Hot news stories of 2013

The Little Dam was removed last fall to make way for Elkader’s whitewater feature.


By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


News organizations across the U.S. are still compiling a list of the top stories of 2013 but certain to make the list are the Boston Marathon bombing and the government shutdown. There are local ties to both events: Elkader entrepreneurs Brian Bruening and Frederique Boudouani lived along the marathon route for several years before relocating to Northeast Iowa. The government shutdown impacted several area families employed by federal agencies and also closed a popular tourist attraction, Effigy Mounds National Monument.

Other top events mentioned by media outlets include the North Korean missile threat, Obamacare snafus, the resignation of one pope and the ascension of another as well as the death of Nelson Mandela. While these stories tend toward the dramatic, the news closer to home is decidedly more upbeat. 2013 will be remembered as the year work began on the white water course in Elkader, something and something else.

Here’s a month-by-month look at the stories that made local headlines in 2012.


Edgewood plant manager Diane Bond received a prestigious national award for her work at Commercial Vehicle Group.

An early morning fire caused more than $400,000 in damages to the Clayton County Secondary Roads Shop in Farmersburg. The fire destroyed several pieces of equipment stored in the shop.

Elkader Mayor Bob Garms, speaking at the town’s annual community awards banquet ,summarized achievements from the previous year, which included infrastructure improvements, completion of the first phase of the Founders Park playground and designation of the downtown area as a National Historic District, a recognition that comes with a $500,000 grants for façade improvements.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs awarded the town of McGregor $10,000 to rehab an 1863-era building that serves as an art center.

Central School was featured on KWWL-TV after winning that station’s school spirit award. 

The Elkader Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Elkader presented annual awards to Joan Wangen, Volunteer of the Year; Roger Buchholz, Volunteer of the Year; and Michelle Gifford, Deb Winter, Danielle Shea and Tanya and Cletus Keppler, entrepreneur awards.

Dr. Russell Loven and his wife, Juanita, established an endowment at Northeast Iowa Community College that will help students meet immediate financial needs. Dr. Loven is the former superintendent at Clayton Ridge Schools.


The George Maier Rural Heritage Center received a $10,000 grant from the Clayton County Foundation for the Future.

The Central School Board approved a restructuring plan to balance the budget and keep students in Elkader. The plan includes single sections of some classes for the 2013-2014 school year and multi-age classrooms for subsequent years.

NASA and the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) selected the Turkey River Watershed Management Authority (TRWMA) for a national precipitation study. As part of that project, 20 rain gauges with soil moisture probes and two Iowa Flood Center Mobile Weather Radars were placed within the Turkey River Watershed area.  

The Froehlich Foundation received a $40,000 endowment grant for rural heritage preservation. The grant was facilitated by the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, the regional host foundation for the Clayton County Foundation for the Future

Central principal Troy Lentell resigned his position to accept a job in Sioux Center. Nick Trenkamp was later hired as elementary principal and superintendent.

The financially struggling Elkader Childcare Center (ECC) approached Central School Board members about a possible partnership that would help the center stay open. Talks continued throughout the year.


An endowment fund to support dairy education at Northeast Iowa Community College was launched by the Elkader-based Fitzgerald’s Inc.

The Elkader City Council approved a $3.1 million budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. A tax rate of $18.08 per $1,000 of assessed valuation was included in the new budget. The new levy resulted in slightly higher taxes for residents. The owner of a $100,000 home pays $955 in city property taxes with a state-mandated rollback of 52.81 percent. In the previous budget, with a rollback of 50.75 percent, the same homeowner paid $864 in property taxes.

The City announced that picnic tables for Founders Park were available for “adoption.” The adoption fee was $400. The program was patterned after the “adopt-a-bench” program that resulted in a dozen new benches for the park. 

Alpine Communications, Elkader, awarded an Alpine Technology Grant to the Garnavillo Fire Department. The grant was valued at $880. 

New owners were announced for the popular McGregor eatery Old Man River. Allison and Angelica Dayrit Roberts, hired months before to make cupcakes for the restaurant’s Octoberfest, now run the operation.

Central School launched a “One Penny, One Soul” project, collecting a penny for each life lost in the Holocaust. 

A U.S. Census report showed that Clayton County lost population between 2011 and 2012, even as the state gained 10,000 new residents overall.

