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Clay, Cars, and Crazy Fun Events

An Old Highway 61 Blog by Gail Gates

I finally figured out the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.

–Rita Mae Brown

So, there I was, on a normally quiet highway, completely jammed up. A harried young man tried his best to direct cars to enter and leave politely, but horns were honking, and middle fingers were waving. Why all the fuss? It was the annual St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour, held each year on Mother’s Day weekend, and it was busy. People were excited to be out on a sunny spring day looking at extraordinary pottery from makers nationwide (and one potter from England!). In other words, this studio pottery tour is a big deal, and it crisscrosses Old Hwy. 61 like an enticing corset attempting to contain it all.

Since I was interested in taking photos and observing people, I chose two stops…Host Matthew Krousey outside of Stark, MN, and hosts Will Swanson and Janel Jacobson near Sunrise, MN. Each stop included guest potters and various pottery styles, food, and drink. The level of artistry is drool-worthy, and I had to pace myself not to feel overwhelmed.

Of course, being exposed to fabulous art gets other appetites engaged, so I also stopped at North Folk Winery in Stark, MN, for libations—one doesn’t want to become dehydrated—and at my beloved Kaffe Stuga, Harris, MN, for lunch. Seriously, try not to miss the pottery tour in 2025!

On June 1st, another Old Highway 61 road trip found Dee Kotaska, Mike Gainor, and me heading to the 210 Gallery and Art Center in Sandstone, MN. (The three of us have formed what we call “Digital Mischief” and try to have a photo gallery at least once a year if possible. This year, we will have two galleries together, with the second at the Pine Center for the Arts, Pine City, MN, in September!)

The amusing part of the June 1st road trip was that I was to meet Dee and Mike at what I thought was the only Thai food café in Pine City, MN, the Lotus Thai Café. As I pulled into the side street off Old Highway 61, where the café is, I realized I had driven into the flow of the classic car show being held…and my vehicle was sorely out of place. I smiled and waved as people gave me curious stares. Uff. I had no idea how I would get through the barriers to escape. Finally, a kind man reasonably asked what I was doing. I explained I was trying to get to the Lotus Café, and he said he’d move the barriers for me so I could go elsewhere. Hint, hint.

It was only afterward that I realized I was to meet Dee and Mike at Keziah’s Kitchen—another Thai café! Who knew Pine City has TWO Thai places to eat? Obviously, not me.

Despite my driving debacles, I dearly love all the fun and summer events along Old Highway 61 and surrounding areas. I hope you, too, will find your happy place and magic memories in one or more of the events yet to come. Here are a few, with more to be found on the calendar on the Old Hwy. 61 website.

Summer is short! Live it fully.

  • North Branch Midsummer Days — June 20-23
  • Hinckley Corn and Clover — July 12 & 13
  • Moose Lake Agate Days — July 13 & 14
  • Pine County Fair, Pine City, — July 31 – Aug 4
  • Stacy Daze, Stacy, MN — Aug. 2 – 4
  • Sandstone Quarry Days, — Aug 9 & 10
  • Carlton County Fair, Barnum, MN — Aug 15 – 18

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