News in the Neighborhood


Theater Restoration

The newest owner of the Le Sueur Theater, Katherine Elke, is determined to restore the aging 130-year-old venue, which she purchased back in 2016, to even better than its old self. She envisions the theater as not just a place for cinema, but as a place for live music, theatrical performances, comedy shows, and all kinds of entertainment. Elke has spent the last year, with plenty of help, hauling out more than 24 tons (58,000 lbs.) of debris from inside the interior.

One of the biggest hurdles of the restoration was the leaking roof, which Nieman Roofing Company of New Prague tore off during the last two weeks of December. The crew replaced the theater’s rubber membrane and inserted foam insulation and replacement decking to make the building watertight. However, the work needed to revive the theater is extensive and Elke has pulled together an extensive team to plan out the repairs.

The most immediate work for this spring is the theater’s marquee, currently hanging above the curb and suffering with cracked plexiglass, broken lights, and chipping paint. Repairs will focus on restoring the marquee and making it safer.


Cupboard Comes Home

The New Prague Area Historical Society recently purchased a cupboard that had local ties to the Broz Hotel in New Prague. Built by Bohemian immigrant Wenceslaus S. Broz in 1898, the hotel had been managed by his niece and her husband, Mary and Joseph Musil until 1940.

The cupboard was originally made in the late 1880s of butternut, sometimes called the poor man’s walnut, to fit diagonally into the southwest corner of the second floor of the hotel, as part of the household furnishings of the Musils. The cupboard eventually went to one of their daughters, Angeline Musil Simon, from whom it was purchased in 1969 by Emil Holub to give to his daughter, Judy Holub Peterson of Alexandria, when she was married.

Dennis Dvorak of the New Prague Area Historical Society recently asked Peterson about purchasing the cupboard and she agreed to sell it to the historical society. Dvorak contacted historical society members and, in less than three hours, raised $650 to cover the purchase and transportation of the cupboard to the Centennial Cabin in New Prague.


Lighting up Carver

One hundred specially made ice lanterns were placed along trails and byways in the city of Carver. The “Light and Seek” display, which ran Dec. 30 through Jan. 1, was the second phase of the Strings of Connection community effort. Anna Edlund and Shelley Rudolf are co-founders of the nonprofit Funky Minds in Carver, which was instrumental in the presentation.

“Lanterns were placed along the river trail to encourage both the delight of discovery and social distancing,” Edlund said, adding that crossing the lantern-lit pedestrian bridge exemplified saying good-bye to 2020 and crossing back over the bridge welcomed in 2021.

Edlund said it was picturesque to see a full moon and steam rising over the Minnesota River on New Year’s Eve and seeing twinkling lights on the hillside from the downtown levee.

“As a community, we have shared the weariness of 2020,” she added. “This event created an opportunity to share in the reassuring hope of a new year.”

Edlund and her children, Eliza, 22, and Peter, 19, made the ice lanterns, averaging about 20 a day when the temperatures got cold enough to store them outside. Electronic votive candles were used instead of real candles.

“Just hearing the relief in people that there was something beautiful outside that they could enjoy and do with their families was so nice,” Edlund said, “and, if something as simple as frozen water brings people together, why not?”


Siege on Capitol

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, Donald Trump supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol in attempts to thwart a peaceful transfer of power between the president and President-elect Joe Biden. The siege occurred after Trump spoke before the crowd of protesters, stating, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told the crowd, “Let’s have trial by combat.”

After sheltering in her office for more than an hour, Capitol police ushered U.S. Congresswoman Angie Craig, D-Eagan, who represents Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, and her chief of staff to an undisclosed location with about 500 other people, who stayed there for four and a half hours as they watched the events unfold online.

“From the moment these things occurred, we were committed to getting back to the work that we had started and making sure Joe Biden was certified as the next president,” Craig said.

Craig said that while she was angry and shocked at what had happened on Jan. 6, more than anything she was feeling sadness at the country’s deep division.

“I flew back to Minnesota last night; it was a solemn plane ride back,” Craig said on Jan. 8. “Around me were many Trump supporters, and I listened to them. They truly believe this was not a free and fair election. So... we have to hold those accountable who aren’t telling them the truth.”

Craig said beating division in this country is at the forefront of her priorities. On Jan. 7, she tweeted that she had joined the articles of impeachment resolution to remove Trump from office.

“I do this understanding that the deep divisions in our country have got to be healed,” Craig said.


Canines / Cats / COVID

With the pandemic dragging into 2021 and the spirits of many Americans flagging, local animal shelters say that pet adoptions have increased dramatically, but the donations they rely on to survive are down.

Southwest Metro Animal Rescue, a volunteer-run nonprofit based in Chaska, has had its best adoption year ever, with 144 pets adopted, an increase of 15% from last year, and the demand continues to grow. The Carver-Scott Humane Society did 27% more adoptions than in 2019. Because CSHS has a first-come, first-considered application process, they often must take down listed dogs with many applications so prospective adopters don’t get their hopes up. The demand has meant that CSHS also take in dogs from other states, like Arkansas and Kentucky, as well as more difficult-to-place animals from places like Minneapolis Animal Control.

While there were some concerns about animals adopted during the pandemic being surrendered once people go back to work, SMAR thought about that ahead of time. The rescue has an extremely long application process that takes three to five days, including a paper application and a phone application, making sure the animal goes to the right family. They get a lot of applications so they can afford to be picky.

In addition, families are encouraged to think about the long-term impact having an animal can have on their lives as a lifelong investment. After all, kittens turn into cats and cute, little puppies turn into big dogs.


State Baseball Tournament

Chaska, Waconia, and Hamburg won the bid to host the 2021 State Amateur Baseball Tournament and are now preparing for three consecutive weekends on Aug. 20-22, 27-29, and Sept. 1-4.

Chaska last co-hosted with Shakopee in 2008, after having also hosted the tourney in 1998, 1988, and 1955 at the Athletic Park.  2021 will be the first time that Waconia hosts the state amateur baseball tournament which will be a showcase of Waconia’s Lions Field, a $1.4 million grandstand project that opened in 2017. The third site is Hamburg, co-host with Chaska in 1998, when that year’s attendance of 1,346 was the most attended since 1960.

What excites the WCH2021 Committee is the potential for one of the largest crowds in 60 years. The 2020 tournament, despite attendance restrictions due to COVID and long drives for Class C to Springfield and Milroy, drew in the fifth-highest paid tickets in the last 20 years. However, Waconia and Chaska are only 12 miles apart and an easy 20-minute drive away for many baseball hubs. Their hope is to create something special for the casual fan and something memorable for the diehard fan.

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