Ramsey 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 (just posted them on Instagram), 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, as I’ve focused on volunteering as a master naturalist, I’ve started visiting scientific and natural areas (SNAs) more frequently. So these two categories are combined into one.

Minnesota Historical Society sites

Three years after taking a job with the Minnesota Historical Society, and after visiting many of their 26 historic sites around the state, I decided that 2017 was the year to complete the circuit. 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:

Hawley

dark brick building with a small sign that reads Hawley Lanes

Olivia

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.

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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 Great Minnesota Get-Together, 2017 edition

After Thanksgiving may seem like a strange time to post photos from the Minnesota State Fair, and I agree. A broken computer left me without my photos for almost three months, but I’m back now — so without further ado, here’s what I saw on the first Sunday of the 2017 fair.

one of the streets at the fairgrounds, packed with people, with the space needle in the distance

This pileup of ducklings was the cutest thing I saw:

more than a dozen fuzzy yellow ducklings crowded into the corner of their pen

We were at the right place at the right time to see a mini parade of horses:

two Clydesdales pulling a wooden trailer with two women in black formal dresses

The Hamline Dining Hall is always a good choice for a rest from the chaos, and this time it was a particularly inspired choice because it started pouring about 30 seconds after we walked in. I had the delicious Swedish wild rice meatballs and potatoes that were way salty. I mean, way, way, way too salty. My tray was a fun vintage version from Bonanza:

a white tray with a plate of three meatballs, white gravy, a roll, potatoes, a cup of coleslaw off to the left, and a glass of an iced purple beverage

I think it was required of all fairgoers to take a photo of the new ferris wheel, which we decided to ride after I claimed I would be disappointed to go home without doing that. It was fun but only went around one time!

the tall ferris wheel, at an angle at dusk so the colored lights are visible

While on a walking loop I needed to get a closer look at these papers, which turned out to be the results of the Milk Dash 5K run unceremoniously masking-taped to the side of the restroom building:

four pieces of 8.5x11 white paper with lots of words printed, all held to a brick building with lots of messy masking tape

This year we stopped into Monty’s Traveling Reptile Show for the first time, after talking about it every year:

closeup of a tank holding a water monitor at the front looking left, a sign reading the name Hydro and vital statistics such as 6-8 feet, 50-60 pounds

My favorite item in the Creative Activities building was this beautiful Danish bakery, with tiny details like having the building’s address be 2017…

corner view of a white stucco building with red accents, a white border fence, a Danish flag, red tablecloths on three patio tables

…and on the inside, many more perfect details such as pots in the cupboards, pies waiting for their top crusts, and the Scandinavian wedding cake that first caught my eye:

same building, showing one floor with a kitchen scene with an oven, wooden cupboards, cookies cooling on the stove, dough rising in a bowl, and a baker behind the counter

Runner-up favorite item: this “pixellated” quilt of Minnesota roadside attractions, such as Paul and Babe in Bemidji, and the big loon in Vergas:

closeup of the two scenes that look like pixellated Polaroid photos with handwriting descriptions

There was plenty of topical seed art, as usual, such as the changing of the name of Lake Calhoun back to its Dakota name:

framed artwork of a lake with lettering that says Bde Maka Ska

and the eclipse, which had just happened at this point:

a long, short framed artwork with a three versions of the eclipse, including a ring in the center, and August 21, 2017 at the bottom

I won’t include a photo of the wall of honey jars, like I usually do, though it remains my favorite spot at the fair. Instead, given that the holidays are coming, I’ll end on two Christmas photos:

the tree room

many different types of Christmas trees with award ribbons

and fancy decorated cookies.

a display of 14 cookies on sticks, such as a reindeer portrait, a white star on a red background, four decorated trees, and a winter version of the Spoonbridge and Cherry

More from the fair

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Capitol M

Many letter “M”s are scattered throughout the Minnesota State Capitol. Here are the ones I’ve found so far.

