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Students can act, sing and dance in new two-day theater workshop

If you're a student in fourth through ninth grade and interested in learning more about musical theater, YoungStars director Cassie Jurgenson can help. She is teaching a two-day musical theater workshop titled Youth Musical Theatre Intensive during winter break: 9:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 30-31, at the Hutchinson Middle School. The fee is $20.

"This intensive will provide a fun, educational outlet for youth during both winter and spring school breaks," Jurgenson said. "It deeper connects young performers to the experiences of professional theater artists, as well as the importance of theater's many forms."

According to Jurgenson, one of the guest artists who is teaching dance during the intensive is performing on the Guthrie Theater stage in the current production of "A Christmas Carol."

"The 2019-20 team includes a variety of theater artists from the local Hutchinson area, the Twin Cities and beyond," she said.

A minimum of 20 students is needed to conduct the class, with a maximum of 40 allowed.

Jurgenson plans to have two rotation groups: grades 4-6 and grades 7-9. Rotations include specific instruction on voice, dance and acting, reflecting the difficulty level within the grade/age of each group.

HOW IT STARTED

The idea for the winter and spring school break workshops came from students and families who participated in the Hutchinson Theatre Company's YoungStars program. They wanted additional theater opportunities for youth in the Hutchinson area.

"My aim is to further support individual growth, revolving around the idea of enhancing each area of the musical theater stage: acting, singing and dance," Jurgenson said. "By connecting all three of these skill areas, students will have the opportunity to grow in their own strengths and (improve their) weaknesses in musical theater performance."

The University of Minnesota student brings a wealth of experience to this project. Jurgenson has appeared in school productions as well as on the Hutchinson Theatre Company stage. She participated in YoungStars as a student, student mentor, assistant director and this past summer as its second director, following in the footsteps of Mary Haugen, well-known Hutchinson actor and director.

“I really enjoy the teaching aspect of it,” she said in an earlier Leader interview. “I love teaching about acting and theater in general.”

Jurgenson is also offering the theater workshop during spring break: 9:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, March 11-13. The fee for that workshop is $30. To register for the winter session, spring session or both, visit bit.ly/2rllWx4 or call 320-234-5637.

"I'm passionate about bringing more opportunities involving different aspects of the arts to youth of all backgrounds," she said, "especially to youth in the community where I gained my own love for the arts."

Whether new to the stage or a theater veteran, Jurgenson believes students can all learn something new. 

"Our team is excited to dive into some of the aspects of musical theater," she said, "and we hope many students will be, too."


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City Council opens door to more food trucks in Hutchinson

The Hutchinson City Council approved the first reading of a new ordinance it hopes will streamline the licensing process for transient merchants and food vendors, especially food trucks, operating within the city.

The new ordinance would accomplish several goals. First and foremost it combines the previously separate ordinances that regulated food vendors and merchants/peddlers/solicitors, putting them all together under the same ordinance with the same regulations.

The change that will please most residents, however, is a new exemption that allows merchants, peddlers and vendors to operate on private property, with permission from the property owner, without a city license. This change would open the door to businesses such as the brewery hosting more food trucks on its premises.

When the food vendor ordinance was first brought up at a City Council meeting back in August, it was in response to a letter by Dan Hart, co-owner of Bobbing Bobber Brewing Co.

“The current license fee for a food vendor in Hutchinson is $125,” Hart wrote. “We are concerned this cost for a one-time visit would be prohibitive. To try and attract food vendors in from metros that may be an hour away, we would like to try and come up with a way to make it easier for these food vendors to come to our location and city.”

This new exemption of private property goes along with previous exemptions for multi-vendor events at the Hutchinson Event Center and McLeod County Fairgrounds, or events sponsored by the Hutchinson Area Chamber of Commerce of Tourism.

The final significant change to the ordinance is the addition of a temporary license for sales activities on public property.

The current food vendor ordinance only allows for an annual license that costs $125. The temporary license would cost $30 and be good for up to three consecutive days. Applicants are limited to up to four temporary licenses per calendar year. The cost of the licenses is to help offset city expenses for processing the licenses, performing background investigations on the licensees and possible enforcement.

“Frankly, with all the exceptions we have in the ordinance now, we probably aren’t going to get a whole lot of applications,” city attorney Marc Sebora said.


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A new level of figure skating

Hutchinson 10th-grader Emma Schwartz knows how to motivate herself.

