Mitch's Blog 7.0

Mitch's Blog


Friday, December 31, 2004

Top 10 (Brainerd) News Stories of 2004

Although I had great intentions to write up my entry about the top 10 news events in the Brainerd area for 2004 earlier this week, I didn’t get around to doing so as soon as I would have liked. I’ve been consumed in working on a major project that I hope will be all done by the time Christmas vacation ends on Tuesday. In any case, I’ll post more about this project later, and, since it involves the creation of a website, I’ll also post a link to it on my blog. All I’ll say for now is not to expect anything that fascinating; though the website I’m making involves a topic interesting to me, I suspect the majority will find my website rather unexciting.

Since the clock has not yet struck midnight on January 1, 2005, however, I’d like to get to my list of the top 10 news stories. I see the Brainerd Dispatch published its own list in Thursday’s newspaper. I will assure you right now that I did not look at the Dispatch’s list before putting my list together. I used my own thoughts and ideas to create my list of the top 10 news stories in the Brainerd area for 2004.

So, let’s get on with the list…

10. Unusually Cold August Damages Crops
The summer of 2004 could be called the summer that wasn’t, due to the usually cold weather that persisted throughout the months of June, July, and August. While it is true, there were some warm days – with highs in the mid-80s or even above 90 – the majority of the summer of 2004 featured temperatures greatly below average. In no month were the below normal temperatures more apparent than in August, which, behind July, is usually the second-warmest month of the year. August 2004 was different than most Augusts, however, in that it was the coldest August in Brainerd since the mid-1970s, and the coldest August ever in the state of Minnesota. This past August featured, for the first time in many Augusts, frost. The near-freezing temperatures toward the middle and end of the month caused many crops to suffer irreversible damage. Those crops not destroyed by frost, meanwhile, were stunted further in their growth, much to the disappointment of farmers, who had hoped the month of August would be a way to make up for the colder-than-normal temperatures of June and July that had caused so many crops to be vastly underdeveloped in the first place.
Related Stories:
Coolness Kills Crops

9. Brainerd Dispatch Goes Morning
History was made on the morning of April 19, 2004, when the Brainerd Daily Dispatch underwent an enormous transformation. Chief among the changes at the Dispatch was the fact that instead of being published at 12 PM and available for delivery or purchase at 2 PM, the Dispatch would now be published in the wee hours of the morning – while the majority of Brainerd’s residents are in slumber – and obtainable for purchase or delivery just as most people in Brainerd are waking up to begin their day. Deciding to go morning was a great break from tradition – at no time in the city’s history had the Brainerd (Daily) Dispatch ever been a morning newspaper, even when there were 2 other daily newspapers competing with it. The Dispatch’s decision to publish on mornings certainly caused numerous people in the Dispatch’s coverage area, subscribers and non-subscribers alike, to talk. Besides going morning, however, the Dispatch also made a few other changes, including getting rid of the word Daily in the title, and completely altering the way the newspaper looks. In total, it appears the Dispatch’s changes have been embraced by the community; now that the newspaper has become a morning paper, there’s likely no going back.
Related Stories:
Farewell to an Afternoon Paper
A Morning Perspective
Going A.M.
Dispatch to Sport New Look Monday
Making a Switch
Last Afternoon Daily Press Run
What's New?

8. Baxter Kmart Closes
After having survived two rounds of massive store closings, it appeared as if everything was going fine with the Baxter Kmart, or at least fine enough for the bigwigs at the Troy, Michigan-based company to decide to keep the store operating. All that changed on August 27, however, when the Baxter Kmart's fate was sealed not as a part of another round of store closures, but rather due to the Kmart Corporation’s decision not to renew the lease on the store that had anchored Brainerd/Baxter’s Westgate Mall for 25 years. The news that the Baxter Kmart would be shuttered was definitely surprising, particularly since Kmart was on the upswing since its dive into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2002. Approximately 60 to 75 employees at the Kmart in Baxter were affected by the closure of the store.
Related Stories:
Kmart to Close
Kmart Started Bix Box Retail Boom

