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In praise of small places.


Sun, Jul 16th, 2000
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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A Walk in the Woods

Sun, Jul 16th, 2000
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Monday, May 8, 2000

Can two actors hold an audience's undivided attention for nearly two hours, with nothing more than a script and a sparse stage? In the case of Commonweal Theatre Company's A Walk in the Woods, which opened at the St. Mane T ..... 
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Play Ball!

Sun, Jul 16th, 2000
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Monday, May 29, 2000

Outside the old St. Mane Theatre in downtown Lanes-boro, the sweet strains of the Count Baise and Duke Ellington orchestras float through the warm evening air. Even before entering the theatre, you know you are about to be ..... 
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When music meets the land

Sun, Jul 16th, 2000
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Many people are familiar with the expression “The opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings,” but how about “…until the cow bellows,” or “…until the kitten frolics?” This was the case for 1,500 opera-goers last Sunday at the University of Minnesota’s ..... 
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Anytown, MN

Sun, Jul 16th, 2000
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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. Norwegian immigrant influenc ..... 
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Not in my backyard

Sun, Jul 16th, 2000
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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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Whalan, MN

Sun, Jul 16th, 2000
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Our limestone karst region is dotted with "sink holes" which indicate caverns below ground such as the caves at Mystery Cave near Forestville State Park.

When you visit the heart of Bluff Country, take the drive on MN Hwy. 80 and you will fin ..... 
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Whalan, MN

Sun, Jul 16th, 2000
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Whalan, with a population of 90, is one of the smaller towns along the trail. The town provides excellent access to the Root River Trail and nearby recreational activities. Situated at the midway point between Fountain and Rushford on the Root River ..... 
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Stewartville, MN

Sun, Jul 16th, 2000
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Stewartville is a small city with a friendly atmosphere lo-cated in the beautiful Root River Valley 10 miles south of Rochester. Known as the Gateway to the Historic Bluff County, Stewartville has much to offer, whether you come for a visit or stay f ..... 
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