SMALL TOWNS, like cities, possess character. Each is unique. No matter how many rural communities I visit or how often I tour the same town, I discover something new. It takes more than a precursory glance to truly appreciate a community. Too often people dismiss small towns as places to simply pass through when traveling from Point A to Point B. But these communities are much more. And to see that requires pulling off the highway, parking your vehicle and exploring.
On a recent drive to southwestern Minnesota, Randy and I stopped in Sleepy Eye, which is west of New Ulm which is west of Mankato. I am forever pointing out to folks that civilization exists west of Mankato. I am proud to have grown up on the southwestern Minnesota prairie in rural Redwood County. I once lived and worked for the newspaper in Sleepy Eye, located in Brown County next to my county of origin.
Sleepy Eye, like so many other small towns, has felt the impact of a more mobile society, of technology and more. Businesses I remember—a bakery, a department store—have long closed.
But new businesses have opened in the decades since I left. Antique shops. Sleepy Eye Stained Glass, the reason for our stop. And the soon-to-open Sleepy Eye Brewing and Coffee Company.
While Randy searched for stained glass, I grabbed my camera and meandered through a short stretch of the business district along busy U.S. Highway 14. I found myself wishing the second stoplight had not been removed during recent road reconstruction. The downtown is much less pedestrian friendly now. It’s a difficult roadway to safely cross.
That aside, I managed and took some photos that show the unique character of Sleepy Eye. Enjoy. And check back for more posts from this southwestern Minnesota community.
© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
I love your Sleepy Eye stories. It is the town where I was born and we make an annual visit. We plan on going back to visit the new brewery. I remember going to the Pix with my grandmother.
Thank you, Joan. I’m excited about the brewery, too. KEYC-TV from Mankato did a story on it and, wow, I’m impressed with the interior, too.
Thank you for the visit to Sleepy Eye. I’m a huge Laura Ingalls fan (the books first and the show–of course–second) and she mentioned Sleepy Eye several times. I hope to make it there during our next visit to Minnesota, which will be for a much longer period of time allowing for more exploration. Small towns are my favorite, and I’ve also discovered they each have their own personality and unique ambience.
Well, when you return to Minnesota, continue on Highway 14 west to Walnut Grove. You must come during the summer outdoor pageant about Laura Ingalls Wilder.
I am glad you mentioned how the town got named. I never knew. I knew it was a farming community as I was in 4-H and Sleepy Eye always had a rather large representation at the MN State Fair.
Sleepy Eye is located in Brown County which, along with Redwood County, was at the epicenter of the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862.
Del Monte just announced they were closing at the end of the tax season. 350 workers impacted. Too bad for this tiny town!
That’s absolutely devastating.