7. Northways Die in Plane Crash
Deadly plane crashes, both on a large and small scale, are rare events. So, it’s no surprise that the news that two people from the Brainerd Lakes Area died suddenly in a freak plane crash on October 26 in a heavily-wooded area of central Wisconsin took the community by such shock. Even more shocking, however, was the fact that Nor-Son-co-founder Ed Northway – who had been piloting his small Cessna 210 on the way home from Washington D.C. – and his wife, Jann, were the crash’s victims. Two days after the crash – when the names of the two people who died in the crash were publicly released – the Brainerd Dispatch published a poignant article describing the lives of the two people who were lost; check the links below to read this article.
Related Stories:
Couple From Area Killed in Wisconsin Plane Crash
Northways Plane Crash Victims
To His Children, Ed Northway 'Our Rock'
Jann Northway was a 'Special Person'
Obituary: Ed and Jann Northway

6. Final Day of School at Washington Middle School
December 17 marked not only the beginning of Christmas vacation for students of the Brainerd School District, but the end of an era for the city of Brainerd as well. Friday December 17, 2004 was the final day that school was held at Washington Middle School. The 75-year-old building, built in 1929 to house the Brainerd Senior High School will now never be used as a school again. Cast aside as a school as part of the $60 million bond referendum passed in 2002 to provide for construction of a new middle school to house 5-8 grades in Baxter, the historic icon of a building in Brainerd will now serve wholly as offices of Independent School District 181, and, as such, as a shell of its former self. A “goodbye” ceremony honoring the legacy of Washington school and its interconnectedness to the city of Brainerd was held in early December, two weeks before students left Washington forever.
Related Stories:
School to Close, Memories Live On
Remembering Old School
Closing Ceremony Really Takes the Cake
Forestview Ready for Students

5. Area Soldiers Deployed
The reality of United States’ involvement in foreign affairs came to light locally when two groups of military personnel were deployed on missions overseas. The first group, made up largely of soldiers from Brainerd and Wadena, was called up for duty in October. The 152 Minnesota Army National Guard soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 194th Armor, Company A left for training in Fort Dix, N.J, after which time they departed the United States to go to Kuwait. The second group of soldiers, the 434th Main Support Battalion, Company A, from Camp Ripley was deployed in late November as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. A majority of the 153 soldiers in this group reside in Brainerd, Little Falls, or Pierz. A fence lined with 152 yellow ribbons – each one containing a name of a soldier from the 1st Battalion, 194th Armor – can be found near Motley along MN Highway 210. Though simple in its design, the fence with the ribbons provides a stirring tribute to those local residents currently active overseas.
Related Stories:
Saying Goodbye
Tearful Departure Scene Repeated in Wadena
Motorcycles Give Escort to Troops
Ribbons in a Row
Another Area Unit to be Deployed to Iraq

4. Suspect in Erika Dalquist Disappearance Captured
After the remains of Erika Dalquist were found on a property east of Brainerd in May, it became immediately clear that William Gene Myears, the man Brainerd police had long suspected as being the one who killed Dalquist, had to be found. Although Myears had confessed to being the one who kidnapped and later killed Erika Dalquist, police were unable to detain him because of a lack of evidence, namely the body of Dalquist. After Dalquist’s remains were found, however, Brainerd police quickly issued an All Points Bulletin to help find Myears. Long gone from Minnesota, Myears had last been confirmed as being in North Carolina; however, by the time Dalquist’s remains were found, police had no idea where precisely Myears was. Even though the FBI was granted authority to find Myears and arrest him wherever he may be, it took 4 weeks after the remains of Dalquist were found to find Myears. After seeing him featured on Fox TV’s America’s Most Wanted, a women in Birmingham, Michigan – a suburb of Detroit – called local police to report seeing a man fitting Myears’ description working at a carnival in Birmingham. Sure enough, when police approached this man, they realized they had found Myears. Though Myears has not yet been formally charged in the death of Erika Dalquist, his arrest definitely brought an enormous sense of closure to the city of Brainerd.
Related Stories:
Dalquist Suspect Captured
Myears Won't Fight Extradition
Myears Back in Brainerd
Myears Appears in Court Here

