Songs of Pine County’s Irish Lumberjacks

St. Paul, MN — March 22nd, 2013:  When itinerant lumberjack Michael Dean arrived in the newly incorporated village of Hinckley in 1885 he must have felt right at home. Like Dean, many of the town’s businessmen and civic leaders were Irish-Americans who had followed lumbering jobs west to Minnesota. Soon, Dean made a life as a well-loved saloon-keeper and farmer who went fishing with Irish mill owner James J. Brennan and Irish lumber baron William O’Brien and lived in Pine County for 32 years (he moved to Pine City in 1907). Dean was also an avid singer who had a large repertoire of songs, from the old Irish folk tradition and from the unique musical tradition that flourished in northwoods lumbercamp bunkhouses in those years.

Bemidji-native Brian Miller has spent the past five years researching Dean’s life and, along with musical partner Randy Gosa, reviving Dean’s songs and the music of other Irish lumberjacks from the Upper Midwest. The duo presents these fascinating songs and stories in concert on Friday, April 12 at 7:30 PM at the North West Company Fur Post, 12551 Voyageur Lane, Pine City.  The show is presented by the Pine Center for the Arts and has been made possible by a grant through the East Central Regional Arts Council.  Tickets are available for a reduced cost of just $10 and can be purchased at the Pine Center for the Arts, Chris’ Food Center and the North West Company Fur Post.

Brian Miller and Randy Gosa have been featured on TPT TV’sMinnesota Original and MPR’sDaily Circuit and they have toured nationally to festivals including The University of Chicago Folk Fest, Milwaukee Irish Fest and the Arizona Highland Celtic Fest. Brian Miller is a two-time recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board grant for his work with the music of Irish lumberjacks. In concert, Miller and Gosa mix old world music with colorful local lore and creative arrangements, using voice, guitar and a variety of unusual folk instruments.

Their Pine Center for the Arts concert will feature stories about Mike Dean’s life in Pine County drawn from Brian’s forthcoming Dean biography (including how Dean’s was the only farmhouse to survive the Hinckley fire). The duo will also perform several songs from Dean’s repertoire and others, including the rousing bunkhouse song “Kettle River” which recalls the daily lives of men who worked in Johnny O’Brien’s lumbercamp on the Kettle River. The performance draws on recently discovered unpublished transcriptions and lost audio recordings of Mike Dean’s singing and the duo is excited to bring these songs back to the place they were sung over 100 years ago.

This activity is funded, in part, with a grant from the East Central Regional Arts Council through an appropriation from the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the State’s general fund.

The Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund came into being as part of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that Minnesota voters overwhelmingly passed in 2008.  Because of the work the State Legislature has done to direct this funding to the Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Council System, it has ensured that this money is bringing access to the arts in every corner of the state.  The Pine Center for the Arts is grateful and proud to have received this funding.

This Weekend in Pine City: Autumn “Stay-Cation” Ideas

Economic hardship is still forcing many to cancel travel or vacation plans and instead make the most of “Stay-Cations.”  

Anderson's Rock Creek Relics 2011 Corn Maze

Definition of Staycation:  A vacation spent at home or near home, doing enjoyable activities or visiting local attractions.  –


Here are some ideas to offer the perfect solution: Activities that not only will please everyone and are close to home, but are either free to the public or nominally priced…

Stay up-to-date with other goings on in Pine City at the Area Chamber of Commerce Web site.

Things every Pine Citian should do in 2011 (and beyond)

With 40,000 extra people around town over the next few days–thanks Pine County Fair–perhaps folks are looking for other things to do while in Pine City.  In fact, there’s still plenty of summer left to enjoy a plethora of warm weather activities if you don’t get to it fair weekend.   Whether you are new to the community or have lived here your entire life it’s always great to be reminded on how much there is to do in Pine City.

The Pine Poker reached out to people who were out and about for ideas on what every Pine Citian and visitor should try in 2011 (and beyond).  Here’s what made the list…

