Once again North Dakota is buzzing around the internet; both pleasantly surprising the east and west coasts and reminding them of the simple life that is found in “flyover country”.
Marilyn Hagerty and her column The EatBeat of the Grand Forks Herald have created an internet sensation with her most recent piece on Grand Forks’ brand new Olive Garden restaurant. Coast to coast, people are talking about the endearing columnist’s review of the ordinary chain. There is definitely enough of a response of urban snark and adoration out there to get this nine-to-fiver through a slow Friday afternoon.
I have to admit that when I first laid eyes on the article, I was excited to find out that Grand Forks finally is moving up in the ranks of urban development with the recent addition of an Olive Garden in town. Now those in northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota don’t have to drive all the way down to Fargo for an Italian cuisine fix. Thank goodness.
When I actually read the article, I noticed that Hagerty went into charmingly straightforward detail with her observations of the wait staff, décor, and layout of the new restaurant. The stage of one of the more spectacular eateries in the Greater Grand Forks area was set with “several dining areas with arched doorways. And … a fireplace that adds warmth to the decor.”
“Instead of the raspberry lemonade she suggested, I drank water”, wrote Hagerty in regards to her reaction to her server’s beverage recommendation.
Probably the most entertaining piece of this story is that Marilyn herself isn’t fazed by the sudden fame that her column has cultivated. She’s responding to both the positive attention and snobby criticism with both a polite dismissal and a desire to focus on her upcoming deadlines. Interviews with the 85 year-old reveal that she’s been reviewing restaurants in Grand Forks for decades. As a result she’s not quite sure what all of the excitement is about. When asked by The City Pages if she had expected so much attention outside of Grand Forks for her review, she simply replied, “I didn’t really care”.
I believe her. Looking back at my own hometown newspaper, I find it filled with news about Linda So-and-So visiting Gladys So-and-So for supper on Friday night. It’s a good reminder that straightforward commentary about the day to day activities of locals is what makes a small town paper; and it is what makes readers take notice both locally and beyond.
Want more from Marilyn Hagerty’s The EatBeat? Her review of The Pizza Ranch is an accurate description of my experiences there. I also found it to be informative since I didn’t realize the chain that normally is found in smaller communities is now in Grand Forks as well.
Marilyn is journalism at its best: getting information out to the masses all while staying incredibly classy and professional. You are my hero Marilyn Hagerty.
Samantha Veldhouse is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of Secret Laboratory. Originally from rural North Dakota, Ms. Veldhouse went to school for literature and writing at Bemidji State University, but fell into the theater community while she was there. After graduating with a BA in English, she moved to Minneapolis where she has been known to tap into Twin Cities theater performing with the Brave New Institute and Huge Theater; she also produces independently with the Minnesota Fringe Festival. When Samantha isn’t creatively displaying herself on stage, she’s documenting her life on her blog at intheveldhouse.blogspot.com. She currently works as an Academic Advisor at Capella University and lives in her trusty uptown studio with her laptop.
E-mail Ms. Veldhouse at email@example.com.