Why Everybody Loves Winona

An insider travel blog about the best of Winona, Minnesota

Latsch Photo

John Latsch Week July 21-25

The Winona County Historical Society is celebrating John Latsch’s legacy with educational programs, a river tour, and a park program.

Latsch Program and Reception – Mike Kennedy will present “John A. Latsch: His Land and Properties” – Tuesday, July 21 at the Winona County History Center

History on the River Cruise on the Cal Fremling – Fran Edstrom, writer for the John Latsch documentary film that is currently in production, will talk about Latsch’s relationship with nature and the river. Departs at 7 p.m. from Levee Park.

Whitewater State Park – A park naturalist will lead a Latsch Land Hike and guide people to see the area of the park that was donated by John Latsch.  Friday, July 24 at 3 p.m.; Departs from the Visitor’s Center, 924 Huff St.

Winona Farmer’s Market – Sign up to Win a Bike and participate in games and contests to learn about Latsch as a grocer. Saturday, July 25, 7:30 a.m. – Noon.

Concerts on the Green

FREE live music on the green adjacent to the WSU Performing Arts Center every Friday and Saturday Night from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. during the Great River Shakespeare Festival. Bring the whole family, picnic, stay for the play and make a weekend of it. Plays this year are “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “The Glass Menagerie.” For more information, visit

July 3: Ellis/Alexandra Green

July 3: WOW Concert: Rachel Ryan Dahlgren at Winona National Bank (10:00 p.m.) $10 cover charge

July 4: Corpse Reviver/Shannon Murray

July 10: Bookhouse/UTMDTM

July 11: The Beavers/The Hot Cellars

July 17: Ilika Ward Duo/Adam Strelow and Friends

July 18: Jack Norton/Rev. Eddie Danger

July 24: Sam Miltich Trio featuring Martha Larson

July 25: Baby Gramps

July 31: Ray Dretske Group

August 1: Farewell Milwaukee

MMAM Exhibition: “Ocean Soul”, photographs by Brian Skerry

Along with the Museum’s impressive collections, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (MMAM) presents several temporary exhibitions each year. Many of these shows form exhibition series like 2015’s MMAM Underwater Photography Series. In July, MMAM visitors can experience two exhibitions in that series with vastly different work. Seeking the Sublime, featuring compelling work by Wisconsin conceptual artist Stephen Hilyard, closes on July 15th. Subsequently opening on July 24th, the Museum will present National Geographic photographs by Brian Skerry in an exhibition titled, Ocean Soul. Over the last 30 years, Skerry has spent more than 10,000 hours underwater capturing the beauty, mystery and fragility of the world’s oceans. During that time he has published, exhibited and lectured worldwide. MMAM gallery and store hours are 10am – 5pm, Tuesday – Sunday. More information about visiting and supporting your art museum can be found at

Sweet Stroll

Sweet rides, sweet deals, and sweet treats?  With more than 30 businesses participating, Sweet Stroll returns for its third year on July 16 from 4:00 p.m.-8:00pm in downtown Winona.  Enjoy a fabulous evening of sweet treats at your favorite downtown business.

This event is all about showcasing downtown customer service with its unique shops and businesses.  For more information, go to the Winona Main Street program’s Facebook page (search WinonaMNMainStreet) click on the events tab for updates on participating businesses!  Not on Facebook?  Stay tuned to the Winona Daily News and the Winona Post a week prior to the event for a complete list of participating businesses.

Winona Municipal Band Centennial Concerts and Events

The Winona Municipal Band will be celebrating 100 years of continuous performances this concert season. All Municipal Band concerts are held at the Lake Park Band Shell on Wednesday evenings at 8:00 pm, through August 12. Audience members are invited to come dressed in period costumes for the decades listed with the concerts. Come early to meet and greet the band members at 7:30 pm and join in the pre-concert activities

July 8 (1955-1965) Sponsored by the Edstrom Family. Arts Partner: Winona County Historical Society
July 15 (1965-1975) Sponsored by St. Croix Collections. Pre-concert treats provided by Ferrara Candy. Arts Partner: Minnesota Marine Art Museum.
July 22 (1975-1985) Sponsored by Hans and Carole Madland. Guest Soloist: Ashley Hall
July 29 (1985-1995) Sponsored by Robert, Mary, Phil, and Patty Feiten. Clarinet section feature with special duet and original music by Ruth and Frank Bures in honor of Gladys Delano.

