Now the other reason I was so happy to be going to Minnesota that October, was to get a chance to go and see the Prairie Home Companion store in the Mall of America. Those of you that know me well, know that Garrison Keillor is one of my heroes. I started listening to these radio programs in 1976, doing my lesson plans for the week as it played in the background. So one night, Melany S., an SLP who came on this trip with me, and I went to the Prairie Home Companion store. I knew that we wouldn't still be in Minnesota on Saturday for the live broadcast, but thought it would be fun to go and see what was in the store. As we browsed and I found some things to buy, I told the clerk that I was sad not to still be in town for the live broadcast. She said, "Well you know that they do a dress rehearsal on Friday nights don't you? There may still be some tickets available." WHAT?! Oh, I was so going!
That Friday Melany, Heidi, and I got in a taxi and went to the Fitzgerald Theater to see the dress rehearsal. We sat on the stage in back of the action as those were the only seats left. I had such a great time! Singing the familiar songs like the Powdermilk Biscuit theme, marveling at the sound effects guy, and listening to Garrison's monologue. WOW! I couldn't believe our luck! The other ladies that came along didn't really know much about Prairie Home Companion, but they enjoyed watching me! Afterwards as we started to go, we noticed some people gathering down in front of the stage. We walked down there and one of the ushers told us that sometimes Garrison would come out and sign autographs. I asked the other ladies if they would mind waiting to see if he would come out that night. They did not mind. So we waited and little by little, more and more people tired of waiting and left. We were talking to one of the ushers and she said, "It looks like Garrison won't be out tonight. They have too many revisions to do and it is getting late. But if you wait for a few minutes, I can take you back to your hotel so that you won't have to get another taxi." This was incredibly kind and although I was disappointed, I understood. So we walked to the lobby to wait. I struck up a conversation with Garrison's sister and as we chatted, I noticed Melany going up to different ushers and theater people and talking, gesturing, and then they would shake their heads, and off she would go to someone else. I thought this was strange, but kept chatting and then all of a sudden, everybody got quiet. I stopped talking and turned around. OMG! It was Garrison himself! I was speechless, truly speechless! He said, "Well hello there young lady! Someone has been telling me that you've been listening to this program for about 30 years. I just thought I would come out and thank you." That's what Melany had been saying to all of these different people! And finally someone went back and persuaded Garrison to take a few minutes and meet us. I am forever indebted to Melany! This was one of my biggest thrills ever. We all chatted for about fifteen minutes and he signed my program. After that we piled into the usher's car for a somewhat scarey ride back to the hotel (this involved the driver going the wrong way on a one way street and having very dim headlights!) However, we made it back in one piece and went to have a glass of wine to celebrate! Good times!