Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Healthy hike

HAWARDEN-Dressed in a blue Iowa Public Television Kids Clubhouse T-shirt and a bright yellow Dantastic cape, Dan Wardell appeared as the quintessential superhero to West Sioux Elementary third-graders Wednesday.

But, as Wardell entered Hawarden Public Library, he was quick to point out that he wasn’t the hero — the third-graders were.

That is why the popular host of IPTV’s “Kids Clubhouse” had nothing but encouraging words to greet the West Sioux students with as they entered the library.

“Congratulations to each and every one of you,” Wardell said. “You did it. You did it.”

Yes, they did.

As part of a new initiative designed by IPTV, Wardell encouraged West Sioux third-graders to become healthy, both physically and mentally, by participating in a statewide “Healthy Hike” competition.

Throughout the month of April, third-graders in both Sharilyn Buryanek and Karen Engleman’s classrooms logged time spent reading and exercising. After each week was over, Buryanek and Engleman recorded their students’ hours and reported the time to Wardell. The information was updated on the Healthy Hike Web site weekly, and West Sioux was able to track its students’ hours compared to the other 98 participating schools in the state.

While exercising and reading was encouraged at home, hours spent doing either at school also could be counted.

Be that reading or motion, the logged hours could take place in the classroom or during physical education. Recess time was the only exception.

Throughout the challenge, Buryanek and Engleman were encouraged to take pictures of their students reading and moving and send them to Wardell, who could decide to feature them on IPTV or his Healthy Hike blog.

Going into the competition, the West Sioux third-graders were motivated to place in the top 10 in the state so they would win Healthy Hike certificates, jump rope activity books, jump ropes for every student at West Sioux Elementary, and a special storytime and celebration at Hawarden Public Library with a visit from Wardell.

But, going into the last week, the third-graders were sitting in 11th place.

“We asked them what they thought we should do,” Buryanek said. “We all decided as a group to do everything we could to get in the top 10.”

The students gave up their three recesses each day to spend time moving and reading in the classroom, they listened to audio books during lunch and they were treated to presentations from guest readers.

Their hard work paid off, and West Sioux finished the competition in fifth place.

“We were just ecstatic when we found out we got fifth,” Buryanek said.

Wednesday morning, Buryanek and Engleman’s third-grade classes hiked from West Sioux Elementary to Hawarden Public Library, where they were greeted with high-fives and encouraging comments from Wardell, before he treated them to a special celebration.

To keep up with the focus of Healthy Hike, Wardell didn’t just read the students a story; he encouraged them to get up and get active while he performed an interactive rendition of “Rumble in the Jungle” by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz.

Following his storytime, Wardell encouraged the students to keep up the objectives of Healthy Hike even though the competition is over.

“This shows that you can have fun without the TV. We moved our bodies, we moved our minds and we laughed, even though the grown-ups looked kind of silly at times,” he said. “But we didn’t turn on the TV, so tonight, when you go home, turn your TVs off, go outside and play, use your imagination and read a good book.”

To show Iowa Public Television “Kids Clubhouse” host Dan Wardell their appreciation for his special visit to Hawarden Public Library on Wednesday, West Sioux third-graders performed a variety of poems from “Schoolyard Rhymes” by Judy Sierra.

On the behalf of Sherilyn Buryanek and Karen Engleman’s third-grade classes, Hawarden mayor Ric Porter presented head librarian Valerie Haverhals with a copy of “Schoolyard Rhymes” for Hawarden Public Library.

“We would like to give this book to the library for all the hard work Mrs. Haverhals and her staff have done to work with you to get you to fifth-place,” Porter said. “You guys did a great job.”


To trace the progress of West Sioux third-graders and see pictures of the students reading and moving, visit Sherilyn Buryanek and Karen Engleman’s Healthy Hike blog at


Other N’West Iowa participants in the “Healthy Hike” competition were Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn Elementary second-graders through Hartley Public Library, Ben Franklin Elementary first-graders through Sibley Public Library and Central Lyon Elementary second-graders through Rock Rapids Public Library. One school from each county participated.

This article appeared in the May 23, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

Boles publishes 'Maggie' series

OCHEYEDAN-Upon entering B.J. and Jena Boles’ Ocheyedan home, it’s hard not to notice the dining room corner neatly stacked with carefully-crafted bundles of children’s books and binders full of colorful illustrations.

But, on closer inspection, it is clear this is no ordinary situation. For those carefully crafted bundles of books are penned by Jena, as is the artwork.

The 31-year-old Boles first became infatuated with children’s books four and a half years ago when her daughter Natasha was born.

“I’ve read to my daughter every night since she was born,” Boles said. “We go through hundreds and hundreds of books, and sometimes we come across books that either don’t honor parents, don’t honor God or just don’t have the language that I want her to be thinking about and saying.”

Boles had an idea.

As she had always wanted to write a book but never knew what to write about, it was the perfect opportunity.

In January, Boles sat down with a pen, a piece of paper and the family Christmas letter she had put together the previous month. Taking down notes of ordinary events her family had partook in during the year, Boles constructed a list of possible story ideas.

“We had done so many things,” Boles said. “It wasn’t hard to come up with ideas at all.”

Knowing that she wanted her books to contain a faith-based message and positive morals for children to take away, Boles took ordinary events her family has experienced like buying candy at the grocery store, picking up a package at the post office, checking out a book at the library and spending a day at the city park, and incorporated them into scenarios the fictional character “Maggie” has experiences with — all the while learning principles like giving to others, saving and tithing, sharing the love of Jesus, showing community pride, having family unity and living healthy.

“I really want people to understand how much their kids are affected by books and how they get their minds going because when they’re watching something on TV, they already have such a vivid picture of what is happening. They’re not using their imagination because it’s already provided for them, but when you read a book, and you look at the pictures in the book, it’s just a glimpse of what is happening, which forces them to use their imagination,” Boles said. “I just really want kids to learn about their faith and how it’s important to a family structure and what it means to be kind to other people in our society, whether it’s our librarian or our postmaster.”

Although it only took Boles about a week to write the first four stories in the “Maggie” book series, the illustrations took longer.

Because she wanted to replicate actual Ocheyedan buildings and landmarks in the series, Boles went around town taking pictures of various destinations. Every night after B.J. and Natasha went to bed, Boles would draw illustrations based on the pictures she had taken.

“The illustrations are very specific to the land and the layout, and I think that’s one of the reasons Ocheyedan people really love them because it has the actual history of the town,” Boles said.

But, Boles wanted people from small towns all over the country to be able to relate to the books, so she purposefully did not include the city’s name or store trademarks in any of her illustrations.

“The books don’t mention that this is Ocheyedan because these books apply to anybody that lives in any kind of small town anywhere,” Boles said.

As Boles wanted to meet a deadline of having the four books done by April 12, the kickoff of National Library Week, so she could share her project with other families at Ocheyedan Public Library, she self-published each of the books at Graves Construction Co. in Spencer, where she is the office manager.

“They have a very nice printing system, so I made arrangements and purchased all of my own special cover paper and page paper and a special stapler to do the saddle stitching and paid them for the cost to do color copies,” Boles said. “That worked really well and kept my cost down. Someday, I’d like to submit them to a publisher to have them marketed nationally, but for now, this is just what my time has allowed me to do.”

But, that doesn’t mean Boles doesn’t plan to do more books.

While Boles and her family are moving to Lake Park this summer, she already has ideas of more stories she would like to write for the “Maggie” book series. She also is considering writing another set for Ocheyedan before they leave.

Through it all, Boles has thoroughly enjoyed the experience of becoming a first-time author.

“Overall, I’m really pleased with the books,” she said. “They’re everything I hoped they would be.”

AT A GLANCE: Name: Jena Boles
Age: 31

Residence: Ocheyedan

Family: Husband, B.J., and daughter, Natasha, 4
Hobbies: Biking, going to races, camping, writing


Want to order the first set of the “Maggie” book series? The four-pack of books is available for $10 at Ocheyedan Public Library or by contacting Jena Boles at (712) 330-6351 or Copies also can be shipped for an additional charge of $2.75 per pack.

