If you’ve ever been within 50 miles of Winona in the fall, than you know this city absolutely could not look more sensational than it does right now. Turn-of-the-century streets are lined with the brilliant hues of autumn, and a riot of color 500 feet high has swept across the bluffs. The parks, the trails – everything is under a canopy of crimson and gold, and it makes you wish you could stop time, if only for a moment, just to make sure you can take it all in. If you haven’t seen it, trust me. It is spectacular.
So I was practically giddy when I heard that Winona would be getting a visitor this week. Well – we will have lots of visitors this week because we’re a little bit of a tourism destination right now, but there is one in particular I’m talking about. He’s something of a celebrity – at least in the hyperspace of Instagram – because he has 150,000 followers who explore the world with him through his photos and missives. The fella’s name is Zach Glassman, or @zachspassport, he’s enormously InstaFamous, and he’s coming to Winona. It makes me feel lightheaded.
Here’s the deal: Explore Minnesota Tourism invited Zach to be a Minnesotan for 10 days and tour around the southern part of the state seeing what Minnesotans see and doing what Minnesotans do. (EMT brought in other social media celebrities to canvass the north and central parts of Minnesota, just so you know they aren’t playing favorites – even though they should because we’re awesome ) (I’m just kidding, North and Central people. Don’t send me letters.) Someone sketched out a loose 10-Day Minnesotan itinerary for Zach that loops him down the Mississippi, through Winona, and across to St. Peter before routing him back to St. Paul. I happen to have seen that itinerary, so I know that he should be rolling into Winona on October 17 – right about the time our fall colors are at their crescendo. If we were going to get dressed for company folks, this is it.
But here’s the thing – and it’s like whenever you have company coming over for the first time – I’m a little bit nervous. I want to make SURE he discovers the very best Winona has to offer, but I think 24 hours isn’t much time for stumbling across our local legends, our best-kept secrets, and our uniquely Winona spots. I want him to know that hiding under our historic architecture, our steeple-lined streets, and our pretty, pretty scenery is a place that can be a lot of things to a lot of different people. How will he know that a town of 30,000 can support Shakespeare, Beethoven, film, and indie music festivals, an art gallery with Monet and Picasso, every kind of outdoor recreation the Midwest has to offer, gourmet dining, and a bar with insanely big-name performers and more craft brews than you’ve ever heard of? Right. For a visitor who has 24 hours, it can be a bit overwhelming. I want him to flit effortlessly from one fantastic thing to the next and leave 24 hours later as madly in love with Winona as you are, and as I am. This is, of course, entirely unreasonable, because people say all the time that they have to come back again and again to get it all in. Still, I have to try, right?
So I may or may not have been sending @zachspassport little tidbits about Winona for the last few weeks. It’s just little things like: When I post a photo of an eagle on Instagram, I tag him, because I want him to know we have eagles here. Hey – maybe he thinks they’re cool. When I posted a photo from Winona State’s Outdoor Rec program of someone climbing Sugar Loaf, I tagged him, and challenged him to come do it. When he asked his followers to suggest things in Southern Minnesota he should do (because yes, I am one of his followers now), I told him to come try extreme mountain biking, and Ed’s (no name) Bar, and so on. Now I should mention that Zach Glassman has absolutely no idea who I am, and he’ll probably already have a restraining order against me by the time he gets to Winona. BUT – he’ll know there is a band at Ed’s Thursday night~
I want Winona to be InstaFamous too, and I think you can help. First, join us on Instagram and follow Visit Winona. We just started out there, but I’m posting my favorite shots of Winona, and it’s going swimmingly. Also, leave a comment here for Zach telling him something that should be a MUST on his Winona itinerary. I think it would be great for you all to share your votes for Winona’s best so that I can stop messaging him and looking like a stalker. Ha.