Cooking Up A Career

Byron Franz, also known as Chef B, has been cooking since he was 13 years old, and since he can remember, he has always loved doing so.

10 years later, his passion for food is still there, and with the help of his mentor, celebrity chef DeMarco Cavil, Franz is starting to see a lot of opportunity in the cooking industry.

Chef DeMarco Cavil, who has cooked for the likes of Magic Johnson, Dwayne Wade and Bill Clinton, has trusted Franz to be his guest chef on multiple occasions.

“He will message me whenever he needs me, and I’ll go up there (Twin Cities) to help him out.  Sometimes I don’t know what I’m going into when I go up there,” Franz said.  “As summer progresses, he’s talked about us feeding the Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota United Men’s Soccer team.”

Chef DeMarco will secure a gig and message Franz to meet him at the address.

“He will bring all the food there, and I will help him finish it off and do any of the last steps,” Franz said.  “When we do these gigs, we try to have 75 percent of the food done, so that when we show up to these people’s homes, we are only spending 45 minutes to an hour there at the max.”

With a rate of $125 per plate, Franz dishes up an appetizer, entrée and a dessert.  But for first time customers, Franz lets them eat for free.

“It’s more of a way to get myself out there, and if I can do that, I think it goes a long way to show them that I actually care about my work.”

Franz has delivered his creations and hosted meals at his house in an effort to get clients hooked on his product.  This way when he opens up shop, he can get returning customers right away.

He is able to make money now from donations and tips, while also getting paid when he helps Chef DeMarco.

In an effort to get his name known, Franz has been messaging many celebrities and athletes to try and set up dates to cook for them.  To his surprise, a few responded, such as Naz Reid of the Timberwolves, and Mr. Hotspot, a Hip-Hop artist.

“When I messaged them, I didn’t expect them to actually look at their DMs because a lot of them will have their DMs still go through their general and have hundreds of messages from their fans,” Franz said.  “When they do respond back, it’s kind of a weird feeling, like these famous people are noticing your work, and they want you to come down and cook for them.”

Franz is hoping to have menu put together in the coming weeks so he can start taking orders from clients.

He usually cooks in themes for the week.  If customers like what they see, they can order from his Facebook page, or text him directly.

This week’s theme was chicken and waffles.

Earlier this week, he made waffle cones filled with mac n’ cheese and chicken.

The meal he cooked in this picture is waffle tacos with a mac n’ cheese base, filled with deep fried chicken and drizzled with a sweet honey barbecue sauce.  He then toped it off with bacon bits and chives for the garnish.

Chef B’s Chicken Waffle Tacos.

Franz journey as a chef started when he was 13 years old, cooking for his parents, grandparents and friends.  Right away, he knew this is what he loved to do.

From there he started volunteering at his church and cooking for his youth group, before getting his first job as a kitchen aid at the Good Samaritan Nursing home when he was 15.

He worked at the Good Samaritan all through high school before having to leave for college where he would chase his music dreams in Kansas.  Eventually releasing an electronic album titled ‘The Journey’ on iTunes, ultimately putting his cooking career to the side.

Things did not feel right for Franz, and after a few years away, he return home. And in 2018, he got his old job back at the Good Samaritan.

This time, as the head cook.

“The nursing home was the perfect spot for me,” Franz said.  “I got to cook for a large crowd, and it taught me food cost and food waste.  I learned a lot of what I know from there.”

Franz eventually moved on from the nursing home and took two jobs as a cook at a bar and grill called Duffy’s and a bar and grill called The Den.

After only a few months of working, Franz received a promotion at The Den and decided to work there full time.

The Den is where Franz found his love for cooking again.

He decided to take a step away from music, and apply for culinary school at South Central in Mankato, MN.

Here is where he met Chef DeMarco and took his cooking to the next level.

Franz became known locally for some of the meals he prepared like the one below.

Another Chef B creation.

But, it was his noodle cup creation, inspired by Trendy Chef, that really gained him a following.

“After I made my first noodle cup, I’ve taken the idea of being this out of the box chef, and just come up with weird creations.  It’s given me lots of attention on my social media, I have people in my DMs saying, ‘I wish you were in Atlanta, I wish you were in Texas, or New York.’ Or they will message me saying ‘what’s it going to take to get you out here.’  So, the hard work is definitely paying off, and it’s showing.”

One of Chef B’s noodle cups.

“It’s hard sometimes though, I just won’t know what to make,” Franz said. “I go to these celebrity chef profiles and gather ideas from them, and just combine them all in one dish.”

Franz does take pride in the look of his meals, but he prefers the taste to be what he is known for.

