New businesses, new bridge, new early learning center highlight year

            A long-awaited bridge in Melrose was completed in November 2022. Albany Area School District residents, in August, approved a referendum to renovate the former Albany Hospital/Clinic into an early learning center. An era in Holdingford’s history ended May 4 when Kevin and Nancy Headley sold Headley Hardware to Josh and Jenna Andersen, new owners of Holdingford Hardware. 

            The Star Post looks back at 2022. 

            January:  

 –  Kinsley Gertie Achman, the first baby born at CentraCare-Melrose Hospital arrived at 7:57 a.m., Jan. 1, 2022. She is the first child of Joshua Achman and Peggy Cremers of Albany. 

             –  The better part of two years people have adjusted to pandemic related changes. COVID-19 has revised plans and timetables. Local businesses are no exception, with supply not meeting the demand. “We could double business if we knew supplies were coming,” said Chuck Barth, of Warrior Boats of Melrose. 

            Barth, on Jan. 4, said receiving some materials is getting better, but anything from overseas is still hard to get. They are ordering motors for spring of 2025. 

            “The supply, and up to now, the demand is so high,” he said. “We expect it to back off a little bit but our continual demand for boats just keeps going.” 

 –  Loretta Mrosla was the Holdingford Public Schools spelling bee champion. 

 –  Al Schaefer, of New Munich, celebrated his 100th birthday with a family gathering at one of his favorite places, Melrose Bowl. 

            February

 – Jenni Munoz is Melrose Area Public Schools’ first Hispanic success coach, working with other staff to strengthen parent engagement within the school system.

 –  Albany City Council supports pay increases to retain staff. 

             – Plans are in the works for a Sauk River Park campground expansion in Melrose. City council members, during their Feb. 17 monthly meeting at the Melrose Fire/Ambulance Station, approved purchasing electricalmaterials, estimated to cost around $35,000, for campsites at the Sauk River Park campgrounds, sharing the cost with the Public Utilities Commission.

             –  Local couple, Isaac and Cassie Herkenhoff are excited to be the new owners of Charlie’s Café in Freeport. 

            March:

 –  Twenty-two teams compete in 25th year of Albany Ice Cup on North Lake in Albany. 

 – Minnesota’s district boundaries are on the move once again, following the population shifts of the last decade as recorded in the latest U.S. Census. Minnesota’s overall population increased from about 5.4 million in 2012 to 5.7 million in 2022 and, because of larger increases in metro areas, the largely rural Greater Minnesota area is poised to lose legislative seats while the Twin Cities area will gain more representation.

 – Eight young ladies – Kalie Ritter, daughter of Glen and Leslie, of Avon; Sophia Schiffler, daughter of John and Kristie, of Albany; Grace Woitalla, daughter of Keith and Patty, of Holdingford; Kallie and Hailey Frericks, daughters of Steve and Tammy, of Albany; Alex Christen, daughter of Glen and Becky, of Sauk Centre; Makayla Breth, daughter of Jerry and Tammy, of St. Anthony; and Briana Maus, daughter of Darrel and Lisa, of Freeport – were crowned Stearns County dairy princesses at the Freeport Community Center in Freeport. Christen, Maus and Hailey and Kallie Frericks went on to compete for Minnesota’s 69th Princess Kay of the Milky Way in August. 

 – A new whiskey distillery opened in Avon. Stearns American’s new rye whiskey salutes free-spirited moonshiners of Prohibition era. 

            April:

 – Albany superintendent Greg Johnson accepted a position in Little Falls, after eight years in the Albany Area School District. 

 – Healthcare is ever changing. At the CentraCare-Melrose medical campus, a new structure of leadership, which has employees Jenn Tschida and Rusty Nielsen in new roles, connects employees and the community while they provide operational oversight and strategic direction toward achieving local, regional and system goals. They are partnering with physician leader Dr. Lindsey Chmielewski and long-term care administrator Anne Major, to lead the Melrose campus. 

 – Lindsey Clancy, Owen Gerads, Melissa Gerads, Shirley Moser, Maria Hughes, Tom Skudlarek, Jen Ehresmann, Jackie Fiedler, Lynn Brutger and Brennan Shay accepted awards at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Awards and Recognition ceremony at the Albany Golf Club Albany. 

 – Melrose Area High School speech team members Emily Rieland, Amelia Brower, Gracie Schad, Drew Pundsack, Ellie Heller, Brandon Stalboerger, Reagan Mueller, Lydia Prout, Autumn Oevermann, Caraline Braun, Madi Stusse, Makayla Zirbes, Kimi Klassen, Anessa Redepenning and Vanessa Santana are Class A State speech champions. Seven of the speakers advanced to the finals round, which was a school record.

