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Waiting for warm, dry weather . . . The Mouse River Park gazebo remains
buttoned up for winter last week. Caretaker Darrell Iverson is preparing
the Park's campgrounds for the summer season, and all campsites
should be available for use by Memorial Day weekend.
Amazing progress happening each week
By Caroline Downs
“Every week, it’s amazing what happens in here,” Ron Heisler said as he walked through the double doors now in place at the north end of the Mouse River Park auditorium. The building is being remodeled into the new Country Mouse Bar, and Heisler was granted the lease to operate the establishment. “For the Park, this is awesome.”
He has spent many weeks through the winter and spring checking on the building’s progress and talking over his plans with Park caretaker, Darrell Iverson. The two of them met last week to discuss some of the finish work yet to take place.
The auditorium and Park bathrooms were some of the few buildings still usable after the 2011 Mouse River flood. The former Country Mouse Bar and Mouse River Park Cafe were both demolished as a result of extensive water damage, but the auditorium was cleaned and its fate discussed among Park residents, the Renville County Park Board and the Renville County Commissioners.
Construction on a project approved to renovate the auditorium as the new Country Mouse Bar started early last fall, with Tafelmeyer Construction of Sawyer handling the work.
Iverson can be found in the building most days, however. “I just come down here so they’ve got somebody to holler at,” he said. He knows every nook and cranny of the building and all the changes that have occurred, from the six-inch thick concrete floor poured to the newly-insulated walls to the length of the bar lined with a corrugated steel siding.
“They tell me it’s maintenance free,” he said.
He indicated the new fireplace, purchased and donated by Park resident Jerry Brekhus, now set in place on the east wall.
He gestured to the tops of the walls, where duct work for heating and central air conditioning has been installed.
He demonstrated dimmer switches installed for the stage lights and mentioned the extra outlets added for the bands, along with a separate backstage door and a 50-amp outlet in the electrical room to accommodate band equipment.
He pointed out the ceiling, now lowered 12 feet from the building’s peak to 13’8” and covered with blonde knotty pine boards that create a welcoming atmosphere. Heisler called attention to the sunburst design worked into that wood immediately above a mural painted across the back of the stage.
Both men stopped to admire the mural, an enlargement of a painting done by Park resident Marylin Carter of Carlyle, Saskatchewan. She volunteered her time last fall to create the mural, which highlights all the Park’s features through the years.
“That’s so realistic,” Heisler said as he pointed at the merry-go-round, a Pepsi sign and screen door on the cafe, and the order of the three flags flying near the Park office.
He looked closer at the old Country Mouse Bar as painted on the wall. “I think it even has the right number of windows,” he said, “and there’s the old Hamm’s sign. That’s going back up here, outside.”
“You can see all of the Park,” Iverson added.
Many steps have been taken to convert the auditorium into a bar, but several parts of the project remain to be finished, including a frame for the mural. “I’m going to wait until the artist is here to do that,” Iverson said, adding that he wanted to frame the picture with the same log siding trim he used around the front of the stage. “But if she doesn’t like it, I’ll have some good used logs for sale.”
While Heisler could serve customers before the mural frame is completed, the current lack of running water presents a problem. Plumbing, heating and air conditioning installation still need to take place, now that the ground is thawed and crews can access water lines.
Other projects yet to be done include finishing trim work around the windows, installing a set of double doors between the bar and the patio area, sealing the concrete floor, and hanging the light fixtures.
“We’ve got quite a few guys that have got a little to do yet,” Iverson said. “The biggest thing is to get the water and sewer installed. Everything else will fall in after that, but it’s coming together pretty decent. Some of it can be done after the bar’s open.”
Historical photos wanted
for new bar counter
The bar counter will have to be completed before customers arrive, but Iverson has special plans for that. He salvaged and sanded the fir boards that made up the seats lining the walls of the old auditorium with the intent of using that wood for the bar’s counter.
Before he seals the counter, though, he wants to arrange historical photos of Mouse River Park across the top. “I’ll have some framed and hanging in here, too,” he said. “I had frames made up of wood out of the old bar and cafe here.”
Iverson has collected some of the photos he wants to use, but he asked area residents for their help. “If anybody’s got any pictures of the old skating hall or the old store building, I would like to have a copy of those,” he said.
He hopes to have a few choices of photos of the skating hall, with that building standing until the late 1990s. Getting pictures of the old store at the Park could be more difficult. “That’s been gone for 40 years or better,” he said.
Kitchen and furniture assembly required
Both Iverson and Heisler were interested in getting the new kitchen set up, although Iverson laughed about the location. The bar was originally designed with two separate rooms at the north end. The room intended for office space, on the west side, will now serve as Heisler’s kitchen.
“And our poker room, as I called it, will become storage,” Iverson said.
The kitchen counters, cabinets and cupboards, still protected in their packages, filled the available space at the north end of the building. “Your ice cream machine is here, too,” Iverson told Heisler. “They delivered it.”
The two men were looking forward to setting up the bar’s furniture, now boxed and stacked on seven or eight pallets stored in Iverson’s shop.
“I was thinking about how many days it’s gonna take to put all those tables and bar stools together,” Iverson said. “I was tempted to open a box and get started the other night.”
“Once we get the dust out of here, I will be decorating some, too,” Heisler said.
The dust will also be cleared before First District Health Unit completes their inspections, but Iverson anticipated a positive report about the new establishment. “We met with them as the project started,” he said, “and we’ve been pretty careful about this as we’ve gone along.
to arrive soon
As work on the bar continues, the calendar moves closer to the first camping days at the Park. “I have some campers coming next weekend,” Iverson said, “and some of the seasonal boys will come the weekend after that.”
Along with his work on the bar project, Iverson has kept up his maintenance routine. “We still have to replace a bunch of trees,” he said, “but I think that’s scheduled for this spring.”
All campsites at the Park will be ready by Memorial Day weekend. Fees for campers remain at $13 per night.
Persons with further questions about camping at Mouse River Park can leave a message for Iverson at the Park office by calling 701-386-2875.
Heisler and Iverson agreed the presence of the bar would benefit the Park and continued cleanup efforts at some of the flood-damaged properties. “There’ll be a lot going on this summer,” Heisler said. “There have been new mobile homes and campers going in.”
“Some residents have started remodeling again or building new,” Iverson added. “That’s something that’s going to take some time. I think there are only three or four places left to come out yet.”
The bar project has generated interest among local residents and Park visitors. “There’s always somebody coming and going here,” Iverson said, “but everybody’s been happy with what’s going on.”
Heisler glanced at the scraps of insulation, piles of lumber and tools still scattered around the business he hopes to open before the end of May.
“You can picture this cleaned up, the floor sealed and the furniture in,” he said. “It’s amazing what’s happened in these last couple of months.”
Picnic tables stacked at Mouse River Park and surrounded by lingering
snow drifts and puddles will be moved to individual campsites soon.