The Isanti County News The Isanti County News covers community news, sports, current events and provides advertising and information for the cities of Cambridge, Isanti, and Braham, Minnesota and their surrounding areas. Fri, 21 Nov 2014 23:03:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Patricia (Pat) Ann Sodman Fri, 21 Nov 2014 23:03:53 +0000 Patricia (Pat) Ann Sodman, age 74, of Braham, passed away Nov. 20, 2014. Arrangements by Rock Ingebrand Funeral Home, (320)396-2121.

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Grote resigns as principal of Cambridge Primary School Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:26:02 +0000 Christopher Allen Grote

Christopher Allen Grote

On Thursday, Nov. 20, the District 911 School Board approved a mutual separation agreement with Chris Grote. Grote is resigning his position as principal of Cambridge Primary School effective Jan. 31, 2015.

Rhonda Fischer will continue to serve as interim principal at Cambridge Primary School for the remainder of the 2014-15 school year.

Grote was put on paid administrative leave Sept. 30 after being formally charged in Isanti County District Court in Cambridge with two counts of gross misdemeanor stalking and misdemeanors of disorderly conduct and fleeing a peace officer by means other than a motor vehicle.

District 911 will continue to move forward from the challenging situation of this fall as they continue to provide the best support for their students, staff and families.

“Our staff has done an exceptional job keeping the focus on our students and their learning throughout this difficult situation,” said Superintendent Dr. Ray Queener. “Our students remain our priority and we continue to focus on the many positive things that occur in our schools each and every day.”

Grote has been principal of CPS for eight years and started with the district 22 years ago as a student teacher. He has taught grades two through four for Cambridge-Isanti Schools, and coached multiple sports for all levels at Cambridge-Isanti and Braham schools.

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Malvin (Mal) Chandler Thu, 20 Nov 2014 23:04:23 +0000 Malvin  (Mal)   Chandler

All the days planned by the Lord for Malvin Mal Chandler came to be the morning of November 16, 2014. He was 90 years old.
Born on August 7, 1924 in Dry Prong, Louisiana to Edward Malvin Chandler and Naomi Ann (Mercer) Chandler, Mal was the fifth child of eight children. His mother died when he was 17 years old years and he left home shortly afterwards, joining the Merchant Marine in 1945. He served through World War II, Korea and Vietnam, eventually making the rating of second engineer. While not sailing, Mal also worked at many odd jobs throughout the United States, from building dams to fighting wildfires.
Mal was called the Rambler as a child, as he loved to travel. His favorite state was Nevada and he called it home after World War II. After his retirement in the 1980s, he lived in Fallon, Nevada during the summer and wintered in Parker, Arizona.
In 2003, he met the Garms family at La Paz County Campground in Parker, AZ and a special friendship was formed. After they parted ways, Mal and the Garms kept in touch through letters, until Mal decided to visit in April 2005. He traveled from Nevada to Braham, Minnesota, and a two week visit turned into the rest of Mals time on earth. Psalm 68:6 clearly came to life: God sets the lonely in families. Mal loved the Garms kids (and their cats) and had much joy in watching them grow.
Mal lived with the Garms family until winter of 2012. He had several falls and, needing 24-hour care, he moved to Elmhurst Commons in Braham, residing there until he passed away from cancer.
He was a man of common sense, with a giving spirit and love for children and animals. Mal took pleasure in working outdoors and could often be found sitting outside, admiring the surrounding countryside. A story-teller, Mal would tell story upon story for hours to anyone who would listen. His humor, stories and life will be greatly missed.
Mal is preceded in death by his parents and siblings, and is survived by his friends and family: David and Kris Garms and their children, Whitney, Ben, Taylor, Uliana, Leesha, Sam, Jayme and Caleb.
According to his wishes, Mal was cremated and no funeral service will be held. Arrangements were provided by Rock-Ingebrand Funeral Home of Braham.

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Cambridge Medical Center clinic, hospital look toward the future Wed, 19 Nov 2014 19:43:21 +0000 To read the Minnesota Nurses Association’s viewpoint on contract negotiations, click here.

