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Next update April 27, 2018

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Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. Wright County Journal-Press & The Drummer


 

Clean-up days postponed, new dates to be determined

The city of Buffalo would like to announce that it has decided to postpone its clean-up day, slated to take place Friday April 20, and Saturday April 21, due to the influx of snow. New dates are to be determined.

 


'On Golden Pond' final performances this weekend

"On Golden Pond" has been warming hearts and providing beautiful lake views at Discovery Auditorium this last week.  Buffalo Community Theater's production of this classic combines wit, humor, and family drama into a warm, hopeful distraction from the winter that won't go away.

BCT's final performances are coming up on April 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. and April  22 at 2:00 p.m.  Tickets are available at the door, or for the best seats, purchase tickets online from the BCT website:  bctmn.org.

Spring will get here eventually... but in the meantime, attending a performance of Buffalo Community Theater's "On Golden Pond" will give you the feeling like you're finally up at the lake!

 


Steel Magnolias rehearsals well underway at SOAR 

Rehearsals for Steel Magnolias are well underway as the cast prepares for opening night.  The ensemble cast includes: Jacleen Olson as Truvy Jones, Mari Hyman as Annelle Dupuy-Desoto, Peg Janisch as M'Lynn Eatenton, Gabriella Abbott as Shelby Eatenton, Robbye Lewis as Clairee Belcher, and Maribeth Schulke as Ouiser Boudreaux.

Director Shelli Place said: "For a director to choose to direct a play again, it has to be special. Steel Magnolias is one of those plays for me. I directed it 20+ years ago and every time I pick up this script, I am amazed at how well written it is.  It also reminds me of my own southern roots with the family relationships, the friendships and the laughter...especially the laughter! For this production, I'm delighted to be working with such a dynamic and talented group of ladies who will charm and surprise you, so sit back and enjoy the ride!"

Perfomances are slated for: Friday, May 11, at 2:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 12, at 2:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, May 13, 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.  at St. Michael Cinema, 4300 O'Day Avenue NE, St. Michael, 55376.

For ticket sales and more information, please visit www.soararts.com/Tickets.html, or please call 612-568-7627.

Online, tickets are $15 for adults, seniors, and students; and $17 at the door.

All performances will take place at:

SOAR Regional Arts is a nonprofit organization, the purpose of which is to enrich, educate and entertain the communities of St Michael, Otsego, Albertville and Rogers by providing exceptional performing arts experiences.  SOAR has something for everyone - productions for kids (Academy), teens (TAG), families and adults (summer shows and special presentations). In addition to productions, SOAR provides opportunities for people to learn more about theater with summer camps and educational workshops, all while creating amazing shows for our patrons!

Nick Knese Construction

 


"Stomp out Parkinson's" in Maple Lake, April 28

Come and help "Stomp out Parkinson's" disease Saturday, April 28, from, 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at The V in Maple Lake, and help us fight this disease, one step at a time.

From 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. will be a silent auction, and from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. will be a chicken or prime rib dinner available for a purchase of $20.00. A full bar menu will be available for kids 12 years and under. From 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. is the night's live auction.

This fundraiser benefits the National Parkinson Foundation and the Micheal J. Fox Foundation. For updates on auction items, please visit facebook.com/StompOutPD, or call Claire Austin at 612-245-9571.

 


City announces hydrant flushing starting April 23

The City of Buffalo Water Department will be flushing hydrants Monday, April 23  through Friday, April 27.

Hydrant flushing is done spring and fall to ensure hydrants are in working order for fire protection and to remove mineral deposits that may accumulate in the water distribution system.

In order for the Water Department to complete this work in a safe and orderly fashion, we request that you:

• Please use caution when approaching flushing operations.

• Please refrain from doing laundry between the hours of 5:00am to 7:00pm, be sure to check the color of your water prior to doing laundry, since discolored water may stain clothing, particularly whites.

• Please limit household water use, as well as outside watering and irrigation, when you see flushing operations in your neighborhood.  This will help minimize household water discoloration.

We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your cooperation.

If you have any questions, or experience discolored water after these dates, please reach out and contact Cara Hesse by phone at 763.684.5432, or online at cara.hesse@ci.buffalo.mn.us.

