While creating cartoons is a great way to make a living, even cartoonists need to take vacations once in awhile.

When Sally Forth cartoon illustrator Craig MacIntosh took a vacation at the Berwood Hill Inn between Preston and Lanesboro, he took Sally and her husband, Ted, along for the trip. Sharp-eyed friends of Berwood owner Fran Scibora spotted the obvious, but unidentified inn portrayed in the Aug. 8 comic strip.

When MacIntosh received the story line about Sally and Ted visiting a bed and breakfast, he knew just what to do, MacIntosh said in a telephone interview. A resident of Rosemount, he and his wife had stayed at Berwood a couple times and enjoyed it.

“It’s a wonderful spot… a beautiful piece of country,” he said of the inn.

Not a bad picture

He and his wife had stayed in the Owl’s Nest, a room on the top floor of the inn. MacIntosh took some pictures while he stayed there, from which he made his sketches for Sally Forth.

“The gardens are so magnificent and the house is restored so meticulously… it’s hard to take bad pictures there,” laughed MacIntosh.

“Cartoonists store scenes… the color… the character. Then you call on it when you need it,” he said.

He did refresh his memory a bit when it came time to sketch. MacIntosh went back to his photos and also looked at the inn’s website, www.berwood.com. While Scibora and her employees theorized that MacIntosh must have stayed recently at the inn, it appears he found new additions to the inn – such as the outside lamp and blooming flowers – from the website’s photos.

While he hasn’t showed up in the comic strip yet, Berwood part-time chef Wayne “Vin” Skjelstad also left an impression on MacIntosh.

“That chef was the closest thing to Garrison Keillor,” he said of Skjelstad’s low-key sense of humor, folksy jokes, voice and mannerisms.

Scibora, a Preston High School graduate, was understandably thrilled to see her restored childhood home become Sally Forth’s home-away-from-home in around 700 newspaper comic strips nationwide. She said it also appeared in at least one other frame of the cartoon, but it was much more visible in the Aug. 8 chapter. MacIntosh verified there were two sketches, also noting Berwood was placed a third time in the back of a picnic scene, but was pretty small.

As Sally Forth and husband Ted complete their vacation and comic-strip-stay at the bed and breakfast, this conversation transpired:

Sally: “I can’t believe our stay at the B & B is already over… The last few days I kept hoping time would slow down or stop completely… On the other hand, I guess the fact that a vacation is so fleeting is what makes it so special… Either way, looks like we have to go, huh, Ted?”

Ted: “Unless you get a job making breakfast here and I get one making beds. Then we’d never have to leave.”

Sally: “Great. Then we just have to get Hilary (their daughter) to do the dishes and we can all have the time of our lives.”

Scibora said she had written to MacIntosh through King Features Syndicate, which handles syndication of the comic strip. Laughing as she explained, Scibora wrote MacIntosh that they just happened to have two job openings at Berwood Hill Inn. While MacIntosh apparently missed the job interviews, he confirmed he had received the note.

Publicity

When asked if anyone has ever been upset or disturbed to see something from their “real” world show up in Sally Forth, MacIntosh chuckled and said, “No. Publicity is good.”

He then gave a few examples. In illustrating the first Christmas together for Sally and Ted in the comic strip, MacIntosh said they talked about a Lionel train set. Later, he and Sally Forth writer Greg Howard each received a letter from the wife of the president of the Lionel company as well as a train set.

Unfortunately, someone in the mailroom apparently stole the train sets. When the wife wrote to see how the two men liked their train sets, they told her they appreciated the gesture, but the sets had been stolen.

“She sent a whole new set to our home offices,” said MacIntosh. “I told Greg, we need to do something about Mercedes (in the strip),” he laughed.

He has used shirts from various locales in Sally Forth, often receiving the real shirt in return, as well as a story in the hometown paper. One such example amazed MacIntosh. After a stay at Bluefin Bay on the North Shore, he put its tiny lettering on a shirt. Noting it was minute by the time what he drew was reduced to comic strip size, MacIntosh didn’t know how anyone could read it. But someone did.

Sally Forth history

MacIntosh started illustrating Sally Forth in September of 1991. He explained Twin Cities attorney Greg Howard started the comic strip in 1982. Howard both wrote and illustrated the strip himself until he asked MacIntosh – at that time an editorial cartoonist at the Star Tribune – to join the effort.

Howard had told MacIntosh he could change the characters and their styles. He did – and there was a backlash against the changes.

“We had to re-do three to four months of artwork so the people would accept it,” said MacIntosh.

After working four days at the Star Tribune and one day a week on Sally Forth, he quit to do the comic strip full time in May of 1992. He would occasionally contribute to the style, but now just draws it.

Around 2000 or 2001, Howard sold the idea to King Features Syndicate, while acting as what MacIntosh called “supreme editor.”

Two guys were writing Sally Forth, according to MacIntosh, and now it is done by one of them, Francesco Marciuliano.

The illustrations by MacIntosh take quite a route to reach publication. He said they are done in black-and-white. The later colors are marked in by colored pencils and numbers, which denote specific colors.

The strip is first sent to Orlando, Florida for proofing and then to Buffalo, New York for printing.

Over the years, MacIntosh has tried to keep Sally Forth true to her Minnesota roots. “Greg (Howard) and I would get together once a week. We’d try to keep a distinct Midwest flavor. I still try to keep that intact,” he said.