Kandiyohi County Trains and the Great Train Wreck

While venturing around Willmar during the #MNGFO2018, I stumbled upon the pedestrian bridge that extends across the stacks of railroad tracks. It is not out of the ordinary to see long trains in Willmar.
Kandiyohi County has been a railroad hub for more than 120 years. The long strings of engines pull commodities like coal, petroleum, and grain.
Today, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) handles freight coming through Kandiyohi County, with the main line connecting Chicago to the Pacific coastal states.
More than 200 people are employed at the Willmar switching yard, which has three lines and accommodates more than 40 trains a day.
Interesting piece of history: On June 24, 1882, one of the most disastrous railroad wrecks in Kandiyohi County’s history took place here. The train left Willmar to travel to Grove City gravel yards.
Two and a half miles west of Atwater the train’s tender jumped the track due to the heavy grade and fast speed.
As the train approached a curve in the track, the engine derailed and rolled down an embankment into a slough. People from Willmar and Atwater came to the aid of the train crash victims. Thirteen men were killed and nineteen injured. The county coroner, district attorney, and a jury investigated the crash.
The jury found the crash was caused by the reckless manner the train was run and the negligence of St. Paul Minneapolis and Manitoba Railroad Company in establishing a speed for gravel trains. A mass grave of the victims is in Fairview Cemetery at Willmar.

LuLu Beans Coffee Shop

LuLu Beans Coffee Shop is one of the coolest places to hang out in Willmar.
Located in a converted old house off First Street,
LuLu’s is the epitome of home-away-from-home.
Comfy, eclectic furniture adding to the cozy ambiance
with vintage postcards of Willmar’s yesteryears
along with chalkboard menus
and artisan pieces for purchase everywhere.
In the winter, you can even hunker down in front of the fireplace!
I stopped in during the fishing opener for a “blended latte” and Monster muffin.

Do you have a favorite, local coffee shop?

Sibley State Park

Over the next few weeks, I am going to be telling you all the things I did during and on the way back from the 71st Annual Minnesota Governors Fishing Opener in the Willmar Lakes Area. First stop – Sibley State Park in the Kandiyohi County, located 15 miles north of Willmar on U.S. Highway 71.
The park is near New London, on the shores of Lake Andrew and named for Henry Hastings Sibley, the first governor of the state. Sibley was established as a state park in 1919. In 1935 the Federal government sent the Veterans Conservation Corps and for the next three years, the group of up to 200 men built roads, buildings, and trails within the park. The park is filled with hills, prairies, wetlands and lush hardwood forests dominated by oak, red cedar, ironwood, green ash, aspen, maple, and basswood. The park really offers everything.
You can hike up Mount Tom, boat and fish on Lake Andrew, have a picnic, play volleyball and horseshoes, go camping, or portage and canoe on Henschien Lake and Swan Lake. You can spend time checking out all kinds of wildlife including white-tailed deer, red and gray fox, coyote, raccoons, chipmunks, red and gray squirrels, mink, striped skunks, badgers and woodchucks.
If you are a bird lover, Sibley is perfect for you. See the great blue herons, egrets, wood ducks, Canada geese, scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, pelicans, loons, bluebirds, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, cuckoos, thrushes, tanagers and barred owls. Fun fact: Sibley was the first place in the State of Minnesota where nesting Yellow-throated Warbler were recorded.
I spent my trip to Sibley with Kelsey Olson, the park naturalist, who knows all the best stories about the park. I highly recommend finding her if you are making the trip. She even got me out Geocaching and making s’mores!

Happy Mother’s Day!

A very happy Mother’s day to all of the birth, adoptive, fur, rescue and second Moms out there!

And to my favorite Minnesota woman: my Mom (isn’t she gorgeous?!)

To the woman who taught me the importance of road trips in your hometown, singing your lungs out in the car, and loving the whispering pines you were born and raised in.

To the woman who learned to fall back in love with life while enduring the painful, emotional terrain of losing children and living life as a widow. Who embraced single-parentness and loved us enough for two.

