Filings for local mayor positions and council seats are open until August 14
Filings for Buffalo mayor and two councilmembers, as well as two council seats in both Hanover and Montrose, are open until 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, August 14.
As of Tuesday, August 7, in Buffalo, incumbent Mayor Teri Lachermeier has filed for the two-year term, and incumbents Eric Anderson and Scott Enter have filed for the four-year council seats.
Filings can be made at Buffalo City Center, 212 Central Avenue. For more information, call 763-682-684-5404.
In Hanover, two four-year seats are open. As of Tuesday, August 7, incumbents Ken Warpula and Jim Zajicek have both filed for re-election. Filings in Hanover are at city hall, 11250 5th Street NE. For more information, call 763-497-3777.
The Montrose City Council currently has two seats open as well, a four-year term currently held by Roy Henry who was appointed after Melissa Gudvangen resigned in February and another four-year term held by Jill Menard until her resignation in May.
As of Tuesday, August 7, no one had filed for the Montrose seats.
Separately, the Montrose City Council is required to fill the seat of Jill Menard by appointment. Applications for that temporary seat are also open until August 14. As of August 7, no one has submitted an application for the position that ends on December 31. Applicants for the Menard seat may also file for the council seat election.
Filings and applications are at the Montrose City Hall, 311 Buffalo Avenue South. For more information, call 763-575-7422.
The general election is Tuesday, November 6.
Buffalo’s Art and Craft Festival is slated for Saturday, August 18
Don’t miss out on one of the best summer events in downtown Buffalo - the 35th Annual Art and Craft Festival on Saturday, August 18 from 9 a.m. 3:30 p.m.
This show brings in over 150 vendors from all around the five-state area to show their wares!
There is glass, metal and wood art, photographers, authors, hand-sewn textiles, handmade jewelry, fun home and garden décor and more! Get your holiday shopping started! Don’t forget you can treat your taste buds as well. There will be roasted almonds, kettle korn, ice cream, fresh lemonade and tasty sandwiches to purchase and eat there or take home for later!
“Our artists and crafters love our one-day event in our beautiful downtown/lakeside venue! They also love the welcome by our volunteers and the friendliness of our patrons,” says Sue Olmscheid, Chamber President.
Many of the stores downtown will be open and welcoming shoppers as well, so make a day of it with family and friends!
BCT Auditions for October production, August 17-18
Auditions for the Steven Sondheim musical Company to be presented by Buffalo Community Theater this October are coming up soon!
Company features a brilliantly brisk and energetic score containing many of Stephen Sondheim’s best known songs, including: “You Could Drive A Person Crazy, “Being Alive” and “Another Hundred People.”
Auditions will be held at the Discovery Auditorium (214 First Ave NE, Buffalo) on Friday, August 17 at 7:00 p.m. or Saturday, August 18 10:00 am (allow approximately 2 hours). Auditions are open to those 18 and older. Please visit the BCT website www.bctmn.org for further information and a link to TheaterForms to fill out an on-line audition form.
Company, directed by Kari Wendroth with Music Direction by Michael Walsh, will run October 12-14 and 19-21. For more information and tickets, log on to www.bctmn.org and/or follow Buffalo Community Theater on Facebook. This production is recommended for ages 13 and up.
“This organization is made possible in part, by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Central MN Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.”
Hanover City Council will continue to monitor business site downtown
By Doug Voerding
The Hanover City Council decided not to revoke a conditional use permit (CUP) held by Michael Straub for his auto parts company at 11103 River Road NE in downtown Hanover.
Instead, the council, on Monday, August 6, decided to table indefinitely the issue to allow Straub to prove that he was serious in maintaining the property under the CUP, which was first granted in May 2016.
Straub was using the outside of the building for storage and at one point had more than the allowable six cars parked outside on a gravel surface.
City Administrator Brian Hagen had inspected the property in July, and at that time Straub was given thirty days to bring the property into compliance.
Mayor Chris Kauffman said, “This has been going on for several years. It comes up regularly. It was cleaned up for the Hanover Harvest Festival, but there have been car hoods stored outside.”
