Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” old-time variety radio show has helped make Lake Wobegon famous. A new public radio show debuting this Saturday hopes to bring the same kind of storytelling, humor and music home to the Iron Range.
The “Great Northern Radio Show” premiers on KAXE in Grand Rapids. It will be hosted and produced by Balsam Township author and well-known blogger Aaron Brown, who writes about Iron Range politics and culture. Brown says the show’s format borrows from A Prairie Home Companion, with one very important geographic distinction.
“Everything we do is focused a little north of Lake Wobgeone,” he explains. Think lumberjacks and miners rather than bachelor farmers.
Brown says the show will also incorporate “interviews and feature journalism” that will be woven in with music, comedic sketches and a radio drama — “blended gently like vegetable shavings into a cake.” Brown says that aspect of the show borrows from another one of public radio’s flagship programs, “This American Life.”
On the first show, titled “Hard Time Good Times,” Brown will interview a Range meteorologoist and tornado chaser, philosophy students from Hibbing Community College, and a woman who swims the Iron Range’s abandoned mining pits. Storyteller Ed Nelson from the Grand Rapids Forest History Center will spin a new yarn about the old Range.
Brown says in some ways Iron Range communities are similar to “Lake Wobegone” or other Midwestern small towns. There are no secrets, he explains, and your past always follows you around wherever you go. But on the Range, he says, there’s “so much more open conflict and friction, that’s produced a little bit edgier cultural element than you see in traditional Midwestern lore.”