I've often likened teaching to canoeing. We drop our canoes into a lazy river come summertime and spend weeks rowing gently down the stream. When the calendar turns to August we notice a subtle change in the current. The water moves more swiftly, our paddling becomes more purposeful. Then Workshop Week arrives. The excitement of this time makes our pulse quicken, and we grip the oars a little tighter because we know the white-water rapids of the school year are dead ahead.
And then comes the first day of school. There's no stopping now! We row furiously to stay the course. Water sprays over the bow and the vessel lists dangerously to one side and then the other, but we paddle on because, if we don't, we'll lose our bearings and the river will swallow us. And then, before we notice it really, the tumult subsides and we get a few moments to catch our breath before encountering the next set of rapids.
These quiet moments, in my metaphor, are MEA Weekend. It's the first opportunity during the school year for students and teachers alike to take a step back and recharge, be that at the professional conference held in St. Paul, or at a cabin on the St. Croix. In case you're sticking around the Twin Cities this weekend, here some free or low-cost things you can do as a family before embarking on the next leg of your journey.
Available Every Day Over MEA Weekend
Try geocaching for free at one of Minnesota's Demo Parks. A $5 day pass will admit you into the State Park. Everything else is provided.
The Walker Art Center is celebrating 75 years on this earth during Walktoberfest. Admission and activities are free Thursday-Sunday.
PAWS to Read with an Animal is an opportunity to curl up and read with a therapy animal at a local library. Animals will be at the Sumner Library Thursday from 5:30-7 pm, Saturday at both the North Regional Library from noon-1:30 pm and the Nokomis Library from 2:30-4:30 pm, and Sunday from 1-2:30 pm at the St. Louis Park Library.
See the city from a totally different perspective at the Foshay Museum and Observation Deck. Adults pay $8 for the view, youths are $5 and kids 12 and under are free. The deck is open 10 am-6 pm Thursday through Saturday and 11 am-5 pm Sunday.
Thursday, October 16
The University of Minnesota Raptor Center brings an owl, hawk, falcon and a bald eagle to the Minneapolis Central Library today at 10 am.
After meeting the birds of prey at the library, step onto Nicollet Mall for the Minneapolis Farmers Market.
Hennepin County Libraries have partnered with ArtStart to offer kids in grades K-6 "Junk Paleontology" from 10:30 to noon in Brooklyn Center, and "Rube Goldberg Marble Machines" from 1 to 2:30 pm in St. Louis Park. For those in grades 7-12, there's a Comic Strips class in Hopkins from 2-4 pm. If Opera is more your thing, visit Opera Viva! at the Nokomis Library at 6:30 pm.
You can tour the Landmark Center from 11 am-noon or the Star Tribune printing facility at 2 or 4 pm. Star Tribune tours must be scheduled ahead of time at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (612) 673-4636.
The Minnesota History Center hosts a fun exhibit titled, "Toys of the 50's, 60's, and 70's." There is also History HiJinx, a robot-themed craft program, today and tomorrow from 11 am-3 pm. Admission to the center is $11 for adults and $6 for kids 6 and older, but a $75 household membership will gain you admission here and 25 other historic locations around the state for the next year.
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is free after 4:30 pm today. Kids 12 and under are always free, but this will save you $12 for each adult. Downloadable self-guided children's adventures are available here.
Friday, October 17
You can tour the Star Tribune printing facility at 9 am or 2 pm. Star Tribune tours must be scheduled ahead of time at email@example.com or by calling (612) 673-4636.
Hennepin County Libraries have partnered with ArtStart to offer kids in grades K-6 "Junk Paleontology" from 10:30 to noon in Rogers. For those in grades 7-12, there's Non-Traditional Comic Arts in Minnetonka from 10 am-noon, or Comic Strips class in Brooklyn Park from 3-5 pm.
The Minnesota History Center hosts a fun exhibit titled, "Toys of the 50's, 60's, and 70's." There is also History HiJinx, a robot-themed craft program, today from 11 am-3 pm. Admission to the center is $11 for adults and $6 for kids 6 and older, but a $75 household membership will gain you admission here and 25 other historic locations around the state for the next year.
Check out a Gopher Softball exhibition game vs. Concordia-St. Paul today. Games will be played at 5 and 7 pm at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium just east of Dinkytown. Before or after the game, stop by Annie's Parlour for a burger and malt.
Saturday, October 18
Help staff at the Lowry Nature Center safely capture, study, band and release birds from 9 am-noon.
