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Spring Café awarded five-year contract to operate at Como Pavilion

Spring Café awarded five-year contract to operate at Como Pavilion

Posted on 08 March 2018 by Calvin

Visitors to Como Park and its economic pavilion will enjoy a new dining option. And everyone is hoping that with the new operator, the third time is the charm.
On Feb. 14, the St. Paul City Council approved a 23-page contract with O’Reilly Custom 3 LLC to operate the pavilion, 1360 Lexington Pkwy. N., on a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Commission. The name announced is Spring Café.

A request for proposals was posted in December 2017, and the restaurant operator was chosen from who applied before a January deadline.

The City Council approved the contract without discussion as part of its consent agenda.

Spring Café will be the third restaurant operator at the pavilion in recent years. Como Dockside closed last fall. In 2015 Como Dockside had replaced Black Bear Crossings, which won an $800,000 legal judgment against the city after it was ousted in 2014. That restaurant had operated for 13 years, and on Como Ave. before that.

Before Black Bear a combination of city workers and caterers provided food service at the pavilion.

New operator Matty O’Reilly is not only a veteran restaurateur, he already works with the Department of Parks and Recreation to operate Red River Kitchen at the City House at

Upper Landing. That facility is in what used to be a head house and sack house for a larger grain elevator complex.

Area residents may also know O’Reilly as owner-operator of Delicata Pizza & Gelato, 1341 Pascal St., in the Como neighborhood.

The agreement takes effect Apr. 1 and continues through 2023, with an option for an additional five-year renewal. It also has a clause allowing termination. It calls for operations between 11am and 9pm weekdays during peak season and no weekday hours during the winter. Saturday and Sunday hours during peak season are 9am-9pm, and 9am-3pm during the off-season. The operator and city will work together to see if there can be promenade access during the peak season, before opening the restaurant.

Peak season is considered Mothers’ Day to Labor Day.

The hours are a major change from the Como Dockside operation, which shut its doors in November 2017. Those operators dealt with very slow weekday hours during the fall and winter months. Como Dockside had to open at 7am under its city contract.

The new operator will also provide recreational equipment rental, room rental and community access to rooms, and catering service with facilities rental. Services such as equipment rental could be contracted to a third party.

The contract gives the new operator exclusive rights to outdoor vending and calls for operations of the concessions window. Window hours cannot be used as a substitute for interior hours of operation. The operators can sell souvenirs, with the approval of such items.

O’Reilly will also take over the theater and music bookings, which traditionally are more than 100 per year.

The contract also allows for the sale of alcoholic beverages including wine, beer, and liquor. Those must be consumed within the pavilion and promenade and can only be sold when the full kitchen is in operation. Liquor could be sold at ticketed or private events.

One point of debate at last year’s community meeting is that while some neighborhood residents enjoyed being able to have liquor or cocktails, others said walking in and seeing a full bar didn’t provide a family-friendly atmosphere. The full bar is expected to go away, with wine, beer, and a few selected premade cocktails offered.

The new restaurant isn’t expected to have table service. A menu of burgers, salads and rice bowls has been suggested, under the guidance of chef J.D. Fratzke.

Another change is that the city can potentially take a larger cut of revenue during the summer. The contract does maintain the $100,000 minimum annual payback to the city.

The contract also calls for the new operator make $20,000 in improvements. That compares to $294,000 put in by Como Dockside, largely on the interior of the pavilion, which needed a new kitchen. It also included a new dock.

The new contract calls for the city to get a guarantee of 10 percent of gross revenues during the peak season. Como Dockside’s contract called for nine percent.

The contract also has thresholds for additional shared revenue if the restaurant receipts top $1.5 million and $1.75 million per year. A percentage of winter brunch revenues are to be dedicated toward additional capital improvements.

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Tiger by Jackie Scherer

Program helps those with sensory processing needs enjoy zoo more

Posted on 08 March 2018 by Calvin

Como works with Autism Society on handouts and maps to help families prepare before they get into zoo

All photos by JACKIE SCHERER and provided by COMO ZOO
For those with sensory issues, it can be hard to visit the zoo, but Como is launching a new program to change that.

Visitors who have family members on the autism spectrum or those with sensory processing needs will now be able to enter Como Zoo one hour before when doors open to the general public on selected Sundays and Wednesdays.

“Como has so much to offer when it comes to sights, sounds, smells, and temperatures, that it can sometimes be overwhelming,” remarked Noah Petermeier of Como Zoo and Conservatory. “We are so lucky to have such a dynamic facility that allows visitors to have unique learning experiences. Keeping that in mind, it is important for us at Como to acknowledge what we can do to assist those who might have challenges processing these sensory experiences.”

The goal of this new program is to provide families resources and tools to support them and make their time at Como more accessible.

“We can’t take away some of these sensory experiences like the smells and sounds, but what we can do is provide families with resources to help prepare them for their experience and set them up for success,” stated Petermeier.

“When we go to events like these, we find that knowing the staff and other visitors understand unique struggles can be helpful,” said Autism Society of Minnesota Education Specialist Lucas Scott, who added that it eases any embarrassment that might develop.

Scott is excited about the zoo’s commitment to hold these Autism Sensory Friendly Mornings monthly and make it a regular offering rather than a one-time thing.

Upcoming dates include Sundays, Mar. 11, Apr. 8, May 13, June 10, July 8, July 22, Aug. 5, and Aug. 19; and Wednesdays, June 13, July 11, July 25, Aug. 8 and Aug. 22.

Families can arrive between 9-10am on the selected dates. They should enter through the visitor center main entrance. The early entry days will include early access to zoo exhibits and zoo grounds, a sensory story time, and a quiet room where families can go to take a break if needed. Other partnering organizations will also have resources available for families.

