A vacant Victorian-era house, antics at the candy barn, the Minnesota Renaissance Festival — they were the topics of some of the most popular stories among the Jordan Independent readership in 2019.
The stories that received the most clicks last year covered a wide variety of life in Jordan. Mid-America Festival's continued intention to relocate the Minnesota Renaissance Festival to Jordan certainly captured readers' attention and spurred conversation across social media and onto the Independent's opinion page. And several stories covering breaking emergencies provided readers with crucial updates as the stories developed.
Minnesota's Largest Candy Store cemented their reputation as a viral star, landing three spots in the top 10 most-read stories. But like so much of the year's national news, the Jordan Independent's list starts and ends with stories linked to President Donald Trump.
Check out our most read stories of the year, based on online pageviews. Read all the way through to our No. 1 story of the year.
10. Jordan team cancels game at Minneapolis Roosevelt after Trump sign controversy
The Jordan boys basketball team cancelled a game at Minneapolis Roosevelt High School in January after fans sparked a controversy by wearing patriotic colors and holding up a Donald Trump re-election sign during a previous game.
Jordan Superintendent Matt Helgerson released a statement saying after discussion with Minneapolis Public Schools and the tournament event coordinator, a decision was made to pull out of the game, which was part of the Martin Luther King Showcase Tournament.
"We do not want our presence at the event to detract from the athletes," Helgerson said. "We will continue to work with the Minneapolis School District to work cooperatively to move forward in a positive direction."
9. This old house... is free to anyone who can move it
Sell it, move it, burn it, demolish it — the Jordan City Council didn't really have a preference for what happened to a vacant Victorian-era house on Broadway Street back in April, but they said something had to be done.
Owner Barb Kochlin inherited the house when she bought the land from her grandmother, former Jordan Mayor Gail Anderson, who originally moved the house to its “temporary” location in 2002.
Kochlin tried selling the house for an ultra-low price, even offering to give it away at one point. She said the house received interest, but would-be buyers were dissuaded by the substantial moving costs.
In April, the city council voted to give Kochlin three months to sell or move the house before she'd be forced to pursue demolition options. She eventually sold the house, but it still stands where it was in April.
8. Minnesota's Largest Candy Store maintains sense of humor in wake of crash
Minnesota’s Largest Candy store kept its signature sense of humor on display after a car crashed through the wall of its building in the early hours of Aug. 11.
“Yes we’re open! Drive thru closed,” their marquee sign outside the large, yellow building read the following morning.
A Chevrolet Equinox, driven by Jovan Davell Brown, 42, of St. Paul rear-ended a Honda Odyssey minivan on southbound Highway 169 and veered off the road, crashing into the front of the candy store. Minnesota State Patrol said alcohol was believed to be a factor in the crash.
The point of impact was only about 20 feet away from the store’s Guinness-certified world’s largest jigsaw puzzle. The 40,000-piece Disney-themed puzzle was assembled by Jim Shoemaker of Minneapolis and installed only four days before the accident.
In an effort to recognize the crash and keep spirits light, owner Robert Wagner commissioned Le Sueur artist Lana Beck to paint a mural of the car — embedded in the side of the building — at the point of impact.
7. Scott County snowmobile crash kills two
Two Le Sueur residents died in March as the result of a snowmobile accident in Blakeley Township, southwest of Belle Plaine. Scott County sheriff's deputies responded to the intersection of 280th Street West and Lehnert Lane on March 3, where they found two riders on a snowmobile had collided with a power pole.
The snowmobile driver, Jeremy Michael Pumper, 42, of Le Sueur, was pronounced dead at the scene, and his passenger, Crystal Jo Olson, 33, also of Le Sueur, died while being transported by ambulance.
Capt. Steve Collins of the Scott County Sheriff’s Office said such snowmobile collisions are rare.
“Speaking in generalities, it’s not unheard of, however it’s not common,” he said. “Be it a (collision with a) power pole or a tree.”
6. Serious crash closes road near New Prague
Two ambulances and two air med-vacs were called to the scene of a serious crash on southbound Highway 21 at 240th Street in Helena Township on Feb. 12, where a passenger sustained life-threatening injuries and two other people were injured.
A 2004 Oldsmobile driven by Kelby John Engelking, 16, of Lonsdale was northbound on Highway 21 near 240th Street in Helena when Engelking tried to use the southbound lane to pass, spun out and ended up blocking the lane. A 2015 Ford F-150 driven by Christopher Scott Wisness, 26, of Montgomery was southbound and collided with the Oldsmobile.
Alcohol was not a factor in the accident, according to the report.