Cambridge Medical Center, and Allina Health overall, are facing a challenging time economically due to how health care reform is changing the way clinics and hospitals must operate.

The Minnesota Nurses Association-CMC contract expired Sept. 30. The MNA and CMC administration have held three negotiation sessions, with the next meeting scheduled in early December with a mediator.

Gary Shaw, president of CMC, explained as health insurance changed, fewer people are going to the hospital. More people are receiving care in outpatient settings because technology has changed to support this. And insurance plans with higher deductibles and co-payments encourage a more thoughtful use of health care.

Shaw explained CMC hospital volume is declining. From 2010 to September 2014, the hospital has seen, based on average hourly census:

• Total Acute Care: -22.3 percent.

• Speciality Care: -26.3 percent.

• Maternity: -15.3 percent.

• Medical: -19.8 percent.

• Surgical: -35 percent.

The only areas the hospital had an increase in the average hourly census were in total behavioral health (1.9 percent); chemical dependency treatment (1.9 percent); and mental health services (1.8 percent).

Other factors Shaw said the hospital has to adjust to include hospital patients having a shorter length of stay; hospitals continue to be paid less for the services they provide with pay linked to quality outcomes and satisfaction; government reimbursements for care are tied to quality and patient experience; more health care procedures are moving to outpatient facilities so care is more

affordable; and bad debt, (the part of a bill a patient can’t pay for), continues to grow, even with federally mandated health insurance.

“We all understand how every $1 is important,” Shaw said. “The percentage of bad debt in all hospitals continues to increase.”

Shaw stressed the declining trends at the hospital are common throughout all Allina Health clinics, as well as the state.

“We are focusing more on outpatient care and moving care more toward outpatient centers,” Shaw said. “This still is providing good, high quality care, good access, but at less expense.”

Shaw said CMC is focusing on every patient having a primary care doctor and moving toward giving patients a team, which not only supports patients, but also gives doctors more time to see and treat patients. Shaw said CMC is also improving access for their patients by expanding hours (mammography, colonoscopy, ultrasound) and adding staff (new doctors-primary care teams).

Shaw said CMC is preparing for insurance payment for risk, a model in which CMC will get paid to focus on preventative care through primary care and and educating people on how to prevent illness.

He added clinics are also getting paid less than before for the services they provide. There is an expanding focus on community health to address how to improve the health of larger populations of people over time.

Cambridge Medical Center and Allina Health are responding to these by:

• Investing in new ways of providing care to patients in the clinic and outpatient settings.

• Responding to the decreased hospital volumes by adjusting staff to those new volumes.

• Reducing operating expenses to invest more in meeting primary care needs.

•  Continuing focus on providing an exceptional patient experience.

• Planning to add more physicians and nurses in the clinic.

• Continuing to recruit primary care physicians and evaluating adding specialties.

• Planning to upgrade and expand clinic space.

• There will continue to be a need for hospital beds and services. They are consolidating some services and expanding others to make the best use of their space and staff, and provide patients with the care they are looking for.

Contract negotiations

Shaw explained the contract between CMC and MNA has many items that worked well for both sides when they were initially implemented, but a lot has changed in health care, even in the past three years since the last contract was implemented. He noted some of the language in the contract is 15-years-old.

Shaw said CMC needs to make changes to ensure it can provide the care the community needs now and well into the future. He said the current contract language limits CMC’s ability to meet patient care needs. He said nurses are receiving outdated privileges that are not in the best interest of patient care, and impacts CMC’s ability to deliver care.

He said there are two main challenges CMC is trying to resolve:

• The ability to schedule staff when patient care needs are greatest.

• The ability to create staffing schedules that meet 24/7 patient care needs.

Diane Rasmussen, director of human resources, explained one of the issues is block scheduling, and noted CMC is the only hospital within Allina Health that uses block scheduling. She said 85 percent of CMC nurses are on the block schedule, and the schedules are posted six weeks in advance.

She explained with block scheduling the days of the week and shift a nurse works cannot be changed, even though it sometimes means there are too many nurses on some shifts and not enough on others. She said block scheduling limits the ability to create work schedules that meet patient care needs.

