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Archive for minnesota

Flour and Water in Minneapolis

By Linda Tancs

Beginning in 1880 and for 50 years thereafter, Minneapolis, Minnesota, was known as “Mill City,” owing to its status as the flour milling capital of the world. Mill City Museum opened in 2003, built in the ruins of the Washburn “A” Mill next to Mill Ruins Park on the banks of the Mississippi River. The flour tower tour is the highlight, taking you through all of the floors of the mill on a historical storytelling tour. The views from the top of the river and the city can’t be beat.

Big Susie of the Lake

By Linda Tancs

Jutting out of Lake Superior (the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area and the third largest by volume) are 13 small, rocky islands known as the Susie Islands. The largest of those islands (at 145 acres) is nicknamed Big Susie, located just off Minnesota’s north shore near Grand Portage. Glaciers of the Great Ice Age scoured the sedimentary rocks of this archipelago many times over the last 2 million years, but the Susie Islands only emerged about 5,000 years ago. The plants that thrive there (many of them Arctic and sub-Arctic species) disappeared from the rest of Minnesota after the glaciers receded. The area’s sheer cliffs and rocks don’t support much other plant life besides a variety of lichens and mosses. Due to the delicacy of the native plant community, public access to Big Susie is rarely granted, but a good view of the island can be found along Highway 61 between Rose Mountain and the U.S./Canadian customs station. Long managed and held by The Nature Conservancy, ownership of Big Susie is reverting to the Grand Portage Band of the Ojibway Tribe, who own the other 12 islands.

A Museum for Spam

By Linda Tancs

A museum for spam. No, not the electronic kind. The facility in question celebrates a more welcome variety—the canned delight that has Americans all aflutter since its introduction in 1937. Located at the Hormel meat plant in Austin, Minnesota, the SPAM Museum includes a production toteboard (over 6 billion cans and counting), a mock assembly line and exhibits recounting everything from the can’s evolution to its role during wartime America. Don’t try to sample the exhibits. You can buy any of the 12 varieties in the gift shop.

Dangerous Water in Minnesota

By Linda Tancs

One of the most recognized and photographed icons in Minnesota, Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors is a National Historic Landmark. Completed in 1910, it addressed the disastrous loss of 29 ships in a 1905 storm, two of which foundered in this area dubbed “the most dangerous piece of water in the world” by an American novelist. Its compelling location on the top of a sheer cliff that plunges 130 feet made it the most visited lighthouse in the United States in its heyday. Today, it’s still a favorite among visitors to the Lake Superior shoreline.

Spoonbridge and Cherry

By Linda Tancs

A beloved icon of Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota, the Spoonbridge and Cherry is a giant sculpture of a spoon topped off with a cherry. It’s located in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, one of the nation’s largest urban sculpture parks. Designed by husband and wife Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, the giant 5,800 pound spoon stretches 52 feet across a small pond shaped like a linden tree seed. A fine stream of water, just enough to make the aluminum 1,200 pound cherry gleam, flows over the cherry from the base of the stem. A second stream of water sprays from the top of the stem over the cherry, down into the spoon and the pool below. See it now; a major renovation of the park is scheduled for the spring, and its garden artworks will be placed in storage during construction.

The Birthplace of America

By Linda Tancs

Unearthed by a local farmer in 1898, the Kensington Runestone is a grey, earthy rock with an inscription purportedly made by the Vikings more than a century before Christopher Columbus sojourned to America. This artifact is displayed in Alexandria, Minnesota, a town therefore proclaiming itself to be the “birthplace of America.” Doubtful of the claim? Maybe you can coax a response out of Big Ole, a 28-foot fiberglass statue of a Viking that has welcomed visitors to town since 1965.

Birthplace of Water Skiing

By Linda Tancs

In 1922 Ralph Samuelson invented water skiing in Lake City, Minnesota, rendering the locale the birthplace of the sport.  The city lies along Lake Pepin, the widest portion of the Mississippi River.  As you can imagine, you’ll find some of the best boating in the Midwest there along with plenty of parks for walking, swimming and fishing.  Among its charms it boasts the highest number of 19th century homes for a town this size in Minnesota.  At three miles wide and 21 miles long, the lake is perfectly suited for a scenic cruise on the Pearl of the Lake Paddleboat, a modern day replica of the grand riverboats that traveled the Mississippi River in the 1800s.  Why not top off a visit with stop at the marina building; you’ll find Samuelson’s skis on display there.

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