The life of a dancer, despite popular belief, has never exactly been glamorous.
It’s hard work for little money and very strenuous on the body and mind.
The dancers and directors of Winona State University’s 2018 Dancescape agree and say they believe that the time spent is valuable.
Jenna Grochow, a production assistant, choreographer and dancer for Dancescape, said, “Dancescape is a really big time commitment. It gets stressful throughout the year and I have to sacrifice being with friends and going to other events because of it.”
The stress of spending six months working for one show can be tiring on the young college dancers and choreographers.
Dancescape’s Artistic Director, Gretchen Cohenour, said what the dancers go through reminds her of when she danced as a freelance professional in New York.
“It’s hard, worth it, but difficult,” Cohenour said. “When I danced, I also was a waitress and worked other odd jobs to make a living. That is what a lot of these dancers go through with school and part time jobs, however they can handle it and love to do it.”
The reward of a successful live show is what makes everything they do worth their commitment to the show.
Adelle Vietor; a WSU student, and choreographer and dancer for Dancescape, said it was meaningful time and energy in the end.
“I think it is worth it,” Vietor said. “At other universities, a lot of students don’t get this opportunity to be such a huge part of an experience.”
Vietor said she is most excited to get the feedback on her choreographed piece which is a piece that includes a projected video that goes with the dance.
A projector has never been used before in Dancescape and is something both Vietor and Cohenour are excited to see.
“We have some really talented student choreographers, and Adelle is one of them,” Cohenour said. “She is a graphic design major and she has made this digital projection, so it’s this beautiful round spherical background that multiplies and falls away and blooms and it’s just so wonderful.”
The excitement shows through all the dancers now that the live show is done and is a success, according to Vietor.
“Everything went so well,” Vietor said. “Every night we felt like there were so few mistakes, which is exactly what we want.”
In six to seven months from now, most of the dancers, except for the graduating seniors, will be gearing up to try out again for next year’s show.
The seniors have a quick turnaround, in just two months they will be on stage again, for the Senior Dance Recital at the end of April.
The senior dancers have been not only prepping for Dancescape but have also started to work on their routines for the Senior Dance Recital.
“We love the beauty of this area, a lot of things about it,” Jim Gurley, a Winona County anti-frac sand mining activist, said. “I couldn’t sit back and let it be ruined.”
By Samantha Stetzer
In the bluffs that surround and cut through Winona County, some of the most useful silica sand can be found, according to Johanna Rupprecht, policy program organizer with the Land Stewardship Project.
The sand is at the center of an on-going conflict between mining companies looking to utilize the perfect form of the sand for hydraulic fracking and the activists trying to preserve it and keep it in the ground.
Miners target the driftless area, of which Winona County is part, for sand crystals ice glaciers left behind as they split around southwestern Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota and northwestern Iowa during the Ice Age.
With a push from local activism and the Land Stewardship Project, a non-profit supporting agriculture and farmland, Winona County commissioners passed a frac sand mining ban on all county land after debate and action by community members for and against the mining by a vote of 3-2 in November 2016.
The ordinance only protects county land, which means local governments in Winona County can still approve the mines on city or town land, according to anti-frac sand mining activist Jim Gurley. If commissioners of a city or town in Winona County agreed to install a frac sand mine, they can still annex county land with a “ball-and-string” annexation, where towns and cities annex a small strip of land out to a “ball” of land, the main point of annexation.
Gurley added Minnesota’s government system also gives local governments more say over county and state governments on what happens on its land.
Following the ban, two lawsuits have been filed against Winona County claiming infringement on the rights of people and business owners to own and use the land as owners see fit, much to the expectation of the project, Rupprecht said.
Two parties, Richard Dablestein, owner of land in Winona County, and the Southeastern Property Owners of Minnesota organization, filed a lawsuit in March 2017. The lawsuit claims the ban violates the Minnesota and U.S. Constitutions and inhibits their ability to work on valuable land.
According to Rupprecht, the attorney’s office representing the plaintiffs in the first case, Larkin Hoffman, is commonly pro-frac sand mining and sent a lawyer to speak against the ban when it was being discussed.
A second suit was filed nearly a month later on Tuesday, April 18, by Minnesota Sands and claims nearly the same infringement on rights as the first suit. Minnesota Sands was founded in 2012 by Richard Frick and the company claimed on its website to have 10 leases for mining sites.
According to Rupprecht, Frick and his company were in the mining movement years before the ban was put in motion.
All mines, Rupprecht said, are required to produce an environmental impact statement about the impacts of their business on the land. The statement can cost millions of dollars, and in February 2015 Minnesota Sands paid $130,450 to begin the statement.
Since then, the company had produced no money or intention of continuing the statement and was virtually unheard of until the ban was enacted, Rupprecht said.
The saga of frac sand mining in Winona County for Gurley began in 2011. According to Gurley, prior to him getting involved, local farmers were being approached by sand companies offering to take their sandy land from them, since it was harder to farm on the land.
Gurley said there were no necessary conversations happening around the community, and public knowledge of the companies reaching out to residents was slim.
After investigating and researching, Gurley said he and his wife, whose home was located near a proposed mine, decided to devote time to advocating against the mine. He and fellow activists created Citizens Against Silica Mining in response.
“We love the beauty of this area, a lot of things about it,” Gurley said. “I couldn’t sit back and let it be ruined.”
While Gurley and other activists continued to fight, members with the Land Stewardship Project were asking for a ban to be placed, Rupprecht said. Gurley said two years ago he stepped out of his lead role anti-frac sand mining activism because the Land Stewardship Project had become more involved.
The project worked closely with Chicago-based attorney Ed Walsh, from the advice of anti-frac sand mining activist Joe Morse, to draft a version of the ban to present to the county.
Walsh, who has experience representing municipalities, said he primarily offered advice to the project for how to go about making the most constitutionally friendly ban possible, but he said the best piece of advice he thinks he gave was not legal.
“It was advice of making sure they felt they had county board members that were understanding and perhaps and philosophically in agreement with the concept of a ban on frac sand mining,” Walsh said.
According to Walsh, he advised the planning commission and the county board. He also reviewed the final wording and process by Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman.
In Walsh’s legal opinion, the ban is constitutionally sound and the process that led to it was legal as well.
“I believe the ordinance will withstand the legal attacks in the court,” Walsh said.
Despite the recent court filings, Morse and Gurley said when the ban was enacted, they were thrilled to see their activism coming to a conclusion point.
Morse, who has been a self-proclaimed environmental activist for 30 years, said he does not believe cities and towns in Winona will allow more frac sand mines in their limits because of commitments made by the local governments and lack of space within city and town limits.
Having the ban laid out in a court setting could be beneficial, Morse added, because it could either give the ban firm legal permission to continue or it will allow the county to re-visit the issue as soon as possible, if it is found unconstitutional. With elections and turnover on the county commission, Morse said the court decision could be crucial for the movement.
