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Lake Wobegon

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Lake Wobegon

Lake Wobegon is a fictional town in the U.S. state of Minnesota, said to have been the boyhood home of Garrison Keillor, who reports the News from Lake Wobegon on the radio show A Prairie Home Companion. Its location is believed to be north of St. Cloud and is claimed to be the town of Holdingford.

Contents

  • Name 1
  • Standard monologue items 2
  • Models 3
  • Location 4
  • History and character 5
  • The Lake Wobegon effect 6
  • Businesses, organizations and landmarks 7
  • In literature 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Name

On the show Keillor says the town's name comes from a fictional old Indian word meaning "the place where we waited all day in the rain [for you]." Keillor explains, "Wobegon sounded Indian to me and Minnesota is full of Indian names. They mask the ethnic heritage of the town, which I wanted to do, since it was half Norwegian, half German."[1] The English word woebegone is defined as "affected with woe" and can also mean "shabby, derelict or run down." The term could also be a portmanteau of woe, be, and gone, as in "woe, be gone".

Standard monologue items

In Keillor's weekly monologue about Lake Wobegon, there are recurring monologue descriptions of the town:[2]

  • The opening words of the monologue usually are: "Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, my hometown, out there on the edge of the prairie."
  • Lake Wobegon is characterized as "the little town that time forgot, and the decades cannot improve."
  • The closing words of the monologue are "Well, that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."

Models

Some say that Lake Wobegon is near Holdingford. This sign is located at the Holdingford trailhead.

Although Keillor has revealed that his original model for Lake Wobegon was actually Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota,[3] it also resembles many small farm towns in the upper Midwest, especially western Minnesota, North Dakota, and to some extent, northern Iowa, Wisconsin, eastern South Dakota and northeastern Montana. These are rural, sparsely populated areas that were settled only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, largely by homesteading immigrants from Germany and Scandinavia, especially Norway. One of these, Holdingford, Minnesota, which Keillor said is "most Wobegonic" is on Stearns County's Lake Wobegon Regional Trail, advertises itself as the "Gateway to Lake Wobegon" and even hosts a "Lake Wobegon Cafe."[4]

Keillor formed most of his ideas for Lake Wobegon while working for NPR at KSJR[5] on the campus of St. John's University in Collegeville; Avon, where he lived; and local towns such as Albany, Freeport, Cold Spring, Richmond, Rockville, St. Joseph, St. Stephen, St. Wendell and Holdingford. Stearns County was predominantly German and Catholic in the 1970s, and the second most Catholic county in the USA (second only to New Orleans). In order to balance the religious and ethnic demographics of the physical location in Stearns County with the rest of Minnesota, Keillor 'imported' the Lutheran and Scandinavian elements into the mythical town, making it more identifiable and therefore more interesting to the rest of the state.

Location

According to Keillor, Lake Wobegon is the seat of Mist County, Minnesota,[6] a tiny county near the geographic center of Minnesota that supposedly does not appear on maps because of the "incompetence of surveyors who mapped out the state in the 19th century". The town's slogan is Gateway to Central Minnesota.[3] The real town of Holdingford now bears the same slogan.

Lake Wobegon is occasionally said to be near St. Olaf, Minnesota, another fictional town referenced in The Golden Girls television series. (There is actually a St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.) The town's school and amateur sports teams compete against the Uff-das of Upsala, a real town in southwest Morrison County, which is close to Holdingford. The town residents drink Wendy's Beer, brewed in St. Wendel, a real town in northeast Stearns County. The nearest good-sized town referenced in Keillor's monologues is St. Cloud. Lake Wobegon is sometimes compared favorably to a rival fictional town called Millet; a real town called Rice lies 20 miles north of St. Cloud.

Microsoft Virtual Earth now returns a location when Lake Wobegon, Minnesota is entered into their search engine. The place is a little north and somewhat east of St. Cloud. The programs distributed at live performances of A Prairie Home Companion in 2005 have a map showing Lake Wobegon about two miles north of Holdingford, north and west of St. Cloud.

