ONCE CHANGE STARTED, OUR TOWN HAS JUST KEPT ON Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play Our Town opens with the line “Change comes slowly to Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire.” That might also be said about Lanesboro, Minnesota, but then again, maybe not so slowly anymore. A very small town of just over 700 people, it did have a heyday in its past when the population swelled to more than 1500. However, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, it was slowly dying, and the main drag was mostly a lot of boarded-up, deteriorating, but once-beautiful old buildings. Something happened. In 1989, an asphalt bike trail was completed on the path of the old railroad tracks. Development followed, and the pace of change rapidly picked up. Now, there is a bevy of successful B&B’s, several campgrounds, restaurants, and an established art gallery and art center, part of which is housed in the old movie theatre and offers music, comedy, and film year-round. There are small shops, both professional and community theatres, an annual bluegrass get-together, a twice-weekly farmers’ market, horse-drawn carriage, Amish, and Molly the Trolley excursions, and annual celebrations like Holiday Fest, Buffalo Bill Days and the Rhubarb Festival.
There’s even been a song named after Lanesboro, composed and performed by Anat Fort, a New York City pianist who once did a concert in our town. The population in the summer can swell to 5000 and more on a weekend. Different seasons bring people with different interests. Biking the 60-mile trail is a three-season sport.
Fishing and turkey and deer hunting bring enthusiasts in the spring and fall. Canoeing, kayaking, and tubing is popular in warm weather. Turning leaves on the surrounding hardwood forests bring the “leaf peepers” in the fall.
The annual Drag Queen Show, cross-country skiing, and snow-mobiling bring winter crowds. And the theatres and art gallery attract folks who come for shopping, dinner and a show all year long.
There are so many happenings I cannot list them all!
The very active local Chamber of Commerce touts Lanesboro and the surrounding Bluff Country as “A short trip that will be long remembered.” That must be true: Among many other accolades, Lanesboro was included in Yahoo! Travel’s list “One of America’s Prettiest Towns,” and a choice for Mother Earth News’ “Great Places You’ve (Maybe) Never Heard Of.”
Change didn’t come so slowly to Our Town of Lanesboro, Minnesota. And maybe the best part is that it just keeps on changing.