Regardless of the outcome, Rupprecht said she believes the ban sends a strong message to a currently stagnant frac sand mining industry.
“It’s disappointing that the industry would be that desperate,” Rupprecht said about the lawsuit. “You don’t have a right to destroy the land.”
Attempts to talk with Minnesota Sands, Dablestein, the Southeastern Property Owners of Minnesota and lawyers for the first lawsuit were never returned.
Something about the Mississippi River has always drawn Matt Fluharty to it.
In the late winter of 2015, just as the river was roaring back to life after months of an icy stalemate, Fluharty was on his way back to his home in St. Louis, Missouri from a conference in Minneapolis. He said was tired, ready to be home and contemplated taking the interstate back.
“I called my wife Kelly, and she said, ‘No, you should really drive the river, again,’” Fluharty said. “’It’ll be so much better.’”
On his way down the river, Fluharty stopped at Blooming Grounds in downtown Winona for a cup of coffee. He continued to venture around the city, noticing stores like Yarnology, bars such as Ed’s No Name Bar and some empty storefronts. As a professor with a Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and as someone who studies modernism of rural America, Fluharty said he noticed the character of the town he stumbled upon.
“You could tell there were empty storefronts, but there was also this amazing vibrant economy happening downtown,” Fluharty said. “You see that in a lot of river towns, but there was something special about Winona, you could just tell. I think people sense it when they come downtown.”
Then the self-described river rat found his way to Winona’s Levee Park and the Mississippi River.
“I was just like, ‘Oh God.’ It was just like the best view of the river is here in Winona,” Fluharty said. “I mean every community along the river would kill to for that view and to be in between the bluffs, and then it really struck me.”
After the experience by the river, Fluharty said he texted his wife and his business partner, urging them to search for Winona online.
By April 2016, he and Kelly were moving their family to the river city for it become the new official headquarters of Art of the Rural, an organization founded by Fluharty. The organization focuses on connecting rural America to its arts, culture and policy, building off of the narratives already in place.
As a poet, designer and artist who has been published in art reviews, such as To Make a Public: Temporary Art Review 2011-2016, Fluharty said he began the organization in 2010 and has watched it transform to connect rural economic policy and its arts and culture.
The headquarters for Art of the Rural has officially opened as the Outpost on the eastern side of Third Street in Winona and will officially open with an exhibit featuring portraits of Winonans by Jon Swanson on May 5.
Fluharty is a fifth generation farmer in Ohio. During the 1980s, around the time Fluharty was in third grade, his parents lost their family farm to the farm crisis. Fluharty said moving away from the only kind of home he and his family had known for generations struck in him what he believes eventually led to Art of the Rural.
“I felt very connected to this place because those early formative childhood memories were of a farm that we no longer had, and for a long time that was source of personal pain,” Fluharty said. “But as I got older and became an artist and a writer some of those feelings began to be translated into a set of questions about what does it mean that I had that experience and that a lot of other people had that experience and that we don’t talk about it.”
As Fluharty grew up, he said his family moved around the Midwest a lot, including Indiana and Missouri, but he eventually left home to study English and modernism in poetry and writing.
Fluharty said original ideas for the organization came to him when he was working on a project about the eastern side of St. Louis, Missouri while in graduate school. That side of the river did not have its own history, Fluharty said. It was scattered and mixed into different stories.
As he was finishing up his dissertation in late 2009, the passing of a grandmother he was close to prompted him to finally say out loud to someone how he was going to start Art of the Rural. He said was walking in the woods with his brother when he finally said, “Yeah, I think I’m going to start a blog.”
“After her funeral, I kind of had this moment of revelation,” Fluharty said. “…sometimes you just have to say something out loud to someone for you to feel responsible to that idea.”
Expanding beyond the blog
With the original blog up and running by January 2010, Fluharty said he kept the idea and concept a secret until April 2010, just to see if it was something he would actually continue.
When he finally started to spread the word, he said he found it had gained attention not only from audiences but also from people wanting to contribute to the writing and work Fluharty was doing.
The work started to include blogs about rural artwork, culture and histories of rural communities in the Midwest. Fluharty starting gaining more partners, such as Program Director Savannah Barrett and Kenyon Gradert with Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
The organization also sponsored Next Generation, which supports a network of art possibilities and promotes engagement in younger people to the arts, according to Art of the Rural.
It was at Next Generation where John Davis, executive director of the Lanesboro Arts Center in Lanesboro, Minn., said he met Fluharty.
“Matt is an amazing individual,” Davis said. “I think he is thoughtful, articulate, always interested in learning about rural and arts and community, seeking out new ways to help communities.”
For the last four years, Davis said he has seen the significance of Art of the Rural, primarily on its impact with younger generations.
Swanson, curator at the Minnesota Marine Art Musem in Winona, said he also believes in the power of young engagement. Swanson first met Fluharty when
Fluharty was contemplating moving to the area and setting up the Outpost.
Swanson said he has often seen college students leave Winona after graduation because of the need for a larger city feel. With festivals Mid West Music Fest and Boats and Bluegrass, Swanson said he believes the addition of Outpost to the Winona scene will only be a more attractive feature to young graduates looking for a place to call home.
“I’d like to be able to retain some people that want to live here and have a better quality of life,” Swanson said. “Just trying to build a better community to live in.”
As Art of the Rural began to support more rural arts and works, it also became more engaged with larger organizations, such as M12 Studios, motivated by the same goal of promoting the rural arts, Fluharty said.
According to Richard Saxton, director of M12 Studios, working with Fluharty has enhanced his creativity and work.
“I think we’re kind of a sounding board for each other,” Saxton said. “What I do as an artist directing M12, and what he does with the Art of the Rural, there are some crossovers there. We’re friends as well as colleagues.”
M12 Studios, according to Fluharty, enters into a community and builds off its culture, creating statues and exhibitions within small rural communities. Art of the Rural, meanwhile, has more of a digital platform and outreach, Fluharty said. M12 Studios will utilize the Outpost in Winona as a space for most of its exhibitions, Fluharty added.
“I think it’s actually a really nice synergy, because between the two, we’re really talking and engaging with folks across a pretty wide series of disciplines and sectors,” Fluharty said.
Building personal connections
Art of the Rural began because of a farm, but it was in the city of St. Louis, Missouri where Fluharty said he started to understand its need.
Fluharty said he did have doubts about his ability to promote the meaning to this organization, as he remembered thinking about one day when he was dropping off his son Will at day care in St. Louis, Missouri.
He had a busy day of phone calls and meetings about rural culture scheduled for that day, and as he was dropping off Will, he began to realize he was raising his son outside of what he taught and studied.