Keillor often references a cafe in downtown Lake Wobegon called the "Chatterbox Cafe". There is a real cafe and gas station in Olivia by the same name. Olivia is located in north-central Renville County.

History and character

Keillor chronicles a number of bizarre incidents in the town's early history, akin to the events in Black River Falls in Wisconsin Death Trip.

Keillor identifies the original founders of what became Lake Wobegon as New England Unitarian missionaries, at least one of whom came to convert the Native American Ojibwe Indians through interpretive dance. A college was founded at what was then called New Albion, but the project was abandoned after a severe winter and numerous attacks by bears. The project had only one survivor, a very practical woman who married a French Canadian fur-trapper who fed her in exchange for her help with the chores. This pragmatic couple were the founders of the current settlement.

The founders of New Albion decided to settle at Lake Wobegon because they had gotten very lost and did not know how to get back to where they had last been. To celebrate this, the colony's motto was Ubi Quid Ubi (Latin > "We're Here!...Where are we?"). Later the motto in the Lake Wobegon incorporated town seal is described as Sumus Quod Sumus (Latin > "We Are What We Are").

Most of the current population is made up descendants of German immigrants, who are mostly members of the Catholic parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility, and descendants of Norwegian and Swedish immigrants, who comprise the Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church. Keillor describes his family as members of the Sanctified Brethren.

The 800 residents (1950 Census: 728) are proud of the Statue of the Unknown Norwegian (so called because the model left before the sculptor could get his name). Lake Wobegon is in competition with its rival, St. Olaf, for having the most descendants of the same common ancestor. Lake Wobegon became a secret dumping ground of nuclear waste during the 1950s.

The town is the home of the Whippets baseball team, tuna hotdish, snow, Norwegian bachelor farmers, ice fishing, tongues frozen to cold metal objects, and lutefisk - fish treated with lye which, after being reconstituted, is reminiscent of "the afterbirth of a dog or the world's largest chunk of phlegm."[7] But it is also the home of the Mist County Fair, old-fashioned show yards with flowers "like Las Vegas showgirls", sweet corn, a magnificent grain elevator, and the pleasant lake itself.

The Lake Wobegon effect

The Lake Wobegon effect, a natural human tendency to overestimate one's capabilities, is named after the town. The characterization of the fictional location, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average," has been used to describe a real and pervasive human tendency to overestimate one's achievements and capabilities in relation to others. The Lake Wobegon effect, where all or nearly all of a group claim to be above average, has been observed in high school students' appraisal of their leadership,[8] drivers' assessments of their driving skill,[9] and cancer patients' expectations of survival.[10]