To the right of the front doors:

carved in stone above a door

On the ceiling in the House of Representatives Chamber:

stencil of a yellow M within the fancy, flowery hat above a small face

In a lunette:

script M painted on a black stone surrounded by olive branches

In the railing:

cipher surrounded by a circle in the middle of a fancy metal railing

Gold M in the Governor’s Reception Room…

small M surrounded by a sideways oval, then by three rectangles, each with lots of fancy embellishments

…and in the same room, a gold M in the curtain:

script gold cloth surrounded by a circle of gold oak leaves, surrounded by a rectangle of leaves, on a maroon velvet(?) curtain above a window

Is this an M in the fireplace grate behind the governor’s podium? I guess not quite.

two curls leaning together, like a script M but without the middle

The Star of the North in the rotunda…

looking down at the floor with a gold, 8-pointed star surrounded by 3 circles and a larger 8-pointed star

…is made up of M’s when turned to the side:

looking down again, from a couple feet over so there are two points up, two each to the left and right, and two points down; each point is the left half of an M AND the right half of another M

Zoomed in, you can see the big pink M, with the smaller gold M below:

close up to focus on the large M facing the correct way

In the four corners of former governor Arne Carlson’s portrait frame:

the University of Minnesota's M logo from the bottom left corner of the frame

More about the capitol

I helped build the MNHS capitol website, so I’m a little proud of that link.

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The Great Minnesota Get-Together, 2016 edition

Good gravy, how is the Minnesota State Fair already over? It’s not that the summer went too fast, it’s just that the end is always a surprise.

looking south at a sea of people near the Midway

It’s hard to imagine that there was ever a time – and it was not so long ago – that I hated the fair and refused to go. This year, not only did I go twice, but I even considered going another time, by myself.

demonstration with a raptor outside the DNR

My husband and I went on the second day but it was more or less a work trip, to do the history walking tour (which is co-sponsored by the Minnesota State Fair Foundation and my employer, the Minnesota Historical Society). We saw things like the J.V. Bailey House:

Stop 6, a yellow house on the fairgrounds

…and the horse barn:

Stop 3, built by the Works Progress Administration

More than an hour later, we had punched all 12 stops:

worn brochure lying on the ground

We went late in the afternoon and it got dark quickly; we saw the fireworks from the bus.

fireworks in the distance, framed by metal window sills

Our second trip was on the second-to-last day, with my sister and her husband.

people outside the entrance

Favorite foods:

blueberry coffee cake ice cream bar (bad photo from inside the Farmers Union building):

faintly purple ice cream on a stick

buffalo Minnekabob (horrible photo from inside the food building):

meat and onions on a stick, wrapped in aluminum foil

My sister had never tried Sweet Martha’s cookies (!!) so we had to remedy that:

a paper cone overflowing with chocolate chip cookies

Someone lost a cookie:

flattened cookie on the pavement

Other food tried by the four of us over two trips: blueberry malt from the Dairy Building (good as always), Minnesota corn dog (not my favorite), bang bang chicken (too spicy for my bland palate but everyone else thought this was wonderful), cheese curds (always delicious), crab fritters (tasty), fried ravioli (meh), deep fried olives (I didn’t try this), pineapple Dole Whip (good), apple dumpling (good), super stick of deep-fried pizza (I didn’t try this), and chicken parm sandwich (yum).

Other stuff

There’s much more to see and do besides eat, like visit the Minnesota Newspaper Museum:

Miehle Press machine

We were determined to participate in the Giant Sing-Along but got there during “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” – which wasn’t a very inspiring pick, to be honest. We sing it at every baseball game! But we gamely (heh) sang along.

list of all the songs that rotate during the fair

The giant pumpkins:

two big bright orange pumpkins in front of a lighter orange pumpkin and a greenish pumpkin

Award-winning baked goods:

ethnic foods such as rosettes, lefse, krumkake, almond kringler, and more

Seed art:

monarch butterfly and black-eyed susans created from seeds

Lots and lots of people and animals – an attendance record, which doesn’t surprise me:

a woman walking a horse down a crowded street, with the Sky Flyer swings in the distance

Leftover items that didn’t get done from the 2015 visit – how did we do?

  • River Raft ride (didn’t come up this year)
  • Sing at the giant sing-along (yes)
  • Education building and the MNHS booth (yes)
  • Newspaper museum (yes)
  • Reptile show (no – think this one will be removed)
  • Dole Whip (yes)
  • Brown butter ice cream at Hamline dining hall (not available)
  • Key lime pie on a stick (no)
  • Puffcorn ice cream (not available)
  • Nitro ice cream (no)
  • Minnekabob (yes)

So, pretty good. See you at the fair next year.

exit gates with message - Thank you for visiting the Minnesota State Fairgrounds

More from the fair

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Purple

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

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