This town is so cool. Everybody has Fridays, right? Yeah, big deal. Winona takes that whole Friday thing to a new level with its Fringe Fridays, occasional cut-loose-and-get-around-town days that spring up to fill art galleries and coffee houses and local haunts with stuff, stuff and more stuff.
Last Friday was just such a day, the kind of day with so much going on that I wished I could clone myself. And quit my day job. Okay, not really, because I kind of need that, but seriously, who WOULDN’T want to sit and Blooming Grounds and decorate cupcakes on a Friday afternoon and then eat them. Yeah.
There was so much going on Friday that I couldn’t even keep track of it all — it wasn’t a matter of finding where there was something, it was a question of where there wasn’t. The event was dubbed Flooded River Fringe Friday because, aside from the fact that we’re a little flooded down here in these parts right now, you couldn’t swing a stick and not hit a musician, an artist or a poet in Winona that day. But please don’t try that – the stick swinging part I mean, because, well, it’s mean, and you could hurt somebody. Just trust me on this one.
I have to take my hat off to the group behind all this, or groups, I should say. The instigator is the brain trust of the Frozen River Film Festival – Crystal Hegge, who I ran into at the tail end of Fringe Friday listening to Gospel Gossip at Ed’s (no name) Bar. There’s a chick who needs to be cloned – how she kept those juggling pins in the air all day long I have no idea.
But while the impetus may come from Frozen River, the action comes from the growing number of artists and businesses in town who have taken up the mantra that it is time to reinvent this river town into a music mecca.
Truth is, they’re doing a pretty good job. Crystal and I were ruminating about a few years ago when on any given night you were unlikely to find live music anywhere, much less a choice between places. Aside from occasional coffee house performances and bands at The Bar in Goodview there really wasn’t much of anything. Nothing against coffee house singers or foot-stomping in Goodview, but Winona needed more.
At the same time, a curious thing was happening in town. Maybe it was because of the Great River Shakespeare Festival or the Minnesota Marine Art Museum or the Beethoven Festival or Frozen River or those fabulous blue heron statues in the Blue Heron Project, or maybe it was a mystifying twist in people’s psyche, but people started talking about art. More artists were hanging out shingles, more musicians made themselves known, and Winona was starting to take on the vibe of a really cool place.
What happened last Friday wouldn’t have been in the faintest imagination of people here four years ago. Galleries all over town opened their doors for musical performances and socializing, coffee houses and bars hosted full line-ups too, even Yarnology, a trendy little knitting shop, had music. Seven Hawks Vineyard donated wine that was given away, photographer Shannon Porter (my brutha from anutha mutha – just ask him) took free Fringy Photos, Bluff Country Co-op donated proceeds, Beno’s Deli gave double punches… Oh yeah and there were poets and readings and a midnight showing of a film — I’m telling you, this town was humming.
I love, love, love what this coming together of great minds is doing to Winona. What is so incredible, so amazing about the success of it all is that it completely organic – from the people for the people. There is no committee at City Hall or the Chamber of Commerce pushing this effort forward, it is bubbling up from people who live, work and play here who really, really want this town to be a little more awesome. I love you guys. Thanks for giving me a fun town to live in. And please, please tell me when the next Fringe Friday is, and tell my boss I’ll be sick that day.
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