            May:

 – An era in Holdingford’s history ended when Kevin and Nancy Headley signed papers transferring their Headley Hardware business to Josh and Jenna Andersen, new owners of Holdingford Hardware. 

       –  Travis Okerlund was selected as the new superintendent at Albany Area Schools. He started his new position July 1. 

            –  Close to 1,160 were served during the 50th annual St. Anthony Swanycake and Sausage Supper at the St. Anthony Church in St. Anthony. 

            – Graduation ceremonies were held for close to 120 Albany Area High School students and 100 Melrose Area High School students. 

            June

            – Sixty-five seniors graduated from Holdingford High School. 

            –  Jan Elfering has served three generations of students during her 45 years working in the Melrose Area Public Schools food service department.  

            – The city of Freeport hired Jon Nelson as their new city clerk-treasurer.

            – Birch Hills Community Youth Center opened in Melrose.

            – Bavarian Gardens opened in New Munich, offering plants, décor, coffee, food and an ice cream shop, with entertainment by local musicians. 

July:   

– Northstar Flyers Club welcomed new flyers during Holdingford Daze. 

– Thirty-three youth participated in week-long Camp Invention at Holy Family School, a program that challenged children during hands-on activities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, learning while building confidence, leadership, perseverance.

– Minnesota rolled out their new 988 crisis lifeline. The eighth Annual Healing Hearts Suicide Awareness Run/Walk in Melrose lent support and hope for those dealing with mental health issues. 

August:

– Crowned Little Miss Melrose royalty were queen Willow Gregory and princesses Nora Depute and Lexi Worms. Gregory was also named Miss Photogenic. 

–  The Albany Area School District was given the green light to purchase the former Albany Hospital and repurpose it into an Early Learning Center after district voters approved a single-question $16,960,000 bond referendum on the primary ballot. 

– The Melrose Area School Board will consider their next steps following the failure of the $29,940,000 bond referendum during the primary election. School district residents voted down the question with 1,170 (53.21%) no votes to 1,029 (46.79%) yes votes. A special election will be held  Feb. 14, 2023, for district residents to vote on a $34,805,000 general obligation building bond.  

– St. Leo’s Court of Foresters in New Munich celebrated 125 years with a get-together. 

– Al Besemann Albany American Legion Post 482 celebrated 100 years in 2022.

            September

            – Nicky Lahr was hired as the new Holdingford clerk/treasurer and Kelly Abfalter is the new deputy clerk/treasurer.  

            – Many people pitched in to make Albany Pioneer Days successful, including Ken Ebnet and Gary Pilgrim who showcased running engines. 

            – Freeport Lions spearheaded a city park playground equipment project, investing close to $100,000. 

            October

            – Pam Rue relocated her Decor & More business from Freeport to Melrose.

            – Emergency personnel came together in Albany for educational fire safety event.

            – Fundraiser for the Albany dance team had people on a haunted house high near Holdingford. 

            – Five years after new CentraCare-Melrose Hospital opened, numbers and services grew. 

– Avon’s fire hall expansion will be guided by a newly formed planning committee.   

November:

 – Gregg and Courtney Rademacher are thankful for their family of five. They relish life after a seven-month journey to bring twin daughters home. 

– Husker strong girls share a special bond. Two Holdingford families thankful for heart-warming support while dealing with cancer. 

– The Melrose bridge and road, including First Street, opened Nov. 4 after it was closed since December 2021 for the River, Dam, Bridge project.

– There is no wallowing in her woes for Alice Athmann who survived a fall in her basement and is grateful she can live a normal life, which includes helping out when she can. 

–  Xcel Energy identified Albany as possible electric vehicle charging site. 

– Jim Kastanek, of Albany, retires after 60 years of helping people reach their goals. 

– Loretta Panek, of Avon, keeps rolling and bowling for 70 years. 

– Plans for Kwik Trip, Inc., in Melrose progress. 

December

– Albany students share special pen pal connection with St. Cloud State University womens basketball team. 

– New deacons Jesus Hernandez and Jorge Carrillo are excited to assist with Our Lady Guadalupe celebration in Melrose. 

– Albany Mutual Telephone and Melrose Telephone Co., dba Arvig, are among internet providers receiving a portion of nearly $100 million to expand broadband covering more Minnesotans. This is the largest single investment in broadband in state history, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. 

– To preserve the city’s heritage, Holdingford Area Historical Society members are working with an artist to paint a mural on the south side of their museum, running along County Road 17 through Holdingford.