I was born in Minnesota and I have raised my own children here. It is a four season state where the months are disproportionately divided. Our winters are long and bitter affairs where we natives spend a great deal of time comparing the current one to epic ones of the past. People like to commemorate the Armistice Day blizzard that was able to sneak out of nowhere and strand those who were out with their cars and kill the unsuspecting hunters who having the day off had headed out in their shirt sleeves before the weather turned. The Halloween Blizzard of 1991 is still a fresh memory in the minds of many and is likely to be used for comparative purposes for generations to come.
July isn’t even over yet and you might wonder why I am talking about winter. I’m from Minnesota and that’s what we do. Sure it’s July and we have weeks of potential stifling heat but will be reminded by Fair time (our Fair is so great you don’t have to insert State in front of it to let folks know what you’re talking about) that “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” which could be our state motto were it not for the fact that it does not mention snow. The summer brings the heat, the humidity and the mosquitoes which are worst about dusk each evening and whose buzz in your tent or cabin can drive you nearly as crazy as the intense itch and welt that their bites cause. They never travel alone and though they have always been an annoying part of summer there are certain diseases they carry that make them more of an issue today than I recall as a child. Disease carrying insects come in the tick variety here as well and you have not been in Minnesota long if you don’t know someone who has been impacted by Lymes disease which can have a long term impact on ones health.
Fall is the perfect time of year in Minnesota for me, it is the briefest in length and the showiest if given the opportunity. An ill timed rainstorm or early snowfall can strip our many variety of trees of their leaves before they have the chance to show off their magical color changes. The nights are cool and the days are sunny, a weekend drive can take you to a pumpkin patch or apple orchard. It is football weather.
Our seasons in Minnesota are indeed not just passing months and weather changes, our seasons are in fact divided among athletic seasons as well. Certainly there are the pro seasons, which for some reason seem to have expanded over the years so that they all seem to have extensive overlap. Our evening news last night just featured the Vikings moving into training camp, seems like the NHL just wrapped up and baseball is in full swing (yes, I meant to say that). A sure sign of the final blizzards of the year and that spring will truly be coming again comes from our high school athletics, the March tournaments for basketball and hockey are as much meteorological events as they are sporting competitions. The treacherous weather combined with school buses of athletes and fans coming to the metropolitan area from our smaller towns where the community shuts down when their boys or girls make it to “The State Tourney” make for excellent conversation from reporters and neighbors alike. I’ve come to learn that the tradition of watching televised high school sports is primarily reserved for those whose home teams have been to the tourney or former high school athletes who dreamed of the opportunity.
Spring is the season we wait for so intently, the one you dream of on a day when you are clearing snow for the umpteenth time during the same weather event. It is the promise of warmer weather and the knowledge that the man made mountains of snow created in the giant parking lots of malls and superstores will in fact recede to reveal their content of discarded bags, fast food wrappers and Starbuck’s cups. It is the tricky time of year when farmers speak and we learn that we have either too much or not enough rain for this years crops. The melting snow combined with spring storms can result in swollen rivers, overflowing lakes and flooding. For some communities instead of summer street dances to commemorate their unique crop or fictional characters spring could be called “Sandbagging Days”. Men, women and children are called into active duty as fortresses are built to protect homes, businesses and civic buildings from eminent water damage.
Beyond the dangers of flooding and freezing we have our share of tornadoes. The unique aspect of having a tornado in the Land of 10,000 Lakes is their ability to dip into a body of water and then dump their load in another location. Who can forget the 1981 tornado that damaged the band shell and picnic shelter at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, taking a dip in the lake and then heading over to Har Mar Mall near the Fair Grounds (yup, that Fair) and dropping a bunch of fish in the parking lot? Who can forget? Not a Minnesotan, we live for that sort of story to add to our local lore. We wonder about harnessing that capability and using it to extinguish forest fires which are another seasonal disaster that can happen in a place as heavily forested as Minnesota.
I have lived in other states on a short-term basis and have friends who were raised here who now live in a single climate area and miss the seasons. Each winter as a Minnesotan ages they question their capability to live here forever. I know my musings may not be sanctioned by the state tourism board and I may have portrayed that between insects and natural disasters you would really be taking a risk to visit. That truly is not the case. Read polls and they will indicate we are a golf-crazy, bike friendly, literate bunch with fine restaurants, corporate headquarters, great theater, comedy and other performance venues. People here tend to be nice, though we argue about politics and religion, but only because we care and are engaged. If you have never been here, I encourage you to come. Our Fair is next month, come get a food item on a stick.