“I had this moment of realization where I thought ‘Will isn’t rural.’ Like I’m talking about rural America and rural culture, and here I am taking my son to day care in St. Louis,” Fluharty said. “And for about 30 seconds that like kind of shook me on some level.”
The realization, according to Fluharty, eventually only encouraged him to keep pursuing what he was teaching and to understand the significance of the fluidity among rural and urban communities.
There has also been another father-son relationship in Fluharty’s life that has been impacted by his studies, Fluharty said.
Fluharty said his organization has brought him and his father together, which was something Fluharty said he would not have seen as possible when he was younger.
According to Fluharty, his father had always wanted to create a cultural center about the history of northern Appalachian culture and was always interested in rural economy and policy.
Meanwhile, as Fluharty grew up, Fluharty became more engaged in rural arts and culture. In the pair’s conversations together as Fluharty began Art of the Rural, he said they realized their goals were more common than different.
“You can do all the arts and culture you want, but if the economic development isn’t happening and if it’s not inclusive and we’re not welcoming young people, we’re still going to fail,” Fluharty said. “So it’s those three things coming together, and that I think to some degree was just the subject of just a lot of conversations we had as I got older and Art of the Rural began to grow a bit.”
Now, Fluharty’s organization has begun to work closer with economic policy and laws as a way to build and share the culture in small towns.
Fluharty’s father has since gone back to farming with Fluharty’s brother on the farm he took over from their grandparents, Fluharty’s father’s parents.
Back to the river that started it all
Fluharty said he envisions Outpost as a space designed after a building in Des Moines, Iowa. This building is an old fire station turned community center that on any given night can host events from open mic night to wrestling in the same building. Eventually the groups meet in the common area for food and drinks, intermingling among their interests and hobbies, he said.
“Maybe they’re sharing a snack or they’re having a drink together, and they’re building a really different kind of set of relationships there that you can’t make that happen,” Fluharty said.
Outpost has already hosted events, but it will officially open on from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 5 as it hosts Winona Characters Portrait Photography project by Swanson. The project includes 147 portraits of random people in Winona, with an age range of three months to 80 years old.
The project, Swanson said, is perfect for the Outpost.
“It directly aligns with their core values and their missions,” Swanson said., “bringing art to an audience in smaller more rural communities.”
As for his ongoing project with Art of the Rural in Winona, Fluharty said they will be examining towns along the Mississippi River understand how the arts, cultures and economies are all interwoven together.
Landing in Winona as Art of the Rural continues this project and its outreac, Fluharty said, was just fate.
Simplicity and uniqueness are at the core of the new Island City Brewing Company’s philosophy.
Simple in design and original in beer choices, the brewery has been a venue for Winona residents, since it opened on 65 E. Front Street on Friday, March 17.
I was able to attend the brewery on a Thursday afternoon; at a time people decide to buy a beer after work, as a study break or to just relax.
Colton Altobell, owner of the brewery, welcomed me and offered me a beer of my choice. With his short but right to-the-point description of each beer, I picked the one I thought I would enjoy the most, called the ‘High Forest.’
While we were chatting, I also noticed four posters hanging by the taproom that characterized each beer. It definitely helped me to make my choice.
The beers at the brewery are full of personality – whether it is a light or dark ale.
Altobell said the original idea was to offer a range of flavors that would allow both beer lovers and beginners to find their own favorite drink.
“We create a variation of styles, unique to our brewery,” he said.
Their choice of flavors tries to meet seasonal demands too. At this time of the year, Altobell said it is more appropriate to offer lighter beer, compared to a fall season that will see darker color in prevalence. To him, it feels instinctual to make these considerations.
Since the opening, the IPA style beer, the current most popular style of beer, has been the most consumed at the Island City, Altobell said.
I thought the detailed menu guided customers through their decision. The beers are divided into styles, alcohol by volume content, availability, malt and hops and there is also a description for each kind, with suggested food pairings.
The menu referred to Latsch Local as a California Common style of beer, with firm, grainy maltiness and caramel flavors that give it a fruity taste. Altobell said Latsch Local is a light ale with a cold press coffee flavor in it.
Typically, coffee beer is darker but the one at the brewery is lighter. I could taste the coffee right away, and the beer afterwards. It was an unusual experience for me, and I through the two flavors did not go well together.
The Lost Compass beer is an IPA style, with an alcohol by volume content of 5.2 percent, a northwest pale malt and different kinds of hops. The beer is described as balanced, layered with depth and character, releasing something new with each sip. I liked it more than the first one, and thought it left a strong sour flavor in my mouth.
The third choice, and the one I picked, is the High Forest, a red ale style beer, light in alcohol and calories, with an alcohol by volume content of 3.5 percent and pilgrim hops. The description said the beer emerged on the idea of the color red, and the red ale delivers “supreme refreshment in the simplest way possible.”
Sometimes, I find myself having a hard time finishing a whole beer, but the red ale was definitely simple in flavor and easy to drink.
For the last choice, the Moonlight White, Altobell warned me I would taste a bitterness flavor.
Traditionally, Altobell said this beer is served with fruit or herbal syrups for added sweetness and complementary flavors. The bitter flavor, he added, comes from the hops, which give aroma to the beer.
The beer is a Berliner Weisse style, with an alcohol by volume content of 5.6 percent, pilgrim hops and wheat malt. It is described as a northern variation of the white beer style enhanced with complex flavors of stone, fruit and citrus.
Half of beer drinkers like the Moonlight White and half do not, Altobell said.
I had a chance to try the last beer with an additional cranberry juice flavor, and I thought it was too sweet with the extra flavor.
“It just depends on how you’re feeling. This is supposed to be a fun experience,” Altobell said.
When someone comes in the brewery, Altobell said he talks to the customers and tries to recommend a kind they would enjoy. Sometimes, people change their minds on a specific flavor, as they explore their options.
After sampling the beers, I was glad I chose the smooth, simply flavored red ale.
Half way through my beer, I watched Beertender Jovy Rockey serving customers at the counter and cleaning up the empty beers on the tables. Beer glasses of all sizes were set on the back shelves of the taproom, which Rockey kept filling as customers were coming and leaving.
When Altobell was thinking about a name for his brewery, he wanted to conjure a positive connotation and said Island City connected with the history of Winona, which used to be referred to as the Island City.
In the past, Winona was home to a brewery called Bub’s Brewing Company, Altobell said. It closed in 1969, and later the building was turned into an antique store.
“Breweries have always provided a product local people can enjoy,” Altobell said. “It’s deep rooted in Winona’s history.”
Growing up in town, Altobell was aware of the needs of the population, and thought Winona would be a perfect place to open a brewery because beer is a well-consumed product in the area.
He said a varied population of students, locals and tourists who pass through town would enjoy local products. By talking to a few residents in Winona, he saw the opportunity to do something different and create a place for gatherings and events.