Businesses, organizations and landmarks

Lake Wobegon, USA "Gateway to Central Minnesota" retail store at Mall of America in Minnesota
  • Jack's Auto Repair, including Jack's School of Thought (correspondence), Warm Car Service, Dry Goods Emporium, Jack's Fountain Lounge, and Jack's Home, "a rest spa for people of all ages"
  • Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery; "If you can't find it at Ralph's, you can probably get along (pretty good) without it."
  • Bertha's Kitty Boutique ("for persons who care about cats")
  • The Sidetrack Tap, run by Wally and Evelyn; "The dim little place in the dark where the pinball machine never tilts, the clock is a half-hour slow, and where love never dies."
  • The Chatterbox Café, "The place to go that's just like home."
  • Café Boeuf, "Where the elite meet to greet and eat," with maitre d' Maurice.
  • Art's Baits & Night o' Rest Motel (Art got sick of people being around, so you can't rent rooms there these days.)
  • Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility Catholic Church; Father Emil (retired), Father Wilmer (current)
  • Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church; Pastor Ingqvist (transferred), Pastor Barbara Ham (Interim Pastor), Pastor Liz (current)
  • Bunsen Motors (Ford dealer), run by Clint and Clarence Bunsen, local Lutherans
  • Krebsbach Chevrolet, run by Florian Krebsbach, local Catholic, and his son Carl.
  • Moonlight Bay Supper Club
  • Buck's Rent-a-Tux
  • The Herald Star, town newspaper run by Harold Star
  • Skoeglin's 5 and Dime
  • LuAnne Magendanz's Bon Marché Beauty Parlor and Salon
  • Co-op Hardware (formerly Bigger Hammer Hardware, from the joke: "If at first you don't succeed, try using a bigger hammer.")
  • Clifford's (also known as "The Mercantile," which many residents still call it)
  • The Sons of Knute Temple, Norwegian fraternal organization
  • The Whippets, [Town Team Baseball, "We'll Whip ya, whip ya good!"]
  • The Herdsmen, champion church ushering team
  • The Curl Up and Dye, another local salon
  • Tentative Point, (better known as Lover's Lane)
  • Sons of Pitches, a men's chorus made up of the Original Main Street's finest in the Home of Sinclair Lewis
  • Lake Wobegon Piles ("twin 18-foot-high islands in the center of Lake Wobegon" created in 1956)
  • Mist County Historical Society Museum
  • Wally "Old Hard Hands" Bunsen Memorial Field, (where The Whippets whip 'em all)
  • Lake Wobegon Loons (five-man football)
  • Powdermilk Biscuit Plant (on the road to Worthington)
  • Lake Wobegon High School
    • Lake Wobegon Leonards high school sports teams
  • Municipal Sanitary Landfill
  • Statue of the Unknown Norwegian
  • Farmer's Union Grain Elevator
  • Bob's Bank, in the green mobile home
  • World's Largest Pile of Burlap Bags (created by Earl Dickmeyer to fund his and his wife's move to Fort Myers, Florida, and the centerpiece for a mysterious cure to ailments, such as kidney stones)

In literature

Keillor has written several semi-autobiographical books about life in Lake Wobegon, including:

See also

References


-- Module:Hatnote -- -- -- -- This module produces hatnote links and links to related articles. It -- -- implements the and meta-templates and includes -- -- helper functions for other Lua hatnote modules. --


local libraryUtil = require('libraryUtil') local checkType = libraryUtil.checkType local mArguments -- lazily initialise Module:Arguments local yesno -- lazily initialise Module:Yesno

local p = {}


-- Helper functions


local function getArgs(frame) -- Fetches the arguments from the parent frame. Whitespace is trimmed and -- blanks are removed. mArguments = require('Module:Arguments') return mArguments.getArgs(frame, {parentOnly = true}) end

local function removeInitialColon(s) -- Removes the initial colon from a string, if present. return s:match('^:?(.*)') end

function p.findNamespaceId(link, removeColon) -- Finds the namespace id (namespace number) of a link or a pagename. This -- function will not work if the link is enclosed in double brackets. Colons -- are trimmed from the start of the link by default. To skip colon -- trimming, set the removeColon parameter to true. checkType('findNamespaceId', 1, link, 'string') checkType('findNamespaceId', 2, removeColon, 'boolean', true) if removeColon ~= false then link = removeInitialColon(link) end local namespace = link:match('^(.-):') if namespace then local nsTable = mw.site.namespaces[namespace] if nsTable then return nsTable.id end end return 0 end

function p.formatPages(...) -- Formats a list of pages using formatLink and returns it as an array. Nil -- values are not allowed. local pages = {...} local ret = {} for i, page in ipairs(pages) do ret[i] = p._formatLink(page) end return ret end

function p.formatPageTables(...) -- Takes a list of page/display tables and returns it as a list of -- formatted links. Nil values are not allowed. local pages = {...} local links = {} for i, t in ipairs(pages) do checkType('formatPageTables', i, t, 'table') local link = t[1] local display = t[2] links[i] = p._formatLink(link, display) end return links end

function p.makeWikitextError(msg, helpLink, addTrackingCategory) -- Formats an error message to be returned to wikitext. If -- addTrackingCategory is not false after being returned from -- Module:Yesno, and if we are not on a talk page, a tracking category -- is added. checkType('makeWikitextError', 1, msg, 'string') checkType('makeWikitextError', 2, helpLink, 'string', true) yesno = require('Module:Yesno') local title = mw.title.getCurrentTitle() -- Make the help link text. local helpText if helpLink then helpText = ' (help)' else helpText = end -- Make the category text. local category if not title.isTalkPage and yesno(addTrackingCategory) ~= false then category = 'Hatnote templates with errors' category = string.format( '%s:%s', mw.site.namespaces[14].name, category ) else category = end return string.format( '%s', msg, helpText, category ) end