According to Scott, there are many misconceptions out there regarding those with autism and sensory processing disorders.

“I generally think the easiest way to understand anyone is to recognize a person for who they are and not only by a disability label,” he pointed out.

The Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) has also worked with other organizations to provide sensory-friendly events, including Stages Theater in Hopkins and the Schubert Club.

“We’ve worked with Shoreview Library and many Dakota county libraries recently to create more sensory-friendly programs and options. We’ve even brought quiet rooms to events like Pride to create a little sensory-friendly bubble in an otherwise not sensory-friendly environment,” stated Scott.

Plan the visit
Prior to starting this new sensory-friendly program, Como met with representatives from AuSM to create a sensory map, social narrative, and visual schedule. They can be found at www.comozooconservatory.org under the “Plan your visit” tab.

These items help attendees prepare and plan before coming. The sensory map highlights strong smells and quiet spaces. A 20-page social narrative lists which types of animals live in each building or area in the zoo, expectations, and rules to follow in each area, and sensory information that might be important before entering.

Families can print out and modify a visual schedule resource for those who appreciate having a pre-planned visual schedule.

“The hope is that families will be able to better prepare for their visit by reading through the social narrative,” observed Petermeier. “They can look at the photos, read the text, understand expectations, and ease some uncertainties that their family might have before coming to visit the exhibits and zoo grounds.”

Excited about the new program
Como’s education department currently partners with the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) to host year-round camps for elementary and high school-aged students.

“We wanted to continue our outreach to these families and other families for a free, early access experience,” remarked Petermeier.

He added, “Our partnership with AuSM has been such a successful and celebrated program here at Como. I am so excited to offer this new program to a larger audience and provide this space and time for families. I am looking forward to learning from our visitors and using their suggestions to make the program more successful.”

So far, the program is doing what organizers set out to accomplish. As one visitor commented, “We have hesitated to come to Como in the past. We are so excited that you are offering this program.”

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Make their summer unforgettable with camp experiences

Posted on 08 March 2018 by Calvin

Give your kids childhood experiences they’ll never forget. This summer, take part in a free Forest School—unplug, step back and let their imaginations take the lead. Participate in an outdoor adventure camp and spark a love for biking, climbing, and canoeing that will give them skills to battle stress as they age. Let them soar through the air while learning circus arts, or focus on their artistic side. Give them cardboard to build with, balls to kick around, and Legos to construct robots. Let them pretend to live 100 years ago. Go for the gold in Animal Olympics at the zoo.

That’s just the start of the youth camp options available in the Twin Cities area. Browse below for more information on some of the camps offered locally.


Experience outdoor activities including swimming in an outdoor pool, horseback riding, use of a ropes course and climbing tower, group games, hiking, sensory crafts, and gross motor activities led by a registered occupational therapist, music groups led by a board-certified music therapist, boating, and sports during a Wahode Day Camp in Eagan where campers arrive each morning and leave each afternoon. Two residential camps where campers stay several days and nights are also offered in northern Minnesota at several locations. AuSM camps are tailored for youth and adults with autism. AuSM camps are available for individuals ages 6 and up who are AuSM members. (Photo right provided)
Cost: $725-$1,870

Blackhawks offer several exciting half- and full-day soccer camps for players ages 5-18 that encompass a wide variety of activities and skills. Specialty camps focus on specific skills such as ball control, shooting, and goalkeeping.
Cost: $85-195

Spend some time “Monkeying Around” with your primate pals, go for the gold in “Animal Olympics,” take an “African Adventure” without leaving Como, or try on the hat of a zookeeper or gardener in “Behind-the-Scenes!”. Como’s camps focus on developing children’s appreciation for the natural world through play and exploration, behind-the-scenes experiences, interactions with zookeepers and gardeners, and up-close encounters with plant and animal ambassadors Five-day, half-day or full-day sessions for preschool to grade eight. Extended care is available.
Cost: $135-155

Free Forest School of the Twin Cities is a free group, open to young children and their parents or caregivers. This is a welcoming and non-judgmental group where parents and caregivers can practice giving children space and autonomy to explore and create in nature. Free Forest School meets every day of the week throughout the year at wilderness areas around the metro. Share a snack, take a hike, play in the woods, and have circle time. Parents get a chance to unplug and step back… Kids and their imaginations take the lead.
Cost: Free

Want to make a film just like the professionals do? Feel like biking 10 (or 20!) miles a day? Have a secret stash of poems you want to share? Feel a need to express yourself through paint and paper-folding? Maybe you’d rather argue for the defense in a real courtroom? Friends School will be the place to do that—and more—from June to August for ages 4-14 (photo right provided). Weekdays, half- and full-day. Extended daycare in the mornings and afternoons and need-based financial aid available.
Cost: $105 to $295

Travel back in time and learn about life in the 1800s. Explore seasonal Dakota activities including the maple sugar camp, wild rice village, life in the tipi, hunting games, methods of travel, language, and song. Or enroll in Gibbs Girl or Digging history sessions. Three-day, half-day camps. One-day Pioneer PeeWees camps offered for ages 4-5.
Cost: $19-99

High school students ages 15-18 can explore the craft, prepare for college, and connect with other young writers in the Twin Cities, while working closely with Hamline Creative Writing faculty and published authors.
Cost: $400

Professional Irish Dance training by director Cormac O’Se, an original member of Riverdance.

