The legacy of Winona

I love it when people have good ideas. I extra love it when those good ideas become something real and wonderful.

We in Winona love our river, our bluffs and our arts – they are like the heartbeat of this community. When voters of Minnesota approved the Legacy legislation, nobody celebrated more than this town. Doled out in the form of hundreds of grants, Legacy dollars will improve Minnesota clean water, land conservation, parks and arts, and as luck would have it, Winona has all of those things in spades.

This weekend is Legacy Weekend, a time when everyone touched by a little Legacy money comes together to show off how important this initiative is. If you’ve been looking for a chance to enjoy everything good about Winona this weekend is definitely it. If you’ve been looking for a way to do it for free, you’d better get in your car and get here right now.

Here is what we’re going to celebrate:

Water. Lots and lots of water.

Huck Finn Family Fest at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum Saturday will give kids the chance to wet a line in Mr. Finn’s Mighty Mississippi with a little help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, while their families bask in the glorious prairie gardens that rim the museum. The DNR will also teach folks how to identify snakes, by the way, which some of us think is supremely creepy but will probably be an awfully big hit with kids. And it’s free, which will probably be an awfully big hit with parents.

Paddle Lake Winona to your heart’s content in a borrowed canoe or kayak this weekend too, with the free boats down on East Lake all day Saturday and until 2 p.m. Sunday. Winona, which is home to the renowned We-no-nah Canoes, is graced with two beautiful, peaceful lakes that create the perfect setting for a serene paddle, and by the time you’re done you’re going to want to buy one of these sleek babies.

History, history and more history.

With a stunning new addition now greeting visitors, the Winona County Historical Society is the belle of the ball when it comes to preserving the legacy of Winona. Saturday you can visit the new History Center addition to hear about the start of land conservation around Winona, which is actually a pretty interesting story about two men and their determination to preserve the splendor of the Mississippi by purchasing its land and protecting it from development.

But the History Center is just one of the interesting offerings of the Historical Society, with the rural Bunnell House and Arches Museum inviting visitors over the weekend too. And down river a bit, the Pickwick Mill in tiny Pickwick will give tours this weekend too, offering a glimpse of one of the flour-milling powerhouses of the past century.

And, of course art. Really seriously good art.

Cultivate your own love affair with the Great River Shakespeare Festival thanks to some free tickets for weekend shows. And I mean free. Now you’ll have to show up at the Winona Public Library and ask for them, and there are only 50 to be had so you’d better show up early. But even if the tickets are gone by the time you get there, have a look around, because that building is really beautiful and a legacy in Winona of its own.

And whether you are going to a Shakespeare performance or not, soak up the vibe at one of the pre-show free concerts on the green at the Winona State Performing Arts Center. Great music, good company and a beautiful setting – free doesn’t get any better than this.

And this Legacy Weekend will be your last chance for a while to see one of Winona’s treasures – the stunning and probably priceless theater drops at the Masonic Lodge. Drops and Drama, Saturday at 1 p.m., makes use of some of about 100 breathtaking theater scenes that have been carefully preserved for a century. This year the production is about Norse mythology, and I’m excited to see which drops will help them set the scene. The drops need restoration and may not be available for a while, so if you want to see what a legacy looks like you’d better do it Saturday.

The truth is that Winona has done a good job preserving its legacy of art and nature, and today we are blessed to live in a place few other towns can replicate. Legacy Weekend just gives us the perfect stage to show off the wonderful things we have and share with the world how rich a legacy can make a city be.

For more information about Legacy Weekend and for a full schedule, go to www.visitwinona.com.

And stay tuned – I’m getting ready to write about a whole different legacy – the kind that a guy named Christopher Columbus started sailing the ocean blue, and that people will get to see up close and personal starting a few days from now…

Winona, the beautiful island city

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