2023 Year in Review: Taking a look back on the arts, entertainment and history celebrations, milestones – West Central Tribune


— The vibrant and creative arts and entertainment scene in west central Minnesota continued to deliver in 2023 with important book releases, significant anniversaries and projects that brought joy to hundreds. From quilts to puppets and from fairs to parades, there was much to enjoy and to learn over the last 12 months.

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Patty Wetterling holds a photograph of her late son, Jacob Wetterling, in her hands on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. Patty keeps the photograph in her wallet, keeping his memory close to her at all times.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Patty Wetterling opens the door wide on Jacob’s story with help from New London blogger Joy Baker

Thirty-four years after Jacob Wetterling was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered by Denny Henirch, Jacob’s mother Patty Wetterling is telling the story of her own long search, hope and heartbreak.

Wetterling and New London blogger Joy Baker wrote “Dear Jacob: A Mother’s Journey of Hope,”

a book not only about the criminal case around Jacob’s disappearance but also the impacts it had not just on the Wetterling family but the state as a whole.

Wettering said she wanted to share not only the more personal side of the story with the public but also the lessons she learned over the years. Baker, who helped crack the mystery of what happened to Jacob, wanted the world to know about all the work Wetterling did over the years to keep children safe.

The book was

published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press and released Oct. 17


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Lac qui Parle Valley music teacher Nichole Markworth, pictured far left, and New London Spicer band director Caitlin Becks, third from right, marched with the Band Directors Marching Band in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 23, 2023, in New York. They are pictured with the other Minnesota teachers who took part.

Contributed / Caitlin Becks

Band directors march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade

Two music teachers from west central Minnesota spent Thanksgiving with several million other people in New York City.

New London-Spicer Public Schools

band director Caitlin Becks and

Lac qui Parle Valley Public Schools

music teacher Nichole Markworth joined 400 fellow band and music teachers in the Band Directors Marching Band, which made its

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

debut this year. Not only did the band march and play during the famous parade, but it also held a moving performance at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

For both Becks and Markworth,

being part of the Band Directors Marching Band was a huge honor

and an amazing experience. Not only did they get to march in one of the most famous parades, but were also able to meet and learn from other music teachers from across the nation. Markworth said being part of the band also proves just how far a person can go in life, no matter their background or where they are from.

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Denny Baker stands in front of the rabbits and poultry barn at the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Baker steps away after 50 years with the Kandiyohi County Fair

For a man who never really grew up taking part in the county fair, Denny Baker definitely made the summer tradition a huge part of his life. He would serve

50 years on the Kandiyohi County Fair Board

, including 15 years as president, as well as 14 years on the Minnesota State Fair Board of Managers. After half of century immersed in everything “fair,” Baker made the decision to retire in 2023.

Baker helped direct the fair through ups and downs — from maintaining and repairing existing buildings and constructing new barns, to good and bad weather and good or bad attendance years and even talks of moving the fairgrounds. There have been 50 years of grandstand entertainment and car races, livestock shows, 4-H projects, carnival rides and games and awarding ribbons for the best quilt, cookie, pumpkin and photo.

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Lac qui Parle County celebrated 150 years of its county fair in 2023.

Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

The Little Minnesota State Fair celebrates 150 years

When the

Lac qui Parle County Fair

started being called the Little Minnesota State Fair is unclear, but what is crystal clear is the fair in Madison has been entertaining crowds for 150 years.

The first fair was held in 1873 to highlight the agricultural bounty of the county. Even today, the fruits of the land play a huge role in the fair, as does a vast array of entertainment for fairgoers to enjoy.

Highlights in the fair’s history included the first carnival in 1903, electricity in 1905, a public wedding in 1931, art exhibits, political speakers, and the introduction of motorcycle and then car races as transportation technologies changed. The American pastime of baseball was a draw for many years, and Minnie Pearl of Grand Ole Opry fame visited in 1954.

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Swift County 4-H and quilt club members worked together to create 75 quilts for veterans that will live at the new Veterans Home in Montevideo.

Contributed / Becca Turnquist, Swift County 4-H

Swift County 4-Hers make quilts for vets

For several months, members of Swift County 4-H clubs and quilt clubs measured, cut, ironed, sewed and

tied dozens of quilts that will be gifted to the first residents of the new Montevideo Veterans Home

. Those participating wanted to give the veterans a bit of home in their new home. Between 150 and 200 Swift County 4-H members took part in the quilt project.

Bonnie Kluver, of Kerkhoven, came up with the project as a way to honor her father, World War II veteran George Kluver, who in his later years took up quilting and making quilts for veterans.

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Pete Talbot of Minneapolis helps Ezra Payne, 5, of Benson form a corn kernel for a corn cob prop during a puppet build day at the Little Theatre Auditorium in New London on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Puppets take over New London

New London celebrated the autumnal equinox in 2023 with a very special parade.


HarvestFest puppet parade

, filled with creations made by both professional puppet artists and community members, showcased what makes the New London area special, marched down the streets on town on Sept. 23. The puppets showcased important people in New London’s story, nature in and around the New London lakes region and food and the harvest.

Community puppet-making workshops saw artists painting, gluing, and building puppets of all shapes, sizes, and types. There were beautiful wood ducks, a huge ear of corn, and more head-sized vegetables. Spectacular puppets from the Twin Cities also made appearances during the parade. The parade also relied on people power, as adults and kids were needed to move the puppets through the parade.

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Lee Kanten of Ortonville is this year’s Southwest Minnesota Arts Council Prairie Disciple for his arts work in and around his community.

Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

Kanten named SMAC Prairie Disciple

Lee Kanten, a filmmaker and musician of Ortonville, has used his creative spirit to help his community for years.

In 2023, the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council recognized that work by

naming Kanten this year’s Prairie Disciple

. The award is given annually to mark the winner’s involvement, activities, volunteerism and advocacy in the arts in their community and the 18-county SMAC region.

Kanten has used his skills in film production and music to help various organizations and individuals over the years. He created films for the

Big Stone Health Care Foundation

, held jam sessions and open mic events for the public and performs regularly at nursing homes and for residents of the Divine House. He also enjoyed working with the disabled community as well as continuing his performances at nursing homes and volunteering with the

Big Stone Arts Council


Kanten said he plans to continue his artistic volunteerism in Fairmont, where he and his wife planned to move at the end of 2023.

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The Clara City Falls Arts and Craft show celebrated its 50th year in 2023.

Contributed / Briggs Motley Promotions

Clara City Arts and Craft Fair celebrates 50 years

Generations have been shopping until they drop at the

Clara City Fall Arts and Craft Fair by Briggs and Motley Promotions

, both of which marked their 50th anniversary in 2023.

Now led by mother-daughter team Sherron Thein and Janine Hubbard, Briggs and Motley also holds a spring show in Clara City, plus a handful of other arts and craft vendor fairs across west central Minnesota.

The fall Clara City show is the main event for Thein and Hubbard, bringing together more than 170 different vendors offering tons of unique shopping experiences. The entire show, from the vendors to the shoppers to Briggs and Motley and the community of Clara City, is built around family and it has become a tradition for thousands.

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