Frogtown getting greener as ‘crazy idea’ puts down roots

When 70 people come together to talk ideas, to-do lists can get lengthy.“Trails for walking and biking,” said City Parks Planner Kathleen Anglo, reading off of her notes. “Restrooms, lighting, public art, multicultural festivals. On the farm, people suggested greenhouses, a commercial kitchen for food production, beehives, on-site composting, a seed library…”The list went on—a bit overwhelming, perhaps, but a sign that the Frogtown community is invested in the project that’s taking shape on the corner of Victoria Street and Van Buren Ave. With a healthy amount of community input to help it along, design of the long-awaited Frogtown Park and Farm has begun.It’s a venture that’s been in the works for four years, since the Wilder Foundation made known its plans to sell a 12-acre plot of land in the heart of Frogtown. A few residents came together with a “crazy idea,” as Seitu Jones put it in this 2010 article about the then-nascent project—the idea being to turn the space into a park and demonstration farm. Continue Reading

Celebrate the Fourth of July in the Twin Cities: What, when and where!

The Fourth may be just one day in July, but in Minnesota the celebrations can last all four days of the four-day weekend. Here’s a somewhat comprehensive guide to the many, many Fourth of July festivities taking place in and around the Twin Cities this year.Let’s celebrate together! Tag your events, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. with #tcdpJuly4 so we can tag along on all the fun. Take our poll! What’s your favorite Fourth of July activity? Twin Cities “Classics”Red, White and BOOM! Continue Reading

Who’s behind the camera? You, too, can take great photos!

A few weeks ago, Tom Baker led a class entitled “Eyes on the Street: Community Photojournalism Walk and Critique,” which took students on a photo walk through the streets of Minneapolis. It ended with students sharing and critiquing each others’ images. One of those images, above, was taken during the class by Michaelyn Kvasnik. (Others appear below.) As you probably know, the Twin Cities Daily Planet — and the Twin Cities Media Alliance — are all about “people powered journalism.” That’s why we organize community classes about writing, social media, digital privacy, photography and more. Continue Reading

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo 2013 in the Twin Cities

The first weekend in May will be a festive one—which is only fitting, now that the weather has finally taken a turn for the better. Cinco de Mayo falls on the first Sunday in May (which also happens to be the day of the 39th Annual MayDay Parade and Festival), and there are ways to celebrate all weekend long (and beyond).The holiday—which is not the same as Mexican Independence Day (that’s in September)—commemorates the Battle of Puebla of May 5, 1862, when a Mexican force of 4,500 men faced down 6,000 French soldiers and won. (Erik Hare has a more complete story here.) In the United States, there are some 33.6 million residents of Mexican origin; that’s something like 9 percent of the total population.The big festivalsOn Saturday, May 4, the Saint Paul Festival & Heritage Foundation hosts a Cinco de Mayo Festival in St. Paul’s District del Sol—complete with a 5k run, a parade, live music, a lowrider car show, a mobile health unit and a sports zone. The event made a successful debut with new organizers last year for Cinco de Mayo’s 150th anniversary; the Foundation predicts tens of thousands of spectators again this year. Continue Reading

Turning dreams into futures at Fort Snelling tennis center

Now that it offers programs for kids from 3rd-12th grade, Fred Wells Tennis and Education Center Executive Director Margot Willet says Tennis2College is fully equipped to function as a “pathway of age appropriate on and off-court activities” designed to empower kids to achieve high school graduation and college enrollment.Part three of a three-part series. (Read part one and part two.) FULL DISCLOSURE: The writer does part-time communications work for Fred Wells Tennis & Education Center.In doing so, it offers one much-needed solution to a problematic trend in the United States: the well-publicized national achievement gap between well-off white students and their low-income minority peers. Minnesota has some of the largest academic performance gaps in the country—and, as the Pioneer Press reported in 2012, the gaps are persisting despite overall increases in scores around the state.After school programs like Tennis2College have been proven to make a difference in individual achievement, but they have to be done right. High quality programs share certain characteristics: they’re safe, educational, interactive, reflective, well-staffed.Willett and Associate Director Tom Miller have tried to incorporate such characteristics into Tennis2College, which serves close to 100 percent low-income students—though they’ve had to improvise on many fronts.“The fact that Tennis2College focuses on underserved youth starting at 3rd grade and works with them all the way to college is really unique,” says Tony Stingley, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for USTA Northern. “Most programs work with younger kids with tennis and/or life skills, but don’t connect the dots and track them all the way to entry into college.”“I was asking USTA Northern Executive Director Mike Goldammer if there were any other programs nationally that we could model ourselves after,” says Miller. Continue Reading

