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Archive for minnesota

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.

The Heart of the Continent

By Linda Tancs

Three hundred miles north of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, a water-based national park lies at the heart of the continent.  Sharing 55 miles at Minnesota’s northern edge with the Canadian border, Voyageurs National Park is named for the French-Canadian frontiersmen who traded in the northwestern United States.  Some of the oldest rock formations in the world are found here, mingling with a boreal forest, bogs, swamps, rolling hills and, of course, the lakes.  Its interconnected water routes are accessible via free public boat ramps.  Why not consider a houseboat rental and make a holiday out of it, plying the waters as the original voyageurs did in their birch bark canoes.

The Great Lake Superior

By Linda Tancs

The largest of North America’s Great Lakes, Lake Superior holds almost three cubic miles of water, more than the four other lakes combined.  That’s three quadrillion gallons of water, in case you’re counting.  The largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, it’s bounded by Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.   With tens of thousands of square miles to cover, just start somewhere.  How about Minnesota’s North Shore?  The 154-mile All American Road combines the best of old and new Highway 61, including several state parks and at least 101 things to do.

Paul Bunyan Days

By Linda Tancs

According to legend, Paul Bunyan was a giant lumberjack with uncommon strength who could clear forests with his bare hands and shake trees with his thunderous voice.  Statues of this mythical hero abound throughout the United States, including Akeley, Minnesota.  The town became a mecca for lumberjacks when a sawmill was built in 1902, so it should come as no surprise that the Bunyan legend looms large there.  For 65 years they’ve been celebrating Paul Bunyan Days at various locations in Akeley.  This year’s celebration takes place from 28 to 30 June.  Among the activities are a fish fry, woodcarving,  lumberjack mall art show, Paul Bunyan look-alike contest, and a grand parade.

Rhubarb Capital of Minnesota

By Linda Tancs

Lanesboro, Minnesota is the rhubarb capital of the state.  Is rhubarb a fruit or a vegetable?  That depends on whom you ask and where you live.  In the U.S., rhubarb has been ordained a fruit in New York.  Tart like a lemon, it finds its way into pies, crisps, sauces, soups and drinks.  On 1 June Lanesboro celebrates its annual Rhubarb Festival at Sylvan Park.  The day’s events include a tasting, a stalk throw and toss, a growers’ competition and entertainment by–no surprises here–the Rhubarb Sisters.

The Other Twin City

By Linda Tancs

Between the “twin” cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minneapolis may get top billing, but St. Paul bills itself as the most livable city in America. Why? Maybe it’s their dedication to the arts through the sidewalk poetry program. For the second year, the city will hold a poetry contest throughout the month of May; winners get their musings inscribed on city sidewalks as part of the sidewalk replacement program. Or maybe it’s because they honor those in military and civilian life who keep us safe and healthy by offering them loans for first-time home purchases. The collective public conscience in this twin city would certainly make its founding father, Lucien Galtier, quite proud. The city derives its name from a Catholic chapel built by Galtier, a missionary sent there to minister to the French-Canadian population. Good thing the chapel name caught on; the area was originally known as Pig’s Eye. And that’s no hogwash.

Answers to yesterday’s trivia: Hudson River and East River (New York).

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Red River Valley

By Linda Tancs

When I practiced playing the organ as a child, one of the songs in my songbook was “Red River Valley.” A memory long forgotten, until the recent climatic catastrophe in this section of the U.S. straggling northeastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. The river’s crest of over 40 feet this past weekend broke a 100-year record. Now a snowstorm threatens to dump 16 inches in and around the valley, putting the river level in peril once again. As a line in the song goes, “remember the Red River Valley.” Indeed, let’s keep the folks of this region in our hearts and prayers.

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Fire and Ice

By Linda Tancs

On Saturday, Minnesotans in Plymouth will celebrate their Fire & Ice Festival. That means Parkers Lake Park will be converted into an outdoor gymnasium with bowlers and basketball players trading hardwood floors for nature’s white carpet. Don’t forget the ice fishing, ice skating, dogsled demos and fireworks. If the frozen tundra proves too much, you could head for the Mall of America, the country’s biggest shopping center, just miles away.

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