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In praise of small places.


Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
Posted in

First time author Tony Andersen is a true patriot of Minnesota. Born and raised in St. Paul, one gets the impression after reading his recently released book Small Town Minnesota A to Z, (Afton Historical Society Press; 120 pages, $24.95) that he would rather go exploring the back roads of his home state than spend a month, say, in Europe or sailing the Caribbean. And indeed, Andersen has traveled a great deal -- in Minnesota.

Starting in Argyle, (pop. 636) in the sugar beet and sunflower country of northwestern Minnesota, Andersen randomly selected towns of under 1,000 population to visit and photograph across the state, one for each letter of the alphabet. He ended up down here in the driftless zone, at Yucatan (pop. whatever?) in Houston County and then finally finished his journey just north of Rochester in Zumbro Falls (pop. 237).

The germ for the idea of this book started over twenty years ago, Andersen writes, when as a boy he was crowded into the cramped backseat of his family's car. He fancied himself a photographer and dreamed of taking pictures of the places that flashed by just outside the car window.

Andersen initially set out in 1998 with the intention of photographing the inanimate-- the buildings and scenery of small town Minnesota. He felt con-spicuous and awkward at first, looking every bit the part of the obvious stranger. And what was he doing with all that camera equipment and that stepladder? The local folk wanted to know and they weren't at all shy about asking. Andersen was heartened by the friendly curiosity of the people who approached him and began to rethink the focus of his entire project.

What Andersen discovers is that the worn-out cliché of "Minnesota Nice" is alive and well and flourishing throughout the state. "Without exception I was made to feel welcome in every town I visited," Andersen writes, "People I had just met took me into their homes . . . they opened old worn photo albums and spoke candidly of family stories and loaned me collections of written history I never would have found elsewhere."

Wherever he goes, Andersen finds simple and quiet adventures in the ordinary occurrences of everyday small-town life. He shakes dice for coffee in Miltona (pop. 181); he attends a homecoming football game in Gonvick (pop. 302); he spends an afternoon with an elderly man in Odessa (pop. 194) who is a wheelwright - a builder and restorer of wooden wagon wheels; and in Yucatan he hears the .....
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Hoffman Stables

The accidental artist

Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
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For Hong Kong native Peter Mak, the journey to Lanesboro isn't as far as it seems. You see, Mak's exhibition of art work at Cornucopia Art Center has a local connection. Mak's wife is Barbara Tammel, the daughter of Marilyn and Donne Tammel of rural ..... 
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The Giving Star

Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
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Monday, December 18, 2000

If the thought of sitting through another traditional Christmas play gets you feeling a little Scrooge-like, the Commonweal Theatre’s holiday production might be just what you need. "The Giving Star" puts a refreshing ..... 
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Book Review: Recently released Minnesota books

Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
Posted in

Last month I attended the annual convention of the Upper Midwest Bookseller Association in downtown St. Paul, a gathering of authors, publishers and independent booksellers.

I was impressed, as I was last year, by the number of fine books of ..... 
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Rushford Library looking at expansion

Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
Posted in

Monday, November 20

To build or to remodel? That is the question a Library Taskforce has been considering for the past couple months in the city of Rushford.

The existing public library in the Tew Building, located near Rushford’s cent ..... 
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Gateway Towns

Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
Posted in

Austin


Greetings from Austin, Minnesota! Located on I-90, visitors from the west will come through this major city located on the Cedar River.

Austin is the home of the Fortune 500 company -- Geo. A. Hormel & ..... 
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Northeastern Iowa

Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
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Northeast Iowa shares much of the same topography of Historic Bluff Country. Limestone bluffs, meandering rivers, springs, and rolling hills in the east and softly rolling hills with rich prairie soil in the west. Minnesota and Iowa also share the sa ..... 
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Anytown, MN

Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
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Nestled in a deep valley of the Root River is the unique city of Anytown. This quaint townsite of less than one thousand residents, located in the state hardwood forest reminds one of the many hillside villages in Norway.

Strolling down the ..... 
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Not in my backyard

Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
Posted in

Monday, June 26, 2000

In the usually quiet burg of Spring Valley, the hot topic of conversation has switched as of late. While recent flooding has left the community with much to contemplate, another issue is sizzling to the forefront. What’s ..... 
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