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Theater group brings a different kind of musical to the stage

Jason Olson isn’t sure what to expect in terms of audience when the Hutchinson Youth Theatre Association opens its first summer musical this week.

“Our main goal, we would like to break even or make a little extra money,” said Olson, who leads Hutchinson High School’s theater program and was involved with formation of the youth theater group. “We’re just trying to provide a little entertainment to the community.”

Don’t let the modest expectations fool you. Olson and the cast and crew are excited to bring “Bonnie & Clyde” to the stage for four shows Thursday through Saturday at Hutchinson High School Auditorium. The musical is a bit different from the kind of show Olson is used to directing with high school actors, but that was intentional.

The cast is a mix of students and older actors, and the storyline is geared more to that mixed age group.

“During the fall, when we do a musical (at school), we try to do things that allow for a larger group, and a lot of times are a little bit more lighthearted, comedic or are family-oriented,” Olson said. “So one of the things we wanted to do this summer is maybe explore a musical that we wouldn’t normally do. And that’s kind of why we did ‘Bonnie & Clyde,’ which maybe has a little bit more of a serious angle.”

While high school musicals generally have been G-rated, Olson said, “Bonnie & Clyde,” the musical tale of history’s most infamous gangster couple, trends to the PG-13 range. While it might be a little darker, the show also boasts an entertaining range of music, he added.

“I will tell you it is some of the best music of any show that I’ve done here,” said Olson, who’s in his ninth year of directing shows at HHS. “It’s very much bluegrass, country-driven music.

“We kind of approached this year with a theme of trying to find a uniquely American story,” he added. “And you know, there’s no doubt about it, Bonnie and Clyde are American legends — not necessarily for the right reasons, but they are American legends.”

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were so-called outlaw lovers who rose to folk hero status during the Great Depression — a conflict explored in the musical.

“It seems like everyone thinks they know the story of Bonnie and Clyde, right? But they kind of are the little guy that, even if they’re criminals, people kind of root for them,” Olson said. “They’re taking on the machine, if you will. That is one of the things the show talks about is, there is one point where you’re in the middle of the Great Depression and kind of asked the question, ‘Can you understand how people can be driven to this?’”

Bringing the show to the stage has been a joy for Olson, who said he’s thrilled with the cast that’s been assembled, which includes Hutchinson High School students, graduates and others from the community.

“I have worked with some amazingly talented casts, and I would say this cast is very talented too,” Olson said of the 18-member cast for “Bonnie & Clyde.”

Landon Butler, a Hutchinson graduate who’s attending school in Boston in pursuit of a theater degree, plays the lead role of Clyde. In addition, Butler has stepped into an assistant director role in helping Olson.

Bailey Fields, a newcomer to Hutchinson theater, has the other lead role, of Bonnie. Another of the larger roles, playing the character Blanche Barrow, Clyde’s sister-in-law, is being handled by Libby Carlo, another Hutchinson graduate, who performed in numerous high school productions and now is pursuing a music performance degree in Boston.

“One of the things we wanted to do with the show is make it collaborative among the cast,” Olson said. “What’s kind of interesting, too, is families who have decided to kind of make this a family thing. There’s a mom that went with her son, and I have a dad who’s doing (the musical) with his son. That’s been kind of a fun experience.”

Another good “get” for the cast was having Mary Haugen join. Haugen started Hutchinson Theatre Company’s YoungStars program for aspiring actors and actresses more than a decade ago.

“Mary did a lot of shows and the YoungStars program, and so now, it’s an opportunity for some of the kids involved in those programs to come back to work with Mary as a member of the cast,” Olson said. “I know a lot of them have enjoyed that.”

Rehearsals for the show began about two months ago and the cast has been working three to four nights per week during that time.

Proceeds from the show go to help fund the high school theater program, so Olson and cast are hoping for strong ticket sales. But beyond supporting high school theater, Olson said, it’s simply a show that’s well worth the admission price.

“I would say, definitely, in this show, the focus is really on the music and the acting, more so than ever,” Olson said. “In the fall, we’re always trying for a big set and the huge costumes and everything, and this is really a simpler story, set in a simpler time, so it’s really (up to) the talents of this group that they have to sell the show through their acting and their singing.”

DJ Scheele, who played the sheriff, rehearses a scene from “Bonnie & Clyde.

