Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Songs From the Tall Grass: A Successful Community Partnership
Midwest Region, August 31, 2003
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Songs from the Tall Grass was first produced in 2001 at the Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., playing to enthusiastic audiences from across the country. On separate occasions, Fergus Falls residents attended performances and returned with glowing reviews and a determination to bring the production to Minnesota. Two years later, the production came to Fergus Falls with the visionary and song collector for the production, Randy Hale. Hale participated as narrator and troubadour for all of the performances. Joining fiddler extraordinaire Randy Sabien, and other musicians on stage, were touring musicians as well as a regional and local cast of talented adults and student performers who have grown up on the prairie and have heard their own "songs from the tall grass." In the first performance outside of Washington, D.C., Songs from the Tall Grass is a musical that will found a place in the hearts of all Midwesterners.

Songs From the Tall Grass resulted from an ongoing series of meetings between the Supervisory Park Ranger at the PWLC, the Executive Director of the Center for the Arts,the Executive Director of the Otter Tail County Historical Society and the manager of the Best Western Hotel and Bigwood Event Center. Meeting monthly for the past two years, the group had been sharing event ideas, tour group marketing and promotional stratgies in a unique partnership that combined the arts, the environment and the history of the region. When board members of both a Center for the Arts and the Friends of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center separately saw the production in D.C., the seed was planted and the groups worked together, along with many community partners to make the production happen.

Nearly 5,000 people attended the performances, with visitors travelling from North and South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. From the start, this unique event and community parntership was designed to be self supporting, and promote not only the City of Fergus Falls, but all the partner organizations in years to come. Through the successful fundraising and community support efforts, the event not only broke even, but far exceeded expectations, with seed money for next year of well over $20,000.

The future? An expansion of the Songs from the Tall Grass, that further ties in the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, and all the community partners. The vision is a several week long festival, that includes a variety of community events, that focus on prairie - bringing the messages of the Service and the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center to more people.

Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov
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