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SO LONG GULLY Longtime radio guy Jim Gullickson signs off

also in this issue: Area nonprofits making a BIG IMPACT Get centered with MEDITATION Get to know ESTHER HOFFMANN Jim Gullickson JUNE 2019

The Free Press MEDIA


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FEATURE S JUNE 2019 Volume 14, Issue 6


Nonprofits have a huge impact We thought it was a good time to highlight a few of the special nonprofits we’ve got in the Mankato area.



So Long, Gully

Time for zen

Jim Gullickson, better known to most as “Gully,” is signing off after a long and successful career in the radio business.

Essayist Peter Johnson spent a meditative weekend at the Metta retreat center in Janesville and lived to tell about it.

ABOUT THE COVER Jim Gullickson has lead the way for KMSU to become the public radio station it is today. He was photographed at the KMSU studios by “Wolf Man” Pat Christman. MANKATO MAGAZINE • JUNE 2019 • 3

DEPARTMENTS 6 From the Editor 8 Faces & Places 12 This Day in History 13 Avant Guardians Benji Inniger


14 Beyond the Margin

Conversations with history

16 Familiar Faces Esther Hoffman

18 Day Trip Destinations Midwest Viking Festival


34 Wine


37 Beer

Fruit Ed

38 That’s Life

Growing old sucks

40 Garden Chat

Giddy for a greenhouse



42 Your Style

Light enough to travel

44 Coming Attractions 48 From This Valley What I’ll miss

Coming in July



Our annual BEST OF MANKATO issue.


FROM THE ASSOCIATE EDITOR By Robb Murray JUNE 2019 • VOLUME 14, ISSUE 6 PUBLISHER Steve Jameson EDITOR Joe Spear ASSOCIATE Robb Murray EDITOR CONTRIBUTORS Bert Mattson James Figy Jean Lundquist Jessica Server Leigh Pomeroy Nell Musolf Pete Steiner

PHOTOGRAPHERS Pat Christman Jackson Forderer

PAGE DESIGNER Christina Sankey ADVERTISING Danny Creel SALES Joan Streit Jordan Greer-Friesz Josh Zimmerman Marianne Carlson Theresa Haefner ADVERTISING Barb Wass ASSISTANT ADVERTISING Sue Hammar DESIGNERS Christina Sankey CIRCULATION Justin Niles DIRECTOR

Mankato Magazine is published by The Free Press Media monthly at 418 South Second St., Mankato MN 56001. To subscribe, call 1-800-657-4662 or 507-625-4451. $35.40 for 12 issues. For editorial inquiries, call Robb Murray at 344-6386, or e-mail For advertising, call 344-6364, or e-mail


A month for nonprofits, retreats and radio guys


here’s a lot to like about southern Minnesota, especially the Mankato area. Great schools, for one. Mankato’s public school school system is among the top in the state. I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve told me they stayed in Mankato long after they thought they’d have moved on to bigger communities with more lucrative employment opportunities, just because of the schools here. Outdoors life, for another. While we’re not Duluth, the Mankato area has a lot to be proud of when it comes to how well we’ve taken advantage of our natural resources. Biking, walking and running on the Sakatah and Red Jacket trails have become traditions for many. The Mankato Marathon continues to draw impressive crowds of runners. Area lakes are full of boaters and anglers all summer. And eventually, we’ll figure out a way to make that river a meaningful part of our downtown. But to me, one of the most impressive things about this community has been its collection of vibrant nonprofit groups. This month in Mankato Magazine, we’re taking a closer look at a handful of them. Our goal is to shine a light on a few to highlight the fact that we have so many. Whether it’s the YWCA fighting racism and empowering women, or the Backpack Food Program feeding hungry kids (or the Mankato Area United Way helping everyone), we’re fortunate to have these organizations in our community. Before I moved into the job I have now, I was a reporter covering nonprofits and health care. I worried moving into that beat that it might be a bit, well, boring. I was very

wrong about that. It wasn’t boring. In fact, it gave me some of the best stories of my career, and allowed me to get to know the nonprofit community in a way I hadn’t before. So we’re thrilled this month to bring some attention to the work they’re doing. Also in this month’s issue: Essayist Peter Johnson spent a weekend at a retreat in Janesville and lived to tell about it! Seriously, though, Johnson’s essay is a must read for anyone wondering whether meditation is something they’d enjoy. While Johnson paints a vivid picture of the retreat center, he also does a great job explaining the purpose of the center, while doing it in a way southern Minnesota folks will appreciate. Longtime radio personality Jim “Gully” Gullickson signs off this month. Gullickson has been in the business for more than 30 years and has worked in nearly every aspect of it. He leaves after a long stint at Minnesota State University’s KMSU, where he righted a wayward ship and brought a new level of respect to the station. Esther Hoffmann is the subject our Familiar Faces feature this month. If you’re into open mic nights, tavern trivia or amatuer theater, you may have run into Esther. She’s a high-energy, multitalented and uber-friendly woman who makes you want to smile, and we’re so glad she agreed to talk to us.

Robb Murray is associate editor of Mankato Magazine. Contact him at 344-6386 or rmurray@ Follow him on Twitter @freepressRobb.

CONTACT ME TODAY! Josh Zimmerman Digital Sales Manager



FACES & PLACES: Photos By SPX Sports

7th Annual Warm Your Heart


This event was a fundraiser for the Minnesota Valley Action Council. 1. George Blais informs people about the silent action and various soups. 2. The evening begins with soup sampling and voting. 3. Trophies awaited the winners of Best Soup and Most Unique Soup. 4. Each table was neatly presented with a Soup Passport, a program and a voting page. 5. Volunteers posing for a group photo. 6. People checked out the silent auction items up for grabs. 7. A wide showcasing the 7th Annual MVAC Warm Your Heart Fundraiser held in the ballroom at the Civic Center, Mankato, MN. 8. Amy Borgess pours soup for Old Main Village. 9. This will need to be rewritten










FACES & PLACES: Photos By SPX Sports

Easter Bunnies on Belgrade

This new event was of the Business on Belgrade slate of public events to draw attention to North Mankato’s downtown business district. 1. People waiting at the side of the road. 2. People got into the Easter spirit by wearing bunny ears. 3. The boxes contained 2,500 eggs. Top prize was $1,000 in cash. 4. There was a mad scramble for Easter 1 eggs. 5. Selfies were taken prior to the egg scramble. 6. People throw their eggs at the designated station in order to win prizes. 7. (From left) Cody Riemann and Jack Porsser pose for a photo before the event kicks off. 8. The crowd is shown here just prior to the event kickoff.









FACES & PLACES: Photos By SPX Sports

International Festival 2019


The annual gathering at Minnesota State University brings dozens of cultures under one roof for a day food, art and fellowship. 1. Greg Herriges was one of the live musicians performing at the Hearth Lounge Stage. 2. Glenn Wasicuna gives a speech about the Dakota world and shares a prayer in Dakota language. 3. An overview of the opening ceremony at this years International Festival. 4. People gathe to try the various foods from different cultures. 5. Globes were used as table decorations during the festival. 6. Glenn Wasicuna thanked students on stage after his speech. 7. The Flag Parade filled the ballroom at MSU.








FACES & PLACES: Photos By SPX Sports

Easter Egg Hunt at Taylor Library 1. Families were encouraged to bring their own basket. 2. There was a limit of only a few eggs per child due to the popularity of the event. 3. (From left) Lyle Dempster, Finley Johnson-Rode and twins Greta and Brynn Heintz had fun. 4. The Easter Bunny welcomes everyone to the Easter Egg Hunt. 5. Families wait for the North Mankato Taylor Library to open to begin the egg hunt.







THIS DAY IN HISTORY Compiled by Jean Lundquist

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Elks Band has no competition, retains honor Monday, June 10, 1957 The Mankato Elks Bank traveled all the way to International Falls to enter a competition that never took place. There was no competition because of “a shortage of entrants.” No one knows why, but for the first time since 1950, no other band entered the contest. 1950 is the first year the Mankato band took the championship, and had held it ever since. Because there were no other bands, the Mankato group played all 10 concerts during the weekend convention, including one before Governor Orville Freeman. Farmer invents 4-row picker Thursday, June 5, 1947 Arthur Abel, of Fairmont, and his sons figured a two-row picker worked twice as fast as a one-row picker, and a four-row picker would pick corn even faster. With Arthur Jr. and Robert, three months were spent figuring out how to get the contraption to work. They tried it out on 200 acres of corn owned by Arthur Sr., and discovered it “did a clean, quick job.” It was the first selfpropelled corn picker invented. The patent was sold to John Deere of Moline, IL. Abel said his next hope was to attach a sheller to the machine. Police raids net 43 “pickpockets” in local parlors Tuesday, June 8, 1937 They had been warned. Blue Earth County Attorney C.A. “Gus” Johnson and Mankato City Attorney Norman Nitzkowski were out of patience when they ordered police to confiscate two pinball machines, 26 “vending” machines and 15 punchboards on Monday, June 7. Johnson called the devices “mechanical pickpockets,” paying winnings in cash, and ordered them to be taken into custody. The investigation continued. Presidential train passed through Mankato at 4:20 A.M. Wednesday, June 15, 1927 How many times have United States presidents visited Mankato? It depends on whether the passing through of Calvin Coolidge is counted. His train entourage did not stop in Mankato, though some 50 souls had made the effort to watch it passing through town. President Coolidge was on his way to a vacation in Rapid City, SD. No stops were planned in the state, except for at Winona, where a new train crew would board, at Waseca and New Ulm to take on more coal, and in Sleepy Eye for water. The train also stopped at Judson for five minutes to take on water. How’re you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm? Thursday, June 1, 1967 Kaydra Helling was a girl from Madelia who had hit the big time in 1967. She was performing at Michael’s Red Boot Saloon in downtown Mankato, playing piano and singing. In a newspaper interview, she was quoted as saying, “Entertainers are just like everyone else. They aren’t all dope addicts and alcoholics.” She was heading out on the road the week after she gave the interview, and was excited about it. “The musical tastes of Mankatoans is not very sophisticated, she indicated. People don’t appreciate music that requires concentration.” She also said that like most entertainers, she is allowed to drink on the job, saying, “It’s necessary to match the customers’ level.” Her musical debut was a rendition of “Yes, Jesus Loves Me,” for a ladies’ aid meeting in Madelia