“Our professors told us, ‘you can have a plate that looks like a million-dollar plate, but it might not even taste good,’” Franz said.  “’But you can have some food that looks like a disaster and be one of the better things you’ve tasted.’”

Experimenting with different combinations, not everything turns out well for Franz.  So, he throws it away, and try’s and try’s again.

“I’ve always told myself, ‘you’re the chef, you’re allowed to do whatever you want in the kitchen,’” Franz said.  “I want to be different, and that forces me to step outside of the box.  That’s the kind of chef I aspire to be, a chef that isn’t afraid to mix flavors that don’t normally go with each other.”

Franz’s wants to be based out of Minnesota, but the ultimate goal is to travel with athletes and families as their personal chef.  He also mentioned a dream of becoming the Minnesota Timberwolves chef if traveling doesn’t work.

He is waiting for the corona virus to pass to get his first gig alone, but says as long as he is confident, he is sure he will kill it.  And from there, word of mouth will do its thing to keep the customers coming.

“This first opportunity under my brand is the biggest thing that’s going to happen in my life and is going to be the thing that changes my life,” Franz said.

With his logo selected, business cards made, and t shirts being sent out.  Franz, or more famously known as Chef B, is fully branded and ready to get his business running.

Chef B’s business cards.

Here is a link to his Facebook page where you can book meals, see his past creations and read reviews from his customers.

https://www.facebook.com/chefbdog96

 

Mississippi Thunder Speedway Prepares For A Season Of Unknowns

Friday, April 24 was supposed to be the season-opening race for Mississippi Thunder Speedway.

Wisconsin’s state-at-home-order extended to May 26, there is the uncertainty of when racing at the track will return.

Fans in the stands watch as cars race around Mississippi Thunder Speedway. When those fans will be able to return to the track remains a mystery, as stay-home-orders stay in effect. Photo was contributed by Tyrone Lingenfelter/Mississippi Thunder Speedway.

According to the track’s promoter, Tyrone Lingenfelter, Mississippi Thunder Speedway officials have been in constant contact with state and health officials to figure out a possible return date.

“We’ve been in contact with the State Of Wisconsin trying to see if there’s alternative ways that we can still have events, probably with no fans, just drivers and pit crews, and try to broadcast our races on Pay-Per-View for our fans at home who’ll still be watching until the stay at home order’s been completely lifted and we can get back to normal,” Lingenfelter said. “It’s definitely, I guess the craziest start to a year, or most unknown start to a year we’ve ever had.”

The positive for Mississippi Thunder Sunday according to Lingenfelter is the track is not in full desperation mode.

“I would say on a scale of one to 10, right now, we’re on a six of trying to really push things to get going,” Lingenfelter said. “We’re not pushing it too because we’re trying rebel against stuff. We’re just more so pushing because we’re trying to just get our business going and make sure that the people that do sponsor our racetracks, the fans that do have rental stuff with us, rental booths and different things like that; they can be able to enjoy that stuff, and safely enjoy that stuff.”

The track has been sure to keep their fans informed as possible. continued

This has been done through Facebook, where Lingenfelter will go on and live stream himself giving the latest update and answering questions during the recording coming in from fans of the track.

“I feel like when you can go out there and you can do question and answer and stuff like that where they feel, I guess like they’re more involved, it’s more personal,” Lingenfelter said. “Especially when you do the videos. When you actually see the physical reaction, I feel like you see the emotion maybe of a response, it makes it feel more personal.”

While the track continues to try to get racing back, local drivers have been finding different ways of hitting the tracks.

Winona native, Jake Timm has gone virtual, competing in races on iRacing, an online racing simulator.

This has become a popular service with racecar drivers across the world. Professional racing leagues such as NASCAR, IndyCar, and Formula One, have started running sanctioned races on the service while their seasons have been suspended.

This has caused a debate between many in the community arguing if the simulation is a video game or a good platform to gain experience for real-life situations.

“I think there’s definitely some positive things that come out of it that you can maybe learn from it,” Timm said. “More so, it’s just fun and helps with the itch a little bit. And it’s just a way to kind of get together and still keep racing in a way.”

Timm has not spent all of his time staring at screen. He is still working to make sure when the season starts, he will be ready. continued

“We’ve been spending a lot of hours in the shop,” Timm said. “Getting the cars ready and we’re making sure the truck and trailers clean and organized and ready to go, and then watching racing videos. Just doing as much as I can to stay focused and learn.”

The sooner racing returns, the better for Timm and others in the sport, especially when dealing with sponsorships.

Timm noted the less races run, the less money for teams, that desperately rely on sponsorship funds to compete, will make. A longer delay, could be detrimental to racing organizations.

