The group behind a flurry of projects in Austin, Minn., has a new leader.

Gregory Siems started last week as the director of Vision 2020, which bills itself as a “grass roots movement” created in 2011. Vision 2020 coordinates volunteer committees working toward a host of goals, including boosting business downtown and building high-capacity fiber Internet.

“My main task is trying to facilitate that collaboration,” Siems said Friday, “trying to make sure that everybody’s on the same page, so that we know where we’re going and we know how to get there.”

Siems, 25, moved to Austin in the spring after his wife, an Austin native, nabbed a job at the Hormel Institute. He recently earned a master’s degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame, with a focus on local government.

He replaces Laura Helle, who had led Vision 2020 since 2012.

Jenna Ross @ByJenna



All I want for Christmas is my own gondola car?

Downhill ski fans can bring an unusual piece of the slopes home — for a price.

Lutsen Mountains is selling 23 red gondola cars that have carried skiers up the hills for the past 25 years. The cars were taken down this fall after a new, state-of-the-art gondola was built. Now the nostalgic red cars are going up for sale online, starting at noon on Nov. 30. The price for each will start at $1,200, but will be lowered to $1,000 on December 7 and $800 on December 14 until they’re gone.

Purchasers are responsible for loading and hauling the 300-pound cabins away on their own; Lutsen suggests getting four or more adults to help.

Orders can be placed at www.

The ski resort will celebrate the grand opening of its new $7 million gondola, featuring larger and faster-moving cars, on Friday.

Pam Louwagie @pamlouwagie



Young chef vies for prize

A Sartell first-grader’s kitchen skills could win her school a $30,000 cafeteria makeover.

Kaitlyn, 6, is one of 25 young chefs selected as finalists in the Ben’s Beginners national cooking contest. She’s sharing her recipe in an online video for online voters to view, and then choose the five finalists who will win $15,000 prizes for themselves and kitchen makeovers for their school.

“Today we’re going to be making stuffed poblano peppers … and it’s going to be yuuuummy,” Kaitlyn said, drawing out the last word for emphasis. “Now for the fun part! We get to make the filling!”

After mixing the sauce and filling and stuffing the peppers, Kaitlin gave her mom, Cindy, a taste test. Mom assured her the peppers were perfect.

Contest voting is open now at through Nov. 30.

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks