Northeast wins in cakes & melons


It was a double-win weekend for Northeast! First, the Fine Arts Boosters held its annual cake auction Friday between the girls and boys varsity basketball games against Cascade. Though the basketball victories may have gone to the Cascade Cougars, the cakes went to Rebel supports like . . . well, hot cakes!

During the live auction, my husband Marty hoped to take one back to his employer, but as bids climbed toward $1,000 he opted to snag a couple of smaller ones from the silent auction.

For one who has a major sweet tooth, but tries to eat healthy, the cake auction was a mine field! I fantasized about scooping up palms full of frosting and shoving it in my face. As we sold pieces by the slice, I actually had to tell myself (out loud), “Don’t lick the knife.” I fingered the $20 in my pocket, trying not to throw it down and flee with a box!

I refused to let Marty bring his two cakes into the house. Having enjoyed a slice at the auction, I knew how wonderfully delicious they were. It was either devour an entire cake or resign myself to a few smaller cakes of the dry, puffed rice variety.

In all, the Northeast Fine Arts Boosters took in over $8,000! But that would not be the end of Northeast success for the weekend.

It’s hard to believe it, but the 2015 triathlon season is underway, kicked off last Sunday in Muscatine with the 21st Annual Try Melon Tri at the Muscatine Family YMCA. While this indoor sprint tri is a standard for many of my pals, last weekend was my first time. And what a time!!!

I wasn’t sure what to expect. Obviously the event can’t start with all 106 people cannonballing into a pool at once so participants, who are assigned a timer (mine was volunteer Lisa Longtin of Muscatine), are placed into 9-person start waves taking off every 30 minutes.

Start times are based on one’s estimated swim time for 900 yards (or 18 50-yard laps). I didn’t think my 15 minute estimate was overly ambitious, but it put me with the Big Guns in one of the earlier waves. When the whistle blew the field left me choking on their splash.

I felt like a tug boat slowly chugging along, especially given the two young women on either side of me who apparently had gills instead of lungs, flipper vs. feet. They slipped along, seemingly without effort, gliding smoothly through their laps.

ITry Melon Tri 2015 bike was second to last out of the pool, posting a time of 18:14, much slower than I hoped. Oops. After wasting three minutes drying off and pulling pants on over my swimsuit as well as socks and shoes onto my feet it was off along a carpeted runway to the stationary bikes.

Prior to the start, a stationary bike at the registration table allowed participants to determine their appropriate seat and handlebar height. When I reached an open bike, I quickly made my adjustments and started spinning, my timer Lisa doubling as a wonderfully supportive towel/water girl.

A small handlebar monitor provided distance and time. I finished the 10 miles in 19:09. Again, given the time I lost in the pool, I was second to last off the bike.

It was time for the “fun” part: 40 laps/2.5 miles on an indoor track. While running is what I do the most, it remains my weakest sport. I’m a turtle, a back-of-the-pack’er! While I shuffled around and around, I found myself in the opening scene of last’s year’s Captain America movie “The Winter Soldier.”

Remember how the movie starts, in the pre-dawn hours on Washington D.C.’s Mall when Sam Wilson aka Falcon is out for his morning run? He’s soon lapped THREE times by Steve Rogers aka Captain America, saying, “On your left.”

I felt like I was standing still as a pony-tailed blur in black and blue flew past me. Then it hit me! This was the woman I chatted with before the swim, the same woman who, when I told her where I was from said, “I grew up near Charlotte!”

It was Nancy Foxen, daughter of the late Don and Judy Paulsen, 1996 graduate of Northeast! And she DOMINATED! Turns out this indoor tri thing is her deal! And she lapped me way more than three times.

When I talked with Nancy several days later, she said she ran track and cross country in high school, but it wasn’t until after college when her husband’s work lead her back into sports. Chris is the high school track and cross country coach at Muscatine, “my husband is definitely a big influence on my health,” she said. “Running just got more important.”

As Nancy and I talked, she shared that swimming was her weakest area and that it was only six years ago when some friends taught her to swim. She competed in the Crossroads Tri in DeWitt a few years ago, but the swim portion wasn’t fun.

Nancy explained if she’s going to participant in an event, she wants to enjoy it and perform well. Open water swimming can be nightmarish, which I can certainly attest to, and because of this, she limits her triathlons to the indoor variety.

Last Sunday marked her third year of taking overall women’s honors at the Try Melon Tri, making her the winningest female in the event’s 21-year history! Not only that, but each of the three years she has bested herself and Sunday’s time of 49:42 was the fastest women’s time ever posted!

