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We’re back with our annual PHOTO issue

also in this issue: ROADSIDE attractions Southern MN author GEOFF HERBACH An instrumental COMIC

The Free Press MEDIA

MARCH 2020



The Free Press



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FEATURE S MARCH 2020 Volume 15, Issue 3


The beauty of southern Minnesota Our annual photo issue is here and, like we say every year, it’s the best one yet. From humming birds to bison, from baseball games to dogs, southern Minnesotans know how to capture exactly what makes this part of the state special. Warren Michels

ABOUT THE COVER We’ve taken the past few years to featuring a reader-submitted photo on the cover of the annual photo issue. This year the photographer is Mankato attorney Julia Ketcham Corbett. Nice shot, Julia! MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2020 • 3

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


14 Beyond the Margin March transition

16 Familiar Faces Wes Taylor

18 Day Trip Destinations Roadside attractions


54 Wine


57 Beer

SCOBY do or don’t?

58 Country Minutes

Dogs on the prairie, Part 2

60 Garden Chat

Tomato madness



62 Coming Attractions 63 Community Draws Musical Mankato

64 From This Valley Kilohertz Royals

Coming in April



Transplants! Mankato is full of people who came here from around the country and fell so hard for the community that they never left.

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FROM THE ASSOCIATE EDITOR By Robb Murray MARCH 2020 • VOLUME 15, ISSUE 3 PUBLISHER Steve Jameson EDITOR Joe Spear ASSOCIATE Robb Murray EDITOR CONTRIBUTORS Bert Mattson Diana Rojo-Garcia Jean Lundquist Kat Baumann Leigh Pomeroy Nicole Helget 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 rmurray@mankatofreepress.com. For advertising, call 344-6364, or e-mail advertising@mankatofreepress.com.


Amateur hour


nyone who knows me knows I’m kind of a fan of marching bands. Two bands in particular: the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Badger Band and the Mankato Area 77 Lancers. Obviously I care about them because my kids participated in both. These days, I mostly follow the Badger Band. Heading to Madison for football games has been a blast. I go for the band’s half-time show and have grown to love the football team, as well. That’s what you do when you have children. You follow your kids around. And if you’re like me, you become obsessed with the things they’re obsessed with. So it goes with the marching bands. But while I’m currently wearing a lot of Badger red, it’s the Mankato Area 77 Lancers that is pertinent here. I served for a spell on the Lancers’ parent advisory board. Like any scrappy nonprofit, the Lancers organization relies on a few parents who are willing to give a little more of their time to help the organization run smoothly, obviously all on a volunteer basis. Some people who are really good with numbers end up being treasurers. People with good organizational skills end up as secretaries, presidents or vice presidents. Some take over grant duties, some work on fundraising. And then there are those who have no marketable skills. They need to find other ways to contribute. That’s the kind of parent board member I was. And while I was happy to fill water jugs and fetch Band-Aids for knee scrapes, I managed to find another way to make myself useful: photography. For the better part of five years or so I made myself useful largely by taking photos. I loved it. Walking along with the band during parades or hanging out with them during Spat Camp, I got pretty good at knowing where to stand, where not to stand, and

exactly how it feels to be smacked in the head by a color guard member’s flag (sorry for getting too close, Maddie Endersbe!) The best part of it was this: Not every parent was as weird as I was — as far as I could tell — and not everyone wanted to stand in the street with the band and take a thousand photos at every parade. But that’s what I did. And it was a blast. People relate to images on a visceral level. And being able to give parents great photos made me feel good. I know because whenever I’d see a photo of one of my kids on the Badger Band website, it was like a little gift had arrived. I felt thankful to whoever shot the photo and made it available to me online. All across southern Minnesota we’ve got legions of great photographers. Of course we have the professionals, the ones who get paid to do this, the ones who push the craft to new levels and wow customers with amazing photo studio portraits and action sports photography in our local media. But beyond that, we’ve got many people who are lawyers or pastors by day and amateur photographers by night. They use Canon, Nikons and iPhones. And it’s a good thing for us here at Mankato Magazine because we use those images to fill our March issue every year. Thanks, southern Minnesota, for making this the best photo issue yet. Robb Murray is associate editor of Mankato Magazine. Contact him at 344-6386 or rmurray@ mankatofreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @freepressRobb.

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FACES & PLACES: Photos By SPX Sports

Holiday Craft & Vendor Show 2019

1. Many pies were available. 2. Jen Vobornik, owner of Hayward Gourmet, sells gourmet popcorn at her stall. 3. Warm hats and headbands, by Angela Korte, were available to purchase. 4. Molly Sward, Wellness Advocate for doTERRA, poses at her booth. 5. The Holiday Craft & Vendor show was held at the National Guard Armory in Mankato. 6. Books were sold by Usborne Books & More.








FACES & PLACES: Photos By SPX Sports

Climb 2 Feed Kids


This event is a fundraiser for Feeding Our Communities Partners. 1. This year’s medals for different categories. 2. Joe Johnson, Mankato West Activities Director, instructs warm-ups for the teams before the first round. 3. Sheri Sander-Silva, Executive Director of Climb 2 Feed Kids, welcomes everyone. 4. Teams warmed up by performing jumping jacks. 5. Cari and Stunt Monkey, from Hot 96.7, pose for a photo. 6. Teams got to pose for photos after they registered. 7. Friends and family showed support to runners 2 from the concourse.







FACES & PLACES: Photos By SPX Sports

MSU Hockey Night

This pre-game celebration outside the Civic Center is a celebration of the team and their season. 1. Chris and Alexus Cain enjoy the event. 2. MSU Hockey fans participate in activities before the game. 3. The Wooden Spoon had soup and hot chocolate available. 4. A hot pulled pork sandwich from Pub 500. 5. A family gathers to eat the hot treats before the game. 6. The event was held outside the Greater Mankato Growth offices in the Civic Center Plaza. 7. Cora Allen pulls a block in a game of Giant Jenga.









FACES & PLACES: Photos By SPX Sports

Twins Winter Caravan





Each year Twins players and management tour the state to get fans excited for the upcoming season. 1. Brent Rooker answers questions during a Q&A session. 2. Kris Atteberry, MLB broadcaster, interacts with the crowd and players. 3. Ehire Adrianza answers questions during the Q&A session. 4. Former Twins legend Tony Oliva in an interview. 5. Leg three of this year’s Caravan was a stop at the Kato Ballroom. 6. Fans pose for photos with Twins mascot T.C. Bear. 7. Large crowds got to interact with the players through a Q&A session.





