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The Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism and Main Street program held a ribbon cutting Thursday for the new historic benches in downtown Faribault.  The KDHL bench was the site of the program.

I was very honored to be asked to snip the ribbon with huge Chamber of Commerce  scissors.  Several people spoke led by Mayor Kevin Voracek, "I think this is a great addition to our downtown starting with the KDHL bench here.  This creates another attraction and a draw and I think the historical society will get more memberships out of this because they'll want to know the rest of the story.  Just like Paul Harvey."

Of course I pointed out Paul Harvey was on KDHL for many years before Nort Johnson commented, "The Main Street Design Committee started on this project I think pretty close to 4 and 1/2 years ago.  That's when the first idea for these came out. It evolved into the idea that if we're going to do this, the stories have to be great and the benches have to be really solid and they have to mean something."

"The idea that we've got these locally made, custom benches, if you get a chance try to lift a corner on one of these.  They are sturdy.  They're going to be around another hundred years.  I know that Travis Block (City Public Works Director) is glad to hear that.  So hopefully the maintenance is minimal on them.  Some of the individuals involved with this in the beginning, some are here and some are not.  I apologize if I miss any Design Committee Members from early on but, Bill McDonald, Janna Viscomi, Peggy Keilen, Tammy Schluter, Sue Garwood, Kim Clausen and Ann Meillier among a few others really had the idea that this could be a big, important thing for Faribault."

Johnson concluded, "From the Chamber President seat I couldn't be happier, first of all how wonderfully these turned out.  The work that was done by all of our partners.  You'll hear from them in a minute.  Everything just really well done.  A great product.  Well worth the wait.  Thanks to our sponsors."

Kelly Nygaard Main Street Program Coordinator thanked Johnson for remembering the committee members, "who put a lot of work and time into this.  We have several partners we appreciate.  But I wanted to tell you a little bit about how these combine function, art and history.  They have beautiful cast iron ends that were locally crafted in Winona, Minnesota.  Steel Seats made here in Faribault.  They were assembled and painted here in town.  Photos all from the Rice County Historical Society and these unique pieces are gonna touch on various components of Faribault's history."

She went on to say, "They add seating, function and beauty to our district.  We are very proud to have been part of this project and I want to thank all of our sponsors who helped make these benches a reality as well as our manufacturing partners.  We really appreciate you being part of this process."

Sue Garwood, Executive Director of the Rice County Historical Society told the crowd of about 50 people gathered and socially distancing in the vicinity of the KDHL bench, "It's really exciting to be a part of the project.  I know the Main Street Committee, Nort I was thinking it was longer than 4 and 1/2 years, but nevertheless it's wonderful as you can see if you wander around town Faribault is rich in history.  No question about it and these are just a small portion of a very long list of stories that Rice County and Faribault has to say.  This is also a teeny, tiny part of our photo collection.  So I'll just echo what Kevin said, if you want to know more we actually have a bigger story to tell."

Garwood added, "What I love is that it's history in public made approachable and personal.  You can see and enjoy Rice County history at all times of the day no matter the weather or whether the museum is open.  That's pretty fabulous, so thank you to everybody who sponsored the benches and who made this wonderful outside Faribault history exhibit come to life."

Nygaard pointed out, "The number of people we've already had call and visit the Chamber saying that they saw one bench and then spent half the afternoon walking to see them all has been marvelous.  This has been a fantastic program showing part of our area history and we're really proud to have that on display.  This is only the tip of the iceberg.  There's so much more that we can tell and do with that."

Marcus Adamek of Mercury Minnesota said he wanted to touch on the manufacturing process, "So the Chamber came to us with an idea, us and MRG Tool and Die to put this project together and actually bring it to life.  A part of our slogan is 'Ideas In, Products Out.'  The Chamber had this idea so we brought this product to life."

"MRG took the flat stock of this steel, used their water jet to cut out the main shape.  So all the flats you see in it as well as the main backing where the decal is.  They then used break presses to put in the seat and the bend, everything of that nature.  Welded on some stiffness to give it that rigidity.  Certainly having multiple people sit on it, it's not going to flex or bend."

Adamek added, "Alliant Casting did the ends on that.  Actually Kelly had the idea of using a bottle opener she gave Nort, to scan to have the design on the side.  After all of that was done it came to us at Mercury.  We have a powder line.  So we were able to hang all this stuff up, run it through the line and paint it with the desired color.  We also assembled these.  You'll notice on these I believe they have 7 or 8 security bolts on each end."

"Those security bolts are actually put on and then they break off so there's no way that somebody could come in undo that.  Once that's all done we put that together and then Adam from Sakatah Signs came in, put on all the graphics.  Sealed the edges of that so now that it's sealed any weather we have out here.  Water or ice or snow or anything like that will not get behind that graphic.  It will protect it all the time."

"The other nice thing about those graphics is they are easily replaceable.  So if they do get damaged Adam can come out here, take the old one off and put the new one on in very little time."

Nygaard commented, "We've had other communities that are so impressed they want to duplicate the process."

Jacob Otting of Alliant Tech drove from Winona to say, "I don't have much to say on it other than I hope you guys appreciate it.  I think so far from what I've seen walking around downtown people are really appreciating it which is cool to see.  It's not often the foundry does work like this.  Good opportunity. Thank you."

Jeff Jarvis did much of the artwork, "What a beautiful day and a nice crowd too.  I really feel very thankful to be part of such a community project.  It's a small town and what a wonderful thing it is when you get all these different agencies coming together to do a project for Faribault like this."

He added, "Being a historian and artist you know I've got kind of a vivid imagination.  The most wonderful thing about doing a project like this you get all these stacks of books and you go online and you do all this research.  It's a lot like taking a trip and never leaving the farm.  It's like a paid vacation.  I really mean that.  You get to work with the historical society and all their amazing photography and artifacts.  The relationship building in the project was really awesome.  I just want to thank Nort and the Chamber and all their staff.  The original group that had the vision."

"I remember going to one meeting right over here at Gran Plaza, it seems like ten years ago not 4 and 1/2 but anyway thanks again for involving me Nort, I really appreciate it."

Then I was asked to do the honor of cutting the ribbon at the KDHL bench.