“That’s definitely something that I think we all need to think about is if we don’t race, or if maybe we only get half the season in,” Timm said. “How’s that going to work with the sponsors, not only for race cars, but racetracks and everyone involved? This sport is very dependent on sponsorship. Hopefully we can get started soon.”

Side Hustle- Sports Podcasting

Having the same conversation over and over can be tiresome, especially when you’re talking in circles.

One of the most common debates in sports is, “Moss is better than Rice,” or vice versa, and it usually gets nowhere.

That’s why in 2014, Garret Greenlee created a Twitter and YouTube channel where he could prove his sports-related thoughts through facts.

“I got sick of having the same conversation with people like, ‘man this guy’s good, or this guy’s good,’” Greenlee said.  “I just created an account and thought whatever happens, happens.”

The accounts grew rapidly.

After four years, Greenlee’s Best NFL Matchups had more than 20,000 followers on Twitter.

Only problem was, he had no idea what email he used when he made the account.

“I was following people way too fast, so Twitter thought I was a spam account,” Greenlee said.  “They sent an email to the account I had with it, but I had no idea what that email was, and I lost the account forever.”

Greenlee had to start all over.

Lucky for him, he had a couple friends with similar accounts, and they gave him a shout out to help build his new channel, Football Analysis.

“I only have 1,500 subscribers on YouTube right now.  Not ‘only,’ like I’m grateful for them, but I want to get to the point where I’m at 30, 40, 50, 100 thousand subscribers and do a giveaway once a month of a signed whatever,” Greenlee said.  “I do appreciate the support, but I want to get to a point where I can use this as a side income just for talking about what I love, which is football.”

Greenlee’s set up.

How does Greenlee make money with these videos?

“You have to have 1,000 subscribers,” Greenlee said.  “But within the past year, you also have to have four thousand watch hours of your content. So that took a little bit to build up.”

Four thousand hours may seem like a lot, but with browse features, you can reach more people than just your subscribers, which happened to Greenlee a few times.

“I have a couple with 30 thousand, 20 thousand views and that really gets a lot of the hours at almost the snap of your fingers,” Greenlee said.  “So, in reality you could have one video that has 60 or 100 thousand views, and you get your four thousand hours, then the rest of your videos combined could have only 500 views.”

Since the interview, Greenlee has reached the 2,000-subscriber mark with his new account.

The content is starting to pay off.

He explains this in the video.

Andy Carlson, a Winona State graduate and creator of the Purple FTW! podcast, said a Vikings vs Ravens blizzard game in 2013 sparked his interest in talking sports.

Carlson looks at all the players on the Vikings roster and analyzes the national media coverage of the Vikings, while adding his own twist of humor for his 23,000 subscribers.

“There will always be a market for fan content,” Carlson said.  “People want niched down perspective over national media jabronis.”

Here is a clip from a recent video.

With this being his side job, Carlson said he always finds the motivation to release numerous videos a day.

“The viewers who continue to make us part of their day (motivates me),” Carlson said.  “If we can be a nice little five minute break from life and give some info and some entertainment. Worth it.”

Carlson offers monthly memberships for $4.99 and $24.99 on his YouTube channel that offers extra benefits such as one-on-one chats and free merchandise.

Teespring has teamed up with Carlson and Purple FTW! to sell this merchandise that includes t-shirts, mugs and stickers.

Purple FTW! merchandise for sale on Teespring.

“It’s a very decent side hustle,” Carlson said.  “Merch is fun, and everything helps keep the production lights on.”

With the quarantine giving people more free time than ever, podcasts and YouTube may be a good pass time to listen to, or maybe even try.

Football Analysis Link

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjoHPnySKcDbxzaF2R8YM2Q

Purple FTW! Link

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6Xt29Fi1ES6C1fEtWFUFIw

Musicians face the music with COVID-19 crisis

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many states are under quarantine or a stay-at-home order. This has caused most public events to be canceled.

Only essential personnel, including emergency workers and grocers, are able to work.

What about musicians that relied on public events to support themselves?

How are small bands trying to maintain or grow their public audience while respecting orders to stay isolated?

Two years ago, In Brooklyn, New York, twins Talor and Jordan Steinberg started their band, The Moon City Masters.

Talor Steinberg, a vocalist and electric guitarist, talked about what they are doing to keep their music alive.

“Our band is in that stage where we’re trying to get as many people to see us as we can,” Steinberg said.

They’ve taken their artistry to social media. One of the most successful uses of social media has been on Tik Tok, a video-sharing app which launched in 2016 in China.

The brothers posted a video on Christmas doing a cover of “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin on Tik Tok and got around 30,000 followers in a week.