  • Check out this list of 10 things to do, and be sure to comment and share some of your own below.
  1. Nap or read a book at a city park.   There are a dozen of them throughout the community with a wide variety of offerings from disc golf to skateboarding; from swimming to sand volleyball; from fitness trails to fishing; from horticulture to history; the list goes on and on.  City maps showing where all of the parks are located are available at the Chamber of Commerce office at 315 Main St. S.
  2. Eat Booya  The annual Czech heritage booya festival takes place at the historic Sokol Camp on the east shores of Cross Lake, this year–the 81st annual–on Aug. 14.  Attend and submerse yourself in other Czech and Slovak cultural activities.  Try their famous “Booya”, a hearty concoction of meaty soup.   
  3. Explore nature in another era.  Step back to the recreated world of 1804, and walk the trails at the Northwest Co. Fur Post.  Stop at the Ojibwe encampment and learn how the seasonal living of the Ojibwe changed when Europeans arrived.  Meet a fur trade clerk who explains the system of barter that moved beaver fur from the hands of Indian hunters onto the heads of fashionable Europeans.
  4. Cruise Main Street.  Wash the car, roll down the windows, turn the radio up (not too loud) and cruise ‘Main’.  Nothing beats the nostalgia of cruising a traditional main street through a bustling small town; even better, ours is on a national scenic byway.  Pull into the carhop at the All-American A&W for a frosty rootbeer along the way.
  5. Take your photo with François  The 35-foot tall French voyageur statue looks over downtown Pine City from Voyageur Park on the north shore of the Snake River.   Thousands of tourists have had their photo with the roadside distraction.  Have you?
  6. Investigate a real, live Ghost Town   Explore near the Chengwatana Dam, find traces of “Chengwatana”, originally an Ojibwa village (Zhingwaadena), a popular site with trappers and traders, and in 1856 platted to be the largest village between St. Paul and Duluth on the government road; it was used as a military post in 1862-’63.  There are visual traces of foundations of buildings that once stood.
  7. See Devils Lake   Local legend has it that the lake, viewable by the community fitness trails (note: minimally maintained, some private property), once swallowed a train that has never been found since.  In the 1800’s a circus train derailed into the lake and as late as 2010 scuba divers have had unsuccessful searches for it.
  8. Browse the gallery at Pine Center for the Arts.  Amidst your shopping along historic Fifth Street, stop into the Center to see the artwork on display by the people of the region.  You will be delighted and amazed at the imagination and talent of the artists in our backyard.  While there, sign up for an art class with a friend or loved one.
  9. Dine at a new restaurant.  Certainly with 30 eateries to choose from, the Pine City area has something for everyone, and likely something you’ve yet to try.  Newer to the restaurant scene are Wild Bamboo, which dishes up some of the best Vietnamese cuisine in Minnesota, and WingStreet, for those who like flavored chicken wings.  Staples are Nicoll’s Cafe and Pizza Pub, both downtown. 
  10. Shake your tailfeathers at Froggy’s.  Like to dance?  Every Saturday night, Deejay Tuck plays some of the hottest new music, and throws in some Pine City sound-flair from time-to-time.  21+.  Mom’s late-night menu is available from Midnight-to-3 a.m. for after the fun.

It’s time to create your 2011 Pine City bucket list and get going.

Learn how to make Moose Moccasins

Traditions of the Trading Post:  Moose to Moccasins Event

Where: North West Company Fur Post, Pine City.

When: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday

What: Watch and help as costumed experts explain how to turn a moose hide into moccasins. It’s part of an ongoing demonstration series about lost arts such as hide scraping, sewing birch bark and making twine.

How far: About 1.5 miles west of Pine City.

Details: $8 adults, $6 senior and college students, $5 children ages 6-17; free, 5 and under and Minnesota Historical Society members. 320-629-6356,

Weekend Update

Friday, June 10

Saturday, June 11

Sunday, June 12

Also, while out and about this weekend…
Be on the lookout for those with a missing dog:

The dog on the left went into the City Pound on June 6, 2011.  It is a Male with medium, curly hair, about six months-t0-one-year old.  He is believed to be a Spaniel/Lab mix.  Notifications to the radio stations and both local veterinarian clinics had not yielded results as of June 10, 2011.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of this dog’s owner should contact Pine City Public Works at (320) 629-6474.

Your weekend of fun awaits

Saturday, June 4

North West Company & the War of 1812. It’s 1812 and Mr. Madison has declared war.  The N.W. Company is preparing to protect its interests in the West.  The post will be raising a corps of voyageurs to rally for cause.  Come prepared to march, make your own militia hat, experience camp life and talk with soldiers about military life.  320.629.6356

Tommy & His Mommy” ShowTommy Ryman, who’s opened for the likes of Nick Swardson and Louis Anderson, opens his comedy act in Pine City Saturday night at Java Joe’s.  His mom, Barb Ryman, a renowned folk singer, and St. Cloud Drag Troupe’s Dolly Meridian, joins him in the shenanigans beginning at 8 p.m.  (Sold Out). 320.629.7770.

Sunday, June 5

East Central Minnesota Pride.  The 7th Annual East Central Minnesota LGBT Pride will take place Sunday from Noon to 6 p.m. at Voyageur Park.  Food, music, silent auction and homespun fun and entertainment.  Free admission.  Food/vendors vary.  218.831.6352