Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hello There from Winona!

Nope...not Winona Ryder.

Winona, Minnesota.

This is one extremely beautiful city, and the reason I'm in town (a city of over 25,000 people) is...the tenth annual Frozen River Film Festival.

Winona State University puts this event on each winter (last year, it took place in January); during five or six days, different venues across town present movies of all kinds.

The festival officially kicks off tomorrow and lasts until 2-22-2015, but tonight...one of Winona's most famous hot spots, Ed's (No Name) Bar, jumps the gun at 7:30 PM (CST) by showing that initial documentary about the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival, the 2012 release "The Entertainers."

Right now, Faye Ballard, her mother Erma, and I are staying at the home of two of the FRFF's volunteers and supporters, Steve and Nancy Bachler.

The house isn't too far from the WSU campus...and the school isn't too far away from Ed's, the bar located at 3rd and Franklin Sts.

Faye, Erma, Nancy, Steve, and I are having a real groovy time right now; as I'm typing this out, the FRFF showing of "The Entertainers" is less than three hours away.

Speaking of real groovy time...I had one yesterday while driving from Omaha to Winona (a trip I wouldn't have made if last week's prediction of a winter storm for Nebraska and Iowa to fall on 2-16-2015 had come true).

I was tooling along in a 2014 Chevy Malibu that Enterprise Rent-a-Car loaned out to me, groovin' to the music on Sirius XM Channels 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 49, just glad to get on the road for the first time in 2015.

And then...at the 200-mile mark on Interstate 90 in the Gopher State, it started to snow.

Things stopped looking so groovy for the moment.

Had to pray that I could get to the Bachlers' house safely (and get that Chevy parked and out of harm's way).

Managed to make the right exit (Exit 252 on I-90)...but then, the seven miles on Minnesota State Highway 43 that led to Winona started to take a harrowing turn: After nearly driving off the road, I had to slow down.

It would've been worse if another driver hadn't sped by me.

So I decided to follow said motorist...and got inside Minnesota's Most Beautiful City at 6:54 PM.

Then I spent the next half hour finding Steve's and Nancy's house. (This, even after spending part of Sunday night studying an online map of Winona and planning out how to get from Exit 252 to the area around the Winona State campus!)

At The Weather Channel, they like to say: "It's amazing out there!"

Sometimes, I like to strip out "amazing" and put in "depressing!"

But things got straightened out, and I got to the hosts' house at 7:30 PM...when Nancy, Erma, Steve, and Faye greeted me with open arms (and my choice of beer, wine, coffee, tea, or water).

I had a roaring case of dry mouth, so...I opted for the water.

It came in a large mug. (Thanks so much, Nancy!)

If you're visiting Winona, maybe you'll like the restaurant the Ballards and I have been visiting: Jefferson Pub and Grill (on Center St. between 1st and 2nd Streets). Great sports bar, great food...especially the burgers (such as the "Goody Burger," which features barbecue sauce and an onion ring).

Well, that's it for now...and I hope to see you at the Frozen River Film Festival! 

By the way...to learn more about this event, log onto www.frozenriver.org.

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