Girlfriend's Getaway Shop Hop is May 19 and 20. I love this collaboration of small boutique shops in Montevideo and Granite Falls. Each store has their own sales and also donates merchandise for a grand prize basket. To enter the drawing customers must post on facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #ggshophop. A Sip and Paint class is offered on May 19 at the K.K. Berge Gallery as part of the weekend's activities. Follow their Facebook page: shopsofgranitefallsandmontevideo/. It's an example of working together as a region which is something that we need to do more of in this area.

I'd love to see more shopping events like this possibly along Hwy 212 or the Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway. A byway long garage sale was tried for a few years without much success, but I think a shorter version would be easier and a great way to get people shopping and visiting our small towns. There are many examples of very successful long market or garage sales like the 100 mile garage sale along the Mississippi River Trail. When outsiders look at moving here, they may look at living in one town, working in another town and shopping, playing and dining out in a third city. I was a meeting last week with representatives from the SWIF foundation's southwest Minnesota area. The discussion centered around whether a regional recruitment approach was possible.

We saw lots of websites from areas and entire states like South and North Dakota that create a website with stories and links to jobs and housing to recruit people. This has already started with the five county Prairie Waters area which includes Chippewa, Yellow Medicine, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Big Stone Counties. These counties have a history of working together on tourism with Western Minnesota Prairie Waters tourism. #GetRural MN is the regional recruitment slogan and hashtag for this program which will eventually include a one stop shopping website for potential newcomers. Each town in the area will have its own page as well as information about housing, employment, schools, hospitals and life style.

Right now, the centerfold pullout map of the new Prairie Waters printed guide has some information about "Get Rural." The beautiful professional photographs and videos are available for cities, chambers and businesses to use on their own websites. These include aerial drone shots too. If you're interested in accessing these photographs, send an e-mail to and I'll send you the dropbox link.