Love Thy Neighborhood: Minnesota Merges North
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Love Thy Neighborhood: Minnesota Merges North

In December, before the Polar Vortex first visited this arctic land, I went out and bought myself a new winter hat at one of my favorite stores, Askov Finlayson, in the North Loop of Minneapolis. Askov Finlayson is owned by Governor Dayton’s two sons and is named after two towns in northern Minnesota. Not only do they own Askov Finlayson, they also own the yummy restaurant The Bachelor Farmer and Marvel Bar, both of which are in the same building as Askov Finlayson.

They carry this new hat made by the Wear-a-Knit Factory in Cloquet, Minnesota—a small town just outside of Duluth. Askov Finlayson simply calls it a winter hat, but many refer to it as The North Hat because of the big bold capital “North” knitted in it.

My new hat, a marker of the emerging northern identity of Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Joe Huber.
My new hat, a marker of the emerging northern identity of Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Joe Huber.

But this hat is not just a winter hat to keep heads warm; it is part of a much larger push to redefine Minnesota as the “keystone state of America’s North.” This is beautifully summarized in the hat’s tag:

“If you grew up playing hockey in Minnesota, chances are your team’s warm winter hat came from the Wear-a-Knit factory in Cloquet, MN. We partnered with Wear-a-Knit to create this hat for the North, which is a new team we’re starting. Long considered part of the Midwest, we’d like to see Minnesota claim its rightful place as the keystone of America’s North. This hat is the beginning of that effort. We hope you’ll join us.”

Yes, this is the beginning of the push for Minnesota to divorce the Midwest and go at it alone as the “keystone of America’s North.” While this is just a hat, it is part of a much larger goal to redefine the region Minnesota occupies.

But for Minnesota to be associated with the North as opposed to the Midwest, there need to be differences that warrant the redefinition. So, I compiled a short list of reasons why Minnesota is in the North and not the Midwest:

1) The Weather Channel named Minneapolis-St. Paul as the coldest major city in the country—with 151 days of subfreezing temperatures. Coming in second place was Anchorage, Alaska, followed by Madison and Milwaukee which undoubtedly should also be included in America’s North as well as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

2) Minnesota has a long history as a progressive state. We have the Minnesota Democratic-Farm Labor Party which is the only state that has a major political party that goes by a different name. Minnesota was the only state to vote for Walter Mondale for president in 1984, granted he was our former senator. Oh ya, and we haven’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1976. And to continue our progressive tradition we elected Hubert Humphery, Paul Wellstone and not to forget the former SNL cast member Al Franken. Also, we are the only state to have elected a former WWE wrestler as our governor. Wisconsin, another potential “north” state pioneered the Progressive Era, elected Russ Feingold as their Senator, and elected the first openly-gay Senator Tammy Baldwin.

3) We pronounce things differently than the rest of the Midwest dontchaknow?

4) We also have the Borreal Forest in Northern Minnesota which can’t be found in the rest of the Midwest.

5) Our heritage lies in Scandinavia and sometimes its easy to believe that we have more in common with Scandinavia than some states in the U.S. We also have the Swedish-American Institute in Minneapolis.

6) No one is nicer than Minnesotans and we make a lot of things that American’s use daily: Cheerios, Post-It Notes, shopping malls, Mayo Clinic, resources provided by the iron and lumber industry in Northern Minnesota.

7) We also value the outdoors, environment and sports like no other state. From hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, snowboarding, tubing, snowshoeing, curling, ice fishing, boating, canoeing, snowmobiling, ice skating and hockey, we enjoy sports all year-round and often take pride in our prolonged winter.

While the list goes on and on, I am happy to announce that I am no longer going to refer to Minnesota as a midwestern state but as the “keystone of America’s North,” and I hope you do too.

January 31, 2014

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