3. Dru Sjodin’s Body Found
When 22-year-old University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin suddenly disappeared after going to work at the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, North Dakota on November 22, 2003, many people suspected the worse: Sjodin had been a helpless victim of foul play. Nothing could be proved, however, because nobody could seem to find Sjodin, alive or dead. April 17, 2004 was a life-changing day, however, for those who either knew Sjodin or were captivated by the story of her disappearance. Saturday, April 17 was the day Sjodin’s remains were found in a small ravine off of a county road near Crookston, Minnesota. Blame was immediately placed on a man named Alfonzo Rodriguez Jr., who, as a registered level 3 sex offender living in Crookston at the time of Sjodin’s disappearance, had already been a top suspect in the case. Even though Sjodin’s disappearance took place in Grand Forks, North Dakota, she is forever connected with the Brainerd Lakes Area. Sjodin grew up in Pequot Lakes, having graduated from Pequot Lakes High School before going on to college in Grand Forks. The impact Sjodin’s death had on the Brainerd Lakes Area was revealed on April 24, when more than 1,500 people attended Dru’s funeral at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa.
Related Stories:
Discovery of Dru's body brings both pain and relief to Pequot Lakes
Atopsy Reveals Dru was Murdered
Friends, Family Gather for Dru's Wake
A Loving Farewell for Dru
Dru Comes Home

2. Missota Sells Paper Mill/ Wausau Paper Buys
When Potlatch announced plans to cease operations of the sprawling Brainerd paper mill in April 2002, a great void seemed to open in the Brainerd Lakes Area. The paper mill had been a source of numerous good, high-paying manufacturing jobs in the Brainerd area, and after Potlatch decided to get out of the paper business in Brainerd, it appeared that Brainerd would never again have a manufacturing employer in the vein of Potlatch ever again. Hope changed, however, in February 2003 when Missota Paper Company bought the Brainerd mill and decided to open it back up, albeit on a much smaller scale than under Potlatch’s reign. After extensive losses, though, attributed to an overall slump in the paper industry, Missota decided to put the Brainerd mill on an extended shutdown on November 1, 2003. By February of 2004, Missota had had enough; it decided to put the Brainerd mill up for sale. It took until October 1 before a company finally bound the mill; this company turned out to be Wausau Paper, based in Mosinee, Wisconsin. Wausau Paper revved up the machinery to produce paper on December 3, and, for the first time in more than a year, the Brainerd mill was once again producing paper. Residents of Brainerd are optimistic that the Wausau Paper Mill will be successful; Wausau Paper is seen as a reputable, high-quality company that will try its hardest to make the mill thrive.
Related Stories:
Missota Trying to Sell Mill
Brainerd Mill has New Owner
Wausau Paper Buys Missota
Wausau Paper Completes Paper Mill Purchase
Mill's Paper Machine to Start Rolling
Mill is Back in Operation

1. Erika Dalquist’s Body Found
May 15, 2004 was a day that many thought would never come, but to people who knew Erika Dalquist, the day had long been hoped for. On the afternoon of May 17, a man stumbled upon what hundreds of people had been searching for, for nearly 18 months: the body of Erika Dalquist. Ever since the 21-year-old Pillager women disappeared on October 30, 2002, foul play had been suspected. William Gene Myears was the police’s prime suspect in the Dalquist’s disappearance; he had admitted to being with Dalquist the night she disappeared from the Tropical Nights in downtown Brainerd as well as killing her and getting rid of her body. Myears told police, however, that he did not remember where he put Dalquist’s body, leaving police in a quandary. It took the eyes of Terry Cleys and the nose of a bloodhound named Calamity Jane to find Dalquist’s skeletal remains, which, as luck would have it, were in a wooded area owned by Norman and Arleen Myears, grandparents of William Gene Myears. Although the hard reality that Dalquist was killed and will never be coming back is heartbreaking, the discovery of her remains and the eventual capture of the man who undoubtedly was responsible for her death provides a conclusion to the Erika Dalquist story.
Related Stories:
Dalquist's Body Found
'A Bittersweet Day'
Erika, Dru Forever Linked
Man Finds Erika While Looking for Dog
Pillager residents relieved
She's Coming Home Now
Search for Erika Over, Search for Justice Begins
But Where is Myears?

Friday, December 24, 2004

I Wish You a Merry Christmas

I hope everybody had a good Christmas Eve, and has a wonderful, merry Christmas Day as well. I’m going to the suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul tomorrow to spend Christmas with my family, so this entry will likely be my one and only Christmas-themed entry for the year.

As far as next week is concerned, I’m planning on posting my annual roundup of what I believe were the top 10 most newsworthy stories in the Brainerd Lakes Area in the past year. In all honesty, 2004 was sort of a slow news year around the Brainerd area – I mean, there weren’t any big murders, deaths, of fires – so I might have to do a good deal of pondering to come up with 10 newsworthy stories. Generally, the events I have come with have been close to the “official,” Brainerd Dispatch top 10 list.