Tour the Star Tribune printing facility at 9 am. Star Tribune tours must be scheduled ahead of time at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (612) 673-4636.
There's free pumpkin painting at the Minneapolis Farmers Market all day today, or at least until the pumpkins run out.
Drop in to the Tamarack Nature Center in St. Paul between 10 am and noon to check out Worms at Work. "Discovery Hosts" will be on hand to guide your visit through numerous hands-on stations.
Catch a "Childish Film" at Fall Frolics at the Minneapolis Central Library from 10 am-noon. You are invited to come in costume and enjoy a unique film, art activities and a complimentary snack.
Maybe you've seen the seed art in the Agriculture Building at the State Fair? Try it for yourself at See-D Mosaic at the Linden Hills Library today from 11 am-12:30 pm
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum offers "Fantastic Foliage" activites in their Learning Center today and tomorrow from noon-4 pm. Adults $12, kids 12 and under are always free.
Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden presents Magnificent Mushrooms from 1-2 pm. You will learn about the structure of mushrooms and learn to ID some common varieties. That way you can avoid ones that make you really big or really small.
A Weisguide will lead you on a free tour of the Weisman Art Museum, located on the campus of the University of Minnesota, from 1-2 pm today. Topics will include current exhibits as well as information about one of the most unique buildings in the Twin Cities.
The Works has teamed up with Hennepin County Libraries to offer STEM Exploration Day at the Franklin Library from 2-4 pm today! Create a sound sandwich, experiment with rainbow glasses and build a bridge. You had me at sandwich.
Rainbow Crow is a Lenape story that asks, "How far would you go for the good of the community?" Hopefully you'd go as far as Steppingstone Theater to see this story come to life onstage. This is a pay-what-you-can performance from 3-5 pm, with a suggested donation of at least $5.
The four teams that make up Minnesota Roller Girls battle each other tonight in a mini tournament titled, "Fresh Meat." Despite the name, I am assured by one of the roller girls that this is indeed a family-friendly event. Doors to the Roy Wilkins Auditorium open at 6:30 pm, roller derby starts at 7:30 pm. The first 200 fans get a free t-shirt. Tickets range from $13-18 for ages 10 and up and benefit the Ronald McDonald House and the Ann Bancroft Foundation.
The Gopher Women's Soccer team takes on the Wisconsin Badgers at 7 pm at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on the St. Paul Campus. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for youth.
Sunday, October 19
The Minnesota Children's Museum in St. Paul is free today from 9 am-5 pm.
There will be a free Wood Turning Demonstration at the Landmark Center from noon-1 pm today in the Gallery of Wood Art. I'm guessing there's more to this than flipping a log over on the fire.
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum offers "Fantastic Foliage" activites in their Learning Center today from noon-4 pm. Adults $12, kids 12 and under are always free.
History is on display for free today at the Bell Museum of Natural History. The Bell is open today from noon-5 pm.
A Weisguide will lead you on a free tour of the Weisman Art Museum, located on the campus of the University of Minnesota, from 1-2 pm today. Topics will include current exhibits as well as information about one of the most unique buildings in the Twin Cities.
Bats are the topic at the Carl Kroening Interpretive Center from 1-3 pm, and Minnesota Trees star at the Richardson Nature Center from 3-4 pm during Free Family Fun Day. That's today!
The Works has teamed up with Hennepin County Libraries to offer STEM Exploration Day at the Rockford Road Library from 2-4 pm today! Create a sound sandwich, experiment with rainbow glasses and build a bridge. You had me at sandwich.
The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden presents a free tour of the Quaking Bog from 3-4 pm.
For more ideas, click on "Older Posts." Many previous blog entries are available year-round. Have a great weekend!!
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Monday, August 11
Big Stone Mini Golf looks like it has it all. You want putt-putt? Check. Feel like a sculpture garden? They've got that too. You'd like to pet some farm animals? As you wish. Feel like roasting marshmallows or playing Checkers? Go for it! Apparently, it's even a hot spot for professional graduation and engagement photos. OK, there's no evidence of a bouncy house on site, so I guess they don't have it all, but it sounds pretty unique. I found the website difficult to navigate but, near as I can tell, Big Stone is open daily from 11 am until sundown, and costs $7 for each child and $8 for adults. The reviews I've read make it sound like it's worth the money and the drive to Minnetrista. As Sheryll from Boca Raton, FL wrote on YELP, it's "The most funnest place in the world!"
