The annual spring rituals that are underway make for a busy time and a full schedule. Among the highlights of this past week were the annual May 1st opening of the venerable noteworthy Kiwanis Popcorn stand in downtown Granite. The steady line of customers was evidence of a pent-up yearning for a bucket of that special popcorn. Even with the popcorn stand opening a bit earlier than usual last Wednesday, the line quickly grew long enough to keep four Kiwanis volunteers busy. The small stand is a bit cozy for two people and more than a little tight for three. That leaves a fourth volunteer outside, running for much-needed supplies, change and other necessities. Thanks to those diligent volunteers, the line moved right along, making for the biggest opening night ever. Now we know that spring is officially here.

The night before, I did have my doubts about spring weather. An April 30th trip to the Twin Cities included picking up Oregon friend Charley Thompson and then bundling up for a chilly evening of watching the Twins with old friend David Lundquist. We met sons Cody and Seth at Target Field and all huddled under the heat lamps in the stadium’s concourse during the first six innings, staving off the chill with some ball park food and good conversation. Eventually we caved in and took shelter in the stadium’s Town Ball Tavern, near the photo of Granite’s own Richter Field and around the corner from a photo of the 1993 Granite Kilowatts team that won the state amateur baseball tournament. I think those photos provided more warmth than the stadium’s heat lamps. It was a good way to say to good-bye to a chilly April and dream a little about eating popcorn back home.

The sparse crowd at Target Field looked like they were at a football game, mostly wrapped in blankets or dressed in coveralls. Many folks at the game were unrecognizable in their stocking caps, hoods and winter gear but we did manage to spot a couple of familiar faces, including recently-retired Star Tribune editorial columnist Lori Sturdevant, there with her husband and some friends. She agreed that it was hard to recognize folks but thought we looked familiar. Her stocking cap and winter jacket caught me off-guard but we soon recognized her. She was quick to say that she and retired U.S. Senator Dave Durenberger would be out our way the next day on a speaking tour. Their recent book, “When Republicans Were Progressive” has been receiving nice reviews. They were scheduled to speak at SMSU in Marshall and then stop at Pioneer Public Television’s studio here in Granite for a filming of Pioneer’s “Compass” program, with General Manager Les Heen. I told Lori that thanks to Les’ tip about their visit, I planned to meet them at Pioneer the next afternoon.

As might be expected, the next day they were a bit late out of Marshall but that made for some time to chat about Les’ experiences while working at the state Senate and his squint on how this legislative session was unfolding. His background there and working with the Minnesota Farmer’s Union, as well as at KARE 11 television, gives him plenty of insight into the workings at the capitol. I had never met, or even seen, Sen. Durenberger but as soon as they arrived, his affable personality was on display. He and Lori were enjoying their tour of the state, she behind the wheel and he the 85-year-old commentator. They shared a good number of stories about the places they’ve visited and his experiences, first as an aide to Gov. Elmer Anderson and later in the U. S. Senate, where he was the only Republican from Minnesota to be elected three times. Their book looks to be an interesting glance at a time when spending money wasn’t an anathema to Republicans and when compromising on issues was the norm. Sen. Durenberger had close friends on both sides of the political aisle, something that is sorely lacking in these divided times. That seems to be the heart of their message. Thankfully, they both expressed confidence that the pendulum will swing back to less strident, more constructive times. Les’ interview with them was fun to watch and will be broadcast in about three weeks. As they were leaving, they both commented about the beautiful river valley setting here. We suggested a stop downtown and a visit to the popcorn stand but they were running late, and with a trip back to the Twin Cities, their long day was far from over. They both talked about wanting to return and see more. I told them spring is a perfect time to do that.

Along with those other spring rituals this past weekend were the annual YME prom and the Hanley Smelt Fry. We are beyond those days with our kids and not yet there with our grandkids, so we opted to head down the road to Hanley for another spring ritual namely the Hanley fire department’s annual Smelt Fry. Like eating lutefisk, eating smelt is just right, once a year. The crowd at Hanley was good-sized and the conversation with Upper Sioux Tribal chair and Granite Falls fireman Kevin Jensvold was fun. And, his girlfriend and my spouse seemed to tolerate the fascinating topic of wastewater treatment and community needs. A springtime smelt fry can bring out the best.

Another spring ritual happens this weekend with the annual spring clean-up days here in Granite. Be sure to read the ads about the Granite Clean Up Day on Friday, May 10th and Yellow Medicine County’s recycle collection day on Saturday, May 11th. It’s a good time to get rid of those unwanted items that clutter up a basement or garage and afterward, you can reward yourself with a trip to the popcorn stand.