Anyway, I’ve got a picture here to help celebrate Christmas. Being the rail enthusiast that I am, and being that I was very angry I missed it in 2003 – when it traveled through Glenwood and Alexandria, MN – I decided to make plans to see the Canadian Pacific’s 2004 Holiday Train. Since 1999, the Canadian Pacific Railway has operated a 10- to 15-car train beautifully decorated in Christmas lights. Two identical trains, both beginning around the first of December, travel throughout much of the Canadian Pacific’s rail network in Canada and the northern United States.

The Holiday Trains make 20- to 30-minute stops along the way in dozens of communities throughout December, raising funds and donations for local organizations, primarily food shelves. The trains also feature music acts, which perform on a stage converted from what used to be a boxcar.

Though Brainerd is situated along a rail line, the tracks that go through the town are not owned by Canadian Pacific. The nearest Canadian Pacific tracks to Brainerd can be found to the south and west of St. Cloud, which is where I went some two weeks ago, on December 13.

The cities where the Holiday Train will stop at are announced weeks in advance, so I had known that the train would be making an appearance in the thriving, bedroom-community of Annandale at roughly 9:30 PM on the 13th. So I immediately planned to go to Annandale – a city of over 2,000 some 20 miles south of St. Cloud – on the evening of the 13th.

While the train was scheduled to arrive in downtown Annandale at 9:30, I soon realized that the time of 9:30 was merely an approximation, an estimate of, ceteris paribus, when the train should show up.

Although I got see the gorgeous Holiday Train in Annandale, my time admiring it was short-lived. I arrived in Annandale at about 9:45 PM, and, right after finding a parking spot right next to the monstrous CP 9772, the train was all packed up and ready to get out of town. It’s a shame, too, since I would have liked to have seen the entertainment and at least donated to the Annandale Food Shelf, which was the local sponsor for the Holiday Train.

I suspect the real reason why the train left earlier than the scheduled 9:55 departure time was due to it holding up an eastbound grain train in the siding at South Haven, some 5 miles to the northwest of Annandale. Canadian Pacific isn’t stupid; they know the real money can be found in grain, not a holiday-themed train representing a community service endeavor.

Anyway, on the way back home, I tried my best to chase the train back to Kimball, about 9 miles northwest of Annandale. I got to the crossing in Kimball just as the gates were going down and the fully-lit train was coming through, but unfortunately, I was unable to get any pictures.

Alas, I only got one picture of the Holiday Train, and the one I do have is sort of blurry and unlike the picture I had planned to compose. Still, the photo does have some appeal to it, which is why I’m presenting it to say Merry Christmas to all who visit my blog.

CP Holiday Train - Annandale, MN

Click here to read an article about the Holiday Train from the Annandale Advocate, Annandale's local newspaper.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Vor Drei Jahren

Exactly three years ago on this day, this blog was established. Of course, to honor the momentous day – December 21, 2001 – a party was in order. Here’s a picture of the delicious cake celebrating the establishment of Mitch’s Blog. I thought a picture of the Rescue Heroes was perfect on a cake representing my blog, just as I assume you do too.

Monday, December 20, 2004


I’ve found something else I could have posted a few days earlier. In the last two years, I’ve created some holiday/Christmas-themed wallpapers that can be downloaded and used as a desktop background on a computer. Since I’ve run out of ideas to use in creating new wallpaper, I’ve decided to post the wallpapers I’ve made in the last two years. Every wallpaper design is available in two sizes – 800x600 and 1024x768 – for your enjoyment.

Be sure to use the wallpapers to properly get in the holiday mood.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Epic

Here’s something I wanted to post two weeks ago, but never got around to doing thanks to my incessant laziness – which, for some reason, seems to have gotten worse in the last couple of weeks. I’ve also been doing a great deal of writing out of necessity (because my English and German classes have required me to write) rather than writing for my own mild amusement (which is what I get by posting things on this blog).

Anyway, what I’m about to post is a story that was found carelessly laying on the floor or something after school a couple of Wednesdays ago during knowledge bowl practice. Now, you’ve got to expect what was found is an astonishing piece of literature, since I would naturally never post something not worth reading.