Join the Minnesota Waldorf School for good, old-fashioned summer fun June 12 to Aug. 18. Outdoor games, natural crafts, water play, gardening, fairy camp, and much more, all on their beautiful 8-acre campus. 70 East County Road B, St. Paul. For children ages 3.5 to (rising) 6th grade.
Cost: $150- $275
651-487-6700 x202

Summer sessions for ages 6-15 are run by the University of Minnesota’s Rec & Wellness Camps, from June 11 to Aug. 10.
Cost: $299

Fun, exciting camps that combine physical fitness and education are offered throughout the summer for school-age kids. Register early for discounts.

Make your own games and design circuits. Paint with pizzazz. Search out connections between visual art and creative writing, and explore the life of a story in journalism. Debate, play chess, learn about mathematical modeling and forecasting, make movies or delve into creative science options. Options at SPA cover a wide range of academic, arts, and enrichment activities for grades 2-12.
Cost: $195-385

Summer is a great time to try dance. Programs include workshops and camps for ages 3 and up, weekly drop-in classes for teens and adults, and a new “mommy and me” baby class. (Photo right by Margie O’Loughlin)
Cost: $8.50-$20/hr

Located at 30+ sites, with several locations in the Midway-Como neighborhoods, St. Paul Urban Tennis offers a summer program for all age groups and skill levels. Tennis lessons combine high-quality instruction with life skills learning. Sampler Camps offer a condensed, 4-day version of the lesson program. Scholarships are available.

Explore the variety of Y Summer Programs at over 60 metro-area locations. Programs include flexible three-, four-, and five-day options. There’s something fun for everyone from preschool through grade nine.
Cost: $80-350


Be initiated into an ancient and esteemed House of The Realm, jump into live-action adventure gaming, build your own arms and armor, and more during these five-day, full-day sessions for ages 6-17. Buses available from Powderhorn Park and some camps held at Minnehaha Park. (Photo right provided)
Cost: $369

Solve mysteries of the past in this three-day History Detective Camp for ages 10-13. Or, young ladies ages 9-12 can step back in time to a unique Finishing School for Young Ladies day camp.
Cost: $220

Unleashed summer campers entering grades 3-10 spend a full week immersed in animal learning and fun. NEW this year: Campers will spend their time exclusively in the shelters.
Cost: $120-300

A variety of art disciplines and mediums with themes like mirror images, urban forest, theater, art car, or paper and book arts offered for ages 4-18. Five-day, half- and full-day sessions available.
Cost: $155-285

Camp and canoe while learning leadership and teamwork skills in a seven-day resident camp for youths age 13-18 who live within the city limits of Minneapolis or St. Paul. Held on the St. Croix River in Rush City and organized by YouthCARE.
Cost: free

Explore international circus arts at Circus Juventas. Five-day, full-day sessions offered for ages 6-15. Or make your own camp with Circus Sampler Days
Cost: $85-405

Experience cultural and language immersion; 15 languages to choose from. Resident camp for ages 6-18 and family camps.
Cost: $960-$4,510

Explore prairies, wetlands and woodland trails during full- and half-day, four-day camps offered for students entering 1-8 grades. Shorter sessions are available for ages 3-6.
Cost: $55-325

Day camps exploring science, technology, and engineering are offered in partnership with local community education programs. Sessions, length, and price are varied per location and type of camp for ages 4-14.

Make butter, ice cream, and bread while learning about science, agriculture, and history at the Bruentrup Heritage Farm in Maplewood. Plus, students will play old-time games like townball and do arts and crafts. Three four-day sessions offered in July and August.
Cost: $150

Fiddle Pal Camp Minnesota is four days to discover, learn and play for children, adults, and families at three locations.
Cost: $395-495

From fusing to casting to glass blowing, ages 9-18 are introduced to the mesmerizing medium of glass through immersive half-day, five-day experiences.
Cost: $325-425

Experience the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder or the engineers and grenadiers who called Fort Snelling home. Experience outdoor skills and life in the early 1800s. Camps range from one to four days.

Speak, hear, sing, and create in German while exploring subjects ranging from history and art to science and music during five-day, half-, full- and extended-day sessions for grades K-3 at the Germanic American Institute.
Cost: $130-150

Summer camps allow time for more in-depth projects, such as Wild & Wooly, Fairies, Gnomes, Knights, Critters, and Classic Crafts, for kindergarten and up.
Cost: $120-$165

Half-day, five-day sessions and single day sessions for beginners through experts ages 8-18 enhance hand-eye coordination, boost concentration and build self-confidence.
Cost: $30-110

Yoga infused throughout the day via story, dance, and games for campers age 5-12. Located on the Greenway = daily field adventures.
Cost: $75-355

Enjoy Summer Tennis in Minneapolis parks for ages 6-17.
Cost: $85-405

Girls and boys ages 6 to 17 can design and build their creative ideas, mixing art, science, and technology during partial-day, weekday camps. There are more than 120 classes available over ten weeks of full and half-day Monday-Friday workshops begin June 11, including:
Engineering, art, design, craft and technology workshops available all summer; Friday-only workshops and Extended Day in mornings and afternoons; Theme weeks: Toys & Games + Sci-Fi & Fantasy, including a Giant Mouse Trap Maze and Enormous Viking Ship!; Marvelous teen workshops: metalworking, art, CAD, puzzle room build, video game design, stilting, woodworking and community design project!
Cost: $185-370, scholarships available

Ages 4-8 can participate in a nourishing, creative and relaxing “backyard” summer experience (photo right provided). The morning starts with free play/maker time with loose parts, a mud and wood chip kitchen, supervised use of basic tools, costumes and art projects. Take picnic lunches to nearby Bracket Park or trails along the Mississippi, where there is after-lunch reading time on blankets and in hammocks. Afternoons are spent at Brackett Park, playing ball, climbing trees, or playing at the playground or wading pool. Four weekly sessions offered.
Cost: $180/week