Rasmussen explained CMC’s proposal to MNA would result in nurses working a generally consistent schedule and schedules would continue to be posted well in advance and in accordance with the contract.

She said the proposal offers nurses the kind of schedule that is in place at all other Allina Health hospitals and most hospitals throughout the state. She said the proposed schedule ensures that CMC has the right skill mix and coverage in place for patients.

Rasmussen explained another issue is weekend scheduling. She said the current weekend contract language allows some nurses to choose to work fewer weekends or no weekends at all; that requires scheduling them more days during the week and results in too many nurses on some weekdays and not enough nurses to work on the weekends.

Rasmussen said CMC needs to be able to create nursing schedules that work in a 24/7 hospital environment. She said CMC is not changing the current contract limits on how many weekends a nurse would be scheduled to work, and when they do work on a weekend, they receive premium pay.

Rasmussen said CMC’s proposal allows them to respond to changing patient volume and RN turnover to ensure it can provide appropriate weekend coverage for patients. She said CMC wants to continue to offer senior RNs the benefit of a no weekend or reduced weekend rotation. She noted CMC nurses are paid the same rates as the nurses in the Twin Cities hospitals, and that will continue with the new contract.

Rasmussen explained a CMC nurse rebid took place Oct. 28-31 and was done by seniority. She explained the rebid was due to fewer patients in hospital beds and involved 192 registered nurses. The results of the rebid that will take place in January are:

• Five layoffs.

• About 60 nurses had hours reduced per pay period.

• Twenty of those 60 nurses had a reduction of one day per week or more.

• Thirteen nurses increased their hours in the rebid.

• Eight positions were unfilled when the rebid was completed, and these positions will be posted.

“In the end, about two-thirds of the 60 nurses had a reduction of one day a week or less,” Rasmussen said. “We do realize this had an impact on our nurses; it’s hard to lose hours.”

Shaw said CMC remains focused on the future.

“Cambridge Medical Center and Allina Health is a vibrant organization,” Shaw said. “I haven’t worked for an organization that is so focused on its vision and has such synergy. Nurses are essential to the delivery of care in a hospital, but hospital care is a 24/7 service. We support our nurses 100 percent, and we also support patients 100 percent. This hospital has a laser focus on patient safety, and providing a safe and secure environment for everyone.”

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CMC nurses turn to community for support during contract negotiations Wed, 19 Nov 2014 19:42:31 +0000 To read Cambridge Medical Center administration’s viewpoint on contract negotiations, click here.

With signs spread out across the Cambridge community, as well as speaking engagements at Cambridge and Isanti city council meetings, the nurses at Cambridge Medical Center are turning to the community for support.

The Minnesota Nurses Association-Cambridge Medical Center, are currently in negotiations with CMC administration. The nurses’ contract ended Sept. 30. Three negotiation sessions have been held, with the next scheduled in early December with a mediator.

To also inform the public about their cause, registered nurses and community members will hold an informational picket from 2-6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20 outside Cambridge Medical Center. A candlelight vigil begins at 5 p.m.

Joe McMahon, who has been a Cambridge resident for 12 years, spoke at the Cambridge City Council meeting in late October.

“We have our signs out, and we have been doing some door-knocking to let the people know about the issues we are facing in our current contract negotiations,” McMahon said. “We are encouraging folks to contact Cambridge Medical Center administration and encourage fair contracts. This negotiation is about having enough staff in the hospital to provide safe patient care. This is not about the money; it’s never been about the money. This is about providing safe patient care for the community. I consider it a privilege to live in the city of Cambridge and a double privilege to work with the Minnesota Nurses Association and the community.”

Katie Williams, MNA co-chair for CMC, said she is concerned with the potential layoffs and reduced staffing at CMC.

“I live here, my children go to school here,” Williams said. “We want to provide the best care we can for our patients and to do that we need to have the appropriate staff. All of our community should expect to get the care they deserve.”

At the Isanti City Council meeting Nov. 5, Amanda O’ Connor, of Isanti, and also a nurse at CMC, voiced her concerns with the contract negotiations.

