Garrison Keillor interacts with Peggy Hanson of Lanesboro during one of the skits in his program.
Garrison Keillor interacts with Peggy Hanson of Lanesboro during one of the skits in his program.
It might've been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, but man, Lanesboro and Mr. Keillor were rockin' the rhubarb.

You betcha...the Fillmore County DFL hosted its fundraiser last Wednesday evening, welcoming author and red-shoed radio man Garrison Keillor to the stage at the Lanesboro Community Center.

The Chatfield Brass Band Jazz Combo warmed up the crowd with its collaborative, spirited trumpet-and-sax groove, "Accordion Nation" performed some serious bellows-based choruses, then the "Rutabaga Brothers" brought the house to its feet with covers of Chicago blues tunes and Bob Dylan's "Times are A'Changin'," after which the Lanesboro-famous "Rhubarb Sisters" charmed the audience with "Rhubarb Pie," a Keillor Prairie Home Companion classic and "What Do We Do With the Extra Rhubarb?", sung to the tune of "Drunken Sailor."

Before Keillor took the stage, District 28B Senate candidate Jack Krage spoke, noting, "I'm not a villain...I'm just your average short guy," working toward "finding common ground and working together to get Minnesota back where it used to be, as the most progressive state in the Union."

District 28B House candidate Ken Tschumper followed Krage, raising the microphone to his level before sharing that his concerns are about "taking back democracy" and paying very close attention to climate change, as "the rate of climate change is much faster than people thought five years ago."

He said he will also focus on the worries of the middle and lower classes, as "poor people do not have time to worry about climate change, and the middle class is worried about slipping out of the middle, so they can't be allies."

Once introduced, Keillor told how he views the role of political parties to be juxtaposed, as they used to be able to work together.

"There's a point where we have to reach out to other people in order to have a decent society," he stated. "You can lead a pretty good life on $30,000 to $50,000 a year until you need to be protected, until you have a stroke. What made America great is that we gave each other a chance to be the best people we could be. That's why our ancestors came to America - to get away from the feudal system, so their children could have equal opportunities. I've met so many parents who are in serious trouble. My daughter has a learning disability, and I know that parents will do everything to give a kid a chance...it's time this society helps give those parents a chance."

He related that a family from Ramsay County has brought their wheelchair-bound son to his shows at the Fitzgerald Theatre for years, equipped with everything he needs to make his life as rich as their own lives.

"Ramsay County has gone all out to give that kid a chance to have a life and not be put in a warehouse," he added.

Keillor pointed out that current proposed Republican budgeting "has enormous holes in the safety net that keeps people from falling" through health care and education system cracks, and that he feels that is a travesty.

Following his appearance onstage, Keillor stated in an interview, "Every industrialized country, except this one, has a national health care plan. It's about 10 percent of the people in the population that incurs about 60 percent of the cost of health care. There's no reason to blame that 10 percent. Something can happen to anybody, and there's no reason to blame them. People are being cared for in emergency rooms, the expensive way. It's a terribly inefficient, costly way of dealing with problems. The simple, garden-variety problems land people in an emergency room that's set up for intensive care. There are a lot of problems with the healthcare system, the costs are an outrage...it's an issue, and I think it shouldn't be."

And no Garrison Keillor appearance would be complete without tales of his childhood, the familiar things upon which he based his books, beginning with "Lake Wobegon Days," the stories intermingled with his reality, or perhaps, his reality intermingled with the stories, memories he reflected upon with the audience's rapt attention.

"I wanted to be on the football team when I was going into seventh grade," he recounted, but if you were going to be on the football team, you had to go downtown for a physical at the doctor's office. I went downtown, and the doctor listened, found a click in my heart, and thanks to that click in my heart, instead of becoming a professional football player, I became a professional writer at the age of 13, working at an old typewriter."

He recalled how he was a tall, gangly youth who "didn't know how to ask for what I wanted, and I thought that if I refused when someone asked what I wanted, they would ask again, and on the third inquiry, I could accept."

Fortunately, he had a friend who "knew how to ask for what he wanted, and since I had made him laugh once, the biggest laugh he'd ever had...it was probably one of those things like 'Why do gorillas have big nostrils? Because gorillas have big fingers,' and it happened to be at junior high lunch, and I told him the joke just as he ate some tapioca pudding...which came out his nose in great strings, he knew to ask for what I wanted...to go out with Christine Peterson."

The bard cited how he went on a date with Christine Peterson in his father's car, both of them carrying their swimsuits to change into once they arrived at the lake, how he went off into the woods to change, she stayed in the car to change, and how they didn't go swimming. They just sat on the shore and talked, then threw away the sandwiches his mother had made so that she would think he'd been out and enjoyed a wholesome afternoon with a nice girl. Which he had. The pair climbed back into the car, he dropped her off and went home.

Shortly thereafter, his father departed in the family car, bound for church at the Brethren, but turned the car around swiftly, having found a pair of girl's underpants under the seat.

Keillor continued, "He asked, 'How could you? How could you? What have we done wrong? How could you?' And I was thinking, 'Finally, I'm being accused of a sin I wish I would have committed'."

Keillor concluded, "I wrote my stories about our parents, the people who were children who grew up in hardship, cheerful people who grew up in hard times...our ancestors. March forward and be true to what you believe in."

After he led the audience in singing "America the Beautiful," the "Rhubarb Sisters" rounded out the show with a sing-along, presenting Keillor with a signed copy of a song dedicated to him, an ode to rhubarb and all its uses.