 


April showers bring May...blizzards? Snowstorm sets accumulation records throughout the state

It took Eric Fobbe, and his kids, approximately six hours over the weekend to build "Frosty" in the front of the family's home in the Rodeo Hills development. Fobbe used a snow blower, a ladder, and his truck to get the height to top at approximately 13 feet, and he formed it with different tools.  Pictured are, from left to right, Ashton Fobbe, Emma Fobbe, and Eric Fobbe.  (Photo courtesy of Stacy Fobbe)

By Miriam Orr

What are the old sayings about spring? "March comes in like a lion, and leaves like a lamb?" Or, "April showers bring May flowers?"

Not so for Minnesota, it seems.

This past weekend's snow has not only left most of the state frustrated and befuddled, but it also broke records, as this April is now the snowiest on record for the state of Minnesota. Areas across the metro measured as much as 22 inches of snow by Saturday.

CBS Minnesota reported on April 16 that the weekend's snowstorm set an all-time record in the Twin Cities for April snowfall. The National Weather Service says that the 14.9 inches of snow that fell on the MSP International Airport between Friday, April 13 and Sunday, April 15 set the record for the most snowfall.

The record for the snowiest April was set in 1986, when 13.9 inches of snow fell on the metro area. However, the record for the largest snowfall in Minnesota stretched back to 1991 Halloween night, when 28.4 inches of snow "treated" the state. Of the metro area, Maple Grove has reported a staggering 22 inches of snow as of this last weekend. Metro law enforcement assisted with hundreds of accidents, while MSP cancelled a total of 750 flights in and out of the state.

The Wright County Sheriff's Office confirms that they assisted with a total of 39 Vehicle Off-Road (VOR) incidents, and eleven crashes over the weekend. Of those eleven crashes, three DWI arrests were made, and one was a deer collision. The rest were weather-related, though the Office stated that there were no fatalities, and none of the incidents reported injuries.

On April 14, MnDOT had issued a release advising motorists to stay off the roads in Stearns and Wright counties, due to imminent "blizzard conditions and limited visibility." Hwy. 55 from Kimball eastward, Hwy. 25 through Buffalo southward, and Highway 12 from Cokato eastward were all issued in the advisory. MnDOT stated that the roads were coated with "snow, compacted snow, and ice," and that plowing procedures, while underway, were creating whiteout situations not safe to drive in.

Wright County received an approximate 12 inches of snow during the storm, where law enforcement, EMS, and county services worked continually to keep up with growing incidents throughout the county.

MnDOT advises staying up-to-date with weather conditions by visiting www.511mn.org, for a listing of all no-travel advised areas and road conditions, and reminds motorists to keep a distance of at least three vehicle lengths behind plows, and other drivers; and to, ultimately, slow down.

 


Council considers concept plan for 94-unit downtown senior housing

By Doug Voerding

The Buffalo City Council on Monday, April 16, reviewed a concept plan for a 94-unit senior living building for downtown Buffalo.

The building would be on the south side of Division Street on land along the north side of the former Coborn's parking lot, now owned by the city's Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and the former Buffalo Floral property, a mixed-use commercial and multi-family residential building.

 According to Councilmember Eric Anderson, the council's liaison to the Planning Commission, the building would be an enhancement for downtown and would address the issue of bringing more people downtown, as noted in the city's market analysis done last year.

Anderson said that the Planning Commission was concerned about parking and that parking needs in the downtown area will need to be addressed.

"I was not sure at first," said Anderson, "but now I see this as a good spot for that kind of building."

Mayor Teri Lachermeier said that she likes working with Roers Companies, the developer of the site.

Said Lachermeier, "This is not what I envisioned, but I am open to all ideas. I am confident this is the right first move for downtown."

Since this is a concept plan, Anderson added, "We would like feedback from the residents on this project."

According to the April 9 Planning Commission meeting minutes, Roers Investments has applied for concept review for a proposed 94-unit senior living building in the B-5 Central Business District.

The building would include four floors of dwelling units with a floor of parking beneath. The building would be proposed to include independent living apartments, assisted living and memory care units. Jared Ackmann told the commission that units will be designed to accommodate both and the proposed manager Walker Methodist generally operates this way.