THIS DAY IN HISTORY Compiled by Jean Lundquist

Waseca Co. Corn Growers want county to use ethanol March 16, 1988 The Corn Growers of Waseca were seeking help in the early days of ethanol in creating a market for their product. They approached the County Board asking them to use the corn derived fuel in some or all of the 20 county vehicles that run on gas. “We’ve got mountains of it (corn) out there,” Vern Wilkening said. Bill Jewison asked the commissioners to burn the fuel in a few cars to start, and then make a comparison in efficiency. Jewison hoped the ethanol industry would “take off” so the glut of corn in the county would have a use. The board was receptive to the idea but voiced concerns about availability at the pumps. Now, 22 years later, it’s difficult to find gas at the pumps that does not contain ethanol. Storm motivates shopping binge March 11, 1976 Memories of the “blizzard of the century” the previous January had shoppers flocking to grocery stores in Mankato in the face of a forecast weekend storm. Managers at Madsen’s Valu Center on Park Lane and in the Madison East Center, Penny’s Supermarket, Red Owl, and Jack & Jill in North Mankato all reported increased sales. Only the manager at the Park Lane store reported calling in extra help from off-duty employees. True to the cliché that in a blizzard everyone needs extra bread and milk, the manager of the Red Owl said those items were flying off the shelves. However, none of the liquor stores in the area that The Free Press reporters surveyed said they had noticed any increased business by mid-morning. Woman named as winner of driver award March 8, 1957 Mrs. William J. Scheurer of Mankato was the sixth winner of the safe driving contest sponsored by the Mankato council 101 and United Commercial Travelers. Her claim to fame was that she’d been driving for 12 years without an accident. Her prize was a trophy. She claimed her husband was initially surprised at her award but later told her he knew she was a good driver because he had taught her. When the police officer who observed her driving stopped her, she asked what she had done. His reply was that she had done “wonderful.” He had observed her stopping for a jaywalker in front of her car and stopping for children in the street. Seven more winners were to be cited, their driving records scrutinized and a grand prize winner was to be named on the Ides of March, March 15. There was no mention of what the grand prize was.

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AVANT GUARDIANS By Leticia Gonzales

Innate ability W

Wes Taylor settled on photography after five other majors in college

es Taylor’s flair for photography started when he was a 19-year-old missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Taylor, who teaches photography and video production at South Central College in North Mankato, served two years for the church from 1978-1980 in Switzerland. He purchased a new 35 mm camera to capture his experience. “People were asking for copies of my photographs,” Taylor said. “People I worked with.” While he was intrigued by his new hobby, he hadn’t yet committed to making it his life’s work. While studying at Utah State University, he changed his major five times, switching from biology, to law, among other fields. When he met and married his wife Lisa, he was studying broadcasting. “Lisa said I should just go into photography,” he added, which he did. “It worked out just fine.” Taylor earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography and a minor in German from Utah State University in 1986. He later returned to earn a Master of Arts degree in instructional technology in 1991. He also holds a Master of Arts Photography degree from Minnesota State University. “I started working at universities but was also doing photography and video work to develop training materials and course materials,” he said. Throughout his career, he has always had a photography side business, featuring a definite sense of style. “That’s the biggest problem that I have - I am pretty eclectic. I really like to take photographs of different things.” He takes those different things and transforms them into something unique to the eye. “I have done some stuff with motion parallax,” which Taylor said only a handful of photographers delve into. “You know, when you go in a car and look off to the side and look at the rows of corn?”

The most common way to capture such an image is taking photographs in a car that is traveling 55 mph. Taylor isn’t driving, of course, but he uses slower shutter speeds to capture the perfect image. “I think the more simple they are, the better they are,” he said. “I am looking for certain things - interesting landscapes, people doing different things — sometimes serendipitous. Half of these images are finding different nuggets.” Last fall, Taylor’s work was featured at an exhibit at the Carnegie Art Center, which included 26 of his light painting photographs. It takes Taylor about three days to complete a light painting, which is typically composed of about 70 images. “There is a lot of light painting where people play with flashlights, sparklers and Christmas lights. But I know there are some photographs that are still using light. I always liked still light.” It can also be a tedious process. “You have to get the composition where you want it before you start light painting,” he said. “You have to make sure your composition is what you want when you start out because you can’t go back. You basically take a flashlight and take small pieces of that to make a small photograph.” With a father and grandfather who had careers as barbers, Taylor produced a light painting with straight edge razors on a cornbread tin to pay homage to the two men. “Each of those razors are three photogrpahs. The cornbread tin is five photographs, and the background is five photographs.” Light paintings continue to be the focus of Taylor’s future work. His next big project has yet to be discovered, but it involves visiting car enthusiasts who not only have a sleek car but a garage to match it. “I’ll know it when I see it,” he said. MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2020 • 13


March transitions and moving on T

he January thaw this year melted the snow thick and murky, turning the landscape a bit blurry like the impeachment trial. The senators were frozen in time, not allowed to talk on their cellphones, pass notes or tweet. They could only drink water and milk, the latter a likely concession to the senators from Wisconsin and California and the dairy farmers who’ve been filing bankruptcy in record numbers. The senators had to sit and listen, listen to the snowmelt, which is akin to watching the grass grow. There’s a lot more to like about spring and transitions than the cold hard politics of an impeachment trial. March marks a month of transitions in this part of the Northern Hemisphere. Merriam Webster defines transition as “a. passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another; b: a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another.” And transitions can be helpful in writing, but some don’t know that. You drive through puddles on Riverfront Drive down by the 24-hour Subway and the car wash and you splash a little, but not as much as last year when the water was running down the hillside in a mysterious way that drew myriad questions to the Ask Us Guy at the local newspaper, who called the grumpy city manager who vowed to “look into it” as he always does. Another transition, rough as it was. And the city investigated and guys in fluorescent lime safety vests dug it up for a few days, and maybe it took longer than necessary because the city 14 • MARCH 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

manager was still a little mad. And so they got the gravel and the water and the giant tile line and somehow after they were done and their business was buried, the water ran less on to Riverfront Drive, and motorists were happy but still a little mad it took so long, and yet they moved on. And to the relief of Ask Us Guy, this controversy would not likely be revisited again soon. They transitioned out of it. nnnn Transition to spring is gathering steam in Mankato. The average January high temperature was 26, above the average of 21. I was recently at a convention where 300 journalists were learning to be Ask Us Guy a thousand times over. They were from small towns called Benson, Proctor and Pelican Rapids. And they cover St. Louis County where there is a lake named Loka, the Finnish word for dirt. They’re from Baudette, Belle Plaine and Cloquet where dedicated storytellers started a newspaper called the Pine Knot News, named after an earlier paper. There’s usually more than one version of the news, so they transitioned to the Pine Knot News and challenged the Cloquet Pine Journal, but they’re not there yet. The Pine Know News needs a couple of hundred more readers to be profitable. And there are places that have great names for their newspapers like the Mountain Lake Observer Advocate that has apparently transitioned to observation AND advocacy some years ago, and the folks in the town don’t seem to

