We had an amazing time at the Character Challenge Course. Located about 75 miles south west of Grand Rapids, the trip is absolutely worth your while! Staff are supportive and helpful and safety is key to the experience. Bring loads of cameras and lots of guts, the zip line will make you scream, but the Giant Swing will make you....Lets just say you'll get your money's worth!
Just an hour's drive from its source at Itasca State Park, the baby Mississippi River flows through the center of Grand Rapids. The river is celebrated at this park where several exhibits detail the importance of the river, not just for Grand Rapids, but throughout its 2.552 mile course to the Gulf of Mexico. There are also pleasant picnic and play areas in a scenic setting. This is a great spot to learn more about the Mighty Mississippi, to take a walk, or just relax.
For many years we have admired this famous photograph as we have viewed it in homes, restaurants, and churches. It's of an old man pausing to give thanks (offer grace) over a simple meal of a loaf of bread and a bowl of soup. But until we visited the Itasca County Museum we knew nothing of the picture's history, nor did we know that the State of Minnesota has designated it their official State Photograph.
The picture was taken in 1918, by local photographer Eric Enstrom in his studio in the nearby community of Bovey. His subject was an elderly peddler of shoe scrapers, Charles Wilden.
"There was something about the old gentleman's face that immediately impressed me," Enstrom said in recalling the incident years later. "I saw that he had a kind face ... there weren't any harsh lines in it." The photographer's goal was to say something special: "This man doesn't have much of earthly goods, but he has more than most people because he has a thankful heart."
Millions of people, like us, would agree that the photographer achieved his purpose. "Grace" proclaims the message of gratitude more powerfully than any sermon we have ever heard.
The sidewalks leading from 5th Street to the Old Central School have been replaced with a "Yellow Brick Road," like that in the movie, "The Wizard of Oz." As we walked up to the school this crow flew down and landed in front of us, inviting us to take it's picture. So we did.
Now this seemed really strange. Didn't Dorothy follow the Yellow Brick Road BEFORE she encountered the scarecrow, in "The Wizard of Oz." It must be, because this crow wasn't scared at all. There's no telling what you may find on the Yellow Brick Road.
Occupying a full square block right in the center of Grand Rapids the Old Central School looks more like a courthouse than a schoolhouse. No longer used as a school, it is now a multi-use structure, housing the Itasca County Historical Society Museum, a restaurant, various craft and gift shops and offices.
Built in 1885, Old Central School is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Even without the shops and museum, This magnificent old structure with it's grand central staircase, is an attraction within itself. It once housed both the elementary school and one of the earliest high schools in Northern Minnesota, outside Duluth. It also had seperate playgrounds for boys and girls. The building still maintains much of it's original integrity; the wooden floors still creak and chalk boards still hang on the walls. They don't make schools like this any more.
Frances Ethel Gumm, who became Judy Garland and starred as Dortohy in one of the world's most beloved films, "The Wizard of Oz," was born and spent her earliest years in Grand Rapids. A section of the Ithaca County Museum is dedicated to her, but even more interesting is to visit the home where the famous child star was born.
This 1925 historic home has been moved to its present location and is adjacent to the New Children's Discovery Museum. For a $5.00 fee you may tour the house which features a gallery with Abe Lincoln's carriage from "The Wizard of Oz," performance and documentary screenings, momentos from Judy Garlands acting career, a garden and gift shop.
The museum is open seven days a week, 10-5.
It would be well on any first time visit to a town to start at the Visitor Center, which is where we began our day in Grand Rapids. Here we learned that we needed more than just one day to explore all the many things there are to see and do in this very interesting area.
One of the places we most wanted to visit, the Forest History Center, an authentic 1900 logging camp, is open only June 1 through Oct. 15, so we would have missed that anyway. We'll also have to see the Mississippi Melodie Showboat "Live Theatre on the banks of the Mississippi" on another visit. You can get details on these attractions, several special events, and much more at the Grand Rapids Visitor Center.
I must admit that I was at first flummoxed by the sight of corn growing in the square surrounding the Old Central School. But then as I drew closer and noticed the yellow brick road, it all came together. When Dorothy followed the Yellow Brick Road out of Munchkinland she was quickly in the cornfields--hence her meeting with the Scarecrow who had no brians.
Even the mightiest rivers start their journeys as benign little streams. At Grand Rapids the Mississippi River is shallow enough to walk across in hip-waders. The River's source is in Ithasca State Park about 150 miles west of Grand Rapids.
The Grand Rapids area is known as having Minnesota's 'Grand Slam of Golf'. There are four championship courses in the area;Pokegama, Wendigo, Sugar Brook, and Eagles Ridge. Pokegama is the Oldest and most prestigous course. And if your staying on Lake Pokegama you can take you boat there.(not my pic.)
This is one of two murals we saw in downtown Grand Rapids honoring the town's most famous daughter, Judy Garland, who starred as Dorothy in the enduring family movie, The Wizard of Oz.