 

Local Control

At the April 2 meeting, Mayor Teri Lachermeier and Councilmember Eric Anderson were absent, so the council tabled action on a resolution from the League of Minnesota Cities that supports "local decision-making authority and opposes legislation that removes the ability for local elected officials to respond to the needs of their businesses and constituents."

The resolution comes as a result of at least 40 bills that have reportedly been introduced in the state legislature this year that would restrict local decision making.

On Monday, the council, on a 4 to 1 vote, supported the resolution.

Citing some examples of legislative bills that could have an effect on the city in the future, City Administrator Mert Auger told the council, "You are the essence of the local governing structure, and you know whatís best for the city.î

Councilmember Steve Downer, who voted against the measure, said, "We have a good relationship with our local legislators. They have helped us out. We donít need to make this statement."

Said Anderson, "The city needs to keep control over local issues."

 

Electric Service

The council approved an agreement the city reached with Wright-Hennepin Electric for the city to acquire territory for the city to take over electric service.

The area is known as Bella Vista Second Addition, located in the northwest part of the city on Baker Avenue NW, south of Highway 55 and 33rd Street NW.

As required by state statute, the city will pay $130,089 one time to Wright-Hennepin for future income Wright-Hennepin might have lost.

Now that annexation for the Sturges property on the southeast corner of the roundabout at County Road 35 and County Road 134 is complete, the city will be negotiating with Wright- Hennepin to take over electric service to that site. Plans there are for a Caseyís General Store.

 

Open Forum

During the open forum, Jason Lang of Nelson Lodge 135 talked to the council about the work of the charitable organization in Buffalo.

Nelson Lodge over the past seven years has raised $141,477, matched by the national organization, for the Buffalo Food Shelf. The lodge members has also been involved in Fishing Klinic for Kids, and providing scholarships for graduating seniors at Buffalo, Annandale, and Maple Lake High Schools.

At the council meeting, Master Clint LaFave of Nelson Lodge and Worthy Matron of Galilee Chapter presented the Buffalo Food Shelf with two donations of $10,162.50.

Nelson Lodge will be hosting its adult prom on Saturday, April 28, at the Bison Creek Event Center to support its scholarship program.

Resident Fred Naaktgeboren reminded the council and the community that on May 3 at 7:00 p.m. at the Buffalo Community Center there would be a meeting to discuss a new community center. Representatives from Big Lake and Monticello will be at that meeting to talk about what a community center can be and should be. All are invited.

Brad Danielson of Buffalo Fishing Forever told the council that the program is "extremely financially soundî and that the group has developed a five-year plan.

Several of the five-year goals are to increase the level of volunteering, to get area businesses and organizations to sponsor trips with their own volunteers, and to expand the program with a second boat on Buffalo Lake for boat rides.

Danielson also said the group is considering offering conservation scholarships, helping to stock the lakes, and helping with the invasive species concerns.

 

Spring Clean-Up

Citing the weather, Lachermeier announced that spring clean-up day has been canceled and will be rescheduled for early summer.

Lachermeier said that getting all the groups that work the clean-up day together for another day will take some time to coordinate.

 

Donations

The council accepted several donations.

For Flora of Buffalo, donations were Joe Steffel, $50; Todd Jordahl, $65; Buffalo Rotary, $750; Paul and Lori Olson. $65; and Anonymous, $100.

The Montrose Lions donated $2,500 to Buffalo Fishing Forever.

Donations to the Community Center Toy Shop were Dean and Pam (no last name given), $20; Jon and Rita Cichoski, $35; and Crow River Lions, $250.

 

Other Action

In other action, the council

•learned that hydrant flushing will continue as scheduled for the week of April 23 ñ 27.

• approved the annual review of the cityís investment policy, authorizing Finance Officer Ashley Hansen, City Administrator Merton Auger, and Assistant City Administrator Laureen Bodin to initiate investment transactions that conform to the investment policy.

• approved a temporary liquor license for Kiley Hoese for a wedding at the civic center on May 19.

• approved TNT Fireworks for inside and outside sales of fireworks at Walgreens, Cub Foods, Target, and Walmart.

• after a public hearing, certified one delinquent utilities account to the tax rolls.

• adjourned to a workshop on the housing study on Wednesday, April 18, at 5:30 p.m. at city hall.

• set Thursday, May 24 at 5:30 p.m. for another housing study workshop.

