Real Ranger is a community movement developed with the future of the Iron Range in mind.

Encouraged by a small group of individuals who live, work and play within the Iron Range, the Real Ranger community inspires to share the positive stories, events, activities and people that make the Iron Range a place to be celebrated.

Iron Range, we’re raising the bar. And we’re raising expectations.

From this point forward, we desire to positively celebrate the people, places and passion of everything-Iron Range.

Like the community-minded folk we are, please SHARE this BRAND NEW EXCITING #RealRanger community with your friends, family and loved ones.

There’s no better time to bring our giant Iron Range community together. Nor a better time to dig deep, share the #MinnesotaNice we’ve always been known for + turn the tide toward a brighter future when it comes to the place we call #home.

Please stay tuned to our Facebook community (@MinnesotaIronRange)  + Instragram page (@RealIronRanger).

We will be CELEBRATING like Real Rangers in BIG WAYS + we invite you all to be a part of it!

Disclaimer: Negativity on social media will not be tolerated and may be deleted at the discretion of the admins of the Real Ranger social media channels.

"It Just Smells Heavenly"

By Lee Bloomquist

Need a little pick-me up?

Kate Paul has acres of it.

Paul, proprietor of Owl Forest Farm in Forbes, Minn., grows nearly 30 varieties of flowers.

Thousands of peonies, lilies, amaranth, daffodils, calendula, hydrangea, zinnia, African daisies, sunflowers, statice, native wildflowers, fun-fillers, and more, are available to the public at the specialty cut flower farm.

“I love flowers,” said Paul, who operates the flower farm with her family. “From the time I was a little kid out on the field picking bouquets, I just loved flowers.”

In its third year of operation, the flower farm supplies area flower shops.

But business has also blossomed from people across the Iron Range and beyond.

Customers can “you-pick,” their own flowers by appointment, bouquets can be prepared, or buckets of flowers arranged.

“We will have flowers all the way through September,” said Paul. “There’s new ones coming up every week.”

Growing peonies has become a niche business across the nation and for Paul.

Many of the farm’s peonies – which peak from mid-June to mid-July – grow within a 4 1/2-acre fenced plot. Other flowers are planted outside the fenced area.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed Paul to expand peony production to more than 1,800 to study growth patterns. Owl Forest Farm produces 34 different varieties of peonies.

“There’s a definite market for peonies,” said Paul. “There’s market demand for later (season) peonies. It’s something that Alaska is doing right now within some cooperatives. They ship peonies all over the world.”

The aroma from more than 1,800 peonies at Owl Forest Farm is unlike anything, said Paul.

“You can be a quarter-mile away from them and if the breeze is blowing, it just smells heavenly,” said Paul.

Growing flowers in northern Minnesota is an obvious challenge, said Paul.

However, even with the region’s relatively short growing season, it’s surprising what can be produced, she said.

Currently, sunflowers are coming into their own.

“I think people are just amazed that we can grow these things here,” said Paul. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without my family.”

In the future, Paul plans to offer classes in flower arranging and gardening.

To make an appointment for “you-pick,” or to order flowers, text or call Paul at (218)290-6630.

Additional information is at

Hibbing man uses talents to help kids

By Melissa Cox
More than 100 area kids have received free bikes this spring thanks for the generosity of a Hibbing man.
Many of them would not have had that chance or afforded them otherwise.
All of it was made possible by the time, energy, and talent of Kurt Doree who has been repairing and fixing old bikes since March and giving them away to kids.
After the pandemic hit, he realized his own kids had been cooped out during a trying time in the world. When it became nice out, Doree noticed there were not any kids outside playing.
“I wanted to contribute and do my part to help kids get outside,” said Doree. “It’s good for them and the community to get outside and be active.”
What started as a small project to help make an impact for kids has snowballed into a bigger, meaningful way to give to the community.
“It’s great to see kids out riding bikes and being active,” said Doree. “This took off unbelievably.”
Doree will post on Facebook at 10 a.m. and typically by 3 p.m. all the bikes he has fixed are spoken for. All he asks is the bikes go to kids and are used by them.
If anyone wants to donate chain, lube or tire tubes for the bikes, please send #RealRanger a message.

Online Music BINGO lifts spirits

By Melissa Cox 

Mick and Mary Talbot knew the free live Music Bingo they have been offering on Facebook was making an impact when a seven-year-old girl reached out to meet Dr. Rock, Mick’s stage name, for her birthday.

