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'Sensations' shows the way to Minnesota destinations

A hiking trail at the Upper Sioux Agency State Park offers a majestic view of the Yellow Medicine River. Pioneer Public Television will introduce its viewers to the unique features and natural resources of the Upper Sioux Agency, Lac qui Parle, Big Stone and Fort Ridgely state parks when it airs "Minnesota River Sensations'' at 7 p.m. on Sunday. (Submitted photo)

UPPER SIOUX COMMUNITY -- A television program that motivates viewers to explore the great outdoors found right outside their front doors is about to air.

Pioneer Public Television Channel 10 will air its locally produced "Minnesota River Sensations'' at 7 p.m. on Sunday, and repeat the broadcast at 12:30 p.m. on Monday and 7 p.m. on Thursday.

"This is really about community,'' said Les Heen, general manager of the Appleton based public station, at a premier showing held Tuesday evening at the Prairie's Edge Casino Resort.

The one-half hour show offers a look at four area state parks found on the upper Minnesota River: Big Stone, Lac qui Parle, Upper Sioux Agency, and Fort Ridgely.

It follows in the footsteps of an earlier, successful show the station produced to showcase Sibley, Blue Mounds and Lake Carlos State Parks, along with Ramsey Park in Redwood Falls.

In both instances, the station raised funds from local sponsors in the areas served by the parks to help offset the production costs. Legacy funds also helped make possible the new production, according to Heen.

The parks featured in the earlier production reported increases in camper occupancy in the season following the airing, according to Heen. He said the show can't directly take credit for that, but he believes it certainly helped. Along with the airing, the Chambers of Commerce and tourism organizations near those parks added links to the show on their websites.

"We believe it makes a difference in tourism,'' he told the large, invited audience at the premiere showing.

The production should do more than boost tourism. It's too often the case that local residents don't know what natural treasures are found right outside their door. "Sensations'' serves the purpose of giving lots of reasons and motivations to do some exploring close to home.

The reasons are many, and sometimes surprising. Many in the audience at the premiere showing were not aware that Fort Ridgely State Park near Fairfax offers a nine-hole golf course and one of the region's only streams for trout fishing.

Upstream, the Upper Sioux Agency State Park is well known for its horse riding trails and the "monster'' flathead catfish caught in the Minnesota River. A 53-pounder is among the large ''cats'' that park manage Terri Dinesen has seen caught.

But viewers also learn that there are so many other things to enjoy, everything from hiking trails with a majestic overlook of the Yellow Medicine River Valley to star gazing or spending a night in a tipi.

At Big Stone State Park, campers can cast their lines right from their campsite and catch walleye, northern pike, striped bass and plump, yellow perch. Since the lake is actually a 26-miles long reservoir of the Minnesota River, anglers can be as successful from shore as from a boat, park manager Joanne Svendson tells viewers.

There are lots of fish to be caught downstream in the ''lake that speaks,'' but there are also lots of other reasons to visit Lac qui Parle State Park as well. Hiking trails that lead through native prairie, camper cabins and one of the state's most modern park campgrounds are among its attractions.

Without a doubt, state parks are a great place to introduce people to the outdoors, a point made in the show by park worker Sue Christoffer at the Upper Sioux Agency State Park. ""Once they learn there are other things they can do, they come back,'' she said.

''Sensations'' offers lots of good reasons to make that first visit.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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