At the end of the largest overseas deployment of Minnesota National Guard soldiers since World War II, four Maple Lake area men have come home.
Sgt. E5 Tad Wellsted, Spc. E4 Jake Tilus, and his cousin, Spc. E4 Chad Tilus were part of the deployment of 2,600 Minnesota National Guard soldiers from the 34th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team that was mobilized in the fall of 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Also a part of that deployment was 1st Lt. Chris Zetah of Maple Lake.
All four local soldiers made it home in July after an extended tour of duty that was supposed to end earlier this year.
"Our commander told us that there was no way we were getting extended," Chad said. "So we went out on a mission and when we came back, we got the bad news."
"The morale was high to come home and after that, it hit the floor," Tad said. "We couldn't believe it."
The impact of the collapse of the I-35 bridge on August 1 has been felt by individuals and communities throughout the state.
Chad Fobbe, a 1992 graduate of Maple Lake High School, was on hand to help with the rescue after the I-35W bridge collapse on Wednesday. Fobbe works for Progressive Contractors, Inc. (PCi), the contractor awarded the $9 million contract for surface repairs, "concrete rehabilitation," lighting improvement, guard-rail installation and improvemens to the de-icing system.
PCi was founded in 1971 as a highway construction contractor with the main office and shop located in St. Michael, Minnesota. Over the years the company has grown into one of the state's major road and bridge repair contractors.
New to the company, Fobbe had been working at PCi for only about a month when tragedy struck at the tail end of Wednesday's rush hour.
It was a perfect ending to a nearly perfect season when Maple Lake's 12-and-under softball team captured the Class C State Championship title. With an almost undefeated 40-1 record, the young team truly had a season for the record books.
"I felt so proud of my team," said coach Vicki Decker. "Winning a state championship is the ultimate reward for a team, and seeing the results of everyone's hard work at the tournament and over the past several years is indescribable."
The road to victory kicked off right from the very beginning. The team started out by winning an early season tournament, and then made their way through league play with an undefeated 26-0 record. From there, the team crushed their opponents in the state qualifier tournament held on Saturday and Sunday, July 21 and 22. Their unbelievable record gave them the top seed from their league in this past weekend's state tournament.
The bids are now in for the Annandale/Maple Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant, the biggest public improvement project in Maple Lake history. And bids were also opened last week for another long-awaited project-the bike/pedestrian trail to Ney Park.
Earlier this month, bids ranging from $9,017,000 to $10,838,000 were received for Wastewater Treatment Plant construction that includes a control building, pretreatment building, aeration basins, domed clarifiers, and a disinfection building and concrete-line reed beds for treatment of biosolids at the plant site to be located at the intersection of County Road 7 and County Road 105 in Albion Township.
On July 26, bids were received for the second part of the project which included a force main from each city to the plant and piping of plant discharge water to the Crow River.
In the midst of all the commotion during another hot Wright County Fair, Beth Maas, a 2006 MLHS graduate, was crowned as a 2007-08 Princess of the Fair.
Beth is the daughter of Tom and Kathy Maas of Maple Lake, and she said that her fondest memory of the fair has been watching her brother, Keith, place first in the best decorated car for the demolition derby three years in a row.
During high school at Maple Lake, Mass was involved in gymnastics, cheerleading, choir, and the National Honor Society. Today, she enjoys gymnastics, scrapbooking, fishing up north, and spending time with family and friends.
Other members of the 2007-08 Wright County Fair Royalty include Fairest of the Fair Morgan Kleve of Howard Lake, Princess Danielle Enberg of Monticello, and Miss Congeniality Sara Marquette of Buffalo.
More information on this year's Wright County Fair appears in this week's issue of the Messenger.
A tragedy was narrowly averted on Thursday, July 19, when a Maple Lake teenager was pulled from the water near the Fairhaven Mill Dam.
Zachary Karcher-Ramos, 17, who will be a senior at Maple Lake High School, was swimming with friends and using a rope swing near the dam at about 1 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. But when Zachary landed in the water, he did not surface and was under water for from 3 to 4 minutes before he was pulled out.
According to the Wright County Sheriff's Department, citizens and first responders administered CPR and Zachary was airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital. Also on the scene were emergency units from the South Haven Fire Department, Allina and Gold Cross ambulance services.
On Monday, Nancy Guddal, Zachary's mother, said that her son has been placed in and out of an induced coma in the intensive care unit at St. Cloud Hospital, but there has been progress in his condition.
Nearly 200 people cast a vote for their favorite salsa on Saturday at the first-ever Maple Lake Salsa Taste-off.
With 15 contestants and 15 different salsas, picking a favorite was tough.
"I was able to get out and taste them all," said Sommer Elsenpeter, an owner of Irish Blessings Coffeehouse. "I didn't realize there were so many different kinds. There was strawberry and peach-mango and lots of other ones I'd never had before. They were all so different, it made it really hard to decide on a favorite."
Hard as it may have been, the voters made their decision and handed the first place prize of $100 in Business Bucks to Paul Simonette. Second place and $50 in Business Bucks went to LuAnn Bruns and $25 in Business Bucks was awarded to Bill James.
A week of area life-threatening emergencies has brought very visible confirmation that helicopter medical transports are getting more use and saving more lives.
John S. Anderson, 85, of Monticello, was air-lifted from the Maple Lake Airport by Life Link llll shortly after noon on Wednesday, July 18. Anderson was visiting friends in the area when he suffered, what was believed to be, a heart attack.
Paramedics at the scene called for air transport when they determined Anderson was not stable enough to transport to North Memorial, his hospital of choice, by ground ambulance.
A day after that incident, Zachary Karcher-Ramos, 17, of Maple Lake, was airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital after an accident at the Fairhaven Mill Dam. He was under water for several minutes before being pulled from the water and remains in intensive care at the St. Cloud Hospital (see story on this page).
"I think many people in the area may not be aware of what a great treasure they have right here in their own backyard in Maple Lake."
This statement from Mike DeChene in a Messenger Letter to the Editor could not better describe the excitement of the hometown Laker baseball games.
But the enthusiasm and animation of the game added by announcer Kirby Klingelhofer, who DeChene describes as a "showman extraordinaire," is really what gives the Maple Lake Lakers their home-field advantage. Sound effects, bat tunes, fireworks, and a blend of the latest to the greatest pop, rock, country, and other music has been the extra spice Klingelhofer has thrown into the mix of the baseball games at Laker stadium.
"I believe it adds a little bit more flavor in a small town stadium," said Klingelhofer.
There were frogs hopping up and down Birch Avenue on Saturday and local parents and children couldn't have been happier. The July 14 event was the first 'Leapin' Lizards' family activity hosted by Maple Lake's downtown businesses
"Parents and kids kept coming up and thanking all of us," said Scott Christian, owner of Maple Lake General Store and coordinator of the frog and turtle races. "They kept saying how much fun it was and how nice to have something fun to do with their kids."
"There was so much laughter and hootin' and hollerin' going on I had to keep looking out the door to see what was happening," said Marybeth Dreier, owner of MBD Merchants. "Lots of people were already asking if we'd do it again next year."
The frog races counted nearly 50 participants, eight heats with six kids in each heat and a final championship race. Each of the heat winners received a ribbon and each participant returning a frog walked away with a small prize.