Northern Oasis

Rustic cabins cluster near the lakeshore, a volleyball net is staked in the sand, and the smell of toasted marshmallows emanates from a campfire.

But this is no ordinary summer camp. Instead of tator-tot hotdish, campers feast on tabouleh, hummus, and figs. Lanyard-tying is replaced by belly dancing. Some female counselors wear headscarves. Songs, skits, and signs are all in Arabic.

Welcome to Al-Waha, “the oasis.” Since summer 2006, Concordia Language Villages has offered students ages 8 to 18 the chance to immerse themselves in Arabic language and culture at the camp on Lake Trowbridge, about 10 miles south of Detroit Lakes. Enrollment has averaged 100 campers per summer.

What’s more, the federal government has taken an interest in the program. In 2006, to prepare for future national security and diplomacy needs, President Bush launched an initiative to expand the teaching of so-called “critical” languages—among them, Arabic. The State Department awarded $250,000 to Concordia to develop the Arabic curriculum (in fact, the village was already being built), and later provided nearly $617,000 in grants to fund scholarships for students and teachers learning Arabic (or Chinese) at the villages.

Catherine Ingold, director of the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, which administers the federal scholarship grants, says she hopes the success of the Arabic village will lead to expanded language offerings in schools nationwide.

“This, for us, was a huge undertaking,” says Christine Schulze, the camp’s executive director. Students in the Concordia program not only learn modern standard Arabic, they also learn about the cultures and customs of the 22 countries where Arabic is the official language.

Of course, some camp experiences—like watching the sun set over the lake—require no words. And mosquitoes are pests in any language.


Garden Party

To mark the 20th anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the Walker Art Center has planned a summer-long celebration, with nine events (including mini-golfing), more than 900 film screenings, and 10 concerts. Below are a few additional stats about the green space.

Number of visitors: 6.5 million
Sculptures currently on view: 43
Age of the oldest sculpture, Georg Kolbe’s Junge Frau: 82
Acres designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, architect of the Walker’s 1970 building: 7.5
Acreage after a 1992 expansion designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh: 11.2
Ranking in size among urban U.S. sculpture gardens: 1
Height (in feet) of Black Hills Spruce trees along the garden perimeter in 1988: 4.5
Height (in feet) of spruce today: 40
Number of Minneapolis Parks & Recreation staff who maintain the garden: 5
Number of holes at Walker on the Green mini-golf course, open through September 7: 14

The New North Shore

For decades, North Shore lodging meant sagging beds, tepid showers, and knotty-pine paneling. Rusticity passed for charm. But a newly opened resort—offering such high-end amenities as triple-sheeted beds and services like hot-stone massage—aims to alter such expectations.

The contemporary, three-story town homes of Surfside on Lake Superior, located near Lutsen/Tofte, have soaring floor to ceiling windows, expansive lake views, and kitchens with granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances. They’re equipped with gas fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, wireless Internet, and HDTV-compatible flat-screen televisions. And, in August, the resort will unveil the first full-service spa facility on the North Shore.

Owner Dennis Rysdahl, who also operates Bluefin Bay Resort, says the number of visitors seeking accommodations along Highway 61 continues to increase each year. Rysdahl built Surfside for guests seeking activity and relaxation—in a luxury setting. So slip into something comfortable and say hello to the new North Shore: hike, hot-stone massage, or both?

Darrell Eager

Unscripted Commentary

Edina writer and Mystery Science Theater 3000 veteran Bill Corbett has written a big Hollywood movie about small people from outer space. Meet Dave, starring Eddie Murphy, opens nationwide July 11. Here, Corbett fields a few questions about his Tinseltown debut.
—Laine Bergeson

What inspired Meet Dave?
The idea was: what if there were tiny people who wanted to come to Earth and didn’t want to be noticed but wanted to interact with humans? The model for the little people was basically Star Trek—only their vehicle was a human body.

Was it tough to surrender the movie to the Hollywood machine?
Yes. There are some people with good intentions who can seriously mess up your work. It’s as much the quantity of people involved as the quality. There are so many people to please that a lot of screenplays wind up as gobbledygook.

Do you feel like your artistic vision was compromised?
My idea was for a very silly movie geared for younger people, even kids. Any claims of “my art” being ruined would be shameless.

Do you have kids of your own?

I have a 3-year-old and a 9-month-old. I’m exhausted. Sleep is my new guilty pleasure. I would take it over a good meal, over sex, over alcohol. It’s sort of the holy grail of pleasure.

It’s a big commercial movie. Are you review-ready?
I feel like I’ve thrown enough rotten tomatoes over the years. I can take a few.

What do you think of the finished film?
I haven’t seen it. I won’t see it until the premiere. Unless you’re a Hollywood player and in that world—and I’m not—writers really aren’t a big part of the process after a certain point.

Did you at least get to visit the set?
I did visit the set. I met Eddie Murphy very briefly. He’s very protected. I got a brief handshake and he said, “Hey, how you doing man?”