Said Straub, “They (the hoods) come and go. They are out of there now, and I don’t intend to put them back.”
“Being in compliance all of the time,” said Councilmember Doug Hammerseng, “means all of the time. I am feeling like you lied to us. You’re not sincere. I trusted you and now that’s gone.”
Straub told the council that he has now rented storage.
“With the problems with MNLARS at the state,” said Straub, “I have had to wait months for the titles of the cars I want to scrap.”
On August 6, the site had been cleaned up to the requirements of the CUP.
Under the recommendation of City Attorney Jay Squires, the council tabled action, allowing the council to revisit the CUP at any time in the future, with the expectation the Straub will maintain the property as required.
The council witnessed the pinning of Derek Bostrum as a firefighter with the Hanover Fire Department. Bostrom recently completed his probationary period and has passed the Firefighter I and Firefighter II levels.
After a brief discussion, the council approved an increase in a firefighter’s pension from $1775 to $1875 per year of service. With the change, the pension fund will still be 110 percent funded.
Wade Gammel was hired as a probationary firefighter.
The council also agreed to the replacement of the heating and air conditioning units at the fire department for $6821.
Work on the city’s 2019 budget is underway already.
Hagen showed the council the work that is being done on each of the city’s budget items and how predictions about income and expenditures are being made.
The first preliminary tax levy looks to be about $100,000 more than last year. However, the tax rate will be going down to 44.58 percent. The tax rate is the amount to city plans to assess compared to what the city could actually assess.
That 44.58 percent tax rate has not been that low since 2011. Last year, the rate was 46.15 percent.
The budget will next be discussed in depth at the August 21 workshop meeting.
During the open forum, David Boily of Roy C Automatic Door Systems brought photos of the condition of a ditch on the west side of the company property in the industrial park. The ditch is overgrown with vegetation.
Boily said the area is too wet to mow.
“There should be an underground pipe installed,” said Boily, “and covered with dirt for grass. Now, it is unsightly. Something needs to be done.”
Hagen said that the land is very flat, but that the drainage is working very well.
Said Hagen, “Stormwater flows over ground to the north and then to the west into a stormwater pond. Putting a pipe in would only be for aesthetics.”
The council directed city staff to look into the issue.
In other action, the council
• approved a second payment of $354,357 for work completed on the 2018 pavement improvement projects.
• approved the final payment of $76,145 for the new public works facility and approved signage identifying the building.
• accepted a donation of $3000 from Foxtailers Snowmobile Club. The donation will be used for the new ball field.
• approved Bergan KDV as the city auditor for the next three years at $22,000 per year. Bergan KDV will also audit the Firefighters Relief Association for $6250 for each of the next three years.
• approved an Economic Development Authority (EDA) matching grant of $5491 and a loan of the same amount $5491 for a lighted sign for the new dental clinic being built on the corner of 5th Street NE and County Road 19.
• will pay for the dumpster for the Crow River Clean-up to be held September 22.
• approved an exempt gambling permit for Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to conduct a raffle at an event on September 29.
• approved a solid waste license for Curbside Waste, Inc., the sixth hauler in the city. City ordinance allows for six licenses which expire December 31 of each year.
July 17 Meeting
At the July 17 meeting, the Hanover City Council
• directed city staff to continue work with Wright and Hennepin counties on assuming authority over septic systems in the city. After January 1, 2019, residents with questions about septic system regulations will be directed to the county in which they live rather than to city hall.
• discussed and set a hearing for the revocation of a CUP at 11103 River Road NE for CUP violations. The public hearing was set for August 6.
• discussed the possible renovation of city hall now that the Public Works Department has moved to its own building.
Buffalo residents challenge City Council regarding projected dog park
By Arynn Maznio
The Buffalo City Council met on Monday, August 6, at 7 p.m. The meeting was opened by Mayor Teri Lachermeier. The Council shared their excitement about the Tuesday night “Night to Unite” event. There are 20 block parties signed up as of August 6. Mayor Lachermeier and members of the City Council plan to appear at some of the parties.
