New Spirit Mountain attraction delivers grins, glitches

John Ramos


Spirit Mountain’s new Grocery Cart Cannonball Run. Photo credit: Walter Ramos.
Spirit Mountain’s new Grocery Cart Cannonball Run. Photo credit: Walter Ramos.

On Saturday, the Spirit Mountain Recreation Area unveiled their latest attraction: the Grocery Cart Cannonball Run. The specially-groomed run, co-sponsored with Super One Foods, is intended to keep Spirit Mountain’s brand fresh and interesting. “Just like produce,” quipped a Super One official at the ribbon-cutting.

Grocery cart cannonballing involves sitting in a shopping cart and cannonballing down steep, icy slopes. Proponents say the lack of steering, brakes or any sort of control are what make the sport so appealing.
“Society is obsessed with control,” explained Tim Pickins, president of the Grocery Cart Cannonballing Enthusiasts of Western Lake Superior (GCCEOWLS), based in Cloquet. “GCCers like to let go of that.”
The National Chapter of Grocery Cart Cannonballers (NCOGCC), GCCEOWLS’s parent organization, opposes wearing helmets, but Pickins said GCCEOWLS does not discriminate against helmet-wearers. “We realize that some of our members are more timid and boring than others. People may wear whatever they wish.”

Super One provided 100 full-size carts for opening day, as well as 25 smaller carts for toddlers. Unlike Spirit Mountain’s other attractions, nobody waits in line for grocery cart cannonballing. People grab carts and launch themselves down the hillside willy-nilly, often cutting each other off. “The mad confusion is part of the appeal,” said Pickins. “Every other sport has rules. Not GCC.”

Opening day had some glitches. A number of carts ran into surrounding ravines, and one major pile-up at the bottom of the hill stopped everybody’s fun for more than an hour. Hill employees said they weren’t surprised. “We spent two nights sluicing the run with water and letting it freeze,” explained worker Jared Mackintosh. “When a grocery cart hits that, it’s goodbye, baby.”

As the sun set on the busy hill, workers were still searching for several missing ticket holders, but all expressed optimism that they would soon be found. Overall, everyone thought the day went well.
UMD to expel 30 percent of students

Faced with increasingly scarce parking around the University of Minnesota-Duluth, university officials today announced a plan to expel 30 percent of students. 
“That should do the trick,” said Chancellor Lynn Black. “Fewer students equals fewer cars in the neighborhood equals one less gigantic headache for me. Do you think I enjoy getting calls from neighbors all the time?--‘Somebody’s parked in my alley.’ ‘Somebody’s blocking my recycling bins.’ There’s no end to it. This policy will address these long-standing concerns.”

The university originally intended to get rid of only the lowest-performing students, but decided that would be discriminatory. Instead, students will be expelled at random. Each Tuesday, 500 names will be drawn from a giant hat in the library rotunda until the goal is reached. University officials estimate that about 3,500 students will be expelled in total.

In the surrounding neighborhoods, support for the plan is high. “It’s too bad that some kids will lose their educations,” said homeowner Sandra Edelweiss. “But, really, I think it’s a small price to pay.”
The plan has drawn criticism from student groups. “Yes, we know there is not enough parking,” said Mykaela Johnson, president of the student union. “We’ve been saying that for years. That doesn’t mean they can expel students arbitrarily. My best friend returned to her dorm room after class to find all her things piled in the hallway and the locks changed. That’s not right.”

“Right, shmight,” chuckled Black when advised of Johnson’s comments. “Ms. Johnson should spend less time criticizing university policy and more time hoping her name doesn’t get picked next. We saw a problem and we addressed it.”

Consultant to select city government

Looking to streamline operations and save money, the city council on Wednesday approved a contract with Savvy Solutions, Inc, a consultancy based in Des Moines, to pick Duluth’s next city council. Savvy Solutions CEO David Blibbert explained that his company analyzed the positive and negative aspects of a town’s citizens and used that information to pick the best leaders. “Getting rid of elections translates into tremendous savings for a city,” said Blibbert. “Not to mention you get to avoid all the campaign rhetoric.”