“I was so happy to make her birthday special and it was really exciting,” said Mick. “It really made me feel like I was making a difference.”

The couple has been offering free Music Bingo online since March, including a kid’s specific one and family-friendly version, as a way to help lift the spirits during Stay-at-Home and Stay Safe Minnesota.

When Governor Walz closed the bars and restaurants in March due to COVID-19, the couple who own Organized Chaos, a full-time entertainment company, lost all their income.

“Instead of sitting home and pouting about it, we decided to take the show we do live in public and bring it to Facebook to keep the show moving,” said Mick. “We are thankful to all of the people who have joined in our show from day one.”

Prior to the world pandemic, the couple offered Live Interactive DJ Entertainment including Music Bingo, trivia, DJ music, karaoke and comedy.

Now, they have a following of people singing and dancing from the comfort of home while they join their music bingo portion online.

“We want to give people hope and an outlet for the frustration that they have during the lockdown,” said Mick. “We never talk about what is happening with the world around us. Instead, we tell funny stories and try and make people laugh.”

The program that they play was written for their company by Elite InterAPPtive. Their colleague referred to as Mr. Dan has done an amazing job with the tech side of things, said Mick.

“With the chat feature on our show, we give shout outs for birthday’s, anniversaries and any other special events happening in people’s lives,” said Mick. “We are just trying to help people cope.”
Those interested in playing free Music Bingo can find Organized Chaos on Facebook, request bingo cards through Facebook messenger.

“We explain how it works live on Facebook and if they win a game of Music Bingo, they will get a prize that has been donated by all of our wonderful sponsors and private donations,” said Mick. “Thank you to all of you!”

They have received so much positive feedback since they started.
“We have messages sent to us daily that thank us for doing what we do and keeping the spirits of people up during all of this craziness happening,” said Mick.

Unmasking Talents and Skills

People Behind Sewing and Donating Masks

Our frontline workers are providing essential services to our family, friends and neighbors. With the global pandemic due to COVID-19, these workers and people in our community are wearing masks to protect each other.  The people behind the masks are making a difference daily.

In order to help stay protected, local organizations have been requesting masks.
That’s when people from across the Iron Range stepped forward and used their talents to fill a need. And that begins the stories of those behind supplying masks in the community.

~ ~ ~

Virginia Business Donates Hundreds of Masks

There have been many wonderful people who have stepped forward and utilized their skills to create masks for those in need.

“When the COVID-19 epidemic creeped into Minnesota, mask making began,” said Sherri Kinkel, owner of Material Girl Fabric and Crafts in Virginia. “They announced a stay-at-home order and my immediate family were deemed essential, so I started making masks for my daughter’s employees.”

After that Kinkel set the goal to donate 300 masks to essential workers and people in the community. She has exceeded that goal and set a new goal of donating 500 masks.

“Protecting essential employees became my top priority,” said Kinkel. “Making masks has certainly helped time pass quickly.”

Working with Sew Good Goods, a Minnesota nonprofit, Kinkel said they were able to distribute 200 packages of fabric, 2.5 yards per package, by mid-April. These were offered to those making masks for healthcare workers. The nonprofit helped cover the cost of the fabric.

Personally, the masks Kinkel has created came from her fabric stash and remnants from Material Girl Fabric & Crafts.

“If making and donating masks will help stop the spread, then it all makes sense to do what we can,” said Kinkel. “Not sure what the outcome will be for small businesses, but for now I’ll use my sewing skills to help others.”

Kinkel extended a huge thank you to those who have all worked together to supply local healthcare with masks made with love.

“The ladies and gent that are working on masks are so unselfish,” she said, adding that the moral support and checking in to keep the spirits up has meant a lot. “Stay safe, wear a mask!”

~ ~ ~

Every Little Bit Helps

Lutasha Mott decided to make and donate masks because she has the ability to sew and wanted to assist.

She said every little bit helps.

“I feel that I make a little bit of a difference and it makes people happy,” said Mott. “I hope that it will help the people that need them.”

~ ~ ~
Filling a Special Need

Some of the masks that Linda Carpenter of Hibbing has sewed helps those with special needs.