“Today our union, MNA, stands before you to bring awareness to council and the community about the negotiation struggles CMC and the nurses have been going through,” O’Connor said. “I, foremost as a nurse, a union member and as an active member of this community, feel it is important for everyone to be aware of the potential changes we have been fighting.”

O’Connor voiced concerns with the layoffs and reduced hours in nursing schedules at CMC.

“Management has so far succeed to force a rebid situation for all of the RN staff at Cambridge Medical Center,” O’Connor said. “With this, nurses selected between reduced hours, different schedules or in more than one unfortunate case a layoff. Management is trying to reduce the number of staff present at given times and is attempting through negotiations to remove something we have used for years to help us provide safe patient care called an acuity tool.”

O’Connor said the main concern of the MNA is patient safety.

“As a nurse, I fear for the safety of my patients and I know that all of these nurses behind me do so as well,” O’Connor said. “As members of this community, we know that the patients we serve are our neighbors, friends and loved ones. We fear for the future of the hospital and for the continuation of services we have provided our community in the past. As nurses, the safety of our patients is always our No. 1 priority, and we feel it is only fair that we continue to serve the community with the highest quality care and with the services they deserve.”

Williams, who has been a nurse at CMC for 11 years, also spoke at the Isanti City Council meeting. Williams said CMC administrators have told the MNA there is a decrease in the patient census.

“We’ve been told by CMC administration that the staff cuts are due to a reduction in the census,” Williams said. “We’ve seen a reduction in the census before, but the numbers always come back up. People are always sick and with the staffing cuts that are being proposed, we will not have the staff we need.”

Williams explained the acuity tool takes into consideration the care needs of the patient.

“The acuity tool looks at the patient not as a number, but as a person,” Williams said.

LeAnn Reichel, who has been a nurse for over 25 years, said the MNA needs community support.

“Nurses are the No. 1 advocate for patient safety,” Reichel said. “I have made the conscious decision to do a lot in Isanti, and do a lot of business in Isanti. You have shown you are a community who cares about your residents and your kids. You guys have shown over the years that you care about your community and your residents. Thank you for having all of us here tonight to talk about this community issue.”

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Edna Sprinkle Wed, 19 Nov 2014 19:04:20 +0000 Edna Irene Sprinkle passed away November 12, 2014 at Abbott Northwest Hospital at the age of 85. She was born December 11, 1928 in Maquon, Illinois
Edna was preceded in death by her parents, her sister Agnes Burns of Illinois, her brothers Sala Foster and Bob Foster of Illinois and grandson Shawn Sprinkle of Harris.
Edna is survived by her son Jack Sprinkle and his wife Linda of Harris, daughter Joan Sprinkle of Grasston, son Kenneth (Tracy) Sprinkle of Grasston, one granddaughter Shelly Sprinkle of Braham and great-granddaughters Skyler and Macey Clark of Braham.
Service at Stanchfield Baptist Church Saturday, Nov. 22. Visitation at 9 a.m., memorial service at 9:30 a.m.

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‘Driving in a hole of mud … there’s nothing like it’ Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:36:31 +0000 Dustin and his dad, Floyd Kowalsky, stand in front of Floyd’s mud truck that was on display this fall at the Cambridge Customer Appreciation Event.

Dustin and his dad, Floyd Kowalsky, stand in front of Floyd’s mud truck that was on display this fall at the Cambridge Customer Appreciation Event.

Dustin Kowalsky would rather find a hole of mud than the nearest car wash when behind the wheel of one of his trucks.

He races what he builds from scratch. He has trophies for his efforts. And if you happen to be looking for this 23-year-old from Grasston, you’d likely find him working on one of his off-road rigs, called mud trucks, in his dad’s multi-section garage, centered between an old red barn and a dirt driveway out in the country in Stanchfield.

Dustin and his parents, Floyd and Dawn Kowalsky, turned some heads, or rather, lifted some heads, by displaying their big-wheeled 1996 Chevy S10 mud truck with 871 blower and 1200 horsepower at this year’s Cambridge Customer Appreciation Event. Many people thought it was a monster truck, which is typically a bigger vehicle, but they would learn otherwise about a sport that appears to be growing in Minnesota mud pits and beyond.