-- Format link -- -- Makes a wikilink from the given link and display values. Links are escaped -- with colons if necessary, and links to sections are detected and displayed -- with " § " as a separator rather than the standard MediaWiki "#". Used in -- the template.


function p.formatLink(frame) local args = getArgs(frame) local link = args[1] local display = args[2] if not link then return p.makeWikitextError( 'no link specified', 'Template:Format hatnote link#Errors', args.category ) end return p._formatLink(link, display) end

function p._formatLink(link, display) -- Find whether we need to use the colon trick or not. We need to use the -- colon trick for categories and files, as otherwise category links -- categorise the page and file links display the file. checkType('_formatLink', 1, link, 'string') checkType('_formatLink', 2, display, 'string', true) link = removeInitialColon(link) local namespace = p.findNamespaceId(link, false) local colon if namespace == 6 or namespace == 14 then colon = ':' else colon = end -- Find whether a faux display value has been added with the | magic -- word. if not display then local prePipe, postPipe = link:match('^(.-)|(.*)$') link = prePipe or link display = postPipe end -- Find the display value. if not display then local page, section = link:match('^(.-)#(.*)$') if page then display = page .. ' § ' .. section end end -- Assemble the link. if display then return string.format('%s', colon, link, display) else return string.format('%s%s', colon, link) end end


-- Hatnote -- -- Produces standard hatnote text. Implements the template.


function p.hatnote(frame) local args = getArgs(frame) local s = args[1] local options = {} if not s then return p.makeWikitextError( 'no text specified', 'Template:Hatnote#Errors', args.category ) end options.extraclasses = args.extraclasses options.selfref = args.selfref return p._hatnote(s, options) end

function p._hatnote(s, options) checkType('_hatnote', 1, s, 'string') checkType('_hatnote', 2, options, 'table', true) local classes = {'hatnote'} local extraclasses = options.extraclasses local selfref = options.selfref if type(extraclasses) == 'string' then classes[#classes + 1] = extraclasses end if selfref then classes[#classes + 1] = 'selfref' end return string.format( '
%s
', table.concat(classes, ' '), s )

end

return p-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -- Module:Hatnote -- -- -- -- This module produces hatnote links and links to related articles. It -- -- implements the and meta-templates and includes -- -- helper functions for other Lua hatnote modules. --


local libraryUtil = require('libraryUtil') local checkType = libraryUtil.checkType local mArguments -- lazily initialise Module:Arguments local yesno -- lazily initialise Module:Yesno

local p = {}


-- Helper functions


local function getArgs(frame) -- Fetches the arguments from the parent frame. Whitespace is trimmed and -- blanks are removed. mArguments = require('Module:Arguments') return mArguments.getArgs(frame, {parentOnly = true}) end

local function removeInitialColon(s) -- Removes the initial colon from a string, if present. return s:match('^:?(.*)') end

function p.findNamespaceId(link, removeColon) -- Finds the namespace id (namespace number) of a link or a pagename. This -- function will not work if the link is enclosed in double brackets. Colons -- are trimmed from the start of the link by default. To skip colon -- trimming, set the removeColon parameter to true. checkType('findNamespaceId', 1, link, 'string') checkType('findNamespaceId', 2, removeColon, 'boolean', true) if removeColon ~= false then link = removeInitialColon(link) end local namespace = link:match('^(.-):') if namespace then local nsTable = mw.site.namespaces[namespace] if nsTable then return nsTable.id end end return 0 end

function p.formatPages(...) -- Formats a list of pages using formatLink and returns it as an array. Nil -- values are not allowed. local pages = {...} local ret = {} for i, page in ipairs(pages) do ret[i] = p._formatLink(page) end return ret end

