The Good Life: Our summer traditions

July 25, 2018 GMT

Search for the ladys-slipper

Every summer, usually in late June, my family and I camp at a state park in northern Minnesota. We enjoy hiking, some fishing and bird watching, but the main reason we go is to find native orchids in bloom. The first year we did this, my daughter Sharon was the first person to spot a beautiful showy ladys-slipper orchid (the Minnesota state flower) along a path in Scenic State Park near Bigfork. Since then, we have found hundreds of ladys-slipper orchids in Itasca State Park and some unusual orchids in Iron Springs Bog and at Big Bog State Recreation Area. This year we wanted to see some of the spring blooming orchids and visited Minneopa State Park and Williams Nature Center in Blue Earth County and found a number of showy orchids in full bloom on Memorial Day weekend. Minnesota has 48 species of native orchids and our goal is to find as many as possible by visiting different parks and natural areas.


Peter Moe, Chanhassen, is director of the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

The house in Cannon Falls

In the late summer evenings, when the wind is cool, and the earliest stars appear high in the night sky, my mother and my father, my older sister and I, our husbands and our children, and the unmarried siblings take our seats in the driveway of my mother and fathers house in Cannon Falls. We listen to the sounds of frogs croaking from below the hill, the cries of the night critters from the tall prairie grass that surrounds the house, the calls of wild animals beyond the tree line. We listen to the buzz of the mosquito lamp. We talk. We talk of pleasant things, our hopes and our dreams, we measure the passage of time in the contented whispers of the young children, so excited to be out at night, sitting on the plastic mats, shivering close. We listen to the stories of our mother and father from times long ago, evenings huddled close to family, stories from the other side of the world, before the war, the death, the destruction, the long search for a home, a place in the world where we might belong.

Kao Kalia Yang, St. Paul, is author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir and The Song Poet.

Birthday choice

My daughter was born on June 28. I wont mention the year; shed kill me. Every summer on or very near her birthday, our extended clan troops out to Square Lake in Washington County. Its been my daughters choice for her birthday celebration for more than three decades. We take Green Mill deep dish pizza and usually a red velvet cake from Wuollet Bakery. The water of the lake is always clear and cool, the company warm, and the reason at the heart of it all gratitude for my daughters entry into our lives blissful.

William Kent Krueger, St. Paul, is the author of many books set in Minnesota, including Sulfur Springs and the upcoming Desolation Mountain.

Their own Private campsite


We bought property near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for our 30th wedding anniversary. With our kids grown now, we make the treks north to camp in tents at the top of our ridge. A couple of days before we leave, everything is laid out in the living room, sorted by sleeping and shelter, clothes and gear, and food and drink. The drive up is a ticking-off of the checklist: Do we have fuel and mantles for the lanterns, batteries for the flashlights? Cloquet is our halfway mark, and weve loosened up from the workweek. We weigh whether or not to stop at Gordys Hi-Hat for a fish sandwich now, or Sunday on our way back. We think about the weather and the timing and whether well be setting up the tents in daylight or by the car headlights. We drive up our own bumpy road, and after tents and bedding are in place we pull up a bench and take a deep breath. The rituals of getting away are as satisfying as the summer stars.

Pam and Ken McClanahan, St. Paul. Pam is director of partnerships for Twin Cities PBS/TPT Partnerships. Ken is a senior account executive for Canon Solutions America.

Mayoral tradition, part I

Every summer, I look forward to an annual father-son tradition with my dad, Melvin Carter II. We have gone on a father-son canoe trip every year since I was in junior high. Taking in all the beauty and peaceful respite the St. Croix River has to offer is the best part of our father-son ritual.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter

Rod and reel

Catch-and-release fishing at a friends cabin near Spooner, Wis. Ive been doing it for 10 years, and just returned from a long weekend there. I wore waders to fish the lily pads and lake docks on sunny afternoons. Caught dozens of brightly colored, hand-sized sunfish and a few feisty two-pound bass. In the evenings, I fished from a nearby river bridge where, wearing my pink gloves, I landed a sleek northern pike.

Bev Bachel, Minneapolis, is a freelance writer and author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens.

Behold the Mancation

Mancation, our annual golf weekend in northern Minnesota, started 10 years ago. Six of us decided to travel north for a golf weekend. It ended up being a lot of fun. So the following year the six of us, along with a couple of other friends, made another trip. We officially named the outing in the third or fourth year. This year was Mancation XI. Participants mark their calendars well in advance. We compete for a coveted prize: the Mancation Jacket. The winner gets to keep the jacket until the following years outing.

We rent a cabin or vacation home so we can all be under one roof. The best part of the trip is being able to spend quality time with lifelong friends. Six of us are Edison High School [Minneapolis] graduates of the class of 1974, friends for over 45 years. It has become one of the highlight weekends of the year for all of us and we plan on doing this until we no longer can.

