As part of northeast Minnesota’s outdoor playground, Cook County gets calls for rescue squads in unusual situations. Now, a trained rope team will be able to respond.

Eight inaugural members of the new high angle and swift current ropes rescue team trained at the end of October to respond to difficult-to-reach rescues. They may include people falling from cliffs or into fast-moving rivers, said Valerie Marasco, director of emergency management. The team could even respond if chair lifts at Lutsen Mountain ski resort were to malfunction, she said.

A grant from the North Shore Health Care Foundation will allow more rescuers to be trained next year, she said.

“We have so many areas that are remote and difficult to get to, that are rocky or water-based, that this is really an asset for our emergency response,” Marasco said.

Pam Louwagie


City named a top 10 Christmas town

Duluth got an extra stuffer in its stocking recently when a New York tabloid named it one of the 10 best Christmas towns in the nation.

The Lake Superior city is in the company of towns such as North Pole, Alaska; Santa Claus, Ind.; and Bethlehem, Pa.

So why did Duluth make the list?

Duluth “has plenty of that legendary ‘Minnesota nice,’ as exemplified during the holidays by volunteers who brave the frosty temps to hand out hot chocolate and other treats at the country’s largest holiday light show experienced on foot,” the New York Post wrote, referring to the free-of-charge Bentleyville holiday light display in Bayfront Festival Park. Billed as “America’s largest free walk-through lighting display,” Bentleyville started in local business owner Nathan Bentley’s yard in 2001. It moved to the city park a few years ago and now boasts well over 4.5 million bulbs glowing along the harbor.

The list also cited the North Shore Scenic Railroad’s Christmas City Express train. City officials shared the props Wednesday morning on social media, saying, “We live in a wonderful City with many who spread holiday cheer during this time of year so it’s no surprise.”

Pam Louwagie


Longtime sheriff to retire Jan. 3

After 16 years as Clay County’s sheriff, Bill Bergquist will retire Jan. 3.

Bergquist, who took office in 2002 but didn’t seek re-election, will be succeeded by Lt. Mark Empting, who also works in the department.

The agency, based in Moorhead, patrols 30 townships and six cities near the western Minnesota border.

Kelly Smith