Take Me to the River offers fresh opportunities to enjoy art and nature

Angie Hong - Washington Conservation District

Recently I had a day off of work and wanted to do something fun with my son, spend some time outside, and maybe see some art. Also, the dog needed a walk. With luck, a solution presented itself in the form of the Franconia Sculpture Park, located just south of Highway 8 on Highway 95. 

As we drove north to the park, I worried. Grey clouds hung overhead and sprinkles kept landing on the windshield. Shortly after we arrived, however, a warm sun emerged from the clouds and we were able to enjoy a playground fit for Dr. Seuss — mirrors reflecting a prairie in bloom, a shed that looked exactly like my dog and a poetry installation by 2019 Open Studio Fellow Molly Valentine Dierks that reminded me an awful lot of my mind. 


I Worried 

By Mary Olier


I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers

flow in the right direction, will the earth turn

as it was taught, and if not how shall

I correct it?


Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,

Can I do it better?


Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows

can do it and I am, well, 



Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it, 

am I going to get rheumatism,

lockjaw, dementia?


Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. 

And gave it up. And took my old body

and went out into the morning, 

and sang. 


There was something utterly perfect about reading Oliver’s words of wisdom while standing in a field of flowers with a warm breeze on my back. The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet was known for pieces that often focused on the “quiet occurances of nature: industrious hummingbirds, egrets, motionless ponds,” the Poetry Foundation says.

In her installation at Franconia Sculpture Park in the St. Croix River Valley, artist Dierks captures key phrases from one of Oliver’s most beloved poems on a series of brightly colored road signs that seem out of place amidst the natural beauty of the surroundings. It was a beautiful tribute to the poet, who died earlier this year at the age of 83. 

In September, ArtReach St. Croix will sponsor a series of events and activities across the St. Croix Valley as part of the annual Take Me to the River experience. Like Oliver and Dierks, many artists in the area are inspired by nature and especially the St. Croix River. As such, scheduled events offer residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy both art and nature in unique settings. 

This year’s Take Me to the River will include four art festivals: Art on the Kinni in River Falls on Sept. 7; Marine Art Fair on Sept. 21 and 22; Afton Art in the Park on Sept. 28 and 29; and Spirit of St. Croix Art Festival in Hudson on Sept. 28 and 29. 

In addition, the Prairie Burn Music Festival at the YMCA Camp St. Croix in Hudson is on Sept. 14. The Franconia Sculpture Parks Art and Artists Celebration is on on Sept. 28. 

The 18th annual Washington County Bluegrass Festival is not included in the official lineup but is also a popular family-friendly event. It is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 7 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve, located at 1515 Keats Ave. N. Enjoy music in a beautiful natural setting amidst some 2,000 acres of woods and prairie with a campground, playground and picnic areas, walking trails and boat access to Lake Elmo. 

To see the full schedule of activities for Take Me to the River, go to www.takemetotheriver.info. To learn more about Franconia Sculpture Park, go to www.franconia.org.


—Angie Hong is an educator for East Metro Water — www.mnwcd.org/emwrep — which includes Brown’s Creek, Carnelian Marine-St. Croix, Comfort Lake-Forest Lake, Middle St. Croix, Ramsey Washington-Metro, Rice Creek, South Washington and Valley Branch Watersheds, Cottage Grove, Dellwood, Forest Lake, Grant, Hugo, Lake Elmo, Newport, Oak Park Heights, Oakdale, Stillwater, St. Paul Park, West Lakeland, Willernie and Woodbury, Washington County, and the Washington Conservation District. Contact her at 651-330-8220 ext. 35 or at angie.hong@mnwcd.org

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