As I write this, there is only one car in the parking lot here at Sawbill. The busiest canoeing season in recent years is finally coming to a close. The North Shore resorts are still hopping, but the fall colors are now past their peak and the quiet season is just around the corner.
For the year-around resorts and businesses, the deep valleys in income that occur in November and April are a real problem. They go from being desperately short of staff - to wildly overstaffed - for a good month before the winter tourism season kicks in. Layoffs are hard on everyone, but if the staff is kept on, it has the practical effect of suppressing wages, as the slow season must be averaged with the busy season.
The solution, of course, is to give visitors a reason to come to Cook County during the slow months. One of the best examples of that strategy is the upcoming Bluegrass Masters Weekend at Lutsen Resort.
Celebrating its 25th year this year, the event is a unique partnership between Lutsen Resort and the nonprofit North Shore Music Association. This year it is happening on November 6, 7 and 8.
This time around, the visiting bluegrass master is Mike Witcher, who plays the resophonic guitar, which is commonly known as the Dobro. It is an acoustic version of the steel guitar, with the strings being picked with the right hand while the notes are formed with a steel bar held in the left hand.
An in-demand session player in L.A. and Nashville, Mike Witcher has worked with such artists as Dwight Yoakam, Dolly Parton, Bette Midler, Peter Rowan, Sara Watkins from Nickel Creek and John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin. He has played the Grand Ole Opry and Prairie Home Companion many times, and you can hear him on hundreds of records, sound tracks, commercials, and TV shows.
Mike is bringing an all-star bluegrass band with him. The master players will be giving workshops all day on Saturday. You can register for the workshops on the spot Saturday morning. The band will present a concert on Saturday night in the Lutsen Resort Ballroom.
The coolest part of the event are the jam sessions that are almost continuous in every nook and cranny of the resort. Most of the visitors who attend are musicians themselves and they play from early in the morning until early the next morning throughout the weekend. If you like bluegrass music, I highly recommend that you stop by Lutsen Resort some time during the weekend to walk around and listen to the spontaneous music. The high level of musicianship will surprise you and I guarantee that you will have a good time!
Here are a couple of quick reminders for events at Birch Grove School and Community Center in Tofte: The annual Halloween Carnival will be on Sunday, October 25, from 2 until 4 p.m. It is a wahoo good time for all, especially the under 15 set.
Mark your calendar for the Community Lunch at Birch Grove on the second Tuesday of every month. No need to call ahead – you can just show up at 11:30 and enjoy lunch with your friends and neighbors, prepared by chefs Julie Aldinger and Barb Merritt. There is a reasonable charge in exchange for a delicious meal and some great conversation.
You may recall the Norwegian murder mystery trilogy best known as “The Land of Dreams” series. The three books won a prestigious Scandinavian writing award and were translated into English a few years ago by the University of Minnesota Press. The books included many real places and people from the West End, including yours truly.
Now, according to the Minnesota Film Board, a deal has been made to produce the books as a television show titled “Minnesota.” I am a very minor character in the book, but if my character is included in the TV show, I may get the real world answer to that old hypothetical question of which actor would portray me on TV?
I’m actually hoping that Sawbill and I will both get cut from the screenplay. The last thing I want is indirect television fame, especially because my fictional alter ego isn’t a very nice person. Sawbill Canoe Outfitters is portrayed in the book as being fantastically successful – practically an excuse to print money. While this is flattering, any small business owner will tell you that it is far from reality.
It sounds like the whole project is a long way from a done deal. In the unlikely event that the show is produced and is actually watched by a significant number of people, it will just be part of the interesting life that we all get to lead, here in the West End of Cook County.