Our Place

This weekend Ogilvie Community Education is putting on the one act play “Our Place” by Terry Gabbard. Students grades 6-12 will be performing at the Ogilvie School auditorium. Kelsey Kehoe, a 2014 Ogilvie High School graduate, is making her debut as director. Ms. Kehoe is in her third year as Head Speech Coach, substitute Paraprofessional, and taking classes towards her Special Education Degree. Directing a play is new, but a challenge for which she has both the energy and passion. 

When asked how she decided on this play, Ms. Kehoe explained she went online to research one act plays, stumbled across “Our Place” and knew it was the right fit. “I wanted a one act play, something with the maximum amount of actors on stage so all the kids would be doing plenty,” she said. Also, all the scenes take place on a dock, so there isn’t any need for stage changes. Boy Scout Leader Darin Swee and his son Dylan built the dock where the scenes take place. The wood will then be donated back to them for Dylan’s Eagle Scout project.

Ms. Kehoe is also working with Ogilvie school board member Paula Anderson, who has been their costume consultant, and is the director of the MN chapter of The Penguin Project. “Established in 2004,The Penguin Project has evolved into a National program, with Chapter sites throughout the United States. The program provides a supportive environment for children with disabilities to explore their creative talents.” ( Ms. Kehoe is grateful for all the assistance. “I’ve had a lot of support from the community and the parents of the crew. Everyone has been great, and I have an awesome group of kids,” said Ms. Kehoe.

Evelyn Tillman, age 17, is playing wife and mother Brenda. Evelyn has been acting since 7th grade. She auditioned because “I thought it would be interesting. My experience with Kelsey Kehoe as a speech coach was great, and I wanted to see what she’d do with the play,” said Evelyn. 

Alivia Sanborn, age 16, is playing teenager Liberty. Alivia has been acting since age 10. Before that, her and her sister used to put on plays in their basement for family members. She admits playing this character is a stretch. “It was challenging to play Liberty because she’s nothing like me. But it’s fun,” said Alivia.

Michaela Hagen, age 14, is the play’s Technical Director responsible for all lights and sound. Michaela has been on stage before, but this year wanted to try something different. “I wanted to give others a chance at acting, experiment with something else, maybe learn something new,” she said. 

Abigail Bartel, age 12, is playing rebellious teenager Stacey. Abigail is homeschooled, but comes to the school for band, sports, and plays. She enjoys it because “I get to express my feelings through acting,” she said.

Kaitlyn Kehoe, age 17, plays middle-aged Beth. Kaitlyn acted in elementary school, and has previously done technical work with The Penguin Project. She also has an important message for kids out there who have a disability. “I’m Autistic. Because of my previous experience, and this play, I know I can act. I want to make sure people know kids with special needs can act too. My Autism doesn’t limit me.”

“Our Place” will be performed at the Ogilvie School Auditorium Friday and Saturday at 7pm, and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased at the door and are $8 for adults and $6 for students. For more information visit the school website at

Ann River Winery

Ann River Winery, located south of Mora off Highway 65, offers an elegant space to gather while sampling expertly handcrafted wines. They opened on August 18th, and business has been strong. For a small fee that includes a wine glass, people can taste a variety of the seven wines on the menu while they snack on savory cheeses and crackers. If they’d like, they can stay for another glass, share a bottle, or buy some to bring home. 

Owners Steve and Kathy Watrin, along with their son Luke and fiancee Jamie Tordoff, have worked long and hard for this success. It began 12 years ago, after Luke created a business plan for an undergraduate class in college. The plan was for a winery situated on the land the Watrins have owned and resided on since 1991. Steve, who has always had a passion for good wines, thought there just might be something to his son’s business plan. They decided to start with a small crop of 500 grape plants. Years later, they now have 6300 plants spread over 10 acres. Steve has since retired, with Kathy following the end of this month, allowing them to begin a new full time job: running a winery.

Once they knew the crops would thrive, construction on the building began in 2015. Classic tilework paired with rustic wood-topped tables welcome guests, a fireplace burns in the corner, and recessed lighting with dimmers add to the warm ambience. While seated, the surrounding windows allow patrons to enjoy a view of the vineyards.

The Watrins grow an American Hybrid grape, which differs from the Mediterranean grape, as it is heartier to the cold and able to withstand the temperatures of a MN winter. Yet they faced several setbacks in the beginning, which made them wonder if the business would be able to survive. They still lost plants due to bitter, sub-zero winters and late freezes, but they persevered. There were many long, cold days Luke and Steve spent in the fields, trying to salvage what they could, learning more along the way.

It is fortunate the Watrins are patient people. Not only did it take years to finally conceive their dream, wine making also requires time. Each grape plant takes three to five years to even begin producing a crop. Luke, who now holds a Masters in Business, is the expert on the fields. He spends his time out in the plants with the help of his father, pruning, fertilizing, and harvesting, which happens in mid-September. 

After the grapes are harvested, they go through an extensive process to become a mature wine, which is where Steve’s expertise shines. He is the chemistry expert who works the wine, testing and altering the acids, treating it to prevent cloudiness, checking on the fermenting process to ensure every batch’s quality. Each wine takes nine months to two years to make, depending on whether it’s a white, blush, or the longest: the full-bodied red.