"You really get out of (figure skating) what you put into it," she said. "As long as you work hard and stick with it, you will be successful."

The 16-year-old member of the Hutchinson Figure Skating Association has been at it since her mother, Andrea Schwartz, signed her up when she was 4. In that time, her approach has led her to an uncommon achievement among athletes in her sport. She's the first Hutchinson figure skater to reach the eighth of 10 freestyle levels designated by the Ice Skating Institute. Each level is attained by proving skill in spins, jumps and footwork.

"It opens up more opportunities if I want to continue skating," Schwartz said. "It's just really rewarding to achieve what I have been working on for so long. My goal is to try and pass freestyle 10 by the time I graduate."

Reaching Freestyle 8 is fairly rare, Schwartz said, but on the national level serious skaters have advanced to Freestyle 10, and continued to push themselves further to an Olympic skill level.

"If you pass 10 it's national level," Schwartz said. "I probably won't get that far, but it would be great to do it."

She knew she wanted to get serious when she was at Freestyle 6 in sixth or seventh grade. To reach her current level, Schwartz practices two hours, four nights a week when there is ice at Burich Arena in Hutchinson.

"When I don't have ice available I have to do off-ice training," she said.

She also tries to work out twice a week off the ice to stay in shape. When there isn't ice in Hutchinson, she travels to the Twin Cities area to skate two days a week. Her coaches, Nadine Rutledge of the HFSA, and Rose Esteb and Jane Schaber from the metro area, work with her as she continues to push herself to improve double jumps, spins and routines for competition. A typical day of practice includes a 15-minute warm up before Schwartz puts on her skates and steps onto the ice. Then there is a warm up on the ice, then a warm up for her jumps, and then work focused on her technique and routines.

Schwartz's mother reached Freestyle 7.

"She put me in skating and I just stuck with it," Schwartz said. "She still helps me and coaches me. That doesn't always go so well since she's my mom."

She skates for Hutchinson in three categories. In her ensemble group she and teammates Corina Powell and Kierra Dennis developed a program based on the movie "Top Gun."

"You can do whatever you want," Schwartz said. "You try to tell a story. ... It's very dramatic and fun."

At a recent New Ulm competition, they took second place.

Schwartz also competes with a solo routine. While in New Ulm she went up against two other skaters at her level and took first place in Freestyle 8 and Interpretive 8. Freestyle programs are also divided into bronze, silver, gold and platinum levels. At Freestyle 8, Schwartz has entered platinum. In New Ulm she took first place in platinum jump and spin, and open platinum.

Hutchinson's next competition is in Luverne at the end of January.

"I try to make it very entertaining," Schwartz said. "I'm very on-the-go. I try to hit every element and be really expressive."

Schwartz would like to continue skating after high school, but for now the road is wide open. What options are available will ultimately depend on the level she reaches.

"Disney on Ice could be a possibility," she said. "Otherwise I'm not sure."

If she reaches Freestyle 10 and is able to advance to a national or higher level, she said she would like to go for it.

"I would like to do something," Schwartz said.


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New hemp market taking shape in rural Minnesota

Seventy-five years ago, a May newspaper article reported 5,000 tons of hemp were stacked at the site of the Hutchinson hemp plant where 3M now stands, with 2,000 more yet to be hauled there. Another article in October reports the Hutchinson plan is one of 11 to be closed in Minnesota following the end of World War II.

A lot has changed since farmers were encouraged to grow hemp to help in the war effort, most notably a 1970 law that formally banned the production of industrial hemp. Prior to that, a 1937 tax law made production effectively impossible outside the demand during the war. Fast forward again, and the 2018 Farm Bill opened the door for the production of industrial hemp once more. Such hemp cannot contain contain more than 0.3 percent Tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC, which is the plant's primary psychoactive component.

Since the Farm Bill was approved, farmers have signed up to join the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's hemp pilot program. The names of participants are private information, but some license holders opted in to a public list for networking purposes. The public list includes four license holders in McLeod County, two in Meeker County, one in Renville County and 10 in Wright County. While license holders may be eager to begin work, they will need to navigate different state, federal and local rules to create a profitable industry.

One license holder is Seven Leaf Science of Cokato.

"As we got together and formed our company, what we are working on is hemp genetics and growing for CBD production," said production manager Casey Clark.

CBD, an abbreviation for cannabidiol, is the active ingredient of hemp desired for medicinal use.