  • “Maggie’s Trip to the City Park”: Today, she’s heading to the city park for some summertime fun. She must prepare for the day, though, and get off to a great start. We all know breakfast is important and that treats are, well, treats! Won’t you join Miss Maggie on her up and down, back and forth, sunshine filled day?
  • “Maggie’s Trip to the Library”: Today, she’s heading to the local library. Although she’s been there before, she doesn’t quite understand all it really has to offer. Won’t you join Miss Maggie in learning how a special small-town library really is?
  • “Maggie’s Trip to the Post Office”: Today, she’s heading to the local post office, where she’s traveled many times before. The visit brings back memories of delivering a “Make a Difference Day” present to the postmaster and creates wild excitement over what she might find there! Won’t you join Miss Maggie for her special delivery?
  • “Maggie’s Trip to the Grocery Store”: Today, she’s heading to the grocery store, but not before she helps out at home and gets a lesson in earning and spending money. Won’t you join Miss Maggie and find out why her trip needs to be so quick?
This article appeared in the May 23, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

Horse sense

PHOENIX-Doug Huls may maintain a hectic lifestyle, but he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Growing up near Boyden, Huls never dreamed he would become a professional horse trainer, but if his ambitions at 12 years old were any indicator of what was to come, he would have had his future outlined for sure.

In his preteens, Huls earned his money by mowing lawns and baling hay. Unlike most kids his age, Huls never spent his earnings. Rather, he saved them.

And when he turned 12, he had about enough to cover half the cost of an Appaloosa.

“I had to borrow half the money from my mom and pay her back later, but I bought a baby and kept it on my brother’s acreage near Boyden,” Huls said. “I just always wanted to do horses. I don’t know why.”

But, when Huls purchased his horse, he didn’t really know how to ride.

“At that point in time, my dad had some horses on the farm and would ride bareback, and my uncle had some Appaloosas, so between my dad and just getting on and figuring things out, that’s how I got started,” he said.

Horse magazines also were helpful when Huls was getting started.

“I think I read every horse magazine they made,” he said.

Through being involved in 4-H, Huls got started showing his Appaloosa in a couple of shows, but nothing really came of it.

“I was probably the worst kid out of everyone,” Huls said.

That soon changed.

Huls graduated from Boyden-Hull High School in Hull in 1983 and went on to Iowa State University in Ames.

But, after two years at ISU, Huls was ready for something different.

So, he and his former girlfriend went to Texas, where her brother lived.

“He knew where all of the big fancy ranches were, so we went to one, and I said I would basically work for food if they would give me a job, teaching me how to ride and show horses,” Huls said.

While he didn’t get that job, he met another ranch hand who decided to give him a shot.

“Rather than working with big, famous horses at the other ranch, I was breaking colts and riding them right then and there,” Huls said. “I knew very little, but I had an opportunity to ride a lot. I wasn’t just allocated to brushing and washing the horses, where you usually start out. I got to start out riding right there. It was a great opportunity for me.”

Only three months after he began working at the ranch, Huls competed in a show and won the second class he ever competed in.

“It just kind of took off from there,” he said. “I experienced a lot of luck along the way, but it all went pretty fast for me.”

Huls relocated in 1990 to Arizona, where he began working for various trainers, showing horses and coaching amateurs and youth riders.

Still residing in the Southwestern state, Huls and his wife, Stacy, own a training facility that accommodates 24 horses. The pair has coached riders and horses to wins at both the Congress and American Quarter Horse Association World Show in events such as horsemanship, western riding, trail, showmanship, hunter under saddle, hunt seat equitation, working hunter, reining, performance halter, pleasure driving and western pleasure.

Huls’ personal victories, which have taken him to destinations in Europe, Australia, Canada and all over the United States, have included top five finishes at the Congress in western riding, western pleasure and trail, top five finishes at the AQHA World Show in western riding, western pleasure and performance halter. Huls also has won an International Buckskin Horse Association World Championship title, multiple top five yearend AQHA High Points awards and judges for the AQHA and the National Snaffle Bit Association.

What’s more, Huls recently came out with a horse training DVD series.

But, none of that compares to what Huls enjoys the most about his job.

“I really enjoy the sense of accomplishment I feel when I get a really good horse and rider to work together,” he said. “It’s a challenge. Animals are not like race cars. They’re all a little bit different, and you really have to know how to deal with their minds, so when you get a really good horse/rider combination, it’s a really good feeling to know that they can compete in any event.”

Name: Doug Huls
Occupation: Professional horse trainer
Age: 44
Residence: Phoenix
Family: Wife, Stacy; two daughters, Cheney, 11, and Olivia, 5
Hobbies: Playing with Cheney and Olivia

Only a month ago, champion horse trainer Doug Huls debuted a series of DVDs: “The Fundamentals of the All Around Horse.”

Available at, the comprehensive four-part DVD series showcases Huls teaching viewers the basic elements or maneuvers needed to perfect at home to be competitive and win in tough all-around events. More than five hours of in-depth training segments are divided into sections.

Within the next 45 days, Huls hopes to release his second series of DVDs, which he said will focus specifically on trail, class and western riding, as well as elements that may be encountered at various horse shows.

This article appeared in the May 23, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

Hobby turns into business for Those Crazy Goat Ladies

SIBLEY-Robyn Kruger and Kim Wills haven’t always been friends.

Rather, it was something that happened by chance nearly three years ago that brought the two together.

Kruger, 40, and Wills, 45, both live on farms north of Sibley, and to get to town each day, Wills has to drive by Kruger’s home.

As Wills was driving her normal route one day, a group of triplet pygmy goats Kruger had just purchased were running around.

“I’m surprised I stayed on the road the way I was watching them,” Wills said.

A couple of days later, Wills spotted Kruger in Sibley and asked if she could stop by to see her new goats.

She did, and the two hit it off.

Kruger and Wills, who now call themselves Those Crazy Goat Ladies, shared a common interest in the bearded animal, and decided to use that interest to create a new hobby — crafting soap using goat milk.

Prior to meeting Wills, Kruger had made some goat soap by herself, using a recipe she found, but after Wills got involved, the two began experimenting to figure out what combination of ingredients worked best.

While the pair tended to only give the soap away during Christmastime, they worked up the courage to begin selling their product via a Community Supported Agriculture farm stand in Spirit Lake last summer.

“We actually sold some and we were shocked,” Wills said. “We knew we were doing something good when people started coming back wanting more.”

The two soon felt confident enough to start taking their product to local stores and eventually began expanding the line.

In addition to bar soap, which can be purchased in six scents, Those Crazy Goat Ladies offer liquid goat milk soap, dry laundry soap and goat milk lotion.

Although the pair is not against expanding even more, they want to be sure to stay simple.

“We don’t want to get to the point where we make so much that it’s not fun anymore,” Kruger said.

Especially since the two do everything by hand — from milking the goats twice a day to rendering the lard and mixing the recipes in Kruger’s kitchen.

The pair recently purchased a milker, although they are not sure they want to use it just yet.

“We would have to sanitize it every time we use it,” Wills said. “It just seems like it would be faster to do it by hand.”

But, that does not mean bigger aspirations are not on the horizon for the two.

“Before we started really making the soap, we looked into making goat cheese,” Kruger said. “We had a lot of people that wanted us to do that.”

So, the two visited some dairies and did some research on goat cheese.

For now, they decided it would be a little too difficult, but it remains an option, although their dream would be to open a dairy.

“It might all fall into place yet,” Wills said.

Those Crazy Goat Ladies products are sold at Essentials Salon in Sibley, Prairie Moon Books in Sheldon, Iowa Lakes Organic Market in Milford, Dugout Creek Designs in Spirit Lake and Schafer’s Health Center in Worthington, MN.
  • Bar soap: 4-ounce bars, $5.50 (vanilla bean, honey pomegranate, sweet almond, coffee mocha, wildwood, unscented oatmeal)
  • Liquid soap: 8-ounce bottle, $8 (vanilla bean, honey pomegranate, coffee mocha, wildwood, unscented oatmeal)
  • Laundry soap: quart jar, $8; pint jar, $4 (rice flower, shea)
  • Lotion: 8-ounce bottle, $10 (vanilla bean, sweet almond, pomegranate, unscented)
The low pH level of goat milk is close to the pH of human skin, which makes it a gentle cleanser.

Goat milk also contains alpha-hydroxy acids, which are known for their restorative and rejuvenating qualities.

The shorter molecular strands found in goat’s milk are more easily absorbed into the skin than cow milk is, which results in a moisturizing effect.

Goat milk also is high in vitamins, minerals, proteins and lactic acid, which helps to exfoliate dead skins cells and soften skin.

Both Kim Wills and Robyn Kruger agree that milk goats are an easy animal to care for.

And, each breed offers a different personality.
  • “Nubians are very whiny and needy,” Kruger said.
  • “Alpines are kind of standoffish, but brave and easy to work with,” Kruger said.
  • “Saanens are very loving and compliant,” Wills said.
  • “Toggenburgs are feisty and very smart,” Wills said.
No matter, they are all worth the effort, the two agreed.

“You get attached to them,” Kruger said. “They are kind of like having an oversized dog.”

