Goodbye winter!

Finally, it’s warming up and spring is here. Well maybe finally. We all know Mother Nature has a wicked sense of humor, and there has been more than one daffodil whose dreams have been crushed by several inches of snow in past years. And to be honest, it was about 20 degrees outside yesterday as some mean cold snap blew through, so I know some of you might think I’m being premature… but as I write, the thermometer is climbing into the 50s, so let’s pretend yesterday never happened. Plus, I saw swans and blue herons on the Mississippi River backwaters, and that definitely means that winter is over. Mostly.

I’d like to say Winona comes to life in the spring, but that wouldn’t be true. Winona is killing it all winter long with live music, arts and theater, and of course, the Frozen River Film Festival. People have fat bikes out on our hiking and biking trails, and between that and cross country skiing and snowshoeing, there is no such thing as winter hibernation in this town.

But spring brings a special kind of magic to Winona – this “hills are alive” kind of thing where music is in the air and the bluffs turn green before your eyes while eagles and herons and swans fly overhead. I know – sounds like a scene from a story book; but hey, it’s a travel blog. What did you expect?

There is another festival on tap – of course (because Winona does festivals better than anybody) – and this one celebrates everything good about live music. You will find musicians of every kind playing in venues of every sort around town, and a Mid West Music Fest wristband gets you into anything you want to see.

And birders go nuts over this time of year here because, as part of the Mississippi River Flyway, we get thousands of visitors from who knows how many species (well somebody probably knows – but I don’t, and if I said a number, I would just be making it up). And to make them feel extra welcome, our stretch of river is part of a huge wildlife refuge where they can stop for a rest or take up residence for the whole summer.

People like me with cameras and a little free time have taken up skulking along the shores of the river and its backwaters looking for an up-close peek at these spring guests and, if we’re extra lucky, their babies. If you’ve got a canoe or kayak, even better, because I heard there are something like 1,000 nesting pairs of blue herons alone along this piece of river, to say nothing of the egrets and owls and hawks and ducks also hanging out around there. It makes for some awfully beautiful photos.

So grab your binoculars and your camera and your hiking shoes and your dancing shoes and get on over here – but leave your jacket at home, because spring is officially kicking off in this balmy corner of Minnesota and you won’t need it. Just kidding – don’t leave your jacket at home, because you know how Mother Nature can be.

But if you love the outdoors or live music even a little bit, do come, because you won’t find another springtime show like it. Maybe I’ll see you out there 🙂

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