The masks have a clear section so those who have difficulty hearing are able to see the mouths of essential workers. This makes an impact for communicating with patients and residents for healthcare workers.

Carpenter started by donating 25 of these masks to fill a need, and then the mask making grew from there.

“Friends and family needed them,” she said. “I have so much fabric and elastic, so the fun began.

I feel good about donating to those in need and I like to sew.”

One of her sons bought her a sewing machine that she uses to make the variety of masks.

“Friends and family have been donating fabric and elastic so I’m going to keep sewing as Long as I need to,” she said, before asking, “Do you need any masks?”

~ ~ ~

Protecting the Ones, We Love

Linda Willard started making masks to help protect the people she works with.

Then, the need grew with her daughter needing them for the people she works with at the bus station.

It moved from protecting family and friends to expanding that to the community. She gave them to the fire department to donate.

“I don’t know if I made an impact, but I see the people I work with at Walmart wearing them and family and friends and it makes my heart smile to know they are safe,” said Willard.

Willard said she is not a skilled sewer.

“I really don’t like to sew and so I tell the person I’m handing it to, that it was made with love not a lot of skill,” she said with a laugh out loud. “But I try my best. I keep getting requests, so I keep going.” She has donated more than 300 masks at no charge.

“All I ask is (for people to) stay safe,” said Willard.

~ ~ ~
The Common Thread

The common thread that ties all of those who are sewing and donating masks is their passion for helping others and keeping the community safe.

Written by Melissa Cox,

A May Day Surprise

Small but meaningful gift

HIBBING – It was a small but meaningful surprise on the front porch.
A little planting pot decorated with purple sequins showed up midday on May 1.
The gift contained a leafy green plant – a symbol of spring and growth. A sign was in the dirt with the words, “Happy May Day” written on it in white lettering.

Traditionally, May Day has been a time to celebrate spring.
Rooted in agriculture, celebrations would feature dancing and bringing of flowers, which were rituals to ensure fertility of the crops, according to the Old Farmers Almanac.
It grew to mean much more with some people giving May Day baskets, typically accented with flowers, as a way to “bring in May.”
For Pat Castagneri, giving May Day gifts is about tradition – one that she started with a couple of of her coworkers when she worked at the Hibbing School District.
They decided to hang May Day baskets on the door handles of the classrooms for the teachers.
“Tradition is what I believe in,” said Castagneri.
It was a way for her to bring joy to a few teachers back then.
This year, that venture grew to giving May Day gifts to 29 people in the community.
She hopes it brings enjoyment to those who found it on their stairs.
“I was surprised,” said Carolyn Carpenter about receiving one of the plants from Castagneri. “It put a smile on my face.”
It took some investigating of those who received the fun surprise to find out who it was from.
People were posting on social media about receiving such a wonderful and meaningful gift.
It’s the seemingly “small” things sometimes that make a big impact in our days.

Written by Melissa Cox,


A little ray of hope

Barber Graphics starts tee-shirt fundraiser to help small Iron Range businesses 

Over the years, Mayme Barber has seen Iron Rangers pull together in tough times.

This time, Barber is literally giving the shirt off her back to help.

Barber, owner and president of Barber Graphics, Inc., in downtown Virginia, is selling #IronRange Strong tee-shirts to support small businesses on the Iron Range.

And she’s selling the shirts for zero profit.

“Iron Rangers have always helped each other and rise up together to help each other in times of need,” said Barber. “We’ve been a small business here on main street for 39 years and hope we can offer whatever service we can to provide a little ray of hope to our small businesses.”

Ten dollars from the $20 price of each tee-shirt is sent to the small business of the customer’s choice.

So far, over 200 shirts have been sold, raising more than $2,000 for local small businesses.

“We were looking for ways to help,” said Barber. “I spent the first couple of weeks researching it, talking with businesses and with the small business development center. We haven’t put a lot of rules on it, but we’re asking that the money go to brick and mortar businesses.”

Shirts can be ordered online through, on the Barber Graphics Facebook page or at

Shirts are available in adult sizes small to 4X and youth sizes small, medium and large.

Tee-shirt purchases are delivered via UPS. Curbside pickup is also available at Barber Graphics from noon to 4:30 p.m. Fridays.

Once a week, Barber then writes a check to the business designated by the tee-shirt purchaser and drops the check in the mail. The first checks go out this week.

