Feature Stories

Thu
30
Jan

In the Shadows of the Blue Ridge Parkway


A bluegrass quartet performs in the parlor of the Homeplace_Restaurant. (photos by Pamela O’Meara/Review)

The Mabry Mill, south of Roanoke, started life as a blacksmith’s shop in 1905; later, water from the river powered gristmill and sawmill operations. Now, the mill draws tourists and photographers year-round, and in peak seasons the National Park Service hosts crafting and food-preservation demonstrations.

Not only does Center in the Square house historical and cultural exhibits, it offers a state-of-the-art science museum with collections from all over the world -- and beyond. We were fortunate enough to visit during the government shutdown, when Roanoke’s Butterfly House was caring for the Smithsonian’s collection, including this swallowtail.

As the largest Virginia city along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Roanoke is the gateway to the sights along the way as well has being a good destination on its own merits.
Whatever direction you go from Roanoke, you can find beautiful mountain views, woods, wineries, outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and camping, historic sites, and in Roanoke, interesting museums and good food.

Tue
28
Jan

Moviehouse keeps $2 films, adds new outreach for church


The plaza’s lobby was repainted, given new walls and ceiling tiles, and a collage featuring stills from a wide swath of famous movies was put up. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Charley Swanson, left, and Mike Dougherty, pose in front of the Plaza Theater, or what used to be called Plaza Maplewood. The two are part of the theater’s new management team, and are employed by Woodland Hills Church. (submitted photo)

Woodland Hill renovated much of the Plaza, including the entrance, and made a new logo. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Employees of the Lift work concessions of the Plaza Theater. The theater is staffed by workers from the Lift through a program designed to give people job training. Many of the Lift’s staff are East Siders. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Volunteers from Woodland Hills Church worked to install new seats at the theater. (submitted photo)

With new ownership and plans for a new digital projector, the Plaza Maplewood is back up and running, under the hands of a church.
Following investment and fundraising from the new management, Woodland Hills Church, the place has new carpet, new walls, new ceiling tiles, new seats, and new staff.
The arcade machines are gone and things look fresh, new, and almost pristine.

Wed
15
Jan

Her heart’s in the effort


Sara Meslow, who lives with an internal defibrillator, recently received a Bakken Invitation award, which recognizes people living longer due to medical technology who use their “extra time” to give back in extraordinary ways. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Meslow, who started Camp Odayin for kids with heart disease, was recently recognized as one of 10 recipients worldwide of Medtronic’s Bakken award. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)

Sara Meslow and a camper pose for a photo at Camp Odayin (submitted photo)

Not long after a chunk of metal was embedded beneath her skin and wires became a part of her heart, Sara Meslow quit her job.
She found a more pressing mission: starting a camp for kids with heart disease.
Now, about 13 years later, the Lake Elmo resident is among 10 people worldwide who recently received a Bakken Invitation award, along with a $20,000 grant, from Medtronic, which named it for company co-founder Earl Bakken.

Thu
09
Jan

Afton Alps celebrates 50 years


Afton Alps co-founder Paul Augustine blows snow from a snow gun on a slope at Afton in the mid-1960s. (submitted photo)

Skiers line up to ride one of Afton Alps’ first chairlifts.

An upslope view of Afton Alps’ main chalet a couple of decades ago. (submitted photo)

Afton Alps has a flashy new Guest Services Facility, which houses a new ski school center, ticketing and pass sales office and customer service center. (submitted photo)

An artist’s rendering of the newly renovated Paul’s Pub on the second floor of the Alps Chalet.

Following a change in ownership and months of renovations and new construction, Afton Alps is inviting the public to check out its improved resort and to celebrate 50 years of skiing.
The ski facility is no longer the rustic, mom-and-pop operation that attracted skiers for decades. The redesigned resort now features high-tech snowmaking machines, a new guest-services building, with a  stainless steel look, and improved terrain park.

Tue
07
Jan

A look back at the Dome’s glory days


After a 31-year run, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome awaits demolition to make room for a new facility to house its main tenant: the Minnesota Vikings. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Bill Lester and Jerry Bell, who both served as executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, reflect on their memories of the Metrodome, operations of which they each ran. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Bill Lester, president of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, was pictured in front of the Dome in 1987. (file photo)

Jerry Bell was named North High School alumnus of the year at the time he was pictured in the Metrodome with the Twins’ logo on the field as a backdrop. (file photo)

Jerry Bell, Bill Lester reflect on the good, the bad & the ugly sides of the stadium

A couple of guys who knew it best

Mon
30
Dec

Two Lillie staffers win statewide awards


The design for this piece, which focuses on Alaska’s diversity of nature as seen via various transportation methods, displays a delicate touch that showcased lush foliage and natural vistas and had readers’ hands itching for suitcase handles.

