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Nine For ’09

By Staff | Dec 29, 2009

Several events stand out as major news stories of the past year in Palo Alto County.

Emmetsburg Community Schools Complete Construction Project

A $7.8 million construction project spanning three years came to a conclusion in October of 2009 with the completion of work on the new auditorium for the Emmetsburg Community School District.

The beginning of the year marked the opening of the district’s new Middle School classroom addition at the high school complex on King Street, along with the opening of the new Middle School gymnasium shortly after the start of the first of the year. The new auditorium was unveiled this October during Homecoming coronation ceremonies.

The first shovels of dirt were turned in August of 2006 for the classroom project, designed to replace the 1932 era Middle School on Palmer Street. As part of the project, a new 350-seat middle school gymnasium was constructed on the west side of the high school building. The third phase of the construction project, a 625-seat performing arts auditorium, rounded out the building project.

To finance the construction project presented a challenge for district officials, who had seen two previous bond issues in 2000 and 2001 for additions both defeated by district voters. In a creative financing plan, Emmetsburg Superintendent John Joynt and the school board developed  a plan to pay for the facilities by using a combination of funds generated through the voter approved School Infrastructure Local Option tax (SILO) and the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL). 

Ruthven’s Quasquicentennial Celebration

The Palo Alto county community of Ruthven celebrated its Quasquicentennial in July as part of the community’s annual Bully Bullhead festivities. The year was 1884 when Alex Ruthven settled on a tract of land just south of Lost Island Lake. As a result, Ruthven was incorporated in honor  of Alex Ruthven and his two brothers. Descendents of the Ruthven family, Bob Ruthven and wife Carma of Pella, along with their two daughters and grandchildren, attended the three-day celebration commemorating the 125th anniversary of Ruthven.

A parade, featuring over 100 entries, was a highlight of the weekend-long event. Family floats, horse hitches, Shrine units, fire trucks, and antique cars all had a place in the parade. Men from the Ruthven area grew their beards from February to July for the Beard Contest, and Maurice Conlon was named Ruthven’s Citizen of the Year. Conlon served in the U.S. Army during World War II, then returned to Ruthven where he and his brother operated a tavern.

Residents and visitors also enjoyed a Pedal Tractor Pull for youth, two street dances, a performance by renowned folk singer and autoharp virtuoso Adam Miller, Sixth Annual BBW Tractor Ride, fishing contest, 5K, 10K, and Fun Run, pony and wagon rides plus a mule jumping exhibition, Team Sorting Competition, and lots of food and opportunities for fellowship.

Polio Eradication Touches Local Lives

In April it was time to break out the fishing tackle for the Emmetsburg Rotary Club’s Fishing Contest and whole hog BBQ at Five Island Lake in Emmetsburg. Proceeds from the event went towards Rotary International’s Worldwide Polio Eradication program.

Polio, a crippling and sometimes fatal disease, still paralyzes children in four countries. As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, all children remain at risk. Polio has been eradicated in the U.S., but its effects are still being felt. Today, those who endured the disease 50 and 60 years ago are now being treated for post polio syndrome.

Emmetsburg’s own John Dahm (who passed away Dec. 18, 2009) contracted Poliomyelitis at the age of 15 and was hospitalized for three months. Dahm eventually overcame most of the effects of the disease and went on to attend the Northwest Institute of Medical Technology in Minneapolis, MN, where he graduated in 1954 as a certified laboratory and x-ray technician. He worked for Palo Alto Memorial Hospital where he established the laboratory and x-ray departments, and remained employed by the local hospital until his retirement in 2000.

Dahm belonged to a post polio group based in Des Moines. He stated during an interview conducted in April of 2009, “Everyone forgets how devastated families were before the polio vaccine. If there’s polio in the world, people are still at risk.”