“It is honestly the best thing for our band,” Steinberg said. “We have 70 thousand followers. If all of them look up our music, that would be life-changing. We get a couple of thousand streams a week because of Tik Tok and it doesn’t result in any money, but we still get to have our Moon City Masters passion.”

According to Steinberg, because of the income he gets from teaching guitar lessons, he was able to pay rent and still “be comfortable.”

The brothers did a livestream on Instagram and Tik Tok at the beginning of April and have plans to do it every month for the foreseeable future.

“The cool thing is we got to play for people all over the country,” Steinberg said. “We get a lot of requests to play in Florida and all over the Midwest that we would need to make more money to do so and it was just cool to play for them because I don’t know when we’d get to do it in person.”

Steinberg said he read comments from fans in Russia and Ukraine.

1,099 miles away, in Winona, Minnesota, a small-town band is dealing with similar things.

Spencer Klausing, Tyler Steinley and Jackson Nielsen of Afflatus discussed how Minnesota’s stay-at-home order has affected them.

Photo submitted by Afflatus of the members performing.

“All our shows have been cancelled and we haven’t been practicing keeping distance from each other,” Steinley, the drummer, said. “It’s come to a standstill for the most part.”

According to Steinley, the group isn’t livestreaming on social media but, they have “talked about it, but nothing yet.”

“I play in three groups and we were all getting prepared for a busy festival season of playing shows outdoors for huge crowds. Summer is my favorite time of year and I just love playing outdoor gigs,” Nielson, the bass guitarist, said. “All we can do is make the best out of a bad situation. Hopefully, we can get a tour going in the fall and play out a little bit.”

The members of Afflatus admitted they don’t make money from playing as it is more for the sake of performing right now.

Steinley gave advice to other bands. “Do what you want during this time. It’s the perfect opportunity to focus on creativity and being productive,” Steinley said. “Also the perfect time to rest and take a break from everything if that’s what you feel like that’s what you need.”

New Winona apartments to upstage other housing options

The residential scene in Winona caters to different groups of people, predominantly college students from August to May.

A new downtown apartment complex called Main Square Winona is aiming to be the updated hub for business professionals and the wealthy in town.

From a third-floor balcony, a view of Winona’s downtown amenities can be seen.

According to Tom Hoseck, Main Square Winona’s lead property manager, the complex will have two primary buildings: the Landmark on Main and 5th Streets and the Cornerstone, which is on Main and 4th.

While Landmark is housing with one, two- and three-bedroom units, Cornerstone also has space for retail offices.

Amenities like a fitness center, rooftop terraces and meeting room will be shared between residents, Hoseck said.

Speaking about the draw for living at Main Square, Hoseck mentioned proximity.

“Living here gives people everything they could need within walking distance,” Hoseck said. “Plus, we’ll be adding conveniences for residents like an orthodontist, hair salon and a walk-in clinic. We want people who live here to feel like they never have to leave.”

A complex marketed as luxury must live up to that in rental prices.

An average one-bedroom rental in the Landmark building runs $1,300 per month For the Cornerstone building, a one-bedroom suite begins at $875 a month.

In a city that’s predominantly college students, how do these rates stack up to dorms?

And would the apartments appeal to college students?

According to Paula Scheevel, Winona State University’s director of housing and residence life, the dorms are a better price.

Unlike the price of the new apartment complexes, the rates of dorms were decided by the original cost to build and maintain the dorm.

In WSU’s Quad, which is a building made up of four separate other dorms, an average room is $2,800 for the academic year.

While college students pay off all charges in chunks, the average rent would come out to $350, per the housing and residence life yearly budget.

They also have stipulations through the MinnState system that all dorms must be built to withstand 100 years of residents and be paid off in 20 years.

Because Scheevel has been in her position for 16 years, she also has data on retention rate in the dorms.

“Thirty percent of people who live in res halls are returners, and that adds up to about one third of the overall student population,” Scheevel said.

She expounded on why she thought the university had those numbers.

“It’s ultimately about the value of the dollar. Our convenient location, dining plan and community in res life makes it a top choice.”

In terms of how the dorms stack up to the new apartments, Scheevel said she didn’t think Main Square Winona aimed to be for college living.

Paula Scheevel posing in her office space for housing and residence life
Paula Scheevel, director of housing and residence life, stands in her domain in Kryzsko Commons where students can apply to live on campus and inquire about other aspects of campus life.

“To my knowledge, the complexes are geared toward those who are well-off and looking for housing not directed at college students,” Scheevel said.

To live in the Cornerstone, which is the cheaper of the two luxury complexes, for one school year, it would be a 150 percent increase over residence halls at the university.

And that’s just an average dorm room cost.

By comparing the cost of Main Square Winona to the most upscale dorms on campus, Kirkland-Haake, an average room in the four-person complex is $3,650.

