Keillor charms local crowd with tales from Lake Wobegon

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By Emile Hallez

  Garrison Keillor delivered his unique brand of folksy charm to a South Jeffco audience Aug. 30 at the Chatfield Botanic Gardens, along with a little taste of life in Lake Wobegon.


The revered radio host and author, along with Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band, sound effects man Fred Newman and musician Sara Watkins, gave thousands of fans of the radio variety show “A Prairie Home Companion” an hours-long performance that included staple sketches such as “News from Lake Wobegon” and “Guy Noir, Private Eye.”

Couples sitting in the grass on blankets or in lawn chairs fittingly canoodled during the romantically themed duets and tongue-in-cheek sketches, part of the show’s Summer Love Tour.

“Half of all marriages end in divorce, and the other half fight it out to the bitter end,” Keillor said, expressing the sentiments of Darlene, a coffee-shop worker in the host’s fabricated city of Lake Wobegon. “That’s the view in the Chatterbox Café.”

The show’s assortment of one-act bits orbited the subject of love, with scenes illuminating romance, sex and scorned lovers. Settings were aurally accentuated with Newman’s uncanny effects, ranging from a crying tot to a hovering Black Hawk helicopter.

Despite a bout of low audio levels and heavy winds that tossed hats off heads and knocked over a tent near the stage early in the show, patrons sat transfixed. Keillor ventured several times into the audience, referencing the nearby attendees and the lightly inclement weather as he told his stories.

“I was trailing a man wearing a black T-shirt and a yellow hat, walking toward a tent, where they were selling something,” he said, describing an attendee who happened to be walking by the stage, as Keillor began a Guy Noir sketch in which the bumbling snoop sets out to pick up his college diploma.

Noir, as in many instances, followed a few random turns, landing him in the Chatterbox Café.

“Would you like a latté?” a server asked Noir.

“No. I want American coffee,” Noir sharply responded. “Warm milk infantilizes men.”

“Whoa,” the server said. “Do you write term papers?”

Then, on the subject of dissertations, Watkins contributed, vocalizing a musical rendition of her supposed term paper, an airy, jocular rant on the follies of Hester Prynne, heroine of Nathanial Hawthorne’s historical romance “The Scarlet Letter.”

As the sun edged itself behind the mountains, Keillor gave the audience a chance to stand and stretch, in what he called a “standing, singing intermission,” leading a handful of rustic standards, including “Home on the Range.”

“I imagine this is a song the Hildebrands knew,” he said, referring to the neighboring homestead. “And they sung it in that schoolhouse over there.”

“A Prairie Home Companion” airs weekly on Saturday evenings on Colorado Public Radio and is rebroadcast on Sundays.


Contact Emile Hallez Williams at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.