 


Boy/Girl County Day with Commissioners, April 17

By Miriam Orr

On Tuesday, April 17, the Wright County Board of Commissioners welcomed students from the area to the county's "Boy/Girl County Day," to introduce the board and review the responsibilities of Commissioners, overview Board proceedings, and provide students with the opportunity for a  question/answer period.

Commissioner Mark Daleiden, who currently serves as the Board's Chair, explained that the duties of a Chair member do not vary greatly from those of other Commissioners, but there are some additional responsibilities that come with the position. He explained that Commissioners elect a Chairman every year, and that Commissioners rotate the position amongst themselves to keep an even balance of supervision.

Each Commissioner represents districts within the county. Wright County Commissioners represent approximately 25,000 people within their individual districts and each of them serve on approximately 20 separate committees. They strive to keep the interest of their districts at the forefront of their actions, while also considering them as part of a collective whole in the county.

Commissioner Christine Husom stated, "This is such a wonderful county – it's so diverse from end to end, but we're still all one people."

Husom became active in local government as a corrections officer at the Wright County Jail in 1989, the sixth corrections officer hired within Wright County. It was when the county was growing and building a new jail facility in 1991 that she decided she enjoyed helping clarify issues and seeing that things were accomplished smoothly, and her coworkers encouraged her to consider running as a Commissioner. Some twenty years later, she represents District One.

Commissioner Darek Vetsch represents District Two, and discovered his interest in local government, in fact, from his own visit to the county's "Boy/Girl County Day." Vetsch has a background in political science, and worked in business before he decided to "get back in politics and get his feet wet."

Commissioner Mike Potter, who commented that he ran for the position of a Commissioner four different times before being elected, represents District Four. He served as Mayor of Albertville in the 1990s. His passion in the county is its expansion, and how expansion is a conduit for change, and what that means for a county.

"Wright is a collar county, as it is right along the metro but is also very rural. A large number of our population commutes to the city for work, while others work as farmers or locally. We have to embrace that about Wright County." Potter commented.

Commissioner Charlie Borrell is a former U.S. Navyman, who represents District Five. He served as a township supervisor within Wright County in Woodland County. He currently farms, and his first experience in local government outside of serving as a township supervisor was sitting on a school board. He is very closely involved with working on updating and maintaining ditches within the county, a project that he has overseen since the beginning of his election.

Daleiden, who was previously a township supervisor in the St. Michael/Albertville area, is currently a business owner in hand with a County Commissioner,  and represents District Three. For 28 years before his service on the Board, he worked for a chemical company. When he decided to run for his seat on the Board, there was only one other individual running for the position.

"I decided that people should have choices," Daleiden stated, "and I wanted members of the community to be able to decide who represents them at a county level, so I decided to run."

Students had the opportunity to ask questions to the Board. One student asked whether the position as a Commissioner was paid or volunteer. The Board confirmed that their seats do come with a salary, though the job is not necessarily full time.

"While it's not technically full time, a lot of times it can be," Borrell stated. "There are some days we work late nights sitting on committees, or we have meetings five days a week. Then there are other times it's part time."

Another student asked whether the Board had the authority to make decisions regarding schools within the county, to which Daleiden responded that they do not make decisions regarding the school directly, but have worked with the school boards closely, such as filling a seat on the Safe Schools committee, for example.

Students would visit other county entities, such as the District Court Office, where they would participate in discussion with County Attorneys, representatives from the Wright County's Sheriff Office, and others.

 

Agenda items:

Information Technology:  Adam Tagarro, Director, introduced the county's new Telecom Specialist, Mark Staller. Staller brings 20+ years of experience in telecom and communications. Born and raised in St.Cloud, Staller is a graduate of St. John's University, where he attended on an ROTC scholarship and would later join the army, serving as a communications officer for nine years. Once out of the military, he has primarily stayed in telecom, and currently lives in Big Lake.

County Attorney: Brian Asleson, Chief Deputy Attorney, presented the request to adopt a resolution approving a Joint Powers Agreement between court services and Bureau of Criminal Apprehensions (BCA), which allows the county to access data in support of the official duties in criminal apprehension. The Board passed a resolution unanimously.

