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Thanking Adopt a Highway volunteers

So here we are at that holiday that gets squeezed between Halloween and Christmas. Maybe the day after Thanksgiving gets even more publicity: Black Friday. This year the full Macy Thanksgiving Day parade is really best seen on TV: NBC will have the whole thing. It’s a three hour program beginning at 9:00 a.m. Maybe of some interest to Minnesotans is one of the two Turkey floats: An old turkey float that has been around for years will lead the parade, but then there will be an entry of a turkey float sponsored by Jennie-O, the company which was started by Earl Olson in Willmar where it still has main offices even though it is now part of Hormel Foods Corporation.

The older turkey float will likely be the second favorite of the day besides being the longest running float of the years of parades. The most favored float is usually that of Santa and his reindeer. Hey, is this a Thanksgiving parade or a Christmas parade? There will also be three other Christmas floats: Christmas in Town Square, Elf Pets, and the Heartwarming Holiday Countdown.

Another series of floats are all rocking: Rocking Flamingo, Rocking Giraffe, Rocking Horse (also one of the oldest floats), Rocking Lobster, and Rocking Moose. Thanks Macy’s for some joy at this stage of the pandemic.

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Rather than doing a long list of all of the people for which I am thankful such as the health professionals during the pandemic as well as so many others who have helped keep most of us on an even keel with food deliveries and other necessities, I would like to recognize many of our neighbors who are unpaid volunteers in a program that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year in Minnesota. It all started back in 1990 when Rudy Perpich was the governor. He and others started what is now known as the Adopt A Highway program.

Many of us probably see the signs that appear about every two miles or so on the state and federal highways. Each blue and white sign announces the Adopt A Highway program at the top and at the bottom lists who is responsible for that particular two-mile stretch. We are so used to the signs that we probably are no longer conscious of the signs and maybe don’t read the names of the organizations or individuals who are donating their time to keeping the ditches free of litter.

Of course we should be shaking a finger at those who dirty the countryside by throwing trash out on the sides of the roads: “Shame on you,” if you are one who throws stuff out this way. And, yes, there are those who throw things out deliberately. Common discards are pop cans, beer cans, plastic bottles, fast food wrappers, cigarette butts, empty cigarertte packaging, etc. One of the more disgusting items that is commonly found are dirty diapers. Less often there may be some real treasures that are sometimes found in the ditches. (In that vein, dare I mention that in the spring of the year some of the ditches bear some great asparagus? Care needs to be taken that you do not infringe on someone’s private patch or pick where the local land owner does not want picking.)

Though I am not aware of great enforcement of littering laws, I would note that it is a misdemeanor to litter and in Minnesota you could be subject to a fine of up to $1000.00 as well as up to 90 days of incarceration.

There have been as many as 3,800 groups of volunteers to clean over 4,200 miles of state and national highways in Minnesota. It has been estimated that the volunteer hours expended in a year by such folks is about 272,000 hours. In 2019 there were about 40,000 trash bags filled with the trash collected which was up 4,000 over the previous year.

The benefit to the state is about $7,000,000 that would otherwise have to be paid to maintenance staff to replace the work of the volunteers.

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If you would like to volunteer to be part of the Adopt A Highway program, you can look it up using GOOGLE on the internet. Minnesota is divided into 8 districts (this area is District 8). There are details on how to proceed and directions including safety concerns for those working in the progrm. Accepting a territory generally means that at least twice a year you need to clean your assigned area. The trash bags are provided and collected trash is picked up at the sight of your assigned two-mile stretch. There are also safety vests that must be worn. There are even COVID precautions of no more than 10 in a cleanup crew with social distancing required.

When the program was started in 1990 in Minnesota, there were just 475 cleanup crews. In the immediate Marshall area, there are still 4 groups who began in 1990 who are still assigned areas: Runnings, Garvin & Amiret First Responders, Rotary Noon Club of Marshall, and Coon Creek 4H Club. Volunteers hopefully will serve for 3 or more years and there are many other groups who have served almost 30 years in our area. The new volunteers in 2020 for this area include: Dwight DeMuth Family & Friends, Ashley Schultz and Family, and Ken & Gwen Mukomela Family. Incidentally, SMSU has 11 different groups that each have a two-mile section. Sorry I cannot list all groups, but I do say, “THANK YOU one and all.”

Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!

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