mind it. And the Ely Timberjay and the Red Wing Republican Eagle give tribute to nature and the birds as they should. The Verndale Sun and the Voyageur Press and the Tracy Area Headlight Herald stake out new ground. The Alexandria Echo Press wins best newspaper often but tries not to sound the same every year. And the journalists attend seminars on the ABCs of writing a good newspaper ledes and interviewing victims of cancer, and arguing with sheriffs over public information that the sheriffs want to keep private. And they get tips on how to call lawyers and summon democracy. So these people, 300 or more, tell stories, in towns across the state of another March transition tradition. nnnn There is nothing more transitional in a young person’s life than senior year on the hockey team, where the season starts out with dreams to go to the state high school hockey tournament in the state of hockey, in the state of glory. And usually, because not everyone makes state, we are advised, there is some disappointment. It’s a transition from dreams to disappointment. And March helps with that because as the final tournament games finish, the snow melts and cities from St. Peter to St. Paul hold St. Patrick’s Day parades and the bars, in a celebration and homage to immigrants who both influenced our religion and culture, offer green beer. And they serve the high school seniors with a wink.

Photos of senators sitting in the impeachment trial were not allowed. So an artist was employed to capture the moments. Drawing provided by The Associated Press.

nnnn Daylight and darkness transition in March with many watching the newspaper for how many more minutes of daylight will come on Friday and Saturday. Three minutes a day is a big deal. And the night editors come on at newspapers all over the state and they shepherd the freedom and democracy and crying and sadness and hope and love and war onto the broadsheet pages and send those pages to people who get ink on their work uniforms and scale behemoth printing presses and turn small knobs to adjust the magenta. They too are in a transition to the grimy world of digital news where Facebook offers credibility to liars. These newspaper workers may be leaving, someday, the glorious black and white and blue of a newspaper hard copy, Goss-press world.

And we’ll be the worse for it. Meanwhile that hard copy is hard on the politicians as they wait and melt in the impeachment trial, hoping for a liberating tweet from the commander-in-chief, hoping it will transition them from this court of keeping your head down and eyes averted. And others in the room hope for another transition, a thawing of hate and hard talk and mean-spiritedness come November.

Joe Spear is editor of Mankato Magazine. Contact him at jspear@mankatofreepress.com or 344-6382. Follow on Twitter @jfspear. MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2020 • 15

Familiar Faces

‘Stupid Fast’ author raking in awards, loving southern Minnesota


Photo by Pat Christman


Geoff Herbach Occupation: Chair of English, Creative Writing Professor


Platteville, Wisconsin

Favorite book:

“Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan

What show are you binging right now? “Schitt’s Creek”


he Star Tribune said of Geoff Herbach’s awardwinning series “Stupid Fast”: “Whip-smart and painfully self-aware, “‘Stupid Fast’ is a funny and agonizing glimplse into the teenage brain.’” Herbach has won the Cybils Award in 2011, the Minnesota Book Award and had been selected for the Junior Library Guild. And he’s been nominated again for his latest book, “Cracking the Bell,” for the 2020 Minnesota Book Award for best young adult literature. The young adult author has written nine novels and it all began with the realization that his son didn’t seem to enjoy reading. He took that as a challenge to write something young readers can not only relate to, but also find pleasure in reading. Mankato Magazine: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Geoff Herbach: I’ve been in Mankato for about 10 years, came to work at the university. I grew up in southwestern Wisconsin, among big bluffs and valleys, and Mankato reminded me of home in a great way. I’ve always felt at home here. I’ve lived mostly in cities since high school. I find Mankato (St. Peter, now) just exactly right sized. So much is happening, but, also, you can get wherever you need to go in 10 minutes and, if you’re in your car, you can get a dang parking spot. MM: Can you tell us a little bit more about “Nothing Special,” which won the 2013 Minnesota Book Award for Young People’s literature? GH: It’s a little weird. The book is the second in a trilogy. I’d definitely recommend starting with “Stupid Fast” if you were going to read it. The three books follow a sort of tortured, funny kid from the moment he goes through this wicked growth spurt that turns him into a huge physical presence to the time he leaves his little hometown for a football scholarship at Stanford. The kid, Felton, wants to be funny (he wishes he were a comedian, but he can’t get jokes out right), and he’s sweet, but his dad died when he was young and his mom is not coping with her own life well. Felton fights to be OK. I should add that “Hooper,” which was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award last year, takes place in a fictionalized St. Peter. Lots of local color. It includes Patrick’s.

my phone, which gives me 25-minute blocks to work in. I can make myself concentrate for 25 minutes and usually, then, I’m back in the flow. MM: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment? GH: A reviewer in Publisher’s Weekly pretty much called me an adult author who didn’t know how to write for teens when my first YA book came out (“Stupid Fast”). A kid wrote me and said that Felton’s voice in the same book sounded like the voice in his own head and that he loved it and it made him want to be a writer, too.

aren’t around saying weird teen-aged things to me all the time. Lost my inspiration!

MM: What drew you to writing YA novels initially? GH: My son got hit by the puberty train and suddenly stopped reading books, which scared me, because I’d already started teaching some college and saw how the kids I taught who weren’t practiced readers struggled hard with college work. He had gone through this crazy growth spurt and I just thought, I’m going to write something I believe he’d like. It’s going to be heartbreaking and funny and star a kid who just grew really way too fast. That book became “Stupid Fast.” I’ve written eight other books for teens and kids since. Just became my mission for a long time to write books for kids who don’t like reading, so maybe they’ll read and get all the joy and smarts that come with that. MM: What are you working on now? GH: My own kids are now adults, so I’m switching gears a bit. My wife and I (she’s a novelist, too) have been working on a story about a murder at a Minnesota resort, starring the catering director. I have a good friend in the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation. He and I have been working on writing something together, too. Who knows where any of it will lead, but I don’t think I’ll write YA much now that my kids

MM: As a professor, and department chair, at Minnesota State University, teaching fiction and screenwriting, what are some tips for those who want to take a stab at fiction writing? GH: The biggest tip is to actually take the stab. If you want to write, you have to write. Lots of people talk about it, but never spend enough time with their rear in a chair to get anywhere. Lately, I’ve been practicing writing weird things that happen to me in third person, in the form of a scene. Using that practice makes me think like a writer all the time. Since becoming Chair of the English Department, I’ve lost a lot of writing time, so it helps to be thinking about scenes in daily life. Third tip? Come up and take a class at the university. We’ve got amazing teachers who love what they do and so much great work comes out of our classes all the time. Why not give yourself some deadlines? MM: When you’re not writing or teaching, what else do you find yourself doing? GH: I spend a great deal of time snow blowing my driveway and also chasing my dog around the house, because she has my sock. MM: Most writers at some point in their life have gone through “writer’s block.” Do you believe in it? If so, how do you personally combat it? GH: I definitely believe writing can get hard enough at times it makes people go blank. I use a Focus Keeper app on