Residents of the city of Buffalo used the open forum to voice their concerns regarding the proposed dog park plans, to be located in the Gary Mattson park overlooking Buffalo Lake. Led by Sue Mattson, the group challenged the council about the apparent lack of communication in the city’s planning and fundraising efforts to install the dog park. Lachermeier shared an overview of the dog park planning, including several years of ideas, proposals, surveys, and fundraising.
Mattson, along with family members and nearby neighbors, shared that they are in favor of a dog park, however they disagreed about the current proposed location, citing the utilization of the park, comparisons with other dog parks in the state of Minnesota, and other possible sites.
Resident Pat McDonald informed the council about the safety and health concerns for the dogs and owners who would use the park, and referenced information gathered from local veterinary clinics.
Lachermeier, along with Council Member Linda Kittock, who is also a member of the Park Advisory Board, shared insight regarding the choice of Gary Mattson park as the proposed location. Kittock shared that the current location and proposed plan is considered “a concept and not a final plan.”
Lachermeier, who is in support of the proposed plan, explained that she is seeking ways to develop the downtown area of Buffalo in a way that citizens can utilize its amenities and encourage people to go to the Gary Mattson park.
When asked about a “Healthy Communities Grant,” Lachermeier agreed that it would be beneficial.
The residents who brought their claims to the Monday night meeting also questioned the urgency of the August 15 GoFundMe fundraising campaign, to which Lachermeier replied that the date was not the focus, but rather a way to gauge the monetary support for the project. Mattson’s constituents contested her answer, as they claimed the project in its entirety has not been altogether transparent.
Lachermeier advised the group of residents to attend the next Park Advisory Board meeting to share their concerns, which is to take place at the end of the month, August, 27, 2018 at 7 p.m. at the Buffalo Airport Arrival and Departure Building.
• A Temporary Liquor License was approved for the following upcoming events:
• The Rockford Lions Club, for a license to sell at the Buffalo Demo Derby, to be held on September 22 from 5:00pm to 12:00am.
• Mayra Lpardo, for a license for a quinceneara party, to be held on September 15 from 5:00pm to 12:00am.
• Council approved the opportunity for Utility Billing Coordinator Andy Marquette to attend the Fiber for the New Community conference in Ontario, California from October 23-25.
• City Attorney Susan Kadlec recommended the termination of the lease for NGH Tavern, due to several complaints and reports of insufficient drink cart operation. Council members shared that concerns over the current golf season may affect business, but due to multiple problems with NGH Tavern, have convinced them that a lease termination is the best option at this point. The council approved Kadlec’s recommendation.
• A hearing is approved to certify past due accounts, to be held on August 20, 2018 at 7:00pm.
• Approval to authorize the use of punch cards for the Buffalo Area Transportation was passed. The council clarified that the punch cards would cost $40 for 20 rides, with 2 free rides at the end of the series. Punch cards would be utilized for after-hours usage.
• The first City Council meeting in September has been moved from Monday, September 3 to Tuesday, September 4 at 7:00pm, due to Labor Day.
• Sue Olmscheid, Buffalo City Chamber President, shared an invitation to the 35th Annual Buffalo Arts and Craft Fair, to be held on Saturday, August 18 from 9:00am to 3:30pm.
• Mayor Lachermeier informed the council that the September 4 meeting will discuss the process of appointing a fire chief.
• Mayor Lachermeier closed the meeting. The next City Council meeting will take place on Monday, August 20, at 7 p.m.
Correction from August 2
In regard to the KleinBank merger article in the August 2 edition of the Wright County Journal-Press, there is a correction to be made regarding the bank’s history. The Journal-Press incorrectly stated that the bank was renamed Oakley National Bank in 1980, while it should have stated that after a fire in 1922, the bank was rebuilt in its downtown location and named Oakley National Bank. The Journal-Press apologizes for the error.