Tuesday, August 12
In 1925 Henry Ford built a plant in St. Paul on the banks of the Mississippi. A drop in the river at this spot allowed for the construction of a hydroelectric plant to supply the requisite power for assembling his Model T's. Construction on Lock & Dam #1 had also been completed on the Minneapolis side of these falls just eight years earlier. A self-guided tour of this Lock & Dam affords views of the Ford Dam, Ford Bridge and the power plant. If you're lucky, a ship will come through one of the locks while you're on the observation deck. Unfortunately, you won't be able to see the plant as it once was. The last Ranger pickup truck rolled off the line three years ago, and the Ford plant is currently under demolition.
Wednesday, August 13
Normally an invitation to enjoy stories, songs and something called "fingerplays" wouldn't hold my attention for very long, but I think these fingerplays are going to be about llamas. I find llamas kind of fascinating, and not just because they are one of the few things that rhyme with pajamas (along with Obamas, commas, and mamas), but I still don't really want to sing about them. Here's the hook: As a part of all this llama drama (there's another one!) the Excelsior Library is going to have LIVE LLAMAS at Manor Park in Shorewood at 10:30 today! I don't know if we'll be able to pet one, but there's sure to be some photo ops. It might even inspire a llama diorama (Boom goes the dynamite!). Afterward, indulge in an ice cream cone on the lakeshore in Excelsior or take a ride on the Excelsior Streetcar Line.
Thursday, August 14
The Walker Museum hosts the 3rd Annual Internet Cat Video Festival tonight for free. YouTube videos of cats are irresistible as it is, but watching them as a communal experience borders on transcendental. Maybe that's overstating it a bit, but I bet it's like watching fireworks except that instead of oohs and aahs you hear lots of aawws! The videos roll at dusk, but the event runs from 6-10 pm with live music, face painting and an animated photo booth available before the cats take center stage. Much in the same way that everybody is Irish on St. Patrick's Day, everyone's a cat person on this night.
Monday, August 4
The Vikings might be the worst thing that ever happened to the Minnesota Gophers football program. It's difficult for me to even imagine this, but the Gophers were National Champions in 1960. The Vikings rolled into town the following year and the Gophers have been lousy ever since. They're also attention hogs. Everybody talks about Vikings draft pick this, and Vikings training camp that. Well the Gophers have training camp, too, and you don't have to drive two hours to get there! The Gophers have opened two Fall Camp practices to the public, today and tomorrow only, at 5:15 pm. Football practice may not sound exciting, but I love getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse at just about anything. A jelly bean factory tour? Sure! Check out a sewage treatment plant? Sign me up! If this isn't your scene, the Gophers also host a scrimmage this Saturday at 4:40 pm at TCF Bank Stadium. Just think, if this season turns out to be the one ending our 53-year-football-championship drought, you can say you were there at the beginning.
Tuesday, August 5
Tonight the entire country celebrates National Night Out for the 31st time. The whole country, that is, except for Texas. They decided the first Tuesday in October was the better day for this national event, so they do it then instead. But Texas is National Night Out's top-ranked state, in terms of community participation, special events and media coverage, so we probably need to cut them some slack. But guess who is the top ranked city!? San Antonio! . . . and Minneapolis! I don't know how you end up with a tie for this honor, but that's apparently what happened last year. Anyway, you can search for a block party here, or just walk around with some JELL-O salad until you stumble across one. And, if by chance you don't find a party, maybe you're just the person to chair your local event next year!
Wednesday, August 6
You know how when you're with a bunch of friends trying to decide where to go and everybody's saying, "I don't care, we can go anywhere," but really they just don't want to make the decision? I'm like that today, so I'm going to mention three options and leave the deciding up to you. At 10 am, you can take the Great River Tour for free and learn about the connection between St. Paul and the Mississippi River. I've got a hint - it's called the shore. Wha wha. You have to register for this at 651.292.3237. From noon to 3 o'clock, there's a Beach Party at Bryant Lake in Eden Prairie. The beach part you probably know about. The party part includes an obstacle course, a waterslide, birds of prey and reptiles. This one costs $5 per child. At 2 pm, the Schiffelly Puppets perform a parody of Rapunzel at the Oxboro Library in Bloomington. Actually, looking at the times, I think it's possible to do them all! Wouldn't it be great if it worked that way with restaurants?