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Minnesota Garlic Festival returns after two-year hiatus

The state's stinkiest festival is back! After a two-year hiatus, the Minnesota Garlic Festival returns — 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 — at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.

"We are so looking forward to it," said Jerry Ford, Garlic Festival director. "I'm hearing a lot of excitement. It felt like we were missing family for the two years. Finally we get to get back together with folks."

During the festival's absence, the team wanted to find a better way to communicate about garlic and the festival. They got together and created a new standalone website:


New this year is a greater focus on local farmers with the festival's Farmer VIP Program. Keep your eye out for the big yellow button that says: I'm a Farmer. Ask me. It's a green light to strike up a conversation. 

"We're really featuring the farmers," Ford said. "We're sponsored by the Sustainable Farming Association — it's what we're all about."

As a result, the "Ask the Expert" stage has become the "Meet Your Farmer" stage, with host Sarah Lindblom, co-director of the Garlic Festival, introducing the speakers, which include: 

  • 11 a.m.: Jared Luhman of the Grass Fed Cattle Company will talk about building soil and ecosystems with great local beef.
  • Noon: Jules Schoenecker of Gray's Tomatoes raises quality tomatoes grown with pride.
  • 1 p.m.: The Rev. Kerri Meyer of Good Courage Farm, Hutchinson, will talk about cultivating community at the intersection of food, farming and faith.
  • 2:30 p.m.: Liz Dwyer, Curtis Weinrich and Andalucia Dwyer will share bridging the divide between people, food and place.
  • 3:30 p.m. Kristin R. Thompson of Tutie Fruities will juice it up and dance.


During the 2018 Minnesota Garlic Festival, Ford said they conducted a on-site survey to find out what people liked most and least about the event.

It's not surprising the No. 1 reason people attend the Garlic Festival is because they want to buy garlic. As a result, vendors are often overwhelmed with people asking questions while trying to buy garlic and plant stock. As a result, Ford said they have added: The Garlic Grower Is In.

"It's like the Lucy van Pelt in the 'Peanuts' cartoon," Ford said. "It will be in the middle of the garlic building. We'll have expert garlic growers who are there to answer questions. They'll have all kinds of resources. People can find out the information they need and then buy garlic. That's one of our big changes, with the real focus on farmers, not just garlic farmers, but all kinds of farmers."

The No. 2 reason people attend is because of the food. 

"They want to eat garlicky foods," Ford said. "There's so much good food (including) old favorites like garlic ice cream, garlic chip cookies, garlic cheesecake, gyros made with garlic sauce. There are plenty of things without garlic, too."

The No. 1 complaint was it took too long to get their food. It's not surprising since the festival team created a pop-up restaurant for one day a year.

"We're now we're bringing in professionals who know how to make food for a large crowd," he said. "The caterers — Elbows Allowed of Cokato and Roots to Rise of Minneapolis —will be in the big tent on opposite sites. That will help to control the lines and reduce wait times. There will be food trucks spread around the grounds. There will be much more diversified food offerings and scattered, so it's not all concentrated in one place. In the Pavilion, beverages are provided by Crow River Winery and Dan & Becky's Market in Cokato.

"We don't allow high fructose corn syrup at the festival," Ford said. "All beverages are using organic cane sugar or natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup. There's plenty of sweet and savory stuff. It's going to be good."


Love to cook with garlic? Don't miss the chef demonstrations in the big tent. Mary Jane Miller is back as the major food wrangler. She'll be working with the following chefs:

  • 10:30 a.m.: Peter Smith of Minny Row Market, will make grill goat cheese and honey sandwich bites.
  • 11:30 a.m.: Local celebrity Morgan Baum of Clay Coyote Gallery and Pottery, will serve up garlic stir fry using the pottery's popular Flameware.
  • 12:30 p.m.: Mary Jane Miller of Freak Flag Organics, is making midsummer sweet corn saute.
  • 2 p.m. Becki Melvie of The Abundant Kitchen, is making lamb tacos and garlic summer salsa.
  • 3 p.m.: Beth Dooley, James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, is demonstrating Kernza grain salad with roasted vegetables and garlic vinaigrette.


The Minnesota Garlic Festival is a family-friendly event. It offers something everyone can enjoy including live music with Light of the Moon Band, Marianne Kreitlow and Preludes to a Blizzard. 

