The City Administrators of St. Michael and Albertville, Steve Bot and Adam Nafstad, respectively, said their cities have experienced many changes over the past two months due to COVID-19, but there are some signs of life returning to a new version of normal. The most recent update on that burgeoning “normalcy” is the announcement that Albertville’s annual fireworks tradition will continue in 2020.
While Albertville Friendly City Days has been canceled, Nafstad said the festival’s committee teamed up with the Lion’s Club, Knights of Columbus, and Foxtailers Snowmobile Club to keep this portion of the festivities alive. Friday evening, June 12, the fireworks will go on, with a 10 p.m. show planned. Residents are asked to stay home to watch the show instead of gathering in public spaces.
“Hopefully it will bring a little joy and excitement to the city of Albertville during this time,” Nafstad said.
Here’s a rundown of other changes affecting residents of the two communities.
Albertville Farmer’s Market Opening June 18
Nafstad said the market will look different this year when it opens on June 18. There won’t be music, car or tractor shows, or concessions, but shoppers will still be able to shop for local produce and other products. The market will emphasize social distancing, including spreading out vendors under the newly enlarged pavilion, limiting groups to parties of two shopping together, and asking that no children under age 16 attend the market. Only one shopper or party will be allowed at a vendor table at a time, and hand washing stations will greet shoppers at the entrance/exit. Nafstad said the University of Minnesota extension services guided the market’s opening procedures amidst the pandemic, and he said these policies could change as conditions permit or require.
The market will run every Thursday evening from 3-7 p.m. from June 18 through the end of September.
While the library remains closed under current statewide restrictions, Bot said the Great River Regional Library system recently instituted a drive up pick-up program, and he said over 100 families picked up 500 books in the first two days of the new service alone.
Great River Regional Library’s communications director, Breanne Johnson, said libraries cannot guarantee service within a specific amount of time but that they are working to serve more families. She said anyone who wants to check out items should use the library’s online catalog to place requests. A library staff member will then call to arrange a socially distanced pick-up time.
St. Michael has been planning its annual Daze and Knights Festival for August 7-8, and Bot said the committee has not yet made a decision on whether or not to proceed with the 2020 festivities.
Nafstad said it was a very hard decision for everyone involved to cancel Friendly City Days.
“They knew it was necessary to protect our community,” he said. “The Albertville Friendly City Days Committee is a group of volunteers that works very hard throughout the year and dedicates countless hours to ensure the success of the annual event.”
While neither city owns a public swimming pool, the school district operates a pool at Middle School East, and several neighborhoods in St. Michael and Albertville have private, HOA-maintained pools for their residents. Local HOA swimming pools typically open up around Memorial Day weekend, but as of now, the Governor’s executive orders include the closure of all swimming pools. City administrators don’t know if those rules will change as the summer progresses.
Development on Hold
For those with their eye on new development, one upcoming residential development, Anton Village, has put the brakes on breaking ground due to economic uncertainty stemming from COVID-19. Work on Anton Village should have begun this season, with plans for over 300 single family residential homes and additional parkland for playing fields on 160 acres just south of the STMA High School, across County Road 119 from Gutzwiller Park. They now plan to begin construction in 2021.
City playgrounds in St. Michael and Albertville are open. Officials encourage parents to ensure children are washing hands before and after play and to maintain six feet of distance as much as possible.
Crow Hassan Park Reserve and Bebee Lake Regional Park, a county-owned park, are also open, including the DNR public launch and the lake.
City office buildings are closed to the public, including the senior center and library in St. Michael. City meetings have moved to Zoom, and the cities’ websites provide links to virtually attend public meetings.
The mall has not returned a request for comment on their reopening strategy, but the mall’s owner, Simon Property Group, has reopened malls in Texas, Montana, and Indiana. Their malls’ food courts and children’s play areas remain closed, and Simon has introduced policies to prevent the spread of infection, such as masks and temperature checks for employees, disinfecting, distancing guidelines, and providing free masks to customers upon request.
“I’d like to express the city’s concern for our residents and businesses who are suffering in many different ways during these challenging times,” Bot said. “We encourage those that can to please patronize any local businesses who are allowed to be open, even if in a different way like take-out or drive-thru only from local restaurants. We are especially thinking about and feel for the suffering local businesses like hair salons and bars that are currently required to be closed.”