Sweet treats, squad cars, and smiles at Night to Unite
Ambassadors Cecelia Miller, Ali Tokkesdal, and Gina Miller weren’t the only ones smiling on Tuesday, August 7, where Buffalo joined thousands across the state in celebration of National Night Out with its Night to Unite event. (Photo by Arynn Maznio)
Hanover Harvest Festival not dampened by a few
The new 2018 – 2019 Hanover Royalty are Miss Hanover Kaitlin Galdonik, above left, and Princess Kalli Van Tassell, right. The coronation was August 4, during the 14th annual Hanover Harvest Festival. Kaitlin and Kalli will be seniors at Buffalo High School this fall. Although the skies were cloudy, a few sprinkles did not keep people away from enjoying the festival. (Photo by Doug Voerding)
The 32nd annual New London to New Brighton Antique Car Run (ACR) is coming through your area Saturday, August 11.
This historic spectacle features 50 to 65 automobiles, which are at least 104 years old. These beautifully-restored antique autos include brands such as Autocar, Brush, Columbia, LaZebra, Louis, Rolls Royce, REO, Stanley, Maxwell, and many more.
They will be making their way from New London, Minn. to New Brighton, Minn. commemorating the “London to Brighton Veteran Car Run” in England.
New this year is a second stop in Wright County for the cars. After leaving Buffalo High School around 1 p.m., the drivers and their cars will stop at the Hanover Historical Society, the owner of the former Hanover Zion United Methodist Church, which closed in July of 2017. The historical society is located at 1010 River Road NE, northeast of city hall. All are invited to greet the drivers and see the cars up close at the historical society.
Everyone is welcome to see the cars up close at any of the stops: Grove City, 8 a.m.; Litchfield, 9 a.m.; Kingston, 10 a.m.; Buffalo; noon to 1 p.m.; Hanover, 1:30 p.m.; Crystal, 2:30; and the finish in New Brighton, at 3:30 p.m. Or they can join the numerous spectators who line the tour route each year.
The stop in Buffalo is a mandatory stop for the ACR group, which numbers will be checked in for registration. Motorists and guests are welcomed to the Buffalo High School, where the Wright County Car Club will be hosting a lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For more information, go online and visit http://www.antiquecarrun.org/.
The primary election to nominate Republican and Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) candidates, as well as several first-round judicial and local elections will be held on Tuesday, August 14.
Federal offices for U.S. Senator with a term expiring on Jan. 3, 2025 include Republican candidates Merrill Anderson, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, Rae Hart Anderson, and Jim Newberger. For the DFL, candidates are Stephen A. Emery, Amy Klobuchar, David Robert Groves, Leonard J. Richards, and Steve Carlson.
For a U.S. Senator with a term expiring on January 3, 2021, Republican candidates are Nikolay Nikolayevich Bey, Bob Anderson, and Karin Housley. DLF candidates are Nick Leonard, Richard W. Painter, Ali Chehem Ali, Christopher Lovell Seymore Sr., Gregg A. Iverson, and Tina Smith.
U.S. Republican Representatives for District Six candidates include Tom Emmer, A.J. Kern, and Patrick Munro. The DFL candidate is Ian Todd.
For State Offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor for the Republican Party include Mathew (Matt) Kruse (Theresa Loeffler), Jeff Johnson (Donna Bergstrom), and Tim Pawlenty (Michelle Fischbach) as candidates. DFL candidates are Lori Swanson (Rick Nolan), Tim Walz (Peggy Flanagan), Tim Holden (James P. Mellin II), Olé Savior (Chris Edman), and Erin Murphy (Erin Maye-Quade).
For the Attorney General, Republican candidates are Doug Wardlow, Robert Lessard, and Sharon Anderson. DFL candidates include Debra Hilstrom, Matt Pelikan, Tom Foley, Keith Ellison, and Mike Rothman.
State and County primary non-partisan positions for Wright County include the position of the County Sheriff, where five candidates are cast for the position: Chad Torkelson, Drew Scherber, Sean A. Deringer, Mike Kaczmarek, and Stacy Braun.
The primary election, according to Wright County Auditor/Treasurer Bob Hiivala, will narrow coming general election ballot to two candidates.
This year for the primary elections, Wright County is hosting absentee ballots, which are currently ongoing. Advanced in-person voting opened on July 29 and in-person voting hours will go until August 13, at 5 p.m. Absentee voting is also open the Saturday before the election, and locations open on August 11, beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m.