MM: In your bio on the MSU website it states “In the past, Geoff wrote and performed comedy and traveled around the country telling weird stories in rock clubs.” Can you tell us a little bit more about that? GH: I was in a group called The Lit 6 Project. We would write short stories that were super crazy and we’d go on tour, sometimes opening for bands (sometimes we got booed very loudly, but that was funny, too). That evolved into The Electric Arc Radio Show, which we performed with a ton of great Minneapolis musicians for a few years. We pretended to be four narcissistic writers who all lived in a house together and behaved like 4-year-olds. Each episode had an original score and all these bands would show up. Later, we did something similar in New York called Radio Happy Hour. I remember sitting on the stage behind Norah Jones one Saturday in 2009, thinking, “I need to get a job in Mankato so I can Chair the English Department.” That’s not really a joke. It was huge fun to be there, but I was ready to do something I loved equally that had some stability. I couldn’t have landed in a better spot. MM: What was your favorite YA book growing up? GH: I loved “Franny and Zooey” by J.D. Salinger. It reads like the best YA, smart, funny, serious, just so meaningful to me. MM: Anything else you’d like to add? GH: Everyone should check out all the great writers we have visiting for The Good Thunder Reading Series up at the university! Visit us!

Compiled by Diana Rojo-Garcia MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2020 • 17

DAY TRIP DESTINATIONS: Stops along the way By Diana Rojo-Garcia

Stops along the way Sometimes a pilgrimage to a weird roadside attraction is just what you need


ver the years of traveling around the country by car, here is a fool-proof checklist for maximum comfort on a road trip: n An abundance and variety of snacks and beverages n Poo-Pourri (you’ll thank me later) n A time-tested playlist of classic car jams n A flexible schedule The last item on the list is incredibly essential, especially when travelling with those who tend to drink gallons of water but have a bladder the size of a golf ball. It’s also good for allowing travelers to get some fresh air and stretch those legs for a bit. If you need to stop to pee or stretch your legs, you’ve got options. Rest stops are fine, but who needs the hassle of vending machines that steal your money, or the creepiness of a janky gas station in the middle of nowhere? Also, where’s the fun in that? The best places to stop, we think, are roadside attractions. And Minnesota has some great ones: Paul Bunyun and Babe, Otto the Otter, the unforgettable SPAM Museum, the list goes one. Here are some attractions in southern Minnesota good enough to build a day trip around.

Jolly Green Giant: Blue Earth

He’s giant. He’s green. He’s jolly. Located 44 miles south of Mankato on US 169 is the famous 55-foot statue of the Green Giant company’s Jolly Green Giant. The massive statue has been in Blue Earth for more than 40 years, an idea brought by the owner of radio station KBEW, Paul Hedberg. He’d interview travellers for his show “Welcome Travellers,” in which he’d give them peas and corn produced by Green Giant. Hedberg noticed a trend in interviewing the travellers: They wanted to see the actual Green Giant. After bringing the idea to the President of Green Giant, the design for the Green Giant was approved and the community quickly came together to raise $50,000 to build the statue. The Green Giant is visited by 100,000 people a year. Location: 1126 Green Giant Lane, Blue Earth.


Two-story outhouse: Belle Plaine

Biggest ball of twine: Darwin

Who knew there were so many “biggest” balls of twine in America? Kansas, Wisconsin and Missouri each boast giant balls of twine. But there’s only one that was featured in a Weird Al Yankovic song: The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota. The ball is located in the small town of Darwin, about 82 miles away from Mankato, but it’s worth the trip knowing the ball had been built by one person. That person? Francis A. Johnson. The ball weighs 17,400 pounds. He had begun rolling the twine in 1950 until its completion in 1979. Why? Johnson once told a journalist he did it because his mom told him to never waste anything. The ball has been featured on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” Each year in August, the small town of Darwin holds a “Twine Ball Day.” There is also a museum and gift shop to visit, and according to a St. Cloud Times article written in 2018, Darwin’s mayor, Josh Johnson, stated they receive about 100 visitors a year. The twine ball builder was stricken with emphysema. But because he didn’t smoke, his family blamed twine ball dust. You can’t make this stuff up. Location: First St., Darwin.

This is the closest roadside attraction to Mankato at just a little under 40 miles away. There was just no way to not mention this odd roadside attraction. The two-story outhouse was attached to the Hooper-BowlerHillstrom House, which was built in 1871. The house was built by Sandford A. Hooper, and then owned by Samuel Bowler, who added more rooms to the house plus the twostory outhouse for his big family. The house is open to tour every year in May through September from 1-3 p.m. every second Sunday of the month. It is furnished in three periods including the mid 1800s, Victorian and early 1900s. Though you can tour the house and the outhouse, the outhouse is not available for use. Sorry. Visitors can also check out the Red Barn Museum which is full of Belle Plaine artifacts. Location. 405 N. Chestnut St., Belle Plaine.


Nikki Garcia

Roger Normandin

Bruce Boyce 20 • MARCH 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Joel Jackson

Sarah Denn

Tales of

butterflies, macro lenses and iPhones

The photo issue submissions never disappoint By Robb Murray


very year, Mankato Magazine puts out a call for reader-submitted photos for its annual photo issue. And every year photos fall like rain on my

inbox. It’s a good problem to have. As the guy who coordinates most of what you see in Mankato Magazine, all of that photography comes first to me. I gather it all up, and then a team of keen observers look through everything and decides what photos will go where. We select a cover shot, which this year was shot by Mankato attorney Julia Ketcham Corbett. We choose a photo with a high-enough resolution to cover the “center spread.” Then we go through them all, deciding which photos to put where. And every year, we sit in awe of just how beautiful southern Minnesota is, and just how good its residents have become at capturing that beauty through photography. Sarah Denn is one such photographer. She’s a perennial submitter, and one of Mankato Magazine’s best submitters. Denn’s work epitomizes the theme that emerged this year. Some years it’s Minneopa Falls, some years it’s the bison at Minneopa State Park. This year, however, the theme that emerged was butterflies, bees and birds. “With butterflies and insects, they’re easier to capture than people,” she said. I’d confessed to Denn that each year, when we go through all the photos, we often lament the fact that very few of them contain people. Denn said she could relate to that, and said she prefered bugs as models for a very simple reason. “They’re something that moves that I can work with and not have to tell them what to do,” she joked. “For me, as a photographer, I have a hard time doing people pictures so I tend to look at nature.”