There’s something for everyone—from the youngster just learning to put pen to paper to the seasoned high school senior with a novel already under her belt. Sessions run in week-long blocks July and August, full and half-day options available for ages 6-17.
Cost: $262-525

Roller ski, mountain bike, canoe and more during adventure camps for ages 9-13 at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. Equipment provided during the full-day, five-day sessions.
Cost: $200

A variety of athletic, academic and enrichment programs are offered, including woodcarving, viola and cello, combat robots, puddlestompers, fencing, movie making, sewing, painting, rocket science, drumming, and more. (Photo right provided) Half- and full-day, one- to three-week weekday sessions. Camp Minnehaha, a full day camp for pre-k to grade 8, includes daily devotions, games, indoor and outdoor activities, daily swimming lessons and a weekly off-campus activity.
Cost: $40-500
612-728-7745, ext. 1

Play music, get creative, bake bread and construct books while exploring the rich culture along the Minneapolis riverfront district. Campers aged 9-11 will explore a new experience each day at four arts centers.
Cost: $225-$250

Work with sculpture, tiles, or wheel-thrown pottery in half or full-day sessions for ages 6 and up.
Cost: $165-315

Snapology camps provide a perfect mixture of STEAM learning and fun. With camps happening at the new Discovery Center in Uptown every week of the summer, as well as at various schools and educational partners around the Twin Cities, Snapology has got you covered for kids as young as 3 and as old as 14—Robotics, Coding, Science, Technology, Drones, Pre-K, Engineering, Architecture and more.
Cost: $150

Southeast Soccer fields a variety of girls and boys teams for ages U9-U18 at beginner, intermediate and advanced competitive levels. Consider the Lil’ Dribblers soccer program for ages 4 -8, or summer traveling teams.

Learn about devised theater, music, and other performance art forms during these one- to two-week, half- and full-day sessions for preK to grade 12. Two theater classes offered in collaboration with the Science Museum and Minnesota Zoo.
Cost: $75-425

Sew, knit, felt, dye and more. Take home completed fiber items from three- and five-day, half-, full- and extended-day sessions for ages 6-16.
Cost: $87-370

Students ages 8-17 enrolled in the weeklong, half-day camps will experience a variety of circus disciplines (including Trampoline, Static Trapeze, Acrobatics, Circus Bike, and of course Flying Trapeze).
Cost: $275

Painting, drawing, clay, theatre, writing, glass and much more for ages 6-14.
Cost: $23-$97


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of every camp in the Twin Cities. If you would like to be included in next year’s guide, please send us detailed information on the camp.

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Everyone loves to ‘mix it up’ in the Creative Enterprise Zone

Everyone loves to ‘mix it up’ in the Creative Enterprise Zone

Posted on 08 March 2018 by Calvin

The Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ) is a well-established hub of industry and creativity, radiating out in all directions from the intersection of Raymond and University avenues.
Home to many creative businesses and nonprofit groups, the CEZ itself became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the fall of 2017, making it possible to receive funding from a broader range of foundations.

Originally formed in 2009 as a task force of the St. Anthony Park Community Council, the CEZ now has its own twelve-member working board.

As part of an ongoing series, they hosted a mixer on Feb. 26 at The Naughty Greek Restaurant (2400 University Ave. W.). The Naughty Greek is a fairly new addition to the restaurant scene that serves up authentic Athenian street food at their two St. Paul locations.

Photo right: CEZ board chair Catherine Reid Day welcomed 100+ attendees to the mixer held at the Naughty Greek Restaurant on February 26th. The topic of discussion was Innovative Development for a Creative Economy. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The mixer addressed questions unique to the CEZ about live/work spaces, the growing trend of maker spaces, the future of space development for creative entrepreneurs, and the opportunities and challenges associated with transit-oriented development.

The event was funded by the Knight Foundation. Jai Winston, St. Paul Program Director for the Knight Foundation, added closing remarks.

According to board chair Catherine Reid Day, “At the heart of everything we do for the CEZ is the belief that creativity and economic development go hand in hand. We very much want to preserve the lively mix of people and enterprises that make up our zone. In the usual scheme of gentrification, this presents real challenges.”

The main mixer event was a panel discussion about these challenges. Panelists were Can Can Wonderland’s Rob Clapp, owner and real estate broker of Summit Group/KW Commercial; First and First CEO Peter Remes, a company that transforms derelict urban warehouses into creative, inspiring, worker spaces; and Renee Spillum, Senior Project Manager with the community development corporation Seward Redesign. CEZ board member Lucas Koska moderated the panel discussion.

Photo right: Dr. Bruce Corrie, newly appointed Director of Planning and Economic development for the City of St. Paul said, “We have every intention of becoming the best city in the country for the creative economy.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Clapp explained, “Can Can Wonderland (755 Prior Ave. N.) is proud to be the first arts-based public benefit corporation in Minnesota (called a B Corp). That means that we can place value both on being an economic engine for the arts and on being a profitable company. The American Can Factory was the perfect place to create Can Can Wonderland because it had the space we needed at a price point we could afford.”

“The positive energy of the CEZ,” Peter Remes said, “was a big part of what drew me to want to develop Vandalia Tower at 550 Vandalia St. The 220,000 square foot building was in terrible shape, but so many other things about the decision felt right. Ultimately, it was because of the neighborhood that we decided to put our stake in the ground.”

Renee Spillum works as a senior project manager for Seward Redesign in Minneapolis, is a resident of Hamline-Midway, and a new CEZ board member. Her work is focused on business development, commercial leasing, and new development projects. She is also a licensed commercial real estate agent. “I get to go to my job every day and work on re-connecting neighborhoods. What could be better!” she said.

