Let’s face it, Winona is kind of the epicenter of everything that’s good about the Midwest. Sound like puffery? Not a bit. And let me tell you why…
I had this epiphany during a conversation with a smart guy I know named Andy, who also happens to be the executive director at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.We were talking about how Winona is close enough to Rochester and La Crosse to be considered sort of an added attraction for those places – how all our arts and scenery and recreation and innovation might be touted by those places as a handy nearby feature and how we could incorporate that in the marketing of Winona. Andy slapped me alongside the head and said perhaps the smartest thing I’ve ever heard another human being say: “It’s the other way around, stupid. Those places are an added feature for us.” OK – he didn’t really slap me in the head, and he didn’t call me stupid – but he turn my thinking upside down with an entirely different take on the identity of Winona.
He’s right. Winona has, for at least the last five decades or so, considered itself to be the cute little sister for bigger population centers around us, and we’re going to stop that madness right now. The premise is completely flawed, because it assumes volume of people alone make one place more substantial, more complete, more attractive than another. This is, of course, rubbish if you think about it in terms of the age-old quantity versus quality debate. Would you rather have five doughnut shops or one delicious morsel from Bloedow Bakery? Exactly.
We don’t have a million people, but Winona is the epicenter of goodness because of:
An astonishingly good arts scene
We are rocking the socks off of the Midwest with our national-caliber Great River Shakespeare Festival, the internationally acclaimed Minnesota Beethoven Festival, and the Minnesota Marine Art Museum filled with works from greats like Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Van Gogh — are you kidding me? Plus we have the Mid West Music Fest and the Frozen River Film Festival and Boats and Bluegrass – there is not another place in the Midwest where the arts have exploded like they have in Winona.
Jaw-droppingly beautiful (and recreatable) scenery
Yes, I made the word “recreatable” up I think, but it works. We have a big, gorgeous river capable of handling any kind of water pastime you want to throw at it, plus a couple sweet lakes, oodles of trout streams, and forest-studded bluffs that make getting outdoors – or even looking out the window – a joy. Enough said.
Innovation – as in: We make stuff
That’s right – Winona’s not just another pretty face. We might not talk about it much because we’re too busy gushing about ways to have fun, but this place is a hotbed of industry and innovation and has spawned some of the most influential companies in the country. What’s more, a staggering number of international players continue to be headquartered right here in little ol’ Winona, like Wenonah Canoe, Fastenal, J.R. Watkins, Peerless Chain, WinCraft, RTP, Ferrara Candy, National Chemicals, Thern… This list goes on for like 25 more companies, so I won’t list them all, but you get the idea. Cool stuff – stuff that’s changing the world a little – is coming out of Winona in droves.
Smarts: We teach people how to make stuff
There’s a whole lot of people getting their smart on here. We have two universities and a technical college preparing thousands and thousands of people to go out and create all that innovation and do all that other stuff that makes the world go round. Our abundance of higher education gives us a youthful vibe and an impressive think tank, and few cities our size have won the education lottery like we have.
On top of all that awesomeness, we have the perks of world-class medical care, shopping malls, and lots of diverse resources within 45 minutes of the center of our downtown. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it… kind of makes you want to cuddle up to Winona, right? Well you can – we’d love to have you, for a day, or for all your days. If you come, I’ll promise you this much: You absolutely won’t find any other place like it.