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A Grand Marais pep fest

Tue, 03/03/2015 - 2:32pm

Unless you have been living under one of the ubiquitous ice-covered rocks along the North Shore, you know that Grand Marais is in the running for the Budget Travel magazine title of America’s Coolest Small Town. I’ve been voting as often as the magazine website will let me. I think it’s a well-deserved honor. I love our little harbor town.

Even in the recent cold spell—which could earn Grand Marais the title of America’s Coldest Small Town—I appreciate being here. I love that the drive down the hill from my house in the woods of County Road 7 to downtown Grand Marais is always different.

No matter what street I turn on to reach downtown Grand Marais, the lake and the sky are there to welcome me. But I never know what welcome I will receive. Some days the vista is pure blue, with no apparent separation between the earth and sea. Other days the sky is bright blue with huge cotton ball clouds or wisps of white hovering over periwinkle water. There are days when the sky is gray and the wicked water is darker gray with foaming white caps.

For quite a few days in February the water was hidden under a sheet of ice with a dusting of snow. Today though, the lake had changed yet again. When I turned onto 8th Avenue, I saw that the part of the harbor was open. The white ice sheets were stacked, floating almost in a circle around the west break wall.

The beautiful Grand Marais harbor!

With all the votes that Grand Marais has received in the America’s Coolest Small Town contest, it is apparent that I am one of thousands who loves Grand Marais. Or I’m one of thousands who is fiercely competitive. I want my hometown to beat the likes of Fort Myers Beach, Florida; Old Orchard Beach, Maine; Pismo Beach, California; Snohomish, Washington; or Washington, North Carolina. All with more residents than we have in our entire county!

Despite the larger size of those cities, I’m confident that we can win this race. The contest has become a pep rally of sorts, like the uproarious event before a big game. Casting my vote for Grand Marais makes me feel like I’m back in school, answering the cheerleaders’ call, “C’mon 7th grade, don’t be shy, stand & give your battle cry!”

“V-I-C-T-O-R-Y! That’s the 7th grade battle cry!” was the answer the 7th graders and 8th graders; the 9th and 10th graders, the juniors and seniors would shout. My friends and I would scream ourselves hoarse trying to be louder than the other classes.

The competitive drive was stoked when Grand Marais was oh-so-close to winning—ahead by about 4 percentage points—when Budget Travel extended the voting deadline from February 25 to March 4. The injustice of it all infuriated many voters. We were well in the lead as the February 25 deadline passed.

But voting has taken a nice jump since then. Just as each class at a pep fest got progressively louder, egged on by the chance of failure, Grand Marais supporters are hanging in there, persistently clicking to vote for Grand Marais as often as the system will let them. If you’re not clicking to claim V-I-C-T-O-R-Y, join us. Click and vote at .

If we don’t win, if one of the towns is able to mount a last-minute voting rush to defeat us, there will be a lot of disappointed people. But it’s okay. The consolation prize is pretty good. We get more than a pretty picture on the cover of Budget Travel magazine—we get to live in that picture!

I would like to spend my
whole life traveling,
if I could borrow another life
to spend at home.

William Hazlitt

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Where are We in February?

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 2:56pm


Where are we?

Our January WHERE ARE WE? location turned out to be pretty easy. We had a few wrong guesses, but most people recognized the shoreline near Five Mile Rock, near Mile Marker 116. Thanks Kristi Silence for sharing the lovely photo.

And congratulations to Olya Wright of Grand Marais! Olya was drawn from all the correct entries and she and her parents will receive a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

Try your luck! Take a look at the February photo. If you think you know where we were when we took this picture, send us your answer. You don’t have to be the first to reply. The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers.

Whoever is drawn will win a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $32 value). Good luck!

Answer to the February WHERE ARE WE? must be received by March 16, 2015.

Send your entry to:
Cook County News-Herald
PO Box 757
Grand Marais MN 55604

Drop it by our office at:

15 First Avenue West
Fax: 218-387-9500
Questions? 218-387-9100

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Top shelf research

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 12:56pm

It is time to do the column I set out to do several months ago before I was distracted by coffee cups. I can hear my friend Dan in Florida laughing, “You and your coffee mugs!” but honestly, I did not set out to do a series of essays on cups. I meant to write an Unorganized Territory about a silly thing that takes place at the News-Herald office nearly every day.

As an introduction to the need for a scientific—or semi- scientific— study of our office phenomena, I recalled a silly investigative report on the Today show. Readers may remember that I spent several inches of column space sharing the results of a study done in Australia on whether or not the color of your coffee cup makes a difference in the taste of your java.

According to the people who conducted the study for Flavour magazine, the color does make a difference. But who really cares? Why conduct this coffee cup study?

No explanation is given in the report as to why Flavour magazine publishers felt this was important. So we will be left to wonder.

However, I do have a reason for wanting to do an investigation into the odd human response to a simple shelf in the News-Herald office. I want to do a study just because I want to know why!

So what is this intriguing behavior? It’s not the fact that nine out of 10 people call or come in to the office to renew their “prescription” instead of “subscription.” That makes perfect sense to me. The words just get jumbled up in the average brain.

No, the weird thing that happens day after day, year in and year out, has been noticed by all of us in the office. It isn’t just me. All of us at one time or another have chuckled and wondered.

The scene of the top shelf mystery…

Here’s the scenario. We have a metal shelf next to the front counter. The top shelf is slanted a bit, to better display whatever is on top. The other shelves are typical horizontal shelves. There are three horizontal shelves. Each week when the current edition of the News-Herald arrives, we move the newspapers down a shelf. So, at any given time we have four issues of the News-Herald on the shelves, with the most recent issue sitting on the very top, slanted shelf.

Sounds like a reasonable way to display the paper, right?

Apparently it is not. Because inevitably, someone enters the office to buy a copy of the News- Herald. They approach the metal rack. They peruse the shelves. And they reach for the older newspaper on the second shelf.

At least once a day, one of us in the office has to say, “The most recent issue is on the top….The very top…The top shelf there,” as we point to the current issue.

For a very long time I thought it just happened to me. Then one day, someone else mentioned that people never seem to want to take the papers off the top shelf. After that we all became aware of the odd habit of newspaper-buying people. And we all wonder why.

I think that we should conduct a study to find out why people are hesitant to take papers off the top shelf. Sillier things have been done.

Look at all the research that received the “Golden Fleece Award” from the late Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire. Studies by the National Science Foundation for comparing aggressiveness in sun fish that drank tequila versus gin; a Department of Defense study on how to buy Worcestershire sauce; or a NOAA study on whether or not marijuana is harmful to scuba divers and more.

Where do we apply?


Research is what I’m doing
when I don’t know what I’m doing.

Wernher Von Braun

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