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Michelle's column: An opportunity to show off Farmington

I have this friend — an online pen pal, really — who is coming to Farmington for the first time next week. She’s very excited about the trip. I’m just trying to figure out what to share with her when she gets here.

Her name is Carolyn Quinn. She and I met about a year and a half ago, when I heard something about some woman writing a book about Rose Hovick Thompson, the mother of Gypsy Rose Lee. In her research, Carolyn learned that part of Rose Hovick Thompson’s childhood was actually spent in Farmington.

I remember visiting with her on a Saturday afternoon. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and our work schedules necessitated a weekend call. It was probably a good thing. We were on the phone for over an hour, which is a long conversation, as far as interviews go.

In our conversation, I re-member her telling me that when her book was published, she really wanted to come to Farmington. She’s seen pictures of early Farmington, the time back before the Great Fire of 1879. The hotel owned by Rose Hovick Thompson’s family — which traces back to the family of Lawrence Egle, one of Farmington’s first firefighters — was the Egle hotel, which was apparently located where the Exchange Bank Building now stands at the corner of Third and Oak streets.

Carolyn and I have stayed in touch on Facebook. Her book was published last year, and on Sunday she arrives in Minnesota for a few days. And so now the question is, where do I take her while she’s here?

She’ll do a talk on her book, “Mama Rose’s Turn: The True Story of America’s Most Notorious Stage Mother,” at the Pleasant Hill Library in Hastings on Monday, May 19, beginning at 6 p.m. She’ll speak there because Farmington’s library is under reconstruction right now.

She’s staying with a couple outside of Lakeville, but I know we’ll get together a few times. I’m excited to share Farmington with her. Granted, there will only be so much we can do downtown, because none of the businesses she’d learned about in her research still exist.

But there is so much more I’d like to be able to show her. Though she’s used to walking blocks at a time, I don’t suspect she’s got the access to the quiet kind of beauty that we have on the trails around Rambling River Park. She contacted several of Farmington’s city staff as part of her research, so I plan to bring her over to city hall and make those introductions, too.

I imagine the farm fields will be a stark difference from the neon lights she posts in her photos.

We’ll also make a trip to South St. Paul, so she can meet the folks at the Dakota County Historical Society, who helped her out with her research. And on the way back, I’ve promised her a trip to Lock and Dam No. 2 in Hastings, because she’s never seen the Mighty Mississippi.

I’ve been thinking about this since Carolyn told me she was coming to Minnesota. Everything around me, between Farmington and Hastings, seems to jump right out as something I should share with her. I think she’s planning to visit Dakota City Heritage Village this weekend with her hosts, but there is so much more to see! Maybe we should go through U of M property with the Gopher Ordnance Plant remains? What about a drive to the actual Castle Rock rock?

You see what I mean? Every day we are surrounded by an area we’ve come to accept as just home. It’s kind of exciting to look at Dakota County as a destination, because our everyday is pretty interesting, when you really sit back and think about it.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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