Cross-country skiers of all abilities will be hitting the trails Saturday, Jan. 25, at the city's Cross-Country Ski Festival.

Free ski rentals will be available at the event, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve, 1515 Keats Av. N. Hourlong lessons also will be offered beginning at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Participants must register in advance of the lessons.

Lessons will range from teaching beginners how to "glide on your skis instead of just shuffling" to "downhill survival techniques," according to the event's website. Advanced skiers will be allowed to fine-tune their techniques while learning how to "work the trail for better performance," the site said.

The festival will also feature waxing lessons and food trucks.

Donations of $10 are encouraged and a Minnesota Ski Pass is required, organizers said.

Call 651-430-4325 for more information.

Cottage Grove

Arts panel focus group reconvenes

Residents interested in helping to shape the future of Cottage Grove's art scene are invited to attend a Jan. 23 meeting at City Hall, 12800 Ravine Pkwy.

A focus group will meet from 6 to 8 p.m. to discuss the mission of the city's proposed arts commission.

Jean Erickson, deputy director of the Dakota County Public Services & Revenue Division, will also be on hand to speak about the steps taken to form a similar arts panel in Dakota County.

Past focus groups have produced a number of ideas on ways the commission could go about changing perceptions of the city, including building a new bandstand or amphitheater near City Hall and creating a guide to the city's cultural happenings.

St. Paul Park

Heritage Days manager to return for another year

A longtime organizer of St. Paul Park's Heritage Days is expected to be named manager for the 2014 celebration at an upcoming City Council meeting.

Jim Domeier's decision last year to relinquish his role as manager left the future of the city's annual celebration in question. But months after telling city officials he planned to call it quits, he changed his mind.

The announcement that Domeier will manage the 2014 festival follows a decision by the Lions Club of Newport and St. Paul Park to withdraw its proposal to organize this year's event. Officials did not give a reason for why the Lions backed out.


Fire department essay contest scheduled

The Oakdale Fire Department is now accepting entries for its firefighter essay contest.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the department is asking students 10 years of age and younger to submit essays detailing why they "want to be an Oakdale firefighter when I grow up." Entries should be limited to 50 words.

The winner, who will be announced after the May 30 deadline, will be named an honorary firefighter and accompany other firefighters at the June 19 Summerfest parade.

For more information, call Sue Barry at 651-730-2740

Libor Jany