Ann River Winery is also part of the East Central Craft Beverage Trail, which encourages people to visit all eight businesses on the list, receive a stamp, and be entered in a drawing for a gift basket. The winery is open Fridays 1-8pm, Saturdays 1-6pm, and Sundays 1-5pm. They are located at 1999 180th Avenue in Mora, and are also available to rent out for private parties. They can be reached by phone at 320-674-0957, or on Facebook and the web at

Global Play Day

On February 5th Mora Elementary kindergartners participated in Global School Play Day along with over 560,000 other students from around the world. Global School Play Day is a movement started by educators to give kids a day for unstructured play time. Mora Elementary kindergarten teacher Mrs. Anna Verdon has been a strong advocate of this movement for the past three years. 

A few years ago Mrs. Verdon came across an online post discussing Global School Play Day, and she said, “All my early childhood instincts agreed with the idea-kids need to play more.” So in 2018 she signed her class up and they joined the Global School Play Day movement. It was such a success, Mrs. Verdon decided to participate every year, and for the last two years the rest of the kindergarten teachers at Mora Elementary have followed suit. 

The point to Global School Play Day is to allow children supervised, but unstructured, play time. This means while they are being watched by adults in case there is a need for one of them to step in, the play comes from the students. They get to choose what and how to play, and who gets to play with them. The teachers don’t give suggestions or tell them how to do it the “right” way. They allow the children to experiment and be creative, and try to figure out solutions on their own when problems arise. The only discouragement is the use of battery operated toys or electronics. This allows for more self-directed play and creative thinking, as well as more social interactions between peers. 

Indeed there is plenty of research out there to support the idea that kids need time to play in order for their development. “A growing body of behavioral research establishes relationships between children’s play and development in several areas, including language, executive functions, mathematics and spatial skills, scientific thinking, and social and emotional development.” (

Another advantage of play is kids are still learning, it just doesn’t feel like it to them. At the end of the day, Mrs. Verdon helps them understand this by relating their play to what they’ve learned. She explains how they’ve used numbers and letters in their games, or science and math when they build ramps, fine motor skills when using legos, and social skills such as sharing, taking turns, working together, and resolving disagreements. 

The students certainly enjoyed their day, and had the opportunity to play with toys they don’t use all the time at home. “I liked giving everybody the hearts,” said kindergartner Hartlee Strom, who spent the afternoon drawing, cutting, and coloring paper hearts to give to her classmates and teachers (as well as the guest writer visiting their class). “I really liked the water beads,” said Lucy Schultz, and Agnes Carda added, “I had fun making things for people.” 

Parent and community response has also been positive. “Mrs. Spartz (Mora Elementary Principal) has been really supportive, and I let parents know ahead of time what we would be doing. Some checked out the website, and they were all really positive and thought it was a good idea,” stated Mrs. Verdon.

Global School Play Day is open to public schools, private schools, and homeschooling families. Their goal is to have one million students participating in 2021. For more information or to sign up for next year’s date, visit

United States Census

MN State Demographer Susan Brower made a visit to Mora on April 22nd to attend the Dala Business Women’s Meeting. She gave a presentation regarding the upcoming US Census which will begin in March of 2020. Information presented included why the census is pertinent to the planning of our local businesses and how it impacts our community. 

In terms of population, studies show that the state of Minnesota is growing, although Kanabec County (Region 7E) hasn’t had much change over the last 20 years. What is of notice is the number of people 65 and older is increasing, and this impacts our community especially in terms of employment. Nationwide it means for the first time in decades and for the next several decades, there are more people retiring than joining the workforce. For those looking for employment, this is good news. There are more jobs available and less people to fill them. 

For employers, the statistics mean challenges. Less positions filled, fewer people applying, and as Susan Brower said, “The questions to employers will be what do we need to do to make this work? How can we make our work environment more appealing? What can we offer?” Some employers have already begun making changes, such as work from home options, flexible schedules, and in-house daycare. High schools are partnering with trade schools to inform students there are businesses that pay a living wage without incurring as much student loan debt. Studying and understanding the information the census reveals allows businesses to prepare for their future. 

The US Census is about equal representation, fair distribution of resources, and gathering the data to make decisions. It is mandated in the United States Constitution to perform a census every 10 years. “It helps makes our democracy work at the foundational level,” said Susan. This ensures each area receives the funding it needs. Federal funds are allocated based on population, so the fewer people, the less money. This impacts areas such as Highway Planning and Construction, Medicaid, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), and Public Housing Assistance. 

In terms of receiving equal representation, Minnesota is divided into 8 congressional districts. The number of congressional districts a state has determines the number of Representatives each state has at Congress. After the 2010 census, Minnesota barely held onto its 8th district. The less representation we have at Congress, the less say we have as a state. This is why it is vital to participate in the census, so the number of people in our state is as accurate as possible, and we receive the representation we are entitled to as a state. This ensures the voices of Minnesotans are heard on a national level. 

Starting in April of next year, mailings of the US Census will begin. This year is different in that it will be the first time there is an online option for filling out the form. Paper forms and phone calls are still being done as well. The Census Bureau is encouraging everyone to participate and fill out their form, and they do have particular laws which prevent them from sharing personal information with any other agency. They are only allowed to release the data as statistical information, and are not allowed to release individual data. It is taken seriously, ensuring everyone’s personal information remains private. As Susan said, “Think about doing it for the community, as a way of helping everyone out.” For more information about the upcoming census visit

All articles written are for and published in the Kanabec County Times. Their website is