Denn shoots all her photos with an iPhone, which has become the camera of choice for the majority of submitters. But it’s not the camera of choice for Bruce Boyce, who shoots with a Panasonic Lumix digital SLR. If the name Boyce sounds familiar, it might be because he served as the County Administrator in Waseca for many years prior to his retirement 10 years ago. Photography isn’t something he picked up as a retirement hobby, though. “I’ve taken photos for 50 years,” he said. And while his submissions to Mankato Magazine this year were humanless, that’s not always the case for his images. “Over time I’ve gravitated more toward people.” As for the photo we chose from the handful Boyce submitted, he said he didn’t set out that day to capture a stunning picture of a bee. It just caught his eye. “The color of the bee against the purple flowers,” he said, “it just really caught my eye, I guess.” Denn said that noticing beauty in the world has a deeper meaning for her. “I work for a church, so my closeness with God is kind of how I take my pictures,” she said. “This morning the moon was out, we have this beautiful sky of white, and I just wanted to capture a picture.” Friends, she says, have encouraged her to take her hobby more seriously and maybe do it professionally. But the barrier to doing that, she says, is a steep one, financially speaking. A professional photographer can’t show up to take someone’s senior portraits with an iPhone, so she’d need to spend some serious coin for a professional setup. She says she’s not ready to do that yet. Some day, perhaps, but not yet. As for next year, potential submitters take note. We love all your nature photos. Now throw some more people photos in the mix. MM MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2020 • 21

Tim Pulis

Becky Carlberg 22 • MARCH 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Anne E Judkins

Laurie Gresch

Mary Kosberg

Chris Harris MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2020 • 23

Curtis Hanson 24 • MARCH 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Kayla Valdez

Mary Kosberg

Curt Christenson

Cliff Coy

Noah Roe

Haley Bice MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2020 • 25

Sharon Kleinsasser 26 • MARCH 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Gail Haeberlin

Derek Baker

Melissa Rentjes

Sarah Denn

Janet Goff MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2020 • 27

Kim Hilgers 28 • MARCH 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Loren Pietsch

Mertinsia Wunderlich

Cinda Wallace MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2020 • 29

Richard Gemill


Fred Friedrichs

Charlie Hurd

Rick Pepper MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2020 • 31


Janet Castello MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2020 • 33

Ashley Hanley

Todd Hanselman 34 • MARCH 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Kay Helms

Paul Allen

Janet Castello MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2019 • 35

Mary Kay Ash

Cary Adams 36 • MARCH 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Donna Leff

Melissa Rentjes

Dianne Wagner

Bobby Jo Riewe

Mary Zehnder


Doug Schaller 38 • MARCH 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Craig A Nelson

Erin Guentzel

James Folden

Nick Long

Carla Mills MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2019 • 39

Kim Hilgers 40 • MARCH 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Nick Long

Fred Friedrichs

Cassie Woodward MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2019 • 41

Carla Mills

LeAnn Sieberg 42 • MARCH 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Guy Wass

Marc Crawford

Dianne Wagner

John Othoudt

Cliff Coy

Gail Haeberlin


Rick Pepper 44 • MARCH 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Carol J Swanson

Terri Michels

Tim Pulis

Royal Meyers

Eric Annexstad

Carol J Swanson MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2019 • 45

Doug Erickson 46 • MARCH 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Erin Guentzel

Trudi Olmanson

Charlie Hurd

Craig A Nelson

Anne E Judkins

Jenny Portner MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2019 • 47

Mike Sieberg

Gary Roseberry 48 • MARCH 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Katheleen Felt Loren Pietsch

Marcia Stapleton

Cinda Wallace

Warren Michels MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2019 • 49

Paul Allen

Kristina Wagner-Krohn 50 • MARCH 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Kayla Valdez

Fred Friedrichs

Julie Berndt

Lizzy Ambrose MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2019 • 51

Benjamin Ellingworth

Robert Miller

Laurie Gresch

Mary Jost 52 • MARCH 2019 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Bruce Habberstad

Katherine Sump

Barb Lindsay

Missy Manderfeld

Doug Schaller MANKATO MAGAZINE • MARCH 2019 • 53

Wine & Beer


By Leigh Pomeroy

southern mn style

Au revoir, mes amis du vin I

n the classic romantic comedy "Annie Hall," Alvy (Woody Allen) meets Annie (Diane Keaton) at her door on their first date. She opens the door and he immediately kisses her, because, he says, they won't have to worry about a first kiss at the end of their date. With that in mind, I'll give you this article's conclusion right up front: This will be my last regular wine piece for Mankato Magazine. Why? (Not that it matters, but I suspect some followers of this column might want to know.) Because, after 48 years associated with the wine business and even more years drinking it — yes, I started early — my tastes have become pretty narrow. And when one is a wine writer, this is not good. In my articles you have not seen much about the wonderful wines of Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, for example. That's because today I do not favor them. Not that I didn't like them at one time. Indeed, when New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs first came to the U.S., I was a big proponent. But my preferences have become very parochial, and I'm actually returning to my tasting roots. As a child, when my parents served wines for special occasions, those were Pouilly-Fuissé and Beaujolais from France. Today, my favorite everyday whites are vintner grown and produced Chardonnays from the Mâcon, the most notable of which is PouillyFuissé. And my go-to reds often come from the Beaujolais villages of Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Régnié, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Saint-Amour, Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent. You can't find these wines in most liquor stores because they are produced in small quantities by family producers. Yet good wine


shops have them for less than $25 per bottle, some even less than $20. In other words, they're a steal. Compare these unique wines to the commercially promoted and corporately produced Chardonnays, Cabernets and Pinot Noirs that dominate retail wine shelves and restaurant wine lists today. I'm a small-family winery fanatic. This is the way the business was when I first started drinking wines, except for a few large domestic producers like Gallo and some importers. Since then, much consolidation has occurred in the wine business. Former family wineries have been absorbed by huge international behemoths. What's left are familiar labels but no uniqueness, no sense of the soil, no obvious mark of the artisan winemaker. That said, there is an upside to the wine industry today, and that is the fact that wine quality has never been better. Wines are cleaner, fewer chemicals are used in their production, grapes are grown more sustainably. Further, grape varieties are now being matched to the right terroirs. The reason why chardonnay and pinot noir are grown in Burgundy is because of centuries of trial and error, eliminating other varietals. The same with gamay in Beaujolais, syrah in the northern Rhône, grenache in the southern Rhône, cabernet sauvignon and merlot in Bordeaux, riesling in Germany, nebbiolo in northeastern Italy, sangiovese in Tuscany and nerello mascalese in the volcanic soils of Mount Etna in Sicily. In the New World, we now know that cabernet sauvignon excels in Napa Valley but riesling, once planted widely there, falters; that zinfandel and pinot noir do well in the Russian River Valley; that pinot noir shines in the eastern