This article appeared in the May 23, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

Producers may face many highs, lows

REGIONAL-The dairy industry is full of highs and lows.

But, much due to the global economic crisis, U.S. dairy product prices are slumped in a deep valley.

Yet, dairy producers and analysts remain hopeful for the future.

Dissecting prices
“Historically, the dairy industry would be described as a very volatile industry in terms of prices paid to dairy farmers for milk produced,” said Iowa State University Extension dairy field specialist Chris Mondak. “They move up and down radically, and sometimes without warning.”

Dairy producers are paid per hundredweight basis, rather than by gallon of milk, meaning every 100 pounds of milk sold, a producer will be paid.

Sometimes, the prices are at a healthy level, which would pay producers enough to cover their operation plus a little more. Usually, that price is in the $12-$13 range.

“The dairy industry is a supply and demand industry, so the price that the dairy producers receive depends on the market forces of supply and demand,” Mondak said. “Dairy producers are not price setters, they are price takers.”

Prices were at an all-time high last year due to factors ranging from an increased dairy demand in Europe and Asia, a decreased supply coming out of Australia, U.S. markets expanding globally and a good economy.

“On the flip side, we’re seeing a crash this year,” Mondak said. “We’ve gone from $18-$20 per hundredweight being paid to producers, to now about $10 per hundredweight.”

So, dairy producers are getting paid nowhere near their cost of production, which is making it difficult for them to remain in operation nationwide.

Mondak said a number of factors have contributed to the decline:

Because of the overall global economic slump, consumers have been pulling back, especially in the United States, where dairy products have decreased and people are being more careful with their money.

Australia and New Zealand are recovering from a drought, causing their milk supply to come back up.

“That increases the supply in Asia and causes a decreased demand for U.S. exports,” Mondak said.

The value of the dollar, which had been strong compared to other currencies, weakened, making U.S. products less attractive to buy.

“It is a dire financial situation for dairy farmers across the nation, including our local dairy farmers,” Mondak said. “While they are feeling the stress, they are also trying to remain optimistic. This is the business they know, the business they believe in, the business they are dedicated to. They are all about producing wholesome food for people, maintaining the occupation and lifestyle they have chosen. They want to stay in business.”

Coping strategies
While dairy producers are accustomed to the highs and lows of the dairy industry, Mondak said the most important thing they can do is remain hopeful.

“The USDA forecasts are talking about a bottoming out in the middle of 2009 and a prediction that there will be some improvement in the third and fourth quarters,” Mondak said. “Our producers are hanging on for that.”

But, besides remaining hopeful, the specialist said producers also should maintain a good relationship with their banker.

“The producers are being advised to let the banker know what’s going on, what their plans are and see if there are any strategies they can do to get through this time period,” Mondak said.

She said it also is a good time for producers to control costs and be efficient in their inputs.

And, that could come from providing a balanced ration for cows at the best prices possible,

“Those producers who own their own land and do some of their own production of corn silage or hay may have an advantage right now over those who are having to buy in everything. Producers and nutritionists are looking for opportunities where they can buy some of their feed inputs at good prices,” Mondak said. “They are just being good businessmen right now. They are having to be good shoppers.”

Local impact
Despite the hardship many U.S. dairy producers are facing, those in N’West Iowa have somewhat of an advantage.

“One of the reasons why this area has attracted dairy producers to move in from other places is because it has some of the elements that create good opportunities for a dairy farm,” Mondak said.

Dairy producers in N’West Iowa have access to land, a good water supply and the opportunity to have feed grown locally.

“Having feed grown locally is a huge advantage, because feed is the No. 1 expense on a dairy farm,” Mondak said. “Producers here in the Midwest region are situated close to the fields that grow the forage and grain crops needed to create balanced dairy rations and have an opportunity to get feed at costs lower than in some other places in the country that are not located close to a feed supply.”

And while there always will be dairy operations coming in and going out of the state, from an economic standpoint, Mondak said that can be a good thing.

“The dairy industry, including production and processing, is what some have called an ‘economic engine,’” Mondak said. “As an economic multiplier, it stimulates the region’s economy.”

She said economists calculate the dairy industry has having an economic multiplier effect of 2.29. So, for every $1 generated by dairy production, $1.29 is generated in economic growth, or every cow generates $15,000-$17,000 in economic activity.

“Given all major industries in Iowa, no other industry has an economic multiplier effect of this magnitude,” Mondak said.

This article appeared in the May 23, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

Girl's memory lives on through funding effort

ASHTON-Most 3-year-olds look forward to the joy of opening presents, eating cake and playing with friends and family members on their fourth birthday.

Not Autumn Huss.

Rather, the daughter of Troy and Becky Huss of Ashton spent her fourth birthday recovering form open heart surgery.

When Becky was five months pregnant with Autumn, she went in for a routine ultrasound. Only, what doctors at Orange City Area Health System discovered would leave the Husses in disbelief.

The medical professionals in Orange City knew something was wrong, so they sent Becky to Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, SD, where it was determined Autumn had an irregular heartbeat.

On April 15, 2005 — five days after she was born at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, Autumn underwent open heart surgery to repair a hole in her heart; correct her aorta and pulmonary arteries, which had been reversed; and fix her aortic arch, which was becoming too narrow.

“If they would not have determined something was wrong with Autumn’s heart before she was born, she would not have made it,” Troy said.

The Husses thought their problems were behind them until they were getting ready to be discharged and one more complication was found.

“They found that one of her coronary arteries was kinked, so she went back in for surgery two weeks from her birth date,” Becky said.

Autumn has been going back to Sanford Health for six-month checkups since she was born. She also has to have a MRI once a year.

In January, when she went in for her regular checkup, doctors found that the blood pressure between Autumn’s arms and legs was severely different, so she was again sent to the University of Michigan Health System.

“They thought they would be able to just do a heart cath and go in and balloon her heart open,” Becky said.

But, the procedure proved unsuccessful, so on April 9 — the day before Autumn’s fourth birthday — she underwent her third open heart surgery.

While Autumn was recovering at home, Troy and Becky received a unexpected phone call.

Shayla Rohrbaugh was born Dec. 4, 1998, with a condition called schizencephaly, meaning the two halves of her brain did not connect while it was developing.

After she was born, Shayla could not feed from a bottle and began having seizures, so her mother, Lindsay, took her to the doctor.

“She was only supposed to live for a couple of years,” said Jerry Faulkner of Spencer, Lindsay’s father.

But, Shayla, who Faulkner called Shayla Bee, defied the odds and lived to be 6.

Not long after Shayla died, Faulkner formed a living memorial to his granddaughter, the Shayla Bee Fund.

And in the past two years, the group has raised more than $35,000 that has been distributed to responsible working class families in limited financial means with a child in a medical crisis.

“We’re learning as we go, because we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into,” Faulkner said.

He said all of the money collected has been through event-based fundraisers — be that canoe floats, motorcycle shows or dodgeball tournaments — all throughout northwest Iowa.

Monetary donations as high as $2,000 are given to families in need, but to even be considered, the family has to be nominated by someone. The Shayla Bee Fund Board meets once a month to review the applications. If the board sees one that fits the mission statement, interviews with the family are conducted and funds are awarded unconditionally.

“The money is not for anything; it’s for whatever they see fit,” Faulkner said. “We just assume that our donation will be spent wisely by the family.”

When the organization first began, the Shayla Bee Fund only considered those families that lived within a 20-mile radius of Spencer, which is where the group is based.

“We probably did eight or nine donations in the area, but then we ran into a little trouble, where we went four months without a nomination when we had money in the bank, so we met and talked about the sustainability of what we were doing and ultimately made a decision to reach out farther,” Faulkner said. “We knew of several families that could have used our help, but they were outside of our geographical area.”

The decision to reach out to a 50-mile radius was finalized in November 2008. Since then, the requests have come pouring in.

And when Faulkner and his group of motorcycle-riding friends travel to the families’ houses to personally deliver the donation, he cannot help but think of Shayla.

“It’s something you’ll never forget — standing over a little girl and watching her die, but our family has chosen to make this a good thing because there’s nothing we could have done to change it,” he said. “We decided that this was going to strengthen our family, not destroy it, and with our friends, look what’s happened. Shayla has become a household name now.”

Troy and Becky Huss aren’t sure they would have ever heard of the Shayla Bee Fund if it wasn’t for Troy’s sister-in-law, Janine Huss, who works with Shayla’s mother, Lindsay.

Janine nominated Troy and Becky, and on April 21, they received a phone call from Jerry Faulkner, telling them they would be receiving a donation — making them the 17th family to have benefited from the Shayla Bee Fund.