Voting hours for the state primary election open at 7 a.m. and go until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, August 14.
Election day is August 14. Buffalo’s precincts are as follows: Precinct 1 voters will vote at Buffalo High School, in the activity center. Precinct 2 voters will vote at Northwinds Elementary, and Precinct 3 voters will make their votes at Zion Lutheran Church, in Trinity Hall.
For more information on absentee voting, please visit www.co.wright.mn.us/181/Absentee-Voting-Voter-Information.
To find where you vote by address, please visit: https://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/.
Up for candidacy this year for Montrose Royalty is, from left to right: Isabella Hanson, Hannah Ennis, Serenity Simmang, and Shianne Christensen. (Submitted photos)
By Miriam Orr
Montrose Days is coming on August 17 through the 19, so start planning your schedule ahead of time.
The annual medallion hunt begins on Monday, August 13, and continues until found! Clues can be found at City Hall daily, at 3:30 p.m.
Starting Friday, August 17 at 4 p.m., Lions Park is hosting bingo for your enjoyment! Then, starting at 5 p.m. at Center Avenue is a car show. Beginning at 6 p.m. and going until 8 p.m. is the Pirate and Princess Party at the Community Center, which is sponsored by the Montrose Ambassadors. The event is recommended for children ages 4-12 years old, and please consider bringing a donation for the food shelf! The cost is $5 for children, $10 maximum for families.
Starting at 10 p.m. on Friday is fireworks, as well – don’t miss the show!
Outgoing Montrose Royalty includes, from left to right (back): Sabrina Salone and Lexi Lyrek. Left to right, (front): Jocelyn Phillips, and Monica Meidinge.
Beginning Saturday, August 18 at 7:30 a.m. is the Montrose Days Top Gun Contest Registration, with the contest itself starting at 8 a.m. At noon is the Kiddie Parade, which starts at City Hall on Third Street, and ends near the big tent off of Center Avenue. Also starting at noon, and ending at 9 p.m., Lions Park is hosting inflatables.
The Kids Pedal Pull begins at 1 p.m., and the Gopher State Garden Tractor Pull on Center Avenue starts at 3 p.m. A pork chop dinner will be at the Community Center, starting at 5 p.m. and going until 8 p.m. “Diamondback” will be playing live music under the tent starting at 8:30 p.m.
To conclude events on Sunday, August 19, is the 1 p.m. parade. Following the parade from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. is the “Swinging Country Band” under the big tent, with the KRWC Road Show stopping by too! Tournament winners will be announced at the big tent and beginning at 3 p.m. and going until 6 p.m. is the Cake Walk, with the Ambassador coronation at the Community Center.
Sponsored candidates this year include: Isabella Hanson, Citizen State Bank; Hannah Ennis, Varner Mobile Services; Serenity Simmang, Magnum RV; and Shianne Christensen, Montrose Family Chiropractic.
Montrose days is sure to have great fun scheduled for you and your family, so come on out for a good time! For more information, please visit http://montrosedayscelebration.yolasite.com/montrose-days.php.
The Minnesota Pioneer Park in Annandale is hosting its Second Annual “A Karnival for Kids” on Sunday, August 12, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The event will host games, clowns and face painting, a pet parade, as well as a free kids’ pedal tractor pull contest! There will be a pork chop dinner, as well as free ice cream and popcorn!
Minnesota Pioneer Park is a 501 3-C non-profit historical museum, solely supported by fundraising. The park is located at Highway 55 East, 725 Pioneer Park Trail, Annandale.
August is here, and Concerts in the Park is still going strong, continuing on every Thursday until August 30!
This event features a number of musical concerts and bands, sponsored by local businesses in their performances for the community. It promises to be a good time, with family-friendly music, and all the concerts are free of charge for anyone who wants to join in on the fun.
On August 9, “White Sidewalls” will be in town to take you away with music of 50’s and the 60’s! Then, keep an eye out on August 16, for the “Hornucopia,” who will rock you with an ensemble of horns!