1750 Northway Drive • North Mankato, MN 56003


AVANT GUARDIANS By Leticia Gonzales

The Composer


Benji Inniger is making some beautiful music

hen Benji Inniger isn’t teaching courses such as music communication and Technology or Advanced Topics in Theatre, the Bethany Lutheran College associate professor of theater is busy sharing his skills as a composer, sound designer and recording engineer. The North Mankato resident not only composes adaptive scores for theater productions, musical soundtracks and sound design for video games and films, he also composes recordings for bands and ensembles such as The Divers, The Bekesh Trio, and the Summit Avenue Music Series. “I have been doing music and theater productions for most of my life,” shared Inniger. “I began college as a music major, but ultimately found my niche writing music for plays, which combined multiple interests very nicely.” Innigers’ training includes a Bachelors of Arts from Bethany Lutheran College and an MFA in Theatre Arts from Minnesota State University. He honed his skills by participating in the Broadway Sound Workshops in New York, the Hollywood Music Workshop in Austria, the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and the United States Institute for Theatre Technology. Inniger said by learning more about sound design he was able to see the technological possibilities with music and sound, which included recording. “Ultimately, these interests complement each other well and hopefully can equip me to work well in a variety of situations,” he added. Inniger doesn’t consider himself a performer, as he prefers working behind the scenes. “In composing, there are few greater joys than experiencing great musicians breathing life into your music or witnessing an audience pulled further into

a moment in a theater production that has all of the elements firing on all cylinders,” he said. He has been able to share his directing skills not only at Bethany Lutheran College, but at Minnesota State University and around the state. “It is a thrilling experience to try to access and coordinate all of the various elements and personalities that need to come together to make a good play,” said Inniger. While some artists have a sure method of inspiration to fuel their work, Inniger just lets things happen.“Most of the time, I don’t really know what any music is going to be until I sit down to make it,” he said. Inniger also listens to other composers and artists, as well as podcasts, to jumpstart his creativity. “Ultimately, when I’m writing, it boils down to the emotional content of the story I am trying to support and how best to represent that,” he added. In addition to working on four video games for Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox, Inniger is collaborating with the Mankato Symphony Orchestra. “They will be performing a few of my original works and arrangements this upcoming season, for which I am so thankful and thrilled, and I hope to continue to work with them into the future,” he said. His future compositions also include scores for a few burgeoning short films, two plays for the next theater season at Bethany, and a concert of his original works in October at Trinity Chapel. “I have definitely seen my music mature and become more complex over the years,” he said. “I think part of that is due just to life experience. As we get older, we have more to draw upon and more practice in finding different ways to express what we want to express.” MANKATO MAGAZINE • JUNE 2019 • 13


Conversations with history


Presence of historical figures lives on in Mankato

inclair Lewis, William Howard Taft and Schuyler Colfax walk into a bar. It’s the early 1900s in Mankato. Lewis calls Taft the biggest loser who was both a president and a Supreme Court justice, and he says Colfax is a “has been.” Taft says he doesn’t think too much of the book Lewis wrote called “Main Street,” and quips Lewis must have thought hard to come up with that name. Colfax takes another swig of brandy and wipes his mouth on a crisp white towel with “Saulpaugh Hotel” embroidered on it. Writing fiction has always been a dream of mine, and now you can tell why I don’t do it much. The bar was called the Blue Blazer and was located in the Saulpaugh Hotel, one of the greatest achievements of Thomas Saulpaugh construction firm from Minneapolis. While the tale of Lewis, Taft and Colfax at the Saulpaugh Hotel is a fictional one, at least two of the men, Lewis and Taft, did stay at the Saulpaugh, according to a report by Win Grundmeier for the Blue Earth County Historical Society. Colfax died in Mankato in the late 1885, four years before the hotel was completed. So they all could have at least crossed spiritual paths in Mankato. Saulpaugh came to Mankato looking at the quarries for rock to build railroad bridges and decided the city was ripe for a magnificent hotel built in part from the stone of those quarries. The city of Mankato was bustling with building at the time as construction of the St. Joseph’s Hospital, the Young Men’s Insurance Co. building, the Blue Earth County Courthouse and the baptist church were all being built during that summer, according to the historical society’s report. It was probably the last time numerous significant buildings were constructed in Mankato at one time until a few years ago with the likes of the Tailwind buildings and the Eide Bailly structure now going up just about a block from where the Saulpaugh used to stand. It’s a historical coincidence that the old “Immanuel St. Joseph’s Hospital” is undergoing major expansion on the YMCA is looking for an east side location. The estimated cost of the Saulpaugh was $100,000 in June of 1888. It opened in November 1889 at a final cost of about $150,000. The magnificent four story building was made of brick and Kasota stone. It was known for its “Saulpaugh Cigars” and high society nightlife. Lewis was putting the finishing touches on his novel “Main Street” rooming at a house a few blocks away on the 300 block of South Broad Street 100 years ago. He wrote about “Gopher Prairie” and the small and petty people he described were said to be fashioned after his hometown of Sauk Centre. (That’s the way the Mankato deniers describe it anyway.) 14 • JUNE 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Taft spoke at the Mankato Opera House in a campaign stop in October, 1911 as part of a failed re-election bid. Colfax was also only one of two men in history to ever be speaker of the House and a vice president. He served one term as vice president under U.S. Grant, from 1868 to 1871. Colfax, Lincoln’s speaker of the House, who helped end slavery, was apparently clueless about winter in Minnesota. We can forgive him for that. Colfax died of an apparent heart attack walking between two train stations in Mankato on a brutally cold January night on his way to a speaking engagement in Iowa. It seems when historical figures made it Mankato, they didn’t make it far. Of course, Lewis may have been the exception. He went on to be the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930 with his book “Main Street” and several others. His prolific talent produced several more books in the 1920s. But he must have liked Mankato. The heroine of Main Street, Carol Kennicott, grew up in Mankato, and ended up in Gopher Prairie via Chicago. Gopher Prairie (Sauk Centre) was the place she despised for its small town cliques and conservative attitudes. Maybe the high society parties at the Saulpaugh had something to do with Lewis’ affection for Mankato. It couldn’t have hurt. One needs a break while writing a depressing book. Taft was a one-term president, who never really wanted the job but was pressured by his longtime friend and mentor Theodore Roosevelt, who later abandoned his support for a Taft second term. Taft had a unique political career like Colfax. Taft remains today the only person who has held the highest executive position and highest judicial position in the country. For that, we can give him credit, despite what historians call a failed presidency. The Saulpaugh seemed to have more longevity than any of its famous guests. The structure survived a fire and a streetcar crashing through its lobby. It was torn down in 1974 as part of Mankato’s urban renewal as the city decided it would be too costly to renovate. The City Center Hotel now is located where the Saulpaugh once stood. Some of those bricks from the old Saulpaugh were salvaged by a local builder who paid children a penny a brick to chip off the mortar. A handful of homes in rural Mankato have fireplaces made with Saulpaugh brick. There’s still some party in those old bricks. I can tell. Joe Spear is editor of Mankato Magazine. Contact him at or 344-6382. Follow on Twitter @jfspear.

In 1919, the two-story brick building standing at 315 S. Broad St., was the summer home of Sinclair Lewis. The writer penned much of the manuscript for his novel “Main Street” in Mankato. Photo by Pat Christman

The Saulpaugh Hotel circa 1920. Photograph Courtesy of the Blue Earth County Historical Society


Familiar Faces

Ms. Positivity

We all could use a little Esther Marcella Hoffmann in our lives

I Photos by Jackson Forderer


Esther Marcella Hoffmann City of residence: Mankato


Writer and performance artist

Brief work history:

Freelance event coordinator since 2003


BA in creative writing from MSU

Family: Brother Jude Hoffmann,

Cindy(sister in law), Elise (neice), Bram (nephew), Marcella Bode (aunt) 16 • JUNE 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

f you’re friends with Esther Marcella Hoffmann, and you see her on the street or in the coffee shop, you can count on one thing happening: She will smile, give you her undivided attention and make you glad that you ran into her. Hoffmann is one of the Mankato’s most unique and inventive individuals. A creative person her whole like, it was roughly 2012 when her creativity really took off. She began writing and acting in plays. She also sings, does tarot card readings, even created a one-woman show she performed at the Coffee Hag several years ago. She confident, unafraid to be herself, and is part of Mankato’s mosaic of intriguing personalities. Mankato Magazine: It seems like you’re always busy doing trivia or tarot card readings or some other interesting thing. How do you find the time to have so many things going on? Esther Hoffmann: I always have time for what I love. What I love is creating spaces for expression and expansion. Story Our, Words Open Stage, Tarot for Tips with Esther, and Trivia with Esther and Trevor are intended to be community-building and empowering experiences. I will make the time. And, it helps to have a trustworthy co-host like Trevor Braget. MM: You’re about the most outgoing and confident person in town. Where does all that confidence come from? EH: Thank you. I went through a traumatic transition over a year ago. Everything I thought I was or would be was gone. I was left with was this raw self that I knew I could not afford to betray ever again. “Be honest, be kind” became my motto. I didn’t know I could be both before. So, now that I have boundaries and allow authenticity, I love being me. MM: In everything you do, you bring an explosion of positivity into the conversation. What helps you stay focused and full of positive energy? EH: Last year, I started a mental experiment. No matter who was standing in front of me, I’d think to myself “right now this person is the love of my life.” This thought soon became a way of being. How can I be negative when I’m looking for the sparkle in the eyes of the momentary love of my life?

