They came to Winnebago in a Winnebago
It was on a barley water whim this past January that Derek Samson and his friend Ryan Young decided to toss a dart at a U.S. map, while streaming the whole event on YouTube, and go to wherever the dart took them.
That dart wound up getting a direct hit for Winnebago, Minnesota.
It was a town the two from the southern coast had never heard of. But they decided to take a chance on an adventure up north.
For months, the duo encouraged many of their Floridia-based friends to join them on a trip to the midwest into the small town of Winnebago.
“At one point we had nine people coming with us,” adds Samson. “And that got whittled down to just the four of us.”
“Which, in retrospect is a good thing,” says Young. “Fitting nine people in a Winnebago would have been impossible. Four is plenty.”
The four being Samson, Young, their mutual sports writer friend Joe Smith, and another friend of Samson’s, Les Broszkowski. The four bought their tickets, arranged their dates, and just last week, landed where their dart did.
In Winnebago.”We have just been floored by the hospitality of the area,” says Samson. “When we first arrived to Winnebago, we were met by Mike and Sheryl Gunzenhauser, along with Mayor Schutt.”
The four men who, all but Broszkowski, currently reside in Florida, were set up at a campsite at the Municipal Center in Winnebago. It was there they were given local tips and places to visit, including Yvonne Cory’s apron collection, the Miner Museum of Hamm’s beer collectibles and vintage juke boxes, and of course, Winnebago’s hot spot downtown: The Steel Wheel.
There, the guys were shown a good time by the local crowd. Between brews and a couple of rounds of the classic dice game, it was decided by the quad of sports writers to toss the next dart for their next trip. Which, by the way, landed somewhere in Utah.
“It was only a few hours, and we felt like locals ourselves. Everyone made us feel so welcome and so at home,” says Young.
The next day, Tuesday July 10, the fellas were welcomed at the new eatery, Flip ‘n’ Shake, where Scott Robertson even offered to lend his Dodge Charger to the guys for an easier way to get around the county.
“We don’t see that in Florida,” says Samson. “You don’t see anyone say ‘here, borrow my car’ let alone a stranger.”
“We actually had a few people offer up their vehicles for us,” says Smith. “It was just entirely Minnesota Nice of them.”
Minnesota Nice. A catch phrase noted as “the stereotypical behavior of people from Minnesota to be courteous, reserved, and mild mannered” according to Wikipedia. And according to the Winnebago boys? It’s accurate.
“Winnebago absolutely encapsulated what we were hoping to get from this trip,” says Samson. “The locals have definitely made this trip worth it.”
The trip has been so worth it that the guys plan on returning in future years.
“We’re definitely coming back,” says Young. “On some sort of anniversary trip or something. We haven’t figured it all out yet, but this is where this idea started and it would be really cool to come visit after a few other trips.”
During their time, the fellas have had a healthy list of things to do and sights to see throughout Faribault and even Martin counties. From shooting darts at the Steel Wheel, to local museums and points of interest, to getting into local summer celebrations like Minnesota Lake’s FestAg Days, the guys have certainly had a thorough visit.
At FestAg, the men were able to enjoy the musical renditions of the ever-popular Johnny Holm Band. Young was even bold enough to join the performers on stage and engage in a rendition of a few country classics.
“It was a great experience to meet the guys and hang out with them,” says Samson.
“I feel like I had a good start, things got a little pitchy after a bit though,” jokes Young. “I think we all had a great time. This area really knows how to make folks feel welcome.”
And the YouTube video that started it all? Now it has over 6,000 views, and its popularity is growing day by day.
Perhaps the same can be said about Winnebago and, perhaps, Faribault County in general.
A new rush of opportunity has not only hit Winnebago but a good majority of Faribault County.
From rural developments to street improvement projects, new hiking trails, beautification efforts and an influx of work and opportunities for families to become a part of a true community, Faribault County’s small communities are certainly putting themselves on the map. Dart or no dart.