Reid Day concluded, “The Mixer Series has been great because we’re able to invite all kinds of people into creative spaces in the CEZ for conversation.”

In addition to many creatives and makers living and working in the CEZ, staff of the Department of Planning and Economic Development showed up in full force for this mixer. And why shouldn’t City Hall be interested in what’s happening in the CEZ? According to Reid Day, “this district provides more tax revenue to the state than any other.”

The next mixer will be held in early April, time and place still TBD. Check the website at www.creativeenterprisezoneorg for updates.

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Giraffe by Jackie Scherer slider

St. Paul Ballet is breaking down barriers so all can dance

Posted on 08 March 2018 by Calvin

In only five years’ time, St. Paul Ballet (SPB) has established itself as a thriving non-profit dance school and company in the Midway neighborhood. Their mission is to rejoice in the beauty and immediacy of dance with the widest possible audience, to lift the human spirit through the art of ballet, to provide outstanding dance education, and to perform a vibrant repertory with excellence. To accomplish all of this, they’re breaking down barriers to participation in ballet—one after another.

Executive Director Lori Gleason, said, “At first glance, the things that seem to get in the way for people are transportation and cost. Our studios are conveniently located just three blocks north of the Greenline LRT station at 655 Fairview Ave. We also have ample off-street parking. The first class here is always free for new students, and we offer many affordable drop-in classes.”

Photo left: Children in the Parent and Me class on Saturday mornings enjoy movement to music, along with songs and games. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“Our philosophy at SPB is to address each dancer as a whole person,” Gleason continued. “Traditionally, ballet dancers have had a certain look. Members of SPB’s company created something a few years ago called ‘Take Back the Tutu’—which sets the tone for inclusiveness at the school, and shows that all body types are welcomed and celebrated. ‘Take Back the Tutu’ empowers dancers to claim ownership of their bodies, and to throw out the idea that every dancer has to look the same.”

In the past, SPB has partnered with the Melrose Institute and the Emily Program to provide information and guidance about nutrition and eating disorders. They also sponsor an annual health fair in the fall that is open to the public and provides a wealth of health and wellness information.

Photo right: The Parent and Me class welcomes Spanish speaking families, with the help of pre-professional student Emilia Garrido, who is a native Spanish speaker. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The recreational program at SPB serves about 300 students through music and movement classes, beginning with a class called ‘Parent and Me” for dancers ages 2.5-4 and their parents. This class (offered on Saturday mornings 8:45-9:30) welcomes Spanish and English speaking families.

“Not speaking English shouldn’t be a barrier to participation,” Gleason explained. “This is the fourth session that we’ve offered this class; it was the idea of Mary Coats, Director of our Young Children’s Program. One of our pre-professional students is the teaching assistant. She’s a native Spanish speaker who greets families at the door and translates as much of the class as is needed into Spanish. We feel this broadens the experience for everyone.”

Laura Greenwell is SPB’s School Director and an instructor in the pre-professional program. She is also the only ballet teacher in the state of Minnesota certified by the American Ballet Theatre at the highest level of their National Teacher Training Curriculum. Because of this, she is eligible to bring American Ballet Theatre’s Project Plié out into the community. Greenwell partners with local Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs in the summer, offering classes and watching for students ages 7-14 from communities of color who might have a natural ability for ballet. The goal of Project Plie is to diversify the field of ballet and keep it culturally relevant for years to come.

Photo left: Children in the Parent and Me class on Saturday mornings enjoy movement to music, along with songs and games.(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Another perceived barrier to participation in ballet can be age. SPB offers an intermediate level class from 10-11:30am on Mondays and Wednesdays called Life Long Ballet. Taught by Anna Goodrich, the class is a magnet for people who want to keep dancing all through their lives. The oldest students are in their 80’s, with an average age of 60. The class is followed by an optional 30 minutes of strength conditioning.

“Dance is for people of all ages, as long as it’s enjoyable,” Gleason said.

‘Boys Club’ is a new class happening on Saturdays from 1-2pm. This introduction to ballet, for boys ages 7-12, is offered free of charge. Gleason said, “In keeping with our philosophy of treating dancers as athletes, this class emphasizes conditioning, flexibility, and strength, as well as technique.” A dress code of black ballet slippers, shorts, and a white t-shirt is required.

Lastly, SPB and their neighbor/landlord have created a partnership that is busting through barriers. Next door to SPB, Element Gym is owned and operated by Dalton Outlaw—a boxer who trains competitive fighters and leads fitness classes. SPB and Element Gym teamed up for a series of performances last year called “The Art of Boxing – the Sport of Ballet.” The performance will be repeated this year at 6pm on Apr. 15 at the Ordway Concert Hall. Gleason said, “One of the many wonderful things that have come out of our partnership with Dalton and his athletes is that more women and girls are taking boxing classes, and more men and boys are taking ballet. We learned that our two organizations have a lot of shared values around training and community building.”

To learn more about the work of SPB, call 651-690-1588 or visit their website at www.spballet.org.

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Inside La Famila Tapatia

Despite glitches, La Familia Tapatia restaurant is an instant hit

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

It’s just past noon when customers begin to line up at the counter at La Familia Tapatia, a new take-out Mexican restaurant at 1237 Larpenteur Ave. Opened the week after Thanksgiving, the place is already popular even though, in early February, there is still no signage of any kind on the nondescript building. A sign with the restaurant’s name was to be installed at the end of January, but it arrived with a typo and had to be sent back.

