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'Grease' finalist on fast track with backing from Flat Pennies

BAY CITY --- The caboose is typically found at a train's end, but in the case of an area young woman's road to stardom, it's right up front.

The owners of the new Flat Pennies Ice Cream in Bay City, centered around a former railroad caboose and scheduled to open this Friday, are organizing a promotion in support of Laura Osnes. The 21-year-old Osnes is one of four female finalists on the NBC-TV show, "Grease, You're the One That I Want," broadcast Sunday evenings on KARE-TV, channel 11 in the Twin Cities, and WEAU-TV, channel 13 in Eau Claire.

Jim Ross of the business said this Sunday will be "Laura Day," featuring special lemon-flavored ice cream in honor of the yellow color she wears on the show.

"Ten percent of the proceeds will go to the drama department at Ellsworth High School," he said Thursday about sales of that flavor on the special day.

Ross also plans to display a shirt in his business' window proclaiming Osnes' success, he said. He'll distribute posters backing her in the competition as well.

"We want to get her name out so she gets more votes," he said, explaining the program offers viewers nationwide a chance to vote on the computer internet each week for their favorite contestants to continue.

The show's premise has a field of hopefuls narrowed down to two winners, a male and a female, to play the lead roles in a Broadway musical based on the 1970s movie "Grease," he said. Osnes is seeking the role of "Sandy," portrayed by Olivia Newton-John in the film, which also starred John Travolta as "Danny."

The area woman's chances to land the "Sandy" part look good, Ross said. A graduate of Eagan (Minn.) High School, she's already appeared as that character in a version of "Grease" presented at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre in the Cities.

"My wife and I saw her there in November," he said of himself and spouse Lorna, indicating they were impressed. Afterward, Osnes told them backstage about her then-upcoming tryout in Los Angeles for the TV show.

Last week on the show, one of a panel of judges called her a "star," he said. The writer of the original "Grease," Andrew Lloyd Weber, highly endorsed her on a different episode, too.

Ross, who's retired from Northwest Airlines, said he met the hopeful through her aunt, Mary Ann Meek, with whom he worked at that company. He wanted to incorporate his encouragement for her into the opening of his new venture.

The ice cream he's designated in tribute to her, called "Flavor Burst," is infused with lemon flavor right into the mix, one of up to eight varieties to be available at his business daily, he said. Like all the main products being sold at Flat Pennies, it's made in Wisconsin, he added.