Highway Department: Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins presented the request for approval of a concurring resolution regarding the city of St. Michael to place a Municipal State Aide Street (MSAS) designation on portions of C.R. 119, which will add 1.35 miles to the road. Resolutions regarding this matter on C.R. 119 have been passed before, Hawkins, states. The Board passed the resolution unanimously.

Auditor/Treasurers Office: Bob Hiivala requested the approval of the March revenue/expenditure report, which is a modified budget report. Hiivala explained that remaining 2017 expenses were included in January and February's 2018 report, and went against the budget set for the year. Hiivala announced that there was "nothing to draw the Board's attention to," and that things were "on track."

Also presented was the request to adopt a resolution affirming the county's jurisdiction to carry out the compliance provisions of the Buffer Enforcement Ordinance, Number 18-3. Governor Dayton mandated that buffers would be established on natural waterways, and Minnesota Statute stated that once an ordinance will pass, the county will take over enforcement of violations and present them to the state, by adopting a county ordinance.

Vetsch motioned to adopt the resolution, which he had motioned for earlier in 2018. The Board had tabled the adoption in favor of conducting more research. The ordinance would, as Husom stated, allow more local control versus total state enforcement. The ordinance was passed unanimously.

A public hearing was scheduled in regard to the buffer ordinance, set for June 5, at 9:30 a.m. during the weekly Board meeting.

Also presented was the request to authorize a proposal for professional engineering services for County Ditch 38. There is concern that tree roots are growing through ditch's tile-line, which is blocking flow through the ditch. On the west end of the ditch, it was noted that there was a steel tube rusted through the ditch, which they hope to reroute around.

Wright County Economic Development Partnership: Duane Northagen, Executive Director, requested approval of a revised comprehensive economic development strategy joint powers agreement, which would bring the county back in line to be considered for federal funding in projects that are ruled as economic development for the area. The JPA will promote research, economic growth opportunities, and the planning, implementation and advisory function of projects. Wright County has not been designated by the state in regard to having an economic development partnership, and thus has not been considered for federal funding. The agreement was approved unanimously. Potter was appointed, along with Northagen, to sit on the partnership board, with Vetsch as his alternate. County Coordinator Lee Kelly was appointed as an alternate for Northagen.

Facilities Services Director: Alan Wilczek presented for discussion the award of Category One and Alternate One contracts for the Justice Center. The Board had tabled approval of Category One and Alternate One contracts previously, allowing time for contractors to be able to reconsider and resubmit bids regarding groundwork around the Justice Center. Contractors who bid for Category and Alternate One reviewed the bids again, though did not make changes with their original bid. The board voted 4-1 to approve the bid, with Borrell voting against, which will round out at roughly $48,000,000.00 for the Center overall.

Wilczek also presented the request to approve the execution of the service agreement contract for Janitorial Services throughout County facilities, to which the Board voted unanimously.  

Planning and Zoning: Attorney Greg Kryzer presented  the request to review a petition for an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) regarding the Delano Sportsmen's Club's  request to expand their facility. Petitioners presented the concern that the Club's expansion would pose a significant ecological and economical impact to land and community, as their plans show little discussion of noise reduction barriers and limited prevention of potential lead contamination into nearby water sources. Wally Johnson, a representative to the community's petition, asked the Board to consider requiring a EAW to determine impact on the land area. The EAW would, ultimately, determine if the project posed any significant economical impact, though it would set the project back a little under a year.

The Board made a motion for staff to move forward with proceedings to deny the EAW, though further discussion on the motion will be brought back to the Board's attention in coming weeks.

 


BHS Spring play 'An Ideal Husband' kicks off April 19

Buffalo High School's Spring Play kicks off with the first of three shows starting Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center. This year's show, "An Ideal Husband" by Oscar Wilde, is co-directed by Debb Bestland and Nick Lostetter. Pictured on the  bench are BHS students performing in lead roles, Mason Schmidt (left) as Sir Robert Chiltern and Tara Gravelle (right) as Lady Chiltern. Other shows are Friday-Saturday, April 20-21 starting at 7:30 p.m. See more in School News on page 4C. (Photo by Rob LaPlante)

 

 


KRWC's 32nd annual Home and Garden show

KRWC is thrilled to announce its 32nd annual Wright County Home and Garden Show, April 27 and 28, at the Buffalo Civic Center.