City council president Joel Sipress nodded. “Campaigning takes a lot of time—knocking on doors, listening to people’s concerns, participating in forums. If somebody had just picked me for the council, that would have been much easier. This is a great idea.”
Other councilors agreed. “Citizens are busy,” said Councilor Elissa Hansen. “They don’t have a lot of extra time for voting and whatnot. This measure will save them that chore.”
“I’m pretty sure I’ll get picked,” said Councilor Zack Filipovich. “It’s more efficient to do it this way.” 
Under the agreement, Savvy Solutions will spend a month analyzing Duluth citizens and crunching the numbers with their patented algorithm technology. They will then pick five years’ worth of city councilors. 
Chief Administrative Officer Dave Montgomery explained that knowing who will be serving several years ahead of time will also help ensure smooth transitions.

Mayor acting a little strange

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson has always had a calm, professional demeanor. Even when disagreeing with others, she treated people with respect. But during the early months of 2017, some observers have noticed a change in the mayor’s behavior.
The first incident occurred in January, when a citizen published a letter in the newspaper complaining about potholes in his neighborhood. Early the next morning, Mayor Larson tweeted: “Is everybody in Woodland such a whiner? Dissatisfied malcontent should be happy to have roads at all. SAD!!!”
Five minutes later, she tweeted: “There are NO potholes in Duluth! Streets best streets we’ve ever had. Fantastic streets. Rice Lake wishes they had our streets.”
Three minutes later, she tweeted: “First woman mayor of Duluth = Best overall mayor!! Huge crowd at State of City address. Standing O. 100 percent love. NO CRYBABIES!!!”
Since then, Mayor Larson’s tweet-storms have grown more frequent, often coming in bursts of 20 or more. She often takes aim at perceived enemies, such as people who live in Hermantown, Proctor, Twig, Superior, Cloquet, Two Harbors and Esko.
“They come in here and threaten our way of life. I saw somebody from Esko at the mall. Gross! Enough is Enough!!” the mayor tweeted on February 17. 
According to sources, the mayor shuts herself alone in her office on the fourth floor of City Hall and communicates with staff via text message. One source has described hearing what she calls “fits of giggling” and “noises like furniture being moved” coming from behind the mayor’s closed door.
It is unknown what caused the mayor’s behavior change, though some speculate the lack of snow we’ve had this winter might have had something to do with it. 

New brewery bets on name appeal

Another participant entered Duluth’s crowded craft beer industry Thursday when Wrecked Kayak Brewing Co. announced plans to open a brewery in Duluth’s friendly west end. Located directly across the street from Bent Paddle Brewing Co., Wrecked Kayak intends to compete head-to-head with Bent Paddle by producing exactly the same products with slightly better names.

“We looked at Bent Paddle and thought they were doing a pretty good job,” said Wrecked Kayak founder Al Heffendorf. “Good beer and everything. But we thought we could start a company with a better name. And clearly we have.”
The company’s founders tried to think of a name for months, said Heffendorf. An early contender was Maritime Disaster Brewing Co., but that was ultimately rejected. Tipped Canoe, Overturned Raft and Popped Flotation Device were also considered. 
Heffendorf expressed confidence that Wrecked Kayak would be competitive with Bent Paddle. “We can do what they do. First you make up a cool name for your beer, like Valve Jockey Imperial Kvass. Make it sound a little foreign or maybe like something to do with royalty. Then you use the label to describe the beer. For example, Bent Paddle’s Valve Jockey is a ‘Rye Brown Ale with Raisin, Lemon Peel and Spearmint.’ We can do that. In fact, we already have.”

Heffendorf said Wrecked Kayak’s first tap offering will be called Crank Yanker Kellerbier. He described it as “a Classic Cloudy Lager Concocted with Blueberries and Aspen Sap.” 
“We’ve already had a lot of advance orders,” said Heffendorf. “Now we just have to buy some brewing equipment and figure out how to do this.”