5. After 'Mr. Grinch' steals cash registers, Minnesota's Largest Candy Store calls in the artillery
In light of a string of business burglaries across rural Scott County last fall, Minnesota's Largest Candy Store, in line with their signature tongue-in-cheek brand, prepared to defend their premises with a significant boost in security.
"The owner of Drive-A-Tank will be delivering his tank in a joint effort to restore peace and justice in this part of the valley," candy store employee Jerry Kornder said.
A 16-ton Abbot military tank rolled up to the Jordan candy store to help ward off any would-be criminals. The British tank, transported by Drive-A-Tank in Kasota, was outfitted with a 105mm gun and a fully rotating rear turret.
The candy store was the target of an early-morning burglary on Halloween, but the display signaled that the candy store wouldn't take the transgression lying down. The tank remained outside the store until the end of its season.
4. 74-year-old man killed in grain bin incident west of Belle Plaine
Tragedy struck on Sept. 10 when a 74-year-old Eagan man was killed in a grain bin incident in Faxon Township, approximately five miles west of Belle Plaine.
Rodger Slater was unloading soybeans from a grain bin at a farm off State Highway 25 and became trapped and engulfed in the soybeans. Sheriff’s deputies and other emergency personnel were called to the scene to cut open the side of the bin to release grain in an attempt to remove Slater, who was later pronounced dead at the scene.
Belle Plaine Fire Chief Steve Otto told the Jordan Independent the fire district had not experienced a grain bin incident in recent memory.
3. Cash registers stolen from Minnesota's Largest Candy Store
Halloween is usually an exciting and profitable day for Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store, but it was a downer for Jordan’s big yellow candy barn in 2019 when burglars stole three cash registers in the early hours of Oct. 31.
The amount of cash in the registers was intentionally kept to a minimum after owner Robert Wagner was tipped off by the owners of Action Packed Paintball, a nearby business that was burglarized six days earlier.
“The criminals were very brazen, they did it at 4 o’clock in the morning,” Wagner said. “The sheriff’s deputies said that is not a real good time to do a break-in because the traffic on Highway 169 is starting to pick up at that time.”
Three days later, a candy store vendor reported that a box truck parked outside the candy store was missing. The truck was later retrieved. In regards to the stolen registers, Wagner said they weren't of high value, but replacements could cost upwards of $1,000 each.
2. Renaissance Festival closes in on Jordan location
Mid-America Festivals in March acknowledged plans to make Jordan the home of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in 2021.
The company purchased land near Jordan over the past three years in an effort to move the festival to a more environmentally favorable, company-owned location. Representatives said that if all goes as planned, the Shakopee-based company will hold the 50th and final festival at the Shakopee site in 2020.
“Subject to permitting, we would be in Jordan in 2021,” Mid-America marketing director Stephanie Whipps said. “We have purchased land near the Scott County Fairgrounds.”
The company has been looking to relocate the festival for nearly 10 years, as the current 150-acre site continues to shrink to make way for silica sand mining operations.
1. Minneapolis coach questions why Jordan fans held up pro-Trump sign at game
Controversy sparked in January 2019 after a south Minneapolis boys basketball coach questioned why Jordan fans held up a pro-Trump campaign sign during a boys basketball game in Jordan.
Minneapolis Roosevelt High School coach Michael Walker posted a photo of the fans holding the sign — which said "Trump 2020 — Keep America Great! — on his Facebook page, questioning the message they were sending. Walker, who is head of Minneapolis Public Schools’ Office of Black Male Student Achievement, wrote on his post, "I coach a predominantly black inner city high school team. We go out to a rural area in Jordan, MN and this is there. Please explain how and why this is appropriate at a high school basketball game?"
Many of the Jordan fans surrounding the sign were wearing clothing with red or American flag stars and stripes, and appeared to be predominantly white, except for one black young man. The Jordan student section often has a theme for games, and has had a patriotic theme in the past.
Several people told the Independent at the time that the students decided on the patriotic theme because they heard the Minneapolis Roosevelt team was not going to come out of the locker room for the national anthem. Jordan Superintendent Matt Helgerson confirmed JHS Athletic Director Joe Perkl was notified in advance that the Minneapolis team would not be present for the national anthem.
Helgerson said the district doesn't sponsor student themes and couldn't comment on why the students wore patriotic clothing. In fact, seniors run a JHS Student Section Twitter account called @jhsthemes to come up with game themes. The account tweeted a response to the controversy, a South Park meme of a semi-nude man saying "Sorry" — before later deleting it.
"We regret that Roosevelt players and their coaching staff, fans and community were made to feel uncomfortable as it is always our intent to graciously host our opponents," Helgerson said in a statement following the incident.