“We’re hoping to have a pleasant surprise for them,” said Barber. “They will get a check in the mail and hopefully it will help them pay some expenses or utility bills.”

Barber hopes Iron Rangers will share the effort across social media.

“There’s no profit to be made here and no marketing budget,” said Barber. “We just hope that people  tell others about it.”

She suggests that families who may want to support a particular business order a “bunch of shirts” at a time to raise perhaps $100 for a business instead of $10.

“The Iron Range is special,” said Barber. “It’s always been a community that looks out for each other and cares for each other. We will get through this. Like the shirt says, we will be Iron Range strong.”

Rangers Rock!

by Melissa Cox
~ Positive Stories, events and people that make the Iron Range a place to be celebrated

 HIBBING – A message of joy. A smile from a stranger. A way to say that you are not alone during a time when we are navigating a new world.
Seems so simplistic. Yet, painted rocks and rocks with words written on them have meant so much to those who have seen them.
It offers an adventure for families that can try and find the various rocks while walking around the neighborhood.
For others, it is a reminder that we are all in this together. Since COVID-19 the world we used to know has significantly changed.
“They make me smile,” said Darcie Norton of Hibbing about the rocks scattered along her walking path. “I think of the children who have painted them and how the situation we are in has greatly changed their lives.”
The painted ones showed up in early April right before Easter as almost an outdoor Easter egg hunt for those in the neighborhood.
Flowers, corn on the cob, a lady bug, a chick holding an Easter egg, and rocks painted an assortment of colors were some of those carefully placed throughout the neighborhood.
Then, a few weeks later more rocks showed up featuring different words that have the word rock in them.
“You are my Rock.” “You Rock” “Study like a Rock” “Rangers Rock” and “Rock ‘n Roll” are some of the sayings written on the white-painted rocks.
Hearts and Teddy bears in the windows add even more of a special touch, letting others know there is someone out there who cares.

Norton and her family made small baskets and delivered them to people who they knew were alone for the holiday.
“It was fun to see how this small act made this a special day for those who received them,” said Norton.
It has been these acts of kindness that really makes the days feel brighter.
For those who have been home for more than 30 days, with the Stay at Home order in place in Minnesota due to COVID-19, it also makes it feel less lonely.

Sometimes we just need someone to be the rock for us especially when the world is going through uncertain times.
And it is days like these, we can certainly say without a doubt that “Rangers Rock!”

* Melissa can be reached at

Dress-up Days Delight Community

by Melissa Cox
~ Positive Stories, events and people that make the Iron Range a place to be celebrated

AURORA – The egg, along with bacon, arrived sunny side up for the meal delivery to Mesabi East students.
Imagine the delight of students and parents when an oversized egg and bacon displaying big smiles showed up along with a nutritious meal.
Dressed in egg and bacon costumes, Sonia Steele and Anita Beauregard, paraprofessionals at Mesabi East School, delivered food, prepared by the cafeteria workers, one spring day.
They were on one of the three routes that brought breakfast and lunch to students in the district since the school moved to distance learning during the global pandemic due to COVID-19.

Steel and Beauregard came up with the idea of dressing up daily in different costumes for the food and packet deliveries.
“We decided to do this to make kids and adults laugh during this time of uncertainty,” said Steele.

A carton of milk, a banana, a monkey, a taco, a pizza, the game Twister, a baker, fisherwomen, spam, a donut, a carrot, and a shark were some of the outfits they wore.
“We hope that when the kids look back on this time, they smile and laugh about our silly costumes,” said Steele.
Steele expressed gratitude for the “amazing cafeteria workers” who start work “really early” to pack all the breakfast, lunches, and milk. They get everything sorted and packed into boxes and loaded into each vehicle.
The bus garage staff makes sure they have gloves, hand sanitizer and anything else they need.
“I am proud of the Mesabi East staff for doing everything they can to make this difficult time as normal as possible for students,” said Mesabi East Superintendent Gregg Allen.
For many students, the food and packet deliveries are the only people, other than family, that they see during the week.
“School staff become part of the daily lives of students,” said Allen. “Many of the teachers and staff are doing things to try and keep students engaged in learning while putting a smile on their faces.”
Many of the students would stand by their doors and windows in anticipation of seeing the funny costumes.
“It gives us joy to think we made someone’s day a little brighter,” said Steele.

* Melissa can be reached at