Nineteen years of stories and memories

Patrick Fisher, The New Prague Times

August is nearly done and for me the month marks when I began working for The New Prague Times 19 years ago. I was 31 years old and in my first month at The Times I was part of two sections, the previews for New Prague High School’s fall sports and Dozinky, the city’s Czech harvest festival. Add to that my weekly duties of covering the city council meetings, sports, school activities and other events happening around the area and my plate was full.

With my first Dozinky, I found out how big it was for the community. I was amazed with the number of people who attended and the amount there was to do. Since we were still using film for pictures, I was limited in the number of photos I could take. I think between the entire weekend I only took three to four rolls of film, that was likely one for the cars during Cruise Night, one for any sports or other activities and one for the parade. I had to be very judicial in taking photos. With film, you didn’t know how well the photos came out until after you developed the film. These days with digital I can take far more photos, but there’s still the process of going through them and finding the best ones and then choose from those to run in the paper.

Also, in 19 years, I found out quite a bit of New Prague’s history and the surrounding communities. Some has been from Greg Tikalsky through his book “Wait, I Know this One! New Prague Trivia and Sketches of Its History.” Another time was from a tour he gave when the city celebrated its 150th anniversary. There’s also been information from Dennis Dvorak and members of the New Prague Historical Society. Just tidbits are how there was a pond behind the FlipSide Pub & Grill and it was stocked with fish at one time. While trains are still going through New Prague, at one time there were passenger cars that would take people up to the Twin Cities where they could do some shopping or have a day in the big city.

My job has also required me to cover the challenges of New Prague and other communities as they grow. Two items from my first few years was the first cell phone tower and a non-smoking drive. With the cell tower, it was the one on the west side of town. There were concerns about how would it affect the aesthetics of the community, what would happen if it toppled and other questions. The non-smoking drive was led by area residents, some businesses and health organizations. It included city leaders and I think they were trying for a more voluntary aspect or some compromises as to where people could smoke. It was years before the state’s ruling on not allowing smoking in restaurants, bars and other places.

My job has also expanded to covering Elko New Market. The community recently lost one of its past mayors with the death of Jim Friedges. When I first started going to council meetings it was before the merger of the two communities and Jim was the mayor of New Market. One time he had a colorful response when a resident listed their concerns about how the city was growing. Jim noted that they had to deal with change, but he agreed when he said, “I know what you mean, I used to be able to step out my back door and go hunting. I can’t do that anymore.” Jim was a good man, helpful and to me he wanted to work toward what was best for his community.



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