MinnesotaBrown’s Top Posts of 2019

PHOTO: James St. John, Flickr CC

We’re closing a momentous year and a momentous decade here at MinnesotaBrown. For most of you 2019 probably did not provide the most riveting year of material from yours truly. You saw 1-2 posts per week. Much less political coverage. Fewer posts about Northern Minnesota arts and culture. It would have appeared to you that I nosed into a stash of Netflix shows and opium, never to be heard from again.

But I can assure you that I was thrashing about quite actively here at the home office. I’ve spent the summer and fall working full time on my new book about Victor Power. And, though I prepare to resume teaching in January, work on the book will continue unabated until the project is complete. That could occur in 2020 but more likely in 2021, followed by an yet-to-be-determined publication process.

In the middle of that I’ll be releasing a podcast about the same material with my collaborator Karl Jacob, a filmmaker in New York, originally from Hibbing. We have a hard deadline of June 2020 on that one.

To accomplish all this I not only wrote less on the blog, but I put the Great Northern Radio Show on hiatus after our Nov. 9 finale at Hibbing High School. That was not an easy thing for me to do but it was necessary to complete my creative goals on the book and podcast. You’ll see what I mean when this beast is ready for viewing.

Here at the blog we had about 175,000 page views this year. That’s a big drop from 2018. But that’s with just 138 posts, fewer than half of the articles I posted last year. Therefore “views per post” were up … to the degree such a statistic matters to anyone other than myself. I don’t even know why I share this information with you other than to perhaps impress people who don’t know better and to warn those who do that regional blogging is a relentless destroyer of profits and time perpetuated only by the madness of people like myself.

Today I’ll acknowledge the top posts here at MinnesotaBrown for 2019. After the top few I’ll share some other posts I enjoyed this year and some of my top posts for the 2010s, our nearly complete decade and the first full decade of MinnesotaBrown.com (est. 2006).

1 — Iron Range Fourth of July 2019

No surprise here. My annual curated listing of Iron Range Fourth of July parades, street dances and fireworks displays remains the blog’s top post. This year it wasn’t even remotely close. It’s right in that sweet spot of non offensive topics that get shared a lot on social media and that people actually have to click on to find useful. (You should know that few readers click on articles anymore. They just share them on Facebook and respond with the like, love, LOL, or angry face).

2 — Lake Superior More Than 80 Percent Iced Over

It seems like every winter some post like this flies out of the stable like a horse named Wildfire. It gets cold in February, right around the time people start getting sick of winter. They seek validation for their feelings and get really excited when predictable climatological events (such as the icing over of Lake Superior during below average temperatures) take place. Plus, it lets your conservative uncle, cousin or friend’s friend say “Global Warming, huh?” And then you say “climate change is different than a seasonal weather pattern,” and then he clicks the LOL response to your comment, even though he’s not laughing out loud. He’s just an asshole. But that’s just how it is. That’s the world you live in. What are you going to do about it? Nothing. [spits] Nothing at all.

3 — Prairie River Minerals aims to restart scram mining on western Mesabi

News of mining projects always gets attention among MinnesotaBrown readers. Especially when you break news about a company that plans to reopen facilities that had closed under the cloud of the Magnetation bankruptcy two years earlier. Prairie River Minerals is nearing its goals of mining iron on the western Mesabi, with updates expected soon.

4 — After gaining permits, PolyMet leaves some investors in the cold

The flip side of mining speculation is that there are always more losers than winners. As Glencore was taking over the proposed PolyMet copper nickel mining project this year several early PolyMet investors found themselves losing their shirts. Yet to be determined: how deep is Glencore’s commitment to PolyMet’s environmental promises and union labor? Their record on these matters is poor.

RELATED TOP POST: World’s largest mining company moves on PolyMet

5 — Report details irregularities in IRRRB hiring of former Congressional candidate

This was a big story earlier in the year as the Walz Administration took office and reappointed Commissioner Mark Phillips at the Iron Range Resources agency. Phillips stumbled with a botched and seemingly fixed hiring process to bring Joe Radinovich into a permanent job within the agency.

RELATED TOP POST: Radinovich resigned to end the matter.

6 — After 10 years, final Minnesota ‘All Hockey Hair” Team video drops

Sad to say, there won’t be another one of these amazing, hilarious, bizarre videos when the state high school boys hockey tournament returns this March.

RELATED TOP POST: Iron Range hockey hopes skate with Greenway.