Before starting the brewery, Altobell ran a youth summer camp for 10 years in Northern Minnesota, where he connected with his partner Tommy Rodengen, who had been involved in the brewery business for a while. After camp, Altobell worked in the Twin Cities in a few breweries.
While he was defining his business plan with Rodengen, Altobell said they had a complementary skill set that would work well if they started a business together. The two spent six months doing market research and finding the equipment they needed.
“Where Tommy had learned the brewing process, I picked up more on the operations side and the tail end of the brewing process, packaging and carbonating,” Altobell said.
One of the biggest issues was finding a place that was spacious enough to fit all the tanks where beer is produced and a taproom. The building itself, he said, has a lot of character on its own. His team tried to expose the building back to its roots and make it a warm and welcoming environment.
With the renovation, Altobell said he was able to put together with his partner a space that conveyed both a sense of antique with the wooden tables and the use of bricks, but also a sense of strong place in Winona.
“I wanted to feel connected to the history of beer and brewery of the town,” Altobell said.
The wood and the soft light are additional details to make the space feel more comfortable. Some people play cards while others study or spend time with friends.
“We didn’t have a specific mindset,” Altobell said. “We wanted to create something that would fit.”
When I first walked in, almost every table was full. The light was filtering through big square windows that afternoon, warming up the room. Soft music playing in the background was a lovely addition that allowed guests to talk while enjoying their beers.
An hour later, the tables were all taken, requiring some guests to stand by the taproom. A couple of young men were playing cards while a group of five people sat down the longest wood table in the center of the room. An older man who was part of the group said they had just left a funeral, to explain why they were wearing black.
The design of the room was balanced and logical: the owner made all of the uses of a brewery fit in one space. While workers produce the beer at the end of the room, guests in the taproom taste the final product of that work.
The space gave me a sense of order and cleanliness. There were a few small vases on the windowsills and the right amount of tables for both customers and workers to easily move through the room.
I was also caught by the well-thought proximity of the bricks with the adjacent wall that showed a hand painted map of Winona. It made the entryway look more inviting. The contrasting vibrant red tones of the bricks and the warm tones of the wall seemed like a perfect combination of colors to convey that sense of antique, and relaxation.
It seemed to me as if I was brought back in time.
When I went back to the brewery on a Friday night, the atmosphere was different. More than 50 people were talking. Some were standing and others were sitting in groups. In the back of the room, I noticed a buffet and some cupcakes and later found out most of the people were celebrating a birthday.
Customer Irina Holahan said it was her second time visiting the brewery and she had already tried all the beers. On Friday, she was with her husband and a group of friends from work, who had not been to the brewery before.
“I can really find myself here. I like that it’s different from the typical bars downtown,” she said. “Winona needed a change.”
Customer Bradley Larson was at the brewery on a weekend and said he wanted to play some games but the room was busy and he was not able to use them.
Larson added the brewery could have offered food options, and he thought there were not enough choices of beers.
“They only have four as of now, but I would expect that to change as they gain a better footing, especially during fall and winter, at a time different types of beers are brewed,” he said.
That brought me to thinking small food options could accompany the beers and make the experience even more pleasing.
Because it was more crowded than Thursday, waiters were collecting empty glasses and washing them non-stop through the night. Some customers were placing their empty glasses with a pile that had accumulated on the end corner of the counter of the taproom.
As Altobell was going over the brewing process, he said beer is made with four basic ingredients: water, grain, hops and yeast. From those four ingredients, it is possible to produce an endless variety of products, he said.
Altobell said beer making requires a lot of treatment and his team is careful with all steps of the process, such as water treatment, boiling and fermentation. When the grain has been milled, mixed with hot water and the sweet wort has been separated from the grains, fermentation begins. During this step, the yeast will convert the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Carbonation will then naturally occur from fermentation.
Island City Brewing Company Cellarman James Scudamore is in charge of parts of the brewing process, such as the monitoring of the yeast and fermentation. He has helped Altobell since October, when they were renovating the place.
“I enjoy working with the guys. I’m always open to new ideas and experimentation,” Scudamore said. “It’s nice to be able to work in this environment.”
Four people work on the production site, he said, and six on the taproom.
The taproom is Winona’s space to use for meetings, artists and music events, Altobell said.
Without a TV in the room, Altobell wants his brewery to become a place where people can commune with each other, talk, study and relax. The music is quite low, similar to a coffee house in a way, he said.
Through April, the brewery will be a venue for Mid West Music Fest and have more music on the weekends during daytime.
During the following months, Altobell plans to expand his choices of beers to eight and create an established landmark place in Winona. His hope is to be able to distribute the beer in liquor stores, bars and restaurants and expand his mark out from Winona in nearby areas as well.
Altobell said, “We have the capacity to brew a big volume of beer, more than we can consume.”
The Island City Brewing Company is an ideal place for a town that welcomes a great beer culture.
Michael Krug has never received the flu vaccination because he is skeptical about the efficacy of the drug itself.
For Johnna Miller, vaccinating against the flu is one of her priorities when flu season begins.
Krug and Miller, graduate students at Winona State University, have contrasting ideas about vaccinations. No matter if they decided to vaccinate against the flu this year, they both had to show proof of certain vaccinations in order to be enrolled at the university.
According to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, vaccination requirements changed over time and continued to be updated as new vaccines were developed for more diseases. Since the 1940s, some vaccines have been added while others have been removed or replaced.
Polio immunization was recommended in the 1950s, and tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella appeared in the 1970s. A vaccine for hepatitis B was added in the mid-1990s.
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia also stated by the 1990s, all 50 states required students to receive certain immunizations in order to attend classes.
Mitzi Girtler, a licensed school nurse and the coordinator of health services at Winona Public Schools, said vaccination recommendations are not the same in every country.
In the U.S., she said, school immunizations laws are not imposed by the federal government, but by the individual states. For instance, the state of Minnesota has different requirements than the state of Wisconsin.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the law requires all children seven years of age and older to show proof of vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, mmr (measles, mumps and rubella), hepatitis B, varicella and meningococcal.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, children entering kindergarten through fifth grade, and sixth through 12 must have received a specific amount of doses of polio, hepatitis B, mmr (measles, mumps and rubella) and varicella vaccines depending on the age group.
Students who enroll in college have to show proof they have been vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and diphteria, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Any student who fails to show proof of vaccinations within the first 45 days after first enrollment cannot remain enrolled.
Despite the requirements, not every individual is in favor of vaccinations.
Girtler said some people and communities object to school immunizations because they disagree with the mandates and have religious or personal beliefs that are in disagreement with vaccinations.
Other factors imply a lack of confidence, uncertainty toward the effectiveness of the vaccine and increased perceived risk of side effects of the vaccine, Girtler said.
Individuals who do not want to immunize their children, she said, can request an exemption to address their concerns.