On Friday, April 27 doors open from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., with free Bernatellos Pizza going from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday's stage schedule includes live broadcasts from 4:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, the event will run from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with SpeedTalk 1360 AM, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Inside Bluegrass from 11:00 a.m. to noon, and a garden trivia game from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Parking and admission to this event is free for both days, and Wright County Master Gardeners are going to give you a chance to win prizes! If you are interested in featuring your business in this year's show, please email joe@krwc1360.com.

 


Crossroads to host annual benefit Apr. 28

Crossroads Animal Shelter Hosts Dinner for Dogs (& Cats, Too!)

Join Crossroads Animal Shelter at its annual benefit on Saturday April 28, 2018 at the River City Extreme in Monticello.  The evening will begin with a social hour at 6:00 pm followed by a plated steak and shrimp dinner along with options for vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free menus.

All proceeds will support the Shelter. Tickets are $40 per person and may be purchased at the Shelter at 2800 10th Street Southeast, Buffalo, or call 763-684-1234.

A raffle, money boards and live and silent auctions feature something for everyone. Table sponsorships are still available for $300, $500 or $1,000.

The Crossroads Animal Shelter Board wants you to be a part of this important fundraising event. Your support and attendance will help many homeless and abandoned animals in the Wright County area.

If you cannot attend the event but wish to make a financial contribution, please send your gift to Crossroads Animal Shelter at 2800 10th Street Southeast, Buffalo.

 


12th annual Action for Children fundraiser

The 12th annual fundraiser for Action for Children – Zambia is scheduled for Sunday, April 29, at the Maple Lake Legion Club in Maple Lake. The event runs from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., with tickets available for $25.00 per person.

The event will be hosted by Carol McBrady's family and friends, and funds raised this year will go towards educational costs, farm equipment, and Redemption House expenses.

The afternoon's event will feature delicious hors d'oeuvres and desserts, and a special program highlighting the progess that has been made in the last year, as well as the success of Carol and her team, will be featured. Also, a silent auction featuring many delightful items, along with a live auction with the opportunity to 'buy' things that are needed in Zambia will be hosted.

Call Betty Thomes at 320-963-3940 or Mary Pat Craite at 763-229-8150 to arrange for your contribution, for more information, or to order tickets. Thank you for your generous support in answering the cries of children in Zambia. Please RSVP by Monday, April 23.

All proceeds go directly to Action for Children – Zambia, a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.

 


Plaisted first to reach North Pole over ice

Fifty years ago this week, the Ralph Plaisted team snowmobiled across the Arctic to achieve goal

By Doug Voerding

Fifty years ago this week, Minnesota's Ralph Plaisted and his team of Walt Pederson, Gerald Pitzl, and Jean-Luc Bombardier became the first to plant American and Canadian flags at the North Pole. Their achievement was identified as the first indisputable reaching of the North Pole over sea ice.

A couple of weeks ago, Dick Stevens brought some information about Plaisted and his expedition to the Journal-Press office.

Stevens said that Ralph Plaisted was a good friend of his son, Mike, and would come in the spring each year for a fish fry at the Stevens' place here in Wright County. Ralph would spend time visiting his brother Tom Plaisted in Buffalo and other friends in the area.

Ralph Plaisted's last spring fish fry was in 2008. He left his sweater behind and, when the Stevens family wanted to return it, Plaisted told them to keep it. For the Stevens family, that sweater is a remembrance of the man who conquered the Arctic and became the first to the North Pole over the ice.

 

First attempts in history

Prior to the early 1900s, there had been numerous explorations of the Arctic. European monarchs wanted to find an alternative trading route to China, the Northwest Passage through the North American continent.

From 1594 to 1900, several European explorers tried unsuccessfully to find that Northwest Passage. Roald Amundsen, of Norway, finally completed a navigation of the Northwest Passage from 1903 to 1905. All of these expeditions were by ship.

From 1886 to 1909, U.S. Navy Engineer Robert Peary organized eight expeditions to the Arctic. In 1909, on an expedition supported by the National Geographic Society, Peary reported that he with Matthew Henson and four others reached the North Pole on foot with dog sleds. There are still questions about his report of the distances he traveled and how close he actually came to the North Pole.

However, the first-verified, over-ice expedition to the North Pole did not happen until 1968 when Ralph Plaisted and his team used snowmobiles to reach the pole.

