The city of Granite Falls was recently featured by Minnesota tourism writer Berit Thorkelson in the statewide magazine Minnesota Monthly. Her article, ‘Granite Falls is Rock Steady,’ explains her personal connection to the area and highlights different places to visit. The article is out for the November issue of the magazine, and city leaders hope the new visibility will attract new visitors to the area.
Thorkelson is a freelance travel writer who currently lives in St Paul. She has written for a number of national publications, including National Geographic and Midwest Living. She says that her own interest typically drives the process for developing new travel articles. Ultimately, it was her close family connection that brought her back to Granite and to document her experience in a new article.
Her father grew up in Granite Falls, and as a child, she would frequently visit her grandparents (who still lived in the area). “Mostly we’d talk, nap, eat things Grandma baked or Grandpa raised, and accept whatever elemental, small-town thrills Granite offered,” she explains in the article.
Her grandfather used to call Granite the ‘Garden Spot of America,’ and even years later, Granite retained a special place in her heart. Thorkelson said that Granite Falls was a “foundation of my youth,” and she added that it was a “safe and happy place.” After the passing of her grandparents, Thorkelson found herself visiting Granite less and less. The ever moving travel journalist therefore leapt at the opportunity to feature Granite in a new tourism article.
Thorkelson contacted Granite Falls Chamber Director Mary Gillespie, who agreed to give her the walking tour of downtown. The writer decided to bring her husband and two children along for the ride. They re-visited all the old sights; the popcorn stand, Carl’s Bakery, and the historic walking bridge. She said that “it was comforting to see five years hadn’t changed much.”
The group also explored a few new places too. Thorkelson was incredibly impressed by the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum for the first time and said she was surprised more people don’t know about it. The writer also checked off camping in tipis from her travel bucket list at the Upper Sioux Agency State Park. The friendly staff and beautiful natural landscape made the whole experience, in her words, “amazing.”
Thorkelson laments that more people don’t also get to witness the full beauty of this region. “People don’t get out to the prairie like they do the woods and lakes,” the writer concluded. She said it’s a problem that many other smaller towns face, and that a lot of it comes down to publicizing your community. “Getting the word out is a hard thing to do,” she said. “There are so many things to do in Minnesota. I’ve been writing for 20 years, and I’m still finding new things.”
Granite Falls is already well positioned to attract new visitors because of the enthusiasm and dedication our community leaders, Thorkelson says. The writer praised Mary Gillespie, saying that she “has her heart in the right place, [and] wants to bring out the history of the place.” The amicable demeanor of residents, and the charming natural landscape, also help boost Granite’s appeal.
Although Thorkelson isn’t able to visit as often as she would like, she is thankful for her recent experience, and hopes that more people also discover the hidden attraction that first brought her back to, in the words of her grandpa, ‘Garden Spot of America.’