Calculated out, monthly rent from a dorm to this luxury complex would increase by 91 percent.

Depending on where you live, you get what you pay for.

Question is, who’s willing to pay that much?

Restoring Culture at Cotter

The game clock dwindles down to the final seconds as the players shake each other’s hands.

Adding the polite comment of, “good game” or, “way to shoot the rock.”

The buzzer sounds.

It’s 95-42.

The Winona Cotter boys’ basketball team has been eliminated, ending their season with a record of 2 wins, 24 losses.

For many, this would seem like a season to forget.

For the Ramblers, they have a lot to be proud of.

This was the first year for Cotter head coach TJ Lowe.

Lowe, a former college athlete and skills trainer, has worked with players on reaching goals, but has never had a whole team to lead.

“I did a lot of individual work with people,” Lowe said.  “Like somebody that’s Division-II and they want to get to a better school, or even Division-I.”

Lowe started with the boy’s freshmen team at Winona Cotter during the 2015/16 season  before working his way up to Junior Varsity.

Coach Lowe drawing up a game plan for the Ramblers.

There he coached for two years before a job promotion pulled him away.

After a year away from the teams, Lowe found a way to clear his schedule, and according to him, was asked back by “popular demand.”

Coming into the 2019-20 season, the Cotter boys’ basketball program had not had a winning record in their division for the past ten years (MNBasketballHub.) Coach Lowe wasn’t sure what he was getting when he held the first practice last fall.

“They were freshmen when I was still there, so one or maybe two kids would come up for a half in a tournament and I’d let them play a couple minutes,” Lowe said. “Other than that, I knew nothing about my team.”

The team rostered only three seniors, two of those injured, and a bunch of juniors and sophomores who hadn’t seen solid minutes at the varsity level.

Worse, the team had become used to losing.  The narrative surrounding the Cotter boy’s basketball program had dropped significantly since their championship runs of the 1980s.

Coach Lowe said he believes he can reinstate the powerhouse narrative of Cotter basketball.  He knows it’s going to be one step at a time.

“I think a lot of kids don’t get to their full potential because the mental side of it is holding them back,” Lowe said. “All year I said, ‘we have to come together as a team first, we can’t bicker.’”

Being able to play as a team helped the Ramblers secure two victories on the season, but there were many more successes being made throughout the year.

After the first couple losses, Coach Lowe rallied his team , and promised improvement.

“First they came in hanging their heads, and I said, ‘Hey, this is just the beginning.  We are going to put time in the gym, and we are going to get better,’” Lowe said.  “We have to believe that we are going to do that, we have to take these steps.  Next thing you know, people are starting to shoot better, we had multiple people in the top 100 of Minnesota basketball, in all divisions.”

Seeing the ball go through the hoop is definitely a confidence booster, but Lowe said he knew that was the beginning.

“The next hump was knowing what it was like to maintain a lead or be able to stay in the game,” Lowe said.  “We did get the one win against Coulee-Christian, but that is the one we were expecting to win.”

Thinking of the progress as a step by step solution sounds like a simple task.  It is not.

“You have to go through the trials and tribulations.  Otherwise you have no idea what you are doing out there,” Lowe said.  “They could have easily just said, ‘this blows, I don’t want to be here.’  But man, they just kept with it and I was very proud of them.”

Having a good relationship with the players is a must for Lowe.  With team and individual meetings, he has a chance to talk with each player and know what’s going on.

Ryan Todd has been around the Cotter boys’ basketball program for a few years as the junior varsity coach and has noticed the changing narrative of the varsity program.

“It’s not so much winning and losing games,” Todd said.  “Seeing their skills improve, and getting comfortable on the floor I think helps them buy in.  It’s night and day how much better we are from the first practice.”

Watching the final game of the season, the progress and effort can be seen by anyone in the crowd.

Down 43-4 to start the game, frustration was running high as, “oh my god, we’re bad,” was muttered on the bench during a stretch of turnovers by one of the players.

Coach Lowe called a timeout and brought his team back together.

The ensuing five minutes was like watching a completely different team.

Plays were being executed, shots were falling, defensive stops were being made, and next thing they knew, they went on a 14-4 run against the number one team in the section.

Coach Lowe called another time out and brought his players in.

From the huddle you could hear Coach Lowe yelling, “this is how it is, this is how it could be!”

“This is how it is, this is how it could be!”

The game did end 95-42, but the second half was much closer than the first.

“It’s amazing how far we came, especially in a section like ours.  It was so easy to give up, but we kept stepping forward,” Lowe said.  “They made such a big jump this year, it was amazing, I’m very happy.”

