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Garrison Keillor coming to Detroit Lakes April 27

Garrison Keillor, photographed in St. Paul on Sept. 14, 2015, will be giving a free presentation at the Detroit Lakes Public Library on April 27. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

A 15-year quest by Detroit Lakes Public Library Director Mary Haney has finally come to fruition: Garrison Keillor is coming to DL on April 27 to do a free presentation at the library.

"We've had a long history of bringing Minnesota's 'literary lights' to our library to speak," says Haney. "He's one of the few that we've never had here."

But the author, humorist and founder of Minnesota Public Radio's "Prairie Home Companion" is doing a "Gratitude Tour" this spring, with stops at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth on April 23, Bemidji State University on April 24, the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph on April 25, Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter on April 26 and Moorhead's Concordia College on April 28.

So it made sense when he emailed the library's public services supervisor, Deb Wahl, to ask, "Would April 27 work?" — but both Wahl and Haney were somewhat flabbergasted.

"I was in shock," said Wahl.

"We both were," Haney agreed.

Wahl had been in touch with Keillor's publicist at "Prairie Home Companion" almost weekly for the past several years, trying to work out a date for him to make the trip to Detroit Lakes — but it wasn't until Keillor retired from PHC last fall, and took over his own publicity, that her persistence paid off.

"This December, they said they no longer handled his publicity, but I could try emailing him directly, and they gave me his address," Wahl said.

So she sent off a message almost immediately, and one day, when she looked at her inbox, there was a response. After confirming the date, Wahl began corresponding with him to try and work out the details. A longtime supporter of public libraries and bookstores, Keillor said he would do the presentation in Detroit Lakes at no cost to them.

"His last email to me said, 'No need for mileage, or lodging, or a (speaking) fee," Wahl said.

Because of that, they decided the event would likewise be a free presentation, to be held at the library.

"We've never charged anything for an event at the library," Haney said. "Everything is free."

But because seating is limited — the children's services area, which is the largest open space they have, Wahl said, has room for about 100-120 chairs — they knew they would nevertheless need to make it a ticketed event.

In order to make distribution of the tickets as fair and equitable as possible, Haney added, they decided they would hold a drawing.

"On March 1, people can start put their names into the drawing at the library, either online or in person," she said, adding that phone entries would not be accepted. "Then on March 27, we will draw names for the available tickets. We're hoping that this is a fair method, and we're giving everyone an equal opportunity."

Wahl said that every person whose name was drawn would receive two tickets, though if they didn't want the extra one for some reason, they could put it back into the drawing. All tickets will be general admission, with no reserved seats, she added.

"We're expecting that this will basically be a sellout," Haney said. "I imagine there are quite a few people who have always wanted to hear Garrison Keillor speak, but can't afford tickets (to one of his 'Gratitude Tour' appearances)."

"We've already had over 4,000 hits on our Facebook page" for the post announcing Keillor's visit, Wahl added, noting that updated information about the drawing would be posted on that page when the details are finalized.

For more information, please call the Detroit Lakes Public Library at 218-847-2168, visit the website at, or visit the library in person at 1000 Washington Ave.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454