Crescent and Star Herald writers win three first-place state awards at MNA Convention
Hills Crescent Editor Lexi Moore garnered first-place recognition in the category, "Best Use of Information Graphics and Graphic Illustration." She won the award for this graphic she designed to illustrate the timeline of the Hills-Beaver Creek High School building project. The judges described Moore’s graphic as a "nice way to provide readers with key dates/events in sequence."

Staff writers at the Hills Crescent and Rock County Star Herald newspapers garnered three first-place awards in the Minnesota Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest.

The awards were announced in Bloomington on Thursday, Jan. 24, during the annual convention of the MNA, a voluntary association of all general-interest newspapers in the state of Minnesota.

The Crescent and Star Herald are sister publications under the Tollefson Publishing umbrella that also produces the Luverne Announcer.

Hills Crescent Editor Lexi Moore garnered first-place recognition in the category, “Best Use of Information Graphics and Graphic Illustration.”

She won the award for the graphic she designed to illustrate the timeline of the Hills-Beaver Creek High School building project.

This award recognizes excellence in staff-produced information graphics and graphic illustrations. Judges consider artistic design, usefulness to the reader, clarity of content and enhancement to the story.

The judges described Moore’s graphic as a “nice way to provide readers with key dates/events in sequence.” They added that the “photos help break up the text.”

The Hills Crescent also took first place in website design in the contest among weeklies with circulations up to 1,500.

This award recognizes excellence in newspaper websites based on the following criteria: content (quality of news and editorial matter); navigation (ease of finding and retrieving information from the website); visual and design (layout, use of graphics, photographs, animation, color and other visuals); advertising (innovative strategies and/or evidence of revenue generation); community (demonstration that the website fulfills a “community gatekeeper” role).

Star Herald Editor Lori Ehde was awarded first place for column writing.

Judges described her writing as “first rate,” and said, “She is clever and has excellent writing skills.” In particular they liked her column, “Being thankful out loud was hard for kid waiting for turkey and stuffing.”

It was about her childhood tradition of each family member praying out loud before the Thanksgiving meal about things they were thankful for.

“This is a super column that readers can relate to,” the judges wrote.

This award for best columnist recognizes excellence in literary style; ability or cleverness of the writer; depth of the material and local interest and relevance to the community.

Following are the three columns entered in this category:

Published Nov. 17, 2011:

Being thankful out loud was hard for kid waiting for turkey and stuffing

When we were growing up, Mom would often announce at the start of the Thanksgiving meal that for our dinner prayer we would take turns sharing what we are thankful for.

We would be thankful for the obvious blessings — a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food on the table. And we were thankful for good health and for family members (even the ones we'd fought with about whose turn it was to set the table).

Those of us old enough to have studied world history knew enough to be thankful for domestic peace and general safety.

So, if you were counting, those were six things to be thankful for, and if your turn was still coming, you started to sweat about having an original, sincere expression of gratitude.

It’s shallow to be thankful for pets, but if you were 6 or younger you could get away with saying it at the Thanksgiving table.

And if it had snowed by this time, one of us was sure to be thankful for the snow, which was still a novelty so early in the season.

If some relatives had traveled a respectable distance to join us, it was appropriate to be thankful for their safe travel.

Being thankful out loud was a great idea … for the ones who got to go first. But if you happened to be at the end of a long line of chairs around the table, you could pretty well assume that all the worthwhile sentiments would be taken by the time it was your turn.

If you were seated No. 12 or 13, you either had to be very creative or simply give in to redundancy and repeat one of the earlier sentiments.

By this time — from the perspective of a kid — it no longer mattered. It took a long time for everyone to be thankful, and the steaming turkey and stuffing under our noses was beckoning.

So, when my youngest sister wanted to be thankful for each of the barnyard kittens — by name — we suddenly were less thankful for her.

Mom’s point for the exercise, despite its long route of expression, was to properly observe the holiday and put our lives in perspective.

Our parents had raised us to be grateful human beings. We knew how little they had grown up with and how many others were less fortunate than we were.

Today, as a mother wishing my own children were more grateful, I can still hear words of thanks coming from the mouths of my family members. And despite my impatience, the Thanksgiving meal exercise worked.

I am mindful of my good fortune, and counting my blessings has made me a happier person.

At a time of pervading dismal headlines — global financial collapse, corruption and violence — this spirit of thankfulness may be more important than ever.