Photo right: Inside La Famila Tapatia, 1237 Larpenteur Ave. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

Abe Ponce-Delgadillo, the manager and eldest son in this family-run business, said he is expecting a banner installed over the front door, very soon. “When we get signs,” he said, “we’ll be flooded.”

The Ponce family had been running a taco truck, also La Familia Tapatia, for four years, setting up at the Sun Ray Shopping Center and at breweries. It had a loyal following, mostly from the Mexican community.

He said that the family was expecting a slow start at the brick-and-mortar restaurant when they first opened, thinking they’d have a few curious people wandering in at lunch and dinner. But, the word had already spread on social networks, especially the local Nextdoor pages, and they found themselves facing crowds of hungry fans from the first day.

Photo left: Customers line up for Mexican take-out. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

“We got sold out of some things, and there was a line out the door. That’s when we decided that we were going to put our main energy into the store and not just the food truck,” said Abe.

They found themselves shorthanded, as well. “We called up friends and family who had any experience in restaurants and asked them if they wanted some part-time work,” he said.

The head chef is Abe’s mother Martha Ponce, who said she always had a passion for food. “I love to eat and love trying new foods,” she said, and she fussed over preparing the lengua and tripa (cow tongue and tripe) for the next day’s menu.

Martha, her brother and her husband (now her ex), were using Martha’s recipes, inspired by the traditional foods from the Guadalajara region of Mexico. But, sometimes in business and with families, things don’t always go smoothly. The food truck, said Abe, was “stolen.”

Photo right: Erensto Ponce cooks for the lunch crowd. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

“The thief wasn’t a criminal, but my mom’s ex-husband and brother,” Abe said. The truck’s title was in the brother’s name.

“Technically, he owns it,” he said. “We didn’t have anything between us in writing. It was a word-of-honor thing. He has leverage on it. We don’t even know where it is. It’s frustrating.”

“The truck was an old 1977 Wanabox food truck, in rough shape, but we needed it. It was our main income source. With it gone, we needed another truck, and it’s hard in this economy to find money for small startups,” he said.

But, they were lucky, finding an angel investor in Craig Ramsey, Abe’s fiancé’s business partner, who lent them money to purchase a new truck.

The family also decided that they needed a full kitchen to prepare the more complicated dishes they’d sell out of the new truck. They started thinking of a brick and mortar solution.

The meats like the tongue and tripe need to boil for five or six hours before they are ready to chop, spice, cook, and stuff into tacos, burritos, and quesadillas that customers will be ordering, Martha explained.

“The intestines,” she said, “need to be cleaned and cooked, and although I order 30 lb. of the meat, I end up with eight after cleaning and cooking,” she said. “The tongue needs to boil for four hours then cooked and peeled and chopped.”

She says she was surprised at the popularity of some of the more unusual meats among her non-Latin American patrons. “People are very open to ordering exotic meats,” she said. “It’s not just the Mexicans who are ordering these. They’re popular enough that sometimes we run out.”

Abe said that they looked at some locations but stumbled upon an ad on a business site saying, ‘Kitchen for sale.’ The space, on Larpenteur Ave., was perfect.

“Currently, both the kitchen and the food truck aid each other. The kitchen depends on the food truck, and the food truck depends on the kitchen, to repay the loan and pay the bills,” he said.

Customer Forrest Kelley came to pick up lunch, the second visit for him. Like many in the area, he originally heard about it on the social media platform, Nextdoor. Kelley lives and works in the neighborhood, he said, and today, he’s brought along a couple of co-workers who are eager to try some of the shop’s specialties. Kelley, who ordered a variety of tacos, is already a fan. “The food is great,” he said. “They use quality ingredients,” he said. “And they have this really good sauce used on the tortillas. It’s not spicy. It’s kind of smoky and rich. It’s hard to describe, but I almost want to drink it.”

Adam hopes that La Familia Tapatia faces a bright future. Right now, they’ll have to jump through some legal hoops and city regulations before they know how much seating they can add. He also sees a possible expansion in the future. He said he wants the restaurant to have a casual atmosphere, almost like ordering from a food truck. “Except, it’s inside,” he said looking out the shop’s windows on a new coating of snow.

Right now, the restaurant is strictly take-out, although there is some seating for those who are waiting for their orders.

“We’d like to add a couple of bistro tables and chairs outside when spring comes around. We also would like to open earlier, offering a Mexican breakfast—scones, conchas, orejas (Mexican puff pastries), hot and iced coffee, and blended drinks.

For now, however, he said, the family will concentrate on serving homemade and honest food, the best Mexican food in the East Metro. And, he hopes, the banner will be up soon.

“I’m grateful that everyone has been so supportive and patient with the transition from a food truck to a day-to-day brick and mortar. It’s a different set of challenges, but I believe we’ve got a great team behind me and my mom,” he said.

La Familia Tapatia, located at 1237 Larpenteur Ave. W. If the signs are not up, look for Gold Eagle Cleaners…it’s next door.

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Gordon Parks High School celebrates 10th anniversary in March

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

Gordon Parks High School (GPHS) plans to celebrate its 10th anniversary in March with a week of special events.

GPHS is the largest of seven alternative day school programs in the St. Paul Public Schools district. Founded in 1991, the school was originally called the St. Paul Area Learning Center. It was renamed the Unidale Alternative Learning Center after the local strip mall it operated in. When the rented space became too small, the district constructed a new $7.5 million, 34,000-square-foot facility.

“We re-named ourselves from Unidale to Gordon Parks High School after moving from the corner of University and Dale to 1212 University,” recalled GPHS Curriculum and Media Arts Coordinator Paul Creager.

The new school was dedicated on March 6, 2008, just one day and two years after school namesake Gordon Parks died at age 93.