MM: You were featured a few years ago in The Free Press as an up-and-coming playwright. What have you been writing lately and how has your writing career progressed? EH: I’ve been fortunate that companies like Little Black Dress INK have produced my plays nationally. Most recently my monologue “Period Piece” had simultaneous performances in Magnolia, AR and Milwaukee on Woman’s Day 2018. Locally, I’m happy to say that I’ve created scripts for Green Isle and Minnesota New Country Schools. Over the years, I have acted and/or written for many theater groups and my plays have been in many festivals here in Minnesota.

I’m capable of being vulnerable in my writing, but this will be camera in my face, my face in wilderness vulnerable. Part of me is afraid and asks, “Why am I doing this?” And, a part of me that asks for trust. I’m proud to align with the part of me wants trust. MM: What artist/musicians writers inspire you? EH: Author Cheryl Strayed (“Wild”) and musician Amanda F. Palmer. Each applies radical honesty to her craft. Radical honesty leads to radical compassion. I think humans need to become so honest and so compassionate that we can only be healing agents on this earth. Strayed and Palmer reach millions of fans — fans like me — and inspired this evolution through writing and performance.

MM: How welcoming would you say Mankato is for creative/artistic people like you? What grade would you give it? EH: Mankato deserves an ‘A’ in welcoming all artists. As a performance artist my greatest need is a venue. It seems on any given night there is an open stage in town. Places like the Mankato Maker’s Space, Twin Rivers and 410 Project are providing spaces for creation. I personally am grateful to the Wine Café, Curiosit-tea and Vagabond Village for welcoming my shenanigans.

MM: How would you describe Mankato to someone who’s not from here? EH: Mankato is a place where people return. People leave but they more than likely will come back. I think mostly for the artistic community, Minneopa Falls and Pagliai’s Pizza.

MM: What artistic endeavor of your own are you most proud of and why? EH: In March I received a grant from Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council and the McKnight Foundation to create a film over five days on the Superior Hiking Trail.

MM: What does Esther do when she’s not making other people smile? EH: Thank you. If I’m not making other people smile, I hope that I’m acting as a safe space where they feel encouraged to express whatever they are feeling. Or, I’m walking alone in the woods with a pack of snacks and a selfie stick.

Compiled by Robb Murray MANKATO MAGAZINE • JUNE 2019 • 17

DAY TRIP DESTINATIONS: Scandinavian Viking Festival By James Figy

You can try your hand at old-fashioned sword play at the Midwest Viking Festival in Moorhead.

Let’s Quest

Midwest Viking Festival highlights Scandinavian culture


t’s no secret that many Minnesotans have Scandinavian heritage. But in the Red River Valley on the state’s western edge, roughly half of the residents can trace their family lineage back to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland or Finland. To celebrate this and help people learn about the culture and history that shaped their area, HCSCC in Moorhead hosts the annual Scandinavian Hjemkomst & Midwest Viking Festival. The Viking Festival will take place June 21-22 at The Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead. The familyfriendly, two-day celebration will include music, dance, vendors and food. The word “Hjemkomst” means homecoming in Norwegian, and the festival and facility at Viking Ship Park are named after a full-scale, replica viking ship housed there. The Hjemkomst was built in Hawley, Minn., starting in the early 1970s, and it later sailed from Duluth to Norway in 1982. The festival has taken many forms since it started 42 years ago, but the mission has remained the same, 18 • JUNE 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

says Maureen Kelly Jonason, executive director of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County. “In 1986, when the Hjemkomst Center was built [to house the ship], it was seen as the natural place to hold the festival,” she said. “It was originally four days with a Sunday of services in Norwegian, Swedish and Danish. But eventually it whittled down to the Friday and Saturday that it is today.” In addition to viewing the sailing vessel at Viking Ship Park, there will be lectures and demonstrations related to Scandinavian life, history, immigration and related topics. Children can set off on a Viking Quest, earning a bead for their necklace at each station. “Indoor activities focus on the immigration period forward to modern Scandinavia while outdoors is a Viking Village full of artists interpreting Viking life. Cooking, weaving, forging, carving are among the demonstrations. There is archery to try and battle demonstrations to watch and vendors of Viking-ware all in the shadow of a tall stave church,” Jonason said.

This two-day festival will give you your fill of Norse culture and food. There are also opportunities to taste the culture. “Visitors relish the food court wherein they can get entrees and desserts from every Scandinavian culture — Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway — while they listen to old-time music,” she said. Each year, the Scandinavian Hjemkomst & Midwest Viking Festival chooses a featured country, and this year, it will highlight Denmark. While many popular demonstrations from all Scandinavian countries will return, the HCSCC website states, they will be “joined this year by Danish newcomers Niels Fulgyr (Viking locksmith), Jacob Børsting (blacksmith), Linnea BangMadsen (tablet weaver), Jeppe Garly (blacksmith) and UK-based Viking storyteller Adrian Spendlow.” Whether visitors want to experience Moorhead a different weekend or extend their stay during the festival, there are many fun things to do in the area. Jonason recommends attending a show at the Trollwood Performing Arts Theatre, catching a children’s theatre production at Gooseberry Park Players or visiting an art museum, including those at the Rourke, Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College. The area offers a number of pubs and breweries, including Junkyard Brewing Company. Food options include everything from fine dining at Rustica to burgers at JL Beers and Indian/Nepalese fare at Everest Tikka. “And of course, Fargo is just across the river,” she said. “Moorhead ... makes a great day trip but an even better over-nighter.” In addition to the Midwest Viking Festival, HCSCC hosts other cultural events throughout the year to recognize the diverse heritages of all its residents. “We consider the arts a part of every culture, and so we offer three arts festivals a year: The Midwest Viking

Festival, the German KulturFest in September and Pangea—Cultivate Our Cultures in November. Pangea is our multicultural festival,” Jonason said. “Although 50% claim some Scandinavian heritage, 50% do not, and we want to honor those cultural traditions to the best of our ability.”


SCANDINAVIAN HJEMKOMST & MIDWEST VIKING FESTIVAL Where: The Hjemkomst Center — 202 1st Avenue North, Moorhead, MN 56560 When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., June 21-22 Admission: $15 for adults, $10 for teens and seniors, and free for children

Visit for more information MANKATO MAGAZINE • JUNE 2019 • 19

Employees from Consolidated Communications volunteer as food packers for the Backpack Food Program. The food items are placed discreetly into the backpacks of children who qualify for the program so that they don’t go hungry at home.


for their


The Mankato area has a vibrant and compassionate network of nonprofits. We thought it was a good time let you get to know a few of them


By Grace Brandt

ust off Howard Drive in North Mankato sits a drab gray warehouse. Halfway down the building a sign juts out of the wall, barely large enough to notice from the parking lot: “Backpack Food Program.” Yet as soon as you walk through the door, the place comes alive. On the far left of the building, a


homemade food pantry has been organized. Shelves upon shelves are lined with rows of food: cereal, soup, juice … One side of the room is filled with different colored bins, each with a name tag hanging over them: Hoover Elementary, Dakota Meadows Middle School, Roosevelt Elementary.

Weaving their way around metal tables covered with even more food are 10 volunteers. Some are grabbing boxes based on the specific menu written on the chalkboard. Some are stuffing different items into plastic bags. Some are carefully packing the bags into those colored bins. The group will only be here for an hour, but they will pack enough bags to feed dozens of school children. The Backpack Food Program is run by Feeding Our Communities Partners, and it is only one way that nonprofit groups across Mankato are caring for their community.

The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota is one of the most popular attractions in Mankato.

Filling a need

Feeding Our Communities Partners was founded in 2010 and started with just one school, Franklin Elementary. By 2019, the program had expanded to 21 schools in five districts, providing healthy meal supplements for more than 900 students. According to Executive Director Sheri Sander-Silva, the organization meets a vital need that many people don’t realize is facing the greater Mankato area. “People always ask me, ‘What does the average family participating in your program look like?’” she said. “I can honestly say, they look 900 different ways. There are 900 different experiences, needs and stresses.” Recent data showed that one in six children experience hunger in Minnesota, with many families relying on school meals to adequately feed their children. But students can go hungry on weekends or during school breaks. To combat this, FOCP offers three programs, including a newly launched summer weekend program, and all of them revolve around volunteers packing meals that are discreetly placed in students’ backpacks or lockers. Throughout the 2017-2018 school year, more than 225,000 meals were

distributed. The meals were designed by nutrition experts and tailored to students’ unique dietary needs and home situations. Weekend food packs cost about $4 to compile, and it costs about $360 to feed a student during the entire school year. FOCP has a staff of only six people, with another 850 volunteers filling in to help every year. The organization purchases its own food instead of taking food donations, and it doesn’t receive state or federal assistance. SanderSilva said that allows the organization to stay flexible and truly be a “community” resource. “This is a community-led initiative,” she said. “When we ask for help, they show up. This isn’t just our program; this is the community’s program.”