Links

https://www.mnbasketballhub.com/standings/show/5372012?subseason=651301

Winona State international student talks personal experiences

The stress and fear associated with the choice of college is something that plagues almost every student.

Joel Odoom’s decision was more nerve-wracking than most as an international student in Minnesota.

Odoom was born in Ghana, Africa, and moved to Qatar in 2010 where his family still lives.

He had to adapt to a new environment and a new language, English, which he uses as his dominant language.

Leaving Ghana, his home country, proved difficult as his move would be permanent.

“Moving to Qatar was a real shocker for me,” Odoom said. “Leaving a place where I was comfortable with people with the same cultural background to going to a foreign place for me was very hard.”

A candid picture of Joel Odoom outside of Lourdes Hall at Winona State University West Campus.

Stepping outside of his comfort zone tested Odoom. He said it helped him experience life in a new way.

“It was a new opportunity and it helped me very, very much,” Odoom said.

Past obstacles moving to a “foreign” place early in life served as a factor in his decision to come to the US for college.

“I thought to myself, where’s the best place I would feel comfortable with?” Odoom said. “I thought the U.S. It seemed like the land of opportunities.”

He highlighted a few opportunities such as experiencing what the US will be like outside of what he sees in movies and television.

Why Minnesota?

Odoom said he wanted to stay near his aunt and uncle and his extended family who live in the twin cities and have a safety net if things don’t turn out the way he envisions them.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I didn’t have family in Minnesota. My parents didn’t want me to struggle.” Odoom said.

Why Winona State University?

Odoom said that he wanted to find a college that was affordable, dense with diversity and international students to make him feel more accepted and supported in the path he wanted to take in school.

Odoom analyzing a book that’s located at the Darrel Krueger Library at Winona State University.

Odoom said he didn’t want to feel like an outcast.

He wanted to become his own person, branch out and discover new things.

“I told myself, let me find the friends who I truly believe are my friends. It doesn’t matter if they’re from the same country as me or if they’re international or not.” Odoom said. “I’ll just do whatever to make myself feel comfortable.”

After being at Winona State for two years, Odoom’s perspective and expectations changed for the better.

He explained that he gets along with everyone.

People don’t see him as an international student, and he doesn’t feel as if he is confined to a clique.

“I feel as if I am an anomaly,” Odoom said.

Odoom hinted at the reason may be because he doesn’t have a “stereotypical” accent that other international students have.

“I feel as if they would treat me differently if that was the case.”

Finding A Voice

I wake up, It’s Thursday.

The Winona State University women’s basketball team leaves today at 3:30 p.m. for games in Marshall, Minnesota and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

I, being the radio guy, cannot miss the bus as the men’s team does not arrive before the start of the women’s game.

Time to pack my bag and prepare for the fourth weekend on the road this season.

I’m a bit nervous as I’ve never really got on talking terms with any of the players.

They all do their thing while I sit there quietly and mind my business.

I’ve covered the WSU basketball teams for three years while working at the campus radio station, 89.5 KQAL, so you’d think I’d have a better relationship than this.

It’s just not the case.

I get to the bus stop, say hello to Coach Scott Ballard, and take my seat.

I’ve debated sparking conversation, but I don’t feel like the team is interested in my small talk, plus I feel like they discuss basketball enough as it is already.

Hours later, we arrived in Marshall.

They eat their team meal together at Texas Roadhouse or Pizza Ranch, I usually eat off to the side, then we head to the hotel for the night.

I’ve said two words since the start of the trip.

Team meal at Pizza Ranch in Marshall, Minnesota.

Being secluded and keeping to myself isn’t what I’d like to be doing, it just happens.

The nerves of saying something stupid or sitting where someone else wants to sit triggers my anxiety.

My boss and longtime radio professional Doug Westerman explained that it’s not unusual for radio personal to be introverts off the air.

“They just want that high energy ‘Hey everyone! Blah blah blah we got a great day in store for you!’ then all of sudden you’re walking down the hallway and they give you a nervous ‘hi.’”

How could someone be an introvert and be on the radio where you talk for hours?

Pat Broe, former KQAL Program Director and Sports Director, described the flipping of the switch from off-air to on-air as being trapped in a corner with no way out.

“There’s something about when that red light comes on that you have to start, you can’t do anything but be that person,” Broe said. “You’re trapped in a corner, you are live on air, there’s thousands of people listening to you, and you have to figure out a way to entertain them.”

Sounds pretty intense, but I found that to be accurate.

Waiting in the hotel lobby until the team leaves for their shoot around.

In the morning I checked out of my room at 11 a.m.

I sit in the hotel lobby until we leave for the game at 3 p.m.

