February 26 and at 5:00 PM it is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Nowhere in my memory have we had this kind of glorious day, and it is clear the community is DELIGHTED.
Driving the two mile stretch through town on my way home from work this afternoon, I saw dozens of kids riding their bikes, roller-blades, or mini John Deere tractors. Parents were collecting sticks. Retirees sat in lawn chairs basking in the sun and lack of snow. Reaching home, I dropped by bags in the back door, changed clothes and grabbed my right hand gal, Mabel (sheep-a-doodle). It was too good to miss.
I walk and run all over town with Mabel. One of my favorite parts of living in this region is our old-fashioned walk-ability. In most parts of town our blocks are encircled with sidewalks, and outside of a few adventurous tree-root-created “bike jumps” in some older areas, they are in pretty great shape. (Didn’t you love to try to catch air riding your bike off of those angled sidewalks as a kid?)
And folks are friendly. As I walked our neighborhood, four of my neighbor kids came running to greet my dog and describe their activities. Further down the way, I found a neighbor checking the maple syrup taps already installed (in February! I am still amazed). A mail carrier asked if Mabel was friendly and with the affirmative went in for a pet.
Years back I had a stint working in Virginia, MN. I worked downtown on Chestnut street, and every lunch hour my co-worker and I would walk. I was stunned the first winter I lived there to find that the city snow-blowed all of the city center sidewalks allowing for great walking all winter long.
This is the kind of thing that is easy to take for granted. But as I travel, I purposefully note those aspects of my life I feel are more easy or accessible at home vs. away. For instance, this last Friday we had a work engagement in St. Paul for which I rented a lovely little AirBNB. The establishment was wonderful, but like many of the neighborhoods of that era, there were no sidewalks. Walking would have required being on the street the whole time, and there was a fair amount of traffic.
As mountain bike enthusiasts, last fall we made the trek to Bentonville, AR, “mountain bike capital of the world.” While Bentonville has built an amazing bike-centric community filled with cool attributes (like The Ledger, an office/coworking/event building around which an outside bike ramp encircles the entire structure, from bottom to top), it was not nearly as easy to traverse by foot as it is on the Iron Range. We were lodged downtown Bentonville, but walking to restaurants/shopping required traversing portions of streets, or marching single-file. And I thought–I like walking at home better!
The thing is, our region works at it. The city of Hibbing, for instance, is currently surveying folks about their experiences walking in Hibbing. The goal is to enhance the ability of people to walk safely all over the town by updating and creating pathways. And Chisholm is in master planning around Redhead to improve access to the mountain bike park from downtown.
It is fantastic to travel. But today I am grateful for a day filled with sunshine and a community where folks still say hello. I am glad that I can easily walk in my neighborhood because it is safe, and we have maintained sidewalks.
It truly is the small things that make life enjoyable.
It’s official! Hello, Range has been accepted into the Welcoming America Rural Welcoming Initiative!
The Welcoming Network is a global network of local governments and nonprofits committed to making communities more welcoming. Led by the nonpartisan nonprofit organization, Welcoming America, Hello, Range! will have access to research, technical assistance, webinars, and collaborative programs with other Welcoming Network organizations.
Why does this matter?
Hello, Range! is committed to recruiting and retaining residents and workforce to the Iron Range. Population trends from the US Census show that we are losing population in our Range cities. But not all rural places are. Counties in the middle-west part of Minnesota GAINED population between 2010-2020. Why are people moving there?
It used to be that folks moved where the jobs were. While that is still true, that is no longer the only consideration for people moving into an area. And we need workforce! We have the jobs. Per Carson Gorecki of MN DEED, we had 4,300 job openings in 2022 in St. Louis County minus Duluth. This is a startling number of vacancies. We want to fill them–NEED to fill them–and in the process, bolster our communities, schools, and amenities.
Being welcoming and inclusive starts from the heart, truly wanting to invite folks into our world. But the best ways to do this on a regional level are not clear. How does the Range help folks find the housing, food, connections and culture that will help them transition into New Iron Rangers?
That is what we aim to find out.
Stay tuned for more on our journey. This week we have our first virtual meeting with our cohort. In August we travel to Dallas, Texas for a conference (funded through a grant).
The Iron Range has a history starting with Indigenous peoples, followed by immigrants. The Iron Range was built by these folks. Time and the economy has melded us into a unique, gritty culture… and they are showing us that, for the Range to succeed, we need folks to move to the Mesabi again.
I hope you will join us in our efforts to keep the Iron Range vibrant. Support Hello, Range! and the new folks who are calling our region home.
Today, on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, I attended a walk and rally in honor of Dr. King’s work. Organized by Minnesota North College-Mesabi Equity and Inclusion committee, folks from across the Iron Range braved the -35 degree wind chill to participate.
In addition to a commemorative mile walk on the Iron Trail Motors Convention Center (ITMCC) indoor track and a line up of local and state speakers, the event included face-painting, a bounce house and free popcorn.
Parents brought their children. Jen Gigliotti, a Chisholm parent and partner in 30 West Fitness and Recreation, said, “the kids were off for the holiday. So this morning we read books about Martin Luther King and then we came to this event!”
On the upper deck of the ITMCC rink (the course for the commemorative walk), birthday letters to Dr. King created by Mrs. Reid’s 2nd grad class at Parkview were posted on the walls.
