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Minnesota ‘Legacy weekends’ to debut in Alexandria area

An unusual partnership grown from Legacy Amendment funds will debut this weekend in west-central Minnesota as art and history exhibits — and plenty more events — aim to draw midwinter tourists.

An unusual partnership grown from Legacy Amendment funds will debut this weekend in Alexandria and Glenwood in west-central Minnesota as art and history exhibits, a play, an ice fishing tournament, skiing, snowshoeing and a wine-and-chocolate tasting hope to draw midwinter tourists.

And you can eat minnows and have people watch you do it.

The events, from Friday through Sunday, are organized to highlight how Legacy funds are used around the state. Promoting the Valentine’s weekend festivities are Explore Minnesota, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts and Conservation Minnesota.

The idea is to build “Legacy weekends” at the locations that have benefited from the dollars provided by the 2008 Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which raised the state sales tax for outdoors, history and arts projects. Twelve communities have signed up.

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A full list of the locations and dates can be found here.

“It’s amazing how the amendment has affected every county, every community,” said Paul Austin, executive director of Conservation Minnesota. “The money is going to so many places people care about.”

More than $211 million has been awarded to projects around Minnesota. I’d like to be able to give you a dollar amount for the Alexandria area, but it’s difficult to get a handle on the total number of grants, recipients and locations; the state is still working on a website that tracks the money. “In a report about two weeks ago, we called for improvements in transparency,” Austin said.

Austin and Sheila Smith, executive director of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, came up with the idea for the weekends after reading and watching the discussion over Legacy funding in St. Paul.

“The news focus seems to be on the debate at the Capitol, not on the actual programs that are funded,” Austin said. “1.6 million people voted for this thing two years ago. People want to see the results.”

Both Douglas and Pope counties have received funds, including the local Soil and Water Conservation District and the Lake Region Arts Council. “Local residents and people throughout the state of Minnesota will be shown how the Legacy funds were used locally,” said Sara Stadtherr of the Alexandria Hotel & Hospitality organization. A list of the weekend events can be found here.

Conservation projects often get the public’s attention, and it seems like the highly popular Sertoma Club and Viking Sportsmen’s annual ice fishing tournament is a natural fit for an event like this. I might suggest entering the minnow-eating contest near Lake Minnewaska, or I might not.

At the other end of the taste spectrum is the local community education group, which is offering the wine-and-chocolate fete. I feel more confident about suggesting this event.