7 — Dylan monument at Hibbing HS to be revealed fall 2019

Earlier in the year organizers of the Hibbing Dylan Project announced their plans for a commemorative performance and reflection space to honor Bob Dylan on the grounds of Hibbing High School. Later in the year we’d learn that the school board initially balked at the idea and that the project must slowly advance through the red tape and parochial hoo-hah of Hibbing’s famously smothering ennui. That post, however, was poorly read.

8 — Who’s a Ranger?

Determining whether your town is or isn’t part of the Iron Range is a popular debate in Northern Minnesota. Almost as fun as this humorous column about the topic was reading people’s reactions:a banquet buffet of local pride, hilarity, resentment, killjoys and weirdly nationalistic chest thumping.

9 — What next for long-suffering Nashwauk mine project?

If you have to ask a question like this, the answer is always “Nobody knows.” This March 2019 post foretold of possible activity at the site this summer. It’s been mostly quiet out at the old Butler Taconite site as the project continues to be trapped in legal and political limbo. The state will have the option to cancel the mineral leases for the current holders soon, which might jar things loose. Or sink the thing entirely. Or maybe we’ll just wait longer.

RELATED TOP POSTS: Essar sues state; Mesabi Metallics claims new partners to restart former Essar iron ore project

10 — Monumental school vote approaches in Virginia, Eveleth-Gilbert school districts

Iron Range communities have long fought school consolidation. After a round of them that took place decades ago, the dam again gave way this year as two of the region’s most storied high schools agreed to merge in a new facility. Technically the districts are just sharing a high school, but the groundwork for consolidation has begun. And these won’t be the last Range schools to go this route.

Favorite Columns

Forgotten Posts

Not every post is a big clicker. But some of them are still worth a read.

Remembering the 2010s

Discerning the exact “top posts” of the 2010s is tricky because I migrated my blog to WordPress earlier in the decade. This caused a hiccup in how stats were tracked. So here is a rough estimate of my top posts.

  1. Iron Range Fourth of July — I just update this each year, so this post probably has 100,000 views on its own. Maybe more? Again, who knows.
  2. All 218 final for state high school hockey championship — This 2017 showdown between Grand Rapids and Moorhead was big news in Northern Minnesota.
  3. Brangelina Blowout happened in International Falls — Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s marriage fell apart on the tarmac of the International Falls International Airport according to tabloid reports.
  4. Chris Pratt was born on the Iron Range — Just a statement of fact. Good enough for clicks.
  5. Animals escape, drown at Duluth zoo; flood prompts state of emergency — Remember the floods of 2012? The loose seal. One of the biggest natural disasters in Northern Minnesota that I can recall.
  6. Aldi grocery chain to build in Grand Rapids, Minn. — People are hungry for stories about food.
  7. Boomtown brewery to open in former Zimmy’s location — Boy, people like hearing about new restaurants.
  8. Culver’s to open in Grand Rapids, Minn. — They don’t have to be fancy restaurants.
  9. The Whistling Bird to reopen: Caribbean food on the Iron Range — This popular restaurant closed but reopened under new management.
  10. Showdown 2018 in Minnesota’s Fightin’ Eighth — News about the highest profile race in America led to an unexpectedly boring result.
  11. Text of Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech — Dylan is the only Iron Ranger to win a Nobel Prize of any kind. Bonus points for me because I prepared this post on my phone at an archery meet in a high school gymnasium with very poor reception.
  12. Warm greetings from Northern Minnesota’s Hellscape — Boy was this a dumb post about a dumb post.
  13. Under the deep clear waters of the Tioga Pit — This video was a captivating escape for many readers. Too bad that the mysterious rifle found underneath the water was removed by law enforcement shortly afterward.
  14. Tall Ships will return to Duluth Harbor in 2013 — After this the rise of social media made posts like this less clicky. So, there you go. A little internet history for you.
  15. Oberstar, Cravaack and the future of Minnesota’s Fightin’ Eighth
  16. What makes Minnesota alligators different? — A baby gator was found near Brainerd.
  17. Swedish paper profiles complicated story of Bob Dylan in Hibbing
  18. DFLer Carly Melin will vie for 5B House seat — Nobody knew who she was so I reaped the clicks like ripe wheat.
  19. Georgia chopsticks factory conjures failed Iron Range experiment
  20. Duluth mayor Don Ness does Gangnam Style — I … have … no words

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