Focusing on what we have rather than wishing for what we cannot have is the most simple recipe for joy.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday.


Published April 5, 2012:

Peanut butter and chocolate forever parted by one selfish act

It’s that time of year when chocolate takes a prominent place on store shelves and in checkout aisles — notably in the shape of bunnies.

Reese’s makes their chocolate bunnies with peanut butter innards, matching two ingredients that are widely accepted as the perfect culinary match.

I used to agree. In fact, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups used to be my favorite candy. I even have vague recollections of secretly dipping chocolate chips in spoonfuls of peanut butter to satisfy cravings.

My love affair with peanut butter and chocolate lasted until the summer when I was 16.

A fateful family vacation would prove to be my last indulgence of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

My sisters will probably stop reading here, because they know the story all too well.

It all started that summer when all five of us girls, plus Mom and Dad, piled into the Ford station wagon (the classic family roadster with wood side panels) and headed south.

Our destinations included Kansas City Worlds of Fun amusement park and Oceans of Fun water park.

And we camped in between. … during a blistering heat wave that could be the topic of a column all its own.

That trip likely included many memorable moments, but the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups episode is what I remember most.

It happened on the way home at a convenience store somewhere between Kansas City, Mo., and Kenneth, Minn.

I bought a family-size bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Miniatures — the bite-size cups (that required two bites to sufficiently enjoy the taste) in gold foil wrap.

I’m not sure how many servings were supposed to be in the bag, but I bought it with my own money and therefore wasn’t required to share.

I ate nearly the whole bag … by myself … under the longing eyes of my sisters, who pretended they didn’t want any after it became clear I wasn’t sharing.

If there is a God, and I believe there is one — a just God, in fact — he rendered swift punishment for my greed in the form of a bellyache that lasted all the way home.

God must have really been disappointed with me, because to this day I can no longer enjoy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups — or any combination of chocolate and peanut butter, for that matter.

I still love chocolate, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a staple in my diet. But I don’t do chocolate and peanut butter together.

It’s my curse.

Happy Easter, and may you all enjoy your chocolate and peanut butter in whatever form it comes.

For my Easter treats, I’ll stick with Cadbury Eggs.


Published Oct. 6, 2011

There’s a special place in heaven for mothers of teenage athletes

Football goes against the grain of everything a mother has ever worked for and believed.

Our maternal instincts compel us to nurture and protect our babies, to kiss skinned knees and console wounded spirits.

We dutifully strap them into car seats, first facing backward, then forward and ultimately graduating them to a big-boy seatbelt.

It’s our mission — as it is for mothers in all species of nature — to make sure our children safely reach adulthood.

Why, then, would any mother in her right mind sign her child up to play football?

Unlike any other sport (other than boxing or cage fighting), this one encourages potentially damaging physical contact on every play.

And the harder the hits, the more effective the tackle and the better the desired outcomes.

I simply hate the sport.

My firstborn has been playing contact football since the seventh grade. And until recently, he’s been bigger than his peers, so I haven’t feared for his personal safety (as much as I feared him injuring someone else’s child).

Now that he is a sophomore, the others have caught up, just in time for varsity football.

On Friday nights I now find myself seated in the stands amid other varsity football parents, and I don’t fit in.

For one thing, most of them know the difference between a touchdown and a field goal, and most of them seem to enjoy the game.

By contrast, I attend merely as a show of support for the team and to pray earnestly that my child won’t get hurt.

I must have forgotten to pray last week when my fears came true in the final minutes of the game in Windom.

Jonathan, football in hand, darted toward the end zone as the opponents piled on top of him.

When the pile cleared, he didn’t get up.

Not right away anyway.

He remained on the ground for what seemed like an eternity while I held my breath.

My younger son, who had been fighting with his brother earlier that day, asked (almost hopefully), “Is he dead, Mom?”

At that point, I exhaled as the injured one gimped off the field with a sprained ankle. Thank God it wasn’t his head.

“No, Carson,” I sighed. “He’ll live.”

To play another game.

As I later expressed (again) my disdain for football, a friend gently pointed out that the last time my child was injured it was track season.

A calf muscle suddenly tore near the finish line of a quarter-mile sprint — unprovoked by contact with any other athlete.

The moral of the story?

I don’t know that there is one, except that, given all the extra praying, there must be a special place in heaven for the mothers of teenage athletes.


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