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It's not enough to say that Garrison Keillor is the closest thing we have to Mark Twain. Better is to say, Mark Twain is the closest thing we have to Garrison Keillor.

It's unknown whether Twain ever made his way up the Mississippi to enjoy the Minnesota State Fair. In 1864, the inaugural Fair welcomed its first visitor, served its first corndog and gave its first child a ride on the carousel. That same year, Twain moved to San Francisco to be a journalist, and would soon write his first well-received story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."

On August 29, 1997, Keillor performed at the Minnesota Public Radio booth at the Minnesota State Fair. He appeared on the spartan outdoor stage at 11:30 a.m., silently writing on butcher paper a list of traits common to "true Minnesotans." Among them were a fondness for storm fronts, lack of fashion sense and a belief that there is moral virtue in suffering.

Then he culled 12 Minnesotans from the audience, careful to balance men with women, young with old, city folk with prairie folk. During his hourlong show at noon, it would be this jury's job to decide which of his list were true, and which were legend.

Real Audio of the event is available at the Prairie Home Companion Web site.

Photos and non-quoted text by Luke Seemann, and you're invited to visit his Web site.

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