From one man’s vision to hundreds of kids headed for college

Soon after picking up a tennis racquet for the first time at age 65, Twin Cities businessman Fred Wells realized that tennis could be a valuable teaching tool for players of all ages and backgrounds. He developed a vision of a community-accessible tennis facility with programs for low-income youth. Soon after, his trust funded Fred Wells Tennis & Education Center, which opened its doors in 2002.Part two of a three part series. (Read part one here and part three here.FULL DISCLOSURE: The writer does part-time communications work for Fred Wells Tennis & Education Center.Initially, the Fort Snelling tennis center was intended to be just that: a tennis center.  FWTEC would ultimately exist as a facility, albeit one with an unusual focus on community and youth development. Continue Reading

Chaos, dreams and Tennis2College at Fort Snelling tennis center

It’s three o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon, and there’s something in the lobby of Fred Wells Tennis & Education Center (FWTEC) that you might not find at another tennis club: barely controlled chaos. Kids are streaming through the front doors, and the exuberant energy they tow along is almost palpable. They’re high-fiving staff and racing off to the bathroom; someone produces a bucket of footwear and people start loudly trading in high tops and boots. There’s shouting; there’s a lot of laughter.This is part one in a three-part series. Read part two here and part three here.FULL DISCLOSURE: The writer does part-time communications work for Fred Wells Tennis & Education Center.“It’s loud,” says longtime FWTEC patron and youth program volunteer Dee Dolny, “but that’s kids.”For Margot Willett, the chaos is a happy symbol of a dream turned reality—though she wouldn’t phrase it so melodramatically. Continue Reading

MayDay Festival 2013 preview

This year’s parade starts at 1 p.m., Sunday, May 5, on 25th street, in South Minneapolis between Cedar and Bloomington Avenues, and heads along Bloomington to Powderhorn Park (where the festival begins at 3). The 2013 theme, “See the World,” is inspired by a cantastoria (sung story) called “Hallelujah” from Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont. (Fun fact: they’re one of the oldest puppet theaters in the country, and it’s their 50th anniversary this year.) According to HOBT, “Hallelujah” is “a painfully honest and simple story about how our actions affect our beautiful world.”Despite fears that the theater’s budget wouldn’t allow for funding of the MayDay Festival this year, the festivities are on for May 5, 2013. But with a 33.3% budget reduction for MayDay from previous years, HOBT Artistic Director Sandy Spieler is appealing for public support. (Sandy’s plea generated a lot of comments about the cumbersome nature of donating on HOBT’s website, so here’s an easier way.) Budget woes aside, the 39th MayDay seems to be on track in the creative department. Continue Reading

Earth Day 2013 in the Twin Cities — and cancellations due to snow

UPDATED 4/19, 1:50 p.m.: Every day should be Earth Day, but we’re far from making that a reality. For now, April 22, 2013 will have to do. Monday marks the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day, and the concluding note in the seven days of Earth Week. (Apparently we’re in the middle of that right now–start celebrating!) At this point, I could spend a few paragraphs bumming you out. I could talk about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where an estimated 3.5 million tons of trash reside in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in a swirling mass of trash that is, by some estimates, the size of Europe. Continue Reading

Crime on the Midtown Greenway

So… have you heard the one about the biker who nearly got hit by a Molotov cocktail on the Midtown Greenway? Nope, that’s not a joke–it’s a story that’s been circulating since last week, quickly surpassing the boundaries of the bicycling community and making its way into the mainstream media. MPR reported that Drew Ditlefsen “was riding on the below-grade portion of the Greenway that runs on an old railroad bed below the street in the Midtown area. He said someone threw the makeshift firebomb at him from the 15th Avenue overpass. He said the bottle narrowly missed him, hit the pavement and burst into flames.” Unfortunately, the Greenway is no stranger to crime. Continue Reading