In early February, several staff members at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater discovered something one wouldn’t normally expect to encounter at a high-security prison: an underground tunnel.
As it turned out, none of the prisoners were missing, and the tunnel, located in the basement of one of the complex’s buildings, wasn’t anywhere close to being completed—which is not to say it wasn’t something special. In fact, state corrections officials would later call the passageway “well-hidden and sophisticated” and confirm that the corridor was big enough for a person to fit through.
As alarming and, frankly, impressive as the tunnel was, I have to admit that, upon hearing the news, I felt a tinge of empathy for the burrowers. After all, is there anybody who’s lived through a Minnesota winter who hasn’t wanted to escape at some point?
I suspect that the impulse to get away may be stronger than ever this winter, and not just because the weather is likely to be, well, our weather. Let’s just look at the last few months alone, shall we? We’ve witnessed one of the state’s most prominent businessmen accused of perpetrating a massive fraud; we’ve sat through a blizzard of brutal and sometimes contemptible election-year advertising; and—oh, right—we’ve seen our economy crumble faster than month-old bundt cake. It’s been that kind of year.
With all that in mind, we wanted to do our part here at Minnesota Monthly. No, we’re not going fix the economy (though I’m pretty confident that if you gave us a little time, a fresh pot of coffee, and several hundred billion dollars, we could come up with something). But we have tried to offer a few ideas that will make the coming months a little more bearable.
First, there’s our winter travel package. Whether you’re looking to play in the snow, soak up some sun, or take in the cultural scene of another city for a few days, we offer some easy and affordable ways to get away this winter. Given the economic climate, however, we know that a lot of people are planning on sticking close to home this year. So we also put together a local winter-survival guide, a sort of to-do list for culturally conscious Minnesotans. From classes and lectures to music, theater, and visual-art events, the package offers a myriad of ideas for getting out and about over the next few months.
Finally, you’ll also find an escape of a different sort in this issue: writer Erin Peterson’s entertaining look back at five decades of the Brave New Workshop, the comedy group started by an erstwhile circus performer named Dudley Riggs. As Peterson’s story illustrates, over its not-so-short lifespan, Riggs’s group has become one of the most influential comedy groups in the country, largely because of its willingness to make people think as well as laugh. It’s a vivid reminder that sometimes the best escapes aren’t about getting away at all: They’re about getting to a place where you aren’t seeing the world the same way. Though I’m pretty sure there are some guys in Stillwater who might not entirely agree.