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The Pine Journal's 2021 Year in Review

Our reporting is possible thanks to our subscribers. We thank you for your support in 2021 and wish you all the best in 2022 and beyond!

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Clockwise from top left Alfred Nynas waves to the crowd from his antique tractor during the Carlton Daze parade Sunday, July 25, 2021; Alexa Snesrud (12) of Cloquet-Carlton celebrates after scoring the first goal of the game against North Branch during the Lumberjacks' 3-0 win in the Section 7AA championship Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth; Burger's Shoes owner Carmen LaPlant, left, and former owner Maria Leyrer pose in the store Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021; and Cloquet assistant coach Jim Stafford, Sam Baker, Brayden Tyman, Trevor Steinert, Jacob Walsh, Karson Patten, Karson Young and head coach Aaron Young pose in front of a crowd at Cloquet Country Club Thursday, June 18, 2021, with the Minnesota Class AA state championship trophy. Steve Kuchera, Clint Austin and Jamey Malcomb / Duluth News Tribune

Our staff covered so many stories during the past year, it's a bit overwhelming when we look back through the archives.

We can't recap them all, so instead we broke them into a few categories.

COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic rolls into 2022, so many stories remain connected to it. Most recently, editor Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten and one of our colleagues at the Duluth News Tribune spoke with Dr. Charles Kendall at Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet about what he and his staff are seeing. He urged community members to get vaccinated , and explained how staff shortages at larger hospitals throughout Minnesota impact smaller facilities like CMH .

Just last week, reporter Dylan Sherman spoke with Steven Jarve , who spent weeks at CMH fighting for his life with COVID-19 and was released from the hospital.

Students and staff in the Wrenshall School District had their winter break extended because of rising COVID-19 cases, and the Cloquet School Board is considering whether to make face masks optional for students and staff.

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Faced with labor shortages, local businesses have cut back on their hours .

Others, like Dave's Cloquet Mattress & Furniture , have changed the way they do business to meet customer demand.

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Dave Cochran, left, and son Fred Cochran unload a just-delivered sofa from one of their trucks into the back of Dave's Cloquet Mattress & Furniture on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

School districts face uncertain future

After what seemed like promising talks, officials in Carlton and Wrenshall paused consolidation negotiations in February .

Any progress that had been made during the previous year deteriorated, and the Carlton School Board formally removed consolidation from its long-term plans on June 21 .

Instead, Carlton officials looked to partner with the Cloquet School District on a tuition agreement. Community members spoke against the proposed agreement at a public hearing on Dec. 13 .

At the Carlton School Board's most recent meeting on Dec. 20 , the vote to enter a tuition agreement with Cloquet was split, which meant the motion failed.

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Significant cuts now loom as Carlton looks for ways to rectify a dire financial situation.

Officials make progress on proposed justice center

With the sunset date for the Carlton County Jail rapidly approaching, plans for a replacement facility are underway.

The year started with officials exploring a few options for the proposed facility .

The Minnesota Legislature in July gave the county the green light to put a Local Option Sales Tax referendum before voters in November 2022. If approved, the county would use funds from the sales tax to pay for the proposed justice center.

On Nov. 9, the Carlton County Board of Commissioners approved bonding for $10 million of the anticipated costs in 2021 and $50 million in 2022.

The city of Carlton annexed the land where the proposed justice center will be built , and county officials agreed to keep staff in the current courthouse after the new facility is built.

Crimes that made headlines

The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd held the attention of people around the world.

Closer to home, Carlton County saw several high-profile cases, including a drunken driver who was sent to prison for killing a Moose Lake man and a woman who was spared prison time in the death of her son .

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The trial of Sheldon Thompson in the March 2020 killing of his girlfriend Jackie Ann Defoe, 27; her son, Kevin Shabaiash Jr., 20 months; and the couple's unborn child is scheduled for May.

Conwed, asbestos and litigation

Reporter Izabel Johnson investigated t he impact asbestos had on employees of Cloquet's Conwed Corp. and the legal measures former employees have taken over the years .

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The Conwed plant in Cloquet captured in an image by photographer Virgil Swing for a 1985 Duluth News Tribune article. Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota Duluth Archives and Special Collections, Duluth News Tribune Photograph Collection

The community comes together

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, many annual events returned in 2021, including Fourth of July festivities , Carlton Daze , the Wood City Music Festival , the Carlton County Fair and Santa's Home for the Holidays .

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Nevaeh Kirk, 5, watches as the Cloquet Area Fire District trucks drive past her during Cloquet's Fourth of July parade on Sunday, July 4, 2021. Izabel Johnson / Cloquet Pine Journal

Local preps sports teams saw success, with the Cloquet boys golf team winning the Minnesota Class AA state championship and Sam Baker taking individual state champion honors.

The Esko football team advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 1992. Moose Lake-Willow River also made a deep postseason run in football.

In girls soccer, the Cloquet-Carlton girls soccer team advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2009.

Prom and graduation ceremonies returned to local high schools after being canceled or going virtual in 2020.

B&B Market and Burger's Shoes ushered in new eras, with longtime employees purchasing the well-known businesses.

We also covered some interesting folks like Don Solwold of Esko , who runs Quartermaster Buffalo; Glenda Miller of Cloquet, who turns her yard into a haven for Halloween lovers; Bekki Babineau of Cloquet , who started a puzzle swap library; Donna Weiderman of Wrenshall, who put many of her one-of-a-kind Christmas sweaters up for sale; and Ally Kovach of Cloquet, who created cake kits for children and donated them to the Cloquet Salvation Army.

Our reporting on all of these stories is possible thanks to our subscribers. We thank you for your support in 2021 and wish you all the best in 2022 and beyond!

Feel free to reach out to us any time with story ideas or feedback. Editor Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten is at jzvandenhouten@duluthnews.com or 218-720-4102.

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