You may have heard a little something about this already, but Winona is about to be bursting with music, and I want to give you a pass to check it out for yourself. If you’ve already been to it, then you know it’s pretty awesome. If you haven’t been, hear me out, because there are free wristbands at the end, and by the time you get there, you’ll want one.
The Mid West Music Fest will spring to life in our beautiful river town starting Thursday, April 18, and for three days, every nook and cranny in Winona will be filled with the strains of music. All kinds of music – from indie bands to folk musicians to coffeehouse-style singer-songwriters to gospel. Some of them are well known regional names, some tour nationally, some are voices you’ve never heard from far away, but all of them have been selected because they bring something special to our music scene and make this town a little bit cooler place to live.
If you think this festival isn’t for you, I’m here to tell you that the only way it’s not for you is if you just don’t like music. And that would be, well, kind of weird. But if you think it’s not for you because you aren’t 22 and into indie rock, then you’d better head over to www.midwestmusicfest.org and take a look at the lineup. How does the Saint Mary’s Jazztennial grab you? How about the Zinghoppers – big sock-puppet people that make kids bounce around? Like acappella? Check. Blues? Check. Banjos, classic rock, and reggea? Check, check, check. Bands from across the country will be converging on Winona this weekend, bringing with them all manner of music that you can roam between 14 different venues to hear.
That’s right. One wristband for $49 = three days of music and more than 100 bands. A one-day pass to all that music glory is $20. Find me that deal anywhere… because yeah, you won’t. In fact, it’s such a bargain for this collection of music that last year about 3,000 people turned out to hear it, and some came from pretty far away. Can I just say how cool it is to live in a town that people flood into because it has something they’re dying to see? Heck, I think us Winonans should swagger around all weekend puffed up with pride that our town did this. Well actually, Sam Brown and his very dedicated committee did this, but Winona is mighty happy to have some ownership of it too.
Come on. You know you have cabin fever. It’s time to get out, and I’m here to help. I have two $49 wristbands – one will get you into the whole festival – and I’m going to give them to two winners. Want one? Here is what you have to do: Leave a comment below and tell me which band you’d like to see this weekend. You can see the full lineup at www.midwestmusicfest.org, and I’m telling you, you’re going to be surprised. This will be a SHORT contest – I’m going to draw winners Thursday at noon. You can leave one comment per day, and I’ll take all the comments at the end, cut them up, and randomly draw from them.
I will post the winners on Visit Winona’s Facebook page as well as here on the blog shortly thereafter, and you can head over to the ticket office at Sum Sum Studios at 168 East Third Street Thursday afternoon to pick up your pass. And trust me, you will have a blast.
So let’s get started… I’ll go first. I am dying to see Apollo Cobra. I’d like to see Wildflower with Patti Darbo too. And those sock-puppet people do sound kind of fun…
When you live in a town for long enough, everywhere you go conjures up a memory, and when enough of those are good memories, then you just fall in love with a place over and over again. It’s kind of like a marriage – the good kind – except you don’t have to pretend you like your mother-in-law or say what time you’re coming home or… never mind – I don’t know where I’m going with this.
I had the chance to show a bunch of visiting friends around a couple of weeks ago, and I have to tell you: Looking at this community through their eyes for a few days was really kind of cool. It made me feel nostalgic about how much Winona really has become my place, and it made me feel thankful to live in a city that I like an awful lot. And when I started feeling thankful, it made me think about Thanksgiving and how this is the perfect time to reminisce about what we’re thankful for. It also made me think about turkey and why mine fell apart last year, and it made me wonder if I could buy a pie and smoosh it into a pie plate so it looks like I made it, which led me to think that I should probably drink less coffee so I could maybe focus on something for more than a minute.
But really, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s talk about what gives us our memories and makes people thankful they live here, especially some of those little blessings that we’re tempted to overlook. I’ll start with my not-so-short and incredibly random list:
It took me a whole minute to get out of my driveway on Broadway this morning because there was so much traffic. At first I was irritated, and then I realized how extremely stupid I am to not remember that when I lived in the Twin Cities that would have felt like I won the lottery. In the span of 8 minutes from one end of Winona to the other I can find 95% of everything I need, from entertainment to food to the doctor – and that’s some high-quality compactness.
It took me an extra 30 minutes to get out of the grocery store the last time I was there because I ran into so many people I knew. It was unfortunate that I’d skipped things like makeup and socks that matched because I thought I could just run in quick, and so most conversations started with me having to respond, “No, I’m not sick, just lazy,” but it felt good to realize that I am a thread woven into the colorful tapestry of Winona – I’m part of this place.