“Our interest in naming the school Gordon Parks was built around his legacy of living in St. Paul, and using the arts to transform his life and fight against racism and classism,” explained Creager.

“Since that time, our staff has led internal reform to create a brand of alternative instruction that attempts to reinvest student interest in lifelong learning. After a decade of this work, we have many more miles to go to reach our goal, but we want to recognize accomplishments.”

Carrying on the legacy of Gordon Parks
St. Paul native Gordon Parks’ life and work as a photographer, film-maker, writer, and civil rights activist provides the school with a model for the thoughtful, active, and successful citizens staff are dedicated to helping students become, according to the 10th-anniversary website gordonparks10.blogspot.com.

The school offers flexible programming, media-infused courses and curriculum, a supportive advisory program to help keep students on track for graduation, and a host of community partnerships, internships, and job support activities that use Gordon Parks’ life as an inspiration and guide.

As a small, orderly, and friendly school, staff work to make it impossible for students to be invisible or to get lost in the shuffle.

Gordon Parks High School is proud to carry on Parks’ legacy by infusing media activism and the arts into core subject areas. Like Parks himself, the staff strives to help students choose the most effective intellectual “weapons” that will transform their prospects and the world.

Students can fulfill state and district graduation standards requirements in many ways—from studying documentary film and nonfiction writing with the English department, to hands-on applied experiences in algebra and chemistry and community-based art, social studies, and environmental studies programs.

At Gordon Parks, students are expected to practice thinking in real ways as a part of their daily school experience. They are expected to be full participants in their own educations and to take themselves and their possibilities seriously.

GPHS offers a range of programs that meet the needs of about 200 students between the ages of 16 and 21, regardless of their current level of academic progress or educational achievement.

The school offers an 8:30am start time, with flexible, year-round, academic programs. Since implementing a three-week grading and curriculum cycle, attendance increased by 100 percent although daily attendance is about 50 percent.

To meet student needs the school has social workers, counselors, special education teachers, educational assistants, and on-the-job training.

This wide range of support services encourages lifelong learning while taking into account family situations, parenting concerns, employment schedules, and housing issues.

The school is also home to an evening high school and offers online classes to accommodate full-time and dual-enrolled students, as well as students who are working.

The school is geared towards students who are pregnant or parents; struggling with chemical dependency, mental health problems, or abuse; behind a grade level or two; limited in English proficiency; or homeless.

“We’re not bad kids,” remarked 17-year-old LaDavia Allcorn, who is a senior at GPHS. “People learn different ways. People don’t all learn by sitting in a little box and writing all the time. For me, I can’t sit there.” Instead, Allcorn has gotten involved in the various projects at the school, including creating a park next door to the school, and also serves on the leadership team. She appreciates how school staff has encouraged her to get involved.

She’ll graduate later this year, but she knows she’ll be back. “I’m not done,” said Allcorn. “I’m coming back to help this school.”

Celebration week events
Tues., Mar. 6 is slated as Gordon Parks Legacy Day at GPHS. The day will include comments from the Parks family, as well as showing of “Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks.”

On Wed., Mar. 7, “The Learning Tree Day,” students are encouraged to create art projects that will be displayed at a gala on Friday. “The Learning Tree,” a film written and directed by Gordon Parks in 1969, will be shown several times throughout the day. Community guests are welcome from 3-6:30pm.

Civic Engaged Storytelling Day is set for Thur., Mar. 8 with activities from 12:30-3pm. Mario Sprouse, Gordon Parks’ personal music arranger for 25 years, will be among the special guests that day. Presentations will focus on the intersection of civic engagement, storytelling, and curriculum. History of GPHS curriculum about Parks’ autobiography, “A Choice of Weapons,” will be given.

Gordon Parks Gala at the St. Paul Hotel will take place on Fri., Mar. 10, 6-9:30pm. It will include a three-course meal, silent auction, live music, a vibrant student-led showcase of projects and performances, as well as curriculum highlights from the last ten years. Special guests include Mario Sprouse and Gordon Park’s son David Parks. The evening features acclaimed Twin Cities actor and playwright Ronald Collier, who will read selections of Parks’ literary works.

Individuals tickets for the gala are $100. Or sponsor a table for $1,000; this includes five tickets for your organization and five tickets for students. Purchase tickets at spps.org/gordonparks-tickets.

Learn how community members, local businesses, and students can be involved in the celebration by contacting principal Traci Gauer at 651-744-1212.

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Russ Stark

Russ Stark resigns from City Council to work for Mayor Carter

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

Residents of St. Paul’s Ward Four will have three City Council members in succession in 2018. Ten-year incumbent Russ Stark leaves the City Council in mid-February to serve as Mayor Melvin Carter III’s point person on environmental policy and sustainability.

Stark (photo left provided) said that he’s eager to take the spot in the Carter administration. The issues he’ll be working on are ones he has championed while on the City Council. His council accomplishments include getting the city’s first bike plan passed and helping to guide Green Line light rail construction.

The remaining City Council members will select an interim Ward 4 member in the days ahead. As the Monitor went to press, two people had announced for the interim seat. One is Hamline-Midway resident Samantha Henningson, who has served as Stark’s legislative aide for the past decade. The second is John Van Hecke, a St. Anthony Park resident who was a founding member of the think tank Minnesota 2020. He is a former member of the Snelling-Hamline Community Council.

Ward Four includes all of Merriam Park, Hamline-Midway and St. Anthony Park neighborhoods, and parts of Como, and Macalester-Groveland.

In St. Paul, interim council members typically are appointed with the understanding that they won’t seek the seat on a permanent basis. Both Van Hecke and Henningson have said they would not run in an election if appointed. The special election is expected to be held in August along with the primary for state offices.

