Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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For the past 10 years, Ashley Hurley has been haunting and scaring at Zywiec's Haunting Experience in Cottage Grove. "Making people scream is my favorite thing," she said. Hurley, who now acts as the Haunting Experience manager, learned to scare from her father, who was also a haunter. "My dad was actually the first person to take me through Zywiec's," Hurley said. "I loved it and from there on out, I loved everything about Halloween." Now in its 21st year, Zywiec's has grown to become one of the best haunted houses in Minnesota.
During the day Brenda Stanton, of Woodbury, is a paraprofessional at Pine Hill Elementary School in Cottage Grove, but during her off time, Stanton can be found experimenting in her kitchen. Stanton sells all-natural energy bars and gourmet popcorn with her business Driving Force Energy Co. Stanton sells such flavors of popcorn as blueberry, chocolate, peanut butter, peppermint, jalapeno, strawberry, rhubarb, caramel and even spicy habanera.
When fall rolls around, it brings with it cooler weather, changing leaves and fresh, crisp apples. "When you bite into a fresh Minnesota apple, it doesn't get much better than that," said John McPherson, who is the orchard director at the Carpenter Nature Center in Hastings. For many families, heading out to the apple orchard is a tradition, whether it's to pick a few apples, drink some hot cider or maybe just go for a hayride. "It's a chance for some people to be outside," said Alice McDougall, owner of McDougall's Apple Junction in Denmark Township.
Michael Frome Academy is no more -- at least in name and location. On July 1 the environment-focused charter school packed up its classrooms and moved to a new facility in St. Paul Park. "We needed to find a bigger spot," director Kirsten Kinzler said. "It was pretty packed in our old space -- it was very close quarters in there." The school will include kindergarten through fifth grade this fall. The new facility is housed in the activities building and parish hall at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in St. Paul Park on Holley Avenue.
Many consider Belwin Conservancy a great place to observe nature and the land, but next month the Afton destination will also be a place to observe the night sky. In a partnership with the Minnesota Astronomical Society, Belwin is in the process of building an observatory, which will house a 10-inch diameter refracting telescope. The observatory will be located near the education center. "It's one thing to see a picture in a book of space, but to see a live image like that, there's something special about that," Belwin director Steve Hobbs said.
After 40 years as a part of District 833, Liberty Ridge Elementary School third grade teacher Mary Wellman has seen a lot of change. Wellman has seen everything from women teachers being forbidden to wear pants to no outdoor recess to not having specialist teachers. "I've seen a lot of changes, but the thing that has remained constant is the 8- and 9-year-olds," she said. Wellman, 62, will be retiring at the end of this year. "I'm young enough to still do a lot of other things," she said.
A year ago, East Ridge High School wasn't even reality yet, but now District 833's newest high school is finishing up its inaugural year complete with challenges and accomplishments. The Bulletin sat down with East Ridge principal Aaron Harper to discuss the high school's inaugural year and what the future has in store. How has East Ridge High School's inaugural year been? I think the year has gone extremely well. I think anytime you open up a new building, one of the real obvious things is that so much can go wrong.
Most high school students study and go to class so they don't end up on the streets. But a group of students at East Ridge High School decided to try experiencing homelessness for one night last month. More than 150 students slept out on the school's football field for the "Homeless Sleepout" event. The event was organized by the student council. "We wanted to unify the school by getting the chance to spend the night on turf," student council president Dale Hoeffel said.
Selma's Ice Cream Parlour is officially no more - at least for the time being, anyway. During a sheriff's sale auction at the Washington County Law Enforcement Center, CorTrust Bank purchased the restaurant, which was in foreclosure, for $746,611.60. Selma's Ice Cream Parlour was previously owned by Bernie's LLC and Chet Kurtz. CorTrust Bank's attorney, Jean Burgau, could not be immediately reached for comment about Selma's future.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of a series of stories leading up to the Relay for Life of South Washington County, which will be held June 4-5 at East Ridge High School. Local musician Matthew Griswold was scheduled to perform at last year's Woodbury Relay for Life, but at the last minute the U.S. Army soldier was recalled to duty. "I felt really bad about that," he said. Although Griswold returned from his recall much sooner than he anticipated, he didn't make it back in time for last year's event. "I got back the day after the Relay, so I just missed it," he said.