Thursday, August 7
The environment in which things happen is important to me. As I mentioned earlier this week, the Gopher football team has struggled the entirety of my lifetime, but I still like going to their games because I love the stadium. An $18 hamburger doesn't bother me too much, as long as it's served to me in a tastefully restored warehouse in the North Loop. And I can even listen to ska music, as long as it's being performed in the ultra-cool Ruins Courtyard during Mill City Live. Today and the next three Wednesdays (this concert was rescheduled to Thursday), $5 opens the door to Mill City Museum from 4-9 pm and a concert from 6-8 pm. That's a discount of over 50%, and I don't see a ska band on the schedule. I honestly can't think of a downside here, except that $18 for a burger isn't looking like such a great deal, no matter where I get to eat it.
Friday, August 8
Have you, at any point over the past few days, suddenly felt like throwing your fist in the air? If so, it might have something to do with this being Rock Week at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis. Today is the final day of classes, and the 12-17 year-olds who have been working up their chops on an instrument of choice get to show their stuff live and on stage. Now, normally, I'd probably rather give my cat a bath than attend this recital. Maybe even my neighbor's cat. But, remember, place is important to me. This concert is at the 7th Street Entry. The Entry, in case you're not familiar, is a little club tucked into the corner of First Avenue, the venue that took on legendary status in the 80's thanks to Prince, the Replacements and others. In my opinion, it is still the best place in town to catch some live music. So, given an opportunity to share this spot with my boys? I'm sorry, but the cats will just have to wait.
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I recently had the opportunity to chat with Twins All-Star Glen Perkins and his wife, Alisha, about their upcoming Fifteen’s 5K, benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. They also shared their favorite family activities, what goes through Glen’s mind when he’s in a jam on the mound, and which team’s All-Stars have the most fun. Below are excerpts from our interview.
Congratulations on your 2nd All-Star appearance. I’m sure playing in the game itself is thrilling. Are there things that happen outside of the actual game that surprise or delight you?
Glen: The reaction and excitement I received from the fans is probably the most memorable thing, away from the game, that happened during All-Star week.
Are there any All-Stars that you formed a connection with this year?
GP: There were a few guys that were on this team as well as the team from last year. Greg Holland and Alex Gordon are two guys that I spent a lot of time with, and I also see them a lot throughout the year as well. The group of guys from the Athletics was also a fun bunch to hang with.
How did you get connected with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation?
Alisha: Basically, we’ve just seen what our friends go through every day with their little ones with Cystic Fibrosis. They’re so incredibly close to a cure, and we just wanted to do anything we could to help get even closer. When we decided to do the race, we partnered up and it’s been an amazing partnership.
A 5K with the finish line on Target Field is an attractive event for families. How was this idea developed?
AP: It’s kind of funny because the first year we didn’t finish on Target Field. That came about after our recap. I think Twin Cities In Motion [the event organizer] and I were like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could finish on the field?” So we met with the front office people for the Twins and begged, borrowed and pleaded, and the grounds crew was nice enough to let us do that. It is such a unique opportunity for the racers because, when else do you actually get to go down on the field? It makes the experience a lot more fun for the runners.
Glen, you made your big-league debut in 2006 but spent time in Rochester in 2008 and 2010. What goes through your mind when you’re sent back to AAA? How do you handle setbacks like that?
GP: You've got to keep battling! Baseball careers don't always take the trajectory that you'd hope so it's important to keep working hard and stay in the moment.
I took my sons to the game against the White Sox on Sunday. You came in for the save in the 9th inning with a one-run lead. Eventually the bases were loaded with only one out. What do you say to yourself when you’re on the mound in a situation like this? How do you handle the pressure? How do you move on when it doesn’t end in a victory?
GP: I remind myself that I'm only one good pitch away from getting out of a jam. You can't really let the pressure get to you or it makes it even more difficult to do my job. A deep breath and then focusing on the next pitch helps me. Win or lose, its important to move on and focus on the next game. Baseball is a long season so it helps to go day by day and enjoy them whether you do well or not.
Who are your best buddies on the Twins?
GP: I probably spend the most time with Phil Hughes and Brian Duensing, both at and away from the field.
What advice would you give to aspiring ball players?
GP: Work hard and practice, practice, practice!
Alisha, with Glen on the road so much of the time, how do you balance taking care of your daughters and taking care of yourself?
AP: It’s a struggle, obviously anybody knows that whose husband travels a lot or who is a single parent. I hate to use that analogy but it feels like it a lot during the baseball season. But from the very beginning we said it was important to us that the kids had some semblance of a normal life, and that Glen’s job doesn’t determine the lifestyle. So I’ve tried my hardest to keep the kids in a very normal routine. I don’t go to a lot of games because of that. It’s something that Glen and I strive for. My family’s really helpful so I do get some time to run or get out. We’re very blessed to be doing what we do, and it doesn’t last that long, so we’ll keep doing it while we can and figure it out along the way.
