Retired ‘Prairie Home Companion’ host Garrison Keillor visits Alaska on summer cruise

The cast and crew of the American Public Media program “A Prairie Home Companion” cruised to Alaska this summer.

Retired ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ host Garrison Keillor, right, signs autographs for fans while visiting Kodiak on August 24, 2016. (Photo by Jay Barrett, KMXT-Kodiak)
Retired ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ host Garrison Keillor, right, signs autographs for fans while visiting Kodiak on August 24, 2016. (Photo by Jay Barrett, KMXT-Kodiak)

The ship they were on, the Maasdam, visited Kodiak on Wednesday.

While downtown was filled with hundreds of “Prairie Home” fans, retired host Garrison Keillor apparently doesn’t often come ashore, preferring to prepare for that night’s show aboard ship.

However, some locals who are ex-pat Minnesotans, eventually lured the lanky radio star from the fictional town of Lake Woebegone, Minnesota, off the ship to chat with locals.

Keillor has been to Alaska a few times.

“The interesting thing about Alaska is not the scenery,” he said. “You can find scenery a lot of different places in the world. The interesting thing to me is the people who are here. And that’s what’s worth coming to see, if you can possibly meet them.”

“But you know, the mountains, meh. I associate mountains with motivational posters, you know, that say things like ‘Dare to Dream;’ ‘All Great Achievements Start with a Single Footstep;’ and I’m old enough to know that’s not true.”

Keillor might have felt otherwise if Kodiak’s mountains weren’t obscured by a low ceiling of clouds during his visit.

Nevertheless, he had quite a bit to say about mountains, almost as if he were formulating his monologue on the spot, which meant a little election-year politics.

“You know, I look at mountains and I think of Henry Thoreau, and I don’t care for Thoreau. He was a great individualist, but he said, ‘Live the life you have dreamed of and you may be successful beyond your wildest hopes.’ And when I think of that, I think of Donald Trump,” Keillor said to the laughter of the crowd.

“So, the mountains, you can have. I’m a flatlander, and I like flat land. Which is majestic in its own way.”

Keillor spent about an hour talking with Kodiak residents who happened by City Dock, posing for pictures, answering and asking questions, and signing autographs.

While Keillor stayed close to the cruise ship, the Maasdam’s passengers came ashore en masse. Many got a quick orientation at the visitor center by Discover Kodiak volunteer of the year Jan Chatto.

“This is Kodiak Island. We are the second largest island in the united states. You can see from the map that Chastity is showing you, Chastity is our director, by the way. We have 112 miles of road on this island. That’s it. The rest is wilderness,” Chattow said. “We just celebrated the 75th anniversary of the refuge. FDR founded the refuge. It’s the jewel of the refuge system, we think. It was founded to protect the brown bears.”

Marilyn and Lewis Tognacci from Arizona have cruised with Keillor before, but this is the first time they’ve been to Alaska.

“It’s so much fun. It’s unreal,” Marilyn Tognacci said. “The man is a genius. He never stops.”

She said there is plenty of opportunity to mingle with Keillor and the “Prairie Home Companion” cast and crew on-board, and there is a wide variety of passenger activities.

“So much is offered, from knitting groups, dancing, history. And the music is so incredible. Opera, jazz, the singing, the picking. It’s just wonderful,” she said. “I can’t rave enough.”

The Maasdam and the “Prairie Home Companion” cruisers will return to Seattle this week via Glacier Bay, Sitka and Victoria, B.C.

Jay Barrett is the news director at KMXT in Kodiak.

Previous articleAlaska News Nightly: Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016
Next articleThree new teachers on board as Skagway School grows