When the movie opens, what will you be wearing on the red carpet?
A lovely Dior gown.

Minnesota Historical Society

Strange Brew

Hey, buddy, I see you’re drinking a Gluek. Bet you didn’t know it’s not brewed by Gluek, huh? Used to be—until this past April. But then the name was changed to Cold Spring. The brewery, I mean, not the beer. The beer is still Gluek.

Yeah, Cold Spring. Like the town near St. Cloud. That’s where they make it. Biggest brewery in Minnesota. They make energy drinks and Cold Spring, too. The beer, I mean.

Look, it’s simple: This Cold Spring Brewing Company has been around since 1874. In 1997, though, some new guys bought it. And when they found out Cold Spring owned the Gluek label (which is even older than Cold Spring), they started making Gluek beer again and renamed the operation Gluek Brewing Company. Sounds beerier, maybe.

Then five years ago, some different guys bought the brewery. Everything went fine until April, when—eureka!—somebody in the executive suite with too much time on their hands decided to shake things up and, presto: The name is Cold Spring Brewing again.

So now Cold Spring makes Gluek. And Cold Spring. And some other microbrews. The townsfolk are happier, I’ll bet, at least the civic-minded ones.

A Zoo Story

It sounds like the makings of a new reality-TV show: Bring 11 exotic characters together who are by turns violent, adorable, and exhibitionistic. Put them in posh digs, encourage them to preen, and invite the whole world to watch. But it’s not The Real World. It’s “Russia’s Grizzly Coast,” the latest Minnesota Zoo exhibit, a $23.6 million showcase that opens June 7, featuring animals from the Russian Far East. Here’s the inside poop, er, scoop.

 How Many?ProvenanceAstonishing
Career Options
Sea Otters
43 from Alaska,
1 from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium
Otters can scarf 25 percent of their body weight daily. Animal Planet
Amur Leopards
2-3Audubon Nature Institute in New OrleansThey’ve got
a 9-foot vertical leap.
Wild Boars
2 (and maybe
babies on the way?)
A private breeder
in Tennessee
Until the early 20th century, boar hair
was used as toothbrush bristles.
Pet for the
Grizzly Bears
3AlaskaBears spend most daylight hours snoozing—try evening visits to see them
in action.
Forest ranger, campground host

Summer Stocked

Hubbard County, with only 20 people per square mile, isn’t the first place you’d think of as a theater capital, yet the northern vacationland is quickly becoming Minnesota’s Branson. The Woodtick Theatre, in Akeley, draws tour buses to a country/bluegrass/gospel/comedy revue straight out of the Ozarks, as does Jasper’s Jubilee Theater in Park Rapids (with the addition of a magic show). And this month, the Long Lake Theater in Hubbard is opening a second venue—an 1890s church—for its Guys on Ice—style musicals. How did this happen? Is there something in the water? More likely it’s what’s on the water—the theaters are ideally located to draw boaters, anglers, and other vacationers from throughout the north woods, including campers from popular Itasca State Park. After all, you can’t play cribbage every night.

Dance of the Damned

Parisian theatergoers nearly rioted when Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Rite of Spring, which includes a human-sacrifice scene, premiered in 1913. “People went crazy because they hated the music and choreography so much. They started screaming and yelling and rushing the stage,” says Myron Johnson, artistic director of the Minneapolis dance company Ballet of the Dolls, which will mount Rite at the Ritz Theater May 28 to June 8. “It was a huge disaster—and that fascinates me.”

Today, the paean to paganism is rarely performed with dancers: Concerts are the norm. But this year, in addition to the Ballet of the Dolls show (a collaboration with Susana di Palma of Zorongo Flamenco and the avant-garde troupe Live Action Set), you can see Ballet Minnesota’s classical take on Le Sacre du Printemps—in October.

Johnson plans to mix heavy metal music into his show. But he doubts it will evoke the same teeth-grinding the premiere inspired. “I don’t know if people today feel that kind of passion,” Johnson says. “We’re too shy: ‘If I stand up and scream, will anyone else? Will the police come?’ Wouldn’t that be great?”

Boys of Summer

Spend an Afternoon or two at a summer festival, fair, or block party in Minnesota, and you’ll realize some local bands are as ubiquitous as mosquitoes and socks with sandals. Here’s how four of the most prevalent people-pleasers—G. B. Leighton, Tim Mahoney, Martin Zellar, and Soul Asylum—compare.

 G.B. LeightonTim MahoneyMartin ZellarSoul Asylum
Plays gigs dubbed Days or ’tacular, as in St. Louis Parktacular
Shared the stage with Billy Bob Thornton   
Requisite bald guy featured in band 
Is requisite bald guy   
Won two songwriting contests; songs played on Sun Country flights   
Played in Eagles cover band  
MySpace “comments” features women in lingerie  
Fan of Bruce Springsteen 
Springsteen is a fan   
Featured on Cities 97 sampler CDs  
…as often as Counting Crows