The process of choosing an interim replacement moved quickly as the vacancy was posted in late January, and had a Feb. 2 deadline. A new council member could be appointed Feb. 14 and seated by Feb. 21. Stark’s last day on the council is Feb. 16.

The person elected in August could take office immediately and would serve through 2019. 2019 is when all seven council seats are on the ballot. As of Monitor deadline, no one had announced a campaign for the permanent seat.

City Council members in St. Paul are considered to be part-time and are paid $63,000 per year. His new full-time salary in the mayor’s office is $105,000.
Stark admitted that he has mixed emotions about leaving the City Council, but that he is excited to take on a new role.

Stark is now one of Carter’s three top staff members, along with Deputy Mayor Jamie Tincher. Stark’s new title is “chief resilience officer,” and he’ll be working on issues including reducing the city’s carbon footprint and the implementation of organized trash collection.

Carter has also named Toni Newborn as his chief equity officer and Tarek Tomes as point person on innovations in government. All three positions are first of their kind in city history.

Stark said in his final council newsletter that while the chief resilience officer post is a new position in St. Paul, similar positions have been created in more than 100 cities around the world to better position themselves concerning climate change and emergency preparedness. He said the job’s tasks will be shaped by the mayor and the community. “The questions I am already asking include: What more can St. Paul do to lessen our carbon footprint? What will make our City more resilient to coming changes? What future climate-related changes could affect St. Paul, and what should we start doing now to get ahead of these issues?” said Stark.

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CRWD Rendering_News Release.pdf

CRWD to put $7.2mil into Midway building

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

The Midway neighborhood will soon be a focal point for sustainable design, development, and education once Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) moves into its new headquarters at 595 Aldine St.

Construction on the $7.2 million facility is scheduled to start in March, with a move-in date set for fall 2018. MSR Design is the architecture firm, and JE Dunn has been selected as the construction manager for the project.

The renewed building will utilize green building principles including stormwater management practices and energy efficiency measures to conserve natural resources, create a healthy workplace and protect the Mississippi River. Gathering spaces will also be available for community and partner organizations to use.

Plus, CRWD will create a community watershed learning center and will offer on-site educational opportunities to showcase its work to protect, manage and improve water resources including Como Lake, Crosby Lake, Loeb Lake, Lake McCarrons and the Mississippi River. One of the community highlights will be a pocket park, combining the natural and built environments with interactive elements to draw in neighbors and visitors.

“CRWD is adopting the City of St. Paul’s Sustainable Building Policy, and the result will be a stunning remodeled building that will meet standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED),” says Mark Doneux, administrator of CRWD. “Our new offices will provide a flexible workplace to accommodate our organization’s growth without the need to acquire additional building space. Plus, the uniquely designed workplace will provide all the space, equipment and support systems in one location that CRWD staff members need to excel at their jobs.”

Since its inception in 1998, CRWD has leased office space in St. Paul.

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Senior Strolls slider

Seniors invited to stroll around Como before park opens

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

Senior Strolls offered indoors and outdoors from 9-11am on the first Tuesday


Seniors, take a stroll through Como Park Zoo & Conservatory before it opens to the public on the first Tuesday of each month.

Senior Strolls is a new, free program for the 55+ community that began in December 2017. It is funded through the Legacy Amendment.

“This new program is a great way to get active and social, with a little adult learning thrown in to spice it up!” said Como staff member Noah Petermeier.

Activities in a beautiful space
The goal of the program is to encourage the 55+ community to engage in physical, social, and mental health activities in a beautiful space.

“We leave it up to the individual to choose how they wish to spend the time,” explained Como staff member Matt Reinartz. “Whether they want to come and chat with a friend, walk for exercise, meditate, or chat with an interpreter and learn some new plant and animal information, the choice is up to each participant.”

Photo right: Interpreters stationed inside the Conservatory share information and answer questions about the specific gardens. (Photo submitted)

Enter through the Visitor Center main entrance during cold months. Doors open promptly at 9am and Como opens to the public at 10am. Participants may bring a caregiver who is not 55+.

Calmer atmosphere
“People enjoy having the space open to them before public hours,” remarked Petermeier. “We receive positive comments from folks excited to be here without the crowds, and talking to the interpreters on an adult level.”

In the cold winter months, participants take refuge in the Conservatory, getting exercise at a comfortable temperature while still seeing lush greenery and plants from all over the world. There is a place for guests to hang up their jackets.

When the weather warms up, and the snow and ice melt away, early entry will shift from the Conservatory to the zoo grounds. Those who participate will get to experience the zoo waking up as they leisurely stroll around the outdoor spaces.

Guided learning
Volunteer interpreters answer questions and share fun facts with visitors as they stroll through the grounds that are calmer in the mornings before Como officially opens.

Photo left: “We receive positive comments from folks excited to be here without the crowds, and talking to the interpreters on an adult level,” remarked Como staff member Noah Petermeier. (Photo submitted)

Interpreters stationed inside the Conservatory share information and answer questions about the specific gardens. “They will be able to help guide your learning as you stroll,” observed Reinartz.

Como volunteer services department members at one station field questions about how people can get involved and volunteer their time at Como for those who are interested.

Right now the program is geared towards individual learning, but as it evolves organizers may include more structured learning opportunities, according to Reinartz.

Como also offers adult classes that provide more in-depth knowledge about plants, animals, and conservation. Browse the education section of at www.comozooconservatory.org or the Facebook page under events. Upcoming morning programs for adults include Orchid Odyssey on Apr. 21, Primate Enrichment on June 16, Japanese Gardens on Aug. 25, and Big Cat Enrichment on Oct. 21.

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