Kurtz could talk for hours about his hometown of Echo, population of 256, and how its people have come through when times got tough.
Here are the first three examples: • In 1997 when the citizens of Echo had a vision of bringing a charter school to town, they made it happen. The school began with 44 students and now has 160 students and a waiting list. • In 2004, after losing its grocery store, 10 ladies in town decided Echo needed a grocery store. They came together and made it happen, raising enough money to start the grocery store and then volunteering hundreds of hours to make sure it ran smoothly. • And when the city was worrying about the cost of running a centennial celebration back in 1992, they put their heads together and under the guidance of former high school principal Dan Besser, they not only threw a spectacular celebration they also came out of it with a profit of $27,000.
“Our centennial celebration was so well run that it made state and national news,” said Kurtz.
And now the people of Echo are facing a new challenge, said Kurtz. On Aug. 22, 2011, Echo’s only bar/restaurant, Lynae’s Bar & Grill, burned to the ground. The loss of the business left a large space not only on main street in Echo, but also within the community. It was the main gathering place in the community, a place for socializing and a place for such events as parties, fundraising events, meetings and more. Senior citizen meal preparation also took place at Lynae’s.
“We need a place for people to come together,” said Kurtz. “We also have a lot of kids and families coming to town for our school. We need a place in town where the kids can go for a safe haven after school.”
Kurtz looks back fondly on the days when he first moved to Echo. He was 8 years old when he first started helping out at the pool hall in town. His first job was cleaning spittoons, and he soon worked his way up to sweeping floors. He said the friendships and connections he formed at that pool hall were priceless. He doesn’t feel Echo currently has a place where kids and family can come together and meet. He and many others are on a mission to solve this problem.
There are a few ways people can help Echo as they figure out a way to bring back a meeting spot in town. The Echo Community Hospitality Organization has set up an account for the project at Citizens Alliance Bank. If you would like to contribute, send to Citizens Alliance Bank, P.O. Box 276, Echo, MN 56237. Two fundraising events are coming up in August as well. On Aug. 17, the Echo Lions will host its annual pork chop feed at city park. They will serve from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. There will be an antique tractor and custom car show, volleyball tournament, bean bag tournament, music by Jerry Gladis and local vendors displaying their wares. The Lions are also selling $20 raffle tickets which include a free meal.
On Aug. 18, Echo will have a community auction, with proceeds all going to the new bar/restaurant. Auction items are currently being collected. If you would like to donate an item to the auction, contact Therese at 507-430-0421, Amy at 507-430-2150, Karen at 507-828-6217 or Sharon at 507-925-4140.
In addition to the fundraising effort, Kurtz is also hoping to have a display of old Echo memorabilia put up somewhere in Echo. He has a large collection already and is looking for a place to display them. If you have any memorabilia from Echo and would like to donate it for the display, contact Kurtz at 320-564-0119.