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September Newsletter 2017

2017 Arts Meander September 29, 30, and October 1


The 14th annual Upper Minnesota River Meander Arts Crawl will be held on September 29th, 30th, and October 1st, 2017. The Meander Art Crawl is a free, self-guided tour of 30 artist studios and just under 40 artists across the five counties. The weekend showcases local artists, small towns and their businesses, and even family farms throughout the region.

The 2017 cover artist is John George Larson who has a studio in Milan. His piece is called "Meander on the Prairie" and incorporates elements from the past meander covers – a great testament to the splendor and longevity of this event. One can see more of his work by visiting the Milan Village Art School during the Meander.

Studios will open Friday September 29th at noon and close at 6pm. That night, there will be a great Meander celebration throughout downtown Granite Falls in the Musical Chairs event. It will begin at 5:30 and go until 10pm. Tickets are available online. For more information contact the Granite Falls Chamber at 320-564-4039 or visit

Saturday, the studios will be open again from 9am until 6pm, giving one plenty of time to explore lots of studios! There will be two events Saturday evening too. The Wild Goose Cloggers will perform with the band, Chicken Sedan, at the Dawson Memorial Auditorium at 7:30. These wonderful dancers are fun for the whole family and tickets are only $15 for adults and $5 for students. For tickets and more information visit or call the box office at 320-312-2311.

Also on Saturday, Midwest Music Hall-of-Famers Don and Lee Kanten will play at the Historic Watson Town Hall. It is sure to be a night of dancing and rock and roll. Admission is free will donation at the door, which will help support Watson Town Hall restorations and future arts events. Visit or call 320-269-8543 for more information.

On Sunday, the final day, studios will open at 9am and close at 4pm.

The Meander has become not only an event for artists to sell the work, but a significant economic development event for the entire region. The surveys show that people travel from at least eight different states and not only purchase art, but spend money in the region on food, lodging, gas, and additional shopping. In 2016, attendees spent around $98,000 in area businesses on top of the $114,000 they spent on art.

One can receive a brochure containing a map of the Meander art studios and events by calling 1-866-866-5432. The brochure can also be viewed and downloaded at The website and Facebook page have additional information.  

Stained Glass Tractor Project Nearing Completion

The 1920’s-era tractor sitting on the triangle of land near Southtown Plaza and the entrance to the Chippewa County Fairgrounds is about to undergo a transformation.  Nationally renowned stained glass artist Karl Unnasch of Chatfield, Minn. will be adding lighted stained glass panels to the tractor in the coming weeks.  

About the Artist
Karl Unnasch received his BA in Art from Winona State University in 1995 and his MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth in 2003. His smaller-scale work has been exhibited as far as Europe and acclaimed in publications as esteemed as the New York Times and Art in London Magazine, while his larger-scale, award-winning public art has been featured on prominent national and even international media including NBC’s ‘Today’ show and Voice of America. In 2013, Karl was counted among the Artists of the Year by the Minneapolis CityPages.
While continuing to exhibit, Karl today focuses primarily on public and architectural art, most typically incorporating stained glass and sculpture into his work. Over the last almost decade, he has been installing notable works at prominent locations including educational facilities, medical wings, banks, theatre lobbies, libraries and public gathering spaces.

About the project
UMVRDC senior planner, Kristi Fernholz, has been assisting Montevideo with their public art projects. She is contracted to coordinate meetings, research project ideas, look for funding resources, write the grants, and manage the project. Kristi Fernholz can be reached at 320-289-1981×104 and

Community Art Project Aims to Explore the Meaning of Home in Milan

From August through October 2017, four local artists – Kristi Fernholz (UMVRDC Community Development Planner and photographer), Lucy Tokheim (designer), Lauren Carlson (poet), and Brendan Stermer (new media) will work with Milan community members using art to explore the many meanings of home. The house at 406 N 4th Street will be used as a gathering space, work space, and eventually gallery space. The initiative, called the Milan Listening House, is funded by Artplace and the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership.
The goal of the Milan Listening House is to identify shared housing values through art, play, and conversation. Over the coming months, community members will be encouraged to contribute objects, photographs, artworks, and stories that represent their idea of home. These fragments will eventually be organized into a public exhibit that allows individuals to see the values and ideas everyone else contributed; "think of it as a huge community vision board," said Stermer.
All community members are encouraged to get involved- not just those with an interest in the arts. "Even if you think you don’t have anything to contribute to the exhibit, we still want to meet you and hear your story," said Carlson.

