On the night that a “super moon” rose over Minnesota, vandals toppled or smashed about 120 gravestones in a historic Albert Lea cemetery. Brad Wedge, board president of Graceland Cemetery, thinks the two are related.

“I think because it was so bright, they could see what they were doing,” Wedge said of the vandalism, which took place Nov. 13 when the full moon made its closest approach to Earth since 1948. Wedge said the community is “outraged” over the attack in the historic cemetery, which dates from the late 1800s.

“There have been a lot of calls with condolences, and a lot of people driving through the cemetery to check on family graves,” he said. The cemetery has between 4,000 and 5,000 gravesites.

Wedge said most of the stones were toppled, but a handful — perhaps a half-dozen — were smashed and shattered. Two local companies, Star Granite and Albert Lea Monument, have volunteered time and equipment to reinstall the gravestones. Police don’t have any leads yet, Wedge said.


Breezy Point

City settles voting tie with a game of chance

The city of Breezy Point got a new council member last Monday through a coin flip. Two candidates for the $250-a-month job tied in the Nov. 8 election with 477 votes each, said Mayor Tom Lillehei.

State law directs canvassing boards to break voting ties with “essentially a game of chance,” Lillehei said. A coin toss seemed easiest, and both candidates agreed.

Candidate Jeff Helland, the first to register for the open seat, called “heads” in the toss and lost. Candidate Gary Mitchell won the four-year, at-large council term.

But Helland didn’t leave empty-handed. He won the coin, a George Washington dollar that Lillehei got from a local bank.

Pam Louwagie


Campaign is response to harassment reports

Responding to reports of identity-related harassment in the wake of the presidential campaign, more than 80 Bemidji businesses and community organizations are launching a campaign for shared values of mutual respect. The campaign, #BemidjiRespect, kicks off Sunday with a full-page ad in the Bemidji Pioneer newspaper.

According to organizers, Mayor Rita Albrecht became alarmed by several reported incidents of harassment, including one involving a gay man being followed by a group of young men who shouted anti-gay slurs, and another involving two Latino girls at an elementary school who said classmates told them their father would be deported. Albrecht gathered community and institutional leaders to discuss ways of discouraging bullying and intimidation.

Groups supporting the effort include the Bemidji Police Department, First National Bank of Bemidji, Concordia Language Villages, Bemidji State University and several local churches.