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Don't tell me there's nothing to do here!
July 18, 2011 - Stephen Browne
It was my turn to have the weekend beat, and it was a fairly active weekend as beat goes.
I covered the Seaforth Polka Fest on Friday night, and the Wilder Pageant in Walnut Grove on Saturday. In both cases it was a most enjoyable experience in spite of the weather. I mean, can you imagine having the kind of job where your supervisor tells you, "Go and hang out with lots of people having all kinds of fun," and get paid for it?
It almost makes me feel guilty in the Scots Calvinist part of my soul. (The Irish part is quite OK with it though.)
I came here in April, and since summer began there has been something happening within a reasonable drive pretty much every weekend. It hardly matters if I'm on the clock or not, I'm likely going to go anyway.
That's why I was stunned when somebody told me recently that lots of people complain, "There's nothing to do around here."
Are you kidding?
I came here from a small town in North Dakota (pop. 6,800) about an hour's drive from Fargo, and 30 minutes in the other direction from a town roughly the same size as Marshall. Summer weekends were, well the word "dead" comes to mind. There were festivals and events though - easily two or three a summer. You had to drive to either town for a decent choice in restaurants, movies, etc. Some weekends it just didn't seem worthwhile to walk out the front door, and my kids were turning into couch potatoes. To get them together with friends we had to arrange, and chauffer them to "play dates." Here I mostly just tell them to turn off the #$%& TV/video game and shoo them out the front door.
It's not the fault of the people in North Dakota, they were by and large great folks. And they tried hard to put on worthwhile events, but the demographics just won't support a lot of activities, and like a lot of North Dakota towns between Fargo and Bismarck, they've been experiencing a long-term population decline for the past few generations. Our town was only marginally bearable because of the presence of a small (approximately 800 students) but well-regarded university.
This part of Minnesota is pretty rural for sure, that's part of its charm, and what makes it a great place to raise kids. But in terms of population density, there's enough to support plenty of activities without seeming too crowded. Minnesota overall has a population density ranked 21st in the nation at 65.3 per square mile. That's roughly comparable to our original home in Oklahoma, 54.6 people per square mile, 28th in the country. North Dakota ranks 48th at 9.3 people per square mile.
You think there's nothing to do? There's an outdoor pool in summer and an indoor pool for winter. There's concerts in Liberty Park every Wednesday evening, and the Marshall band is pretty good too. We've met interesting people there and our kids have made friends. There's community theater, there's a variety of restaurants, there's sports leagues, and if you're missing anything you might consider taking an ad out in the paper to find like-minded people. If you think weeknights are dead, consider coming with me to Slayton for our Filipino martial arts and Thai Boxing workouts on Thursdays.
Oh but you mean intellectual pursuits. Did you know there was a Peloponesian War study group organized a while back, I saw the notice at the library. Sorry I missed that but now I know there are folks interested in that kind of stuff around here, and I mean to seek them out.
And that's only Marshall!
I couldn't believe Seaforth, population about 87, could put on a party so jumping people came all the way from Colorado!
Or have you checked out Tracy's museum village lately? OK, for a small museum usually one visit is enough for a long time - but my kids thought it was a treat and want to go back soon.
Lucan, population less than 200, supported Captain Dan Day's for 10 years. I'm so glad I caught the last one, and so sorry I missed all the others. Not to mention a fine restaurant and a local brewery that makes a variety of beers no European country would be ashamed of - and I've lived in the lands of the worlds' best beers.
Not long ago I took my kids to the Canby Air Show, where they got their first scary ride in a light plane. Before that I took them to the Granite Falls rodeo. How many big city kids do you think get to experience rodeo these days?
How about Tyler with it's Danebod and Aebleskiver Days? There are festivals in Ivanhoe, Canby, Minneota, Cottonwood, and Granite Falls. Have you considered trying your hand at Rolle Bolle in Ghent or Russell? That would give you a party story you could trot our for years to come.
Not to mention all the county fairs this summer. A few weeks back I took my family and my Polish mother-in-law to the Redwood County Fair. My mother-in-law grew up on a farm near the German border and she was fascinated by the American livestock shows. (She was surprised to see two-colored pigs.) My kids had a blast on the rides and at the alligator show. The only sour note of the evening was a four-year-old in the back seat screaming "I don't wanna go!" a significant part of the way home.
My editor Per Peterson told me there is precisely one weekend this summer we have nothing scheduled to cover.
So count your blessings and don't tell me there's nothing to do around here!
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