The (not so) complete history of Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant

Given St. Paul’s colorful past, it shouldn’t be surprising that the city’s first resident of European descent was a bar owner with legal troubles, and the first building was his eponymous bar. Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant’s early years are shrouded in mystery. Here are things the historical records seem to agree on: He was born … [ Read more]

When the NFL came to Duluth: The story of the Eskimos

Minnesota has a long and rich history of professional football. For most of the state’s fans, the mention of pro football immediately conjures images of the icy breaths of the Purple People Eaters suspended in the chilly Metropolitan Stadium air, of Randall Cunningham firing off 60-yard touchdown passes, of missed kicks and four Superbowls. But … [ Read more]

Penumbra Theatre to celebrate 40 years of artistic expression with new Minnesota History Center exhibit

St. Paul’s Penumbra Theatre was founded in 1976 by Lou Bellamy to create an artistic forum for African American voices in the Twin Cities. Forty years later, the theater company is still creating thought-provoking performances, increasing public awareness of African American contributions, and igniting social change. Coming this February—timed to open during Black History Month—Penumbra … [ Read more]

Minnesota’s fire towers: Steel sentinels standing guard over the state’s forests

Autumn travel in the Northland offers an abundance of adventures and breathtaking fall scenery, but few can top the thrill and view of climbing one of the remaining fire towers that once guarded Minnesota’s forests. Standing at an average of over 100 feet in height, these steel sentinels once numbered around 150 in Minnesota (by … [ Read more]

New walking tour unveils Duluth’s dark history

These days Duluth, Minnesota, is thought of as a thriving tourist destination on the shores of Lake Superior, but the industrial town has a darker history than most Minnesotans may know. Shipwrecks, pirates, red light districts, and gun fights may sound like tall tales, but they in fact true stories from Duluth’s past. The Duluth Experience, a … [ Read more]

Play ball: Returning to the roots of America’s pastime

Across the northlands each summer people flock to ballparks big and small to revel in the American tradition and pastime of the game we call baseball. They set up their folding chairs along grassy third-base lines, settle into cushioned seats under flashy jumbotrons, or relax on rickety bleachers behind home plate. This tradition dates as … [ Read more]

Welcome to boathouse island

The view from the Highway 43 bridge that crosses from Winona into Wisconsin is pristine: muddy blue-brown channels and green islands decorate the Mississippi River as it flows past Winona’s historic downtown. On Latsch Island, situated on the Minnesota side of the river border, there are several fixtures along the beach just next to the … [ Read more]

Penumbra marks 40 years of illuminating the African-American experience through art

When you pull up to St. Paul’s Penumbra Theatre, considered one of the largest and most important African-American theater companies in the nation, the first thing you notice is the playground. Tots toddle down teal-colored slides. Little yellow dump trucks sit bedded in a swath of wood chips. The fence that borders the property is … [ Read more]

Return of the rapids: Could the Upper Mississippi River run wild again?

Boulders and whitecaps surround me. My kayak feels unsteady at best, a mere toy in the hands of Mother Nature. I secure my helmet a notch tighter and grip my paddle with adrenaline-fueled super-human strength. I’ve never whitewater kayaked before, but I’m determined to learn. And what better place to do so than my hometown of … [ Read more]

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On boards: How a Minnesotan taught the world to water ski

The date is Saturday, July 22, 1922. The place is Lake City, Minnesota, on the waters of Lake Pepin, the largest naturally occurring lake on the Mississippi River. The time is 4pm. The scene is set for Lake City native Ralph Samuelson to carve his name into sporting history. Samuelson, who is just one day … [ Read more]

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Roaring Dan Seavey: Pirate of the Great Lakes

When you envision a pirate, there’s a definite pop culture template. Johnny Depp, obviously; maybe Captain Hook or Errol Flynn for you old-timers. (Underrated pirate: Dave Parker of the 1979 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates.) He has an eye patch, a treasure map, a sword, and he says “arrrrrrrrrr” and “matey,” a lot. He is … [ Read more]

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Conservation in action: Restoring North America’s bison population

Take a Sunday drive along the rolling county roads of outstate Minnesota, watching out your window as lakes and clustered cabins give way to sprawling farmland and the odd barn or cowshed, and you might spot among the dairy farms and cornfields the occasional ranch dedicated to raising bison. From the safe side of a … [ Read more]

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160 years of curling in Minnesota

Two-time U.S. Olympic curler and former junior high chemistry teacher Jeff Isaacson, 32, has a new gig: teaching curling. Last April, he became manager of the new Chaska Curling Center, which began its first season of league play just after the New Year. Interest in the new curling club is overwhelming, Isaacson says. When the … [ Read more]

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The Legend of Joe Rolette: The Most Interesting Man in Minnesota History

  There’s a thing called ghosting, in which a person breaks off all communication with the world, ignoring all texts, calls, e-mails, semaphore flags, ASL, telegrams, etc. (Parents: Ask your kids if this is still unclear.) The New York Times discovered it when Charlize Theron went AWOL on Sean Penn. You may remember that Wisconsin legislators … [ Read more]

The Last Great Race: A Minnesotan’s Incredible Rise in Sled Dog Racing & Why He Left it All Behind

The Greyhound bus pulled away, leaving Jake Berkowitz stranded on a dirt road in the middle of northern Michigan. A few days earlier, the 18-year-old was celebrating Thanksgiving with his family in St. Paul, Minnesota. Now he was alone, waiting for a stranger to pick him up and introduce him to a way of life … [ Read more]