“It was a big surprise,” Troy said. “We weren’t expecting it at all. We had all of Autumn’s medical bills coming in and our expenses from being in Michigan, plus all of our lodging and food.”

While Autumn seems to be doing fine now, Troy and Becky have been extremely impressed with the amount of support they have been showing throughout the past four years.

“We definitely want to thank the Shayla Bee Fund, of course, as well as the community, the Orange City Area Health System, Sanford Health, the University of Michigan, the Ronald McDonald House, Children’s Miracle Network, our families and my employer, Deluxe Feeds — they’ve all been very, very good to us throughout the whole thing,” Troy said.

This article appeared in the May 16, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

Mother, daughter win KTIV look-alike contest

ORANGE CITY-Elli Krosschell doesn’t mind looking like her mom.

In fact, she kind of likes it.

“There are some people who ask me, ‘Do you like looking like your mom?’ and I say, ‘Yeah, actually I do. I enjoy it,” the 14-year-old said.

And if it wasn’t enough that friends and family members are always confusing the two, their similarities were confirmed May 1 when Elli’s mom, Kimber, received a phone call from KTIV-TV in Sioux City informing her that the mother/daughter duo had won the station-sponsored “Free to be Girlie — Mother/Daughter Look-Alike Contest.”

“I said, ‘You’re kidding me,’ and they said, ‘Nope. You really do look alike,’” Kimber said.

As the victors, Kimber and Elli won a $100 gift certificate for chocolates or flowers from Lottie & Eva’s in Sioux City as well as $100 gift certificates to Massage & Body in Sioux City and School Supply Corner in South Sioux City, NE.

The two already have begun planning a mother/daughter day out to redeem the prizes, but said they would include those that helped them out by giving them chocolates.

Kimber, who’s 41, and Elli heard about the contest while they were watching television together.

“There was an ad on for it and Elli said we should do it,” Kimber said. “I thought it would be fun, but asked Elli if she thought we could win.”

Elli felt confident enough, as did Kimber’s husband, Perry, and the couple’s three other children, Bret, 18, Kade, 10 and Mali, 7.

“Our family got totally excited, because they’re always confusing us,” Kimber said.

As a requirement of the contest, Elli and Kimber had to send in pictures documenting their personalities. As Perry just finished a six-year stint as head football coach at Unity Christian High School in Orange City, Elli and Kimber wanted to showcase their love for going to the games together, so they wore identical black Knights football sweatshirts.

But, one more thing needed to be done to make sure the Krosschells stood out against the other competition.

“We’ve kind of had similar hairstyles forever, but just a couple of days before the contest, I had gotten my bangs cut,” Kimber said. “Elli had let her bangs grow long, so we talked about it and decided we had better get our hair to look the same again, so she got her bangs cut.”

For the pictures, which Perry took, Kimber and Elli stood side by side. Kimber stood on her tip toes and Elli had to slouch a bit to make sure they were at an even height.

“She’s two or three inches taller than me,” Kimber said. “That’s where we don’t look alike.”

But, for both Krosschells, the contest only affirmed their love for each other.

“I think it’s every mom’s dream to have a daughter look like them,” Kimber said. “It’s just an honor and a privilege. There’s nothing you can do to make it happen, necessarily. Sure, we style our hair the same or wear the same sweatshirt, but beyond that, it’s a gift from God.”

And Elli has no qualms about it.

“She’s my best friend,” Elli said. “She’s always there for me.”

ANOTHER LOOK-ALIKE? It’s obvious Kimber Krosschell and her 14-year-old daughter, Elli, look alike. Even their family members confuse the two blondes. But, what about and her other daughter, 7-year-old Mali? “She has dark hair,” Kimber said. “But, I think we looked more alike when we were younger than even Elli and I did.”

This article appeared in the May 16, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

AT&T will take on Altell lines

REGIONAL-Alltel customers in N’West Iowa may be facing yet another change by the end of this year.

AT&T Wireless has announced an agreement to expand its coverage territory as part of a $2.35 billion deal to acquire assets from rival Verizon Wireless.

When Verizon purchased Alltel in a $5.9 billion agreement last year, part of the arrangement required Verizon to divest its Alltel properties in areas where Verizon already had a presence.

“It was all to promote competition,” said Kerry Hibbs, AT&T Western Region public affairs representative. “It would not have been fair for Verizon to have its traditional facilities and then take over Alltel as well. That would basically just leave Verizon.”

For the deal to be completed, Verizon had to auction off its assets in 79 service areas across 18 states, representing 1.5 million subscribers.

Dallas-based AT&T, the country’s largest telecommunications company, was the high bidder.

O’Brien, Osceola, Lyon and Sioux counties all fall within the realm of the agreement, but Hibbs said Alltel customers in N’West Iowa do not need to do anything yet.

“We hope to get the regulatory approvals by the end of 2009,” he said. “Once that happens, Alltel customers will become AT&T customers, unless, of course, they chose to go with another cell-phone provider. That’s their choice, but if they want to, they could come to AT&T. That would be great for us and for them.”

The AT&T deal is contingent on regulatory approval and likely will close during the fourth quarter of 2009. AT&T then will need to invest about $400 million more in converting from Verizon’s Code Division Multiple Access network to its Global System for Mobile communication technology.

As a result, Alltel customers eventually will need to purchase a new cell phone since AT&T’s GSM phones are not compatible with Alltel’s CDMA phones.

“Of course, we think we have the best network,” Hibbs said. “We carry the iPhone and are the only cell-phone company that offers rollover minutes, so I think we will benefit a lot of customers.”

The cellular service switchover is not the first for many area Alltel customers. Alltel purchased Midwest Wireless of Mankato, MN, as part of a $1 billion transaction that went into effect in July 2007.

This article appeared in the May 16, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mi'Ono still serving Sanborn

SANBORN-There’s no doubt about it, the Mi’Ono Club has a blast.

And, closing in on 53 years, the Sanborn-based women’s service organization shows no signs of stopping.

With only five of the original members still remaining in the club today, they’ve decided to take a look back at the memories and experiences they have shared over the years.

Getting started
The Mi’Ono Club began in 1956 after a member of the now defunct 20th Century Club — a service group composed of older women — expressed a desire to have the younger women in Sanborn involved.

Composed of 12 Sanborn women, all in their late teens or early 20s, the group settled on calling themselves the Mi’Ono Club, which stands for Monday is our night out.

“We actually hold our meetings on Wednesday now, but we used to have them on Mondays,” said charter member Jeanette Endorf.

Endorf, Bernice Dorman, Ardis Dummett, Colleen Lowery and Jamie Postma have been in the group since the beginning and remain the only original members still involved.

Funding projects
For the first five years of its existence, the Mi’Ono Club was a federated organization, but group members quickly found that the money they raised was not going to better the town, it was being sent away.

“We wanted to do good in Sanborn,” Dummett said. “We knew there were a lot of projects we could help out with, especially with the school.”

So, the group opted to quit its affiliation, allowing more projects to be done in the community.

The first such project happened in 1962, when the Mi’Ono Club purchased four rocking animals for the Sanborn City Park. At $75 a piece, the colorful aluminum animals situated on springs, took the club awhile to raise money for.

“We worked for six years to raise the money for those,” Endorf said.

But, that was only the beginning.

While the rocking animals are no longer at the park, the Mi’Ono Club has many other projects to show for.

In its 53 years, the organization has purchased a scoreboard and built a concession stand for the football field; painted playground equipment in the Sanborn City Park, purchased curtains for the Sanborn Golf & Country Club, purchased large appliances for the Sanborn Community Center; built dugouts at Brady Field and Miller Park; put in the water system at Brady Field; planted and maintained flowers at Main Street Park; planted flowers in pots along Main Street; took part in story hour at the Sanborn Public Library; purchased chairs and the first water slide at the Sanborn Swimming Pool; collected for the United Nations Children’s Fund; adopted a Sanborn family for Christmas each year; annually supported the Sanborn Fire Department, Sanborn Ambulance, Sanborn American Legion and Sanborn Public Library; donated $1,000 to both the parks and recreation department and the Sanborn Preservation Society; and commissioned for a large train mural to be painted just off of Main Street.

The Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn School District also has been a priority for the Mi’Ono Club. The group annually has given $50 to an eighth-grader with perfect attendance and $50 to one randomly drawn honor roll student and contributed to the high school after-prom party.

“You name it, we’ve done it — community servicewise,” Dorman said.

But, where do the funds come from?

Multiple times a year, the Mi’Ono Club members don the blue and pink shirts they purchased with their own money and set up stands around town. The organization also has raised funds by hosting basketball and softball games, holding Tupperware parties and selling concession items at volleyball games and Little League events.

Mi’Ono pride
The Mi’Ono Club has seen 62 members since 1956.