The event attracted 88 men and women as well as 18 teams. Way out of Nancy’s league, I posted a 1:05:54, good enough for a second place age group award. Medals are fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’s meeting people like my timer Lisa and especially Nancy that make these endeavors all the more worth it!


Originally published 31 January 2015 in The Observer.

Film, music & make-up: a great week of area entertainment


Movies and mayhem, both musical and otherwise. What a week it’s been!

Without a doubt, Monday’s premiere of the documentary “West By Orphan Train” at DeWitt’s Operahouse Theatre crushed anyone’s expectations.

Hosting the event was the Friends group from the Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library and we offered a secret preview that afternoon to residents of local assisted living facilities. With 10 people attending from Maggie’s House in DeWitt and another 20 traveling from Grand Haven in Eldridge, we had a solid start to the day’s event.

orphan train mo & mac behind depotSpending the remainder of the afternoon with film director Colleen Bradford Krantz and Clark Kidder, author of “Emily’s Story,” I took them to Ann Soenksen’s to show Kidder where his grandmother’s school would have stood while also allowing him to visualize the general area of the Pelham Farm where his grandmother lived for several months. Eventually we stood at the Malone train crossing, where Emily arrived in Clinton County via orphan train from New York.

When we returned to DeWitt and walked toward the Operahouse at 5:30 Monday night, people were already trickling into the lobby. By 6:10 p.m., as Kidder’s book supply started running low and the crowd swelled, all of us began to fret over the theater’s capacity of 236.

Within 20 minutes, the house was full!

Opting to offer a second showing, we rolled the 60-minute film early and had another 150 people return at 8 p.m. for that screening!

While hindsight remains 20/20 and both Krantz and Kidder agreed the afternoon preview would have been a great option for others, no one could have prepared us for the wonderful interest in this project.

Admittedly, we live in a pretty cool area. Not only do we support the arts, but we have a solid interest in the orphan train story due, in part, to the Delmar Depot.

Many people connected with Krantz and Kidder, sharing stories of family members who came to the Midwest on an orphan train. One of the more exciting meetings was with a Muscatine woman whose mother was an orphan train rider and is still alive!

Iowa Public Television will be partnering with Krantz and Kidder for another local showing at Davenport’s Figge Art Museum, Sunday Nov. 16 at 2 p.m. A tentative IPTV airing is set for Monday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.

As if I didn’t get my art “fix” Monday, Tuesday was the Northeast Marching Band Extravaganza in which both the middle and high school marching bands performed in the gymnasium.

When we moved our family into the Northeast School District nearly a decade ago, we attended a football game and watched a small, rather rag-tag marching band take the field. Both Marty and I came from strong high school music programs and we were adamant that both our children participate.

In the few years since our first experience watching the Northeast Marching Band, the program has burgeoned under the tutelage of Gerald Creger, Matthew Bolahan and Laura Horst, making Marty and I (selfishly) very excited for the coming years!

During Tuesday night’s concert, the middle school band began their set with Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” I barely stifled a giggle as Creger prefaced the song by claiming it’s a mainstay for anyone with a guitar, electric or air. Myself? I remember killing it on the keyboard. Seriously, few are the chords less familiar!

After a smokin’ hot rendering of that classic, the band proceeded with the theme from “The Pirates of the Carribean” before closing with an impressive parade number.

Prior to the high schoolers taking the floor, Creger noted the band participated in the Musky Marching Invitational in Muscatine where they won the third place trophy. They also took part in the Iowa High School State Marching Band Festival at the newly renovated Brad Street Stadium in Davenport where they achieved an ‘Excellent’ rating.

The gym then filled with the music of Billy Joel, a multi-piece homage titled “Piano Man-the music of Billy Joel.” From “Only the Good Die Young” to “Air” (Dublinesque) it was both exciting and gorgeous to witness.

Hats off to the seniors and we excitedly wait the 2015 season to hear how the younger performers try to fill your shoes. Great work and many thanks for all your hard work!!!!

And finally, what Halloween is complete without ghouls, especially in Charlotte? Yep, the local haunted house is baaaack!

After 2012’s sudden and soul-crushing closing of the Charlotte Haunted House, Mike Jensen and the rest of the Citizens For Charlotte crew resurrected this community tradition inside the walls of the old stone Charlotte school.

With last weekend’s opener attracting nearly 1,000 people (official headcount was 989), it’s clear this town gives a great scare. Consider joining us tonight for the final screams of the 2014 season!


Originally published 1 November 2014 in The Observer.