Weeds: Sleepy Eye needs a new day

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 with the radio and banging my head on the steering wheel. This time I tried to be productive.

This was in the middle of Sleepy Eye, where the Department of Transportation decided we don’t need a stop light. Apparently, people going east/west are more important. North-South Driver Lives Matter protests have been peaceful but so far ineffective.

Anyway, with all that time, I devoted my shrinking gray matter to the dilemma facing my hometown. What should we replace Corn Days with? Sleepy Eye losing 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 Unknown Old Guy.

Del Monte’s announcement that they were closing the plant was a blow to the community in several ways. Making Corn Days obsolete was one of them. The good folks in town are putting their shoulders to the grindstone to come up with Life After Corn Days. Mayor-guy Wayne, Chamber-gal Chris, and the other townie leaders are on this.

I’m rooting for them. I’m quite fond of Sleepy Eye. You can see it from my place. No, really. That’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 a signature summer event. We need only look to our neighbor to the east. Fifty years ago, the last Polka Days was held in New Ulm. New Ulm bounced back from that and is still there. At least it was last Wednesday.

Polka Days started out as a way for downtown merchants to thank the public for their support in 1953. It grew to draw thousands for a parade and music. And beer. Lots of beer. Giant tubs of beer lined the street outside New Ulm’s many taverns. They didn’t just sell to anybody; you had to be standing. Or leaning on something. Or at least sitting upright. Sort of.

Polka Days was canceled after setting world records for public displays of inebriation. Today, not a lot of people remember Polka Days. Of course, that was true the day after Polka Days, too. New Ulm moved on. Heritagefest and later Bavarian Blast tried to bring a level of respectability to an annual festival of beer, music, brats, and beer. Or at least have a fence around it.

So as a public service, here are ideas for the new Corn Days:

Gravity Days. I have long thought that gravity is underrated. Just sit and think a while about all the things we couldn’t do without gravity. Walking, eating, sleeping become problematic. Have you ever thought about going to the bathroom without gravity? I hadn’t either till now, but it’s a disturbing thought.

What better way to honor this underappreciated invisible force than a small-town summer festival. Gravity Days will of course have trampoline competitions as we celebrate our attachment to this planet. There will be exhibitions of things dropped from high places to see which lands first. My money’s on the rock.

Upside down food will be served in the park. An upside-down chugging competition could get messy. Balloon rides remind us of what would happen if gravity were to suddenly end. A softball tournament with random helium filled balls that never come down could be high scoring.

Catholics and Lutherans Getting Along Days. We’ve come to take it for granted that Catholics and Lutherans can peacefully co-exist. It wasn’t always so. Our ancestors in Europe were always fighting. There were numerous wars after Luther posted his theses. The Schmalkaldic War and the Düsseldorf Cow War were among them. The Nine Years War and Thirty Years War came later, after they ran out of cool war names.

Outside of few unnamed bar fights, Sleepy Eye folks lived peaceably compared to our forebears. For much of Sleepy Eye’s history, though, it was known that the tracks divided the town. In the words of old-timers, it was “Catlics on da nort side and Lutrans on da sout side.” There was a Lutheran grocery store and Catholic grocery store, a Lutheran drug store and a Catholic drug store, schools, and churches of one stripe or the other. There was a nondenominational Post Office, with ecumenical mingling of mail. Care was taken to keep Lutheran Brotherhood and Knights of Columbus magazines separate.

Now we get along and even talk sometimes. A summer festival celebrating 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 filled with decent people. They may not be spectacular, but they go to work every day, take care of their kids, and have some fun. In other words, they’re pretty good folks.

We’ll serve some not so bad food. Passable music won’t offend anyone and might get your toes tapping on the chorus. We’ll have a nice parade that you won’t remember long, but at least you won’t remember it for the wrong reasons. There’s something to be said for not being hubristic and boastful. We’re not sure what that is, but we’re going to celebrate that at Pretty Good Days.

End of Days. This one I got from the Estimable Mr. Schmid. We were talking about Sleepy Eye’s plans to have an End of Summer Days. Mike wondered, why not an End of Days? Or should it be End of Days Days? We’ll leave that to the committee. As Christians, we know the end times are coming. Why not embrace that!

Sure, in Revelations, the end times seem like a downer with Armageddon and fire breathing dragons descending upon the Earth. Let’s look on the bright side. That credit card debt? Gone. Your annoying neighbor? You know he’s not going anywhere in the Rapture. The garage your wife’s been bugging you to organize? Hey, who’s going to care during the epic fiery last battle as the planet goes up in flames?

If we reflect on the Final Days, we’re going to want to enjoy these Nearly Final Days. What better way than a summer festival at Allison Park on the shores of comely Sleepy Eye Lake. And if we’re here next year, all the more reason to celebrate End of Days. Again.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper?


Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today