North and South: St. Louis County debates split, again

The Associated Press reports that the St. Louis County Board is expected to oppose a proposal to divide into northern and southern counties. According to the story, board chair Keith Nelson won’t support the measure, saying it’s not keeping with the board’s mission. He is one of three Iron Range area board members. Four county board… Read More →

Enrollment decline poses new challenge to state colleges

Trying to read trends is difficult. You have to figure out what’s part of a normal cycle and what might be indicative of change. And then, if it is real change, you have to determine what’s causing the change. Is it inevitable or malleable? Are you causing it or is it something else? That’s the… Read More →

You could use a sauna right now

The Star Tribune’s Jenna Ross recently profiled the Ely Steam Sauna, a century-old public sauna in this Vermilion Iron Range city. It might seem counterintuitive for Minnesotans to go into a public steam room au natural. Or, for that matter, in the presence of those who most certainly are. We are known as a prudish lot. But… Read More →

In building community, every little bit adds up to a lot

A few weeks back, my son’s Boy Scout Troop in Grand Rapids helped build 25 wheelchair accessible picnic tables. The extra long table tops will adorn parks across Itasca County, everywhere from Nashwauk to Deer River, allowing people who use wheelchairs to easily join in a family meal. Henry and I built one picnic table… Read More →

Pinning hopes to billions we don’t have

Let us, for a moment, suspend the old debate about mining projects in Northern Minnesota. You know the one. Jobs vs. the Environment. “Twin Citiots don’t care about us” vs. “Dumb Rangers don’t know what’s good for them.” I’ve long argued this as a false choice. It distracts from the real problem in Northern Minnesota’s… Read More →

Iron Range Fourth of July 2017

It’s time for another Iron Range Fourth of July in Northern Minnesota. Regardless of economic or political winds, the region always unites for its uniquely exuberant observation of Independence Day, which lasts several days (up to a month) as celebrated in local custom. Below is MinnesotaBrown’s 2017 Iron Range Fourth of July listing for parades, fireworks displays and street… Read More →

Minnesota marks ‘Get Outdoors Day’ with free state park access

Looking for a cheap road trip? Or maybe you live near a state park you’ve always wanted to check out. If so, tomorrow is your day. This Saturday, June 10, 2017 all 75 Minnesota state parks will offer free admission in celebration of National “Get Outdoors” Day. In addition, many of the parks scheduled special… Read More →

‘Underground Optimist’ celebrates Ely

Last weekend, a new magazine appeared in Ely, Minnesota. Titled “Underground Optimist,” the publication is the creation of three Ely residents who want people in the area to see what’s going well in far northern St. Louis County. Kara Polyner, Greg Cramer and Rachel Colber all moved to Ely for love of a small community with a lot… Read More →

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 →

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 →