I recently visited lake resorts from Alexandria to Paynesville, and a discussion with one particular resort owner bears public pondering.
This resort was quite lovely. It has been privately owned for decades. The owner runs a tight ship and wants to know just who he is renting to — no wild parties, etc.
He explained that his typical customer is from the metro area, less than two hours away. In fact, he explained, many newer residents in the area have moved from the Twin Cities area.
He explained an additional factor: They could send their children to the nearby Spicer schools and avoid the “diversity” — and this is the part that was a stunner — “in Willmar.”
Now, I can be as ignorant as the next person concerning my own back yard. But my mind was boggled. Diversity in Willmar? Has there been an influx of Finns or something?
Wikipedia offers a hint:
“Since October 15, 1989, the rural city has experienced a large influx of immigrants from Latin America and Northeast Africa, mostly due to the demand for labor at the Jennie-O poultry plant. In 2001, the city was recognized as an “All America City” by the National Civic League, in part for its success as growing numbers of immigrants became part of the community.”
The entry goes on to describe national media attention the city received after several Somali high school students helped the Willmar High School cross-country team achieve state and national success in 2005 and 2006.
“Subsequently, NBC Nightly News conducted a story documenting the changing face of the rural city and its relative acceptance of the new makeup of its citizens.”
One is intrigued as to how the author of the Wikipedia article characterized it as “relative acceptance.” My discussion with the resort owner is one clue.
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David Jones lives in Eden Prairie.
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