YIR Part 2: 2017 – the year the Sartell Center finally opened

Dennis DalmanFeatured News, Sartell – St. Stephen0 Comments

by Dennis Dalman


The year 2017 in Sartell could well be known as the year a Sartell Community Center was finally built and opened for residents.

For two decades – at least – residents and city officials had wanted a city center. At long last, revenue from the regional half-cent sales tax made the center a possibility. The $11-million facility in south Sartell opened to the public in late fall. It has three gyms, an elevated walking track, a senior center, a books and learning area, a kids’ play center, locker rooms, kitchen facilities and public-meeting rooms.

(The Year in Review: Part 1 covering January-June was featured in the Jan. 5 edition of the Newsleader and may be read in its entirety by visiting thenewsleaders.com.)


Kelly McCarney, head coach of the Sartell Sabres Dance Team, is named Coach of the Year in the annual St. Cloud Times Sports Media Awards. McCarney has led the Sabres to many state competition honors throughout the years, including many first-place awards in the high-kick and jazz categories. Other Sartell residents honored are Mitchell Dockendorf, swimmer; Bria Ferns, soccer; Shelby Hall, track-and-field; Rylee Molitor, wrestler; and Sloan Schwarzentraub, Sabre dancer. Allie Dolan, all-around athlete at Tech High School, was given the Tom Bearson Spirit Award, named after Tom Bearson of Sartell, who was murdered in the Fargo-Moorhead area shortly after beginning college.

A photo by Chris Sigurdson wins the City of Sartell’s I Love Sartell photo contest. The photo, entitled The Giving Rink, is of a neighborhood skating rink as seen at sunset.

Mick Benson, a Sartell painter, wins a Gold award in the Red River Watercolor Society’s National Exhibition in Fargo, N.D. Benson’s painting, entitled The Borglum Windmill, is of an old windmill he saw during a trip to Denmark.

The perennially popular St. Stephen Classic Car Show takes place in that city with lots of visitors admiring the cool, swanky cars from the past.

Ginny Anderson, a nurse at Oak Ridge Elementary School, has made two trips to Haiti, and the second time she brought along more than 200 dresses and 30 skirts sewn for girls in poverty-stricken Haiti. Anderson’s mother, Joyce Stock of St. Joseph and Joyce’s sister, Janice of St. Cloud, sewed the clothing.


The school district hires a new communications specialist, Sarah Kleppe. Born in Minnetonka, Kleppe’s parents were both teachers. “I love this job so far,” Kleppe told the Newsleader. “There are so many great people here.”

Many residents in Sartell and St. Stephen host National Night Out neighborhood events Aug. 1, with neighbors and police personnel interacting, having fun and sharing safety-related information.

Jim Michaud is named as interim activities director for the school district. A long-time teacher and coach at Cathedral High School and Apollo High School, he will fill in the position recently vacated by John Ross.

The Sartell Muskies baseball team takes the regional championship at Hinckley. Since July, the team won 14 consecutive games.

Sartell resident Mary Lou Westra, at age 88, is featured in a human-interest story in the Newsleader. The key to longevity, she said, is to work hard, connect positively with other people (especially children) and not moping about disappointments.

A Sartell girl, Amaa Wijetunga, at the tender age of 6, has read 2,000 storybooks – part of a reading challenge sponsored by the St. Cloud Public Library. Amaa’s mother read aloud the first 1,000 or so storybooks, but Amaa read the other thousand by herself with very little help. She is the daughter of Gayathri and Mevan Wijetunga.

Sartell students once again excel in the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test, averaging about 15 points above their statewide peers in reading, math and science.


The Sartell-St. Stephen School Board chooses Jeremy Snoberger as the new school-board member to replace Michelle Meyer, who resigned earlier this year because she and her family are moving from the area. Snoberger has extensive experience in working on school-related issues and activities.

The annual Cookout with Cops event is a record “best-ever” success as senior citizens, police officers and other public servants gather to share food, fun and information. Sponsored by the Sartell Police Department, the get-together takes place, once again, at St. Francis Xavier Church’s social space.

The city council approves an $8.5-million bond sale to pay for a number of city projects, including street reconstruction, park improvements and needful things at the about-to-open community center.

Thousands of people gather for the St. Stephen Catholic Parish Labor Day Fall Festival. They enjoy bingo, kiddie games, inflatables, chicken-and-ham dinner, homemade pies, an auction and many other fun things.