Dustin Kowalsky in action during a mud racing event.

Dustin Kowalsky in action during a mud racing event.

Dustin, a 2010 graduate of Braham Area High School who now works at Cambridge Metals and Plastics, said he was 15 when he bought his first mud truck, a 1976 Ford. It became a building project from scratch, he noted, as the finished product came together after finding the right parts. He was experienced in the mechanics, even at that time, mainly because of spending time with Floyd in the garage since he was little.

“I like the horsepower, the big motors,” Dustin said of the elements that generate an adrenaline rush in racing, jumping and maneuvering around in the mud.

In addition to his passion for building mud trucks, he enjoys racing them in Ultimate Truck Series events, county fairs and other competitions at venues, statewide, including Pillager, Mora, Anoka and the Sandstone area. He especially enjoys Mud Fest in Hillman, Minnesota, and Chad’s Ranch Mud Bog.

Floyd, who found his interest in trucks through a friend while growing up in Blaine, Minnesota, participates in competitions, as well. The events can mean a good time for the whole family.

“It’s like a little vacation,” Dawn noted.

Added her husband, “We’ve always done events in Minnesota, but we would like to venture out.”

Mud trucking is a family affair for Dustin and his family, who compete under the name K & L Racing. With safety in mind, they maneuver their trucks in open mud pits, and there can be quite a degree of difficulty in tire pulls, obstacle courses and racing events.

“Driving in a hole of mud … there’s nothing like it,” Dustin said.

Dustin and wife, Stephanie.

Dustin and wife, Stephanie.

Whether they bring home a trophy or not, just the ability to compete with what they build is the fruit of their labor in mud trucking for the Kowalsky family. They also enjoy the people and camaraderie that come with the sport

“The people we hang out with are good people,” Floyd said. “We’re family. Everyone is willing to help each other out.”

— Dustin and wife, Stephanie, welcomed their first child into the world on Oct. 31, 2014, at Cambridge Medical Center. Bentley Dustin Kowalsky weighed 6 pounds 11 ounces and was 18 inches long. He is welcomed by grandparents Floyd and Dawn Kowalsky, of Stanchfield; Mike and Kris Pearson, of Braham; and Brad and Sherri Howe, of Pine City. Great-grandparents are Dave and Sharon Kowalsky, of Garrison; Dale and JoAnn Erickson, of Isanti; Thomas and Kathryn Pearson, of Braham; Dennis and Kathy Barthel, of Princeton; Dennis and Lorna Olson, of Bismarck; and Ralph and Anne Howe, of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Great-great-grandma is Phyllis Mullins, of Pine City.

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Turnquist ready for Isanti County District 2 Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:34:18 +0000 Terry Turnquist takes a seat at his Braham Barber and Stylist business in downtown Braham. Photo by Jon Tatting

Terry Turnquist takes a seat at his Braham Barber and Stylist business in downtown Braham. Photo by Jon Tatting

It was “third time’s a charm” for Terry Turnquist in the 2014 election, and he’s excited to hit the ground running after he was sworn into office Monday as Isanti County’s newly elected District 2 commissioner.

The seat had been open since the March 19 passing of longtime commissioner Larry Southerland.

Turnquist, who lost to Southerland by slim margins in the past two elections, is now ready to take his seat in representation of the people in the city Braham and Dalbo, Maple Ridge, Springvale, Stanchfield and Wyanett townships. His first regular meeting with the board was Wednesday morning, Nov. 19.

When asked about his third pursuit of what had been an elusive seat for him, Turnquist said he almost felt obligated to run again. He discussed his journey in an interview at Braham Barber and Stylist, a business that he opened 30 years ago in the town that raised him and his own family.

“I swore after I lost a second time to Larry, I wouldn’t run against him again,” he said. “I lost by eight votes the first time, … and the second time I lost by 16 votes. It was close both times, and that’s why I decided to run a third time. I owe it to the people that did support me to give it one more try.