The four artists developed the project as fellows at the Creative Community Leadership Institute, where they learned strategies for addressing housing issues through public art. The Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership has long been interested addressing housing needs in Milan, but needed to first identify shared community values and needs to know how best to proceed. "The Milan Listening House is a way to have that conversation through art," said Lisa Graphenteen, COO at the Housing Partnership. After the exhibit closes, the information gathered will be used to envision an affordable housing plan that works for all of Milan’s diverse community.

Center for Small Towns Partnership

The UMVRDC is excited to once again partner with the University of Minnesota Extension’s Center for Small Towns Program this Fall. Three students have been chosen to help continue collecting images, interviews, and content of the region. One project includes collecting interviews with businesses who have utilized the  UMVRDC’s Revolving Loan Fund in order to create a business profile & video clip.  Another project will include creating community profiles of the cities and counties that are 2018 Prairie Waters members. The profiles will consist of quick demographic facts in an infographic form. The UMVRDC is grateful for the continued partnership with the University to help accomplish projects in our region!

Benson Small Cities Development Program
Benson, MN

The City of Benson has been awarded a Small Cities Development Program (SCDP) grant that will be available through September 2020.  The UMVRDC authored the $638,250 grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) that will be utilized to rehabilitate 20 owner-occupied homes and six commercial business’.  These 26 improvement projects, totaling $854,000 with additional leveraged funds, will create work for contractors and result in safety, efficiency, and aesthetic improvements.
While now providing the overall grant administration, the UMVRDC will be partnering with the City of Benson and the Swift County Housing and Redevelopment Authority to complete the project.  To learn how your city can access SCDP funds contact Laura Ostlie at 320-289-1981, ext. 102 or email  

UMVRDC Revolving Loan Fund Update

The UMVRDC’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) provided $34,000 in financing for the new Montevideo based business, The Dryer Doctors.  This grain handling design, installation, and maintenance business will be creating four new jobs for the region.  Along with RLF financing, the Co-op Credit Union and owner equity made this $171,000 project happen. 

The UMVRDC’s RLF has available funding for new and expanding business throughout our five-county region.  The RLF continues to provide competitive terms within a financing package to allow for sustained creation and retention of jobs.  As a gap financing agency, the UMVRDC partners with private financial institutions and other gap financers to complete these projects. 
For more information about the UMVRDC’s RLF, please contact Laura Ostlie at 320-289-1981, ext 102 or email

Lac qui Parle County EDA Awarded USDA Rural Businesss Development Grant

The Lac qui Parle County Economic Development Authority (EDA) was awarded a $99,999 grant to establish a Revolving Loan Fund to be utilized throughout the County.  UMVRDC staff authored the USDA Rural Business Development Grant application, and will continue to work with the Lac qui Parle EDA in establishing the loan fund.  The mission of the Lac qui Parle EDA is to be the catalyst for economic growth, job creation, and improving life in their county.  The EDA’s $25,000 in leveraged funds to add to the loan fund is considered a continued investment in their mission.  To learn more about how your community can apply for  this USDA grant, please contact Laura Ostlie at 320-289-1981, ext 102 or email .

GreenStep Cities

Milan and Granite Falls are the two GreenStep Cities participants in the region. Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance, and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals. This free, continuous, improvement program, managed by a public-private partnership, is based upon 29 best practices.
Both Milan and Granite Falls have signed up and received some technical assistance this summer from Hannah Tuomi, hired through the UMVRDC through the GreenStep Cities Program. Hannah worked with the City of Milan to give some technical assistance to continue to update their practices on the GreenStep Cities website, and to enter the city’s latest steps. Hannah worked with Granite Falls to answer questions to help them reach Step Two, and added actions reports to highlight their latest actions.
For more information on GreenStep Cities, go to or contact Kristi Fernholz, West Central CERTs Coordinator at

    UMVRDC Welcomes Two New Board Members

We are happy to introduce two new commission members:  Bill McGeary and Lucas Olson
Bill McGeary is representing the Benson School District where he has served as a school board member for over 22 years.  Besides being involved with the school district he is active with the City of Benson Park Board, Civic Center Board, Benson Hockey Association, and active in his church. In the past, Bill served on the city council for 12 years.  Bill has farmed, worked at the Danvers Farmers Elevator as well as the Benson Elevator and currently works for Swift County as their Emergency Manager.During Bill’s spare time he stays active with his six grandchildren’s events, all of which live in Benson.
Lucas Olson is representing Swift County Municipalities.  Lucas is in his first term as a city council member for the City of Benson.  Lucas is also active on the Benson Housing and Redevelopment AuthorityBoard as well as the Early Childhood Family EducationAdvisory Board.  Lucas grew up in the Clinton area and served four years in the United States Marine Corps.   Lucas attended Central Lakes College in Brainerd for Welding & Manufacturing and Machine Tool Technology.  Lucas and his wife Talia, along with their two children ages six and three, have lived in Benson for 8 years.  He is currently the shop foreman and machinist at Swift Machine & Fab in Benson.
We look forward to working with both Bill and Lucas as they share information and events of the communities and boards they represent.  Welcome Bill & Lucas! 

