Volume 126, Number
Kat’s Korral — Southern hospitality combined with ND helpfulness
BY SARA J. PLUM What brings a "Yellow Rose of Texas" to North Dakota? The love of a good man, of course.
Yes, I know that sounds like a tag line for one of those movies of the week, but that is basically how Kathy "Kat" Brossart found herself moving to Rugby nine years ago. It’s a story she thought everyone had heard by now.
Kathy joined the computer age in the late 1990’s. While surfing the Internet, one of her daughters discovered a karaoke Web site. Knowing how much her mother loved karaoke, she showed her the Web site and how it worked.
As she was listening one day, Kathy heard a man sing and something about his voice caught her attention. When the song was done, she went into the Web site’s chat room and posted this note about the song, "Wouldn’t you just love to wake up next to that voice every morning?"
The singer of the song, Bob Brossart of Rugby, also listened to the Web site on a regular basis. One evening while getting ready to go out, he heard a woman state she was a little nervous, but was going to try this anyway. When she started to sing, Bob decided being late was worth listening to the whole song.
Through the chat room of the karaoke Web site and then e-mails, letters and phone calls, they got to know each other.
At first Kathy was a little skeptical, wondering if she should heed the warnings about meeting someone via the Internet. Over time she realized this guy was the real deal and in 2000 agreed to move to Rugby. Kathy was very clear about taking things slow and told Bob she wanted one year to make sure this relationship worked. Heartbreak and divorce makes one cautious. Having been through a divorce himself, Bob readily agreed.
It didn’t take a year for them to realize this time around was a winner. Even Kathy’s kids loved Bob, something important to the single mom even though her children are grown and on their own.
So in 2001 the almost 6′ Kathy married the 5’4" Bob and her wish of "waking up next to that voice every morning" was granted.
Now that you know how Kathy got to North Dakota, how did she get from working at the Haaland Home in Rugby to owning and running Kat’s Korral in Churchs Ferry?
Kathy grew up on a cattle ranch in Corpus Christi, Texas. While still in high school she began working at Gilley’s, the bar owned by country singer Mickey Gilley and made famous by the movie "Urban Cowboy." (Kathy says the bar was nothing like in the movie.) After working at Gilley’s for 17 years, she moved to Nebraska where she had a poultry farm. Not just chickens and turkeys, but ducks, geese and other birds as well. With six children to feed, she grew as much food as possible on the farm. Unfortunately her children wouldn’t eat the poultry she cooked unless they thought it came from the store. Sorry Jared, Don, Robbie, Amy, Katie and Lacey, your mom got you on that one.
Kathy had been in Nebraska 17 years before coming to Rugby. All of her children, except Lacey, are still there. They have so far provided her and Bob with 14 grandchildren ranging in age from 19 years to four months. Kathy laughed and said the grandkids love when they come to visit and are all over Bob. She’s not sure if it’s because his love of children is so evident or if it’s because he’s closer to their level height-wise. Either way she feels so lucky to have a husband like him.
Upon arriving in North Dakota, Kathy’s first job was at the Haaland Home, where she was activities director for five years. Then she continued her work with the elderly by becoming involved in home health care. She also worked part-time at the Night Owl in Devils Lake since 2003, handling manager duties the last nine months.
Almost a year ago the opportunity arose to have her own business, one she could build and run as she saw fit. With her husband’s blessing, she met with the Churchs Ferry Community Club. They own the building the bar is in and as landlords wanted to find the right person for the bar and the community.
That they did.
During the winter Kathy is at the bar Tuesday through Sunday from 2 p.m. to anywhere between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. every day. Monday the bar is closed. Once spring rolls around she will be open Monday, too. She also still takes care of three home health care clients three days a week. Earnings from that job pretty much go directly into her gas tank.
With all the driving she does, I had to ask how many deer she’s hit. Her reply, "None," was followed by several raps on the wood bar. Those days/nights when the weather is tough, Holly and Barry Mawby have Kathy stay at one of their cabins.
She works with the Churchs Ferry Community Club on improvements needed at the bar. When the money is available, the club tackles another project. So far they have moved the bar from the front to the back, closer to the storage area, and gutted and fixed the bathrooms.
Other fixes have been completed as well.
Before Kathy opened last April, she scrubbed down the whole place and painted the walls a lighter color. The water in Churchs Ferry isn’t the best, so she replaced all the glasses when she couldn’t get them cleaned and now hauls water and ice from home. Needless to say, she can’t wait for rural water to come to Churchs Ferry this spring.
Besides the bar license, Kathy has a limited restaurant license so she can sell cooked pizzas and other types of fast-food as allowed.
She hopes to one day expand and be able to cook and serve suppers there. She loves to cook and enjoys doing benefits.
Recently Kathy was asked to host a welcome home party for the ND National Guard’s 191st MP Company who just returned from 15 months of duty in Iraq. As chairperson of the local Soldier’s Angels chapter and the mother of a soldier in that company, she was honored to do so. Her daughter, Lacey is now stationed at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina.
Being involved is essential to Kathy. Through the bar she sponsors a stock car racing team, a pool team and a dart team, while the Soldier’s Angels sponsor a bowling team. A smart move since sponsorship is another way to get the word out about your business, or in the case of the Soldier’s Angels, your beneficial cause.