A few examples (spelling as featured in the letter):
“Happy Birth-Day Dr King! I have a dream that you Dr King was still here. And that bullys werent a thing and we could stop and figer it out to stop them bullys. And help people in need.” signed, Chloe
“Dear Dr. King, I would change the world by being kind. Happy birthday,” wrote Mikai.
“Happy Birthday. I have a (b)ream that evrebudy is fare and cinde. and shareflu. and I don’t kare about peplle’s skin if it’s brown” –unsigned
“Happy Birthday. I have a dream that everone has a house and food and water and a nice life. When I knew that black and whites were not treted the same I was confused. have a nice life, Izayou
“I have a dream girls will be treated the same as everyone else. Happy Birthday Dr. King!” signed Amelia H
Lately I am in a lot of conversations around welcoming and inclusion on the Range. Employers, the college, and governmental entities express desire to help new Iron Rangers (or potential residents) feel welcome. As I looked around the room at today’s event, I thought–all these people bundled up and drove here to support this gathering.
Event keynote speaker Dr. Timothy Berry shared that the word “community” is made up of “commune–” “to share one’s intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone),” and “unity–” “the state of being united or joined as a whole.” Today was one of those days where we saw Iron Range “community” in action.
This winter while creating a reel for Hello, Range!, I bumped into a song by violist Lindsey Stirling. Rated the “highest-ranked female” on Forbes 2015 YouTube Artist List, Stirling played in Hibbing in the mid-2000s during her rise to fame. Her live performance stuck with me. Stirling is classically trained, but she plays violin like a rock star. Her show at Minnesota North College–Hibbing was dynamic, and hearing her music again reminded me how much I love classical music.
This fall I had the opportunity to tour the new Rock Ridge school. Among a variety of jaw-dropping attributes (have you seen the theater?), one area in particular caught my eye: the Birnstihl-Peer Music Arts Wing.
With practice rooms for lessons and a humidity controlled closet, the Birnstihl-Peer wing looks like something from a music school. At its center chairs and tables allow for coursework and collaboration. Around the perimeter are the private areas for music making–including a recording studio. And the instruments! It made me want to be a student again creating music in concert with others.
I think we forget how powerful live music can be if we have not taken in a performance for awhile. With COVID, we all got in the habit of staying home. Recently I have been working to attend arts events available to me. Last summer our family attended a performance of La Boheme, presented by Northern Lights Music Festival, at the Mesabi East theater. The venue was sold-out, and the hall rung with the powerful sounds of professional performers bringing life the classic opera.
With the new snow and return of colder temperatures, I find myself checking out the list of events at the Reif Center in Grand Rapids and the upcoming performances of the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra. I love the escape into good performance, where time disappears and creativity awakens.
One of the perks of being located where we are is the easy access to Duluth’s arts’ offerings. But we also have our own amazing events, spaced nicely on the calendar and across the region. Our new page “Arts on the Range” was created to help broadcast these opportunities.
Music and art are integral to a rich life. Seeing the music wing at Rock Ridge and the Crescendo Youth Orchestra kids carrying their violins into the Lincoln elementary, I am happy our students get the opportunity to make music. Maybe they will become famous. But more importantly, they are getting to create and in the process experience the sound and energy of LIVE music.
Perhaps I’ll see you at the next concert. 🙂
The view from my window this morning was crystalline, frosty and sparkling. Each tree branch is covered in frost, creating a magical, fairy-like appearance–a beautiful sight. As I sat down with my coffee to peruse my social, I bumped into the inspirational meme featured in the first-half of the image in this post. What struck me was the background photo: a pine forest, sunlight streaming through its branches. This, my friends, is what we on the Iron Range enjoy on the daily–if we so choose. (more…)
When I moved back to the Iron Range, I was a new mom. Having lived in St. Paul, I was accustomed to having a children’s museum, indoor parks, and the zoo. Suddenly I was back in a small town–and I was in a new role. Where would I find my “people?” Enter the Public Library and story-time. (more…)
This morning an email in my inbox caught my attention: “Ride Together,Thrive Together,” read the subject line. The article shared the story of a mom who signed up as a volunteer mountain bike coach to support her sixth grade son. The article rang with familiarity as I thought about my team, West Range Composite, Rock Ridge, our neighboring team, and the Iron Range Offroad Cyclists gathering we happened upon at 30 West Bike Shop Saturday. (more…)
This morning on Facebook I read this post:
“22 years spent in a community that helped a single mom raise her 3 kids. Thank you Hibbing for helping shape my kids into the incredible humans they have turned out to be. Here’s to new beginnings….”
The writer posted a picture of their sold Hibbing house, and I thought–what does a community provide that inspires this touching goodbye?
Yesterday I spent the work day in Aurora. It is one of the prettiest drives, that stretch on HWY 135 just past the Giant’s Ridge turn and Embarass Lake. Pines hug the shoulders, and you gently enter Aurora with her cozy, submerged Pine Grove Park. After a delightful 9:00 AM meeting, I excitedly landed at The Hive Coffee and Bakehouse for my meeting with two new Iron Rangers. (more…)
Thanksgiving week is upon us! With gloriously warm temperatures, it does not seem the holiday is this Thursday. But here it is, and with it the dinner invites, planning and celebration. But not everyone has someplace to go.
Last week in my “Hello, Range” meetings I was introduced to Iron Range newcomers in a couple of different communities. (more…)