function p.formatPageTables(...) -- Takes a list of page/display tables and returns it as a list of -- formatted links. Nil values are not allowed. local pages = {...} local links = {} for i, t in ipairs(pages) do checkType('formatPageTables', i, t, 'table') local link = t[1] local display = t[2] links[i] = p._formatLink(link, display) end return links end

function p.makeWikitextError(msg, helpLink, addTrackingCategory) -- Formats an error message to be returned to wikitext. If -- addTrackingCategory is not false after being returned from -- Module:Yesno, and if we are not on a talk page, a tracking category -- is added. checkType('makeWikitextError', 1, msg, 'string') checkType('makeWikitextError', 2, helpLink, 'string', true) yesno = require('Module:Yesno') local title = mw.title.getCurrentTitle() -- Make the help link text. local helpText if helpLink then helpText = ' (help)' else helpText = end -- Make the category text. local category if not title.isTalkPage and yesno(addTrackingCategory) ~= false then category = 'Hatnote templates with errors' category = string.format( '%s:%s', mw.site.namespaces[14].name, category ) else category = end return string.format( '%s', msg, helpText, category ) end


-- Format link -- -- Makes a wikilink from the given link and display values. Links are escaped -- with colons if necessary, and links to sections are detected and displayed -- with " § " as a separator rather than the standard MediaWiki "#". Used in -- the template.


function p.formatLink(frame) local args = getArgs(frame) local link = args[1] local display = args[2] if not link then return p.makeWikitextError( 'no link specified', 'Template:Format hatnote link#Errors', args.category ) end return p._formatLink(link, display) end

function p._formatLink(link, display) -- Find whether we need to use the colon trick or not. We need to use the -- colon trick for categories and files, as otherwise category links -- categorise the page and file links display the file. checkType('_formatLink', 1, link, 'string') checkType('_formatLink', 2, display, 'string', true) link = removeInitialColon(link) local namespace = p.findNamespaceId(link, false) local colon if namespace == 6 or namespace == 14 then colon = ':' else colon = end -- Find whether a faux display value has been added with the | magic -- word. if not display then local prePipe, postPipe = link:match('^(.-)|(.*)$') link = prePipe or link display = postPipe end -- Find the display value. if not display then local page, section = link:match('^(.-)#(.*)$') if page then display = page .. ' § ' .. section end end -- Assemble the link. if display then return string.format('%s', colon, link, display) else return string.format('%s%s', colon, link) end end


-- Hatnote -- -- Produces standard hatnote text. Implements the template.


function p.hatnote(frame) local args = getArgs(frame) local s = args[1] local options = {} if not s then return p.makeWikitextError( 'no text specified', 'Template:Hatnote#Errors', args.category ) end options.extraclasses = args.extraclasses options.selfref = args.selfref return p._hatnote(s, options) end

function p._hatnote(s, options) checkType('_hatnote', 1, s, 'string') checkType('_hatnote', 2, options, 'table', true) local classes = {'hatnote'} local extraclasses = options.extraclasses local selfref = options.selfref if type(extraclasses) == 'string' then classes[#classes + 1] = extraclasses end if selfref then classes[#classes + 1] = 'selfref' end return string.format( '
%s
', table.concat(classes, ' '), s )

end

return p
  1. ^ Post to the Host, A Prairie Home Companion website, October 23, 2008
  2. ^ A Prairie Home Companion Podcasts
  3. ^ a b Garrison Keillor. In Search of Lake Wobegon. National Geographic Magazine, December 2000
  4. ^ Official City of Holdingford web site
  5. ^ KSJR 90.1, Minnesota Public Radio
  6. ^ Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon Days. p. 8
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^

External links

  • Lake Wobegon Trail in Stearns County, Minnesota
  • In Search of Lake Wobegon from National Geographic, part of an article plus links to related sites
  • Hiring: The Lake Wobegon Strategy, Peter Norvig, Google Research Blog
  • News From Lake Wobegon podcast, National Public Radio
  • A Prairie Home Companion
  • Lake Wobegon Monologues, American Public Media's Pretty Good Goods
  • The Source of Lake Wobegon
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