In Minnesota, the Department of Health may allow exemptions from immunizations if a statement signed by a physician is submitted to the administrator, or in case of conscientiously held beliefs of the parents.
Depending on each state, some communities of people, she said, will not follow the state requirements. For instance, she said home school families typically are against vaccinations.
Vaccine hesitancy refers to those parents who show concerns about the decision to vaccinate one’s self or one’s children, according to Daniel Salmon, author of an article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The article specifies the number of parents who claim non-medical exemptions to school immunization requirements has been increasing over the past decade. Other causes of vaccine hesitancy may include the fear of allergic reactions, the inability of parents to control the risks of adverse reactions, and the possibility the child’s immune system might be weakened.
The influenza vaccination is one of the immunizations parents are skeptical about, Girtler said.
In terms of influenza vaccination, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported on the national early-season flu vaccination coverage with findings showing approximately 40 percent of all persons and 37 percent of children were vaccinated by early November 2016.
The late flu season vaccination report from 2013 to 2016 showed 45 percent of all persons and almost 60 percent of children were vaccinated against the flu.
The CDC noted efforts are needed to increase the percentage of the population vaccinated during the next few months in order to reduce the burden of flu.
The CDC showed the percentage of vaccinations in Minnesota is higher compared to other states, with a coverage in 2010-11 through 2015-2016 of 49.7 percent of all persons that is compared to a 42.7 percentage in Wisconsin.
Winona Senior High School, Girtler said, is an example of schools in Minnesota where vaccination trends are high.
Girtler said the school claims a high percentage of the required vaccinations needed to be registered, with over 96 percent of the students being fully vaccinated.
The school does not provide the vaccine but encourages students and families to go to their health care provider.
Because immunizations are a state law requirement, Girtler said the high school acts as a gatekeeper, and keeps track of them through school attendance.
The district’s immunization plan includes three groups of students: incoming kindergarteners, seventh graders, and new students coming in from another state or district.
With kindergarteners and seventh-graders, the district makes sure to contact the families months before the beginning of school, letting them know about the state requirements. Parents of the incoming students will individually meet with school officials.
The school officials send alerts to parents of sixth graders, similar to a phone system of advertising, she said. Girtler said the school encourages vaccinations in an effort to protect students who cannot be vaccinated due to health reasons or allergies.
Students who do not have the proper vaccinations at the beginning of the school year will usually get the shot right after they have been notified. The district, she said, occasionally has to turn away a student or two due to a lack of immunization.
“We provide them resources and try to find funding or transportation if needed,” she said.
In the Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau school district in Wisconsin, Registered Nurse Barbara Hogden said almost every student in the school is vaccinated. Only 37 out of 1,392 students have personal waivers, exempting them to immunize, she said.
Hogden said 103 students decided to get the influenza vaccination at the school, and the other children had the choice to get it through their health care provider.
This year, Hogden said there were only three cases of influenza at the school because most of the students are vaccinated. The few who decide not to vaccinate usually do not believe in the vaccines, or they do not have enough information about them, she said.
For those parents who are in contradiction with the vaccines, Hogden said she encourages them to gather information from reliable online sources and to talk to their health care provider.
“Parents should always weigh both sides and do their research,” Hogden said. “There is a lot of information out there; they just need to look for it.”
While parents determine children’s necessity of receiving a flu vaccination, college students like Krug and Miller, can decide whether to vaccinate on their own.
Krug said he is skeptical about flu shots because he read online the vaccine protects against three types of the virus only, though there are more; and the virus constantly changes.
“I have always trusted that with good hygiene and proper nourishment, I can stay healthy for the most part,” Krug said.
On the other side of the spectrum, Miller takes advantage of the flu shot every year.
Miller said she is glad the flu vaccine is so easily accessible for students, especially in a college environment where germs are passed easily. The flu, she said, can spread quickly, and have a large impact on a population.
Vaccination requirements, Miller said, should be recommended but not mandatory because people need to have a say in what they receive in their bodies. She said she thought it is important to get vaccinated not only for a person’s health, but for the health of a whole community.
“When different things are forced or required, they can have negative connotations associated with them,” Miller said.
Winona State University Registered Nurse Joyce Peckover said the Health and Wellness Services on campus administered about 350 flu shot vaccinations this academic year.
The Health and Wellness Services is able to administer immunizations for several diseases, and the flu shots are available at the clinic for $25 billed to a student’s insurance. Peckover said the shot is covered by most students’ health insurance under preventable care.
According to Peckover, the amount of flu shots the university administers depends on whether there has been a bad outbreak of influenza across the U.S. In that case, she said, the following year people are more willing to vaccinate against the flu because they are afraid they might get sick again. This year, influenza started later than usual, with a peak in January, she said.
When students walk into the Health and Wellness Services for an appointment, Peckover said the registered nurses try to encourage the flu shots. Sometimes, students decide not to be vaccinated because they do not believe in the vaccine, or they have never taken it before.
Peckover is in charge of the Ask-A-Nurse line, and said she often receives calls from parents who want to keep track of their son’s or daughter’s health and ask if they have received the shot. Other times, the students purposely will not get vaccinated because of their parents’ decision.
Until the flu shots expire in June, Peckover said she will keep administering flu shots. Health and Wellness Services collaborate with the health promotion center to encourage flu shots via online and across the university through informative posters.
“We are always looking for new ways to encourage it,” Peckover said. “As much as we market the flu shot, it’s never enough.”
Peckover said the registered nurses work together with nursing students every fall, and set up a flu shot clinic to make it more convenient for students to stop by the booth during their lunch break.
Peckover said it is important to educate on flu shots because they can prevent serious illnesses and doctors’ visits. At the academic level, she said students who get influenza might be absent from classes for a few days, and lower their performance.
According to the CDC, an annual seasonal flu vaccine can keep people from getting sick with influenza, reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, and protect people with chronic health conditions who are more vulnerable to flu illnesses.
No matter if individuals have had a flu shot or not, in order to prevent influenza and the spread of germs, Peckover said getting good nutrition and resting helps to keep the immune system built up.
The CDC recommends avoiding contact with sick people, covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu and others.
“Everything comes down to prevention,” Peckover said. “Our goal is to provide education and prevent diseases to stay healthy.”
Despite the high percentages of student vaccinations in the Winona area public schools, in some cases, Girtler said students could be sent home from school because they do not have the proper vaccinations, or proof of exemptions from them. Kindergarten is the time they can first be blocked from schools, she said.
Rochester public schools recently did not allow 80 students to attend classes in the school building because they did not submit the paperwork before the deadline on March 1.
The district notified the families whose children did not have all the required vaccinations from Jan. 27 through Feb. 20, but they were not successful in providing the documents.
Both Girtler and Hogden said diseases, which used to be common in the U.S., including polio, measles, diphtheria and rubella, can now be prevented with vaccination.