hills of Oregon's Willamette Valley; that syrah and cabernet sauvignon yield bold, classy wines in eastern Washington. Similarly, malbec reaches its pinnacle in the Andean highlands of eastern Argentina and shiraz does the same in southeastern Australia. Many years ago, I tasted one of the first vintages of KendallJackson Chardonnay. I was working for a small distributor, and we were considering taking on the brand. We liked the Chardonnay but weren't crazy about the other wines, so we said no. This, of course, turned out to be a mistake, and the distribution company eventually went out of business (though not for that reason). Since then I have often poopooed K-J Chardonnay in my writings due to its nauseating ubiquity on restaurant wine lists and retail shelves. After all, how good can a wine be if almost 3 million cases are sold each year? Yet, I confess that I bought a glass of it recently at Red Lobster. Yes, it was vastly overpriced — the glass cost as much as a bottle in a store — but you know what? I actually enjoyed it. Perhaps my palate is going. I don't know. In the least it gives me another excuse to bow out from writing this monthly column. In French, "au revoir" doesn't mean "goodbye." It means "see you again." So, on that note, I'll say au revoir till we meet once more, perhaps over a glass of wine.

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

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By Bert Mattson

SCOBY do or don’t?


t’s amusing how much creativity has crept into can art. Gone are the days of easily identifying a container of something alcoholic. This has emboldened folks such that one may spy the odd can or two on the sidelines at kids’ sports practices. It helps there’s been a similar explosion in soft drink packaging. Still, you wouldn’t guess a soccer mom could get away with sneaking a sip - not to suggest she doesn’t deserve one - while coming off as health conscious. In waltzed kombucha. What could pair better with haute sport casual than hard kombucha? First hard seltzer, now this, you’re thinking. Nothing is off limits for this guy. In my defense, I rejected the stuff until last summer. A culinary school classmate pressured me. (Full disclosure: This friend is management on the food and beverage side of a brewing company associated with Boochcraft, and GT’s Kombucha brands.) I sat in a Huntington Beach bar appraising the tulip of pinkish, bubbly stuff my buddy was wagging at me. “You like sours. It’s like a sour,” he sang. Sour beers, he meant. I had on my head a broad-brimmed straw beach hat with a pink floral band, which my young daughter had grown weary of. Well, if that’s not the time to try kombucha... It was legit! At the time, I was vaguely aware of the curious process of kombucha’s production and its notorious symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, acronymed SCOBY - a slick, living raft peeled from batches and preserved, akin to a sourdough starter. My friend’s admirable iteration of this fermented tea made it impossible to ignore that hard kombucha is a more interesting topic than seltzer. As opposed to seltzer, kombucha is inherently “hard.” Hence the 2010 recall of supposedly soft versions, which exceeded the allowable trace amounts of alcohol. It’s alcoholic,

naturally. Usually that alcohol is restrained, however, because the bacteria eat a portion of the alcohol, rendering acetic acid and distinctive tartness. Some brewers have found a way round low ABV with brewer’s yeast, yielding alcohol levels up to 7 percent. There seem to be as many claims about the health benefits of kombucha as 19th-century nostrums. Some reputable sources suggest abstaining entirely. To me, reality seems somewhere in between. Some folks report reduced hangovers, a possibility some brewers have unofficially attributed to B vitamins. The FDA regulates assertions about alcoholic beverages. Probiotics – which encourage intestinal flora - are the attraction for some enthusiasts. One problem is that probiotics don’t love alcohol. KYLA from Full Sail has allegedly solved the riddle of preserving probiotics, remaining unpasteurized, yet still achieving shelf stability – most versions are shipped cold to discourage re-fermentation. Haskell’s in St. Paul is the only listed local purveyor. Nonexistent style guidelines and wide variation render it difficult to make recommendations. (Some are hopped.) But being a fermented beverage -.5 percent ceiling in soft versions - kombucha is unique in that it poses an epicurean experience to rival alcoholic beverages, whether having a hard version or not. GT’s Kombucha and Flying E m b e r s h a v e h a rd v e r s i o n s distributed in Minnesota. Local Bootlegger Brewing makes soft versions, stocked at Hy-Vee stores to be safe at soccer. Bert Mattson is a chef and writer based in St. Paul. He is the manager of the iconic Mickey’s Diner. bertsbackburner.com


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The Dogs of Oshawa County, Part 2


rom the safety of the house, we kept the kids away from the windows so they couldn’t see the series of dog copulations. In between encounters, we would go outside and try to lure Pony away. Wherever she went, Dover man-onmanned her, always stuck to the side that separated her from the house. Still, we tried our last best bet to peel her away: We waved her tennis ball around. “Come here, Pony. Come here.” Pony is mad for her tennis ball. I mean, totally, completely obsessed with it. I got into my centerfield to homeplate cock, a wayback launch of my arm. “Look! Look what I have!” A primitive fetching and chasing instinct in Pony briefly clicked on and she crept toward us. Dover barked. Pony blinked. The dirtydeed instinct overrode the chasing one. She side-faced us and slinked beyond our grasp. The dogs ran off into the ravine together like tragic Shakespearean teenagers. “Fine psycho canines,” we said. After a few days and a completed deed, Dover’s eyes softened, and a smile cracked his gigantic noggin. The next morning, he was gone. Pony returned to her regular ways of following the kids to the trampoline and back, dropping her tennis ball on their feet for them to throw, and coiling up in a sweet curly-cue on a rug in the kitchen at night. Over the weeks, she turned mellow and rounded out in the middle. “Mom, Pony is getting fat,” said Youngest. “Mom, Pony seems hungry,” said Son. “Mom,” said Daughter. “There’s something wrong with Pony.” “Nice job,” I said to Pony. “She’s knocked-up,” Husband said, petting her long nose on down her 58 • MARCH 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

