Star News » Arts & Entertainment The Star News covers community news, sports, current events and provides advertising and information for Elk River, Otsego, Rogers and Zimmerman, Minnesota and their surrounding areas. Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:50:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 State fair: Donais earns crocheting blue ribbons for ‘secret garden’ hat, and gloves Sat, 06 Sep 2014 19:56:33 +0000 by Bruce Strand, Arts Editor

Zimmerman housewife Rechelle Donais wasn’t able to attend the state fair this year, but two of her creations did, and both earned blue ribbons.

Donais crocheted a cap she calls “Secret Garden,” decorated with tiger lilies, a butterfly, a stick bug and a snail. She used Kool-Aid to dye the yarn.

Katey Donais models her mother's prize-winning hat. (Photo by Rechelle Donais)

Katey Donais models her mother’s prize-winning hat. (Photo by Rechelle Donais)

“I was inspired by the wildflowers and tiger lilies growing on the side of the road by my house in Zimmerman,” Donais said. “And of course my kids love to find bugs, so I added a few of those in there too!”

Rechelle Donais

Rechelle Donais

A pair of mittens she crocheted also earned a blue ribbon, giving Donais two straight years of success at the fair. She captured a first, second and two fourth places last year.

“But I was sick this year and wasn’t able to go,” Donais said, adding that her daughter, Katey, who’s modeling the hat in the photo, also came down with the same respiratory ailment.

“We just stayed in bed. But a lot of friends and family went and told me about it.”

Donais has been crocheting for just under five years, and finally “got the nerve” to start entering things at fairs two years ago. She’s also done well at Sherburne County Fair.

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State fair: Wimperis 60th anniversary woodcarving earns blue ribbon Sat, 06 Sep 2014 19:50:37 +0000 Don and Von Wimperis, with pal Maggie here in their back yard flower garden, celebrated their 60th this year and Don made a woodcarving for the occasion. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Don and Von Wimperis, with pal Maggie here in their back yard flower garden, celebrated their 60th this year and Don made a woodcarving for the occasion. (Photo by Bruce Strand)


by Bruce Strand, Arts Editor

Don Wimperis has been carving wood since ninth grade, always looking for new subjects.

This year the 82-year-old Elk River retiree used a personal milestone as an inspiration.

“We had our 60th anniversary this year,” Wimperis said, “so I made this: It says ‘Don and Von, 60 Years.’ ”

Don's 6oth anniversary wood-carving.

Don’s 6oth anniversary wood-carving.

This basswood oval piece earned him a Minnesota State Fair blue ribbon in Chip Carving, Work of Senior Citizens.

Actually he’s been winning state fair prizes for several years and got a second blue ribbon this year in the open division for another piece.

Don's other 2014 prize-winning entrant.

Don’s other 2014 prize-winning entrant.

After learning the craft at Minneapolis Vocational School at age 14, he never saw any reason to stop, nor to change his tool of preference. He has used a single-edged razor all these years, while most carvers go with hobby or utility knives.

“I buy them in packs of a hundred,” he said.

Wimperis, who worked in the cement business in house construction, has a second passion in retirement that he shares with his wife. The front and back yards of their Elk River home are generously decorated with flowers they’ve grown.

He said he wishes they still taught carving in schools. “You can’t have razors in school now, you know,” he said.

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A look back at Riverfront Concert Series 2014 Sat, 30 Aug 2014 05:15:05 +0000 Big Lake teenager Brooke Lynn performed on the Riverfront stage. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Big Lake teenager Brooke Lynn brought her country sound on the Riverfront stage. (Photo by Bruce Strand)


by Bruce Strand, Arts editor

This being the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ historic Ed Sullivan Show appearance that changed pop music forever, the Elk River Park and Rec staff made sure to include some Fab Four music in the Riverfront Concert Series.

“Beatles music was big this year,” said Steve Benoit of Park and Rec, hearkening to other tributes including a three-hour CBS prime time event earlier this summer.

So it was that Hard Day’s Night wound up closing the 10-week run of the eighth summer of free Thursday night concerts, on Aug. 21. Unfortunately, the threat of rain forced the concert indoors at Elk River Arena, where crowds are usually small. However, for the Beatles music, a robust crowd of almost 900 turned out for the finale.

“That’s the most we’ve ever had indoors,” said Benoit.

The Fabulous Armadillos made their first Riverfront appearance and drew a record turnout of about 2,500. (Photo by Tonya Love)

The Fabulous Armadillos made their first Riverfront appearance and drew a record turnout of about 2,500. (Photo by Tonya Love)

The 2014 series also included the Fabulous Armadillos drawing the biggest draw ever at the the Riverfront stage. An estimated 2,500 people crammed the downtown park to hear the St. Cloud group’s classic 60’s to 80’s rock on July 31 in their first appearance here, breaking the record set last year by Elvis impersonator Chris Olson, who always packs them in.