I have not changed anything the story in any way, punctuation and syntactical errors included. I believe the tale is a piece of fiction, though I suppose it being a nonfiction piece could not be ruled out. Let’s just say if this story were mine, I would be very proud of myself.

Without further to-do, I present The Epic of Thorny

Thorny son of Ramathorne, God of combat fighting, was left along when his mother was killed by a group of salvage women. Thorny was left alone in the deep rainforests of the planet Dimpus Burger. Thorny went through high school, everybody made fun of him.

“I’ll take two tacos,” said Rabbit the school bully.

“I don’t get it, tacos?” said Thorny’s best friend Mac.

“They think I’m Mexican,” replied Thorny.

So later that day Thorny walked up to Rabbit and used his amazing fighting moves and used an uppercut, and set Rabbit into oblivion. From that day on, nobody ever made fun of Thorny again. One year later Thorny graduated from high school.

Ten years past, Thorny was sitting at a baseball game, somebody sat in front of him with a huge stick of cotton candy so Thorny couldn’t see the game.

“Move that gigantic cotton candy,” yelled Thorny.

It turned out to be Lord Farva from plant Oner China. Lord Farva picked Thorny up and threw him in a little cell. Lord Farva then flew back to his home planet. They arrived at the planet; it was a big wasteland looking planet. Nothing was clean there was mutated animals and aliens. It was a big dictatorship. Thorny woke up to the sound of somebody’s voice. It was a prison guard awaking Thorny.

“What can I get you?” asked the prison guard.

“Gimme a liter of cola,” Thorny answered back.

“A what,” asked the guard.

“A liter of cola!” yelled Thorny.

Thorny received the liter of cola and chugged it down fast. Thorny then made a laser beam shooter out of the cup the cola was in. Thorny cut through the krypton covered cell bars and escaped to the locker room. He looked over and saw some clothing that was not prison clothes. A guard approached him.

“Are you armed?” asked the guard.

“No,” replied Thorny.

:”How about that little guy?” the guard said pointing at the laser.

“What that little guy, I wouldn’t worry about that little guy,” Thorny replied.

The guard let Thorny pass. Thorny would have to pass the dragon pit, the acid chugging cell, and the flaming hole of doom. Thorny reached the dragon pit. There was a massive dragon dwelling inside the pit. Thorny with his unreal fighting skills, walked up to the dragon performed a flying tornado punch and slayed the dragon. Thorny walked out of the pit and looked over to his right and saw a car with wings on it.

“That car has to be worth at least 10 million dollars,” explained Thorny to himself.

Thorny entered the car and flew over the flaming hole of doom. He saw his friend Mac on the other side of the hole.

“Mac is that you?” asked Thorny excited.

“He Thorny!” yelled Mac happily.

“I have to go to the acid chugging cell,” exclaimed Thorny to Mac.

So they both went to the chugging cell. Thorny knocked on the doors, and Rabbit answered the door.

“Rabbit, what are you doing here?” asked Thorny.

“If you don’t chug the acid before me you shall die,” explained rabbit as if mesmerized.

So he brought some bright green acid to the table they were sitting at.

“3…2…1…do it!” Mac said starting the contest.

They both started chugging the acid.

“I got Thorny ahead by a lot,” said Mac, “go Thorny I’m your Mother!”

Thorny won the contest. Rabbit let Thorny pass through the blast doors that led to Lord Farva’s Realm.

“Farva!” yelled Thorny, “I’m here to take over your throne.”

Farva approached Thorny. Thorny bravely stuck a piece of broken glass into Lord Farvas’ heart. Farva died. Thorny took over the throne. Thorny’s guards or Super Troopers as he liked to call them protected him. Thorny would live forever from the power given to him from the acid he chugged. Thorny had 75 children with his one wife Ursula. Thorny slowly took over the universe; his Super Troopers would forever protect Thorny. Thorny eventually took the whole universe. He turned it into a big Utopia where every thing and every one was perfect; there were no more wars or fighting anywhere. Thanks to Thorny.

The End

Previous Posts

Four Years Have Passed
Winter of 2007-08 Musings
7th Annual Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials
Another Birthday
A Beltated Update
2007 Vacation: Day 10 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 9 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 8 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 7 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 6 Summary


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Mitch's Blog Copyright 2001-2012 Mitch Wahlsten -- All Rights Reserved
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of Mitch Wahlsten and the participants
Mitch's Blog began on December 23, 2001