Minnesota State Patrol is investigating a fatal crash on Highway 24 and CR 39, which took the life of Roland Cornelius Johnson, 74, of Annandale.
According to police reports, the driver of a Chrysler Town and Country, Johnson, was driving southbound and an International dump truck driver, Corey Paulson, 36, of Annandale, was northbound on Highway 24. Johnson veered into the northbound lane, Paulson went left, and Johnson corrected and struck the dump truck head-on.
Paulson sustained non-life threatening injuries from the crash.
Come one, come all, as St. Michael’s Daze and Knights Festival is almost upon us! Join the community for festivities, beginning Friday, August 10, and ending on Saturday, August 11.
The event will host a series of bands, with a lineup including “Outside Recess,” who will perform on Friday, from 8 p.m. to midnight, in the Beer Garden. There is a $5 cover charge for the age 21+ show.
On Saturday, “Flashmob” will perform at 8 p.m. to midnight at the Beer Garden, with the same cover charge and age limit. For all ages, “The Roadkill Band” will play at 4 p.m.
Make sure you don’t miss the Ninjas United Obstacle Course, which will run both Friday and Saturday. Friday, the course is open from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., and is open all day long on Saturday. The event is $10.00 per run and has both adult and kid courses available.
Festival events also include a Saturday 5k Color Daze Run. This is the fourth annual run, which begins at 8:30 a.m., at City hall. Ages six years and up are welcome to participate! And, starting at noon on Saturday are the endless beer mugs, with a German dinner following at 4 p.m.
The city’s parade begins at noon on Saturday, so don’t miss it! Really, there’s something for everyone at the Daze and Knights Festival in St. Michael –anywhere from inflatables, garage sales, a classic car show, bingo, are everywhere, all waiting for you to explore.
For more information, visit www.stmdazeandknightsfestival.com.
By Miriam Orr
The Olympics, for many, signifies the peak of dedication. The opportunity to compete against others in an elite group of athletes, for the chance to not only take part in sports history but to also walk away with the shining gold medal of victory, is not given to many across the world, much less the nation.
Athletes train relentlessly in hopes of glory, all yearning for the small chance that they, too, might be Olympians and take part in what is widely renowned as one of the world’s foremost sporting events.
Then, there are the Special Olympics – a cut above the rest, these athletes possess as much heart as they do determination, and work tirelessly throughout seasons of challenges and sporting events to represent their state and delegation in any given sport. However, these men and women are often overlooked as lesser athletes, though they show just as much grit and hard work as others within their field of expertise. Many times, they are wildly misunderstood, overlooked, and underappreciated.
Meet the St. Michael-Albertville Stallions – Team Minnesota’s Flag Football representatives at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, Seattle.
It became evident that a sports group for those with intellectual disabilities was greatly needed in 2011, which is when Aimee Libby – and a handful of other families in the STMA area – noticed the increasing need for sporting and other opportunities within their community, particularly from those with intellectual disabilities.
With help from Special Olympics Minnesota (SOMN), Aimee said the program started off strong, almost immediately. “The organization [Special Olympics Minnesota] already knew there was a need for a group out this way, so we happened to connect with them at just the right time.”
Chad and Aimee make their home in Hanover, with their children, Peyton and Carson. Things really began to kick off when Peyton, who is now 14, began showing interest in sports and other social opportunities – however, being born with a birth injury has limited her full participation in mainstream school sports. Peyton suffered a very complicated birth, resulting in, among other things, a brachial plexus injury at birth, which affects the nerves running from the hand, up the shoulder and then connecting up to the back of the neck along the spine near the brainstem. The injury has left Peyton with a motor planning disorder, known as global apraxia. In a nutshell, Peyton’s brain knows what she wants her body to do or what she wants to say, however, the signals sent from the brain to the rest of her body are jumbled along the way. Her brain has had to learn how to adapt in those areas where there’s interference in the signals being sent from her brain to her body. What may be easy and comes naturally to others, is much more challenging for individuals with global apraxia.
