Nature and Culture Mingle in the Riverside Town of Lanesboro
By Ellen Burkhardt
The patterns seemed to be getting more complex the longer I paged through the book. Glancing at my egg, which looked somehow more delicate now than it had a minute before, I began regretting my decision to ask Peter Torkelson, co-owner of Scandinavian Inn B&B in Lanesboro, to teach me the craft he’s spent years honing: Pysanky, or Ukrainian Easter-egg decorating.
I’d arrived in Lanesboro, a small town in southeastern Minnesota, earlier that day, and spent the morning familiarizing myself with the artsy river town of some 750 residents. With only two main streets—Parkway Avenue and Coffee Street—and the Root River bookending its north and west ends, it shouldn’t have taken me long. But somehow minutes turned into hours as I looked at all the locally made art at the Lanesboro Arts Center, tested the array of Thymes lotions at Slant Avenue Mercantile, peeked inside the delightfully tiny 1950s throw-back Spud Boy Diner, and washed down a juicy, locally sourced, homemade-mustard slathered bison burger with a Summit EPA at Pedal Pusher’s Café. Fortunately, my next destination, Commonweal Theatre, was just across the street (as can be said of most things in Lanesboro), so I wasn’t too tardy for my meeting with Scott Dixon.
Dixon has been acting and directing with Commonweal for 12 seasons now. He’s also the mastermind behind this year’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which is why I’d sought him out. As a theater junkie, I like seeing what theaters around the state are up. However, as a theater classicist, I have to admit that as Dixon began unfolding his vision to put a steampunk twist on Dickens’ masterpiece, my inner critic rolled her eyes. But the longer I listened to his ideas—metaphors given life via costuming, Scrooge hiding behind technology instead of stacks of coins, five actors tackling multiple rolls—the more I approved—applauded, even. Here, in the middle of farm country, one of the most intimate, uniquely crafted theaters I’ve seen will stage one of the most radical interpretations of A Christmas Carol I’ve ever encountered. How could I not be intrigued?
Such surprises defined my time in Lanesboro, from having breakfast delivered to my room via dumb waiter at Scandinavian Inn, to how quickly 10.2 miles pass when biked on the gorgeous bluff-enclosed trail linking Lanesboro and Preston. The best surprise, however, came the next morning as I wiped away the last bit of wax from my egg: there, in bold hues of black, blue, yellow, and white, was the pattern I’d so meticulously drawn on. That such a small thing could give me such joy was totally unexpected, not unlike little Lanesboro itself.
Come winter, the well-kept bike trails around Lanesboro become cross-country ski trails. Rent skis at either Little River General Store (lrgeneralstore.net) or Root River Outfitters (101 Parkway Ave. S., 507-467-3400) and take in the beauty that is the driftless area. Make it dinner and a show at the Commonweal Theatre (commonwealtheatre.org).