Those parents who are against vaccinations were not alive when polio spread all over the country and are not aware of the number of people who died from it, Hogden said.
Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, author of an article on vaccine refusals, said parents think vaccine-preventable diseases are rare these days, and their memory of these diseases may be fading.
Some of the recent measles outbreaks prove those beliefs wrong. Girtler said California experienced a large, multi-state measles outbreak at Disneyland in 2015 from a traveler who became infected overseas with measles. Other measles cases occured quickly afterwards.
Girtler said in order to encourage more vaccinations in the future, interventions are needed on the individual level. She said health care providers are the best source of information for individuals who are hesitant to immunize their children.
One-on-one conversations usually work best because parents are able to listen closely to an expert’s opinion on the matter, she said.
“We are encouraging vaccinations to protect not only children, but the whole community,” Girtler said. “This is a public concern.”
As they lifted their arms gently and steadily in different directions, the flowing movements of a group of 30 older adults were coordinated in grace and balance.
Tai Chi is one of the most popular classes offered at the Winona Friendship Center that gathers many on a weekly basis, Malia Fox, director of the Friendship Center said.
With more than a thousand members and a great number of programs, the Friendship Center is suffering from a lack of space. This has caused concern among members and administrators at the center.
To accommodate all of its programs, Fox said the center has expressed the desire to move to a different location.
“The process has been going at a slow pace but I see this happening soon,” Fox said.
Back in the 1960s, the Winona Friendship Center was located at the west and east ends of town, then it moved to the Valley View Tower in 1969 as people were starting to show more interest. In 1980, the center opened on the first floor of the Historic Masonic Theater on Main Street and has been there since.
“We needed a more permanent home,” Fox said.
The committee knew the demographic of the center would continue to grow and could have used the second floor of the building as well. That never occurred, Fox said.
During an Engage Winona event a couple years ago, many people said changes at the center were needed. The event revolved around a series of focus groups that asked participants questions regarding issues and problems the community was facing and ways to improve them.
“Out of all the ideas, one of them was to pull a community center together,” Fox said.
According to Fox, this idea would involve children to senior citizens. One of the main goals of the center, which goes along with a new location, would aim to dismiss ageist attitudes and get past culturally driven myths.
“We wanted to break down the myth that some classes or activities are meant for older adults only,” Fox said. “We need to engage with everyone. We can’t know about each other’s issues if we are not in relationship.”
Winona Friendship Center Program Coordinator Laura Hoberg said a new intergenerational development component would allow people of all ages to take part in programs together.
Sometimes, Hoberg said, people think older adults do not want to be connected with younger people. Members at the center see the new multi-generational center as a great opportunity to engage in meaningful and different kinds of interactions.
“There’s a really positive feeling from the community members,” Hoberg said. “Everybody brings different perspectives and ideas.”
A new location would meet some of the center’s needs in terms of changing the layout of the center that, Fox said, is not conducive for the members. In a recent evaluation, Fox said people felt uncomfortable walking through the main hall to access other rooms in the building. Because of the layout, sounds easily travel down the hallway, which might distract members who are taking a class.
Moreover, Fox is aware the center lacks a parking lot and does not provide an easy access to the main door.
According to Fox, the process of relocation may take years.
Some of the concerns include costs involved, and replacement of the center with another potential structure. The center is seeking to relocate either at the East Recreation Center or become part of a collaborative project between Winona Health and the Winona YMCA.
Despite its need for a bigger structure, the center has continued to grow through the years. Being the only structure in the state of Minnesota that is nationally accredited, Fox said, members in Winona have access to the best programs and facilities.
“People rely on us; they feel welcomed,” Fox said. “Their voices are heard.”
Diane Stevens was one of the members following the soft melody playing in the background as she was trying to maintain a straight posture.
For Stevens, Thai Chi was the answer to her physical health.
Stevens has been involved with the Tai Chi class at the Winona Friendship Center for more than 10 years and is taking an arthritis class as well. She said she had to take some time off when she started having serious health problems.
“I was in the back of the room in a wheel chair and worked my way up to the front,” Stevens said. “I wouldn’t be walking if it wasn’t for Thai Chi.”
Stevens said she believes the center could improve its space, because it is currently offering a big room only, where most of the activities take place, and smaller ones that do not fit large groups of people.
Through the years, member Dorothy Duellman has learned how the center operates and noticed how a bigger space would allow instructors to set up activities in separate rooms, without having to rush from one activity to another, she said. Ideally, she would like to see a swimming pool as well.
Duellman has been a member of the center since 2004 and said she visits the wellness center three times a week to keep herself active and plays cards from time to time.
“A lot of the programs help seniors stay more active and healthy,” Duellman said.
With her experience as a long-term member, Duellman said she appreciates how the center is always looking for new, innovative ways to help older adults and support them.
“It’s really a growing organization,” Duellman said.
One of the programs that has been consistent over time is the health and wellness center, which attracts many for exercise programs from yoga mat to zumba classes. Recently, the center has seen a push towards educational programming, encouraging older adults to be challenged not only physically, but also mentally.
About 100 people walk through the building’s main door every day for many different programs, Fox said. Many members today join the center after being in rehabilitation, and hope to continue their healing process there. Others attend the center for their own physical wellbeing.
Although the members bring to the center their own history and interests, for one to two hours of their day, they have the chance to be reunited in one place and take advantage of the center’s numerous programs.
“It’s a wonderful place,” Duellman said. “What I like about the center is that it focuses on keeping people healthy. It doesn’t separate people; it involves them in the community.”
As warmer weather starts to hit the Winona State campus again, so do the bike thieves.
Scott Bestul, the assistant security director on campus, said that so far in 2016 there have been five reports of stolen bikes on WSU campus. He also disclosed that open investigations could not be counted as of yet.
Most of the thefts occurred at East Lake and around Kryszko Commons.
In addition to the five bike thefts, there have been two reports of missing bike parts.
According to Bestul, some thieves steal and stockpile front tires, and even the seats.
With seven recorded thefts before the peak bicycle season mid-spring, Bestul said that the theft numbers remain fairly consistent from year-to-year.
“I’ve been here five years, I haven’t seen a drastic change one way or the other,” he said.
Many of the investigations don’t end in a recovery. 2014 WSU graduate Joe Klehr is one of many students on campus that never got his stolen bike back.
“My bike was stolen [in 2012] and I never found it,” Klehr said. “I snooped around campus for my bike a few times and kept my eyes open until I graduated, but it never turned up.”
Klehr took matters into his own hands when his roommate’s bike was stolen, and later turned up at Winona State’s Integrated Wellness Complex.
“After sharing my story, I realized lots of people shared that same story,” Klehr said. “My roommate’s bike also got jacked [in 2014] and we found that baby locked up by the IWC. I ended up cutting the chain from the thieves lock, and stole it back. It didn’t get taken again.”
