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Thumbs up to Minnesotans who embrace winter. You know who you are. You are very likely under the age of 12 and climbing up hills across the county to slide down and go back up again until well after dark on cold winter nights. Or you are a grownup or teenager who raced to Pine Valley with your cross country skis before the snow was even done falling. You are continuing your customary walks around town, bundled up so we can only see your eyes but walking briskly. You are playing hockey outside at Pinehurst Park. Thank you, hardy Minnesotans, you warm all our souls.

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Thumbs down to unshoveled sidewalks. For able-bodied homeowners as well as businesses and schools, there is no excuse really. It’s been well over a week since we had any substantial snow accumulation, so the job should be finished. We are especially wondering why the brand new sidewalk in front of Cloquet High School hasn’t been shoveled, which means students are walking in a fairly busy 18th Street before and after school. There’s a sidewalk there. Kids should use it.

Thumbs up to the Cloquet Area Fire District. What can we say? Ya done good. Not just in the past year, but the past four. You’ve kept us safe and made the fire fighters who make up the district even safer with your focus on training and collaboration. And now you have another award and half a million dollars to show for it. Keep up the good work, CAFD. May other governmental entities be inspired by your example and act on that inspiration. (We also appreciate the work done by all the other fire departments in the county to keep us safe, but applaud CAFD for their efforts to create a different model for fire departments and cities that are struggling to adequately fund everything.)

Thumbs up to all the people who plow the roads and highways that cross this northern Minnesota county. In Cloquet, that means 95 miles worth of roads, plus parking lots and ski trails and city parks and other city facilities. County crews clear even more. It’s been a tough start to the season, but we appreciate all that you do, including grooming the cross country ski trails at Pine Valley, which are free to use and lit in the evening.

Thumbs down to people who leave their pets outside, unprotected in the cold. Some folks think just because their dog or cat is an animal, he or she is equipped to live outside in all types of weather. But no matter how big a pet is, or how thick its fur, they need to be protected from the cold just like we do, particularly in the type of subzero temperatures we’ve been experiencing lately. Lack of appropriate heat and shelter can lead to serious injury or even death. And in addition to the dangers of frostbite, animals left on their own outdoors in the winter face the hazards of falling through thin ice or consuming poisonous antifreeze. Those of us who are pet owners have a good deal of time, money and love invested in our pets. Why would we thoughtlessly risk harming or losing them?

Finally, thumbs up to the city of Cloquet, for acquiring those beautiful lights now lighting up Pinehurst Park from the city of Virginia for less than $1,000. This is the first year for the lights (see photo on the top of Page A1) — there are even more at the city garage waiting to be fixed — and probably the last year they will shine at Pinehurst. Next year look nearer the river. And thumbs up to everyone else who decorates. It really does make a dark season brighter.

Jana Peterson and Wendy Johnson

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