“We had received a lot of requests for Fabulous Armadillos, and we did some research on them, too, so we knew they are a very good group,” said Benoit. “They can draw 5,000 at bigger venues.”

Pamela McNeill of Fabulous Armadillos.

Pamela McNeill of Fabulous Armadillos.

Five of the ten acts this year made their first appearance here. The others were Brooke Lynn (country), Pop Rocks (dance party rock), Six Appeal (a Cappella vocals) and Socaholix (Reggae/Caribbean).

(Hard Day’s Night was last here in 2009 but Rubber Soul has made two appearances to give locals their Beatles fix.)

The Shane Martin Band (Shane is at left) was one of two local acts on the card this summer. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

The Shane Martin Band (Shane is at left) was one of two local acts on the card this summer. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Brooke Lynn (real name Brooke Maruska) is a 2014 Big Lake graduate and college freshman who co-writes her own songs and has released a CD. She was accompanied by the band “2 Mile Final.”

“It was special to have Brooke here, being a local girl, and how talented she is, and knowing how far she might go in country music,” said Benoit.

The staff enjoys trying to give people something new and did a lot of that this year as the five first-time acts were the most since the first couple years. Crowds also seemed to enjoy the new experiences of the Pop Rocks party vibe and the Soxaholix pulsating island rhythms.

There were two local acts this year, the other being Shane Martin, country rocker from Elk River, and his band, who drew a nice crowd as usual on July 17. Martin has been on the Riverfront card twice before.

Other always-popular draws who appear every other year were Rockin’ Hollywoods (classic rock), Church of Cash (the Man in Black tribute) and Arch Allies (Journey, Styx, REO tribute).
Michael Hecker of Park and Rec heads the staff that puts together the concert lineup. Hecker had previous experience in lining up entertainment in his previous post in Ohio.

“Success is measured in the interest the concerts receive, and in bringing a lot of different genre’s into Elk River. I think we had that,” said Hecker, noting that total attendance was close but not quite a record.

One resource the staff utilizes is an afternoon of auditions hosted by Minnesota Recreation and Parks Association (MRPA) for bands who’d like to be included. Tonya Love of the Elk River staff attended this year and made recommendations.

Thursday night weather was quite pleasant most evenings this summer, which helps draw bigger crowds. Only twice were they moved indoors; the other was for Six Appeal on June 19.

The Bank of Elk River has sponsored the Riverfront Concert Series all eight years.

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North Suburban Concert Band invites musicians to join Tue, 26 Aug 2014 04:44:27 +0000 The North Suburban Concert Band, a non-audition community group, will start meeting every Monday evening on Sept. 8 at Coon Rapids Middle School, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

“We are looking for new members,” stated Eric Hagen, a board member for the band, in a press release.

The conductor is John Rosner, director of instrumental music at Elk River High School.

John Rosner

John Rosner

The NSCB schedule includes the Fall Concert on Oct. 27 at Elk River High School, the Christmas Concert on Dec. 13-14 at Andover High School, the Cathedral Concert on March 1 at Meadow Creek Church, and the Pops Concert on May 3 at an Andover location to be determined.

The band also performs weekly concerts from Memorial Day to July 4, at Andover, Anoka, Coon Rapids, Maple Grove, Mounds View and Ramsey.

The band is planning a two-week trip to Ireland during the summer of 2016, Hagen added.

Season membership fee is $35. While there are no auditions, some instrumental musical background is necessary.
Interested persons can join at any point in the season if unable to join this fall.

The school where they practice is located at 11600 Raven St NW in Coon Rapids.

For more information, visit or Facebook: North Suburban Concert Band (NSCB)

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Elk River author Yelle’s 3rd book ‘Taking Angels’ is dark fantasy tale Tue, 26 Aug 2014 04:39:42 +0000 by Urmila Ramakrishnan, Isanti County News

Craig Yelle mingles enticing plots with fantasy and the supernatural.

The Elk River resident is a seasoned fantasy fiction author. He wrote his first novel back in the ‘90s. “Reclaiming Ter Chadain” combines sorceresses with an epic tale of royalty, and the story continues in the second book of the series, “Black Stones of Ter Chadain.”

But it’s Yelle’s novel, “Taking Angels,” that hosts his favorite character, Kendal. The story takes an ethereal twist on addiction, following immortals called “eternals.” These characters, including Kendal, have special powers to take away mortals’ guardian angels, which guide them to the after life when they die. Kendal — the antagonist of the story — is addicted to pulling these guardian angels out of humans, essentially killing them.

Craig Yelle

Craig Yelle

“He’s kind of one of those what-you-see-is-what-you-get characters,” Yelle said. “He has no apologies for it, but yet he doesn’t necessarily like what he is doing. I liked writing him because he was kind of snarky.”

