N.Y. Hearts G.K.

By Annie Lewine

As a native New Yorker, I am often asked why I would ever leave my glorious home town for the hinterlands of Minnesota.

As the temperatures have remained below zero for several weeks now (with few exceptions), it’s especially important for me to remember the reason I willingly came to Minnesota: Garrison Keillor.
Last Saturday, a group of friends and I ventured to downtown Saint Paul to see the live broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion” at the Fitzgerald Theater. For many of us, Garrison Keillor was a key factor in deciding to make the move across time zones.

“I actually wrote about Garrison Keillor in my ‘Why Macalester?’ essay when I applied,” Megan Macpherson ’09 said. “I’ve been listening to him forever, so it was amazing to see him in person!”

Though I, too, was an NPR baby and have been listening to Keillor’s stories of Lake Wobegon since I can remember, we also had in our company those who were less well-acquainted with Keillor’s genius.
“I’ve listened to ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ a couple of times at home,” Jen Agans ’10 said. “I find him really amusing, but he wasn’t instrumental in my decision to come to Macalester.”

“A Prairie Home Companion,” began in the seventies as a return to the old-time radio shows which had become obsolete with the availability of television. Its fan base widened from a small niche of devoted NPR listeners with the release of a movie adaptation in 2006.

Unbeknownst to many, Keillor’s first broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion” took place here at Macalester. On July 6, 1974, Keillor hosted its first recording at our very own Janet Wallace auditorium.

The show features many artists—ranging from opera singers to bluegrass guitarists, a variety of sketches and Garrison Keillor’s famous “News from Lake Wobegon,” where, “the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are above average.”

When I used to listen to “A Prairie Home Companion” before I’d ever been to Minnesota, Keillor’s distinctive voice conveyed to me the soft warmth and humor often associated with Minnesota—even if I was slightly too young to truly understand the jokes.

Our day in downtown Saint Paul—which included lunch at Mickey’s diner, playing on ice sculptures, and watching the live broadcast from our seats on the stage—helped me rid myself of some of the New York cynicism that creeps up on me from time to time, even in Minnesota.