It's a quirky show," Ford said. "I thoroughly enjoy it. Our entertainers are so popular. We have unusual sorts of things — flamenco dancers. Steve Russell is a juggler. He's really gotten into these gigantic bubbles — huge — you can stand inside them. He does this marvelous bit. He'll be all around the grounds. The Narren are back."

Kids can enjoy the Garlic Buds Kids Tent with a dance-and-sing experience with the Narren of New Ulm, a promenade workshop and build and fly your own kite, with Dave Herzig, former director of the Minnesota Kite Society.

And also returning is another favorite — The Peculiar Pragmatic Promenade at 1:37 p.m. Anyone can be part of this parade just show up by the twin silos pas tthe big tent at 1:25 p.m. Prizes are given for the "Most Peculiar," "Most Pragmatic" and Best Promenader." 


Tickets are $10 for adults and free for children 12 or younger. Parking is free, too. As a bonus for locals, Ford said a 2-for-1 coupon will be advertised in the Leader Shopper and the Meeker County Advertiser. Clip the couple and bring it along to buy your tickets at the gate. Prefer to buy your tickets in advance online? Use the code: Stink2022.

“The reality is it costs quite a bit to put on an event like this,” Ford said. “We had to up the ticket price. When you don't do a festival for two years, you still have expenses. In order to keep doing the festival, we had to figure out a way to generate more income. All of the profits go to Sustainable Agriculture programs with the Sustainable Farming Association.”

Wanous family selected as McLeod Farm Family of the Year
  • Updated

The Wanous family was recognized as the 2022 McLeod County Farm Family of the Year by the University of Minnesota last week during Farmfest.

Dan Wanous grew up on a farrow-to-feeder pig operation north of Hutchinson, while his wife, Trish, grew up north of Gaylord on a small farm of 10 beef cows. Her parents had owned the feed store in New Auburn as well.

Dan and Trish started their own farm 13 years ago with just a couple of commercial beef cows and their five-acre homestead. Two years later they were gifted three commercial gilts and a boar.

The Wanouses have four children — Kyle, Zach, Zoe, and Jase. They also welcomed Emily Ward into their family eight years ago when Emily started leasing beef heifers and pigs to show with the family. Dan and Trish consider Emily their fifth child.

Kyle is finishing his degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Zach is currently attending Alexandria Technical College. Zoe will be a freshman at Southwest Minnesota State University this fall, and Jase enters the fifth grade at Glencoe-Silver Lake this fall. Emily found her passion for livestock while working with the Wanouses, which led to her decision to pursue a degree in animal science at the UW- River Falls.

Each year the Wanous family looks forward to traveling more than 10,000 miles to livestock shows across the country, all while bonding over their passion for showing both beef and swine.

The family now has 10 purebred beef shorthorn cows, and more than 20 show pig sows. They farrow out each January, February and March. They market their calf crop as breeding stock for show heifers and steers to youth throughout the Midwest. They market their swine at 4-H, FFA and other livestock organizations as pig prospects to show at jackpots, county fairs and state fairs, as well as national shows.

Dan and Trish are members of Immanuel Lutheran Church in New Auburn. Both are members of the Glencoe-Silver Lake Ag Promoters, the Minnesota Shorthorn Association, and the National Shorthorn Association. They are 4-H swine superintendents at the McLeod County Fair and help as screened 4-H volunteers. They are members of the National Swine Registry and Certified Pedigree Swine. All five kids are current or past members of 4-H and FFA and are involved in junior cattle and swine associations.

The University of Minnesota’s farm families of the year will be officially recognized in a ceremony Thursday, Aug. 4, at the annual Farmfest near Redwood Falls. Profiles of all the 2022 honorees and information on the recognition event can be found on the University’s farm family website,

Honored families are chosen, one per county, by local University of Minnesota Extension committees based on their demonstrated commitment to their communities and to enhancing and supporting agriculture.

“These farm families are a major driver of Minnesota’s economy and the vitality of Minnesota’s rural communities,” said Bev Durgan, dean of the University of Minnesota Extension. “The University of Minnesota is proud to recognize these farm families for their contributions to agriculture and their communities.”

Along with Farmfest, University of Minnesota units sponsoring the recognition event include the Extension, Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Farmfest runs Aug. 2-4 at the Gilfillan Estate, near Redwood Falls, MM. Event hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $8.00 in advance or $10.00 at the gate and those 17 and under are admitted free. More information on Farmfest is available at