WJON's Small Town Friday series took us this time to Rice, Minnesota.  Rice is a community of 1,275 people, located in Benton County north of Sauk Rapids.  For this feature I talked with Mary Ostby from the Benton County Historical Society, Rice Mayor Brian Skroch and Rice Police Chief Ross Hamann.

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(photo courtesy of the Benton County Historical Society) Rice Main Street 1916
(photo courtesy of the Benton County Historical Society) Rice Main Street 1916

According to the Benton County Historical Society the settlement of Rice began in 1844 but wasn't incorporated until 1890.  Mary Ostby says the principal figure was George Rice who moved from Sherburne County to the Rice area in Benton County when he heard of land opening up.  Ostby says the settlement of Rice's original name was Rice's Station because it was associated with the railroad.  The place of Rice's sawmill was located in what is present day Rice.  Ostby says when the town was incorporated in 1890 the determination was that Rice was an appropriate name for the town.

Ostby says Rice had 3 hotels at one point with the first one still standing.  It was most recently Janski's Grocery which closed approximately 2 years ago.  The sign is still up and the building is still used part of the year as a Greenhouse by the operators of Janski's Grocery according to Mayor Brian Skroch. Skroch says they are proud of the businesses they have in the community but would really like a grocery store to open in the community again.

Mayor Brian Skroch was born and raised about a mile and a half from Rice.  He says he moved into the city of Rice in 2007, served on the city council and is now in his 4th year as the Mayor.  He says Rice is a big enough city to have the amenities you need but it still has the small town feel that everybody loves to be a part of.   Skroch says  Brainerd is less than an hour away, Little Falls is 15 minutes away and Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud are just 15 to 20 minutes from Rice.

Both Mayor Skroch and Police Chief Ross Hamann say Rice is growing with a new development on the western portion of town.  Skroch says Highway 10 is very important to their community and the overpass has improved traffic for the community despite some initial push back with concerns about getting onto the highway and traffic not stopping at local businesses.  Skroch says most of those concerns have been resolved.  Hamann says traffic can be quite heavy on weekends and holidays but with the overpass in place that has improved the convenience for Rice residents when it comes to travel.  He says many young families have moved to Rice and it is nice to have Rice Elementary in the community for young kids.

If you'd like to listen to my conversations with Mary Ostby, Brian Skroch and Ross Hamann they are available below.




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