The Local Connection

First of all, WELCOME to my new little corner on Visit Winona’s new digs. I hope you take a look around, because there are some cool updates, and Visit Winona is rocking a pretty sweet website right now. Also, if you are one of my old-school followers who are subscribed to the blog from before this moment, do me a favor and re-enter your email address in the subscription spot underneath the archives column. The reason is that you are currently shadow people, and that’s creepy. Ha. Just kidding; it’s not creepy, but I can no longer see any of you, and I have NO control over the emails you are getting. Like, for example, if one of those old subscription services starts spraying old  blogs at you in the middle of the night, I can’t protect you. Not that it would hurt you – you could just read them again or delete them or something, but you get my drift.

Another reason you want to be on my new subscription list is that I have every intention  of randomly giving away goodies to followers drawn from that subscription list – starting with today – and trust me when I say you want this stuff. On Sunday night (July 12), I’m going to access the subscription list for this blog and let a randomizer pick somebody to win two ticket vouchers to the Great River Shakespeare Festival. But if you are on the old blog email list, then you are invisible – like ghosts who can see me and everything I write even though I can’t see you – which sounds like a good start for a horror movie…but I digress. Plus, we are waaaaaaay off the actual topic of this post which is, cleverly, why Winona is so freaking awesome.

So I had an interesting exchange with a young lady recently, and it got me to thinking. She had posted a comment in a social media forum saying that she had moved away from Winona as a teen and, after 13 years in California, was thinking about moving back. She addressed it to no one specifically, though she did post it on a Visit Winona channel which is manned (uh, womanned) by yours truly. But she penned that she had heard from her friends who still live here that Winona had gone down hill from the old days and changed for the worse, and that she was thinking about moving to Minneapolis instead.

That comment, of course, produced a dumb stare from me because I think it is the opposite – like the complete, polar opposite.

Funny story:  I have been here for 20 years, and I will never forget my very first drive down Huff Street. It happened during an event that I think they called “Springfest,” and people were celebrating by building beer-can pyramids in their front yards. Big ones. Oh yeah, and the other thing is that all those beer cans were empty, having been drained into the bellies of rowdy young people. You can probably imagine the rest.

Fast forward 20 years and Springfest has long-since gone the way of the dinosaur. Our universities worked hard to make Winona the best place to study, not the best place to party, and the city put some ordinances in place to corral the madness. Before too long, it was pretty hard to find a place to do a keg stand in Winona. If that is what the poster’s friends meant by “changed for the worse,” well then yeah, for sure it was a huge change.

But along with it came a new mindset that took root, one that decided Winona, with its perfect location and its pristine scenery and its deep reservoir of arts lovers, could reinvent itself as an arts and recreation mecca in the Midwest. Piece by piece some movers and shakers laid the groundwork for this, courting the brain-trust behind the Great River Shakespeare Festival and creating the foundation for the Minnesota Beethoven Festival. Both events were so ambitious that it hardly seemed at the time that they had any business in a community of 27,000 people, but the creators were undaunted. Using every bit of an “if we build it, they will come” mentality, the festivals started, and then so did the Frozen River Film Festival, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, the Dakota Gathering, Mid West Music Fest, and Boats and Bluegrass… and before long, Winona was the coolest town for 100 miles.

These attractions draw many thousands of visitors to Winona, but sometimes local folks don’t realize how outsiders view this city, or how outrageous it is that one little place can be blooming with amenities that make our metropolitan neighbors jealous. Heck, in the last year we were named the #2 small city in the country by Nerdwallet, a finance think-tank, plus we were named one of Minnesota’s most beautiful towns by Culture Trip and a bunch of other publications, and we have been dubbed home of  the best doughnut in the world by pretty much everybody. Food critics love our new restaurant, the Boat House, bicycling magazines love our trails, and everyone loves the drive through Winona on Highway 61.  In fact, in 2014, Winona had something like 123 press mentions (yeah, I counted) in everything from national magazines to regional newspapers. If I could be so bold, we are the sweetheart of the Midwest, and a whole lot of people are having a love affair with Winona.

Every now and then, however, I talk to a local person who is relatively oblivious to both Winona’s impressive offerings and its stardom among Midwestern cities. I figure it’s because sometimes it’s hard to have fresh eyes when you live in a place for a long time, work at a job for a long time, or are married to the same person for a long time (haha – I’m just KIDDING – don’t send me letters). But seriously, if locals could see Winona through the eyes of tourists, I think they’d be pretty dazzled.