To the woman who found herself through mud, dirt, bulrush, gladiolas and hydrangeas, loon calls, pine trees, fresh air, and fresh water. Who taught us how to do the same. And that it was totally okay if its not your thing.

To the woman who showed me how to ask the universe for help, and what to do when it responds. To take risks and fall in love hard. To learn how to love yourself, so that you can share it.

To quote an earlier post about her recognition from then-President Obama for her work with those soldiers deployed overseas:

“I have always been proud of her and her heart, no matter how much she believed that it was often more of a curse than a blessing. The calling of a life much bigger than her own brought a remarkable journey but one that colored her life (and mine). I have never been more awe-inspired.”

To my Mom.

From dancing in the rain, roasting marshmallows, cutting your own wood for bonfires, tubing down the Apple River, counting and sleeping under the stars, to the field mice we tried to keep as pets, picking strawberries and eating them before we got in the house, singing in the garden, loving my closest friends as your own children, and fishing in the rain – You are my first love and best friend, and forever my Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day. I love you more. 

MayDay Parade and Festival 2018

Another MayDay Parade and Festival has come and gone, but how incredible it was!
The free event takes place in the Powderhorn neighborhood in South Minneapolis.
It has been produced by In the Heart of the Beast Theater (HOTB) since 1975, taking place the first Sunday of May.
The festivities bring out more than 50,000 people
and consist of three parts: the Parade, the Ceremony, and the Festival.
The parade itself narrates a story through amazing hand-built puppets and masks, stilt walkers,
belly dancers, unicyclists, painted faces,
elaborate costumes, bikes, music, and dance.
Think of it as a multicultural celebration
through a walking theatrical performance.
If you haven’t been, I highly recommend adding it to your 2019 #MNbucketlist!


Dish: Cuisine for Change Gala

This past Thursday was the 15th anniversary of Second Harvest Heartland’s signature fundraising gala; Dish: Cuisine for Change.

Held at the Saint Paul RiverCentre in downtown St. Paul, the event included gourmet cuisine from 20+ local chefs, wine and cocktail tastings including shrimp and grits from the Oceanaire Seafood Room; farro and arugula salad from Coalition; mushroom, arancini, truffle aioli, radish and seasonal Lettuce from Borough; chicken tinga from Red River Kitchen; beef tartar “Cannible Sandwich” from The Lexington; beef tenderloin bruschette from Vivo; broccoli and feta salad from Bar Brigade; lobster mac and cheese from the Bloomington Chophouse; Rival House bison burger from Rival House; and many others from Al Vento, The Beacon Public House, Borough, Citizen, FIKA, Kincaid’s, Lavoya, Lemongrass Thai, Montague’s Kitchen & Bar, MOTO-I, Public Kitchen + Bar, Schwan’s, annd Treasure Island Resort and Casino.

The gala also included hundreds of items for the Silent Auction from getaways, arts, entertainment, sports, food, and so much more.

Last year, Dish raised nearly $680,000.

If you love events like these, be sure to add Dish to your bucket list!


North Pole Restaurant

The North Pole Restaurant has been a fixture in Newport, Minnesota for decades.
The restaurant began in 1947 as a soda fountain in Village Drug on 21st Street in Newport.
Customers could get fountain service while they waited for their prescriptions to be filled.
Robert E. North (Bob) purchased the place and renamed it Newport Drug.
In 1952, Newport Drug relocated to the Newport Center and the space expanded, accessing the next door space. Staying true to its moniker, a menacing stuffed polar bear stands between the cafe and the pharmacy.
The business has expanded over the years and still serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Think classic dinner food, simple and straightforward.
I opted for breakfast and as you can see, the pancakes are massive, spilling over even the largest of serving plates. People come from surrounding communities just to stop in.
While North Pole does have a small town feel, it’s just out of Saint Paul, hidden away in a small strip mall. It is most certainly worth getting off the highway for.