It has not hindered the Libby’s, however. After frustrations with Peyton not being successful in community education offerings while in elementary school, it became apparent that another avenue to achieve their daughter’s desire to be included in activities would be needed. Fortunately, Aimee has had experience with Special Olympics before, while in college, so the organization was not a foreign one to her.
What first started off as Aimee volunteering her graphic design abilities, quickly launched the family in full participation with the St. Michael-Albertville Stallions Special Olympics team. The family, amidst several other community members, hit the ground running, helping the team with the start of the Stallions first sport in April of 2012. The Libbys have been championing for the team ever since.
For those not familiar with Special Olympics, each local team has what’s called the “Head of Delegation” (HOD) which acts as the team lead, working directly with Special Olympics Minnesota and families of athletes and unified partners to keep the team organized and running successful. Aimee’s role morphed as the team began to grow, and she stepped in to the role of HOD in 2014, while still continuing to volunteer her time and talents promoting and marketing the team, coaching and also playing as a unified partner. The Stallions have always been a family affair for the Libbys, as Chad puts his college coaching minor to good use coaching, while both Peyton and Carson participate as an athlete and unified partner – their lives revolve around Special Olympics, and they’re having a blast doing it all together.
“We really found vision in this organization when we really began to see, more and more, that Peyton was seen by others for what she can’t do rather than what she can do,” Aimee said. “Special Olympics, and this Stallions team, give people with added challenges like Peyton’s an outlet and an opportunity to show the world what they have to offer, which is drastically changing people’s mindsets and stereotypes about individuals with intellectual disabilities.”
The Stallions are a unified team, which means that players with and without intellectual disabilities play together on teams as teammates. Aimee and Chad say that this approach is so beneficial, for everyone involved – not only for athletes of all abilities who get to work and play together, but for each participant who has the opportunity to spend time with and learn from their teammates.
Overall, the goal of the team is not just winning medals and competitions - its about bringing people together, and bridging a gap. Having unified teammembers is one large step towards the latter goal.
“This isn’t about who is better than who,” Chad commented, “it’s not about showing off – it isn’t prideful. It’s a genuine effort to have fun, learn, and work hard at a sport that the athletes love. People from all walks of life are learning how to broach the subject of intellectual disabilities, and that is inspirational.”
“Everyone has something to contribute – whether that’s on a sports field or within a community,” Aimee said. This is also the philosophy of their son, Carson, who absolutely loves being involved in just about every sport they coach and oversee. His desire from a very young age to play alongside his Stallions friends really sparked the decision to get on-board with Special Olympics Unified Sports programs, which allows those without intellectual disabilities to play together and experience all that sports have to offer as a unified team.
All of this to say that, with hard work the year before in 2016, the Stallions went on to begin the process of applying through Special Olympics Minnesota to represent the state in the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, in the sport of unified flag football.
However, while the team was going for gold, the opportunity meant a lot more than just a shot at taking home trophies and medals.
“The application process is long and intense,” Aimee shared. “It involves applying, and then composing biographies for all the players, of course completing player evaluations required by SOMN – then, SOMN has to interview all the applicants, there are medical forms that need to be authorized, signed and submitted, multiple letters of recommendations per applicant to gather up, all that – and that’s all before any of the actual training begins!”
What was more, the key requirement was that the team needed to win a gold medal in the previous year’s (2016) qualifying State Unified Flag Football tournament in their division to ultimately be considered and eligible to apply for USA Games – and they did, all before 2017. In August 2017, almost exactly a year ago, the Stallions were notified by Special Olympics Minnesota that they had been chosen to represent Team Minnesota at the 2018 USA Games in Seattle. The team continued on in their regular season, competing at the state Flag Football tournament in October 2017, and after that, they began their training for USA Games – training of a kind the team hadn’t ever quite ventured in to.
“We had to figure out the best way to help athletes train, not only in the sport and physical aspects, but also in how to work together and integrate with one another off the field,” Chad explained. “Many of these athletes had never flown, and some hadn’t even ever left the state, much less been separated from their families for an entire week. So, we began doing various teambuilding outings and activities so that we could work together to begin and explore the territory of spending a significant amount of time together – under the supervision of coaches and unified partners, just as they’d be experiencing in Seattle.”
