Never miss a chance to celebrate Statehood Day

Mike KnaakColumn, Opinion, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

So how did you celebrate Minnesota Statehood Day? Did you bake a Minnesota-shaped cake or do something more appropriate such as cooking wild rice soup?

May 11 marked the 160th anniversary of Minnesota’s entry into the union as the 32nd state.

Our family celebrated by participating in two uniquely Minnesotan experiences.

Last week, our younger daughter returned home for a short vacation. She’s lived in the United Kingdom, Boston and now Washington, D.C., for the past five years.

After getting over reverse sticker shock – “Things are SO cheap here” – she suggested two activities she would enjoy and she could share with her East Coast friends who have difficulty understanding flyover country.

The good people of Boston struggle to imagine Stearns County is larger than the state of Rhode Island. When Bostonians plan the 51-mile drive to Providence, you’d think they are packing for a trip to the moon. And her Washington co-workers wonder how we cope with winter when even the forecast of snow totally shuts down the nation’s capital.

On Minnesota Statehood Day Eve, we traveled south to Minneapolis for Guthrie Theater’s production of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” The play, based on the 1967 movie, raises issues that are still relevant 50 years later about interracial marriage, “the other” and our inherent biases.

The plot centers on how a liberal white couple reacts when their daughter surprises them with news she plans to marry a prominent doctor who just happens to be black.

The Guthrie is a truly unique Minnesota treasure. It’s part of Minnesota’s rich arts and cultural scene that includes the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Minnesota Orchestra. New York is the only city with more theater seats per capita than the Twin Cities, tourism promoters are happy to tell you.

On Statehood Day, we traveled north to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park between Park Rapids and Bemidji.

I have to admit, I’m not a very good Minnesotan. I don’t hunt or fish and I’d rather vacation in the Big City than the Big Woods. My two daughters share my tilt toward urban rather than natural adventures. Nature’s great as long as you can experience it with indoor plumbing.

Statehood Day was a good day for a visit to the park. The mosquitoes and tourists hadn’t arrived yet, although we did encounter a couple of ticks.

I happily found the gift shop near the parking lot hadn’t opened for the season, so we began our 900-foot hike to the headwaters without shopping.

On the way, we met two men wearing, appropriately enough, Gopher hockey sweatshirts, and a skipping little girl.

We were alone when we reached the headwaters, which is marked by a rocky rapids as Lake Itasca becomes the 2,300-mile long Mississippi. Visiting the headwaters includes the tradition of walking across the wet, slippery rocks so the tourist can proclaim “I walked across the Mississippi River.”

Soon an older couple joined us and found a spot on a bench to enjoy the view. The couple shared they had visited the spot many times and chided us for never making the trip.

Don’t wait for next year’s Statehood Day to celebrate all of Minnesota’s riches, east to west, north to south. Whether you’re looking for outdoor recreation, professional sports, arts, history or unique food and drink, an adventure is just a few hours away. Just don’t tell the folks on the East Coast. We don’t like crowds.

Author: Mike Knaak

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