The Clayton County Conservation Board received one of the largest gifts ever in its history. A 3734-acre farm in Millville, owned by Oakland and Irene Becker, was deeded to the Conservation group for use as demonstration of conservation practices, enhancement of wildlife habitat and public recreational use and benefit. The Conservation Board also received $10,000 from the Clayton County Chapter of Pheasants Forever. The money will be used to develop the farm.


Alpine Communications was selected by the FCC to take part in a pilot project designed to help low-income, first-time Internet subscribers. As part of the project, qualified customers will receive free Internet installation, a modem and monthly discounts on high-speed Internet costs for one year. 

The Opera House Players presented the world premiere of “The Accidental Hit-Man Blues” by T. Gregory Argall, an award-winning Canadian playwright. 

An Iowa State University report indicated that retail sales in Clayton County had reached a 10-year high. Total taxable sales were about $118.3 million, a whooping 9 percent increase over fiscal year 2011.

An open house was held for the newly renovated RISE building. The $600,000 project included more office space, meeting rooms, a weather-friendly entry and improvements to restrooms and other areas to make them more handicap accessible.

Motor Mill received an “Outstanding Preservation in Agriculture” award for “extraordinary effort in preserving an icon of American agriculture.” The award was given by the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage group.

Gerry Frick was hired as a new Elkader police officer.

Dan Berns, the voice of Northeast Iowa prep sports for more than 25 years, received a prestigious broadcast award.


The Abdelkader Education Project celebrated the five-year anniversary of its essay contest. Originally for Central juniors and seniors, the contest has expanded to include high school and college-level participation nationwide, and will soon add an international element.

More than 200 people attended a gala celebrating commemorating the re-opening of the Motor Mill Bridge.

Central eighth grader Garrett Schroeder, Garnavillo, won cinematography honors for a 90-second video that provided a bird-eye view of a model plane in flight sees.

Central High School graduated 43 students, including cousins Danielle Bergan and Anthony Bergan, whose families have sent nearly 50 students through the Central Community School system.

Dan Anderson, science teacher at MFL MarMac High School, in Monona, was the 2013 recipient of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Brass Bluegill Award for his effort in helping Iowa’s youth become skilled anglers and advocates of fishing and natural resources conservation.

The Central state girls track team placed first in district competition; 10 girls qualified for state.

Roger Buchholz, Elkader, received a Volunteer of the Year Award, presented by Governor Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, and Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). Buchholz was recognized for his tireless efforts on developing Founders Park.


Elkader-based Fitzgerald Inc, Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) and the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation began working together to construct and install an advanced robotic milking system at Iowa’s Dairy Center, located just south of the college’s Calmar campus. 

The Elkader Chamber welcomed a new business: North Gate Healing Center, owned by Marge Banse.

Assistant County Attorney Natalia Blaskovich resigned her position to spend more time on her private practice.

A ceremonial sword and 1900-era wedding dress were added to the Carter House museum collection. 


Sixteen bicyclists riding 4,400 miles from Bar Harbor, ME to Seattle, WA, camped overnight in the First Congregational Church. The riders were raising money for MS.

The Elkader City Council gave the go-ahead to Larry Lerch to bring a train museum to Elkader. The goal is to showcase the importance of the railroad to Elkader’s history and development.

The Garnavillo July 4 celebration turned 40. The parade is one of the largest and longest running in the state.

A new “playscape” was unveiled at the Osborne Nature Center. The area features several activities made from natural objects. It was made possible by donations from Harold Krambeer of St. Olaf and Grau’s Log and Lumber of Elkader.

Four downtown Elkader businesses—Whimsy Market, The Buttery, Elkader Dry Cleaner and Voss Realty—announced that they would be closing by summer’s end.

The Elkader Chamber welcomed a new business, Once Was, owned by Deborah and Roger Schmidt.

Sweet Corn Days celebrated its 50th anniversary with its traditional parade and a fireworks display.

Work started on the downtown façade project. Business owners are being aided with a Community Development Block Grant.


Amanda Meyers, Volga, was crowned 2013 Clayton County Fair Queen.

Central started the school year with two new teachers—Brooke Hudson and Heather Meyer. In addition, seven existing faculty members had new assignments as a result of budget-balancing restructuring work.

The St. Olaf Fire Department used a $8,180.30 grant from Upper Mississippi Gaming Corporation help purchase five new sets of turnout gear, which includes boots, pants, jackets, gloves and helmets.