Encouraging education

There is only one place in Mankato where kids have the chance to operate a giant sneeze machine, watch chicks grow and climb around a sprawling tree fort: the Children’s Museum of Southern

Minnesota. Every year, more than 100,000 people visit the museum, which was founded in 2015. Exhibits constantly evolve to offer more educational experiences, and the museum also offers programming for toddlers, takes programs out into different communities and provides educational learning programs for visiting school classes. According to Kaaren Grabianowski, director of external relations, it’s important to encourage education at an early age. “Early learning is so important for children,” she said. “They learn so much, and their brain grows in significant areas in those first few years of life.” One of the museum’s goals is to be accessible to any family no matter their circumstances. Of the roughly 2,200 family memberships, about 25 percent of families receive them at no cost. “One thing that’s very important for us, and it’s part of our mission statement, is that we’re a museum MANKATO MAGAZINE • JUNE 2019 • 21

Economic impact


hile it may seem like nonprofit organizations can only help on a one-on-one way, the truth is that nonprofits have a huge impact on their community, including economically. Greater Mankato Growth is a nonprofit specifically dedicated to developing the Mankato area’s economic development by supporting businesses and employees. Patrick Baker, vice president and director of government and institutional affairs at GMG, said that nonprofit organizes provide a crucial “social safety net” to the community, which in turn helps equip people to become more financially independent and strengthen the area’s economic development. “All of [nonprofits’ work] is critical to ensuring that folks have the ability to access those services and hopefully get themselves back on a path where they can be back in the workforce, which is where we as a community really need them to be,” Baker said. “[Nonprofits] ensure that our workforce members don’t fall so far through the crack that they’re nonrecoverable.” John Considine, GMG Director of Regional Business Intelligence, added that nonprofits benefit the community in many more ways, such as offering services and resources that attract people to Mankato. “It’s really important for folks who are looking to make the move to the community to know that we have unique things to offer,” he said. “When they’re making a decision on where they want to live, they look for stuff like, ‘Is there a healthcare facility? Is there a fitness facility like the YMCA? What’s there that could help us be successful here?’” It isn’t just people who consider these things, either. Businesses also study a community’s overall vitality as they decide whether to invest in the area. Considine said that nearly $200 million of capital investments have been made in the downtown Mankato area since the 2000s, with new buildings constructed and old ones updated. Part of this investment comes from the work of nonprofits such as the City Center Partnership and Twin River Council of the Arts, which have worked for nearly 20 years to beautify the downtown area through wall murals, painted utility boxes and the rotating Sculpture Walk. “People recognize that type of investment by nonprofits, and it spurts others to join the party and create that momentum that ripples throughout the region,” Considine said. Overall, it can be difficult to quantify just how much nonprofits affect the communities around them—but it’s a lot. “The impact is immeasurable,” Baker said. “Everyone here is either likely a volunteer or has been affected by an nonprofit in one way or another.” MM


Sara Sinnard (right) works with members of her newest SURGE group at the Open Door Health Center. The group helps local teen girls build confidence and gain leadership insights. for all,” Grabianowski explained. “So if a family can’t afford a membership, we will provide them with a membership. We feel that education in early learning is very important, and this gives an outlet for those families to come and experience that.”

Empowering others

YWCA Mankato has a mission—and it’s a big one. For more than 50 years, the organization has been working toward eliminating racism and empowering women. One of only four YWCAs in Minnesota, YWCA Mankato (which isn’t affiliated with the YMCA) has three platforms: racial justice and civil rights, female empowerment and health and safety for women and girls. Programs for girls include “Girls on the Run” and the bicycling-based “Gears,” while the organization supports women through the 10-month Elizabeth Kearney Women’s Leadership Program. Laura Stevens, YWCA interim executive director, said one of the organization’s most recent areas of focus is eliminating racism. “With the increased diversity in our community, we’re finding that that is a place where we’re really trying to hone in on,” she said. “We’re more committed than ever to making our community a place where women and girls of color are safe, healthy and empowered.” Stevens said the YWCA has started offering racial justice workshops in Mankato and the surrounding area, as well as annual events such as “It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race” in December. Last year, more than 500 people attended the event. Another program that ties into the YWCA’s goals is New American Families. “Home visitors” work with refugee or immigrant women who are either pregnant or the mother of a child 0-5, in order to help connect them to resources in the community. “We’re trying to make [Mankato] a better place that’s safer, more welcoming and a better place for everyone to live,” Stevens said.

Providing support

While some area nonprofits focus on one specific need in the community, Greater Mankato Area United Way has a different goal: supporting other area causes. Looking at ways to support basic needs, education and health in the community, GMAUW supports 53

programs and 35 different agencies around the Mankato area, including Blue Earth, Nicollet, Waseca and Le Sueur Counties. These agencies range from the Mankato YMCA to the St. Peter Area Food Shelf. Community Impact Director Elizabeth Harstad said that one of the main ways GMAUW helps the community is bringing people together to identify needs. “Many of the new programs that have developed in the greater Mankato area in the past decade have been instigated by United Way’s role of bringing people together to talk about it,” she said. Harstad stressed that United Way doesn’t run these programs; instead, it brings together other nonprofit organizations, schools, county agencies and businesses to develop strategies on how to move forward. Then, United Way helps by connecting the program to resources, volunteers and funds. One example is its database to connect organizations to volunteers. GMAUW does run a few of its own programs, notably Books for Kids, which provides free books and parenting resources to families in the region. Partnering with Capstone Publishing, GMAUW has distributed nearly 27,500 books since the program started in 1997. In this and other work, GMAUW is supported by a staff of only seven employees—and more than 1,000 volunteers. “Being able to mobilize volunteers the way we do allows us to have a much greater impact than what our small staff could do,” Harstad said. “That’s how we’ve ProMusica Rack Card-PRINT.pdf 2 4/9/19 9:45 AM been able to successful maintain a growing, strong United Way.”

Little Rock Nine member Carlotta Walls LaNier speak about her experiences during school desegregation during the YWCA’s “It’s Time to Talk: Forums About Race: event.








Purchase tickets in advance through or at the door. Festival Pass: $35







General Admission: $15 Student Admission: $5





Festival Opener

Sunday, June 16 @ 3pm

W.A. Mozart - Violin Sonata in E Minor, K 304 Johannes Brahms - Violin Sonata in D Minor, Op.108 Cesar Franck - Violin Sonata in A Major Peter McGuire - violin Bethel Balge - piano

Young Artist Recital Monday, June 17 @ 7pm Free Admission

Program TBA Brianne Ulrich - piano Madeline Halvorson - violin Hannah Greenstein - cello Kiara Riehl - flute

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Concerts held at Trinity Chapel on the campus of Bethany Lutheran College 700 Luther Drive, Mankato MN

Circle of Friends

C Minor Moods

Clara Schumann - Five Lieder, Op.13 Robert Schumann - Piano Trio No.1 in D Minor, Op.63 Johannes Brahms - Cello Sonata in F Major, Op.99 Leonardo Altino - cello Jenny Haugen - soprano Peter McGuire - violin Bethel Balge - piano

Johannes Brahms -String Quartet in C Minor, Op.51 -Sonatensatz: Scherzo in C Minor from the F.A.E. Sonata -Piano Trio in C Minor, Op.101 Peter McGuire - violin Cecilia Belcher - violin Sifei Cheng - viola Richard Belcher - cello Bethel Balge - piano

Wednesday, June 19 @ 7pm

Friday, June 21 @ 7pm


REFLECTIONS By Jackson Forderer



ndy Duffey drives his tractor down a gravel road with a four-wheeler in tow in rural Judson as the planting season was in full swing. A stretch of warm, dry weather gave area farmers a window just large enough to get all of their crops in the soil. But with Mother Nature’s fickle personality lately, only she knows what kind of summer and harvest our local farmers will have this year. MM


! Y L L U G , G N SO LO Jim Gullickson’s 30-year career in radio comes to an end this month By Robb Murray | Photos by Pat Christman 26 • JUNE 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE


t’d been a week of pleading. A week of asking. A week of trying to convince listeners to give a little chunk of their hard-earned money to the little public radio station at Minnesota State University. And now, after thousands of dollars had been raised, they were just a few donations away from wrapping up the pledge drive. Gathered in a studio where they’d been literally asking for money and playing songs for 24 hours straight — the culmination of KMSU’s biannual, week-long pledge drive — Tim Lind and Shelley Pierce announced the station was close to hitting its goal. Just then, Jim Gullickson walked into the room. As the station manager, he’s the guy responsible for the station’s success or failure. If volunteers are KMSU’s engine and listeners provide the fuel, you might say Gullickson — or “Gully” as most people know him — is the guy behind the wheel. As the station manager, he guides the station’s personality and provides the necessary backbone. And when they do something amazing, such as convincing listeners yet again that this radio station that plays local music, brings in national recording artists, gives gardening and cooking tips, introduces you to jazz and show tunes and blues and funk and soul and punk and metal and folk music — he’s there to cheer as loud as anyone. It’s a Friday afternoon and Lind and Pierce, bleery-eyed from another all-nighter, prepare to announce the end of the pledge drive. Gullickson, who has been taking calls from donors and doing his own on-air convincing, is ready to cheer. Finally, a call comes in with a donation that puts them over the top, and everyone in the room erupts. Yes, it’s radio, and no one listening can see, but if they could, they’d see laughter, people jumping up and down, cameras flashing, hugs. And they’d see Gullickson’s smile, ear to ear, the absolute picture of joy, the image of a man proud to be the captain of this ship, and perhaps a little sad that he’s doing this for the last time. After 30 years in the radio business, Gullickson retires this month.

Minneapolis kid

Jim Gullickson. Photo by Pat Christman

Gullickson grew up in the Kenwood neighborhood of Minneapolis. “We sort of owned the neighborhood, us kids,” he says of his upbringing. “There was quite a network of moms, eyes watching what the kids were doing, whether they were your kids or not.” The family moved to the Chanhassen area when he was in middle school, a move that helped him get a job at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater. He started as a busboy, and worked his way up to waiter. He tried traditional college for a stint, confessing to majoring in “partying” at the University of Minnesota. He says he “flunked out” of the U, and eventually ended up at the Brown Institute, the legendary school that trained so many broadcasters.


