The 9th Annual Meander Upper Minnesota River Arts Crawl will celebrate its Opening Night on Friday, October 5th.

The 9th Annual Meander Upper Minnesota River Arts Crawl will celebrate its Opening Night on Friday, October 5th with two performances of a special outdoor “walking theater” play highlighting the 11,000 year history of the Minnesota River in 45 minutes through the voices of local actors and musicians.

Two performances of the play Granite Falls: A Meandering River Walk will be held at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Main Street Granite Falls. The audience will follow the actors as they walk along the river, tell stories, dance and sing songs. The event is free and open to the public and is an opening ceremony for the Meander Weekend which showcases the entire Upper Minnesota River Valley and all the art, culture and natural beauty it has to offer.

Volunteers from the Montevideo and Granite Falls area are the actors for the play written by Andrew Gaylord who based the play on interviews with local people about the history of Granite Falls and the cast of characters who have lived along the Minnesota River which runs through the heart of downtown.

The Twin Cities based Gaylord is a director, playwright and musician who has been teaching junior high and high school humanities and theatre for nine years. He received his MA degree from Saint John’s University where he explored the relationship between art and maintaining healthy community. In addition to the script, Gaylord has composed three original songs for the play. Musical accompaniment for the singing actors will be provided by a band that includes guitarists Taylor Jarman of Montevideo and Darren Schweiger of Milan and violinist Phil Kelly of Granite Falls.

Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski will play the role of Andrew Volstad, the famous Congressman who wrote and introduced landmark legislation – The Capper Volstad Act -- that enabled farmers to organize cooperatives. Samuel Hathaway of Montevideo will be playing the role of Henry Hill – the visionary founder of the town, as well as the character of Dr. Lewis Jordan superintendent of the Riverside Sanatorium in Granite Falls.

Other Granite Falls citizens with starring roles include Wink Lundell who will play the role of pioneer Joseph Fortier. Lila Lindberg will play the role of Ella Deloria – the granddaughter of a fur trader and Native American who left writings recording her perspective on the early days of Granite Falls’ history. Granite’s first school teacher – Addie Register is played by Beth Pullman who also plays her violin in the play ..

In all, there are more than 30 characters and musicians who comprise the cast. “It is an amazine collaboration between the small towns of the Upper Minnesota River Region and creative people from the Twin Cities,” stated Patrick Moore, Executive Director of Clean Up the River Environment (CURE), which has raised funds to put on the production. “Extras are still needed to fill out some of the scenes – if anyone is still interested in being part of the show we have rehearsals on Saturday, Sept. 22 and Sunday, Sept. 23rd where more people can get involved,” Moore added. “This is an exceptional show you will proud to be a part of – the talent and the story line are coming together for once in a lifetime event.”

The entire project was the brainchild of producer/director Ashley Hanson of Minneapolis who holds an MA degree in Applied Theater from the University of Manchester (UK), with a focus on the role of theater in rural communities. She currently works for the Minnesota Theater Alliance, writes and directs issue-based theater with SOS for Youth and is a founding member of the Yes: Lets Collective