With only three days left in the year of 2016, it is important to reflect on the important stories that impacted St. James and surrounding communities.

In the month of January, members of the St. James community banded together to mourn the death of Alberto Garcia-Palacios and the critical condition of Devon Schmitz, both graduates from St. James in 2014, due to a two-car accident on Highway 169. The group released 19 green balloons into the night sky. This represented both Garcia-Palacios’ age as well as his favorite color.

February’s area news was dominated by the fire that ravaged downtown Madelia. On February 3 early in the morning an explosion was heard around 2:30 a.m. coming from the vicinity of Hope and Faith Floral and Gift Shop, and the fire quickly spread to other downtown businesses. Madelia Fire Department did their best to suffocate the fire with the help from St. James Fire Department and Lake Crystal Fire Department, and by 10:30 a.m. they finally had the fire under control.

In March the election year tradition of the caucus took place all around the state. In 2016 there was a record turnout all over Minnesota for caucus-goers on March 1. At the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party caucus in St. James, Bernie Sanders got 56 votes and Hillary Clinton received 42. Caucus regulars said this was the largest crowd in some time, they even ran out of ballots.

On March 30, Mayor Gary Sturm presented a detailed project in St. James called “Clean it up, Keep it up.” This program outlined numerous actions like stricter enforcement of city ordinances, to renovations and development to beautify the city. “In touring around the city I think our community is due for a facelift. I think everyone can agree with that,” said Mayor Sturm.   

On April 10 the St. James Area FFA program held their annual banquet.  Sydney Holland, who finished her second year as FFA president, earned an academic achievement award and was the Star Senior. The year’s overall star was Lukas Pierson who has been a member of the FFA for three years and was the secretary last year.

In May, the Northside Elementary students and staff travelled to the White House in Washington, D.C. as part of a Turnaround Arts Talent Show. Turnaround Arts has infused arts into the curriculum. Doug Storbeck, Northside principal, Cathy Bruce, music teacher, and four students--Cooper Olson, Lunden Swanson, Jayden Cardenas, and Ruby Zamora all made the trip to the capital.   

At the end of the month of May, 71 members of the St. James Class of 2016 graduated. Katelyn Anderson was the student speaker. Anderson maintained a 4.0 grade point average through high school.   

In the summer months there are many different community celebrations. In June the annual St. James summer tradition of Railroad Days took place. Last year was the 41st rendition of the celebration. Margie Reinke was named the 2016 Railroad Days grand marshal. Ashley Frederickson and Hailey Sagehorn were last year’s Miss St. James.

Late in the month of July, the Watonwan County Fair attracted many community members. Watonwan County 4-H coordinator Sue Craig said the Friday night crowd at the fair was one of the largest Craig has seen at the Watonwan County Fair in two decades. She attributed this to the ideal weather, the horse events, and the tractor pull.   

After one weekend off, the Watonwan County Fairgrounds held another big event, Relay For Life. Cleo Erickson was honored with being the honorary chair for the Watonwan County Relay For Life. Her responsibilities included making a short speech and leading the survivor walk.
In September on Labor Day the tiny speck on the map that is Godahl, Minnesota was a hub of activity. For the last 61 years on Labor Day Godahl has been putting on Godahl Day. The day is jam packed with many different ages of baseball teams playing, live music, and of course the parade. Mackinzee Miest was honored with the title of the 2016 Godahl queen.    

On October 1, 10 St. James athletes, coaches and contributors were inducted into the St. James Athletic Hall of Fame. This year the committee selected Jim Chalin, Julie Plumhoff, Len Dalen, Eldon Peterson, Floyd Wilkening, Jim Augustin, Dwight Burman, Kory Anderson, Dennis Johnson, and Jane Dalen Miller.
After serving 20 years as the St. James Police Chief, Mark Carvatt officially retired on October 28. 32 of his 35 years in law enforcement were spent in St. James. To celebrate his career, a retirement party was held for Carvatt at the St. James Community Center on October 27th.   

November 11 is a day  set aside to honor those who fight for the freedom that all Americans enjoy. On this day, all the local schools held Veterans Day programs open to the public to show appreciation for what these people have done. At St. James High School State Representative Tony Cornish made an appearance to speak of the importance of Veterans Day. Northside Elementary brought in Armando Martinez, a veteran who was active from 2005-2009. St. Paul’s and Butterfield-Odin schools also held their own programs.   

In the last month of 2016, December, the holiday spirit can be felt all through town. There were numerous holiday musical concerts from all of the area schools.
    With the retirement of St. James City Manager Joe McCabe at the end of the year, St. James has found the man to replace him, Sam Hansen. Hansen is from Morgan, Minnesota and was recently working as a city administrator for the city of Sherburn.

This year the St. James Fire Department had 5 non fire calls and 27 fire calls. These numbers are the lowest they have been for 25 years. So a big thank you goes out to our residents on being fire wise and please keep up the good work .

Also with the FD’s Be Seen Be Safe safety-vest program they have given out more than $2,700 worth of vests for people to wear and keep them safe.

All this money was raised through donations just for this program so they are hoping to get more donations to keep this program going. Anyone that would like to donate money to this program can send money to fire hall or give to any firefighter and ear mark it for safety vest program. The St. James Fire Department would like to take this time to thank the community for their continued support of the FD.

With another year in the books, the St. James community will look forward to the new year of 2017.

For more information please see the December 29 print edition of the St. James Plaindealer.