Jim Gullickson has been worked in just about every aspect of the radio business. In retirement, he’s hoping to continue to help KMSU raise money. His first taste of working in radio was at KFAI, a noncommercial station in the Twin Cities. It was a tiny station, five watts or so, which at the time served just a small neighborhood of Minneapolis. “It was very hippy-like,” he said. Gullickson worked as an intern there, rewriting newspaper stories and filing papers. But occasionally, one of the volunteers wouldn’t show up or would call in sick, and he’d get to fill in. “That’s when the bug bit me. I was on the air and I could select from the crazy record stacks they had. I was like a kid in a candy store there, and it was all vinyl,” he said. “It was not a lot of talking, mostly music, because I was terrified of being on the air. But then I’d get a couple calls from listeners who were really thrilled with what I’d played, and that was like cocaine. I was so jazzed about that.” His first paying job, post graduation from Brown, came at KNAB in Burlington, CO. “And if you know where Burlington is, you know Colorado geography better than most,” he joked. “I was the news director. Straight out of Brown, I’m the news director. And I was the shittiest news director in the world. I had no business being news director. I should have been fired, but I could fog the mirror, so…” He was there for a lean year and a half. Lived in an aqua-colored apartment building called The Montezuma, the sight of which made his girlfriend cry when they’d first set eyes on it. Then Bob Johnson of KRBI in LeSueur and St. Peter — at the insistence of Gullickson family friends — offered Gullickson a job working in various capacities (but not news director). 28 • JUNE 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Eventually an ad sales representative left and Gullickson moved into that job. “Back at Brown, we were told the real money was in sales,” he said. Johnson gave Gullickson a few accounts and helped usher him into the world of sales. “Bob did the right thing and gave me high school sports to sell,” he said. “What are they gonna do, not support their local teams? There weren’t that many places that said no … Bob was very kind and generous to me.” A few years later, Gullickson got an offer to work at what he calls “the bad old KYSM.” “I say that with love in my heart, but honestly, it was a terrible radio station,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything so messed up in my life. In fact you could do a TV show about the way that radio station was back in those days.” Shortly after starting, he says, he recognized some dysfunctionality at the station. They also had a bizarre, pneumatics-based automation system for playing ads and other promotions, the quality of which he questioned. “As a sales person I wasn’t entirely sure the ads were playing that I’d sold my clients,” he said. “I was really having a lot of trouble with my job.”

‘The Show’

Finally, he was rescued. While getting a pack of smokes at Super America one day, he ran into Rick Larson of KXLP. “He says, ‘Gully, long time no see, where are you working now?’” he said. “And I said [covers his mouth

for effect] ‘KYSM.’ And he says, ‘Aw, that’s bullshit, we gotta get you over to KXLP.’” Within a week he was interviewing for a job at KXLP. He was hired as a sales representative at first, but eventually got a spot on the morning show. He started filling in for Casey Lloyd, and eventually took over the morning slot. When his partner got fired, they hired a young man named John Serio. The two of them had instant chemistry, and their show (called “The Show”) was perhaps the biggest morning show in southern Minnesota. The two attended a morning show boot camp conference in Chicago, and that got them to thinking about ways to create a memorable morning schtick. Among their antics: The bit they did where they vowed that, if a certain band came to Mankato, they’d “walk naked around the civic center.” And then, when the day came to make good on the vow, the pair emerged from a van with a dog named Naked, which they promptly took for a short walk around the building. “At the time when I left KXLP, we were kicking everybody else’s ass,” he said. “I was certain Mike Nolan hired me away from KXLP to break up the morning show.” It did break up the show, which ran for about five years. And Gullickson says Serio wasn’t happy that he’d left. But, financially, heading over to work for Nolan at Z99 was a good move. He was a sales manager and loved his job … Until the Nolans sold the station, and he became general manager. “What I really became was CFO — chief firing officer,” he said. “It sucked. I was firing people that had no business being fired. They didn’t deserve it.” After a few years of dealing with abusive management, Gullickson got the call from KMSU that would change his life.


In the summer of 2001, Gullickson met with Minnesota State University’s vice president for university advancement to discuss the vacant general manager post at KMSU. That VP reached out to Gullickson at the behest of Karen Wright, who currently works for KMSU, but who was working in MSU’s public relations department at the time.

She’s proud to have thrown his name into the mix. “He is a very positive force,” Wright said. “He trusts your abilities and lets you do what you’re good at.” Wright said Gullickson came in at a time when strong leadership was needed. “KMSU was in a leadership drought and needed a fresh new boost,” she said. “Him coming in boosted everybody’s morale.” Fun fact: Gullickson turned down MSU’s initial offer. “I did the math and I wouldn’t have been able to make ends meet,” he said. “And I thought that was the end of it.” Ten days later, they called him back with a better offer. And he took it. He came into a radio station that, while it wasn’t a sinking ship, was certainly in need of some direction. “There hadn’t been a pledge drive for years. There was a $50,000 hole in the budget,” he said. “Instead of the foundation account having some money in it, there was a deficit; we were spending money we didn’t have.” Setting up and establishing a pledge drive schedule was crucial to the station. Having a steady stream of listener-driven revenue is standard procedure in public radio, and Gullickson got them back on track to having them twice a year. Another early move was installing an automation system — a means by which audio can be played without having a human in the studio. One of the problems he noticed was the station wasn’t in compliance with laws governing station identification. Two systems in, the current setup is state-of-the art and rugged. One of his most important moves, he says, was establishing the morning show, called Shuffle Function. Hosts Tim Lind and Shelley Pierce host a three-hour show full of curated music, listener interaction and vibrant personalities — sort of the symbol for KMSU’s ethos. It was Gullickson’s decision, which he made after a recommendation from a listener. “The decision to put Tim and Shelley on the morning show was a huge, critical shift in how this station has moved forward from that day,” he said, “and it’s because of the old saying, your morning show sets the table for the rest of

the day. I would argue that having Tim and Shelley on in the morning has made this station more successful.” He says one thing that has been very different about working at KMSU versus commercial radio is the mission. “Being on air at KXLP had a certain satisfaction in knowing that we were successful and a lot of people were listening, and that really felt good. It was a rush, and it was fun to be recognized in the community. And because I was selling, I got to know a lot of these business owners. And I really loved that. “Here, it’s all about the programming, it’s all about how we interface with our listeners. And I’m not saying that that isn’t the case in commercial radio, but it’s not the number one thing,” he said. “Here, it’s about making a deep connection to the listeners. And that’s why they give us money. They truly love the station. There is something uniquely satisfying about taking a call during pledge drive from a listener. Just the other day a lady who said she’s 70 years old and still going strong — and it sounded like it, she was a pistol — went on and on about how much she loves this station. It’s really, really affirming. It feels great.” That last pledge drive, he says, meant a little more than the others. He still plans on helping the station raise money, but it will be different. “Just knowing it was my last pledge drive as the boss, as the leader of the organization,” he said. “Just like anything else, people look up to whoever’s leading. But like I said to Tim and Shelley the other day — they wanted me to be with them for the last few minutes of the drive and just tell me how much they appreciated my leadership — and I said one of my great successes has been just saying ‘yes’ a lot. If somebody comes to me with an idea that’s well thought out, how do I say no to that?” MM MANKATO MAGAZINE • JUNE 2019 • 29




Mindful in

Janesville A stay at a meditation center helped the author find some zen Essay and photos by Peter Johnson


he announcement read, “Winter Retreat — A New Year with a New Beginning with Life.” In the past, three days of meditation just “wouldn’t fit in my schedule.” However, this retreat caught my attention and I thought it might be a great way to start the new year. My son flew in from Tennessee to join me. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I attend meditation classes most Monday nights and have been practicing meditation off and on for many years, but this would be my first retreat experience. The retreat was held at the Metta Meditation Center, 20 minutes from Mankato in Janesville. The Center was originally run by Catholic nuns and was purchased in 2017 by Buddhist monks. It faces west, looking across Lake Elysian, showcasing some amazing sunsets. After picking my son up at the airport, we arrived at the Center on a Thursday night. My first surprise was the solar-powered Christmas lights blinking around the stone entrance sign off of East Elysian Road. I might have missed the turn-off otherwise. Approaching the parking area, a huge concrete cross glowed against the night sky. When I asked the monks about it, they said people from all faiths still use the Center, and they keep the cross as a welcoming symbol. Leaving our shoes at the door (a Buddhist custom) we quickly registered and hauled our stuff up to our rooms. The Center has several meeting rooms, a kitchen, a large dining area on one end and sleeping rooms on the other. Instead of room numbers, each room has a name. I stayed in Patience. My son stayed in Self-Esteem. Women stayed in the rooms on the ground floor, men stayed upstairs. That evening Bhante Sathi, one of the monks who maintain the Center, outlined what we would be doing. The retreat focused on three main activities: sitting meditation, walking meditation, and mindful eating. In between were teachings and guided discussions. Bhante asked us to observe silence as much as possible and emphasized how the retreat was designed to give us a chance to explore and improve ourselves and learn how our mind works. Afterward, we moved to the large meditation room and began the retreat with a 45-minute breathing meditation. Most of us used the large cushions, while others used the chairs. Then, off to bed at the early hour of 9:30 pm.

