New film explores 1916-17 Northern MN labor uprisings

Filmmaker Gary Kaunonen of KCC-TV in International Falls just released a new documentary about a pivotal time in Northern Minnesota’s labor history. It’s called “Northern Minnesota’s Labor Wars.” The years 1916 and 1917 brought major labor uprisings in the mines of the Mesabi Iron Range and the lumber camps of the state’s far northern pine… Read More →

2017 Northern Lights Music Festival to feature Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’

The Northern Lights Music Festival will take place in Aurora and other Iron Range towns this July 2-23. The organization recently announced its lineup, including its featured opera production, Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.” I wrote about the Northern Lights Music Festival in a 2014 column, exploring our region’s history as it relates to classical music: Every… Read More →

80th Laskiainen Finnish sliding festival this weekend

This weekend the Laskiainen Finnish Sliding Festival celebrates its 80th year in Palo, Minnesota. Laskiainen is an old Finnish tradition that made the leap to Northern Minnesota during the immigration of the early 20th Century. It’s a celebration of the fact that the days are getting longer, allowing people in northern climates to have more fun…. Read More →

Rethinking strength of Iron Range towns

The small working class towns of Minnesota’s iron ranges were founded for a profoundly simple purpose. Each village cut into the thick forests of Northern Minnesota to provide housing and supplies within walking distance of an iron mine. Few towns grew beyond that purpose. Dozens were were abandoned after a decade or two. As the… Read More →

Hear the Aurora Great Northern Radio Show today

Last Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, I hosted another live broadcast of my Great Northern Radio Show from the Mesabi East Auditorium in Aurora, Minnesota. We were there to help celebrate the Laskiainen Finnish Sliding Festival in nearby Palo and “the beginning of the end of winter.” You can hear the rebroadcast of this episode today… Read More →

Slide on up to Aurora for Saturday’s show!

In a short time I’ll be making my way across the Mesabi Iron Range to Aurora and Palo as I prepare for this Saturday’s Great Northern Radio Show. If you’d like to see the show live, perhaps after a day of Laskiainen fun in Palo, you need to be seated at the auditorium in Aurora… Read More →

Laskiainen 2016: the flax and the furious

(The complete Laskiainen schedule is at the bottom of this post) The winter doldrums of Northern Minnesota now roll over us with workmanlike routine. Don hats and gloves. Scrape the windshield. Warm up the car. Walk like a penguin. Repeat. Perhaps small comfort, but true the same, is how for millennia these same cold squalls… Read More →

Great Northern Radio Show coming to Aurora

I’m excited to announce that my next Great Northern Radio Show will broadcast live from the Mesabi East High School auditorium in Aurora, Minnesota, on Saturday, Feb. 6. A good Iron Range Finn would know the significance of that place and date: This will be our Laskiainen Show. Laskiainen is the Finnish Sliding Festival held the… Read More →

Paper shows PolyMet runoff could reach BWCA after all

While the proposed nonferrous Polymet mining project near Hoyt Lakes nears the end of its environmental review process, questions remain about the speed with which it could receive permits. One of the most fascinating developments I’ve seen recently is this Marshall Helmberger story in last week’s edition of the Tower Timberjay. According to a June 18,… Read More →

Aurora hit by loss of drug store

Aurora isn’t a very big town, but it’s a sweet little place on the eastern Mesabi Iron Range. It was among the towns most brutally hit by the closure of LTV Steel 14 years ago. While Aurora has carried on since it has also seen the gradual decay of its economy and population, as have most Iron Range… Read More →