Like…is there anyone who isn’t slack-jawed the first time they see this?

Winona skyline




Come on. It’s insanely beautiful. But I bet it’s been a while since most local folks walked out to the look-out on Garvin Heights. What we need is one of those body-switch days like Jamie Lee Curtis and some girl who played her daughter had in Freaky Friday (OK, kind of a terrible movie, but you see where I’m going here…) when all the locals wake up and are tourists here for one day. And maybe the tourists could wake up as locals and know where the most beautiful buildings and the best breakfasts are. Actually, there is no need for that, because this new Visit Winona website gives visitors everything they need to know, and even gives them an option to “Ask a Local” if there’s something the site doesn’t cover. Ask away, and we’ll get the answer from a local expert and email it to you. But if you are wondering where you can get in on a keg stand, we’re probably not going to be able to help you because, for one, they are few and far between these days, and two, because we’re old and not exactly sure what a keg stand even is.

Don’t forget to sign up for the blog over there on the right. Maybe I’ll be emailing you with some goodies!

MBF celebrates the return of the MN Orchestra

They’re back! The Minnesota Orchestra returns to the Minnesota Beethoven Festival for the annual free pops concert at Lake Park in Winona. The special program on July 2 at 8 p.m., includes music from Star Wars, a movement from Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony,” music from Bizet’s Carmen, and of course, songs by John Phillip Sousa, as well as additional selections.

Ticketed concerts during the annual Minnesota Beethoven Festival include pianist Garrick Ohlsson, soprano Dawn Upshaw performing with renowned pianist Gilbert Kalish, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra who will make their third annual trip to Winona this season, and more.

Individual tickets for all performances are priced at $25 for adults and $21 for students and senior citizens. Tickets can be purchased through the Saint Mary’s University Performance Center box office in person or by phone (507) 457-1715, weekdays, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., or visit

Mississippi Sippin’ Series to start in June

On June 2nd from 5-7pm, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (MMAM) in Winona will once again begin its summer Mississippi Sippin’ series. What is Mississippi Sippin’? These casual, community gatherings offer grilled food, wine and beer, and good company on the Museum’s riverfront. Inexpensive food and drinks can be purchased from Jefferson Pub & Grill, and there are no tickets or admission fees to attend. Everyone is invited! Mississippi Sippin’ gatherings take place every 1st and 3rd Tuesday from 5-7pm, beginning in June and running through September. On Sippin’ evenings, the Museum’s galleries will be open until 7pm as well. Regular MMAM gallery and store hours are 10am – 5pm, Tuesday – Sunday. More information about visiting and supporting your art museum can be found at

28th Annual Winona Dixieland Festival

The Upper Mississippi Jazz Society organizes the annual Dixieland Festival and has a great selection of performers. It runs from 12:15 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on June 27 ‘on the green’ on the Winona State University campus.

Winona State University will have a Jazz Workshop open to middle and high school students and the students will open the Dixieland Festival at 12:30, with individual and group selections.

The Barbary Coast Dixieland Band will be on stage at 2:00, Gate City Dixieland Band at 3:45, and the Blue Ox Jazz Babies at 5:30. Back again from Eau Claire will be Jim Radloff performing ragtime piano during band set-up times. The Great River Shakespeare Festival also opens on June 27th and the GRSF ‘Concert on the Green’ will be part of Dixieland Festival. Rain location is the Science Lab Atrium.

The festival is free to the public. Food and beverage available. Please bring your own chair.

For more information at:

Great River Shakespeare Festival: “ What Love Dares”

Find out “What Love Dares” this summer at Great River Shakespeare Festival! GRSF is back for their 12th season in Winona, and this summer is all about love. Featuring the comic romp Much Ado About Nothing, timeless love story Romeo & Juliet and Tennessee Williams’ American classic The Glass Menagerie*, and the Apprentice/Intern production “King John,” GRSF is sure to have something for everyone this summer.

The always popular and free Concerts on the Green are each Friday and Saturday night of the festival season, with music from 5-7pm and food trucks available. Live music isn’t only on the Green this summer—Winona’s own Mike Munson is composing an original score for Romeo & Juliet, and will be performing live at each show.

Don’t forget to watch often for updates on events like Will’s Opening Weekend, The Will Run, Chill with Will performances, $10 Tuesdays and more!

Cynthya Porter

Cynthya Porter

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