What activities do you enjoy as a family? Do you have any hidden gems that you’d be willing to share with us?
AP: Really we just like to be home. We spend a lot of time at our house paddle boarding with the kids. Our opportunities to be a family are very few and far between in the summer, so we just kind of lay low when we can.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about Fifteen’s 5K?
AP: The most fun part about the event is that it’s really family friendly. You can bring your kids out, it’s really easily accessible, and it’s not too expensive. Our event is unique in that aspect, that just about anybody can come out and do it and bring the kids. Also, Glen brings out a lot of the players to hand out medals at the end. So stick around and they’ll take pictures and sign autographs. It’s really a good time. You get really unique access to the players and the field, and raise some money for a good cause!
The starter’s gun for Fifteen’s 5K sounds at 8 am on Sunday, August 17. If you sign up for the race before August 4th you receive a free game ticket with your registration, so sign up this weekend!
Monday, July 28
The Beatles played their one and only concert in Minnesota on August 21, 1965. As they climbed down the steps of their plane at MSP airport, a number of fans broke through security and rushed the Fab Four. The band was whisked safely away to a press conference at Met Stadium but the event's promoter, Ray "Big Reggie" Colihan, wasn't going to take any more chances. He ordered that no one be allowed on the field that night during the concert. No one, that is, who wasn't part of the tour. The Beatles' US tour manager, Bob Bonis, was stageside that evening with his camera. The 32 pictures he took are the only close-range images that exist of the show. They remained in his basement for 45 years until his son decided it was time for the rest of us to see them. You can get a free peek at this collection, "The Beatles at the Met," in the lobby of the W Hotel until August 3rd. They are part of a larger exhibit of artifacts called "Ladies and Gentlemen . . . the Beatles!" on display at the Mall of America until September 7. While you're there, take the elevator up to the top and check out the Foshay Museum and Observation Deck.
Tuesday, July 29
I'm a sucker for juggling but I don't know why. There's probably no skill on the planet less practical than the ability to keep multiple objects moving through space simultaneously. I mean, how often do you really need to keep three chainsaws off the ground at one time? Then again, the ability to hit a baseball traveling at 90 mph is not very practical either, and that's fun to watch. I also like live magic shows. Today's my lucky day because Eric the Juggling Magician performs at the St. Anthony Library at 2 pm. Juggling magician? That's like getting waffle fries and seasoned sour cream . . . without an upcharge! Now, if Eric could just throw a puppet show in there, he'd have a perfect trifecta.
Wednesday, July 30
Speaking of impractical activities, how about paddling yourself around a lake while standing on an oversized surfboard? The paddleboard craze is here to stay because, for reasons beyond my understanding, it's fun! Kayaking is a blast too. Midwest Mountaineering hosts a free demo of both activities today from 5-7:30 pm at the main beach on Lake Nokomis. They'll supply everything you need to try both activities. Just know this: It's tough to look cool while paddleboarding. It's the water-based equivalent of rollerskating for the first time. But if you can push past that, you just might discover a new passion.
Thursday, July 31
You're reading this on StarTribune.com which probably means that you don't have a physical copy of the newspaper sitting next to you. But the Star Tribune is a relatively healthy US newspaper with a daily circulation of over 300,000 (that number doubles on Sundays) and rising subscription rates. That's a lot of paper. In fact, each roll delivered to the facility contains 14 miles of paper, and the Strib goes through about 900 rolls each week. And the way they're installed on the printing presses is like something out of Star Wars. All these facts and more will be yours after a tour of the Star Tribune's print facilities. Free 90-minute tours are offered Thursday-Saturday but must be arranged in advance. Even if you don't subscribe, you'll walk away with a new appreciation for what it takes to make your puppy-training paper.
Friday, August 1
The Uptown Art Fair is the winner of 115 Pinnacle Awards, the most prestigious honor bestowed by the International Festivals and Events Association. OK, Pinnacles mean nothing to me, if I'm totally honest, other than this has been deemed an awesome event by people that know awesome events on an international level. It's also the most highly attended event in Minnesota after the State Fair. Numbers like that don't lie, right? Plus they've got culinary competitions, a youth art section, live music, wine tasting, and a hands-on Family Imagination Station in addition to installations from 350 artists. Call me crazy, but I think I can smell Pinnacle #116 just over the horizon.
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