"It's an organic alternative to prescription pills," Clark said, adding that he hopes it can help people who want to stop using opioids.

In Hutchinson, CBD products can be found at many stores, and the people buying them are usually looking for more natural methods to cure common ailments.

"The people I have come into the store are using it a lot for pain and inflammation, anxiety and digestive issues," said Tess Davis, co-owner of Happy Sprout Brew and Grow in Hutchinson. "And we also have a lot of people who use them for things like as a cancer inhibitor, general well-being, less cloudy head. It's really a large variety."

As farmers plant fields of hemp, they are mindful of the risk of their crop crossing the 0.3 percent THC limit. If that limit is crossed, it's treated like marijuana. Meeker County farmer Daniel Miller planted a crop with a friend this year to experiment with the new opportunity. It ended up over the 0.3 percent limit, and Miller was forced to destroy his crop.

Seven Leaf Science is experimenting with wild plants left over from production in the 1940s. It hopes to develop through breeding the best seed for consistent results, and create the most consistent product.

"The first problem is genetics. The work hasn't been done so the seeds aren't stable. So if you have a certain allotment of seeds, they do not carry all the same traits, so there are variables," Clark said. "We want to create the best plant grown organically. I have one strain of wild hemp that tested well below the threshhold of 0.3 THC. I have a couple of wild varieties I'm working with."

Hemp can also be used in the production of paper, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, biofuel, food, animal feed and more.

Harold Stanislawski, project development director for the Agricultural Utilization and Research Institute, or AURI, of Marshall, recently spoke at a conference in Minneapolis attended by McLeod County residents.  He predicted some components to creating an effective industry may be two to five years away. Difficulties include:

  • availability of certified female seed and the ability to plant it
  • a lack of processing facilities, harvesting machinery and processing machinery
  • unknown standards for crop spacing, weed control and pest control
  • lack of standards for end products
  • financial, banking and insurance regulations
  • health and safety regulations

"The problem with fiber (applications) is there are no processing plants," Clark said. "For fiber to be profitable to the farmer, it has to be processed within 40 miles of the farm."

AURI is working toward the purchase of a small decorticator for hemp processing in Waseca. It may be operational in the early 2020s. Other cities are being sought for plant locations.

Bruce Baumetz of rural Hutchinson has been farming for more than 45 years. He recently decided to try planting hemp in 5-by-5 grids on 1.9 acres with help from a business partner.

"It's a big garden patch," he said, "a small field that was awkward to plant corn on."

His crop, now harvested, is meant for CBD oil processing for medicinal use. The harvest was done by hand, and he found doing so took as much time as a hundred acres of corn with machinery.

"It's a lot of intense work," Baumetz said.

He added that the process of getting out in the field with his family and bringing the hemp into a shed was a rewarding experience.

After a little research, he made his own machine to strip the flowers and leaves from the stems to meet the high standards of quality required by oil producers.

"At the end of the day, what's really interesting is there are no buyers," Baumetz said. "Now that you have your biomass, you need a person to process it into oil. And the person who processes it into oil wants half your crop to do so."

He was relieved when he received a certificate of sale for his crop, knowing that if the THC content was too high he would have to destroy it.

"They are really splitting hairs on this 0.3 and 0.4 percent," he said. "It's still way lower than what people who use it recreationally want. And they're destroying crops."

Baumetz still hopes to line up a buyer.

"With soybeans, at least I know I'll get my paycheck this week," he said. "With this? I don't know yet. ... I know there is value in there. And I know I have a good product. But as far as the private person, (the market is) in such a preliminary period."

If he has no luck on the wholesale end, he has a backup plan in the works. Under the name Otter Lake Gardens, he's preparing to start his own product line with a partner. He also hopes to find some use for the stems of his hemp plants, which he understands provide high quality fiber material. But just as AURI and Clark noted, he has found a good processor or buyer isn't readily available.

Miles Seppelt, Hutchinson's Economic Development Director, said the state needs to set regulations and a market needs to form before local work can be done to develop the industry.

Clark said he hopes to see the market ramp up over the next few years now that the Farm Bill has made it possible. If early problems can be ironed out, he believes there may be an opportunity for Seven Leaf Science and others to add jobs and bring tax dollars to rural areas.

"Where it will go, no one knows," Clark said. "I think if you get the right people and the right regulations in place in Minnesota, it can really rejuvenate some rural areas."