This involved trips to Timberwolves and St. Paul Saints games, shopping together at Mall of America and Target purchasing items needed for USA Games, going out to dinner at restaurants together, as well as a tour of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, where the athletes had the opportunity to fully prepare for their airport experience. Aimee shared that this experience was so helpful, and said they would highly recommend other families who have children with disabilities to consider the Navigating MSP program prior to flying for the first time.
Despite all the time and effort that went in to preparing for USA Games and the trip to Seattle, Chad and Aimee shared it was definitely worth it. Aimee plays as a unified player on the flag football team, while Chad was selected as Team Minnesota’s head coach. The job of running a thriving team like the Stallions is all-encompassing for Aimee and the Libby family, though one wouldn’t be able to tell from their approach to the subject.
“This is a team effort,” they explained. “The families are all so involved and work together as a network to support athletes, and each other,” Chad commented.
Seattle, Washington, was quite the experience in how Chad and Aimee attempted to explain it. While in between terms like “completely amazing,” and “no words to describe it,” were hints of a good time and a once-in-a-lifetime honor that the family, and their team, never truly anticipated or could fathom. They expressed that it truly is nearly impossible to put in to words what the experience was like for those who weren’t there.
“Our schedule was jammed-packed in Seattle, but man, our guys did great, and we had such a fantastic time together,” Aimee said with a chuckle. The team stayed on campus at the University of Washington, which was approximately two miles from the field where they would practice and play against other teams from around the country. All in all, the team walked approximately 10-12 miles a day, while also maintaining a rigorous schedule of practice, games, sightseeing, training, and competing.
In Seattle, Chad and Aimee shared that the Stallions formed a unique bond with Team Arizona, who more than once asked to participate in leading the Minnesota “SKOL!” cheer with the outstanding Minnesota fans in the stands. Both teams thoroughly enjoyed being matched up in competition with other teams who have the same team philosophy and vision to Play Unified. Chad stated that Minnesota fans were by far the “loudest, most supportive” families in the stands, and that Minnesota “Nice” was definitely not lacking both on and off the field.
There were tears when Chad and Aimee recalled the trip, stating that it was such a huge honor to take part in what is, considered by all who attended, a life-changing experience in these athletes’ and families’ lives. Both Chad and Aimee are positive that the lives of each athlete, unified partner, coach and family member who experienced USA Games in Seattle won’t ever be the same. The team is still riding on cloud nine, even after returning in the first week of July.
Chad recalled what was one of the most moving experiences of the trip. During the Healthy Athlete’s Event, team members participated in a series of educational and resource training booths about staying healthy and active, and how to train appropriately. After completing a certain number of Healthy Athlete’s trainings, members of the team each received a pair of brand new Brooks Running Shoes – which is a big deal for our athletes, said Chad.
“Many times, we see athletes show up to practice not wearing the appropriate clothes or shoes for training in whatever sport it is they’re competing in,” Chad explained. “Seeing the faces of our athletes upon receiving their new shoes was just so amazing – and it meant the world to them. For many, it just solidified the fact that they are REAL athletes, deserving of much more credit than they’re often given.”
Amidst a rigorous schedule and tight itinerary, Team Minnesota walked away with shiny silver medals from the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. With happy tears, they shared their love for not only the Special Olympics organization, but the network of “family” they have gained from such a team as the Stallions.
On August 4, the Stallions took part in the Hanover Harvest Festival parade, where they were “welcomed home” by the community and recognized for their accomplishments in Seattle, a month or so later. The victory-parade of sorts was a highlighted topic with Peyton, in-between asking for company to come for dinner, and giggling over iPad games and video calls with friends.
For now, Aimee and Chad are beginning to prep for flag football and bowling, which both kick off in the fall for the upcoming seasons. Peyton is anticipating eighth grade, and Carson is ever looking forward to a continued season of sports as a unified partner and helping lead the newly formed student-led Unified Club at STMA Middle School West.
For more information on the Stallions, visit https://www.stmaspecialolympics.com/.
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