green foliage on campus

Summer on the Winona Campus! Photo by Mary Lee Eischen

Each year, we’re all faced with the decision whether to stay in Winona for the summer, or go home. Maybe you are wondering “What in the world do I do in Winona during the summer?”..

Well, Winona has a LOT to offer!  Winona has become this little art, theater and music town located right on the Mississippi River. Each summer we have a handful of festivals, which include the Great River Shakespeare Festival, Boats and Bluegrass and the Beethoven Festival. This is just the beginning. There are of course the fun outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking and walking or running the lakes.  But, there are also volunteer opportunities such as College for Kids and Habitat for Humanity, which is a great way to be outside and help others.

The Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) occurs in Winona every summer. They usually perform both a tragedy and a comedy and the plays are fantastic portrayals of the classic Shakespeare plays. There is nearly always a fun twist on how the play is presented. For example, The Twelfth Night will take place in the 50s with the old English dialogue staying the same.

With GRSF come the Concerts on the Green. Each Friday and Saturday night during the festival, a musical group performs on the lawn in the middle of campus. There have been jazz groups, country, bluegrass, folk, a cappella, rock and much more. They are free to the public and food is available from local vendors.

Boats and Bluegrass is another great event in Winona. However, it is usually once school starts, so not completely summer-time, but definitely something worth checking out! The name says bluegrass, but there is a lot more offered than just bluegrass music. Campgrounds are right next to the performance areas, so it is easy to spend an entire weekend hanging out on the river with some great music!

You may be wondering why boats are included in the title. Boats are included because this event is right on the Mississippi and so of course, that needs to be incorporated. So, throughout the weekend canoe trips are available in the backwaters of the Mississippi. This is another great volunteering opportunity.

The Beethoven festival, as you may have guessed, is an orchestral festival. Each year it features musical groups and solo artists from around the world. One year Yo-Yo Ma even opened the festival.  So, yes, even Winona gets big name artists!

The performances are located in multiple different locations in Winona. Winona State hosts some, but the Marine Art Museum, Saint Mary’s University and the Winona Middle School also hold the events.

If you prefer to be outdoors and not to spend much money, Winona has that to offer too! On the lake, there are kayak, canoe, bikes and stand-up paddleboards available for your use with a $20 membership for an entire year of use.

You can rent outdoor equipment such as camp stoves, bike trailers and rock climbing shoes at very affordable prices from WSU’s Outdoor Education Recreation Center. OERC also organizes backpacking trips, rock-climbing adventures and other outings throughout the year or you just head out into the woods on your own to explore the many hiking trails in the area throughout the bluffs.

Swimming is always popular as well. We have the local pool (the Bob Welch Aquatic Center), the Mississippi River with a beach within 5 minutes from campus and also the Michael LaCanne Park in Goodview, MN, which is about a 10-15 minute drive from campus. Near the Winona lakes are also two great Frisbee golf courses.

And then for volunteering. Each of the festivals listed above always welcome volunteers, but there is also College for Kids which is held on the Winona State campus and offers different types of courses from art to science, history to writing and much more for students in grade 3-8.

By volunteering, you can be a leader for a group of students going to certain classes. Another opportunity that is always available in Winona is Habitat for Humanity. Sometimes, it’s easier to fit something like that in during the summer when you have a little bit more free time.

There are a couple of roles people can do when it comes to Habitat. You can do the manual labor of building a home, you can offer to provide lunch to a crew that is working on a house, you can join the Winona State chapter in work in all the different fields available, or you can work in the ReStore which supplies home goods and building materials at low costs.

So, think about sticking around in the summer. Feel free to take some classes, or just enjoy little ol’ Winona. Winona can be an exciting and fun place to be year round!

–Caitlin Reineke