The group always has limited its membership. After starting out with 12 members 53 years ago, the organization upped its membership limit to 18 in the early 1960s.

Having monthly meetings eight times a year, the group uses its off months to enjoy overnight trips to destinations all over the Midwest.

The five charter members still involved could not imagine a better organization to be involved in.

“It’s fun,” Postma said. “We always have a good time.”

All the while giving back to the community.

“People in the community support us very well,” Lowery said. “They do appreciate us, so we try to do things that will benefit everyone in the town.”

This article appeared in the May 16, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW

Changes planned for park

SANBORN-The playground equipment at Miller Park in Sanborn is nearing the 25-year mark.

“It’s showing its age,” said Sanborn city administrator Jim Zeutenhorst.

Yes it is.

The metal swing chains, which once beamed a sparkling silver, have aged to rust, while the paint colors on the two merry-go-rounds bear almost no resemblance to the bright hues that once gleamed in the sunlight.

But, come mid-July, all of that will change.

The 129-acre park will instead feature two playground areas — one for younger children and one for older children — both of which will feature a variety of different slides and fort areas, among a climbing wall and climbing wave for those who are more adventurous.

Funding for the $40,000 worth of playground equipment has been acquired mostly through donations; however, Zeutenhorst said the city did receive a $3,500 grant from the O’Brien County Community Foundation.

Zeutenhorst and city clerk Becki Hurtig, along with the rest of the city staff will assist the park board and volunteers in assembling the equipment in July after it arrives from Little Tikes Commercial Play Systems Inc. in Farmington, MO.

But, that’s not the only upgrade Miller Park will see this summer.

The two baseball and softball diamonds within the park are encircled with dilapidated fencing and feature graffiti-bearing scoreboards.

So, by the end of June, Michael’s Fence Co. in Sioux Falls, SD will replace the worn fencing and Daktronics in Ankeny will put in two new scoreboards.

Because of the improvements, which will cost the city a combined total of $15,500 — $8,500 for the fencing and $7,000 for the scoreboards — Hurtig said Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn Middle School will play its baseball and softball games at the fields, something that has never been done before.

Zeutenhorst said the city also is looking into covering half of the two-and-a-half mile nature and recreational trail at Miller Park with concrete.

“The trail started out as asphalt in the early 1980s. Two years ago, we resurfaced half of it by pouring concrete over it,” he said. “We’re looking into containing bids for a possible fall construction to resurface the other half with concrete.”

The park also features a nine-hole disc golf course, 19 camping sites with full hookups, a shelter house, sand volleyball courts, horseshoe pits and Sanborn Golf & Country Club. The club features a full-service steakhouse and lounge along with a nine-hole golf course that has two sets of tee boxes for each hole, providing a unique experience for those wanting to play two rounds.

Miller Park gets its fair share of use, but Hurtig and Zeutenhorst both agreed that once the improvements are made, even more people will be drawn to the recreation area.

This article appeared in the May 16, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Come away to 'Brigadoon'

ORANGE CITY-A land of enchantment.

That's what New Yorkers Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas discover after traveling to the Scottish Highlands on a game-hunting vacation.

Only, the two never have their hunting experience. Rather, they get lost.

And, out of the early morning mist, appears a village called Brigadoon, where residents are 200 years behind - they still dress in traditional Scottish apparel and local vendors sell milk, ale and wool.

It is apparent to Tommy and Jeff that something isn't right.

Soon, they find that Brigadoon is enchanted and only appears to wanderers like the two New Yorkers every 100 years.

That doesn't stop Tommy from falling in love with one of the locals, though, which creates a much larger problem. If Tommy stays in Brigadoon, he will only come back to life every 100 years, but if he leaves, the village will disappear entirely.

It's a dilemma only the attendees of "Brigadoon," which will come to life on stage Wednesday, May 13-Saturday, May 16, during the Orange City Tulip Festival, will experience.

Although director Keith Allen says different audience members will experience different emotions during the musical, romance is sure to reign overall.

"Most people like romantic stories of love," Allen said. "There's also a subplot that people will get interested in, but if it's something enjoyable to see after a long day at the Tulip Festival. It's a refreshing way to end the whole day."

Especially for Allen, producer Betty Ferrell, musical director Tom Hydeen and the cast of over 40.

But, if that's not enough, Allen said the music is supreme.

"The music is just gorgeous," Allen said. "It's beautiful, wonderful."

It's no wonder, as the music features book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, who also wrote "My Fair Lady," and music by Frederick Loewe.

"I just want people to enjoy it," Allen said. "That's what we try to do."
This article appeared in the May 9, 2009 edition of DISCOVER! Magazine.

Classic musician changes tempo

SPENCER-Life is often full of surprises

Ellen Stanley can attest to that.

Growing up, the New Haven, CT native never dreamed she would be a solo singer, songwriter and banjo player, sporting the stage name Mother Banjo.

"I was never one of those people that performed solos," Stanley said. "I liked participating, but I never quite knew what I wanted to do. I thought if I was going to be involved in music, I would be a music teacher or do something in the background."

That all changed when Stanley picked up a banjo five years ago.

Classically trained on piano, oboe and voice, Stanley was very much into rock, pop and classical music throughout high school. Then she got more and more into jazz and blues, and started taking jazz vocal lessons before she went off to Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH, where she began to immerse herself in folk and blue grass music.

"The banjo fits prominently in both," Stanley said. "I liked the sound of the banjo in not just the fast, but the more lonesome, mournful styles, as well. That really resonated with me. I thought the banjo could do so many unique sounds that the guitar couldn't, so I thought I might as well learn how to play."

Stanley did just that after she graduated from Oberlin - moved to Minneapolis, MN, bought a banjo and began taking lessons.

"That's when my songwriting opened up quite a bit," she said. "That was partly because I was just beginning, so I wasn't that good at the banjo yet, my chord knowledge was limited and my technical skills were limited. That allowed me to get back to the basics."

Basics were something she was never able to find in the piano pieces she composed, as Stanley felt they were too arts-y and complex.

"The banjo simplified everything," Stanley said. "I found that with singing and playing at the same time, I could interplay. I could do with my voice what I couldn't do on the banjo and I could play on the banjo what I couldn't do with my voice."

Stanley's skills have paid off. She released a 5-song EP entitled "Swing Low" in 2007, and two weeks ago, released her first full-length album, entitled "The Sad and Sound."

"It has 10 songs and was recorded in a professional studio," Stanley said. "It's a step up. It has more instruments, yet it's still pretty minimalist."

And, Stanley will be bringing her new tracks to Shaky Tree Coffee on Friday, May 15.

"I'm really looking forward to playing at Shaky Tree again," she said. "I played there last fall with Chad Elliot and it was so much fun. I'm really looking forward to coming back with my new CD."

Ben Tucker, a Minnesota-based singer/songwriter, will accompany Stanley at her performance.

"We were both Midwest finalists in the 2008 Mountain Stage NewSong Contest, so we're doing a little Iowa tour together," Stanley said. "I'm looking forward to bringing him to Spencer."

Mother Banjo:
After having worked a bit in the music world - doing promotions and hosting her own radio show, Ellen Stanley wanted to start fresh when she began her solo career as a singer, songwriter and banjo player.

"I didn't want to capitalize on my name or raise expectations," she said.

So, she settled on the stage name Mother Banjo.

"Ultimately, I felt like it had a nice strong, earthy quality to it. It's a woman with a banjo. It's simple, and that's what my music is like," Stanley said. "I went through all kinds of funny possible stage names and Mother Banjo is the one that stuck. You can't mispronounce it and it's a name that I can grow into forever."

This article appeared in the May 9, 2009 edition of DISCOVER! Magazine.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Custom built

A warm and inviting place to call home.

That's what Denise Baar and Jud Pins of Sioux Falls, SD were looking for when they decided to have a new home built within The Grand Prairie, a private community nestled in the southeast portion of the city.

Denise said the couple was drawn to the location in part because of the exclusive amenities, including a full clubhouse, two pools, fitness room and tennis courts. The clubhouse also has an apartment, which allows for out-of-town guests to stay during visits.

"Five years ago, if you asked me if I would ever live at 77th and Minnesota, I would say, 'It's so far out there,'" Denise said. "Now, it feels like a part of the city."

Denise and Jud worked with Deffenbaugh Homes, a Sioux Falls based builder that specializes in custom homes. With close interaction between the couple and the builder, Denise and Jud were able to provide their specialized ideas and requests throughout the entire building process.

While Denise and Jud had never been through the home building process before, they were surprised with the ease of it.

"I never thought I would build a house because of the challenges and decisions that need to be made, but it turned out to be one of the easiest things we have ever done," Denise said.