I woke hearing the sound of a Tibetan Singing Bowl. A quick glance at my phone told me it was 5:45 a.m. — I hadn’t seen that time of day in a long time. A bit groggy, I headed for the meditation room wondering how the day would fare. First activity: Mindful Yoga. Bhante walked us through several basic exercises monks use to keep their body fit for long hours of sitting meditation. With each pose we took in a deep breath, held it as we struck the pose, then let go (often with a strong “humpppfff”) as we released our breath. This was immediately followed by taking in another deep breath, holding it as we repeated the stretch. It was a great way to start the day; not too strenuous, just great stretches and lots of lung expansion. After this physical warm up, we began one of several sitting meditations for the day focusing on our breath. Breathing meditation is simple. All you have to do is focus on your breath. Breath in. (Notice the pause.) Breath out (Notice the pause). Sounds easy, right? The problem is our mind is a trickster. It sets up a constant chatter, distracting us with thoughts, emotions, and stories. After only a few breaths I catch my mind talking about something, making me completely lose my attention to breathing. I wander off into the story my mind is telling, mesmerized. Suddenly, I become aware I’m drifting, and like a tightrope walker losing balance I catch myself and start over. Breathe in. (Notice the pause.) Breathe out (Notice the pause). Breathe in. (Notice the pause.) Breathe out (Notice the pause). When I first started meditating, I would be good for 2-3 breaths before I got distracted. Now, after much practice, I have a much better attention span (maybe 10-15 breaths). This directly translates into my daily life, keeping me much more focused and less distracted no matter what I am doing. Sixty minutes later, with the soft ringing of the singing bowl, I open my eyes (mindfully), stretch my legs, and carefully stand. It is time for breakfast! We serve ourselves and sit at the table in silence waiting patiently as each person dishes up their plate. Normally the monks chant an ancient prayer in Pali (the language Buddha used for his teachings) before they eat. However, for the retreat, we read an English translation of this prayer as a group, and then dove MANKATO MAGAZINE • JUNE 2019 • 31

This walking path is part of the experience at the retreat center. head first into our first meal. Well, “dove” isn’t really the right word; it was more of “easing” into the first meal, and being greeted by vibrant flavors. Following Bhante Sathi’s breakfast introduction, we ate our meal mindfully, in silence, focusing on each bite. As my mother will tell you, I am a very fast eater. I had to teach myself to eat one bite at a time, not taking another bite until I had completely finished the first. I found it helped to set my fork down in between bites and close my eyes while chewing. Breakfast was vegan and absolutely delicious, probably more so because I was eating mindfully. This is an amazing exercise, especially when eating with a dozen other people. We weren’t focused on each other or conversation — only our food, one bite at a time. If people ate this mindfully when I cooked a meal I can only imagine how much better my meals would taste. After breakfast, we learned about walking meditation. The key is to walk slowly, focusing on each step. This can be done inside or out and is a great calming exercise. My feet wanted to race ahead until I noticed the other, more experienced participants, walking in slow motion. I reminded myself (my mind) that I didn’t have anywhere to go, and to just to focus on the walking. Walking mindfully really made me aware of my surroundings. When I drive 70 mph on a freeway, I hardly notice the countryside flashing past. This is great when I need to get somewhere fast. But I’ve found that if I later cover some of those miles on a bicycle I notice a lot more details. Hiking that same route I notice even more. And, when I do walking meditation, even though I do not cover much distance, I not only discover details of my surroundings but have time to observe my mind and can patiently work to calm its endless chatter. When I was ready, I mindfully walked toward the meditation room and sat down on the soft cushions for yet another quiet, peaceful breathing meditation session. Oh wait, I forgot to mention the roofers. A few months earlier a tornado had torn through the Center, bringing down 100-year-old trees. One of those trees collapsed the roof over one of the meeting rooms. With 32 • JUNE 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

the warmer temperatures, the contractor was anxious to finish the roofing and they were making quite a bit of noise. But, I reasoned, this was a great opportunity to practice my focus despite real-life distractions. As I began my meditation the hammering began to have sort of a rhythm. Nice. That is until they dropped another bundle of shingles, seemingly right over the top of my head. My whole body would jump in alarm. “Okay,” I’d tell my mind, “let’s start again.” That was the longest, but most interesting, meditation of the entire retreat! It’s like the workmen knew when my mind began to wander, dropping a block of shingles at just the right instant giving me focus. After a delicious vegan lunch with lots of variety and options, Bhante Sathi led a discussion on mindful eating, asking for our personal observations and adding commentary based on Buddha’s teachings. That afternoon, with the sun streaming into the windows, Gina Gafford led us through an attentiongetting yoga session. As we stretched and did our downward-dogs, the sun began setting. By the end of the session, the room was dim and quiet in the twilight. With the group paying attention in silence, it was magical. For the last meditation of the day, we did a Metta Meditation. Instead of a breathing meditation as we had been doing, Bhante Sathi guided us with the following intentions: “May all living beings be well, be happy, be skillful, and peaceful.” Metta in Pali means loving kindness, friendliness, goodwill, and active interest in others. This is where the Metta Meditation Center gets its name. What did I gain from these three days? A lot. The first full day was tough. During the hour of free time, I called my wife who asked me if I had any “aha” moments. “No nothing,” I responded, “I don’t know what I’m doing here.” But, by Sunday, when it was time to leave, things had come together, and I wasn’t really ready to leave. This was not a religious retreat. Although Bhante Sathi referred to Buddha’s teachings, the lessons were life lessons and fit well with most religions I am familiar with. These lessons gave me a new way to think about things such as developing my own self-confidence,

having compassion for others and understanding how my mind works to gain greater attention and focus. Oh yes, and on mindful eating. The retreat really helped calm the racing chatter in my mind. I find I focus better on whatever I am doing. I am more observant before I speak, and I feel calmer and more relaxed. After returning home I took my dog out for our customary walk. Instead of just walking the dog I now make a point to walk mindfully. It is a whole new and delightful experience for both me and my dog. In the past, my meditation sittings never went longer than 25 minutes. I’ve now shown myself that I can sit, focusing on my breath, for much longer. I’ve also started practicing meditation each morning which is really a great way to start the day. Right now as I write this, I’m in a busy waiting room with the background music playing over the top of a loud daytime TV show. Before attending the retreat, these things would have distracted me beyond irritation. But, since attending the retreat, I can now observe these things and just let them go, focusing on my writing. This is very cool. How did my son do? As I took him to the airport we made up for our few days of near silence, reflecting on our weekend together and how this experience translates into our own day-to-day routines. Since his return home I noticed his approach to himself, his family, and his business has shifted slightly. I see him using the tools we learned, approaching problems and issues with a clear mind, not getting caught up in the emotions of the moment. We are both very glad that we took advantage of this opportunity together. MM


“Voted one of “Mankato’s Best” 7 Years in a row!

AUSTIN’S AUTO REPAIR CENTER INC. 1620 Commerce Drive • North Mankato, MN 56003 (507) 625-2886 • (507) 387-1315 •

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Exceeding expectations & gaining trust through exceptional value and performance! Peter K. Johnson lives in Mankato with his wife and Shih Tzu puppy. He is the founder of Web Explorations, creating educational materials. Since the retreat he has been meditating on a regular basis, and spends some of his free time helping the monks create their own web pages. He is also webmaster for Triple Gem of the North and the Metta Meditation Center.


Mankato: 507-345-4828 | Rochester: 507-289-4874


Wine & Beer


By Leigh Pomeroy

southern mn style


The mystery of the cabernet pfeffer

iscovering the old Almaden Cienega winery was both a long sought-after goal and a surprise. (See “The oldest winery in California comes with a car museum too” in Mankato Magazine.) Couched between low rolling hills and a tiny valley, it was a large copse of buildings literally in the middle of nowhere. How did it come to be here? This I explained in my previous wine article, but it was not the only mystery we encountered at DeRose. The other was two unique red wines that the current owner, Pat DeRose, was offering: Negrette and Cabernet Pfeffer. Negrette was an easy one to solve: It is the original French and worldwide recognized name for a grape historically known in California as Pinot St. George. It was not widely planted but respected as a unique varietal when made by the legendary Inglenook Vineyards of Napa Valley before that brand name ended up on a line of jug wines. (Fortunately, the Inglenook name has now been purchased by Francis Ford Coppola and appended to the original Inglenook property, which he has owned since the 1970s.) In 1997, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,


Firearms and Explosives (BATF), which regulates wine labels — go figure! — dictated a wholesale renaming of a number of grapes, declaring that wines made from pinot St. George had to be labeled Negrette. Cabernet pfeffer is a wholly different sort. While negrette today is not widely planted, cabernet Pfeffer is almost nonexistent, by last count about 12 acres in California. Most of the plantings are confined to the Cienega area, west of Hollister in San Benito County, with some in Sonoma County. The story we were told by Pat DeRose is that the grape is a cross between cabernet sauvignon and a French varietal called trousseau, which was created by a horticulturist named William Pfeffer. But in reality, cabernet pfeffer is no relation of cabernet sauvignon. Upon further digging, I found two more credible stories of origin. One was that it is actually gros verdot (no relation to petit verdot), a variety that used to be grown in Bordeaux in the 19th century but now is not, according to British wine expert Jancis Robinson. But that theory has since been updated by DNA testing at the University of California Davis. Ampelographers (researchers who study grape origins) determined that it was actually an obscure French grape called mourtaou. Adding further confusion to the story, some California growers and vintners call this grape gros verdot and others cabernet pfeffer. Still others confuse gros verdot with trousseau, also known as bastardo. And Caduceus Cellars in Arizona claims to be growing a grape they say is gros verdot, but who knows what it really is? UGH! The official directory of grape varieties on the Foundation Plant Services website of UC Davis lists

mourtaou and trousseau/bastardo as recognized grape names, but not gros verdot or cabernet pfeffer. However, it does list cabernet pfeffer as a synonym for mourtaou, but not any other grape. All this confusion aside, what does cabernet pfeffer taste like? We bought a bottle from DeRose and hauled it up to Napa Valley to taste with our good friend Bill Cadman, owner of Tulocay Winery. Bill is a pretty traditional guy, making the standard selection of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel, with occasional forays into Syrah and Petite Sirah. Yet he loves to let his taste buds experiment, and the DeRose 2016 Cabernet Pfeffer surprised and pleased him, as it did all of us, with its unique spiciness and zip. When one thinks of “spicy” in a red wine, the names conjured up include Zinfandel (or Primitivo), Syrah and Petite Sirah, Mourvèdre and Grenache. But I hereby declare that all these can step aside, as the new spice champ is Cabernet Pfeffer, which has so much black pepper you can almost grind it onto your pasta or salad. Indeed, the word “pfeffer” means “pepper” in German. Bottom line: Once you taste this mediumbodied, racy red, you won’t forget it. You probably won’t find a single bottle in a store or restaurant in Minnesota. But fortunately, you can order it from a handful of small wineries in California that you’ve never heard of, including Kobza, Ser, Enz, Dubost, Stirm, Vocal, Kenneth Volk and, of course, DeRose. Let the spice be with you!