Yelle developed Kendal based on his own obsessions.

“I tried to think of my addiction,” Yelle said. “I love chocolate, so I tried to intensify it. From what I know about addiction, it was fun to develop him in a way that made him not all-bad. He can evolve, but addiction is pulling him back from things.”

Yelle weaves fantasy into stories that could do just as well on their own, he said. With “Taking Angels,” the story mixes love with addiction and murder.

“A lot of people spend too much time on the supernatural, and get lost in the plot,” Yelle said. “ I like to think that I write good stories, and the supernatural just enhances the plot but doesn’t carry it.”

If Yelle took out all the supernatural elements in “Taking Angels,” Kendel would still be a serial killer, stated Yelle.

“There’s still a plot there,” Yelle added.

He’s already well on his way to continuing the series and other fiction works.

“With series writing, you get inside the characters’ heads,” Yelle said. “You can just kind of pick up where you left off. It’s like visiting old friends.”

Ter Chadain’s third installment will be available for readers in the fall.

Yelle will also be releasing a young adult urban fantasy e-book in the near future. It follows genetically-modified teenagers generated by the CIA after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. The teens are forced to serve as spies in Northern Minnesota when they turn 16.

For more information, visit

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ERHS’s Sorenson in all-state symphonic band Tue, 26 Aug 2014 04:33:41 +0000 Maddy Sorenson posed with all-state band director xxxx.

Maddy Sorenson posed with all-state band director Scott Hagen.


Maddy Sorenson, versatile Elk River musician, participated in the All-State Symphonic Band Week in early August at St. Olaf.

The junior-to-be was chosen for the Minnesota Music Educators Association event after auditions last spring.

Sorenson, who plays several instruments, primarily clarinet and baritone sax, has been a member of several pit orchestras for plays and ERHS jazz bands. She is also an accomplished singer.

The all-state band musicians, under conductor Scott Hagen, concluded their week on campus with a Saturday evening concert.

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Riverfront Concert Series moved indoors Thu, 21 Aug 2014 21:20:14 +0000

Due to the rainy forecast Elk River’s Riverfront Concert Series, the “Hard Days Night” Concert, will be held at the Elk River Arena, 1000 School St.

The concert starts at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday, Aug. 21).

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Beatles tribute band ‘Hard Day’s Night’ to close Riverfront concert season Tue, 19 Aug 2014 06:09:53 +0000 Joe Covert (left) as xxx and xxxx sing "Twist and Shout." (Hard Day's Night web site photo)

Joe Covert (left) as Paul,  and Ben Baldridge as George, sing “Twist and Shout.” (Hard Day’s Night web site photo)


by Bruce Strand, Arts editor

Joe Covert, leader of the Hard Day’s Night band that will close the Riverfront Concert Series on Thursday, is a high school history teacher by day.

Asked if he finds any Beatles fans among today’s youth, Covert had a happy anecdote.

“My son’s eighth-grade class voted the Beatles their favorite band,” he related. “That speaks volumes about how enduring their music is.”

Covert, who plays Paul McCartney, and his mates Ben Baldridge (George Harrison), Jeff Boxell (John Lennon) and Grahame Beresford (Ringo Starr), all from the metro area, have been touring as a Beatles tribute band for eight years. They last appeared in Elk River in 2009.

“We are all professional musicians, and we do a great show,” said Covert, adding that he sometimes sings to his classes. “We are four guys who really enjoy playing Beatles music.”

Hard Day’s Night presents the full range of fab four tunes from 60’s through 80’s.

“We’ve got the Ed Sullivan suits, and the Shea Stadium suits, and the (Sergeant) Pepper suits,” said Covert.

They will be the 10th and final act of 2014 in this free concert series each summer Thursday at 7 p.m. downtown, sponsored by The Bank of Elk River and organized by Parks and Recreation.

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Photo exhibit on display at Arts Alliance; reception Thursday Tue, 19 Aug 2014 06:01:25 +0000 "Childhood Dreams" by Carrie Bayless

“Childhood Dreams” by Carrie Bayless


The fifth annual Photography Exhibit is currently on display at the Elk River Area Arts Alliance, featuring the works of 21 photographers.

A reception for the public to meet the photographers, with author Stan Tekiela on hand signing his books, will be held Thursday, Aug. 21, from 5 to 8 p.m.

The gallery at 609 Main Street is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Also exhibited currently are the works of finalists for the Chamber of Commerce photography contest. Both exhibits will be shown through Sept. 6.

Photographers in the current show are David Bakken, Carrie Bayless, Tim Bykowski, Nancy Christenson, Aaron DuRose, Kate Hansen, Carol Heesen, Victoria Holbert, Winnie Johnson, Barb Kellogg, Kasey Medenwaldt, Maret Noukki-Glimsdale, Susan Olivanti, Mary L. Olson, Wendy Picton, Judith J. Rieses, Linda Roetman, Judy Syring, Lisa Tetzlaff, John B. Waldron, and Roger Williams.