What resulted was a 4,500-square-foot traditional style ranch walk-out, complete with five bedrooms, four baths, a four-car garage and a rich decorating scheme, of which Jud and Denise moved into in May 2007.

"The process was so simple," Denise said.

Jud chose to incorporate wooden tray ceilings in most of the rooms on the main floor, while Denise picked out paint colors.

Although all of their ideas were their own, Denise worked with Amy Kruetzfeldt, a licensed interior designer on staff at the Stone Center, which provided all of the Cambria counter tops and tile throughout the home.

"We had the paint colors, flooring and rock picked out, and she helped me pick out the tile, bring everything together and confirm what I already had selected," Denise said.

Tiger wood floors wrap through the entryway and into the kitchen and dining area, where the formal dining room features a basket weave floor, mixing the Tiger wood with Cambria tile, surrounded by floor to ceiling tapered, roped wooden columns, which are also featured in other woodwork and furniture throughout the home.

For a unique look, Jud and Denise opted to have the island in the kitchen a lighter, distressed wood in comparison to the rest of the cabinetry throughout, something Denise says is not done very often.

To keep the main floor open and inviting, Denise and Jud opted for as few doors as possible.

"Part of the reason we built a house of this nature is because we wanted something simple that would be easy to entertain in," Denise said. "Because people gather so much in the kitchen, we wanted it open, with not a lot of walls."

And, to do something special with the doorway that leads from the living room to the master suite, Jud and Denise had the top arched, created specifically to the depth and width dimensions on the stone arch above the living room fireplace.

While the couple's home is designed for the possibility of five bedrooms, Denise and Jud only utilize four bedrooms. The fifth, located on the main floor, acts as a den, instead, which Denise wanted to stand out when she was selecting paint colors. Instead of the warm, deep tones that accentuate the rest of the house, Denise opted for a soft green within the den.

Denise had the staircase leading to the basement faux painted, which wraps from the warm tones of the main floor to more earthy tones throughout the basement, which features a wet bar, complete with a dishwasher and full-size refrigerator.

With five children, only one of which still lives at home, Jud and Denise knew they wanted a place their children could come home to.

"We wanted them to feel like it was their home as much as ours. A place where they felt at home and could have their friends come over and enjoy time together," Denise said.

And, while Jud and Denise couldn't be happier with their custom built home, they are already planning ahead for the future.

"We love our home and plan to be here a long time, but after you've been in your home for a long time, there's that urge to want to keep it fresh and start new," Denise said.

In order to keep their home remaining as fresh as possible, Jud and Denise added a dark brown tile back splash on either side of the range in the kitchen after Christmas. This spring, they plan to add on to the deck, which is situated off the four-season room on the main floor and sometime in the future, Jud and Denise hope to finish off the wine cellar in the basement, a space that is currently used for storage.

Keeping up-to-date with the latest technology, Jud and Denise made sure their home Internet system was completely wireless.

"That makes it easy for the children to take their laptop to any room in the house, whether to surf the net or chat with friends on Facebook or Skype," Denise said.

In addition, the home has a complete security system with cameras, a surround system with speakers inside and out and built-in audio system with iPod docking system in both the kitchen and wet bar.

This article appeared in the April 2009 edition of Okoboji Magazine.

Best of the best

"Every Day with Rachael Ray" has been receiving a lot of e-mails from readers wanting to know where LeMars, IA is.

Just ask 46-year-old Bob Rand, owner of Archie's Waeside.

But, why the sudden interest?

The LeMars based eatery caused quite a stir in the March issue of Rachael Ray's monthly food and living magazine.

Taking a play off the source of March madness - NCAA basketball play-offs, "Every Day with Rachael Ray" created its own single-elimination tournament bracket. Not of college basketball teams, though. Steakhouses seemed a more appropriate choice for the magazine.

For what the magazine deemed the "Great American Steakhouse Challenge," it composed a list of 200 restaurants from recommendations give by well-traveled colleagues, restaurant reviewers and industry experts.

Just being selected for a spot in the top 200 steakhouses in the country pleased Rand, but when he found out Archie's Waeside had advanced to the top 64, he was beside himself.

"That was wonderful," he said. "After 60 years of being here, to be recognized like that is just wonderful. In my eyes, those restaurants, almost all of them, which I've either eaten at or I know of them or know the owners, they're iconic to me. I mean, they're from all over the country."

After the list was narrowed down to 64, Archie's Waesdie, the only Iowa steakhouse on the list, was pitted against big city restaurants like Annie Gunn's in Chersterfield, MO, Five O'Clock Steakhouse in Milwaukee, WI, Ray Radigan's in Pleasant Prairie, WI, St. Elmo Steak House in Indianapolis, IN, Plaza III, The Steakhouse in Kansas City, MO, Gorat's Steak House in Omaha, NE, Cattlemen's Steakhouse in Oklahoma City, OK, Ferris Steak House in Cleveland, OH, Mitchell's Steakhouse and The Top Steak House in Columbus, OH, Murray's Restaurant and Manny's Steakhouse in Minneapolis, MN and Gene & Georgetti, Keefer's Restaurant and Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse in Chicago.

Archie's Waeside competed head-on against Annie Gunn's for a spot in the top 32, and after beating out Gene & Georgetti, advanced to the sweet 16, along with Five O'Clock Steakhouse, Plaza III, The Steakhouse and Gorat's Steakhouse in the Midwest, Carnevino in Las Vegas, NV, Cut in Los Angeles, CA, Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap, TX and El Raigon in San Francisco in the West, Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn, NY, Robert's Steakhouse in New York City, NY, Barclay Prime in Philadelphia, PN and Grill 23 & Bar in Boston, MA on the East coast and Bern's Steak House in Tampa, FL, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Houston, TX, Doe's Eat Place in Greenville, MS and Kevin Rathburn Steak in Atlanta, GA in the Gulf South.

"Every Day with Rachael Ray" hired 16 eaters to test the semifinalists. As they each traveled to their assigned steakhouse, the reviewers were armed with worksheets with a rating system that totaled 100 points. No restaurant received a perfect score, but Archie's, along with Gorat's Steak House, Carnevino, El Raigon, Peter Luger Steak House, Grill 23 & Bar, Bern's Steak House and Kevin Rathburn Steak advanced to the final eight.

The restaurants were all reviewed once again, narrowing the field down to Grill 23 & Bar, El Raigon, Bern's Steak House and Archie's.

"It's kind of funny," Rand said. "You look at the final four, and it's Boston, San Francisco, Tampa and LeMars, Iowa."

John T. Edge, a contributing editor at "Gourmet" and "United Tastes" columnist for the "New York Times" and the "Oxford American," boarded a plane and for four consecutive nights, flew to each restaurant - starting with El Raigon, then to Grill 23 & Bar and then to Archie's, where he snacked on house-corned beef and devoured a dry-aged porterhouse. To Edge, Archie's was the clear winner, until he sliced into his medium-rare porterhouse at Bern's, declaring the Tampa steakhouse the overall victor.

Archie's may not have taken home the grand prize, but Rand was still pleased with his restaurant's second-place finish.

"It's unbelievable, actually," he said. "Some of those steakhouses have been around for 100 years and they're the benchmark of our industry, but, like I said, we're very fortunate to even be mentioned, much less to get to the final four and then to get second place."

So, how did the LeMars restaurant go from being one of Northwest Iowa's hidden gems to the second-best steakhouse in the country?

"Probably the greatest advantage we had in the contest is that the bets beef in the world is raised right here in Northwest Iowa and Northeast Nebraska," Rand said. "We're purchasing the best of that meat every day, and we take it and dry age it and hand cut every steak right here."

But, the dry-aged, hand-cut steak hasn't been the only menu item gaining notoriety at Archie's Waeside.

Rand makes frequent trips to Napa, CA, in constant search of the finest wines to compliment the menu selections at Archie's.

"I spend a lot of time in Napa. I've made a half a dozen trips a year for the last 10 years looking for small artisan wineries," he said. "To get a lot of our wines, you'd have to see wine lists in Chicago, Denver, New York, cities like that to find even close to what we carry."

While Rand said the restaurant carries a fair amount of Australian wines as well, California varieties are where he focuses the most attention.

"We have as few as a couple hundred cases from many of the wineries we carry, and many of the wineries that we have on our list are only on a half a dozen lists in the whole country," he said.

But Archie's quality selection of wines must have piqued someone's interest, as the restaurant is also one of the top 20 semifinalists for the John Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Wine Service.

To even be considered for what Rand refers to as "one of the pinnacles of being in the business," a restaurant must display and encourage excellence in wine service through a well-presented wine list, a knowledgeable staff and efforts to educate customers about wine. Candidates also must have been in operation for at least five years and have to be nominated by several people.