 

Before the expedition

After serving in the U. S. Navy during World War II, Plaisted became a successful insurance agent in White Bear Lake.

When the sport of snowmobiling grew popular in the 1960s, Plaisted bought one of the first Canadian-made Ski-Doo sleds in the United States. To prove that snowmobiles were durable for travel, in January 1965, he drove non-stop from Ely to St. Paul, a distance of 250 miles, in 14 hours.

In 1963, Plaisted met his friend Art Aufderheide in a bar. Aufderheide apparently got tired of hearing how great snowmobiles were and told Plaisted that if the machines were so great, he should ride one to the North Pole. A bar bet, or so the story goes.

 

Preparations for the expedition

Plaisted took up the challenge in 1967 and, with a small crew and CBS journalist Charles Kuralt, attempted to reach the North Pole. The trip ended far short of the goal because unexpected warm weather in April caused the ice to start breaking up. However, plans for a trip the following year were begun.

The 1968 trip would cost $125,000, about $900,000 in today's dollars. There were more than 85 sponsors, including Knorr for dried soup, Pillsbury for dried meals, and Coleman for tents.

Snowmobile suits of the 1960s were not designed for Arctic conditions. Special clothing was made that included an inner parka of cotton lined with Sherpa cloth and a hood of wolverine fur. Plaisted and his team tested the custom-made outfits by lying on a Minnesota lake when the temperature was 35 below.

 

The expedition

The Plaisted Expedition, with Plaisted as the leader, included navigator and radioman Gerry Pitzl, a university geography teacher; mechanic Walt Pederson, owner of a Ski-Doo dealership in St. Cloud; and Jean-Luc Bombardier, the nephew of Armand Bombardier, whose Ski-Doo snowmobiles were used in the expedition.

The Ski-Doo snowmobiles were single-piston and 16-horsepower. They were made of wood and steel and weighed about 250 pounds, much lighter and less powerful than today's sleds.

The team left from Ward Hunt Island in Canada on March 7, about a month earlier than in 1967. The temperature was 62 below.

Their route to the North Pole required covering more than 825 miles. If they had been able to follow a straight line, the trip would have been about half that at 475 miles. The trip took 44 days. Six of those days were spent waiting out an Arctic storm.

The route was over ice ridges that could be more than twenty feet high. If the snowmobilers couldn't get around the ridges, bridges were built with ice picks and shovels. Some days, the team only covered two or three miles. Other days, the team would travel 65 miles.

Seven air drops of fuel and supplies kept the riders going. Temperatures were consistently 50 to 60 below for the first two weeks, and never got above 18 below.

Once the expedition reached the North Pole, they had to spend a night until a U.S. Air Force plane could fly over to document their location. In fact, before the plane flew over, they had to move their tents and equipment two-and-a-half miles because the ice had shifted during the night.

Once it was determined that the team was indeed at the North Pole, they were then flown home with their equipment and three of the snowmobiles.

Two other men, Art Aufderheide, the friend who made the challenge, and electronics engineer Don Powellek who had previously been flown off the ice back to base camp to take care of supply and electronics issues.

 

After the success

After the team's success, Plaisted continued to run his insurance agency until 1971.

Always an adventurer, in 1971, Plaisted brought his family to Lake Russell, Saskatchewan, Canada. There they lived in tents for 15 months while building fishing camp cabins and living off the land and water.

Plaisted returned to his insurance business, and he continued to run that fly-in fishing camp for many years.

Said Dick Stevens, "My family was able to go to that fish camp in 1983."

Plaisted also gave lectures and programs.

In January, 1974, Plaisted spoke to the Buffalo Snow Riders snowmobile club. The program included showings of "North Pole Expedition" and "Our Wilderness Live-In," which highlighted Plaisted's snowmobile trip to the North Pole and his experiences living in the far north with his family.

After his return, Plaisted reportedly said, "Boy, it's cold up there. I don't know why anyone would want to do it again."

Ralph Plaisted died at his home in Wyoming, Minnesota, on September 8, 2008, at the age of 80.

 

Sources of information are from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, National Geographic Society, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Minneapolis StarTribune, Wright County Journal-Press, Los Angeles Times, St. Paul Pioneer Press, New York Sun, and New York Times.

 


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