I’m thankful that I never, ever have to leave Winona to feel like I’ve soaked up some great culture. My friends who came to visit could not BELIEVE that we have a place like the Minnesota Marine Art Museum here. It gives us some serious street cred from people who live in places they imagine are much more cosmopolitan than Winona. During my friends’ visit we heard some fantastic music at Ed’s No Name Bar, contemplated world-class art at the museum, and ate an entirely delicious meal out at The Grill at Signatures (chicken alfredo pizza – to die for), and I was so, so proud of this town by the time my friends were saying their goodbyes. Want to feel some swagger about where you live? Invite some friends to take a weekend road-trip here and give them the tour. You’ll be the coolest kid on the block.
I am so grateful to have so many home-grown businesses here. I generally loathe chain stores and restaurants, so I really like getting a cup of coffee in the cool vibe of Blooming Grounds, some fresh vegetables from Bluff Country Co-op, and a burger at Jefferson’s Pub. From Pootzas at Poot’s Sports Palace to the charming gifts at Pieces of the Past, I am not kidding when I say that I feel really lucky to live in a place where originality rules. And all you Starbucks/Target/Pizza Hut lovers, do not send me hate mail. Businesses like that will always have a place in a community this size – I get that. But it’s really nice to know that there is a thick slice of Winona that you just won’t find anywhere else, and it’s part of the reason people will get in the car and come here from a long way away.
I have rambled on for long enough about why I love Winona. It is your turn. What makes you thankful about this place? What fueled your best memories? Why do you love Winona?
Our beautiful Mississippi River is filled with flocks of swans moving meandering south for the winter.
So I’ve been sitting here wondering why one of my flowing missives was not showing up – wondering where exactly it had wandered off to, or if the cruel cyber-gods had just eaten it like a little word snack. Well I found it, and it turns out there were no cyber-gods involved, only one cyber-idiot (that would be me) who somehow inadvertently instructed this website to publish it on November 13 instead of September 13. Sorry, but that’s too long to wait for all this rambling goodness, so I now present to you The Shout-Out Blog – and stay tuned, because I want you to play along.
When you live in a place for a while, it’s easy to take it for granted. Your favorite coffee shop? It’s always right there. The clerk at Kwik Trip? Always the same nice guy. The gold and crimson fall leaves that line our streets and hills? Yeah, they’ll be there next year too. I think after a while people tend to forget that those itty-bitty parts of our day, all pieced together, form the answer to the fundamental question: Why do I love Winona? While I was driving around the other day admiring the dazzling fall color starting to cascade across the bluffs, I was thinking about all those little nuggets of good in Winona, all the pieces of the giant puzzle that transform life from good to great here, and I came to the realization that it was probably time for some shout-outs.
Now – this is by no means a comprehensive list of everything good in Winona — I’ll be relying on you at the end to give your shout-outs to help get us there. But this is the short list of the things just in the last three days or so that have made Winona a better place for me, listed in no particular order, and written if for no other reason than I think these places have earned a cyber-hug:
Ed’s (no name) Bar. I realize I wrote a bar first but don’t judge. I just happened to be thinking about it. Ellisa, the lovely Wednesday bartender, has remembered what I like to drink since the first time I ever went in there, and she is purely delightful to sit at the bar and commiserate with. And Ed has given music back to Winona in a big way – I think lit a fire even – and I’ve really appreciated having one place to go hear such a huge variety of performers. One night it’s soulful bluegrass, another night it’s pulsating techno, and the night after that it could be straight up indie rock. It’s cool, and we’re lucky the bar is here, even if it still doesn’t have a name.
And speaking of music, also heading up my list is Sam Brown. I had the pleasure of attending a planning meeting for his Midwest Music Fest recently, and let me tell you something – this guy is going to change Winona with his dreams. The music festival has taken Winona’s budding music vibe and run with it – spreading artists all over town and literally drawing thousands of people here to experience it. And you know where it started? His head. That’s cool. And he’s opening up a little place on east Third Street for art and music called Some Sum Studio, and he’s trying to get community radio going in town, and and and… Seriously folks. If everyone in town did one tiny fraction as much as Sam has done for this community, Winona, Minnesota would rule the world.