While unorthodox, Klehr felt that the options to get his roommate’s bike back otherwise were slim.
“I didn’t report the crime because I just assumed the police had bigger issues to resolve,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t know how the police could find a stolen bike anyway. The option of cutting the lock just seemed like the quickest solution without involving unnecessary parties.”
2015 graduate Will Ahlberg had three bikes stolen from him during his time at Winona State.
“One of my bikes was stolen outside my house, one was stolen after I forgot to lock it up for 10 minutes during the day, and one was taken by someone with a cable cutter just snapping my lock off,” Ahlberg said. “The last bike that was stolen by the cable cutters I had actually built myself completely so that one stung quite a bit.”
Bestul said that some bikes that are recovered by the Winona Police Department are kept for up to six months at a place commonly known as the “bike barn.” After six months, the bikes are auctioned off. If nobody claims them before or during the auctions, the bikes are destroyed.
Ahlberg had no such luck at the bike barn.
“Never recovered any of them,” he said. “I reported the last two to the police and they said I had to go to the warehouse to try and find it, but it was only open one day a week for like two hours, and I always had class right over that time so I never had a chance to even go and try to find them again.”
Bestul says the best thing for students to do to avoid theft is to thoroughly document their bikes, including a serial number.
“When filing a report we like to have a detailed description of the bicycle, whether or not anyone else had access to the lock combination or key, the exact location from where it was stolen, and the date and time it was last seen,” Bestul said. “The students can file reports with WSU security and the Winona Police Department. We encourage and prefer both.”
That said, Bestul also recommends that students ensure their bikes are correctly secured with the right equipment.
To register a bicycle with the City of Winona, click here.
To report a lost bicycle with the City of Winona, click here.
To view recovered bicycles at the Bike Barn, viewings are on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 11:00 a.m. For more information, click here.
Winona State University’s newly appointed director of security, Chris Cichosz, officially began his duties this past Monday.
Cichosz, a Winona native, received his associate’s degree in law enforcement from Rochester Community and Technical College, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology from the University of Wyoming, and a master’s degree in public safety executive leadership from St. Cloud State University. For the past 15 years, Cichosz has worked for the Winona County Sheriff’s Office, serving as an assistant detention deputy, patrol deputy, K-9 handler, narcotics and violent crimes investigator and chief deputy.
Cichosz will be responsible for the coordination and management of security departments at both Winona State University and Southeast Technical College. Cichosz said he hopes to bring a more holistic approach to campus security by combatting underlying issues.
“I try to take a big picture approach not just a ‘take care of that one incident’—more try to take care of what’s causing whatever it may be or how we can make it better in the long run—not just right now,” Cichosz said.
As part of this approach, Cichosz said he plans to conduct more active training in the form of practical drills. He plans to build off of some of the training Donald Walski, the former director of security, brought to the university. These include active shooter training or response options to train derailments.
Cichosz said these drills will help better prepare students, faculty, and staff to deal with potential crisis situations on campus.
Cichosz explained he’s had opportunities to attend many different types of training.
“I’ve been able to take in a lot in a short amount of time that has kind of really influenced how I look at things overall,” Cichosz said.
By raising the stress level, Cichosz said, practical drills become more akin to real life. This, as a result, better prepares participants to respond accordingly to actual crisis scenarios.
“That’s how I trained in law enforcement, and that’s how that stuff seems to sink in with people more,” Cichosz said.
Cichosz expressed his interest in returning to a university setting. He said he had always wanted to return to Wyoming where he completed his undergraduate degree. Now that he has a family, Cichosz said the idea was out of the question.
“This opportunity for director of security at Winona State presented itself and it was a good opportunity for my family and I as we progress in our lives,” Cichosz said. “I kind of seized the moment.”
Cichosz said he had always looked forward to teaching in some capacity and feels this new position will allow him to be involved in through daily campus interactions.
“I don’t necessarily think I have to be teaching classes to teach students,” Cichosz said.
In addition, Cichosz said his biggest priority as director will be to improve and maintain relationships between the university and the Winona community as a whole.
Don Walski, who previously served as director of security, said he has known Cichosz for several years. Walski stressed getting to know the staff and establishing close relationships on campus. Walski is confident Cichosz will succeed in his new role at the university.
“He’s a great guy. He’ll do a really good job,” Walski said.
Cichosz said Walski has been a great resource both during the application process and since starting as director.
“I talked with Don a lot going through this process,” Cichosz said, “[To get] a sense of an idea of what this all entails and what am I getting into?”
Cichosz said he plans to keep in contact with Walski as he has been invaluable in learning all he can about this position.
“He has obviously done a good job of keeping the campus safe and I’d like to try to expand on that,” Cichosz said.
Cichosz said his first week on the job has been a flurry of meetings and introductions. He is confident he will settle into the position quickly. Cichosz said he is looking forward to working with a diverse group of students and campus personnel.
“This is a good opportunity to get into that type of environment and to be in that situation,” Cichosz said.
Click the link below for a brief video newscast on Cichosz & what he believes are the biggest security issues facing Winona State University:
Winona State University hosted the latest in its monthly panel series on gender-based violence this past Monday, Feb. 15. As a joint effort between the Minnesota State University Student Association (MSUSA) and Winona State’s RE Initiative Club, a panel is held each month focusing on gender-based violence in the community. Monday’s panel focused on how gender-based violence specifically affects males.
According to a prepared statement from the club, Winona State University’s RE Initiative supports survivors of gender-based violence, and works to create a culture of respect and responsibility within the community. According to Kathreen Smith, President of the RE Initiative on campus, these panels begin a dialog about gender-based violence on campus. Smith said the panels are Q-and-A format, but often delve into more intricate discussions.
“Normally one question turns into a really great educational discussion,” Smith said.
According to her, they’ve been averaging around 30 attendees at each event. Numbers for Monday’s panel were in line with previous events.
Monday’s panel consisted of six men: two faculty members and four students.
Hunter Beckstrom, a junior who works in the RE Initiative as a peer advocate, served as moderator for the panel.
Before the Q-and-A began panelist Jacob Stock, a Women and Gender Studies (WAGS) minor, began by defining gender-based violence. Stock said it’s used as an umbrella term to refer to any type of violence in which gender plays a role. This can include sexual assault, harassment, stalking, domestic violence, and partner violence. Stock explained that typically this violence is perpetrated by males.
“As our training goes, it is most often the male figure perpetrating these crimes against a female figure, but of course there are exceptions to that as well,” Stock said.
Much of the panel’s discussion revolved around redefining masculinity, and the difficulties that brings. Ben Strand, a panelist and Senior Journalism major, said men often feel restricted by traditional definitions of masculinity and are pressured to conform to those guidelines.
“If males don’t fit into this spectrum of what is defined as masculinity in our society, then they feel like because they don’t fit in they don’t belong,” Strand said.