spine. She dropped a tennis ball at our feet and waited for us to throw it. nnnn The Pony-Tennis Ball Game goes like this: We throw the tennis ball out into the cornfield or into Seven Mile Creek. She finds it pretty easily. Fetches it. Brings it halfway back. Drops it. Then pretends to look for it some more by sniffing around in the grass for a few minutes until she rediscovers it, exactly where she left it, acts startled, and brings it back to us. “What a weirdo,” I say. “Why does she do that?” “She’s playing a trick on herself,” Husband says. “Dogs don’t do that,” I say. “They’re not that smart.” “Pony’s smart,” he says. Pony is fixed in the ready-to-fetchthe-ball position. She stares at the soaking wet tennis ball. Throw it. Throw it. Throw it. A Tyrannosaurus Rex could roar in her ear and she wouldn’t stop staring at the ball. “Is she?” I say. nnnn Nine weeks after Dover’s visit, in the heat of July, we were ready to welcome Pony’s litter into the family. We had bets going on how many puppies were in there. Though I had nothing more than childhood memories of farm dogs breeding uncontrolled and seemingly inconsequentially, I stood over Pony, cupped my hands along her middle and pretended to examine her condition with veterinary skill for my kids’ entertainment. “Oh, here’s one. There’s another.” I had my kids put their hands on a

bulge (probably a rib) and said. “Feel right there? That’s a puppy.” I stared up at the ceiling and scrunched up my forehead while groping around Pony’s abdomen. Pony endured this examination like a trooper. “Four, I’d say.” The kids seemed satisfied and eager for what was sure to be the most magical, amazing, furry, YouTube-able, adorable event of our lives. We set up a whelping corner in the kitchen, as well as one on the sunny south porch, so Pony could choose where she wanted to deliver. We had kept careful track of the days and knew delivery was eminent. Aside from lying around more regularly and showing slightly diminishing interest in her tennis ball, Pony didn’t exhibit any signs of preparedness. “It seems like she should be doing something,” I said to Husband. “Like nesting. Collecting stuff. Comfort items.” Pony just stared at the door. One morning, Youngest got up extra early, snuck downstairs into the kitchen, and opened the door. Later, he said he had wanted to get the mail. Getting the mail was a chore allotted to “big kids,” a category which he now felt he belonged in. When he opened the door and went out, Pony went out, too. Hours later, after Pony had not come back, I would interrogate him about the details of these moments. I slid an over-easy egg onto his plate and buttered a piece of toast. “So, you opened the door, and then what?” I asked. I smashed a knife through the toast and split it two. Gave him one. “There were lots of bugs out,” he said. He bit his toast. “Right,” I said. “And Pony?” He dunked his toast into the bulbous yolk. “She went out.”

“Right. And did she go down the driveway with you?” He nibbled the dripping toast and chewed. “I think so.” He dropped his fork and scratched a gnat bite on his wrist. “Really think.” I closed my eyes to demonstrate how people really think. “Did Pony go to the end of the driveway with you.” He squeezed his eyes shut. He nodded. “Yes. She did.” He opened his eyes. He scratched. “I need some stuff on it.” I pressed on about Pony. “And then, after you got the mail out of the mailbox, did she come back to the house with you?” He closed his eyes again. He opened them. “A little bit,” he said. He stabbed his fork into his egg white, picked it up, and shook it until a piece broke off. “She came a little bit down the driveway?” “Yes. A little ways.” He put a wiggling egg white in his mouth. “Like half the way.” “And then where did she go?” He squeezed his eyes closed. Harder. He swallowed and then clenched his jaw. Wrinkles appeared on his brow. He held his breath and started shaking. Then he exhaled and shrugged. “I don’t know. Into the creek maybe. She disappeared.” I waited for him to say something else. He didn’t. “Did she go into the creek?” I said. “Dogs don’t disappear.” Outside, the sky was complaining rain. Pony, our beloved dog, delivery imminent, had disappeared.

Nicole Helget is a multi-genre author. Her most recent book, THE END OF THE WILD, is a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, a Parents' Choice Award Winner, a Charlotte Huck Award Honor Book, a New York Public Library Best Books for Kids, a Kirkus Best Middle-Grade Book, an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students, a Best STEM Trade Books for Students K-12, a Georgia Children's Book Award Nominee, and the Minnesota Book Awards Middle Grade Winner. She works as a teacher, manuscript guide, editor, and ghostwriter. She lives in rural St. Peter with her family and dogs. You can follow the Dogs of Oshawa Township at @TheOshawa on Twitter.

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GARDEN CHAT By Jean Lundquist

Tomato madness E

very now and then I get feeling a bit big for my britches, thinking I know a lot about gardening, vegetables and especially tomatoes. Then along comes a stiff breeze to take the wind out of my sails and bring me back to being humble. This spring, as I was trying to order seeds from my favorite seed company located in the Ozarks, EVERY seed I tried to purchase was out of stock. Every single one! So I went hunting for another place to purchase heirloom and open pollinated (OP) seeds, the fruit from which I can save seeds from for the following year. And I found the most fabulous seed company in California! They are a company founded to give seeds to us all, rather than create breeds of veggies that belong to corporations and may not be saved and/or shared. This company is online at tomatofest.com. There are two downsides to ordering from this company I found. They require a $15 minimum purchase, and they sell only tomatoes, nothing else. No broccoli, 60 • MARCH 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

peppers or – well – I guess only tomatoes means only tomatoes. But what a find! They have newly bred varieties I’ve never heard of. They have every shape, size and color of tomato you could ever think to grow. Now, I really don’t need any new varieties of tomatoes, as I already have my favorites, and they are many. But reading through their list of tomato varieties, I found several I “need” to try. I was scrolling through the alphabetical list and found that I had not gotten too far before I had a shopping cart with a dozen new varieties, and I hadn’t even gotten to the Julia Child variety yet. I fast-forwarded to the “J’s” and ordered a pack, and closed the website. I passed by the Clint Eastwood variety without stopping. But of course, I went back, only to discover a truly unique breeding program tomatofest.com is involved in. They also offer 30 varieties of dwarf tomatoes. These plants can grow up to four and a half feet tall,

and are perfect for pots (and bags). They will grow on a porch, a balcony and any small space, they say. They are indeterminate, so you’ll have tomatoes all season long without the sprawl of most indeterminate varieties. So I dug out another $15 plus shipping and handling, and ordered some dwarf tomato varieties. I know I sound enthusiastic, so let me assure you they are not paying me, and I am getting no seeds for free. I’m curious to see if they are as good as they sound. I might need to order some more bags ...