"They kind of pair it down from there and then they go and visit your establishment," Rand said. "The further they get the process down, the more often they visit. I know they've been here once for sure."

While the 2008 award winner, Eleven Madison Park in New York City, is not on the top 20 list this year, the previous second- through fifth-place finishers - Acquerello in San Francisco, Bin 36 in Chicago, Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN and Picasso in Las Vegas - are.

Rand said Archie's Waeside has never been a candidate for the award, but as with the "Great American Steakhouse Challenge," he feels fortunate just to be considered.

"It's an honor just to be nominated with the other restaurants that are on there," he said.

Archie's Waeside was originally opened by current owner Bob Rand's grandfather, Archie Jackson, in 1949.

But, the concept of the LeMars based restaurant, which marks its 60th anniversary this year, goes back a little further in history.

Going back three generations in Jackson's history, before his family immigrated to the United States from Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, they were involved in the cattle business. After they came to the United States, they began running a kill floor in Chicago.

"When Sioux City became home of the largest stockyards, a lot of people from Chicago came over to Sioux City," Rand said. "My grandfather always wanted to take individual steaks and open a restaurant, so he looked around the area and liked LeMars."

Jackson owned the restaurant until 1973, when Rand's mother, Valerie, took over the business. Rand has owned the restaurant since 1994.

But why did he decide to go into the family business?

"It's kind of interesting," he said. "I have four siblings, and they all have different career paths across the country, and mine just seemed to be that I was in love with this place when I was a child. I don't think that I thought I was going to do anything else but this. The exciting thing for me is, I'm very fortunate to do what I love. I can't wait for the front door to open every night to see what's going to happen."

This article appeared in the April 2009 edition of Okoboji Magazine.

No need to 'Panic'

SIOUX CITY-It was near the end of October.

Business was better. The war scare was over. More men were back at work. Sales were picking up.

On this particular evening, Oct. 30, the Crosley service estimated that 32 million people were listening in on radios.

It aired over the CBS radio network as a "Mercury Theatre on the Air" Halloween episode on Oct. 30, 1938.

Directed and narrated by Orson Welles, many Americans became instilled with a fear of panic,a s they thought the 60-minute adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel "The War of the Worlds" was actually happening, and Martians were invading the planet.

Over 70 years later, Steven Dolginoff hopes to instill that panic once again,by way of his musical "Panic: The Story Behind the War of the Worlds Broadcast," now making its world premiere at LAMB Productions Theatre in Sioux City.

But, the way the big city production made it's way to a stage in the Midwest is a story in and of itself.

"I produced Steven's show 'Thrill Me,'" said Russ Wooley, "Panic" director and LAMB co-founder. "When we did the show, we chatted many times on the phone. At one point, I said, 'Hey Steven, if you'd ever like to workshop your show, I know a great theatre in Sioux City that could do that.' By the end of 'Thrill Me,' he had sent a script for 'Panic,' and said, 'Let's do this.'"

And doing it, they are.

But, don't let the term "musical" fool you.

"It's not the type where there is a lot of dancing and so forth," Wooley said. "The songs are very much character driven."

One such song, set at 11 minutes, is a distilled version of the original 60-minute Orson Welles broadcast, which will undoubtedly make sure viewers will feel like they're experiencing the influential segment for the first time.

If that's not original enough, the stage will also feature a vintage looking 1930s set, complete with a radio broadcast booth and era relevant costumes.

"It will put you right there in that world," Wooley said.

So goodbye everybody, and remember, please, for the next day or so the terrible lesson you learned tonight: that grinning, glowing globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian - it's Halloween.

70 Years Later:
Emerging technology is a common message director Russ Wooley sites in "Panic."

"Radio was a new thing in the 1930s," Wooley said. "It was the place to be - where you reached the most immediately."

Sound familiar?

"It parallels exactly what's going on now with the Internet," Wooley said.

Take Susan Boyle, who became an overnight YouTube sensation after her audition on "Britain's Got Talent," was made public. Now, over 40 million people have heard her sing.

"It's absolutely amazing," Wooley said. "When they heard that on Halloween night, several hundreds of thousands of people heard it, and because of the way it was approached, some actually believed it really was happening."

This article appeared in the May 2, 2009 edition of DISCOVER! Magazine.

Northwestern students compete against top young technological talent in world

ORANGE CITY-They had five hours to solve 11 programming problems.

They and more than 100 other top minds from around that world, that is.

Northwestern College students Ben Kester of Urbandale, Curt Van Wyk of George and John Calsbeek of Orange City, competed in the IBM-sponsored Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming World Finals on Tuesday, April 21, in Stockholm, Sweden.

But, getting there wasn't easy.

Kester, a senior computer science and actuarial science major, Van Wyk, a senior mathematics teaching and computer science major, and Calsbeek, a junior computer science major, won a bid to the international computer programming competition after successfully completing all nine problems to finish fourth in the North Central regional contest on Nov. 15 at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.

The top 100 finishers from across the globe then were invited to the world finals, which ran April 18-22 in Sweden.

During the competition, each team had five hours to successfully complete up to 11 real-world problems using open technology and advanced computing methods.

The winning team was the one that solved the most problems in the fewest amount of attempts in the least amount of time and was announced last Tuesday. Top honors went to Saint Petersburg State University of IT, Mechanics and Optics from Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Although the Northwestern trio did not place at the competition, the students came back to Orange City having experienced what was most likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Here is a look at the experiences Kester, Van Wyk, Calsbeek and Northwestern computer science instructor Michael Wallinga had while at the ACM-ICPC:

Q: How much time did you spend preparing before you traveled to Sweden?
Calsbeek: About an hour a week for eight weeks.
Kester: Not as much as some of the other schools.
Wallinga: We did find that we were the smallest school there, at least as far as we could tell. We were at least one of the smallest schools there, but the level of preparation definitely varied, and you could see that the schools that performed very well definitely took the competition quite seriously.
Van Wyk: One of the professors we talked to said they had three practice sessions a week.

Q: What were your feelings going into the competition?
Calsbeek: Bring it on.
Kester: We were excited.

Q: What was going through your mind while you were attempting to solve the problems?
Kester: When I first started reading the questions, I thought that it wasn't going to be too bad, but by the end, we weren't getting any and were continually getting rejected on our attempts. I was just hoping we could solve one problem.

Q: Do you know what you were doing wrong?
Calsbeek: We think we know, but we can't confirm anything. They don't give out the final answers.

Q: What was your strategy?
Kester: We had maybe three or four problems that we were all trying to solve around the same time.
Van Wyk: Then we brought those together.

Q: Talking with some of the other teams, did you learn any other strategies that might work better?
Kester: I think the strategy was fine. It was just that we couldn't do the problems.
Van Wyk: I think we were just caught up on a few little things. I think we could have had them and moved on and got problems solved. We were just unlucky and couldn't get the pieces put together in the time limit they gave us.
Wallinga: It is kind of unfortunate that we can't get the judges' data and the judges' results and see exactly where we were getting tripped up. I don't think by any means that they were overwhelmed by the problems. The problems they were working on were solvable and it sounded like they had a good approach, too, and were probably well on their way to solving some of them, but a couple of things just kind of stumped them. It would be nice to know exactly what those were, but I think if you look at the standings, those couple of little things that were holding us up were also holding the majority of the other teams up. The teams that take it very seriously and answer seven, eight, nine problems - they're the exception really. They're the elite of the 100 there. If you answer two or three problems, you're placing in the top half, and I still think we were right there. On a different day or with a slightly different set of problems, worded a little differently, I think we would have been fine.

Q: What else did you do in Sweden while you were there?
Kester: They wined and dined us pretty nicely. We were also able to meet up with some of the other teams.
Wallinga: The accommodations were great. The three different hotels were top of the line. IBM funded quite a few meals, which was nice. We got there a day or two early and just went out and found our own places to eat and explored the city. Taking in the atmosphere of the city and the history and the architecture was a really nice opportunity. On one of our free days, we had lunch with some of the other teams from our area - the students and professors from Iowa State University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln - so that was a neat opportunity, to be halfway around the world and be able to meet up with these people that are just a couple of hours away. There were also some opportunities for sight-seeing. One of the restaurants we ate at was in what they call the "Old Town" part of the city, which is even more historic than the rest of it. One of the days, IBM sponsored a trip out to the Fortress, which no longer serves a military purpose. It's now a bed and breakfast, but it used to be a military stronghold, so there were still cannons and cannon balls.

