Certainly the annual Meander: Upper Minnesota Art Crawl is a celebration of the artists at their individual and collective studios. Yet, in the 13 years that first weekend of October has also seen communities rally round with this same spirit of fun and cooperation.

Certainly the annual Meander: Upper Minnesota Art Crawl is a celebration of the artists at their individual and collective studios. Yet, in the 13 years that first weekend of October has also seen communities rally round with this same spirit of fun and cooperation.

This year’s Meander, which starts at noon on Friday, September 30, and runs until 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 2, follows that tradition. “Visitors who venture into the Minnesota River Valley have become accustomed in being welcomed by our friendly, smiling artists,” said Kristi Fernholz, Senior planner and CERT West Central Coordinator with the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Develop-ment Commission, and who is also a Meander artist with her fine art photographs of the native prairie. “It’s great seeing our communities so actively participate in that spirit as well.”

The small town of Watson returns to the fun this year by offering an evening of music by noted prairie musician Jerry Ostensoe. He’ll perform at the Historic Watson Town Hall on Friday starting at 7 p.m.

Also on Friday is the Granite Falls Area Chamber of Commerce’s creative opening night event of a “Musical Chairs” progressive dinner that includes exhibiting Meander artists paired with local musicians at five different locations. Granite Falls has traditionally offered opening night events over the years, including dinners at Prairie Edge Casino with such prairie luminaries as the late Bill Holm as well as street plays along the town’s River Walk. “We’re very excited about our Musical Chairs event,” said Chamber organizer Mary Gillespie. “It promises to be fun and a little different from what we’ve done before.”

And, as in the past, the Dawson-Boyd Arts Association will feature a concert by New Standards Trio at the Dawson Memorial Auditorium on Saturday starting at 7:30 p.m. 

“Every year, the Arts Association searches for a Minnesota-based group to perform during Meander Weekend. This year, The New Standards is the perfect group for this great celebration of the arts in western Minnesota,” says performing arts director Luanne Fondell. Tickets are available in advance online at www.dawsonboydarts.org or at the door and are $15 for adults and $5 for students.

She added, “The New Standards started in 2005 as an off-shoot project between Minneapolis-based musicians and friends Chan Poling (piano), Steve Roehm (vibes) and John Munson (bass) and has grown into a globe-spanning adventure, filling theaters and clubs around the world, spawning several CDs, videos, cartoons, dance/theater and projects that have charmed and delighted an ever-multiplying legion of faithful fans. All three performers are fans of great songwriting and their concerts — in a stripped-down acoustic setting — make room for solos and arrangements that include the modest soul of pop and rock.”

Ostensoe’s performance culminates the Watson summer arts series, Renewing Watson: Art, Music, and Engagement in our Community, said organizer Gette Jones. This series has highlighted Historic Watson Town Hall as the cultural heart of the community, including drama, music, visual art, poetry and storytelling.

Ostensoe, sometimes called the “Lawrence Welk of the Prairie” for his story telling ballads, plays a variety of original songs with bluesy folk covers. “We are always excited about having Jerry play. With a voice that’s true to the region, he sings about trains, love, the wind and what’s just over the hill. Jerry writes songs with a sincerity and passion that comes with knowing a place well. His sets combine easy listening and toe-tapping jams for an evening of pure musical enjoyment,” said Jones.

Tickets are $15 for 21 and over, $10 under 21, and $5 for those 12 and under.
Said Gillespie of Granite’s progressive dinner, “We are pairing our dinner locations with our local artists at each location, and each location will have live music by local musicians. While there is a charge for each of the  menu offerings, a city bus will shuttle people between all the locations free of charge. Customers can play ‘musical chairs’ or simply stay in one location.”

Here is a list of the locations with the artists and musicians:
•  Appetizers on 7th Ave., from 5 to 7 p.m., with host Meander artist Gene Stukel and music by Con Alegria at the Granite Bowl, will offer samples from Carl’s Bakery, Jimmy’s Pizza, Kiwanis Popcorn Stand and Granite Bowl from $1 to $2 per offering. 

• A Wild Rice Salad will be served at the American Legion from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

• A Soup and Breadstick course is offered for $4.25 at Dallas II between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. pairing Meander.

• The entree, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce or Chicken Fettuccine, will cost $8 at the Granite Falls Golf Course Restaurant from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

• Desert will be served at Bootlegger’s Supper Club from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., featuring a choice between Peach Crisp, a Brownie Sundae or a Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae. The cost is $5.99 each.

“A drawing will be held at 10 p.m. at Bootleggers for the Meander art pieces that were displayed at each location by the artists,” said Gillespie. “To be eligible, you must visit all five locations. However, you don’t need to be present to win

 “We are excited about the various offerings from these neighboring communities,” said Fernholz. “As we move forward, hopefully more communities will join in the festivities.”