Graphic designers wince when they hear these directions: “We don’t have any art for this story. Oh, and it’s about city finances.” However, Nik VanDenMeerendonk rose to -- and beyond -- the occasion, making plain all the programs that were being crunched in the “Budget Squeeze,” also his headline. The layout won second place in the “Use of Information Graphics” category, and judges noted it was “Very original.”

In “Ghosts among the Stacks,” VanDenMeerendonk took a reporter’s snapshot of the South St. Paul Library -- one taken on a sunny summer day -- and transformed it to match its reputation as a spooky spot that’s been said to be haunted for decades.

As Ken Burns did with his iconic “The Civil War” series, VanDenMeerendonk used the kinds of materials and media that veterans themselves would have used during World War II to set the scene for their story.

It was all about vision for two Lillie Suburban Newspapers staffers in the 2013 Minnesota Newspaper Association’s “Better Newspapers” awards.
Photographer Linda Baumeister, who’s worked at the paper since 1991, and Nik VanDenMeerendonk, a graphic artist for six years.

Wed
25
Dec

For Bruentrups, historic farm still feels like home during holidays


In her Mrs. Claus attire and he in Santa hat for the Breakfast with Santa and later open house Dec. 7, Raydelle and Bill Bruentrup still spend time at the old homestead, volunteering countless hours on behalf of the Maplewood Area Historical Society. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Some of the decorations around the house.

Bill Bruentrup still works the farm, driving the tractor for hay wagon rides, as well as building and upkeep of the Bruentrup Heritage Farm in Maplewood. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

The early years: Bill Bruentrup, left, now 72, friend Paul Johnson and Bill’s late sister Joan Bruentrup sit in front of the Christmas tree at the Bruentrup home in the early 1950s. Paul is holding what appears to be a gift: “Pagan: a Border Patrol Horse,” a 1951 book for youth about the exploits of a border patrol inspector and his heroic horse, as Bill tries to get a look at one of the more exciting passages.

Bill Bruentrup and his siblings used to skate on a pond in front of the home on Christmas Day, between dinner and supper. This picturesque scene is roughly where the Michael’s craft store is located now; there’s still a holding pond between the store and White Bear Avenue.

Santa, a reindeer and a snowman greeted visitors at a breakfast with Santa event on Dec. 7 at Bruentrup Heritage Farm in Maplewood. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review staff)

Growing up on his family’s farm, Bill Bruentrup milked cows twice a day. Even on Christmas.
“On Christmas Eve, we’d milk a little bit earlier than we normally did so we could come in, clean up, eat dinner, and then we would open our presents,” the 72-year-old said. “I remember getting ready for Christmas, because we tried to get as many things done as we could.

Tue
24
Dec

The Christmas gift I always longed for ...

Was there a present you wrote on your wish list every year when you were a child -- a present you never received? Maybe it was a much-desired pet or a toy that “Santa” disapproved of. Or perhaps there’s a gift on your adult wish list that you’re still holding out hope for.
Or maybe you unexpectedly did get that longed-for item and were overjoyed.
Here, newspaper staff members reflect on holidays past and what they did, and didn’t, find under the tree.

Sat
07
Dec

Embrace the warmth of a good book

Looking for a holiday gift with a Minnesota connection?

Jill Yanish • Pamela O’meara
Review staff

Thu
14
Nov

Janie's legacy of laughter and love: After toddler’s death, parents pursue memorial playground


A 17 months old, Janie Zahradka heads toward the playground at Edgerton Park in Maplewood. (submitted photo)

Tony Zahradka holds his daughter, Janie, on a swing at Casey Lake Park in North St. Paul when she was about 7 months old. She died less than a year later, on Sept. 30. The family is donating money toward toddler-friendly structures at the playground in her memory. (submitted photo)

17-month-old Janie Zahradka peeks out of an opening in a tube at Edgerton Park in Maplewood. (submitted photo)

Showing off her fun-loving personality, Janie Zahradka plays inside at about 9 months old. The girl died about nine months later, on Sept. 30.

Janie, full of smiles, enjoys a ride in a bucket swing at the park.

Tony and Sarah Zahradka are planning to add a playground for younger children out at Casey Lake Park. The tot lot will be in memory of their 18-month-old little girl Janie. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

When Janie Zahradka was 7 months old, she sat on her dad’s lap at Casey Lake Park in North St. Paul to swing, because the playground wasn’t built for someone her size.
“She was always the happiest when she was outside playing,” said her father, Tony Zahradka, an assistant baseball coach at Johnson High School and teacher at Guadalupe Alternative Programs on St. Paul’s West Side.

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