Sixty-two years ago, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, funding the construction of more than 40,000 miles of highways, freeways, roads, and bridges. It completely changed the way Americans traveled—no longer did we rely on a network of country roads leading through small towns; now, we could jump on the freeway and get from one major metropolitan center to another with little more than a pit stop for gas.
As a Minnesotan who attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, I often hurried down Interstates 94 and 90 to cover the 270-mile stretch as fast as possible. But it’s precisely this cruise-control mentality that reduced towns like Necedah and Baraboo to little more than names on an exit sign.
It took a trip from the small farming town of Argyle, through the winding valleys and rolling hills of the Driftless Area, back home to show me something more. Green fields and hilltops of thick forests, blue skies spotted with clouds resembling the black spots of grazing Holsteins, rivers cutting through the valleys—this was the Heartland.
We Midwesterners like to puff out our chests at the coasts’ indifference toward the middle of the country. But those of us living in urban centers are often just as guilty of forgetting there’s more to our states than the big cities in which we reside. In this issue, we get acquainted with the people and places that put the heart in heartland—an award-winning master quilter, rye farmers and distillers, and the men and women making their living in the small towns of Greater Minnesota.
And of course, the Heartland issue wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Minnesota State Fair. Four expert judges tell us what it takes to win the champion ribbon in their respective categories at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Like the fair’s nickname implies, there are many ties that bind us together as Minnesotans, and it’s my hope that, through the brief insights provided within these pages, we can recognize and celebrate them. Minnesota will be a stronger and more welcoming place if we do.
Main Street, Minnesota
A three-day journey through windmills and water towers, into the heart of the state’s small towns
By Ellen Burkhardt
The expressive needleworks of Alanna Stapleton
By Kate Murphy
Best In Show
Four state fair judges reveal what it takes to bring home a ribbon
By Kate Murphy and Lauren Sauer
Casting For Brook Trout Ghosts
By Tom Hazelton
Arlean Rosemore and Mother Originals Quilt Shop
By Rebecca Flansburg
Smaller Towns, Vibrant Sounds
Exploring the music scenes of Greater Minnesota
By Colleen Cowie, The Current
Clues and Solution
By Victor Barocas and Andrew Ries
A Pocket Full Of Rye
A lowly northern grain is staging a comeback, and it’s making all the best whiskey in Minnesota
By John Garlund
The Waconia Wine Triangle
How a Twin Cities suburb became a hotbed for cold-climate wines
By Matt Wieland
Chris Priebe of Millstream Brewing Company
By Nora Heaton
The Summer Spritz
By John Garland
Rosolio Spritz at Icehouse
By John Garland
What We’re Drinking
By Growler Staff
Taste of the Country, on an Urban Table
Lenny Russo and Daniel Cataldo tie together a region as they build the menu at ninetwentyfive
By James Norton
All Roads Lead to Bergen
Deciphering the magnetism of a small town supper club
By Peter Sieve
Looking for past issues? Browse The Growler Archive.