Fifteen years ago the Princeton American Legion post sold its building, something that's happened to a lot of posts around the country in the years of declining membership. And I've talked to quite a few residents since then who think that because of that the post had ceased to exist. Not true.

The post has continued, along with the Princeton VFW, to sponsor the annual Memorial Day program, both inside and outside. And it's been active in other ways around town in many ventures, one of the main ones being a color guard that participates in funerals of veterans, something that many a family has been very thankful for.

About 20 years ago after the all-class reunion committee ended the week's festivities with fireworks, your writer suggested in a column in the Union-Eagle that a July 4th celebration with fireworks would be an appropriate thing to get going in Princeton. I attempted to put my money where my mouth was by making a donation of $100 to get things going, hoping some with deeper pockets than mine would join in. It didn't happen. 

However, the Princeton American Legion post took on the responsibility, to the tune of about $11,000 a year for fireworks, a band at the fairgrounds, children's activities, etc., including programs that honored various entities each year such as veterans, local teachers, law enforcement, firefighters and first responders. For more than a decade the post led the way, with local businesses and individuals eventually contributing monetarily to help defray costs. Thus began a tradition that has continued to this day, although it has been run by others the last few years, not including fireworks this year because of the pandemic.

Then a few years ago the city made plans to remodel a building on the north end of town that had been used as a civic center. There were some who gave volunteer time to do the remodeling of what has become a very nice facility with a very modern kitchen. Once again the Legion post stepped up. making a donation of $100,000 for the remodeling, with the stipulation that for the next 30 years the post could use the building for five days a month. It's the place the post and its auxiliary meet each month, a place where the very popular omelet breakfasts by the Sons of the American Legion (SAL) are held once a month for eight months of the year, the different youth organizations that work at the breakfasts getting a donation from the SAL for their help. Other organizations have also used some of the Legion's five days a month for their meetings.

And now this week the post has made plans to donate $5,000 to a Christmas lighting program that the city and the Princeton Chamber of Commerce have combined on during this, the year of the pandemic. Lights will be strung on the trees lining the fences along Rum River Drive and there will be a large display in Riverside Park that is expected to include tunnels to drive thorough and walk under, and, depending on the amount of funds raised, animated light scenes that include fire trucks, trains, Santa, snowmen, etc. It is hoped the Light Up Princeton event will become an annual event. Local businesses will be encouraged to participate by lighting their windows and buildings.

The plan is to create a map with all the participating businesses identified for visitors, as well as including the locations of the Public Utilities Commission's lighting contest entrants. As part of Small Business Saturday (Nov. 28) the Chamber will host a Shop Local QR Code Scavenger Hunt.  There will be a ceremony about 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 28, to kick off the lighting display and the display will be lit every night thereafter until Jan. 1.

The lights and the display will cost, of course, and the City Council has approved a $5,000 donation, with the initial investment for this year being substantially higher than in following years. Princeton Insurance Agency has made a $1,000 donation toward the estimated budget of $14,000 and the hope is that others will join in. All donations will be recognized on all signage, social media and print promotions. The Legion, with its $5,000 donation, will be recognized for three years by naming the display the Princeton American Legion's Holiday Light Loop.

In this crazy year of the pandemic, I think this a good idea to brighten up the holiday season for the surrounding area. The hope, of course, is to get people from surrounding towns to visit and perhaps contribute to Princeton's economy. Here's hoping it goes well this year and becomes a Princeton tradition that will draw people to town each holiday season.

Local businesses provided meals on Veterans Day

Veterans Day (called Armistice Day for many years until the name change in 1954) usually doesn't get as much publicity as Memorial Day. But it certainly was a good day for the area's military veterans on Wednesday of this week as free meals were provided at two places in town.

The Coborn's grocery store and the Williams Dingmann funeral home were the sites and both provided outstanding meals for vets.