5 o’clock rolled around and I plugged in the comrex, got my mics into position, and waited for my producer Ryan “Baby Shaq” Mandli to send the call my way.

“That’s going to do it for the Warrior Tip-Off Show as Buck Wallert is waiting in the R/A Facility in Marshall Minnesota, take it away Buck,” Baby Shaq said.

And I picked it right up with, “Welcome to the R/A Facility over here in Marshall Minnesota as we have a good match up in store for you tonight as your Winona State Warriors take on….”

Like that flip of a switch, I was in a zone.

Calling the Tip-Off Show before the women’s game in Marshall.

From saying two words in almost an entire day, to rattling off names, stats, and match up history, you would think I knew these players their whole lives.

Anything to paint the best picture possible for the listeners back home, as according to Doug Westerman, “radio is the theatre of the mind.”

Not talking at all, to saying thousands of words, then right back to not talking after the game bothered me.

It just didn’t make sense.

Mike Martin the original KQAL radio jock and now the guy who keeps the radio station going, met with me the next day and explained how radio gives you confidence.

“It makes you think on your feet, spontaneously, and being kind of a shy kid, you’re doing it in a room by yourself, so that kind of helps too,” Martin said. “You’re talking to people, but they aren’t right in front of you. You’re by yourself, but you’re not talking to yourself, there’s maybe hundreds of people.”

Thinking of the amount of people listening to me makes me even more nervous, do I sound okay? What if I say something I shouldn’t or panic?

And panic is just what I did the first time on air.

Pat Broe reflected on the first time we were thrown into the spotlight.

“It’s a day you and I will never forget.  I was producing and co-hosting, you were hosting, and neither of us knew what the heck we were doing.  TJ Leverentz and Tyler Jeffries kind of just gave us the keys and let us go and let us fail, and we did,” Broe said.  “I think we went to commercial 25 or more times; we didn’t turn our mics off one time, and there might have been a word that the FCC doesn’t like that got on the air.  Basically, anything that could have gone wrong went wrong.”

That was just over three years ago.

Now when I go on air, I have fun with it, take it and run.

Notes or no notes I was going to think of something.

“It’s so funny too, I thought I was prepared for that day, I thought I had enough information to put a show together, but I was not even remotely close,” Broe said.  “Now putting together a pregame show is easy.”

But it’s not always as easy as he says, when you’re having a bad day, you still have to be happy go lucky on air.

Martin explained this well when talking about his experience as a disc jockey.

“I had been just having a horrible bad day or something, and I was just grumpy…. Then I flip the mic on and immediately I’m cheering and I gotta play the role, I gotta play the radio guy,” Martin said. “Flipped the mic off again and went back into grumpy mode. This other guy in the control room with me said ‘how did you do that, how did you just change personality like that.’ And I’m just like ‘hey, that’s what they pay me to do.’”

I receive $20 for each game I call, as well as the free hotel rooms and couple of meals.

But, the radio has given me a voice, so I’d say I’m living the dream.

What Winona State University does for the community

Everyone always talks about what communities do for universities but not what the universities do for communities.

Winona is no stranger to that.  It is a thriving community with plenty of support for the three colleges and universities in the area.

At Winona State University there are at least 180 cubs and student organizations on campus. These range from sports clubs, Greek life, academic clubs, honorary societies, faith-based clubs and diversity organizations.

For most of these clubs and organizations, community service and philanthropy work is a significant part of how those clubs run.

The president of the university, Scott Olson, said, “First and foremost, community engagement is a great way for students to learn. It allows us to put theory into practice and allows students to try out different settings and professions to see how they might dedicate their lives.”

One subset of campus organizations where community service is an important aspect to is Greek life.

Lindsay Marosi-Kramer, an activities director on campus, said, “Our seven organizations all have both national and local philanthropies, many groups require students to host volunteer hours while not many have actual relationships with outside places like Greek groups do.”

According to Marosi-Kramer, during the 2018-2019 school year, the Greek community volunteered more than 800 hours in community services.

Students can walk off most WSU sidewalks and be in neighborhoods or in close proximity to local businesses.

Some community members have opposing opinions when it comes to living in a town with three colleges.

A Winona man who lives nine blocks east of campus, who wished to remain anonymous, said he didn’t appreciate having college students as neighbors.

He has lived in Winona his whole life and only left when he went to college.

“It’s not that I hate college students,” the man said. “I just don’t like living with around them.”

He brought up how high school and college students would leave garbage on his lawn or how loud college student neighbors are.

He said it was extremely difficult to find housing since “20 percent of each block” was rented to students or would only be rented to students.

“I do appreciate there are students and groups who will go around and clean up the garbage, especially after big events,” he said.