The guys at Daniel’s Ace Hardware get my big thumbs up for being the most genuinely pleasant and helpful people who ever have to solve my problems for me. I can’t help it if I am mystified by how to get my stupid garage door opener open to change the battery, and I’m so flippin’ relieved that we have a place like this so I don’t have to. I think every town needs a hardware store like Daniel’s, filled with local guys who like to joke around a little and don’t mind walking over and getting the battery you need instead of telling you what aisle its in and sending you off wandering on your own. They’re nice, and they’re kind of funny, and they never talk to me like I’m stupid, even though sometimes I really am.
And how many towns our size can say they have a place like Jade Community Acupuncture? Sure, there are acupuncturists all over the place, but it takes a special kind of giving to be a community acupuncture provider. See, community acupuncture is designed almost exclusively for the health and well being of a community — it takes Eastern medicine and makes it accessible for all at a very low cost, despite the fact that Jade Fang will never become rich doing it. But she doesn’t care – if you talk to her about it, she will tell you she feels a calling to help people, not to be wealthy. I say a shout-out is due for that. And by the way, I never saw myself as someone who would doze in a chair with a bunch of needles stuck in me – in fact if you told me a few years ago that I would be writing this I would have laughed in your face. But between Jade’s acupuncture and Chinese herbs, I am a healthier person at a price I could afford, and it’s made a believer out of me. I’m not alone – go sit in her waiting room sometime and random people will just start talking to you about how it has changed their life, and they’re not paid actors or anything. Just farmers and housewives and senior citizens and business folks. I think they would agree — we are blessed to have this in Winona.
Bloedows. There, I said it. I ate a maple long john the other day and it made me a little misty. I have no idea what they’re putting in those things, but yeah, I’ll stand in line for one. Twitching. Everyone in line around me? Doing the same thing until they get their Bloedow’s fix. That is some crazy goodness Bloedows, and my lips thank you, but my thighs hate you.
OK – this is the shout-out column, and it’s your turn. If you are a visitor to these parts, what would make you come back? If you live here, what makes you happy that you do? Let’s hear it folks…
Cool blue heron statues all over town – another reason I love Winona.
As summer draws into fall I am especially appreciative of a growing commodity in Winona, and the thing I might miss the most once the snow flies: outdoor patios.
I swear, it used to be that if you wanted to eat or have a drink outside in Winona you had to sit on your car in the parking lot. It might have been that the city was stingy with permits, or it might have been that restaurant and bar owners were leery about sinking money into square footage that would only get used for half the year, or maybe it was a little bit of both. But for a long, long time in Winona we were relegated to the great indoors when we wanted to get out in public.
But no longer , and I am oh so thrilled to take you on a little walking tour of my favorite patios in Winona:
Green Mill – perhaps the grandfather of outdoor restaurant dining in Winona – offers a lovely view of Sugar Loaf and sunsets on its pretty wrap-around porch. Good food, great wine list, interesting people watching – this place hits the spot more often than not for me.
Signatures – those not golfing at the Bridges might forget that on the back side of this historic restaurant is a breathtakingly beautiful patio that offers about the best views one can get in Winona. With flower beds, expansive views, sunsets and a killer wine list, it is quite possibly Winona’s best-kept secret on the patio tour.
Mangos – my new favorite patio when I want to nosh on something interesting in a festive, friendly place. The people are sweet, the food is great, and it’s hard to beat watching the sun set with a big fat margarita in your hand.
Minnesota Marine Art Museum – kind of like Brigadoon, this lively patio for drinks and a bite to eat only appears on Tuesdays throughout the summer and into September, but this is a stop on the tour worth working your schedule around for. The riverwalk is always available for a contemplative stroll along the banks of the Mississippi, but each Tuesday it springs to life during happy hour, and when it does there isn’t a better spot to get outdoors in Winona.
Jefferson Pub and Grill – a standing ovation for the patio addition at Jefferson’s which is now an awesome outdoor spot for a bite to eat before a movie or after a stroll through Levy Park. And the walleye sandwich is to die for.
Lakeview Drive Inn – of course. Across the street from Lake Park, Lakeview is a fun spot for a burger and an ice cream treat. And while you can eat in your car with the help of a good, old fashioned carhop, they also have some tables if you’d rather just sit outside.
Ed’s [no name] Bar – no secret that’s about my favorite place to see and be seen in Winona, but maybe a little more of a secret that they have a nice, big outdoor space attached where you may even find a fire burning in the outdoor fireplace. And the wine special on Wednesday nights is the best deal you will find in Winona, anywhere, ever.
The outdoor patio walking tour would not be complete without mentioning some of the quicker-fare options like Culvers, Godfathers, Schniepps, even Westgate Bowl has a couple of tables outside.There might be others, and if I’ve missed you I’ll find you, because I’m a junkie for sitting outside on these gorgeous days.
