Hennepin County

2017 in review

The year started with one of my favorite winter activities, Checkpoint Minnesota, a statewide scavenger hunt that was unfortunately in its last year, unknown to everyone. I’ll miss it, though I admit I never officially submitted my visits, because I enjoyed the motivation to get out and explore during the cold. We only made it to four of the 10 checkpoints during this year’s event, though we had been to two of the others in the last two years, and later in 2017 we coincidentally went to two more.

March for Science Minnesota

I was out of town for the women’s march in January, so I made sure to be in attendance for the March for Science in St. Paul on Earth Day. The homemade signs were clever and inspiring, and I was happy to see so many people marching proudly. I had to leave the event early for a family wedding shower, so I didn’t get to see the rally at the capitol.

large group of people, many holding handmade signs, walking toward the capitol building

Old-school Dairy Queen in Moorhead

On an overnight trip to Fargo-Moorhead, I requested dessert at the “rogue” Dairy Queen, where they play by their own rules and serve a “heritage” menu of items that more modern restaurants don’t anymore. I had a Mr. Maltie frozen chocolate malt on a stick.

barn-shaped building with a red roof and white sides, with Moorhead written in blue script near the top

Highland water tower

This St. Paul water tower is open to the public twice a year, and we climbed it during Highland Fest in July. The tower was designed by Clarence Wigington and completed in 1928. It was retired from service only a couple months ago.

looking up at the top of a six-sided brick water tower

Lynx win their fourth championship

Two years ago, I wrote about the Lynx dynasty after Minnesota won its third championship. Now it’s four in seven years. I was fortunate to once again be on press row taking statistics for the deciding Game 5, this time at Williams Arena.

streamers falling next to the scoreboard as the clock expired

Roadside attractions

None of these were destinations themselves this year, but it’s always fun to come across one of these statues on a road trip.

Minnesota state parks and SNAs

At one point, we were trying to visit all of the state parks. While we’re technically still working on the parks passport, we haven’t added many new stamps over the last couple years. Instead, I’ve started visiting scientific and natural areas (SNAs) more frequently. So these two categories are combined into one.

Minnesota Historical Society sites

I decided that 2017 was the year to complete visiting all 26 MNHS sites. And I’m happy to say I did, finishing with a Christmas tour at the Mayo House in Le Sueur on Dec. 16! Counting places I’d been before, I made it to 18 sites this year.

First-time visits

Especially with the MNHS trips, we saw a lot of towns for the first time:


dark brick building with a small sign that reads Hawley Lanes


wire corn decoration on a lightpole at sunset

McGregor (which has an emu!)

emu behind a wire fence

Pequot Lakes, during a five-day family reunion

red-and-white bobber-shaped water tower

Redwood Falls, for a family wedding

a bank that manages to look like both a spaceship and a castle

Christmas tours

And, as has already been documented, I closed out the year with road trips to see Christmas lights, within about 2 hours of the metro.

2018 resolutions

In 2017, we crossed off several longstanding wish-list visits (Moorhead DQ, Maplewood State Park, Lost 40), so I need to add some new ideas.

I’d like to go back to Moorhead to see the Hjemkomst ship and the Hopperstad Stave Church. I’d also like to eat ice cream at the Peppermint Twist in Delano, visit the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, go biking near Lanesboro, take a ghost tour in Pipestone, see a water skiing show, watch a movie at a drive-in theater, go to the Northwest Angle.

New state parks on the list: Moose Lake, Great River Bluffs, and Glacial Lakes. I’d like to go back to Interstate for a pothole tour and see the bison again at Blue Mounds. And I’d like to see five new-to-me SNAs.

Categories: Aitkin County, Beltrami County, Cass County, Clay County, Crow Wing County, Dakota County, Hennepin County, Itasca County, Lake County, Le Sueur County, Morrison County, Olmsted County, Otter Tail County, Pine County, Polk County, Ramsey County, Redwood County, Renville County, Washington County | Leave a comment

The most wonderful road trips of the year

When winter rolls around, I hop in the car to look for Christmas decorations on Minnesota main streets. I’m surprised that five years into these trips, there’s still so much variety to be seen. Not counting the simple snowflakes and wreaths, I keep spotting more tinsel or white-light shapes around nearly every corner.

My first trip of the season was a solo venture out west on 212 to Brownton, then north to Hutchinson and back on 7.

A snowflake, though with blue as well as white, in Norwood Young America:

six-pointed white snowflake with a blue star center

and this fun stack of presents:

a red present on its side on the bottom, a leaning gold present, and a small green present on top

I ventured off the main road when I saw a sign for Biscay (which I hadn’t heard of), and I’m glad I did.