Q: What was your favorite part about being there?
Kester: The actual competition. There was just a lot of excitement. There were so many teams that had spent so much time getting ready for it. It was just a great atmosphere.
Van Wyk: Second to that, I'd say just being in the city. It was the first time I had ever been out of North America.
Wallinga: The contest itself involved some historic sites. The opening ceremonies were held in the city hall area. I don't even know how to describe it. The awards ceremony and the closing ceremony were held in the same auditorium where the Nobel Prizes are given out each year. That was a neat feeling - to be sitting in those seats wondering who else had sat there in the past.

Q: Is there anything you took away from the trip, either from the competition or from being in Sweden?
Kester: It was good just to have the experience. Many of the top young minds were there, and it sounds a little odd to talk about it, but actually seeing their faces and interacting with those people, we realized they weren't much different from us. They had to work with the same problems we did.
Calsbeek: It gives me a new appreciation for the problems. They give you 20-some years of previous questions to practice, but really going over those and sitting down for five hours and trying to solve one is completely different. It was very interesting.
Van Wyk: The appreciation of the minds of other people - how gifted and bright and smart they are. To be able to solve nine of those problems in five ours is very impressive.
Wallinga: It was one of those make the world seem smaller type of experiences. You're surrounded by all different people speaking different languages, but they're all working on the same problems. It was just a neat experience to be part of.
Kester: It would have been nice to know what those Russians were saying, though.

This article appeared in the May 2, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

New Ambassadors look to assist town

ALTON-Heith Riechle and Andy Van Ommeren want to better the community of Alton.

Which is why the two, along with more than 20 other Alton residents have banded together to form the Ambassadors of Alton.

"We're a private, nonprofit organization that works in conjunction with the city," Reichle said. "We want to help the city, so we'll ask them what they maybe want us to help out with."

Although the group has not held an official meeting yet, Reichle and Van Ommeren said the group has met with the Granville Improvement Club to get a better idea of what their purpose and goals should be.

And the group already has a project line up - one that has been two years in the making.

Van Ommeren and his brother Wes, who own Van Ommeren Carpentry in Alton, held a three-on-three basketball tournament two years ago. The event raised $2,000, which was donated to the city.

"The city wanted that first $2,000 that was raised to go toward matching grants for soe park equipment," Van Ommeren said.

While that was more than fine with Van Ommeren, he started talking to Reichle and some of his other friends, and the possibility of starting their own betterment club began sounding like a definite possibility.

"The more we thought about it, we thought we could build up some funds and better the community in ways we want to," Reichle said.

And first on the agenda is a nine-hole disc golf course at Roadside Park.

"The city and county both own the park, so it's going to be on both city and county property," Van Ommeren said.

Wrapping around the entire pond, the course will begin and end at the shelter house and feature nearly a mile-long stretch of secluded, spaced-out holes, making it the first in Sioux County.

But, before the Ambassadors of Alton was ever even formed, Reichle and Van Ommeren knew it was a project they wanted to bring to Alton.

"We had started playing disc golf a lot in LeMars and Cherokee, and we thought it would be nice to have one around here, so we started looking at places to put it, and in Alton, Roadside Park was an obvious choice," Reichle said. "So, then we went around to all of the businesses in town and ended up raising $6,000. With that, you can realize how much work it's going to be, but then the ambassadors came along and took the project over."

Take it over, they did.

Group members bonded together Saturday, April 25, to clean up Roadside Park. Reichle said that while the county side of the park is regularly maintained, the city side is not, so they were able to haul away nearly 60 dead trees as well as overgrown brush, making way for the disc golf course, which Reichle said is scheduled to open sometime in May.

"We also want to have an opening day where we can bring down a big grill and have brats and burgers for all of the donors," Reichle said. "There are 23 businesses that donated, so that's 23 families. Anybody inside or outside the community will also be invited to come out. While the course will open in May, the grand opening day may or may not be in May."

After the disc golf course is open, Reichle and Van Ommeren know they want to have an annual cleanup day of Roadside Park, but other than that, they have not completely decided on future projects and fundraisers for the Ambassadors of Alton.

"We do know we want to do a sandbox fill, where we would go around town with a bunch of sand and fill up kids' sandboxes, but we don't know if that would be every year or every other year," Reichle said.

But, Reichle and Van Ommeren know there will be plenty of community members willing to help.

"In a small town like Alton, everybody can kind of come together, and you can see how much people want to help," Reichle said. "People don't always have the time to put in and do stuff, but they're willing to help in other ways. That's the big thing. We realized how many people want to improve Alton, because there are plenty of things that could be picked up and improved upon around town."

This article appeared in the May 2, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

Events test academic knowledge

PAULLINA-Andrew Van Beek may not be to the level of Albert Enstein yet, but he's working on it.

After qualifying at a local Great Plains Math League competition last month at Dordt College in Sioux Center, the South O'Brien High School senior talented and gifted student earned the chance to compete at the state tournament last Saturday at Iowa City West High School.

In both advanced level math tournaments, Van Beek had to compete in two individual and two team rounds, in which he was paired with other participating students.

"The two individual rounds include a target round and sprint round and the two team rounds include a team test and relay round," said TAG teacher Denise Erdmann. "in order to advance from the local to sate tournament, the students needed to meet the minimum cutoff scores. Andrew went to state because he met those qualifying scores."

And at the state tournament last Saturday, Van Beek advanced once again, after tying for third place in 12th-grade target round. He will vie for a spot in the top three gain in Friday, May 8, when he travels to the regional Great Plains Math League tournament at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

Van Beek is not the only Wolverine that has been stretching his brain muscles lately.

Model United Nations
South O'Brien High School seniors Emily Hill and Andrew Van Beek and sophomores Seth Wester, Kari Lenz and Kaitlin Thiel are nearly experts on the government and foreign policy of Iran.

The five Model United Nations members traveled to compete April 16-17 at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

At the conference, which is a simulation of the actual United Nations, participating teams chose a country to represent and do background research on that particular country. In South O'Brien's case, it was Iran.

"We conducted research based on what Iran would do, or how it would act," Erdmann said. "When we went to the competition, we then used that information to role play or simulate the actual United Nations."

While there, Hill, the team's head delegate, served on the International Court of Justice Committee, while Van Beek was on the Political and Security Committee, Wester was on the Social Humanitarian and Culture Committee, Lenz was on the Legal III Committee and Thiel was on the Legal II Committee.

Although there is a total of nine committees for each country to utilize, Iran only has delegates on a certain amount, so the students chose which committee they wanted to serve on from that list, based on the topics they were most interested in.

Quality delegating is a must - as evidenced by Wester, who earned outstanding delegate honors for the Social Humanitarian and Culture Committee.

"One to two delegates out of the whole committee are recognized for their outstanding work during the whole conference," Erdmann said. "It's something that is an excellent honor for Seth."

IT Olympics
Seven South O'Brien High School TAG students recently went to the Olympics, but they exercised their minds instead of their bodies.

South O'Brien Senior Andrew Van Beek, junior Phil Hilla, sophomores Kaitlin Thiel, Seth Wester and Kari Lenz, and freshmen John Crowhurst and Heath Negus competed at the Information Technology Olympics April 20-21 at Iowa State University in Ames.

The students competed as two teams - Hilla, Theil, Wester and Crowhurst were on one and Van Beek, Lenz and Negus were on the other.

The first team competed in game design, in which they were challenged to create a game geared toward middle school students that emphasizes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education by using ELLIS programing software.

The primary challenge was worth 50 percent of the team's points, but throughout the two days, they also were encouraged to compete in real-life contests, which accounted for 30 percent of the team's score.

"Those may include logic puzzles or challenges where there are incomplete worlds and the students have to add components or complete the game," Erdmann said.

The team finished second overall.

The second team competed in robotics, in which the primary challenge involved creating a sumor robot using LEGO Mindstorms.

After the robot was completed, the South O'Brien team had theirs sumo wrestle 20 other teams in a three-foot diameter ring.

"In addition to that, their real-time challenges included creating a race car for drag racing, creating a monkey bot and catapult," Erdmann said.

Although the robotics team did not finish in the top three, Erdmann still thought the team made a solid showing.

"We were only 47 points away from third place, so it's safe to say that we were one of the top teams there, we just didn't place in the top three," she said.

That was quite a feat considering there were 400 high school students at the competition and this was only South O'Brien's second year competing.

Both teams also had to hold a community service project prior to attending the IT Olympics.

"Our project this year was a program that the kids entitled, 'Word to the People,'" Erdmann said. "The purpose of the project was to teach adults the various functions and practical applications that Microsoft Word has to offer, so they held an interactive session at the high school on one of the inservice days for adults who wanted to learn more about Microsoft Word."

This article appeared in the May 2, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.