The city council pitches in $30,000 for ball-field improvements at Pinecone Central Park.

A sudden wind storm on Labor Day downs trees in the Sartell and surrounding area.

During a peaceful demonstration, Sartell High School students rally in support of DACA “Dreamers” throughout the nation. “Dreamers,” as they’re dubbed, are those young people who were brought to the United States by their undocumented parent or parents. Because of a decision by President Donald Trump, up to 800,000 of them could be deported unless Congress passes a law allowing them to stay. DACA, initiated by President Barack Obama, stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Six people are honored by the Sartell Police Department with Life-Saving Awards. They are officers Curt Grosz and Jake Walters, Sartell firefighters Dennis Ertl and Adam Imholte, and two young women, Madison DeMarais and Abigail Trelfa. The latter two helped saved the life of a friend who was electrocuted while climbing on the “Old Bridge” in Sartell.

Lori Dornburg is named Middle School Educator of the Year by the Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest organization. Dornburg teaches family- and consumer-science classes at Sartell Middle School and is also the academics extension coordinator. She has taught at the school for 23 years.

Many Sartell residents of all ages participate in doing good deeds during the United Way Day of Caring. The central Minnesota event involved people doing everything from making tie blankets for a women’s shelter to helping landscape a garden at the Boy Scouts building in Sartell, from painting the walls of the Central Minnesota Council on Aging to playing games with residents of Sartell’s Country Manor.


Some students in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District are brainstorming to help design the spaces within the new high school, now under construction. The classrooms will no longer be boring “box” rooms but interconnected in a way that will promote interactions, teamwork, openness and flexibility, which are all hallmarks of the modern learning methods.

The Newsleader and two dozen local businesses present a double-page spread in the Oct. 6 Newsleader to salute and honor all the members of the Sartell and St. Stephen fire departments. Both departments host open houses during National Firefighters Week.

Once again, Sartell students excel on the American College Testing tests, scoring above state and national averages.

The Sartell Community Center has its unofficial opening the morning of Oct. 4 with many senior citizens gathering to enjoy their new Senior Connection center within the facility. Other people that day played pickle ball in the three gymnasiums as work crews were busy putting finishing touches to the center. All who commented to the Newsleader about it were effusive in their praise.

The library locker system in the new Sartell Community Center can now be used by Sartell residents. Library materials can be ordered online via the Great River Regional Library System, based in St. Cloud. The materials are delivered to lockers at the center where patrons can pick them up. The patrons can also return materials to a bin near the lockers. Staff from the GRRL system will deliver and pick up returned items.

Members of the Baha’i faith hold a centenary celebration of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the founder of that religion. The celebration takes place in the Sartell Community Center.

The school district now has a new activities director – Ryan Hauge, who hails from the St. Francis school District where he was a social-studies teacher and basketball and golf coach. He will serve in the position formerly held by John Ross.


Two Sartell Sabre varsity teams excel at tournaments. In the Central Lakes Championship Swim-and-Dive Tournament at Sartell, the girls’s swim-and-dive team team wins eight of 12 events. The boys’ cross-country team finishes first in the Section 8AA playoffs in Fergus Falls. Ingrid Buiceag-Arama had such a strong finish on cross-country, the superb athlete will compete at the state meet.

Students in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District raise $18,000 to donate to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Specifically, the fundraisers wanted to grant the wish of Sophia Lathe, 10, a fifth-grader, who longs to go to Disney World in Florida as her wish. She suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, which affects her ability to walk.

The Sartell City Council hears from several experts on energy and water innovations and state-of-the-art programs that could save the city money in the long run. The high-tech applications maximize efficiencies and prevent waste. They include LED lighting, energy audits and building “envelopes” to solve heat loss, and water meters for businesses and residents that can be read remotely and that keep highly detailed data on water usage and water waste.

The Sartell Senior High School Choir is chosen to participate in the annual conference of the American Choral Directors Association of Minnesota.

St. Francis Xavier School students raise more than $29,000 for their “Saints in Service” projects – doing work for people in the city who need yard help, cleaning, moving things and so forth.

The Sartell Chamber of Commerce honors individuals and businesses at its annual Recognition Banquet at Blackberry Ridge Golf Course. The honorees are Blue Line Sports Bar & Grill, small business of the year; St. Cloud Orthopedics, large business of the year; Ryan Holter, citizen of the year; Lauren Lindmeier, student volunteer of the year; and Gayle Smoley, senior-citizen volunteer of the year.