Leigh Pomeroy is a Mankato-based writer and wine lover.



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By Bert Mattson



hemical analysis of pottery from neolithic northern China, undertaken by a team of international researchers, reveal folks were using fruit in beer as long as 9,000 years ago. This would be news to some friends who figure it goes back only as far as those Lienenkugel’s split Berry Weiss pitchers popular in nineties college bars. Last time Berry Weiss won Gold at Great American Beer Festival, the category was Vegetable Beer. The contemporary heading, Fruit and Field Beer, is easier on the ear. As a practical matter, the tag “fruit beer” may hide more than it reveals. Fruit has, in recent history, traditionally been added to certain styles like wheats and lambics. Technically speaking (per Brewers Association guidelines) fruited brews break down into BelgianStyle Fruit Beer, Wheat-Style Fruit Beer, and American-Style Fruit Beer. As the latter won’t color within the lines, fruit IPA has become a thing. Its gaudy cousin, milkshake IPA, generally features fruit. Fruited sours have been steadily advancing. We see fruited kolsch, Mexican lager, blonde ale, etc. In a Super Bowl add a few seasons ago, Bud took a swipe at fruity-beer sniffing hipsters. Imagine my amusement when I asked a guy stocking shelves if he had Naturdays in sixers and the reply came, “No! Our supplier can’t even keep up with

twelvies, and I wish they couldn’t because I’m tired of crawling up the ladder to fetch it for people.” I stared. First up the pallet racking, then at him. But it wasn’t over. (Oh yeah, Naturdays is Anheuser-Busch’s college beer label, Natural Light, with raspberry and lemonade introduced. It’s crept into craft dialogue under Fruit and Field.) Up in the checkout lane, a nice lady looked at my twelvie of Naturdays (the things I’ll do for the cause) and sundry single cans, and advised, “Get a twenty-four …” “Huh?” “Might as well,” she added in earnest, “everyone does ... the second time.” I stared some more. I’d just been hard-sold twice on a two-four of strawberry-lemonade lager! By folksy sorts! I didn’t tune in for many Super Bowl ads this season but would have heard of any involving the quaffing of the odd raspberry lemonade infused article. I have no elevated insight into the phenomena some call stigma, but process of elimination implies commoners are to snicker at hipsters for some ingredient ... other than fruit? Tastes vary so much on base style and fruit type, I’ll just note a couple unusual candidates. Mural by New Belgium: thought I’d hate it. It’s cerveza with agave, hibiscus, watermelon, and lime. It comes in waves. It felt like gose on the finish — salt? Unlikely home run in my estimation. New Belgium’s Passion Fruit Kolsch was also intriguing — solidly Kolsch-first, the fruit seemed green to me. I slate both for street tacos. Not so much Distihl’s Hawaii Five Ale Blonde. I haven’t returned for that twofour, having two young kids and daily beer releases to track. Full disclosure: more than one was consumed in the making of this story.

Bert Mattson is a chef and writer based in St. Paul. He is the manager of the iconic Mickey’s Diner.


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THAT’S LIFE By Nell Musolf


Life is Strange

’m not the first person to make the observation that life is a funny thing. One minute you’re driving down the highway in your ’81 Civic listening to Huey Lewis and the News on a local rock station, and the next you’re waiting to get a colonoscopy while listening to Huey Lewis and the News on a local oldies station. Time does indeed fly and that, sadly, isn’t very funny. What I find interesting about the whole aging process is a human being’s apparently infinite ability to delude himself that it’s not going to happen to him. That he’ll stay whatever age he’s at forever and nothing, especially his body, is going to change. Take retirement, for instance. For the longest time whenever I thought about that rosy day when I, too, could sign up for Social Security I always imagined myself as a slightly grayer version of my current age, whatever that was. I imagined I’d have the energy to tackle a cross country move or stay up until all hours painting the living room or dancing until dawn while sipping champagne and listening to, yes, Huey Lewis and the News. I thought these things even when there was ample evidence to the contrary that no one, not even people born at the tail end of the Baby Boomers, was going to stay young forever. I can’t exactly pinpoint an exact date, but life has called my bluff. No, that’s not true. I can pinpoint the exact date. Well, at least the exact incident when I realized I was no longer a spring chicken. It was a Friday and my husband Mark and I indulged in a little pizza. Make that a lot of pizza. Pizza, along with any and all other foods, had never been a problem for me. True, I didn’t burn calories like I once did, but up until 38 • JUNE 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

that fateful night I was pretty much able to eat anything I wanted whenever I wanted with no ill effects. Even when deathly ill with the flu, impaired appetite was never once of my symptoms and I’ve spent my whole life believing that even in a coma I would be able to down at least one Big Mac with a side of fries. Wrong. It was perhaps an hour after we’d gone to bed when I woke up with the most uncomfortable physical sensation I’d ever experienced next to childbirth. My chest felt like it was on fire and my throat was burning. “Wake up,” I said, shaking Mark out of his well-deserved slumber. “Something’s wrong! I think I’m dying!” “What is it?” Mark sat up. Clutching my neck I managed to croak out, “My throat is all acidy and I feel like there’s a bonfire in my chest. Should we go to the ER?” Mark put his head back on his pillow. “It’s heartburn. You ate too much pizza. It will go away in a while. Try one of my antacids.” “Heartburn? I’ve never had heartburn in my life!” “Well, you do now. Welcome to the club. You have to start eating less, especially before bed.” Gingerly, I put my head back on my own pillow and waited for the acid party in my throat to subside. The Hearburn Club was one I never wanted to join, but apparently it wasn’t a volunteer only organization. It was more like a draft and my number had just come up. As I lay in the dark, I thought about the other clubs I was unwillingly being drafted into. There’ was the Plantar Fascitis Club, the one where initiation rites include one of your heels suddenly becoming a few square inches

of pure pain that keep you from walking like a normal human being for several weeks. Initiation fees include insanely expensive and orthopedically unstylish shoes with built-in arch supports. Then there was the All the Silver Fillings in Your Mouth Need to Be Replaced Club, enrollment guaranteed if you spent your childhood eating yummy items like Turkish Taffy and washing it down with Mountain Dew. We might as well have filled our mouths with pure cane sugar and cut to the chase. One of the thrills of that particular club was biting into something like a piece of white bread and having a back molar fall to pieces. Always a joy. I’m sure there are many, many more clubs I will be joining sooner rather than later. Bette Davis famously once said, “Old age ain’t for sissies.” She was right about that. The only problem is even sissies — and I freely admit to being a member of that particular club — are forced to go through it or face the alternative, and I’m definitely not ready for that. Nell Musolf is a mom and freelance writer from Mankato. She blogs at:


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GARDEN CHAT By Jean Lundquist


Giddy for a GREENHOUSE!

finally bit the bullet this year and bought a permanent greenhouse. As I write this, it’s set to be delivered next week. I just met with the concrete mason to get a bid for the foundation, and I’m so excited I might burst! I’ve had a little portable greenhouse (or hoop house) for several years. The first one collapsed and broke under a heavy late spring storm, then blew into some trees and broke again after I’d gotten replacement parts. I bought a larger one that also liked blowing away. I finally weighted it down with cinder blocks and it stayed put. It was too big and too sturdy to break down after I used it in the spring, but not sturdy enough to leave it out year-round. I moved it into the shed every year after use, and it took up a whole parking space. This spring, the cats figured out it was warm in there, and since it was an easy entry for them to just duck under the plastic sides, they lounged in there a lot. After one windy day, I went in and found one of the shelves knocked over, and seedlings all over the ground. I don’t know if it was the cats up to shenanigans or if 40 • JUNE 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

the wind knocked them off the shelf, but that was the moment I decided to go for broke with a new, year-roundpermanent-never-blow-away greenhouse the cats can’t get into. Every year, it seems, I’ve had at least one shelf-crash catastrophe. This year, when I lost the rosemary in the crash again, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Since I moved the chickens and the coop out of the yard, I have lots of space, and it’s close enough to the house that I can run an extension cord to the building for heat and lights in the winter. This means I have some very unrealistic dreams about what I can grow out there next winter. Earlier this spring I spent some time helping a friend with one of the Hilltop Greenhouses he purchased. I think that helped whet my appetite for a permanent greenhouse, though on a much smaller scale. The possibilities seem so endless with a greenhouse, even when I know I am being unrealistic. But I do know I will be taking cat naps in the warm greenhouse in the spring and fall, and sitting in the

warmth of my greenhouse in rain showers, listening to the pitter patter of raindrops on the roof. I might take a cat nap then, too. Fortunately, a friend I have been starting plants for for a few years has offered to help set things up since the greenhouses I was looking at all come as kits. My thumbs are green, but that doesn’t help when it comes to trying to build something. Then I am all thumbs, and the color doesn’t matter a bit. I will be selling my current greenhouse, and since I’ll have all that room in the shed, I’m thinking of buying some exercise equipment to fill the space. I might as well go full bore with my unrealistic hopes. I can put the equipment right next to the six-heddle loom I bought this spring that is waiting for me, hopelessly, out there. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, visit the Farmers’ Markets in the area and shop local nurseries. You can find Farmers’ Markets in Mankato, North Mankato, St. James, Madelia, Lake Crystal and Good Thunder, to name a few. Check for times, days and locations. But this time of year, you’ll find actual produce from folks with high tunnels and other growing aides. Thus starts what for me is the most grand time of the year – gardening season.