Terry Turnquist was sworn in by Isanti County Auditor-Treasurer Terry Treichel on Monday morning, Nov. 17, in the County Board room. Photo by Jon Tatting

Terry Turnquist was sworn in by Isanti County Auditor-Treasurer Terry Treichel on Monday morning, Nov. 17, in the County Board room. Photo by Jon Tatting

“I called it third time’s a charm or three strikes you’re out. I can chuckle about it. What’s the worst that can happen? I lose? I’ve lost twice, and you can’t get any worse than that. If you can’t handle losing, this isn’t the game to get into.”

As many locals know, Turnquist brings 16 years of experience as both mayor and council member for the city of Braham, and he has sat on his fair share of different committees, authorities and community groups. He believes this background, along with his networking and ability to relate to the rural needs of the district, will make him an effective commissioner.

“I have a general understanding of how local government works; you have to be patient and work with others,” he said. “And you’re there to represent the people. You have to remember you are their spokesperson.”

Turnquist noted he does not have an agenda en route to serving the northern part of the county. He believes the district has been sufficiently represented, but he does have concerns about other issues, such as the Northern Lights passenger rail project and the county’s management of the property tax levy.

He would like to see one change.

“I’d like to see the county have a long-range plan,” he stressed. “The department heads are asking for it. It would make their budgeting process much easier if they (had) a kind of a road map.”

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Al Garber speaks at Veterans Day event Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:32:48 +0000 in_American LegionThere are plenty of books and movies that focus on the extremes of the Vietnam War.

Veteran Al Garber has a different take. At the American Legion Post 290 Veterans Day event, Garber spoke about his memories of traveling to Vietnam, living there and coming home.

“Not particularly good, not particularly bad. Just the way it was,” Garber said. “I want to talk about everyday life.”

Garber has been a member of the American Legion since 1966 and joined Cambridge Post 290 in 2006. He is a self-published author of “Striving to Be the Best,” a book he wrote  about his life, dedicated to his wife and son.

In 1965, Garber left for Vietnam. Thirty days later he arrived on a U.S. naval transport with thousands of others. Time on the ship was spent learning the Vietnamese language, exercising and sharing stories. One friendship was short lived; after six days in the country one of the young men Garber met on the boat was killed. The soldiers were dropped off in the jungle with no ammo.

The 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry’s mission while stationed in Vietnam was to patrol the main road and keep it open because it was an important trade route. The American soldiers worked with the Republic of Korea soldiers toward this common goal. Korean soldiers were much more brutal in their efforts, shooting everyone in vehicles that would not stop.

Six months into his tour, Garber received rest and recuperation. During this time he visited Bangkok and lived the good life. He hired a driver 24 hours a day, ate steak dinners and drank anything he could get his hands on.

When he returned back to camp, it was back to smoking three packs of military-provided cigarettes a day, spraying on layers of “bug juice” that Garber said “attracted dirt like glue when you put that stuff on your skin; it was either that or get malaria.”

Garber sent many letters home to his family. He remembers one in particular that read, “Everything is really going good here, mom. But would you send me some green underwear?” “And she did,” Garber said.

When he gets together with his fellow soldiers, sometimes he’ll be telling a story and someone else will remember it differently.

“Your mind changes after 50 years,” Garber said.

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Cambridge Snowflake Parade this Saturday Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:31:53 +0000 The 18th Annual Lighted Snowflake Parade will glide down Main Street in Cambridge at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22.

All units will be beautifully lit for the upcoming holiday season and include both the Minneapolis Aquatennial and St. Paul Winter Carnival, along with floats from across Minnesota as well as local businesses and organizations. The parade will be less than one hour in length. Bundle up and gather on Main Street and kick off the Season of Giving with “our own little Holidazzle.”

Units will enter Main Street on Sixth Avenue North near Cambridge Lutheran Church, then head south on Main Street to Fourth Avenue South near the First Baptist Church Campus. There will be no parking at either church or Cambridge-Isanti High School, as those will be the line-up and tear down areas for floats.

A Community Chili Feed will be held in the basement of American Jane’s from 4-8 p.m., with delicious Captain Ken’s chili and Herman’s Bakery French bread for just “three bucks a bowl.” Help support the Snowflake Parade by stopping in, and consider avoiding the rush by enjoying your chili before the parade.

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