Sartell holds its first Country Lights Festival around Lake Francis, the big holding pond next to the new Sartell Community Center. The area around the lake, sparkling with Christmas lights, is the site for the month-long festival of radio-broadcast music, a visit by Mr. and Mrs. Claus, choirs and carolers, bonfires and a lighting of candles at the Angel of Hope statue. The festival is a partnership between several generous businesses and the City of Sartell.

The Sartell-St. Stephen School Board is presented a financial audit that shows the district is doing remarkably well in managing its financial affairs, keeping well within budget and bringing efficiencies to its spending.

Kristoff Kowalkowski, a Sartell ninth-grader, is invited to compete in Football University’s All-American Bowl in Naples, Fla.

A book by a Sartell woman, Dr. Lilian Price, is published. Price translated Guillotine Education from German into English. The book by Klaus Schmude is a true account of a man who escaped East Germany but was later snatched back and underwent interrogation, torture and other terrible mistreatments before being decapitated by his East German captors. The book, despite its horror, is also a testament to the power of Christian faith.

Cooks, custodians and bus drivers of the Sartell-St. Stephen School District are considering staging a strike after what they call frustrating labor-contract negotiations. The 83 employees are members of Service Employees International Union Local 284. They have been working under terms of a contract that expired July 1, 2016. So far, there have been six negotiation sessions and three mediation sessions.

The Sartell Community Education Dance program holds its annual fall recital and the first-ever Christmas-themed show. The audience is delighted by the dances, many by girls of all ages. Long-time dance instructor Shelly Teff is transitioning out of her lead role this year, giving the reins to her protégé Hannah Ronyak, who has helped teach the dancers for years.

The Sartell Senior Connection celebrates the 10th anniversary of its formation. The group has brought a myriad of fun and educational activities to the city and now has its own center within the new Sartell Community Center.

VEX robotics-program students from Sartell return with a heap of honors from two area contests.

Pine Meadow Elementary School hosts its annual Winter Wonderland with its maze of lights, music, games and a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

(To read any of the above stories in their entirety, visit thenewsleaders.com and search for your favorite stories.)

photo by Carolyn Bertsch
Friends Genna Kelash, 5, (left) and Andrea Wills, 11, both of Sartell, work together to build a sand castle during the June 29 Sartell Police Athletic League, also known as P.A.L. Sartell’s P.A.L. is free of charge and meets every Tuesday and Thursday at Val Smith Park in Sartell until July 20.

photo by Carolyn Bertsch
Super Heros Batman and Superman also known as Jeff Amann and Josh Kerkvliet use their powers to activate a grill at the Heritage Place neighborhood block party during National Night Out Aug 1. No kryptonite was used in these hot dogs.

contributed photo
Bundled up in a cozy blanket, Amaa Wijetunga immerses herself in yet another exciting storybook. Her mother read to her 1,000 books. The second 1,000 books Amaa read all by herself.

photo by Dennis Dalman
This fearsome face-painting tiger (aka Wyatt Paggen of St. Stephen) devours a burger Sept. 4 at the St. Stephen Catholic Parish Fall Festival. The event attracted thousands of people for a variety of events on a beautiful warm day with cool breezes, and although rain suddenly interrupted the festivities, everyone carried on and had a good time.

photo by Carolyn Bertsch
A group makes tie blankets Sept. 21 at Oak Ridge Elementary school. The blankets will be donated to Anna Marie’s Alliance and were part of the United Way of Central Minnesota’s Day of Caring. From left to right are Keri Lezmeier of St. Cloud and a CDI employee; Julianna Silva, 8, of Sartell; and Jasmine Garcia, 8, of Rice.

photo by Carolyn Bertsch
Pumpkin artist Kylee Weinand, 3, of Sartell, works on a masterpiece Sept. 30 at Collegeville Orchards in St. Joseph.


photo by Carolyn Bertsch
These friends from the Sartell Middle School choir take a break from singing to visit and share a few laughs during the Dec. 11 Winter Wonderland event at Pine Meadow Elementary school. The friends are (left to right) Taya Lewandowski, 13; Briehyn Lewandowski, 12; Hannah Spoden, 13; and Libby Nelson, 13.


photo by Carolyn Bertsch
Miles Wood, 10, of Sartell, skids down the ice behind his house on his new sled Dec. 10. Wood is enjoying the cold Minnesota weather and the activities that come with it, all a drastic change from his native Arizona.


Author: Dennis Dalman


Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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