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YOUR STYLE By Jessica Server


Light enough to travel

here’s a song I love by The Be Good Tanyas in which the chorus repeats, “Keep it light enough to travel.” Now, I may be a sucker for the nomadic spirit, but I think there’s something to this mandate. I’m lucky to have traveled a lot, but I never improve at one of the most fundamental concepts: packing light. Remember, I’m only a wannabe minimalist. But in June 2017, my partner and I walked the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain with only what we carried on our backs. The Camino took us 33 days from the small town of St. Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to Cape Finisterre on the Atlantic Ocean’s “Coast of Death,” by way of Santiago de Compostela, the pilgrimage’s traditional conclusion. At the end of the journey, we got married just outside of Finisterre. At just over 500 miles of walking to 42 • JUNE 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

make it to the altar, we joke that it is perhaps the longest wedding aisle in history. I cannot say enough good things about this experience and how it taught me to live with less. WAY less. My pack weighed about 15 pounds, depending on the day. But that 15 pounds included everything, from sleeping sack to outerwear to toiletries to shoes to snacks. We had very little by way of clothing. Two pairs of socks, three pairs of underwear, four tops, a raincoat, a dress, and two pairs of pants carried me across Spain. Yes, we washed our clothes a lot (mostly by hand). And while there were moments when I desperately wanted for something, I also learned to make do with what I had and found incredible freedom in my “lacking” wardrobe. There were no choices. On the Camino, the arrows only point west, toward Santiago.

There are few decisions to be made about where to go or what to wear on “The Way.” It may seem this would make for tedium, but in fact, the simplicity led to increased joy. It was no Walden, but it did the trick. The style takeaway is that what I want and need in my life is a collection of highly versatile, highly functional pieces that are durable and easy to style in different ways, plus a few fun extras. “Style” can be found so much in the way you wear what you already have. Because, synchronously, one of the most profound lessons I learned is that on the Camino (and subsequently, in life) the moment you get what you need, you likely won’t need it anymore. Case in point: there was a particularly long, arduous, hot stretch of the Spanish meseta that took a toll on my feet. While I was lucky to avoid the dreaded blisters

many walkers endured, my very swollen and painful feet were too hot in my boots. Walking became unbearable. So at the nearest town I bought a cheap pair of hiking sandals. I would change into them about halfway through the day when the sun reached its peak and my feet began swelled. The next day, I was excited to use my sandals when my feet reached their point of no return in my boots … and it never happened. I wore the sandals occasionally for a change of pace, but it seemed that in having procured them, I no longer really needed them. This happened over and over. Need ibuprofen for a headache? Poof, the pain vanished upon purchase! Need a fleece because of chillier-than-expected temps? Bam! A heat wave ensued. In fact, we still often ask ourselves when buying things now, is this a “Camino moment?” Meaning, if we just sit this purchase out another day or week, will we still “need” it? Are we simply being impatient in trying to solve our problems? Might they go away on their own? Not everyone needs to walk 500 miles to lighten up. But I must say, I highly recommend it. Even if you aren’t a minimalist, or striving to be one, you can learn a lot about your limits, your desires, your creativity, and your needs by keeping it light enough to travel. Plus, you may find (as we did, daily) that having both hands free and a lighter load allows you to enjoy a sunrise espresso and a croissant along the way. Jessica Server is a writer who teaches at Minnesota State University. She lives in Mankato with her husband.


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COMING ATTRACTIONS: JUNE 6, 13, 20, 27 Songs on the Lawn 11 a.m.-1 p.m. — Civic Center Plaza — The Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League (Uptempo, Swing Jazz) on June 6; The Holy Rocka Rollaz (Rockabilly/Early American) on June 13; The Federales (Classic Country for the Modern World) on June 20; The Fattenin’ Frogs (Roots/ Folk/Blues/Rock) on June 27. All events are free.


Wine Down for the Weekend 6:30-9 p.m. — Morgan Creek Vineyard — held every Friday evening, May through October, classical and Jazz pianist Ben Marti. Enjoy gourmet authentic woodfired appetizers, and wine by the bottle or glass.


Gordon Lightfoot 8 p.m. — Mankato Civic Center Grand Hall — Celebrating his 80th birthday, this year is his “80 Years Strong Tour” — Tickets are $99, $75, $59 and $49 at




Beer, Brats and Bourbon for Backpack 5:30-10:30 p.m. — Backpack Central, 2120 Howard Drive, North Mankato — Feeding Our Communities Partners is hosting its third annual fundraiser. Exclusive bourbon tastings and cocktails, local breweries and food by Pub 500; live music and raffle. Tickets are $60 and $80, available at


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15, 16

Mankato Area Community Band concerts 7:30 p.m. — Sibley Park, Mankato — The Mankato Area Community Band performs free, outdoor, public concerts. The band performs all of your favorite upbeat styles at the Leas Schwickert Memorial Bandshell near the petting zoo. Bring a blanket or lawn chair. Rain cancels.

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Minnesota Music Festival concerts 3-7 p.m. — Bethany Lutheran College’s Trinity Chapel — Bethel Balge, piano, and Peter Mcguire, violin, will perform the inaugural program in addition to their roles as artistic directors of the festival. In the course of the festival they will be joined by Leonardo Altina, cello, Jenny Haugen, soprano, Cecilia Belcher, violin, Seifei Cheng, viola, and Richard Belcher, cello.


Southern Minnesota Movie Musicals Club “Pinup Girl,” 11 a.m. — Blue Earth County Library, 100 E. Main St., Mankato — Film starring Betty Grable. Free.

Jun • Library Concert Series (Tue @ 7pm) Jun 11 • Taste of the Farm

Jun 14–16 • Janesville Hay Daze Jul 4 • Lakefest & Fireworks

Jul 6 • Waseca Freemason's Soap Box Race Jul 11–14 • New Richland Farm & City Days Jul 13 • Farmamerica Ice Cream Social Jul 17–21 • Waseca County Free Fair Jul 25 • Ladies Night Out

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What I Will Miss R

adio is a crazy business. The TV hit “WKRP in Cincinnati” exaggerated the wackiness by only about 1%. Every station has its Johnny Fever and Herb Tarleck and all the other stereotypes. But radio is also a lot of fun, with new situations and new material to work with every day, new people to meet. It is rarely boring. You deal with everything from the St. Peter tornado of 1998 to trying to conduct a 20-minute interview with the elegant female director of a musical organization while trying to ignore the aroma of a dead mouse decaying somewhere near you in the studio walls. You deal with the young DJ who’s scheduled to work the early Sunday morning shift, who told you how much he wanted to be in radio, but who has now called you at 3:30 a.m. to say he’s drunk and not going to make it in; it’s your shift now. But you also appreciate the listeners who call to tell you the heavy April snow has traffic so backed up on the 169 hill at LeSueur that you should be telling drivers to avoid it. As part of the extended family conversation radio represents for the community, you feel like somehow, you matter. So it’s tough to say goodbye to something that’s been a large part of my identity for 45 years. I will miss the opportunities to chat with community leaders and visiting celebrities and everyday listeners who call to tell you they liked something you just said or a song you played. I will miss the characters like my brilliant, eccentric first boss who called me into his office before the holidays to tell me I was doing a good job, and my bonus was in the snowbank outside the entrance. It was a frozen turkey. (I was unmarried at the time, so what does a bachelor with few friends in a small town do with a frozen turkey? Maybe that’s where WKRP got the idea for one legendary episode.) I will miss the immediacy of watching real-life drama play out just feet away from where I sit, as it did in the three consecutive first degree murder trials that happened here at the beginning of this decade. I will 48 • JUNE 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

miss off-air chats with characters like The Tomato Man of North Mankato and the woman who used to call every day to ask “What’s the river level today?” — even in August when it remained at two feet for weeks. I will miss driving past the emergent corn and bean fields on my way out to KTOE, and miss watching the seasons change as those crops grow and mature for harvest. I will not miss driving that dimly lit twomile stretch from the edge of town to the station at 4 a.m. during a blizzard — white knuckle driving at its worst. But being at the station in the worst weather is what’s expected. There are people who know me who have never listened to my show except during scary weather — “you’re the tornado guy,” they smile. I tried retiring seven years ago, but owner John Linder made me an offer I couldn’t refuse — getting paid to work 15 hours a week producing a public affairs show. I am so grateful to all the folks who have graciously trekked to KTOE to do Talk of the Town interviews for 40 years. But eventually us Boomers need to make way, give someone else a shot. There’s other projects I want to try while I’m still able — including continuing this column, if the Free Press Media allows me.

Letting go is hard, even a little scary. But it’s too easy to overstay your welcome and your competence. And then, there’s all those books piling up by my favorite chair telling me it’s about time to get to ‘em. It has been a great ride, and I am reminded of the song I used to sign off with when I worked the late night shift at KY-Country: “The Night Rider’s Lament” was an ode to some crazy, low-paid cowboys out in Montana: “Tell me, why do they ride for their money, and why do they rope for short pay? They ain’t gettin’ nowhere ... son, they all must be crazy out there ... But then, have you ever seen the Northern Lights, or ever watched a hawk on the wing, or ever seen the Spring hit the Great Divide ...?” Yes, there’s things money can’t buy, and in Radio, that’s been a big part of the equation.

Pete Steiner is host of “Talk of the Town” weekdays at 1:05 p.m. on KTOE.


If your child needs surgery, Mayo Clinic pediatric surgeons can provide exactly the care your child needs. From assessment through treatment and follow up care our surgeons bring Mayo Clinic knowledge and skills to you and your child right in Mankato. • • • •

Behavioral Health Cardiology Ear, Nose and Throat Gastroenterology

• • • •

Hospital Medicine Infectious Diseases Orthopedic Surgery Social Services

• Surgery • Rehabilitation Therapies • Urology

Call your child’s primary care provider for a referral. MANKATO MAGAZINE • JUNE 2019 • 49

















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Mankato Magazine_June2019  

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