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Thumbs Up/Down - June 21, 2013


Thumbs Up: The Alexandria Rotary Club painted and trimmed a new garden shed at the Douglas County Historical Society last week. The DCHS applied for a grant of $4,500 to Rotary International to purchase the shed to store tools and other gardening paraphernalia, much of which has been donated. It's all part of the "kitchen garden" project the DCHS implemented in 2010. The Alexandria Rotary Club donated $500 toward the project, as well as "sweat equity." Volunteers from the DCHS also lent a hand. Rachel Barduson submitted the grant application. A & C Machine Shop donated the use of their front end loader to get the pieces of the shed off the delivery truck last December. Matt Jones assembled it and enclosed it in the cold. It was then left for finishing in the coming spring. The DCHS has donated more than 75 pounds of produce from the garden to the Douglas County Outreach Food Shelf and will continue to do so. It's neat to see such spirited cooperation between local groups on a project that will benefit the less fortunate in our community.


Thumbs Down: Some people take a big gamble burning outside during bans or dry conditions, thinking the only consequence could be a grass fire. But grass fires also burn up tax dollars. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds landowners that simple grass fires can cost big bucks. Every year, an average of 1,500 wildfires burn about 40,000 acres in the state. Suppression of these fires costs about $10,000 per fire, according to the DNR. "Be careful when you burn," said Bill Glesener, DNR Northwest Region fire specialist. "Don't let your fire become a wildfire." Before your burn, check conditions/restrictions with your local DNR Forestry office, local fire warden or online at


Thumbs Down: We've printed thumbs down on people who blow snow where they are not supposed to. A reader called us this week with a similar thumbs down for the warmer months: those who blow their grass clippings onto the street and sidewalk.


Thumbs Up: Alexandria native John Hawkes recently gained another award for his acting abilities. He received the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival's highest honor, the King Vidor Career Achievement Award, which recognizes excellence in film making. During the awards ceremony in California, Hawkes, who is the son of Pat Perkins of Alexandria, was described as a "chameleon who has taken audience members' breath away in every performance." Hawkes is the star of The Sessions, Winter's Bone and Martha Marcy May Marlene. Other past recipients include Morgan Freeman, Peter Fonda, Malcolm McDowell and Eva Marie Saint. "This is the first and hopefully not last career achievement award I'll receive," Hawkes said at the ceremony. "It's a little daunting, a little humbling, because I feel like I'm just getting started."


Thumbs Down: We're hoping this was just a one-time thing or a case of a store owner not thinking things through: A former Alexandria resident who was shopping downtown gave a thumbs down to how she was treated. After browsing at a store, she commented to one of the store owners about the many beautiful items they had in the store. Instead of a cheerful response, the owner snidely said, "And yet you found absolutely nothing to buy." The comment left the customer feeling sullen and disappointed. "I won't go back," she said. "We all shop for different reasons. But don't we tend to frequent places where we feel welcomed and appreciated? What about the hometown pleasantries? What about browsing and window shopping? What happened to small town manners?" It's a lesson for store owners everywhere: What you say to a customer will stick with them for a long time.


Thumbs Up: A reader gives a thumbs up to the Alexandria Discovery Middle School (DMS) students involved in the school's Heatwave Club. As reported in our May 29 story, the students took first place at the 21st annual Minnesota Renewable Energy Society's Solar Boat Regatta. It was the second year in a row that a DMS team has captured the first place honor. The competition requires students to build solar boats, or adapt boats, to run on solar power for the regatta. The races are designed to educate students about solar energy, design and engineering.