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OUR TURN: Six things about Alex

An aerial view of Broadway in downtown Alexandria. (File photo)

Before I started working at the Echo Press, I didn't know much about Alexandria. I live in Otter Tail County, so Fergus Falls was where I shopped, doctored and had my hair cut.

Well, it's been a year now and I've enjoyed getting to know this place. Cities each have their own flavor, their own culture, and while I'm not an old hand here by any means, I thought I'd share some observations about Alexandria.

Wanna hear 'em? Here goes.

• There's a strong Christian influence here that rivals any small town I covered in the Bible Belt. People are not afraid to confess their faith, perhaps because two of this town's biggest employers, Douglas Machine and Alexandria Industries, lead by example. It's no accident that the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is building a big-dollar hockey center here.

• Alexandria conveys a sense of excitement and optimism. As an outsider, I'm not sure how long it has been like this or what that positivity stems from. It seems connected with the new high school, an awe-inspiring building that seems to be thoroughly prepping its students for the business world. Whatever the cause or history, it does seem like the can-do attitude is strong.

• I detect a certain, um, frugality here. Some might even call it "being cheap," though I would never put it in those terms. And this might apply more to Douglas County than the city proper. But in my one year here, I have definitely picked up on a strong desire for thriftiness, especially from government. Especially county government. Which is fine. I'm thrifty too. Although I have learned that sometimes you get what you pay for.

• There's a big unknown factor to Alexandria, like a big dark spot. In that spot are people who drift under the radar, people who don't run for office or star in plays or get arrested. I wish I knew more of their stories. People with quirky hobbies or who make brave decisions or who steadily tend to their responsibilities with no thought of recognition.

• Despite the presence of a Newcomer's Club, Alexandria doesn't seem quite as connected or cozy as Fergus Falls. My sense is that this comes from having a more robust tourist economy, more people coming and going and not putting down roots.

• Downtown! To those who live here, St. Cloud or Fargo might seem like THE place to shop. But take it from someone who has seen a lot of small, dying American downtowns: Alexandria's downtown is a treasure.

There you go. Six things this outsider has noticed about this community most of you know way better than I do. Am I right about any of them? Way off base? Either way, drop me a note at ktolkkinen@echopress.com or call me at 320-763-1232. Or comment publicly on Facebook. That's always fun.

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"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

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