The other day I found myself with time to think. I was trying to turn onto Main Street-Highway 14 from First Avenue. Usually I would have wasted that hour playing on the radio and banging my head on the wheel. This time I tried to be productive.
It was in the middle of Sleepy Eye, where the Department of Transportation decided we didn’t need a brake light. Apparently the people going east / west are more important. Driver Lives Matter’s North-South protests have been peaceful but so far ineffective.
Anyway, with all this time, I have devoted my shrinking brainpower to the dilemma facing my hometown. What to replace Corn Days with? Sleepy Eye loses Corn Days is like New York without the Statue of Liberty, San Francisco without the Golden Gate Bridge or Cobden without the tomb of the old unknown.
Del Monte’s announcement of the plant closure was a blow to the community in several ways. Making Corn Days obsolete was one of them. The good folks in town put their shoulders to the test to come up with Life After Corn Days. Mayor Wayne, Maid Chris, and the rest of the town’s leaders are on it.
I encourage them. I really like Sleepy Eye. You can see it from my house. Not really. It’s not like Sarah Palin’s claim that you can see Russia from Alaska.
There is precedent for a community recovering from the loss of an iconic summer event. We only have to look to our neighbor to the east. Fifty years ago, the last Polka Days took place in New Ulm. New Ulm recovered and is still there. At least it was last Wednesday.
The Polka Days began as a way for downtown merchants to thank the public for their support in 1953. They drew thousands of people for a parade and music. And beer. Lots of beer. Giant barrels of beer lined the street in front of New Ulm’s many taverns. They weren’t just selling to just anyone; you had to be standing. Or lean on something. Or at least sit up straight. Kind of.
The Polka Days were canceled after setting world records for public displays of drunkenness. Today, few people remember the Polka Days. Of course, that was also true the day after Polka Days. The new Ulm has moved on. Heritagefest and later Bavarian Blast tried to bring a level of respectability to an annual festival of beer, music, kids and ale. Or at least have a fence around.
So as a public service, here are some ideas for the new Corn Days:
Days of gravity. I have long thought that gravity was underestimated. Sit down and think for a moment about all the things we couldn’t do without seriousness. Walking, eating and sleeping become problematic. Have you ever thought about going to the bathroom without gravity? I didn’t have one either until now, but it’s a disturbing thought.
What better way to honor this underrated invisible force than a summer festival in a small town. Gravity Days will of course have trampoline competitions as we celebrate our dedication to this planet. There will be displays of things dropped from high places to see who lands first. My money is on the rocks.
Upside down food will be served in the park. An upside down blast competition could get messy. Hot air balloon rides remind us of what would happen if gravity suddenly stopped. A softball tournament with random helium filled balls that never fall could be a high score.
Days of understanding between Catholics and Lutherans. We have come to take for granted that Catholics and Lutherans can coexist peacefully. It hasn’t always been that way. Our ancestors in Europe were still fighting. There were many wars after Luther published his theses. The Schmalkaldic War and the Düsseldorf Cow War were part of it. The Nine Years ‘War and the Thirty Years’ War came later, having run out of cool war names.
Apart from a few unnamed bar brawls, the people of Sleepy Eye lived peacefully compared to our ancestors. For much of Sleepy Eye’s history, however, the tracks were known to divide the city. In the words of the ancients, it was “Catlics on the north side and Lutrans on the south side.” There was a Lutheran grocery store and a Catholic grocery store, a Lutheran pharmacy and a Catholic pharmacy, schools and churches on one side or the other. There was a non-denominational post office, with an ecumenical mix of mail. Care was taken to separate the magazines of the Lutheran Brotherhood and the Knights of Columbus.
Now we get along and even talk sometimes. A festive summer festival that could be big. Christians of all stripes could eat together, drink beer together, and dance together. As long as a hand fits between them.
Pretty good days. The world is filled with hyperbole: the best this, the greatest that. What’s wrong with being pretty good? Sleepy Eye is a nice little town full of decent people. They may not be spectacular, but they go to work every day, take care of their children and have fun. In other words, they are very good people.
We will serve not so bad food. Passable music won’t offend anyone and might get you stomping on the chorus. We’ll have a great parade that you won’t remember for long, but at least you won’t remember it for the wrong reasons. There is something to be said in order not to be proud and boastful. We don’t know what it is, but we’ll be celebrating it at Pretty Good Days.
The end of time. This one I received from the Esteemed Mr. Schmid. We were talking about Sleepy Eye’s plans to have a summer end. Mike wondered, why not an end of time? Or should it be the end of days? We’ll leave that to the committee. As Christians, we know the end of time is approaching. Why not embrace that!
Of course, in Revelation the end of time appears to be a disaster with Armageddon and fire-breathing dragons descending to Earth. Let’s look on the bright side. This credit card debt? Faded away. Your annoying neighbor? You know he’s not going anywhere in the Rapture. The garage your wife asked you to organize? Hey, who’s going to care during the last epic battle as the planet goes up in flames?
If we think about the last days, we’re going to want to take advantage of these almost last days. What could be better than a summer festival at Allison Park on the shores of pretty Sleepy Eye Lake. And if we’re here next year, one more reason to celebrate End of Days. Again.