Kathy is the first to admit that even though she’s working hard to make a go of the bar, she has a lot of help. Besides her husband, Bob who does karaoke every other weekend at Kat’s Korral, there are the friends who pitch in when needed and won’t take any pay. Among them are Billi and Vinnie Weixel, Barb Hendrickson, Barry Mawby and Todd Hillebrand. Her former employer at the Nite Owl, Keith Kurtz, has gladly shared his knowledge and some of her patrons from there come out to Churchs Ferry now and then.
People from area towns, including Rugby, Leeds, Minnewaukan, Maddock, Cando and, of course, Churchs Ferry, have also come to see the changes she’s made and enjoy the "Cheers-like" atmosphere Kathy is trying to create.
She also works with Ryan Mykklebust, the owner of the bar in Penn. She said it’s not unusual if she’s out of something that a quick phone call and drive to Penn will get what she needs, and vice versa.
Having different activities and events at the bar helps bring people in. With the current Wii craze, Kathy thought it might be something her patrons would enjoy, especially during the winter months. She bought a console and currently has about 14 different sports games for people to play. There have even been Wii tournaments on the weekends when there isn’t karaoke or another event. And during the week she has different things going on.
As much as this Southern girl likes her life in North Dakota, there are a few things she does miss. One of them is the ability to grow peanuts in this climate. Kathy loves boiled peanuts, but hasn’t had much success in growing peanuts here even though she’s been told it can be done. Okay, they can be grown here, but not like the ones back home.
Another thing she missed was grits. Typical of North Dakota, her grocer in Rugby has no problem ordering them in just for her and she greatly appreciates it.
That helpfulness is just one of the many things Kathy likes about this area. Not that people aren’t helpful elsewhere, she’s quick to state, but here it seems to be a part of everyday life. People just help without being asked and with no thought to personal gain.
Being reared in a family with a long military service record and growing up on a ranch helped make that attitude a part of Kathy’s personality, too.
After the FEMA buyout in 2000 and the relocation of BTR Elevator due to the rising waters of Devils Lake, it seemed Churchs Ferry was destined to be a ghost town. Those who chose to stay have been working ever since to prevent that.
Is Kathy an "angel" sent to save the town? She certainly doesn’t feel that way — she’s just someone who found the perfect mate and a chance to fulfill her dream of providing a friendly place for people to gather.
But if fulfilling her dream helps the town, she’s all for it.
Kathy Brossart poses with her favorite wall art, a life-size cut out of John Wayne someone rescued from a curb on trash day. Others have brought in various pieces of artwork to hang on the walls, all with a western theme to match the name of the bar.
The sign outside was done by Darlene Borgerson of Penn. She also painted the bathroom doors with silhouettes of a cowboy leaning against a fence and a cowgirl. Don’t believe what Olaf Nord says about the cowboy.
Several sixth graders at the Leeds Elementary School participated in the area’s first ever regional "First Lego League" tournament at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake on January 19. Eight teams took part in the tournament and awards were given in the categories of programming, engineering, project, performance, teamwork and spirit.
The six students who designed and programmed a robot to complete autonomous missions, and who attended the tournament, received a first place engineering award. Left to right, back row, are Austin Blazer, Austin Thorp and sixth grade teacher Mrs. Yoder. In the front row are Riley Lawrence, Aidan Ritterman, Timber Morgan and Kalvin Slaubaugh.
Chili contest winners
Winners of the contest were, left to right, third place winner of $100 was Bruno Cavanaugh of St. Michael; second place winner of $200 was Chris Johnson of Fort Totten; and first place winner of $300 was Jason Rundquist of Bismarck.
There were 20 entries in the annual chili cook-off event February 1 at the Spirit Lake Casino & Resort. Judges are shown having a little fun and taking a break from their serious duties. Left to right are Rob Hendricks, Alan Blumenfeld, Louise Oleson, John Tollefson and Eric Arndt.
To perform in choirs
Three students from the Maddock School have been selected to be members of this year’s North Dakota American Choral Directors’Association Honor Choirs. They were chosen from more than 800 taped auditions made and submitted by students from throughout North Dakota. The three will travel to the festival in Bismarck on Friday and Saturday, February 6 and 7. Selected for the Treble Choir is 7th Grader Shelby Brandvold (left), daughter of Allen and Becky Branvold. Two freshmen have been selected for the Mixed Choir: Karl Kenner (center), son of Dave and Karen Kenner, and Breana Buehler (right), daughter of Todd and Nadley Buehler. The students will rehearse Friday through Saturday and present a final concert on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bismarck.
Bringing winter indoors
Due to the recent frigid weather, outdoor recess at Warwick School has not been an option. Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Charlotte Franks-Erickson decided to bring some winter fun into the classroom by allowing paper snowball fights. Real snow was brought in for sculpting and science lessons.
Shown with snow from outside are, left to right, Marlin DeMarce, Julian Hill, Xavier Brown, Aaron Green and Cole Smith. Experiencing just how cold snow is, Aaron holds the snowball long enough for the picture.
Jayla Guy aims her snowball at the photographer, Mrs. Franks-Erickson, while the look on Brooklynne Little’s face shows the "seriousness" of the snowball fight.
These kindergarteners delight in hitting their targets. Left to right are Ryan Leaf, Kalista Jackson and Marlin DeMarce.