Need some eggplant seeds, too

One day I opened a seed catalog just for something to read, and it opened to a page touting tomato varieties specifically bred for greenhouse growing. There were eggplants, too. These are bred to resist lots of diseases that may be caused by the hot and humid conditions encountered in a greenhouse. I decided to bite on the bait. So I went to order them and discovered that a packet is 15 seeds, and a packet of the variety I want costs $22. The eggplant seeds were a little less expensive. Only $12 for 15 seeds. I gasped and choked. I slapped the pages of that catalog shut, threw it on the kitchen table and walked away. But soon I was back, credit card in hand, ordering some greenhouse tomato and eggplant seeds developed to be grown in a greenhouse. How could I not at least give them a try? Tomato and eggplant seeds are viable for up to five years, if stored properly. Though they are not open pollinated, so I cannot save seeds. If I like them, I won’t have to buy any

more for a while. As for the company out of EVERY seed variety I wanted, it turns out they were having a computer problem. So I went back and placed an order there, too. I am so excited to get gardening! This month I turn on my expensive LED lights in my grow box, plug in my heating mat for my seeds, set up my greenhouse, and try to keep from drooling as my mouth waters for the veggies I will grow. In addition to purchasing more grow bags, I might have to hire

someone to help me clean out my entire garden. Being in casts prevented me from doing it last fall. And, you might be seeing me at a Farmers’ Market near you with all sorts of tomatoes and eggplants (and broccoli and peppers and ...).

Jean Lundquist is a Master Gardener who lives near Good Thunder. gardenchatkato@gmail.com

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‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time,’ 2 p.m., Ted Paul Theatre, Minnesota State University’s Earley Center for Performing Arts — When a dog is found killed with a garden fork, an unusually gifted young man tries to solve the mystery of whodunit — tickets available online and at the box office; call 389-2118.

Southern MN Home and Builders Show 4 p.m.- 8 p.m. March 13, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. March 14, 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. March 15 — Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center — Tips and expertise on everything homerelated (dream kitchens, patios, gardens, home building) — admission is free.



United Way Men’s Event featuring John Kriesel 5-9 p.m., Kato Ballroom — Kriesel, in lost both legs in an explosion while serving in Iraq, is a decorated veteran, sports radio personality, former legislator and motivational speaker — visit mankatounitedway.org/MensEvent to purchase tickets; $65 per ticket or $500 for a reserved table of 8.


Aura Bogado lecture 7 p.m., Alumni Hall, Gustavus Adolphus College — Bogado is a reporter for Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, covering immigration. Previously, she worked at Grist, Colorlines and The Nation. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, The American Prospect, Mother Jones and a variety of other publications — free.

Women’s Right to Vote exhibit Blue Earth County Historical Society — League of Women Voters Minnesota’s traveling exhibit — Historical Society Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays.


Jeremy Messersmith Supper Club Show, potluck at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m.; location provided after ticket purchase — Messersmith is one of the most gifted and acclaimed songwriters in Minnesota — $25; find ticket purchase link on Emy Frentz Arts Guild Facebook page.


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ing of the Kilohertz. That was one title my favorite radio announcer gave himself. Steve Cannon, a radio genius, would carry on four-way conversations with himself via goofy characters like Ma Linger and Morgan Mundane – all voiced by Cannon in flawless, uninterrupted dialogue. I marveled at how his mind could keep each character in his or her lane with never a flub, all done live. It’s been nearly a quarter century since Cannon’s last broadcast, although you can Google to hear air checks. I’d been reminiscing, as we geezers do, reminiscing about my radio favorites – peerless newscasters Dallas Townsend and Charlie Douglas, who for decades hosted an allnight truckers’ show on New Orleans’ WWL. It’s been nearly nine months now since I signed off for the last time, and I don’t miss being on the air as much as I worried I would. Sure I miss the immediacy of being in on all the latest local developments and the repartee that kept you on your toes. And I got sentimental recently when KTOE’s Logan Krengel played excerpts from my last live show. I even began to fret about how voice-tracking and podcasts and syndication might preempt the local immediacy that for me always made radio magical: that one-to-one bond you get listening to a live human sharing thoughts. Soon I was recounting some of the legends of Mankato radio that I got to work with over 40 years. nnnn I returned to Mankato for good in late 1977. I had been part of the notorious announcers’ strike in 1976 – and maybe someday I’ll write about that, but it is still too painful for many after all these decades. I was rehired at KYSM-FM to do the six-midnight shift on the country station. For a couple of months, I’d come in just as Brad Nessler was wrappng up his afternoon stint on the AM side. And yes, that was the Brad Nessler who with his wife would move dozens of times over the next two decades chasing what he gradually found: big-time announcing gigs, eventually replacing legendary Keith Jackson. Today Brad is a principal announcer for CBS Sports. But it all began with Steve Wolf’s great radio regime at KMSU in Old Main. I barely ever said more than hello to Brad in the couple of months we overlapped at KYSM, but he was a genuinely nice guy who kept his eye on the prize. There were other great products of Wolf’s KMSU program: Jan Loft became the first female announcer in Minnesota to host a morning show. She eventually moved to Marshall to chair the Department of Speech and Drama at Southwest State. Casey Lloyd is closing 64 • MARCH 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

in on five decades as the Voice of MSU Maverick sports. When they moved me to mornings, Casey and I would have great fun with his Scandahuvian alter ego, Sven Svendelson, trying to understand country music and society in general. Sven thought it hilarious that Jimmy Carter had his hemorrhoids operated on by a Navy doctor who was literally a rear admiral. Someday in Radio Heaven, I would like to cover an encounter between Howard Stern and J. Michael Shaw. At KYSM-AM in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, before FM forced music off the AM stations, the late J. Michael would traipse the KYSM halls lugging multiple huge ring-binder notebooks filled with music charts. He knew every No. 1 hit that had ever been played. If you told him “Boogie Oogie Oogie, Get Down!” was a stupid song that shouldn’t get played, he’d declare, “a No. 1 hit!” and proceed to quote how many weeks it had topped the charts and how many copies had been sold. nnnn When I moved to KTOE in 1988, I was too late to meet the notorious Dr. Bob. Brought in to goose ratings on our new KDOG-FM sister station, he was Mankato’s version of a shock jock. I reached out to him in another southern Minnesota city a couple of years back, wanting to profile him, but 35 years on, he was not interested. I seem to recall he was let go after asking a young female listener on the air if she’d like to take a shower with him. The listener’s father, a major sponsor, was not amused. Happy trails, Dr. Bob! At Rod Trongard’s funeral, Pastor Steve Kosberg said we had lost “the voice of God.” Probably the most magnificent voice ever to grace local airwaves, Rod could thunder about sports as if he were Moses presenting the Ten Commandments. Off the air, he would regale us with tales of his glory days in Twin Cities radio broadcasting the Vikings and Gophers, or announcing AWA pro wrestling and hanging out with Vern Gagne, Hulk Hogan and Baron von Raschke. Rod spent the second half of his Hall of Fame career in Mankato radio. I need to praise more of these greats who prove that just because you live in a modest-size town doesn’t mean you have to suffer mediocre talent. But I’m up against word count, so for now, this is Pete signing off.

Longtime radio guy Pete Steiner is now a free lance writer in Mankato.


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