Three Starmont students unveiled a wood and glass case that they built to preserve some of the artifacts at the Wilder Museum, Strawberry Point.

Dozens of people showed up for an open house and fund-raiser at the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office. The event was one of several fundraisers undertaken to purchase a new K9 officer.

Central School announced it would not be fielding a marching band due because too few students signed up for the class. A band composed of current and former members played from the stands during home football games.

A lithograph of the U.S. Constitution was placed in the Clayton County Courthouse as part of an effort by Gary Stephenson to place a copy in all of Iowa’s 99 county courthouses.

Lendall and Fern Schievelbein, Farmersburg, was inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame.

Work started on the 117-year-old clock that sits atop the Clayton County Courthouse. The cost is being covered by a $32,700 REAP grant and $16,433 in local matching funds.


The Elkader City Council awarded two contracts to CJ Moyna & Sons, Elkader, for the city’s whitewater and river access projects. Council members approved a bid of $313,937 (minus a $75,000 donation) for the removal of the small dam on the south side of the community. Once the dam is destroyed, boulders will be placed in the area for kayaking and other whitewater activities. The total cost of the whitewater project is estimated to be $387,000.

A second bid of $132,973 was accepted for the construction of a river access area near the whitewater area to make it easier to get to the river. That project has a total cost of approximately $177,000. City Administrator Jennifer Cowsert said that both projects should hopefully be completed by the end of the year. Cowsert also said the fund-raising will be necessary to make up the $13,000 difference between the amount budgeted for the project and its actual cost.

Voters returned incumbent Rachel Jaster to the school board and also elected Jered Finley. Rob Frieden and Ed Hertrampf.


Everett’s Service Station, Elkader, celebrated 35 years in business with an open house that was attended by dozens of past and present customers.

The farm owned by the Glawe family of St. Olaf was one of five honored this year with a Century Farm distinction. The honor recognizes 100 years of family ownership.

The Elkader Chamber welcomed a new business—Wide Open Wagon—owned by Ed and Penny Blume.

Madalyn Boehm, Elgins, was named 2012-2014 Pork Queen, Little Miss Pigtail is Savannah Orr, Volga.

Ry Meyer was hired as Assistant Clayton County  and Zach Hermann was hired to fill a newly created position of Special Prosecutor for Magistrate Court.

The Central girls track team finished first and the boys finished third at their conference meet. The girls also finished first in district competition and third at state.

The Elkader City Council approved the hiring of a third police officer.

The Central School Board returned wrestling to the district by hiring Isaac Frieden as the varsity wrestling coach.


The Elkader Chamber welcomed Sins N Frames, owned by Mark Collins, to the Elkader business community.

Elkader Cinema, owned by Lee and Diane Akin, celebrated 10 years in business. Patrons were given free popcorn all month long.

Central Community Hospital, Elkader, and the Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital announced that they are looking at possible collaborations.

Caitlin Orr was named 2013-2014 Clayton County Beef Queen.

The Clay-Gar veterans’ memorial in Garnavillo was dedicated as part of the town’s annual Veterans Day celebration.

For the first time ever, Central Schools hosted a Lego league competition that demonstrated problem-solving skills, creative thinking, teamwork, competitive play, sportsmanship, and sense of community. Dozens of students and coaches participated. Central Superintendent and Elementary Principal Nick Trenkamp said that Central will hos again next year and will also field a team.


The Elkader Chamber approved a design for a city flag.

Carl Kuehl ended a 40-year career as a member of the Garnavillo City Council.

The Elkader Chamber welcomed Area Realty, owned by Brenda McConnell, to the business community.

The Northeast Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund (NEIRHTF) received over $285,000 from the Iowa Finance Authority. The money will be used to assist 42 housing units in Allamakee, Clayton, Howard and Winneshiek counties. Assistance programs include subsidizing down payments, preserving aging housing stock, providing low interest loans or grants for renovations, and financing construction of new single-family homes for low-income Iowans

Central students assisted in two service projects. Several students spent a few hours boxing groceries at the Clayton County Food Shelf. Members of the Student Council and National Honor Society organized a holiday gift drive.

The City of Garnavillo received $1,000 from the Clayton County Foundation for the Future group for playground equipment in a new residential housing district.

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