Candy canes across the bridge in Glencoe:

a white wire candy cane on a light pole at the top right, and four more in a diagonal row off into the distance

And stockings down the entire street in Winsted:

a red stocking with candy canes in the middle, a diagonal row of the same stockings to the bottom left, and the Winsted water tower at the right

Cologne’s white wire shapes:

A sleigh in Missile Park in St. Bonifacius:

a wire horse pulling a man in a sleigh at the right, with a US Army statue in the background, at dusk

The next evening, we took a trip to Le Sueur to do the candlelight tour at the Mayo House. The park next to the house has this very bright tree:

giant tree glowing with white lights, and a small white house in the background

A week later, my husband and I took a trip up 169 and back to the Twin Cities on 65. I got to take pictures from the passenger seat.

Princeton variety:

This fun garland in Onamia reminded me of the Grinch tree:

two swoops of greenery with multicolored light bulbs, and a red bell hanging off the top greenery

A park scene in Onamia:

wire train set under a real pine tree, with three green tree decorations in the snow at the right

I enjoy the decorations that cross a street, like this one in Milaca:

double strand of greenery draped across the street, with big red bows at the corners, and a white circle in a wreath at the center saying Seasons Greetings MILACA

On the next street was this very festive bank:

brick building with four white pillars wrapped in greenery, greenery draped across the top front, and gold tinsel letters spelling NOEL at the top

After turning east at Lake Mille Lacs, we went through Isle. I first thought these swoopy stars were a fancy boot:

lamppost with a Seasons Greetings banner, with white swoops and star shapes above

Santas in the library window:

five homemade paper Santas

On the east end of town, I wondered why Santa wasn’t in the sleigh on the roof, then I noticed he is piloting a boat:

brown garage with a white wire sleigh and reindeer on the roof at the right, a blow-up boat with Santa and standing reindeer at the left

Ogilvie has a simple version of the decoration we saw in Milaca:

wreath with a white center that says Seasons Greetings

Finally, on a sunny day two days before Christmas, we took a road trip south on Highway 61. Wintry trees along the highway:

Pine trees along highway 61

Red Wing snowflake:

closeup of a white tinsel snowflake

and a decoration that stretches to all four corners of the intersection of Bush and 3rd:

looking up at a white light decoration that comes from four corners and meets in the middle, with multiple strands that look like bunting and two stars dangling on each side

We drove through Minneiska quickly and didn’t get close to any of these, but I wanted to include them anyway:

Kellogg started out with a plain snowflake near the highway, but driving into town we saw this great reindeer swag:

garland stretching across the street, with a wreath with three candles in the middle, and matching wire reindeer facing the center on both sides of the wreath

and then we stumbled across this simple and beautiful star display on the other end of town:

white strands across the road that look like bunting, with one white wire star in the center

More photos

Previous Christmas road trips

Categories: Carver County, Goodhue County, Hennepin County, Kanabec County, Le Sueur County, McLeod County, Mille Lacs County, Wabasha County, Winona County | 1 Comment


Since the sudden and surprising death of Minnesota’s own Prince just over a week ago, several public displays have been created by fans around the Twin Cities. We visited two of the memorial sites on Friday.

Flowers and notes and lots of purple balloons left near his star at First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, which was relatively quiet at noon:

a long pile of flower bouquets and partially deflated balloons on the ground under the black brick wall with silver stars

More people were visiting and leaving purple mementos at Paisley Park, his home and studio in Chanhassen:

fans taking pictures and viewing items tied to a fence surrounding a white two-story building

Many signs read “Rest In Purple”:

flower bouquets and a purple t-shirt near a paper sign that says Rest In Purple Sweet Prince

…or “Purple Reign”:

handwritten note: Your purple reign will not be forgotten, next to a hanging basket of purple pansies

Fans signing memorial posters:

long white poster with a large image of Prince and his symbol in the middle, covered in handwritten notes

An artist painting:

a man in a striped shirt painting on a canvas right next to the fence

A dove crying:

square painting of a dove with a heart eye and a teardrop, with purple raindrops all around

Lots of versions of his symbol:

large posterboard with his symbol in flowers of various shades of purple

The most creative item we saw:

a purple sled with the words Happy sledding Prince What a ride you took us on

There were also many notes written in chalk in the tunnel between the parking lot and Paisley Park:

Sign o' the times - our own Mozart, our own brother, and other handwritten notes

The first mention I’ve seen of Arms of Orion, my favorite Prince song:

Arms of Orion written in light lavender chalk, and other handwritten notes

The Minnesota Historical Society has Prince’s Purple Rain suit in its collection, and it was brought out for a mini-exhibit at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul that started the day after he died:

the suit in a protected box with an interpretive sign, and a large posterboard on the wall at the right with many Post-it notes

A board with the words “I Remember Prince” was quickly covered by Post-It notes:

so many sticky notes on the board and the wall around the board that the word prompt is covered

I work at the History Center and every day, sometimes multiple times a day, I visit the board to see what people have written. Many sentimental notes, many thankful notes, and some amusingly honest:

My favorite memory of Prince: Late in the Minnesota Lynx’s run to the WNBA championship last year, we started noticing that he is a fan of the team. He tweeted after Maya Moore hit the game-winning shot in Game 3. Two games later at Target Center, it was like a game of telephone tag as word spread through the crowd and the gameday crew that he was in a suite, though I didn’t see him. And then, after the title was won, he invited the players to a three-hour private concert at Paisley Park in the middle of the night.

Categories: Carver County, Hennepin County, Ramsey County | Leave a comment

Lynx dynasty

The last five years for the Minnesota Lynx: four WNBA Finals appearances, three trophies. A week ago, the Lynx won the title at home for the first time.

Three WNBA Championship trophies held high in the 2015 parade

WNBA boxscore

Boxscore from Game 5 of the 2015 WNBA Finals at Target Center.

Since the first Lynx game on June 12, 1999, I have seen most of the team’s home games. I was in the right place at the right time when the team joined the WNBA in 1999 and they needed workers for their gameday stats crew. My three-person team records all of the shots, rebounds, assists, steals, fouls, and so on to create the official boxscore. My younger sister, Ellen, joined our crew in 2008. While I’ve cut back to working only half of the games for the last two seasons, I’ve enjoyed working with the team from a courtside seat for 17 seasons – but of course, winning is much more fun than losing.

Before 2011, the Lynx had varying degrees of success: they finished just under .500 their first two seasons, then much worse the next two years; they reached the playoffs in 2003 and 2004, with a come-from-behind win in their first playoff game, but still exited in the first round both seasons and then missed the playoffs the next six years. It took awhile, but the team’s luck started to change.

The Lynx won the draft lottery in 2006 and picked Seimone Augustus, the college player of the year. Then in 2010 came a new coach, a trade for hometown favorite Lindsay Whalen, and the addition of veteran Rebekkah Brunson, who had already won one WNBA title. The following year the Lynx added Maya Moore, who had won two championships in college and eventually earned WNBA Rookie of the Year honors, and center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, a six-time WNBA all-star who had also already won a championship.

2011: The Lynx set a franchise record with 27 regular-season wins and recorded their first playoff series win, then their second. Then their third. The deciding game of the Finals was in Atlanta, so we watched it in my sister’s apartment. A few days later, the team held a parade in Minneapolis, with fans lining the streets several rows deep (enough that I could barely see the players) and filling up the skyways.

Lots of fans ready for a parade

The fans then filed into Target Center for a championship rally:

Coach Reeve holding the trophy on a stage with players in the background

2012: The Lynx won their first 10 games and finished with 27 wins again. They earned a return trip to the Finals, falling to Indiana in four games despite having homecourt advantage.

2013: Minnesota added a new center, another hometown favorite, Janel McCarville. Forward Devereaux Peters had joined the year before. The Lynx swept all three rounds of the playoffs. In the Finals: same opponent as in 2011, same three-game sweep.

Fans standing and waving pompons before Game 1 of the 2013 WNBA Finals

The Riverview Theater in Minneapolis showed Game 3, and my sister and I attended with hundreds of excited fans:

Fans cheering in a darkened movie theater

We hung out with Mary Tyler Moore (the statue) at the parade. That was the year Katy Perry’s “Roar” was so popular, and it became the team’s anthem. (I wished they would have changed the lyrics to “I’ve got the eye of the LYNX … and I am a champion” – but I suppose there were legal reasons why they didn’t.)

Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus in the 2013 championship parade

Another post-parade rally:

The team on stage in front of a big 2013 WNBA Champions banner

2014: The Lynx finished the regular season second in the Western Conference and lost in the conference finals to the eventual champions. Moore was named the league MVP.

2015: The addition of guards Anna Cruz and former Lynx Renee Montgomery helped when Augustus and Whalen were injured. A midseason trade brought center Sylvia Fowles. The team struggled in the second half of the regular season but gained momentum heading into the playoffs, setting up a Finals rematch against the Fever, the only team to beat the Lynx in the championship. I missed game 1 due to a poorly timed (by myself) weekend vacation, and Indiana stole home court with a win. I was back for Game 2, which the Lynx won.

