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Kids and seniors shine at the fair

Did you know that some historians believe the Vikings visited this area of Minnesota, by way of the Great Lakes, in 1362 -- more than a century before Columbus ever sailed the ocean blue?

Or that some believe one of this area's earliest pioneer settlements, Tyler Town, lies buried beneath Highway 10 near the Pelican River? Did you know that Long Bridge, built in 1872 to span the 40-foot-deep channel between Big Detroit Lake and Deadshot Bay, has also been named Fishing Bridge, Red Bridge, Big Bridge and even Jumping Bridge?

These are just a few of the fun historical facts about Detroit Lakes and Becker County that were revealed Thursday during a half-hour presentation by Detroit Lakes 2nd and 3rd graders under the Big Tent at the Becker County Fair.

This presentation, or "historical pageant" as it was called, was presented by the Becker County Historical Society to promote its "Learning From Kids" exhibit program.

Eighteen students from Louise Neff's class at Rossman Elementary School were involved in the presentation, which was based on the research they had done for a "Learning From Kids" exhibit on the history of Becker County that opened this spring.

Joann Splonskowski, director of the Becker County Historical Society Museum in Detroit Lakes, explained the philosophy behind the "Learning From Kids" program by saying, "If we can hook our children into learning how much fun exploring the past can be, we'll have our future historians, and this class -- we hooked them all."

Neff also spoke, noting that it wasn't that often that classroom projects get so much attention and recognition from adults in the community.

She said the students had gathered their research by taking a bunch of historical photographs of Detroit Lakes and the surrounding area, then going out on walking trips to see what these places looked like today. By the end, she added, they wanted to know more. So she split the students up into pairs -- with one 2nd grader and one 3rd grader -- and allowed them to choose a history topic that interested them. She then assigned an adult mentor to each pair, and they went around town interviewing people and doing in-depth research into their topics.

The next phase of the project was to construct shadow boxes featuring a scene that would bring their research to life. Finally, they put together an oral presentation on their topic, memorized it and presented it at the opening of their "Learning From Kids" exhibit. The exhibit generated so much interest that the children were invited to participate in various parades this summer, and to make a live presentation at the county fair this week.

Following the history pageant, it was time to choose the county's Outstanding Senior Citizens for 2006.

A group of eight nominees was presented by Becker County Coordinator on Aging Judy Peterson, including:

n Dorothy Harsh, Lake Park: Nominated by Marion Jacobson, DL Chapter, AARP.

n Sally Hausken, Detroit Lakes: Nominated by John and Beverly Lynch.

n Winifred "Peggy" Jenson, Detroit Lakes: Nominated by Thora Theisen.

n Nora Johnson, Detroit Lakes: Nominated by Sandy Lague, St. Mary's Lincoln Park.

n Arlie Shodean, Detroit Lakes: Nominated by Marion Schattschneider (2005 Becker County Outstanding Senior Citizen).

n Howard Westlie, Detroit Lakes: Nominated by Winifred Jenson, Detroit Lakes.

n Violet Yoder, Ogema: Nominated by Leila Muff (her daughter).

n Ottis Yoder, Ogema: Nominated by Leila Muff (his daughter).

After a brief program, during which Peterson outlined the accomplishments of each nominee, she announced that this year's recipients were Sally Hausken and Arlie Shodean. The duo will now have the opportunity to represent the county at the Minnesota Outstanding Senior Citizen competition, held during the State Fair in August.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454