Western Fest is a wrap and a fine week it was. An amazing stretch of weather helped the whole event come off without a hitch. There are plenty of memories of rain and summer storms during the Saturday night street dance but, despite another threat of rain, this year’s Saturday night events were spared any rainfall until after the latest night owls went home.

The rodeo crowds looked very good to these eyes and the weekend was filled with folks who were back to their hometown and visitors from around the state. Its great to see so many people show up and enjoy the community.

The parade always attracts a huge crowd, too and is a fun spin through the streets. There are always unexpected faces along the parade route and folks always enjoy the event. We always look forward to our chat with U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson during the pre-parade line-up and this year was no different with the opioids and addiction treatment issues taking center stage. It was a good chance to update him about Project Turnabout’s success and future plans.

It was also fun to see our local rodeo ambassador, Greg Vos, as the parade’s Grand Marshall. Greg and his wife Ardyth have probably helped organize and have attended more rodeos than any other folks in our area. There is still lots of rodeo activity in their family with their kids, their grandkids and now their great grandkids. I was fortunate to have Greg as my sixth grade teacher and also fortunate to have Ardyth correct my grammar and typing errors when we worked together at the Advocate Tribune. It was great to see them riding in the parade.

A big thank you has to be extended to the Western Fest committee and the dozens of volunteers that make the many Western Fest events happen. Without their good work and diligent attention to detail, we wouldn’t have this wonderful community celebration. Thanks to their work Western Fest has become, and will continue to be, a great community tradition.

The League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) annual conference was held in St. Cloud this past week. This large gathering attracts over 400 city officials from all corners of the state, from cities large and very small. I am in the second of three years as a member of LMC Board of Directors and several of us on the LMC board play a small part in planning the conference and making it happen. However, once again, it is the folks behind the scenes, the LMC staff, that pulls it all together. Over the course of the two and a half day gathering, there are several helpful sessions on a number of topics that affect cities and their residents. There’s always something new to learn about. We dig into ideas that can help solve the challenges that cities face and share solutions to the many issues involved with serving the needs of our residents.

Once again, among this year’s hottest topics was the need for child day-care. There were also sessions on energy-saving programs, making your community more welcoming, involving more citizens in city programs, making your community more livable, the value of public art, using technology for improving services to residents and effective community policing. There were also discussions about effective community policing, handling issues involving city employees, and legal matters involving cities.

The LMC also sets time aside during the conference to recognize individuals and communities for their efforts and problem solving as well as long-term achievements. It was nice to see that this year’s City of Excellence Award, for cities under 5,000 in population, went to the City of Clarkfield for their city-led effort at establishing a child day care center. Congratulations to Clarkfield for being recognized.

That state-wide need for child day care services has also been getting attention in Granite over the past year. The opening this week of the new Puddle Jumpers Learning Center at the Minnesota West campus was welcome news and the culmination of a year-long effort.

When the Prairie Five Community Action Council closed their operation of the day care center at the Minnesota West campus, it set in motion a broad effort at finding a replacement operator. While that sounds fairly simple it turned out to be much more complex. The Granite EDA and city council got involved and identified the need and the interest but it took a special effort to make it happen. It also took a lot of perseverance and patience.

The nature of child care services demands strict guidelines and a rigorous licensing system. That requires time. There was also the need to reach an agreement with Minnesota West for the lease of the day care space as well as the need to reconfigure, remodel and equip the center.

Finally, after a year-long journey, the new center opened this week and we couldn’t be happier to see that happen. It was evident during a quick chat with Puddle Jumpers co-owner/teacher Emily Balfany last weekend that she felt the long wait and many twists and turns along the way were well worth it. Emily and co-owner Jessica Busack are excited to be opening their doors this week and looking forward to providing a unique, learning-based program and to help community residents find much needed child care services. Congratulations to them and to the Granite EDA and EDA Director Cathy Anderson for their efforts and work to make this happen.