Every August, the tiny southeast Minnesota town of Oronoco becomes the mother lode.
Tents full of carved armoires and sideboards pop up along the town's narrow streets. Yards sprout crates of antique lunch boxes and duck decoys.
The church ladies bake pies, the VFW folks flip pancakes and firefighters put hot dogs on the grill. Then the people come, stampeding through the streets like sheep to salt.
Northfield always has been shaped by newcomers.
First the Yankees came to town, then the Norwegians. Each started a college, and the Yankees built mills, whose flour won international prizes as the Minneapolis mill were just getting started.
Missourians arrived in 1876 for a brief but memorable visit; the violent bank raid by the James-Younger Gang is called "the seven minutes that shook Northfield.''
In Rochester, a tourist from the Twin Cities is a novelty.
Tourists from anywhere are a novelty, though patients and medical professionals come from around the world.
“This week, I had customers from Guatemala, Panama and India in just a few hours,’’ said Kathy Barnes, a
fourth-grade teacher who works part-time at the apparel shop Collections.