Stock explained males are typically socialized to be more violent and domineering throughout their lives, which contributes to this stereotypical idea of masculinity.
Alexander Hines, WSU’s Director of Inclusion and Diversity, was also on the panel. He gave an example of male socialization with an activity he frequently does with young men. He asks them to come up with 20 words that come to mind when they think about what it means to be a man. In this activity, Hines said the word that doesn’t come up is the most disconcerting.
“They talk about power, control and respect,” Hines said.
According to Hines, the word they don’t use is love.
“If you don’t love yourself, how are you going to love the body of that female?” Hines said.
WSU Student Senate President and panelist Joshua Hanson explained how society tells males they are supposed to act a certain way. Men are raised to believe they’re entitled to the privileges they’ve grown accustomed to, even though that’s not the case.
“It starts from boyhood and how you are told about masculinity,” Hanson said.
As an example, Beckstrom said walking home late at night in Winona, is radically different for males and females.
“Girls walking home at night have to have a whole game plan,” Beckstrom said, “I just walk home, it doesn’t matter where I go or what I do.”
A portion of the discussion revolved around portrayals of men in the media and how that contributes to societal ideals of masculinity and assumptions based on gender. The panelists emphasized critical analysis of the media along with the importance of continually questioning the messages it sends. Strand said people should ask themselves why certain characters or people are portrayed in a certain way.
To emphasize the importance of events like this, Beckstrom cited a statistic. Although Winona State is regarded as a safe campus, according to the most recent campus climate survey, it’s at the national average of one in five women being sexually assaulted during their lifetime. Hanson emphasized that having a conversation about these issues isn’t always easy.
“The conversations that you have to have aren’t always comfortable,” Hanson said. “You can’t be comfortable always in this work.”
As the panel neared its end, the focus shifted to advice on how attendees could prevent future gender-based violence.
“The conversation that we are having here tonight shouldn’t be ended when the last question is asked and the final answer is given,” Strand said. “It needs to extend beyond this room here,” Strand said.
After the panel concluded, Alexander Hines stressed the importance of greater faculty and administration attendance at these events. Hines said that getting figures of the university to participate in these types of events would help to spread this message.
The next panel in this series will take place March 25 in Stark 103 at 7 p.m. and will focus on how gender-based violence affects people of color.
Strand on his personal commitment to stopping GBV:
This weekend marked the 58th annual running of the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s most prestigious race. Since its inception in 1959, Daytona has served as one of the most iconic tracks NASCAR visits. A lot has changed since then; the cars have changed, the rules have changed, and the drivers have changed since the infant stages of NASCAR.
Yet one thing remains the same; go faster than the rest.
Rushford, Minnesota’s, Ernie Tuff, 85, knows how to go fast, especially at Daytona International Speedway. He was dubbed “The World’s Fastest Man” after building an engine for Edward Glenn “Fireball” Roberts for the 1964 NASCAR Modified Sportsman Division race at Daytona International Speedway.
“Fireball was the greatest racecar driver in the world,” said Tuff in a recent interview. Roberts, a 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee collected 33 NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) wins, but he often preferred to dabble in the Modified Sportsman Division, where the cars were faster than the Grand National cars.
Back in the ’60s, there were two NASCAR divisions; the top-tier division was the NASCAR Grand National Series.
This series featured names like Richard Petty and David Pearson. There was a strict set of rules that every team, car and driver had to follow.
The second-tier series was the NASCAR Modified Sportsman Division. There were virtually no rules in this division, except that the car had to be at least three years older than the current model year. It was a proving ground where drivers tried to make a name for themselves and garner the attention of high-profile teams to get a shot at racing at the Grand National level.
Generally, the Grand National Series ran on Sundays, with the companion Modified Sportsman Division racing on Saturdays.
Compared to today’s NASCAR, the Modified Sportsman Division parallels the NASCAR Xfinty Series, the “AAA” of NASCAR.
Tuff is “a self-made man,” said local racing historian Dale Danielski.
Tuff said he looks up to people like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, and it is evident with the historic photos hanging on the walls of his property. He said one of the reasons he was attracted to Ford and Edison was because they liked to tinker around and build things with their hands. So did Tuff. And he still works on project cars to this day.
Tuff never finished high school, quitting after eighth grade because he felt the stuffiness of a classroom didn’t let his creativity flow. “I would be sitting in the classroom, thinking about how to make a motor work,” said Tuff. “Not thinking about the math problems.”
Studying the life and career of Henry Ford closely, his allegiance was to the Ford Motor Company. “I didn’t like Chevys,” he said with a straight face. “Anyone who knew anything was racing a Ford.”
After a successful career as an engine builder at the local level, building engines for Jerry Richert and Scratch Daniels, among others, Tuff decided to give NASCAR a shot.
In 1964, Tuff built a 427 cubic inch Ford V8 engine and put in in a 1961 Ford Starliner, emblazoned with the No. 99 on the door. He brought it to Daytona, and Fireball Roberts was slated as the driver.
“I put in a half-inch longer stroke with fuel injection, and that’s when I got the greatest driver in the world, Fireball Roberts,” Tuff said.
During qualifying on the Wednesday prior to the race on Saturday, Roberts posted the fastest time out of the 50 drivers, reaching an average lap speed of 170.470 mph over the 2.5-mile track.
“They must’ve calculated it three or four times. It didn’t seem quite right,” he said.
The second-place qualifier, Junior Johnson, was nearly five mph slower in his 1959 Chevy, with a speed of 165.822 mph.
“It’s pretty easy to attract good talent when you have the fastest car in the world,” Tuff said.
As for the race, an ignition issue prevented Roberts and Tuff from reaching victory lane, completing just 37 of the 80 laps for the 200-mile race. The race was delayed because of rain, and was shortened because of darkness. Originally, the race was scheduled to be 250 miles. Roberts finished 44th.
Not only did Fireball Roberts drive for Tuff, but Cale Yarborough, LeeRoy Yarbrough, and Larry Frank also piloted the No. 99 Ford Starliner.
From 1964 to 1967, Tuff brought the same car to Daytona for the race, but in ’67 he visited Lee Petty in the Grand National garage area. Tuff acquired a stroked 426 cubic inch hemi Plymouth V8, swapping the Ford out for the Plymouth power.
LeeRoy Yarbrough drove the car in ’67 and he set a new speed record at Daytona. He became the first to average more than 180 mph for a single lap in a stock car.
In 1968, NASCAR president Bill France outlawed Tuff’s car in an effort to keep the competition equal, to Tuff’s chagrin.
The car then sat idle for 47 years on Tuff’s property, and didn’t run until a few years ago. Tuff keeps it in his garage with his other project cars, and he enjoys bringing it to vintage car shows in the summer.
“It wasn’t too great just being built in Rushford, Minnesota, but at least it was the best in the world.”