FFA would build an "alfalfa arch" replica over 7th Street. Reminder: the real alfalfa arch from the early 20th Century was a defining symbol of Morris, if anyone cares anymore.
I think our sense of community is diminishing in our increasingly mobile society. This has been cited as a reason for the increasing popularity of cremation over the traditional funeral-burial system. People are much less likely than in previous (Peyton Place) times to go through their lives associated with a particular community.
East Side Park still has a reasonably festive air for PPD. Last Sunday my church, First Lutheran, put on a festive event that had polka music. It was a "polka worship" featuring the Wendinger Band. The church arranged for a big-top tent (actually three tents connected) to accommodate both the band and the audience. What's interesting is that the church decided not to use the Killoran stage at all. The tent was set up next to the stage but the stage was empty and ignored. People are wising up, I thought to myself.
The church could have been lazy and just asked the band to set up on the stage. Those metal bleachers could have been put in place. The only way this would work, would be for the sun to be under the clouds the whole time. Because if the sun was out, almost zero people would be seated in the natural audience area. Instead they'd be sprinkled in a half-hearted way around the edge of the park. I have been to the park when this happened, like for that UMM tuba players concert, and it's ridiculous.
I guess I'm not the only one who has noticed this. Our church leaders probably had a discussion about this, in private so as not to offend anyone, and decided to arrange for those tents which made for a totally successful event. Congratulations.
But it's a negative reflection on our city park system. Why couldn't city planners have foreseen problems with the Killoran stage before it was constructed? It should not have been hard.
City of Morris spokesmen would probably say "well, we had private parties willing to donate for construction of the stage." So, someone else was paying for it, just like a private party paid for the chimes at the cemetery, thus the cemetery board felt it should accept it. A significant number of people were dragged through hell for a long time because of those chimes.
The cemetery should concern itself with more important matters, like how the cemetery is non-handicapped accessible. I recently communicated to a cemetery board member that maybe the facility had obligations through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That person did not respond to me. There are serial litigators who visit communities and start raising all sorts of issues connected to the ADA. The Star Tribune recently featured one on its front page. Maybe I should contact that person and ask about cemeteries and maybe even ask him to come to Morris and check us out. Would that be a good thing?
I was skeptical about the Killoran stage all along. For one thing, as I have reminded Blaine Hill, the whole purpose of a public park is to have open space. That's why parks are legally mandated at certain intervals in cities. So, we allowed the construction of this monstrosity at one of our public parks, and then watch as it sits idle for what seems like 99.5 percent of the year. Stupid.
Whatever performance events might be considered for the park, could be handled by means other than that huge structure, as First Lutheran demonstrated so beautifully last Sunday.
Blaine tells me we're due for a re-assessment of how East Side Park is organized. I agree. I'm not sure it's a proper place for that David Day memorial. A stone marker in a park where kids are running around? And why just a monument to Mr. Day? Many other Stevens County natives have given their lives in wartime.
Shall we talk about Crazy Days (or Daze, or Krazee, or whatever)? The town has experimented numerous ways in keeping Crazy Days going. We are now terribly handicapped by how the two drugstores deserted main street. I'm not sure there's much hope anymore.
My generation remembers when Crazy Days was a truly magical affair filling downtown Morris. We went to the Lindrud's Variety "fish pond." We had parking meters in those days. We had the pool hall.
Today? I noticed that the Morris newspaper leading up to Crazy Days was the usual 24 pages, and one of the pages, curiously, was devoted entirely to Running's. Running's? It was Page 12A, the back page of the front section. Running's? Did someone in Running's management call the Morris paper and arrange to buy a full-page ad for their stupid "bag sale?" Were they quoted a price from the newspaper's "rate card?" Did Running's then decide to buy that full-page ad? Of course I'm skeptical.
My theory is that the page was a "perk" gesture to a Forum Communications advertiser. We see this rather often, like an ad in a special section for a Detroit Lakes law firm. I'm not sure it's fair. What if Thrifty White or Prairie Ridge called the paper and inquired about buying a full page? Would the paper be so generous as it was to Running's (according to my theory)?
I joked recently with Jim Morrison that we were about due to see those medical clinic ads for sports physicals, you know, those appointments where the doctor will grab your testicle and ask you to cough. Has a doctor ever reacted to this by saying "uh oh, you have problems." The paper benefits from how we still have two medical clinics in Morris, and the two have to advertise to compete with each other. I wish SCMC would just buy out the other place. I don't think the old personality conflicts are in play like they used to be. Times change and people die, even doctors.
When I was a kid, our high school marching band was the proud dominant symbol of this community in summer. I played trumpet. I also played trumpet with the  "German band" that entertained for the Morris Centennial in 1971.
I have suggested for years that the Hancock marching band, which does so great for the Hancock Fourth of July, come to Morris about a week later and play in our PPD. My, how it would spice the parade. Two problems: 1) It would be embarrassing for Morris if we don't have our own band, and 2) I can just see the Hancock director saying his kids take off and are gone. Is it so essential to leave town? Relax.
At any rate, enjoy the upcoming County Fair and the rest of whatever we have for the summer of 2016. I'm still not over my biggest personal adventure: trying to get my lawn tractor fixed. In the meantime I mow with my manual push mower, a bit daunting when you're 61 years old. My generation denies the advancement of years and the effect on our bodies. We have always sworn we won't end up like "Uncle Joe" in "Petticoat Junction." That show got purged with all the other rural programming back in around 1970.
Oh, we had that event at East Side Park honoring law enforcement on Tuesday. Immediately I felt this event was a response to Black Lives Matter. I'm sure organizers including Thrivent would deny that. But I'm sure it was. We may have lost our prospective new UMM chancellor because he gave quotes to the University Register making it clear he sympathized with Black Lives Matter. Perhaps he got some unpleasant pushback on that, and decided that Morris was just not his place to be.
Jacqueline Johnson will be continuing as UMM chancellor, awkward since she was ushered into retirement last spring. I'm told she will probably phase out the ceremonial aspects of her work, and I think that's sad. UMM ought to have a full-fledged chancellor. I'm told a tuition reduction could be upcoming for UMM students, and while this may seem heartening, it will mean less money flowing into UMM. I'm rooting for the students actually.
Maybe UMM could borrow some funds from the U of M-Twin Cities athletic department.
Oh, keep on flossing.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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