Kendra Weber, WSU’s director of Student and Community Engagement, arranged the clean and sweep after homecoming.

“If we know a certain amount of this is going to happen, what can we do?” Weber said.

The first year she held this event, around 30 people showed up and they ended with around 40 bags of garbage.

In 2018, the event had about 90 people sign up to pick up trash and more than 100 participants showed up.

An event like this has both community and university involvement. Weber directs the event and buys pizza for students who volunteer. The American Legion has allowed the group to use their space for free and the city allocates certain stop signs for the group to set the bags of garbage.

Chart from www.mnstate.edu that covers the financial benefits and engagement that is done between the community and Winona State University.

Olson has had community members reach out to him regarding students.

“Most of the comments I get from members of the community are very complimentary to WSU students, Olson said. “Probably the largest volume of negative comments I hear are about students walking across Main or Huff without looking up at the traffic, but I only hear this a dozen times a year or less. There are often concerns around Homecoming, but lately students have really been careful to be safe and respectful while having fun.”

In 2013, the university applied to get the Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the advancement of teaching.

To be considered for this classification, the university had to have proof of engagement and co-existing with the community.

In 2015, Winona State University was awarded the Community Engagement Classification.

Super Bowl provides busiest time of year for Wincraft

For many in Winona, the Super Bowl may not mean as much as it did a few weeks ago when the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings still had a chance at winning the championship. For one Winona company, the Super Bowl proves to be the busiest time of the year.

Headquartered on 960 E Mark St. (pictured), Wincraft, a sports merchandising company that has license rights for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, and the NCAA; the Super Bowl is one of their biggest events of the year.

According to Wincraft’s director of sales and operations, Derek Horvath, the company has been making 60 different products for each team in the big game such as decals, pennants, and a variety the sports memorabilia. The company also produces the signature Gatorade towels that are handed to the players at the conclusion of the big game.

Horvath confirmed the Super Bowl is the biggest money-making event for the company throughout the year.

“Playoffs are a great and a hot market for any sport,” Horvath said. “So, the Super Bowl is one of our best-performing events, and usually production picks up significantly from the second week of January through the balance of February.”

Horvath also noted this year’s game is especially marketable given the competitors in the game, the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, two teams that have not been in the Super Bowl in more than five years.

“Market-specific, demand changes a lot,” Horvath said. “Last year with the Rams and the Patriots was good, not great. This year with the 49ers and the Chiefs, it is going to set records. The fan support is all new. Fans that really want to capture the first time for them in their lifetime or, something that has not happened for a long time.”

Horvath also noted the teams’ lack of success compared to a dynasty like the New England Patriots, who have appeared in four of the last five Super Bowls, means that their fans are more likely to purchase products that a typical Patriots fan.

“If you think about it, the Patriots were dominant for a long time in the league, so often the market actually said ‘you know, AFC Champs, we don’t need as much AFC Champ product, we are just going to focus on the Super Bowl Champ,’” Horvath said. “While with these two markets, the Chiefs and the 49ers, AFC/NFC Champ product is in high demand. So, they want to prepare for this Super Bowl and then compound that with the Super Bowl.”

A team like the 49ers also creates the need for a new product that would not be made if any other team had been in their position, such as special edition seven-time NFC Championship apparel.

Despite this being the biggest event for the company, Horvath has said they have not had to rely on overtime for employees. Instead, shifting their focus ahead of time before the event.

AUDIO: Does Wincraft make Super Bowl Champion merchandise for teams before the big game? Wincraft’s director of sales and operations, Derek Horvath address the longtime rumor.

Horvath dispelled the rumor that Wincraft makes a certain amount of Super Bowl Champion apparel ahead of time, saying the company waits until a champion is determined to “hit the presses.”

While the NFL’s biggest game proves to be the biggest event for Wincraft, the company is still constantly busy throughout the entire year.

“It is a really dynamic business because we hold so many licenses. Every month something is going on,” Horvath said. “You have the Super Bowl in February, you have March Madness, you have NBA/NHL playoffs when May and June hit, then in July and August you hit training camp and back to school.”

Horvath also noted how it is important for Wincraft to keep a local presence in Winona throughout the year, despite their sales being nationwide, citing their relationship with Winona State University.

“WSU is one of the great partners of Wincraft, we love to volunteer and talk to students, prepare them for the real world, tell them how a pro-sports license company works, and what to expect post-graduation,” Horvath said. “We have speaking events at WSU and St. Mary’s. We volunteer on boards around town and we try to help as much as we can with young professionals and help them understand what Winona has to offer.”

Some of the products Wincraft makes on display at the Winona Walmart. Products like these will be made for the Kansas City Chiefs to commemorate their Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers.

A Showcase For Mass Communication Students