And for the record, I don’t really think you should try this as a walking tour, per say, unless you’ve got all day, because this tour stretches from one end of Winona to the other. But when you’re ready to get outside, no matter where you are in this great river metropolis, there is somewhere to sit yourself down and enjoy the view.
A view from the riverwalk at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum
This town is so cool. Everybody has Fridays, right? Yeah, big deal. Winona takes that whole Friday thing to a new level with its Fringe Fridays, occasional cut-loose-and-get-around-town days that spring up to fill art galleries and coffee houses and local haunts with stuff, stuff and more stuff.
Last Friday was just such a day, the kind of day with so much going on that I wished I could clone myself. And quit my day job. Okay, not really, because I kind of need that, but seriously, who WOULDN’T want to sit and Blooming Grounds and decorate cupcakes on a Friday afternoon and then eat them. Yeah.
There was so much going on Friday that I couldn’t even keep track of it all — it wasn’t a matter of finding where there was something, it was a question of where there wasn’t. The event was dubbed Flooded River Fringe Friday because, aside from the fact that we’re a little flooded down here in these parts right now, you couldn’t swing a stick and not hit a musician, an artist or a poet in Winona that day. But please don’t try that – the stick swinging part I mean, because, well, it’s mean, and you could hurt somebody. Just trust me on this one.
I have to take my hat off to the group behind all this, or groups, I should say. The instigator is the brain trust of the Frozen River Film Festival – Crystal Hegge, who I ran into at the tail end of Fringe Friday listening to Gospel Gossip at Ed’s (no name) Bar. There’s a chick who needs to be cloned – how she kept those juggling pins in the air all day long I have no idea.
But while the impetus may come from Frozen River, the action comes from the growing number of artists and businesses in town who have taken up the mantra that it is time to reinvent this river town into a music mecca.
Truth is, they’re doing a pretty good job. Crystal and I were ruminating about a few years ago when on any given night you were unlikely to find live music anywhere, much less a choice between places. Aside from occasional coffee house performances and bands at The Bar in Goodview there really wasn’t much of anything. Nothing against coffee house singers or foot-stomping in Goodview, but Winona needed more.
At the same time, a curious thing was happening in town. Maybe it was because of the Great River Shakespeare Festival or the Minnesota Marine Art Museum or the Beethoven Festival or Frozen River or those fabulous blue heron statues in the Blue Heron Project, or maybe it was a mystifying twist in people’s psyche, but people started talking about art. More artists were hanging out shingles, more musicians made themselves known, and Winona was starting to take on the vibe of a really cool place.
What happened last Friday wouldn’t have been in the faintest imagination of people here four years ago. Galleries all over town opened their doors for musical performances and socializing, coffee houses and bars hosted full line-ups too, even Yarnology, a trendy little knitting shop, had music. Seven Hawks Vineyard donated wine that was given away, photographer Shannon Porter (my brutha from anutha mutha – just ask him) took free Fringy Photos, Bluff Country Co-op donated proceeds, Beno’s Deli gave double punches… Oh yeah and there were poets and readings and a midnight showing of a film — I’m telling you, this town was humming.
I love, love, love what this coming together of great minds is doing to Winona. What is so incredible, so amazing about the success of it all is that it completely organic – from the people for the people. There is no committee at City Hall or the Chamber of Commerce pushing this effort forward, it is bubbling up from people who live, work and play here who really, really want this town to be a little more awesome. I love you guys. Thanks for giving me a fun town to live in. And please, please tell me when the next Fringe Friday is, and tell my boss I’ll be sick that day.
…I went through Winona to a bar with no name, it felt good to be out of the rain… (Okay, I took some liberties with this America song, and, yes, I crack myself up, because really, it’s been raining here, and really, this bar has no name)
Wellll, kind of. As the story goes, Ed Hoffman opened a cool little speakeasy in 2007 in downtown Winona, but the place was finished being remodeled before he had finished noodling around what he would call it. So he opened anyway, with just a Prohibition-looking sign that featured a liquor bottle with XXX across it, a guitar, and a feather (okay, I don’t know why a feather, but hey, he’s an artist, and the sign got the point across).
In what has to be the most complete act of faith ever, he unlocked the door and opened for business without a name, with nothing really except some word of mouth from people in the know.