Shown here are four of the photographs in the exhibit.


"Calm" by Nancy Christenseon

“Calm” by Nancy Christenson

"Backyard Surprise" by Lisa Tetzlaff

“Backyard Surprise” by Lisa Tetzlaff

"The Boss" by Roger Williams

“The Boss” by Roger Williams

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Passions stoked at state, county fairs Sat, 16 Aug 2014 19:51:25 +0000 • Zimmerman teen’s love of horses, learning, photography will be quenched at State Fair

by Jim Boyle


Anna Serbus, 17, of Zimmerman, has many passions, and she fuels most of them at state and county fairs through her involvement in 4-H programs.

This year the member of Richochet Riders 4-H Club will have her photography on display at the Minnesota State Fair and a chance to delve into the world of newspaper reporting through a media project she will undertake while at The Great Minnesota Get-Together.

That means she will be immersed in coursework the first couple days on subjects like interviewing, writing and photography. What might sound like school work to some of her peers is an opportunity to learn something new.

“I’m really excited,” she told the Star News. “I just love fairs.”

Anna Serbus

Anna Serbus

As part of her media project, Serbus will interview a young man with special needs and his family to report how he experiences the world and how the world around him treats him. It’s the kind of plum assignment that intrigued her.

“I have always been a deep thinker,” she said. “I’m curious about the world around me and I am future-focused.”

She said she has enjoyed her experience around people with special needs and looks forward to writing about things she’s passionate about and learning how to write reports in the process.

“It’s always good to have more knowledge,” she said.

She’d take more knowledge over a new blouse any day. “What I am wearing today will not matter five years down the road,” she said.

Serbus, who will turn 18 in September, would be a senior at Spectrum High School this fall, but she only has three required classes left and too many passions to sit behind a desk for 30 to 40 hours a week. She says she will finish her high school career online and pursue her passions with the rest of her time.

She plans to attend Anoka Ramsey Community College to complete her general education classes and then transfer to a school to get a degree in horse training.

“I want to make a career out of it when I’m young,” she said.

Her interest in horses preceded her involvement in 4-H, but once she got introduced to 4-H, she began pursue her passion more vigorously.

She started out in 4-H showing her springer spaniel at the Sibley County Fair. That was fun but the idea of a horse project was even more intriguing. Sarah Serbus, a cousin of hers who lives two hours from her family’s home in Zimmerman, would eventually buy her a horse.

Shiloh, Anna Serbus' first horse, is now 12 years old.

Shiloh, Anna Serbus’ first horse, is now 12 years old. This is one of many pictures she has taken of the horse, and it was on display at the Sherburne County Fair this summer.

That horse, Shiloh, is now 12. It’s boarded at a friend’s house in Isanti near her home.

It was the summer of 2011 that Anna’s interest in horses was finally quenched when she spent a summer at Sarah Serbus’ home learning how to train horses for barrel races and train a couple of pricey ponies with remarkable bloodlines. Her cousin eventually surprised her with a second horse, a baby of one of the horses she helped train. Salsa is now 4 years old.

Anna Serbus’ favorite thing to do on a horse is timed events like barrel racing. She has done pleasure riding and other forms of riding that are judged on performance of the horse and rider but has focused in on barrel racing and pole weaving.

Anna and Shiloh

Anna and Shiloh

In all, she has participated in two Sibley County Fairs and four Sherburne County Fairs. Along the way she has shown her dog, cows and rabbits, but one year she had no choice but to limit her fair activity to horse events.

She had what she thought was a prized cow die shortly before the fair and two days later her rabbit she had been prepping developed warts. Showing animals is not easy, as a lot goes into getting them the perfect weight, build and stance and plus there’s the study of them that comes with it. Participants are asked everything from what they fed an animal to history of the breed.

Serbus took 2013 off from 4-H, a decision to step away from social drama and work closely with one of her horses that had become wild.

Anna Serbus, of Zimmerman, and Shiloh, one of her two horses.

Anna Serbus, of Zimmerman, and Shiloh, one of her two horses.

“I needed to get him to relax,” she said. “I had to get back to the basics.”

This year she got back in it and earned a spot in the state fair with an award-winning photo of her bunny named Lucy. It’s not her favorite shot. She actually likes one of Lucy chomping on a dandelion.

“I like that one best because its humorous,” she said.

She also competed in the horse events and did quite well in the pole bending event, but her and her horse’s personal best time in pole bending was erased when the last pole in the race got knocked off.

Serbus will take part in the state fair’s 4-H media project with two other youth, including her friend Beka Brown, of Big Lake.

Once the state fair is over she and Brown have plans for another  project and more learning.

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