2017 Northern Lights Music Festival to feature Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’

The Northern Lights Music Festival will take place in Aurora and other Iron Range towns this July 2-23. The organization recently announced its lineup, including its featured opera production, Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.” I wrote about the Northern Lights Music Festival in a 2014 column, exploring our region’s history as it relates to classical music: Every… Read More →

Talking Iron Range workforce challenges at ‘Policy & Pint’

I’ll be bringing the panel discussion lighting and regional analysis thunder to an event Thursday, May 18 at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm. The Citizens League, in partnership with MPR’s The Current, will be presenting “Policy and a Pint” from 6-8 p.m. You can get tickets now. (Now free, thanks to grant support). The event… Read More →

Officials push new rails on the Iron Range to cut transport costs

Say, ladies and gents, the brass says someday an iron horse might reach across the whole Mesabi Iron Range. Ain’t that a corker! Wait until Mr. James J. Hill hears about this. Slang from the 1880s aside, local officials and elected leaders — at the behest of companies like Minnesota Power — are pushing for more… Read More →

To build Iron Range economic hopes we must keep working


The steam cloud pouring out of the stack at Keewatin Taconite once again guides my daily commute from the wilds of Itasca County into Hibbing. For nearly two years, the eastern sky bore only the unforgiving blaze of the sun. Now fluffy white billows remind that hundreds of miners are back at work. Unfortunately, KeeTac’s… Read More →

Author to share novel about 1916 Mesabi strike at MDC

Author Megan Marsnik will read from her novel “Under Ground” and discuss its setting amid the Mesabi Range Strike of 1916 Thursday, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm. The Discovery Center currently features the exhibit “Enough! The 1916 Mesabi Range Strike.” This is an absolutely necessary viewing for anyone… Read More →

New state basketball award named for Bob McDonald

Three generations of Iron Range basketballers know well the legacy of former Chisholm coach Bob McDonald. The winningest coach in Minnesota State High School League history, McDonald led hundreds of boys on a journey that was one part basketball skill and one part character-building. Now, new generations will come to know the name Bob McDonald… Read More →

Writer explores inflated claims at Chisholm film studio

Time for another riveting tale of Iron Range economic development gone wrong. Today’s exhibit: the principal developer in Chisholm-based Ironbound Studios, Jerry Seppala. As you might recall, this is a story I’ve covered before. Seppala faces charges for defrauding investors of millions of dollars. During the same period he was pitching a film studio to be… Read More →

Top 5 races to watch in Northern Minnesota

Election Day 2016 arrives tomorrow. As in, within 24 hours of this post. It’s really going to happen. It’s really going to be over. You’ve got a lot of places to read speculation on the presidential race, but only one place to read speculation on Northern Minnesota’s closest down-ballot races. I’d love to diagram every seat… Read More →

In America today, who speaks for the many?

Human history traces one simple question, “Who speaks for the many?”

 Centuries show examples of brute leaders, disjointed committees and fragile democracies. Populist gadflies become heroes or villains. Hungry people rise to greatness, then fade into the mist. On the Mesabi Iron Range, the smart and powerful bought the land, but the workers paid the… Read More →

Enough! Commemorating 1916 Mesabi Range Strike

I’m not a historian. I like to say I’m a “histrotainer.” I cherry pick interesting aspects of local history and share them with new audiences. Occasionally I happen upon some original source material, but mostly I rely on the work of actual historians. When I was a young newspaper reporter at the Hibbing Daily Tribune, I… Read More →