But it turns out this place is so cool it doesn’t need a name. Slowly but steadily people started to wander in, having heard about Ed’s live music or his urban palate of micro brews or the moody decor that is a deliberate blend of Victorian splendor, retro glamor and warehouse district grunge. Yeah, you kind of have to see it to get it, but trust me, it’s pretty cool.
Fast forward four years: The bar still has no official name and has evolved to be known as Ed’s (no name) Bar. It is the heartbeat of Winona’s music scene and the darling of a cross section of people so wide you could never list all their walks of life. On any given night, old timers sip Grain Belt at the bar while young guns sample the latest IPA, or vice versa, and the elbow rubbing is the coolest in town.
And I mean cool. On Friday night, there was a guy with a Mohawk on one side of me, a museum curator on the other, and a 70-year-old guy in front of me telling me why he loved the IPA on tap. I mean seriously, where else can you go that you can change the conversation and the vibe by 180 degrees just by turning around? On Friday the joint was jumping with a funkadelic DJ, Saturday is the 80s Prom, and next weekend the bar will play host to a full line up of diverse musicians coming to town for the Midwest Music Fest. On the calendar going forward is everything from metal to gospel, with beer tasting nights, comedians, readings, you name it. Ed’s events fill up Winona’s dance card in a way no place in town has done before, and Winona is loving it.
Now that the weather is nice, the fenced in garden out back with it’s big clay fire pit will become the city’s hot spot for a beer under the stars, or a glass of wine, or a bottle of wine, which you can buy at Ed’s instead of going back for a bunch of glasses. Now don’t go there thinking you need to drink a whole bottle of wine, and if you do for God’s sake don’t drive, but I’m just saying it’s an option if you are with FRIENDS. But hey, I’m not your mother.
I have fallen in love with this little no name place. It’s one of the few places in town I feel like I could sit in by myself and not feel weird. Uhh, I’m not saying I do that. Okay I’m not saying I do that often. But I think it’s a pretty big statement about a place to think that you could. It’s better with friends though – I suggest you bring a couple with you. That is, after all, how this little bar made its name, or rather managed to thrive without one.
You can find out more about the place on Facebook, or check them out here for a little peek: www.edsnonamebar.com
And this photo was taken at a different rock concert in Winona, but Ed has cool bands like this too. I just haven’t photographed them because I’ve been too busy daaaaancing.
No, this is not a post about horror movies, silly. It’s a post about music, namely the Midwest Music Fest, although I realize my Sound of Music reference title might be dating me a bit.
Yeah, I am outside the age range one typically imagines when you hear the words “music festival” — a term likely to conjure up images of hip 20-somethings with little square glasses, a couple of extra piercings, a degree in earth science and a taste in alternative music far cooler than I’ll ever understand.
Well yes, the Midwest Music Fest appeals to those cool alternative music aficionados, and they have plenty to love over the weekend’s festivities, which this year are scheduled for April 15 and 16. But the beauty of this festival is that it’s even cooler than that.
Last year in its inaugural year, Midwest Music Fest swept into Winona like Zeus’ Hecatoncheires (which, for those of you not up on your Greek mythology, were 50-headed, 100-armed giants who fought with Zeus against the Titans. They were also enemies of Uranus because he forced them back into their mother, Gaea’s womb, but let’s focus here…). For two days, Winona’s venues large and small were filled with music of every style – 14 venues and 77 groups in all – and more than 1,100 people came to hear it play.
This year promises to be bigger with more venues and new musicians, and what is the coolest part of it all is that the proceeds from the festival go to local charities. Last year they gave away about $7,000, not a small chunk of change, which might make one think it’s kind of spendy to partake of these musical festivities.
Twenty five bucks. You can see every single performer, listen to music to your heart’s content for two days, for $25. AND the money goes to charity. Seriously folks, if that doesn’t get you out of the house, maybe the lineup will. Local favorites like Patti Darbo, Gregg and Nat, Chris Kendall and the Beef Slough Boys perform at local favorite haunts like Blue Heron, Acoustic Cafe and Blooming Grounds, with bands and performers from all over joining them there and at other cool venues like Ed’s No Name Bar, the Winona History Center, the Masonic Temple, even churches and art galleries.
This is not just a music festival – it’s like music-palooza with melodies drifting from every conceivable doorway in town. April 15 and 16 the hills WILL be alive with the sound of music in Winona, and if you don’t come I think the only thing missing from this music-packed event will be you.
See for yourself here: www.midwestmusicfest.org — you can buy your pass there and even sign up to volunteer, either of which will undoubtedly help your taste in local and regional musicians become a whole lot cooler.