Ken Johnson, Woodbury, is premium audit manager at SFM Insurance Co.

Mayoral tradition, part II

Its about 5:30 on a summer afternoon. Lets call it a Thursday. The sun is shining, music is playing, people are laughing, the farmers market on Nicollet is just shutting down, and the sidewalk cafe scene is hitting its stride. Theres no better place to be than Minneapolis. I love going out for a jaunt which is really just short increments of running, broken into intervals marked with excellent banter, beer and food. If youre on this run with me, there are only three rules: First, stop to eat or drink only at places accepting of athletic wear and a bit of B.O. Second, stop and talk with the neighbors you pass. Third, dont take yourself too seriously. After the run, I cool down with an evening dip in the Mississippi, usually near Boom Island. At that point, youre less than a mile from downtown. But it feels like youre in a nature reserve. Scents of fresh cut grass, flowers in bloom, and yes hamburgers on the grill permeate the air. Take a deep breath, refresh and get back out on the town for a perfect summer evening in the best city in the world.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey

Bittersweet 4th

I grew up in northern Wisconsin, where for many years Ive been going with my family to the July 4th parade in Three Lakes. A couple years ago we adopted two kids from the foster system, now 4 and 5, and they couldnt be more excited. The Three Lakes parade is a quintessentially small-town affair. Red, white and blue everywhere you look, marching bands, candy. My favorite part is the Lawnchair Brigade a group of ladies of a certain age who dance with aluminum lawnchairs, sing original songs and occasionally just open the chairs up and sit down. In recent years, the parade has been bittersweet due to some of the politics on display. Im proud of my home states progressive history. Wisconsins people were a strong voice in the early 20th-century Progressive Era. It seems we live in an opposite time now, where dialogue and exchange of ideas bring fear of reprisal. So for me, July 4th is still family, fun and hilarity. But its also a time to reflect on my own participation in our democracy. How will I impart that responsibility to my children?

Kim Bartmann, Minneapolis, is a restaurateur, consultant, the president of Women Chefs Restaurateurs, and expert in the Small Business Revolution series.

Rush to the Fringe

Every August my friend Laurie travels to Minneapolis from Erskine, Minn., to go with me to the Fringe Festival. Weve been attending Fringe for more than a decade and have seen hundreds of amateur productions, sometimes up to 30 in a single festival. The shows are presented in theaters all around the Twin Cities, so we dart about town to catch as many as possible. We often find ourselves sprinting several city blocks to make it to a production on time, swearing under our breath the whole way. Well make it with seconds to spare, collapsing in our seats, sweaty and winded, getting judgmental side glances from audience members with superior time-management skills. Ive staged nine Fringe productions myself, and I usually just camp out at the theater an hour or two in advance to make sure I dont miss my own performance. Sometimes Ill peek through the backstage curtain and watch as the last-minute stragglers shuffle in, red-faced and panting, and think, Oh, good, my audience has arrived.

Ben San Del, Minneapolis, is a storyteller, playwright and comedian.

Famous 4th

Summers are always a fun time that cant come soon enough for me. I love spending time with my family, especially on July 4th. Theres no doubt that I am an unabashed, flag-waving, God-fearing, BBQ-loving, entrepreneur, patriot. I love dressing up in red, white and blue, and my whole family joins in the celebration by decorating our pontoon and dressing up to participate in our annual July 4th Boat Parade. We go all out with the biggest barbecue featuring my tasty mouth-watering ribs and all the fixins, ending the night with beautiful fireworks out over the lake.

Famous Dave Anderson, Edina, is the founder of Famous Daves BBQ, Old Southern Smokehouse and his new Tamarack Farms Winery Campfire Pizza in Hayward, Wis.

A little walk

My husband and I have tried holding days, times and moments sacred, or re-creating memories from previous years, but forcing a rigid shape around an evolving organism didnt work for us. So weve been winging it. When we had a kid, winging it became a way of life. Last summer, in an effort to help our young son sleep through the night, we started taking a nightly little walk. We walked to hear the church bells and pick strawberries in the community garden. He drove toy cars along our neighbors stone walls. We checked the Little Libraries. We changed our routes depending on what physical milestone he happened to be hitting that week. Earlier this summer we walked a bit slower; I was waddling as my body grew with our newest family member. When our daughter was born in June, my husband and I realized that we had both been anticipating adding her to our little walk. Our summer tradition had emerged from our evolving needs as a growing family. That feels very sacred indeed.

Emily Gunyou Halaas, St. Paul, is an actor who has appeared at the Guthrie Theater, Jungle Theater, Park Square and others.