Monday, July 6, 2009

Garrison Keillor in Avon

This past Saturday my wife, Amy, our daughter Hannah, and I got in the car to attend the 35th anniversary of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion show held in Avon, Minnesota. Amy & I decided to go somewhat at the last minute. When we didn’t have anything going on and realized that Avon was an easy drive from our new house, it seemed almost patriotic to drive to Avon to celebrate July 4th and listen to Garrison Keillor.

The show was only announced less than a month ago, but that didn’t stop one estimate of 10,000 people from cramming into a park right on the Lake Wobegon bike trail. I don’t believe in perfection, but the weather was practically perfect—high 70’s, gentle breeze, and a very bright sun.

Before the radio show started Keillor said to the crowd that there are certain names, events, and words that can unify a region. Garrison Keillor is one such name. I would guess that almost everyone in Minnesota has an opinion about him.

Most of us Minnesotans can probably mark our past by the Garrison Keillor shows we’ve attended. I’ve now attended five. In college I went to a show with my parents, in 2000 Amy & I introduced our parents to each other before we all attended a show, Amy & I went to a show in 2006 on a bitterly cold, Friday night, then we went to one of his recent shows in Rochester. Every show brings back memories—they are like markers on my journey.

The show this past Saturday was classic Keillor—plenty of music, some interviews with people from the area, a few skits, more music, and a Keillor monologue. Right before the show went on the air we all stood and sang “God Bless America.”

Amy, Hannah & I first found some seats about a hundred yards from the stage, but then found a shaded place to sit behind the stage. We enjoyed watching different folks walking from the back of the stage and then performing for the crowd. The St. John’s Boy Choir got ready for their performance right in front of us. I was blown away by how these normal-looking, early, middle-school boys could get in front of such a large crowd and sing so beautifully. For a moment I felt like the angels were singing in heaven.

Towards the end of the show Senator Amy Kloubachar came off the stage. She is one of Amy’s favorites, so we got some pictures. Kloubachar sat down to listen to the rest of the show and then Hannah sat right next to her. They weren’t too distracted by a woman who had a squawking parrot on her shoulder.

For one moment we were all normal people enjoying the beauty of the day—partly listening to the show and partly savoring the moment. Today I’m guessing that Amy Kloubachar is back in Washington D.C. intensely working on the great issues of the day; today my daughter is leisurely spending the day with her mom at our new house in Blaine. For one moment on the 4th of July the two of them were connected by sitting next to each other and listening to a Minnesota icon.

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