That Was the Year That Was

What to do about wild turkeys? Don’t feed them, the council decides.

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

It has been a year unlike any other. From historcal headlines of devastating illness and death to widespread economic hardships, from political fireworks to an unprecedented number of uses of the word “unprecedented,” 2020 has truly been one for the books. Yet through what has sometimes seemed like relentless waves of bad news, community stories have reliably added interesting and encouraging home-town tales to lighten the darkness.

Through it all – perhaps against the odds – The Extra has published 53 weekly editions. (Yes, 2020 delivered one excess Thursday.) Though struggling businesses caused revenue to dip for all print publications, the presses kept rolling, and 7,000 or so Moorhead, and Clay County residents have not missed a single copy. At year’s end, they continue to read their community news on their choice of media – ink on paper, available free as always, or online at Stories are also shared on Facebook.

Too Many Turkeys (01/16/20) – Moorhead tackled its love-hate affair with turkeys at the beginning of 2020 … and pointed to a partial solution at the very end. Nearly 100 residents packed council chambers in January to debate what some consider a nuisance and other a local treasure. While the growing flocks hatched along the river have taken to strolling the city streets, some homeowners spoke of attacks and mounting messes in their yards. In the last meeting of the year, the City Council gave first approval to an ordinance forbidding feeding the birds.

Clay County Health Officer: ‘It’s Definitely Here’ (03/17/20) – The county’s first case of COVID-19 was reported to the County Commission on March 17, shortly after Gov. Tim Walz issued an emergency order closing schools and nonessential businesses and urging Minnesotans to stay home. By December, the number of cases across the county had totaled 6,123 cases (most of whom have recovered) and 77 deaths.

By the Book (04/16/20) – With the Moorhead Public Library’s doors locked because of the pandemic, librarians turned to e-books and audio books to satisfy their patrons need to read. They turned to the library’s vast collection of e-books and digital audiobooks to satisfy their hunger. Thanks to the internet, the number of library card-holders grew dramatically, giving them access not only to fiction and nonfiction but newspapers, magazines, comics and TV shows – all at no cost to the borrower.

Chalk It Up To Art (05/07/20) – Kim Jore brightened the summer landscape for socially distanced Moorheaders with her series of larger-than-life chalk artworks that popped up at busy intersections throughout the spring and summer. The artist, whose Riverzen studio is well-known for its prints and paintings of local landmarks, chose subjects ranging from multicultural hands embracing a heart to a wolf, alluding to the local families who chose to go outside and howl in solidarity every evening throughout the summer.

Spuds.TV To the Rescue (05/28/20) – COVID-19 changed the form but not the spirit of Moorhead High School graduation in May. Spuds.TV, the local team created to livestream Spuds sports, created a virtual graduation ceremony for 2020 seniors, who hadn’t seen their classmates and friends since the pandemic forced schools to go “virtual” in March.

Mayor Judd: ‘It’s Not Them Against Us’ (6/04/20) – After peaceful protests erupted into violent protest in Fargo following the killing of George Floyd, Mayor Judd reassured both marchers and the city. “As a black man and an elected official, I represent everybody. Both sides have rights,” he reflected. “Our job is to listen to what all of them want and need to say, and then work toward the best outcome for everyone.”

Strolling on the River (08/13/20) – Moorhead’s 18 miles of river trails drew closer to completion this year with construction of the Blue Goose Trail from Gooseberry Mound Park to Bluestem Center for the Arts. News came in November that funding has been secured for the final segment within the city, the Midtown Trail, with work to begin next summer. Plans were also unveiled in November for a pedestrian bridge linking Bluestem to Fargo’s network of riverside trails, the first one south of Interstate 94.

More Room to Romp At New Dog Park (09/17/20) – Moorhead Parks and Recreation welcomed the first pooches to its new southside dog park in September. The spacious fenced area includes separate compounds for small and larger breeds, along with the first amenities for agility training. Located in River Oaks Park on a bend in the Red River, it was moved to the west end of the area to accommodate neighbors concerned about traffic and barking.

Window of Opportunity for Moorhead’ (10/22/20) – Moorhead had much to celebrate when the Minnesota Legislature finally passed its 2021 bonding bill at the end of its fifth special session in October. Among the $1.9 billion measure: $62 million in funding for the 11th Street underpass, a solution at last to the near-constant bisecting of the city by passing trains. Also included was $7.5 million to build a new joint Clay County-Moorhead solid waste transfer station on the north side and and $5.34 million for expanding the local National Guard Armory. “Funding for the underpass opens up a whole window of opportunity we didn’t have before,” Mayor Johnathan Judd said. “This has truly been a team effort by our legislative delegation – Reps. Ben Lien and Paul Marquart and Sen. Kent Eken – along with Dr. Bob Zimmerman, Lisa Bode and their staffs, as well as former Mayor Del Rae Williams and council members past and present. That’s what finally pushed it over the edge. We kept on knocking on the door, and it finally opened.”

Total of 330 Moorhead, Clay Business Receive First Round of CARES Grants (09/29/20) – Small businesses hurt by the COVID pandemic received about $3.4 million in CARES Grants this fall. Working together, the city and county established guidelines awarding $10,000 to most businesses with up to 20 employees and $3,500 to sold proprietors; other grants went to nursing homes and care facilities and larger employers. The city allocations included 17 to nonprofits; 42 to sole proprietorships; 48 to women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses; and 86 to “standard businesses” with up to 20 employees. County grants were awarded to 137 applicants in the remaining Clay communities based on the same eligibility.

Tending a Flock of Hope (11/19/20) – Lynn and Jason Kotrba raise a very special kind of sheep on their farmstead north of the city – those that carry a unique gene that may be part of a new treatment for the deadly Huntington’s disease. The couple and their eight children tend a flock of 40 sheeps and two llamas, opening their acreage to young people for summer camps introducing Nature and agricultural nurture to youngsters from throughout the community.

‘A Catastrophe with Devastating Consequences’ (12/03/20) – What began as a distant global threat in spring struck close to home by year’s end with the death of Commissioner Kevin Campbell’s girlfriend after a futile month-long battle with COVID-19. Campbell shared the story of Shelly Swenson battle for life, urging the thousands of Clay County residents who have recovered from the virus to donate plasma to be used to treat other local victims. 

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