Border-to-Border Broadband Projects

UMVRDC staff worked with Farmers Mutual Telephone Company in August to author two grant applications to the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development for deployment of broadband infrastructure in the region.  One application encompasses the City of Watson in Chippewa County and selected unserved rural addresses in southwest Lac qui Parle County.  The other application includes rural northeastern Yellow Medicine county outside Granite Falls and Montevideo, including the City of Hazel Run.  The project proposals would provide high speed fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) internet connectivity to all homes, businesses, and community institutions in the project geographies, meeting the state’s criteria for internet download and upload speeds.  Between the two projects, broadband internet services would be made available to nearly 1,000 unserved customers in the region.
These applications followed up on community forums that the UMVRDC organized for Chippewa and Yellow Medicine Counties to gauge citizen interest for additional broadband options in the area.
  To learn more about how your community can apply for this grant, please contact Kirk Bustrom at 320-289-1981, ext 111 or email

UMVRDC Annual Tour & Board Meeting in Kerkhoven

The UMVRDC held their annual tour and meeting on July 25th in Kerkhoven. Prior to the board meeting, staff, board members, and visitors spent the day touring Kerkhoven to visit some of the projects the UMVRDC worked on along with a few of the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) recipients in the area.

Learning more about the dairy inside a barn

The first stop was the Riverview East Dublin Dairy, a former RLF loan. Natasha Mortenson, who works on community outreach and social licensing for Riverview Dairy showed the group around East Dublin Dairy answering questions and explaining the daily operations. On the tour, visitors learned all about how East Dublin Dairy feeds, milks, and houses their cows, where the products go, and even how the dairy works to make sure they are respectful neighbors and goo stewards to the community.
Scott Lamecker talks to the group about his store
Next was Lamecker’s 
General Store, another RLF loan. Lamecker’s is both a hardware store and a grocery store in the center of Kerkhoven. The store owner, Scott Lamecker, talked about why he opened the business, how it has expanded, and ideas about what he wants to do next in the store.

Afterwards, a walking tour of the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg Safe Routes to School Plan showcased community led solutions that were identified in the planning process. Jason Brisson, a UMVRDC staff member who worked on the project, as well as Ashlie Johnson of Countryside Public Health, and Scott Lamecker, a Kerkhoven City Council Member, all helped to educate the rest of the group on Safe Routes to School.

Grandma L enters to begin her performance

Finally, before the business meeting took place, there were panel discussions held in the Kerkhoven Community Room to showcase activities in Kerkhoven and the County. Naomi Backer and Scott Lamecker, both city council members, spoke next about the City of Kerkhoven & EDA’s current projects and future needs. Next, Kelsey Baker, Swift County Administrator, discussed the county’s demolition program for abandoned and dilapidated houses, the county’s broadband internet project, and the grants available to childcare centers and businesses through the county. She was assisted by Vicki Syverson, Director of the Swift County Housing & Redevelopment Authority, Jen Frost, Executive Director of the Swift County Rural Development Authority, Gary Hendrickx, and Eric Rudningen, both Swift County Commissioners.

Once the panel discussions ended, the annual business meeting was conducted and guests enjoyed a delicious meal catered by Brink’s of Swift Falls, yet another RLF loan recipient. To close out the evening, Granny L, a comedic act from Clara City, provided entertainment with her humorous performance. She had everyone in the audience laughing. It was a wonderful ending to an exciting and thought-provoking day in Kerkhoven.

Mark Your Calendars!

September 29, 30 & October 1: Meander: Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl

October 4th 5pm-7pmPrairie Waters Annual Gathering
Swift Falls County Park

NEW Regional Video – Check it Out!   ||   320.289.1981  Like us on Facebook

Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission 
323 W Schlieman Ave. Appleton, MN 56208

Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development, 323 West Schlieman Avenue, Appleton, MN 56208
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