Game 3 in Indiana was a classic. The series was tied 1-1, and the game was tied 77-77 with 1.7 seconds to go:

With that buzzer-beater, the Lynx regained homecourt advantage. They could win the series in Indiana in Game 4, or return to Minnesota if they lost. Ellen and I drove to Indianapolis to watch Game 4 as fans. Their arena has a scoreboard that seemed to be as big as the court, as well as a banner celebrating their 2012 championship (when they beat the Lynx).

Ten thousand fans tried to distract Whalen during a free throw.

The highlight of that game for me was the return of Red Panda, the halftime entertainer. She’s an acrobat who balances bowls on her foot, then flips them into a stack on her head – while wearing heels and riding a unicycle. And whenever she successfully flips the bowls – which is every time – she seems surprised that it worked. She is the unanimous favorite halftime act of my group of friends, but we were all sad when she had to retire about a year ago due to injuries. The Fever apparently convinced her to return.

It would have been fun to see the Lynx win there – but when they didn’t win, it set up a deciding Game 5 at Target Center in Minneapolis.

Jump ball at the start of Game 5 of the 2015 WNBA Finals

It was a slow first half for both teams. In the third quarter the Lynx broke away. Indiana made a run in the fourth quarter, but the Lynx lead was too big.

confetti inside Target Center after the Lynx won the 2015 championship

Lynx players raising the trophy

The 2015 parade was on a Friday morning. Luckily, my sister and I already had the day off. Too bad it couldn’t have been held on a Saturday so more fans could attend.

Sylvia Fowles and Rebekkah Brunson in the 2015 championship parade

A third championship rally:

giant 2015 WNBA Champions banner

The Lynx have many All-Stars, many Olympians, many people who are able to score. They’ve won championships with three different centers – and three different Finals MVPs: Augustus in 2011, Moore in 2013, and Fowles in 2015. The Lynx are approachable and likeable, even dancing with fans after home wins.

My favorite of my photos from this year is of the team receiving the trophy. I once read advice to stand behind people who are posing for a photo because “that’s where the love is.” The teamwork shows in this picture.

backs of Lynx players wearing championship t-shirts and hats

Add the Lynx to the six-time national champion University of Minnesota women’s hockey team, top-10 Gopher volleyball, and seven-time Division II volleyball champs Concordia, and it’s a pretty fun time to be a fan of Twin Cities women’s sports.

Billboard congratulating the 2015 WNBA Champion Lynx

Billboard from 2013: This is Winnesota.

This is Winnesota.

Categories: Hennepin County | Tags: | Leave a comment

Winter in MSP

Before the snow completely melts, I should recap some of our winter adventures in the Twin Cities.

One Saturday in January we planned two outdoor stops in Minneapolis. First up, a kite festival on Lake Harriet. This “dangerous ice” sign didn’t stop anyone.

Sign: Keep off. Dangerous. Ice not safe.

There were many kites and hundreds of spectators. I managed to avoid a crash-landing kite at the last second.

Hundreds of people and several flying kites

After we’d had enough of the kites, we drove east to Minnehaha Falls, but we got distracted by all the cars near Lake Nokomis and then remembered the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships. We reached the rinks on the middle of the frozen lake just as time expired for the day, but still got to see some action because this game needed overtime…

Hockey puck between two players in front of the goal

…and then needed a shootout to determine a winner.

One team celebrating while the other skates off the ice

Then on to the frozen Minnehaha Falls – essentially a must-do winter activity:

Light blue, frozen Minnehaha Falls with many people standing at the base

Later in the season our sights switched to St. Paul and the Winter Carnival, which kicked off with the Crashed Ice downhill skating (not skiing) race. I took some time over a lunch break to watch practice near the Cathedral one afternoon before the competition began:

A skater at the top of the course in front of the Cathedral

Maybe half of the competitors were able to stay upright throughout the course’s ups and downs and jumps.

A skater coming off a jump after a short incline

Then we went back to downtown St. Paul one very chilly weeknight to see the carnival itself. It seemed that the excitement must happen on the weekend because there were so few people, but that meant we were able to get up-close to the ice sculptures in Rice Park. This was the only sculpture we noticed still standing after the warm first weekend of the carnival:

Ice sculpture: bear with fish and penguins

There was a broomball game on the ice rink next to the candle on the Lawson Commons building:

A player swinging at a ball with two defenders

We also headed over to the state fairgrounds to see the snow sculptures:

Snow carving of the Winter Carnival logo, with colorful lighted sculptures in the background


More photos

Categories: Hennepin County, Ramsey County | Tags: | Leave a comment

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