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Published September 02, 2010, 12:00 AM

Humorist Garrison Keillor entertains his fans in Lake Wobegon’s backyard

It was a quiet week in Lake Wobegone. And it was a quiet crowd Wednesday night that gathered at Trollwood Performing Arts School to listen to the fictitious town’s most famous resident.

By: John Lamb, INFORUM

It was a quiet week in Lake Wobegone. And it was a quiet crowd Wednesday night that gathered at Trollwood Performing Arts School to listen to the fictitious town’s most famous resident.

Garrison Keillor brought his folksy humor and harmonies to the south Moorhead location for a stop on his “Prairie Home Companion Summer Love Tour.”

On the first cool night of September, Keillor and his company of musicians kept the crowd warm. Even as rains fell midway through the 2½-hour show, most of the 2,441 in attendance were riveted by the stories and songs.

Dressed in a white linen suit, red tie and matching trademark red socks and shoes, Keillor walked onto the stage without fanfare.

“It’s good to be here with you on the prairie,” Keillor said. “It’s good to be here on the high bank of the wrong-way Red River.”

He worked the last line into his first tune, a humorous variation of “Home on the Range,” with musical guest Sara Watkins joining him on fiddle.

Ever the showman, Keillor immediately broke through the theater’s imaginary fourth wall, strolling into the crowd singing. Many fans took pictures of the writer, but when one offered Keillor a beer, he politely declined.

“Summer love: the desperate desire to be with someone,” he said, describing the show’s theme. “Someone to talk with without feeling the need to be fascinating.”

But ticketholders were fascinated with the Minnesota writer’s low-key delivery.

Fans also took a shine to Watkins, a member of the bluegrass trio Nickel Creek. Her lilting voice soared above Keillor’s deep tone on “Dear Someone” and later on Robert Earl Keen’s “Love’s a Word I Never Throw Around.”

While the show was not broadcast, it featured many of the radio version’s standard bits and characters, like a skit about English majors and the vocal sound effects of Fred Newman, in “Guy Noir Private Eye.”

Keillor acknowledged the radio show’s namesake, Moorhead’s Prairie Home Cemetery just a few miles away, with a history of the final resting place for pioneering Norwegians.

“And here we are on the verge of fall, and fall leads us in one direction, and we need not think about it. I’m sorry I brought it up,” he said.

Keillor again walked up and down the aisles for his signature “news from Lake Wobegone,” which he returned to toward the end of the show.

Predictably, Newman got the biggest laughs as he audibly illustrated Keillor’s description of love-making.

“I’ll remember this crowd,” he said as the show wrapped up to heavier rains, stronger winds and dropping temperatures. “Maybe in my memoir when someone asks about memorable shows, I’ll say, ‘Well, there was this one up in Moorhead in the summer, though it didn’t feel like it … Somehow bad weather made them feel better. Go figure.’ ”

Bad weather or not, fans had a good time.

“This is great. Excellent,” said Stan Ryland of Fargo.


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

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