Our identity after Prairie Home considered

Garrison Keillor made an hour-and-fifteen minute encore at Tanglewood on Saturday night, an extraordinary performance in one of his final shows before retiring from A Prairie Home Companion. It was his final live broadcast.

“Every year they strive to prolong the encore beyond the all-time record, which I believe is 75 minutes,” Keillor told the Berkshire Eagle’s Clarence Fanto, the person to whom Keillor announced last year that he’s retiring. “We stand out on stage and sing and they sing with us and the cows come home and nobody leaves. This happens nowhere else in America.”

Whatever affinity the East Coast has for Minnesota has come largely because of the image of the place created by Keillor.

Has that made it easier or harder to be a Minnesotan in the outside world?

It’s unusual for Minnesotans to speak ill of the retiring. That didn’t stop Jerry Anderson, of Eagan, in the Star Tribune yesterday.

How the reputation of Minnesota has changed during the past 39 years! Recently, a friend in Colorado told me his manager highlighted a promotion opportunity in Minneapolis during a large-group meeting.

He said that the crowd reaction was universal groans. And when the manager protested that “the bad winters are exaggerated,” someone in the room responded, “It’s not the weather; it’s living among all those morons.” The room erupted in laughter, with several people referencing “that [public radio] show about Minnesota.”

Once known as a progressive, forward-looking place with cold winters, Minnesota now has the reputation of being populated mostly by bovine, passive-aggressive, mush-eating nincompoops. Keillor’s “Lake Wobegon” has defined Minnesota to the millions of people who have heard the program on the radio or have attended his road shows around the globe.

Sadly, most of these fans are highly educated, liberal people who, if they knew the real Minnesota, would be likely big fans of our state.

It will take a very long time for the “Cold Appalachia” image of Minnesota that Mr. Keillor has so vividly planted in the minds of influential people around the world to fade. Let’s hope his retirement will bring a swift end to Lake Wobegon as well!

Jerry may not really be from here.

“Prairie Home Companion has succeeded well in at least one way; it has kept us pure and shielded us from those Californians and Coloradans to which you refer,” a defender countered.

Let’s consider this. Once A Prairie Home Companion — or at least its Minnesotaness — disappears, what is our image to the bubs in Colorado and elsewhere?