It all started with Chief Justice Lori Gildea calling Brainerd "real Minnesota" as it is outside the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Being from a small town of 270, I can see where she's coming from - a metro area of more than 1 million people must feel worlds apart from where she hails from. But as our Chief Justice, she needs to know how to represent both worlds, as we all make up one state. And all are part of "real Minnesota."
So, after reading countless comments, texting and tweeting with my sister, and thinking about how Minnesota and its Minnesotans are distinct, here is a bit of how I see it:
Out the opposite window, I can see the Wakota hockey rink: one of our other staples - we consider ourselves the "State of Hockey." We embrace our winters here; we have a pond hockey tournament each year on Lake Nokomis - it is one of the highlights of my winters since I moved into the city. Hockey continues to be important: there are debates here at my work over who has the better high school hockey team all of the time. Even in the height of summer.
Our cities focus on park space. The vast majority of the lakes in Minneapolis and St. Paul are open to the public with parks and open space. Around each lake is free space to roam, walk dogs, bike, and generally just enjoy nature. Unlike most other cities, this sought after real estate is completely open to the public. Most of these are also restrictive on what is allowed to be on the lake: no boat motors are allowed in Minneapolis lakes, and much of the space is open for picnics with swimming beaches, bathrooms, and the occasional hot dog stand.
"I read an article a couple of months ago that claimed that "hipsters" are really just trying to be Minnesotan. It was a Buzzfeed article that CityPages picked up, drawing parallels between our mutual affinity for "the lumberjack look," live theater, farmer's markets, our music scene, and the recent "everyone should bike" trend. I also have heard hipsterism described as a "fetishism for the authentic," which is probably the most succinct and accurate description I've heard of what it is to be a hipster."
On the whole, I agree with that appraisal of what makes a Minnesotan distinct - as well as a hipster. Even moving further into her comment: we are considered the most bike-friendly area in the nation (though I still think all bikers need to follow traffic laws. The unpredictable nature makes me nervous), and so many people here have egg-laying hens, vegetable gardens, or both - bringing the farmer's market home.
But I would add that authenticity is not just found in where we shop or how we dress. It is in being true to where we came from, and embracing what we can do for the future. I have yet to be in a more optimistic place than Minnesota, no matter what happens, there is always a drive to improve.
You can check out the articles here:
MPR News: Searching for Real Minnesota:
CityPages: Chief Justice Lori Gildea: The Twin Cities is not "real Minnesota:"