Coborn's has provided chicken dinners, with potatoes and gravy, vegetables and a bun, for a number of years now. They served 317 such meals on Wednesday and pulled it off in the middle of a remodeling project that's been going for a few days. It was, as usual, a wonderful meal. Some people picked up meals for shut-ins and in at least one case, a meal was delivered to a person who had recently contracted COVID-19. 

Williams Dingmann had an inside meal in 2019 at its place of business, a building that was the former armory. This year they went outside with box lunches because of the pandemic and approximately 100 lunches, with coffee, were handed out, some veterans even coming from the Zimmerman area. Participating in the endeavor were K-Bob Cafe, Princeton Fire Department, the Princeton Today paper and Caribou Coffee. The Pizza Barn also helped out by feeding the active duty military personnel who greeted, and saluted, veterans as they drove through to pick up their lunches.

Sincere thanks to all who were a part of both programs. The veterans I talked to agreed the meals were outstanding and that it shows support to veterans for their service.



PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES 

Nov. 18, 1965 — Clem Letich, after a five-year record of 63-38, was ready to start his sixth year as head basketball coach with a Nov. 23 game at home against Foley.

Nov. 18,  1970 —Lineman Pat Burke andback Don Cordes were named all-conference in football. Cordes averaged 6.1 yards a carry and gained 1,098 yards in nine games. Mark Blaske, who sat out the second half of the season with a leg injury, had gained 571 yards and averaged 6.5 yards a carry in four-and-a-half games. Blaske went on to be a starting running back at the University of North Dakota for three years and scored two touchdowns in a game against Minnesota at Memorial Stadium.

Nov. 19, 1975 — About 60 kids showed up for Princeton Youth Hockey Association registration night, about half the number from 1974. A snowstorm that closed schools was blamed . . . Coach Nadline Aslacson had to cancel a girls gymnastics meet with Dassel-Cokato because of a lack of practice. (It was a club sport then but a couple years later with Joe Clemensen as the coach, the PHS team qualified for the state tournament in its first year of competition.)

Nov. 20, 1980 — The girls basketball team lost 41-37 to Ogilvie as Kelly Talberg led with 13 rebounds and 15 points . . .  Eleven letterwinners returned for the second year of boys hockey at PHS. The team was 6-14 the first season and played many games outdoors.

Nov. 21, 1985 —  All-conference in football were Chris Brown, Dale Stay, Todd Dohrwardt, Dan Voce, Steve Libby and Ed Pfeifer.

Nov. 22, 1990 — Coach Pete Hayes had 17 letterwinners returning from a PHS boys hockey team that missed out on winning the Rum River Conference hockey title for the first time in six years.

Nov. 23, 1995 — All-conference in football were Nick Hasara, Mike Pasche and Justin Winkelman.

Nov. 16, 2000 — The girls swim team placed fourth in the section meet as six swimmers advanced to state, including freshman Lisa Pearson who qualified in four events. She placed ninth in the breaststroke as an eighth-grader . . . PHS grad Chris Anderson was a freshman on the University of Wisconsin swim team. He won two events at the state meet the previous March  and swam on a winning relay team as Princeton placed fourth in the state.

Nov. 24, 2005 —Former PHS players Mark Patnode and Josh Lundeen were named all-conference in football at Northwestern College, St. Paul, in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference. It was the third such honor for Patnode who made the team both as a defensive back and as a kick returner, averaging 29.9 yards per  kickoff return. Lundeen caught 39 passes for 639 yards and had 5 touchdowns in nine games. . . .PHS grad Mike Patnode, who transferred to St. John's in Collegeville the next year, ran for nearly 300 yards and 4 touchdowns in the last two games of the season for Truman State, a Division II school in Missouri.

Nov. 25, 2010 — Sophomore Claire Barthel competed in the backstroke at the Class A state swim meet . . .  Melania Meyer was chosen MVP for the volleyball team.

Nov. 19, 2015 — .Montana Lawrence advanced to the state Class A swim meet in two events.. She won the backstroke at the section meet and placed fifth in the 500 freestyle but advanced with a qualifying time.

(Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has covered sports in the area for the past 53 years.)

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