A Year in Lake Wobegon by Garrison Keillor


Prairie Home Productions is proud to release the first new collection of Lake Wobegon stories in 3 years. "A Year in Lake Wobegon" gathers many of your favorite stories culled from live broadcasts of A Prairie Home Companion from 2014 to 2016.

These twelve "above-average" stories represent all the goings-on in Lake Wobegon over the course of one calendar year. Family gatherings, holiday celebrations, the predictable, the unexpected––it all happens in "the little town that time forgot and the decades could not improve."

Below is a brief description of each story included in "A Year in Lake Wobegon":

January: Polar Vortex
"It was cold, cold! Monday and Tuesday were so cold. It was like -40, -50 degrees counting the windchill, which we didn't use to do but now we do it because it makes us feel heroic." The polar vortex moves in and Father Wilmer repeats a sermon from 2 years ago and finds that luckily, cold weather brings forgiveness. In the fish house, Jerry Diener reflects on his many practical jokes from tipping outhouses to the incredible plane crash as he decides whether or not he should move to Florida.

February: Train Robbery Romance
"It's been cold there but even more than cold, it's been windy so it's been re-arranging that big snow we got this last week, moving it around." Old men have been sitting in front of the Chatterbox Cafe, ice-fishing or shoveling. People come to church for Ash Wednesday and Father Wilmer is ill with the flu. As an aside for Valentine's Day, the host tells the story about how his parents fell in love during a train robbery.

March: Mysterious Divorce
"It's been warm, it's in the 40s and the snow has been melting. The sidewalks are clear and the people are out walking around town." Someone drops off a partially sealed envelope with divorce papers that it becomes the talk of the town. Romance is a mystery and this mystery examines the many couples who could be separating... The Whippets get a new ballplayer who gives hope to the baseball motto "where there's life, there's hope." Irene Bunsen deliberates on whether or not to grow her award-winning tomatoes; meanwhile, Pastor Liz goes sledding.

April: Mr. Berge & the Ice Melt
"The fourth Sunday of Lent was last week and Easter is a couple weeks away and that big snow was too much for people." The geese have arrived and are looking for any open water on the lake. Mr. Berge takes his dog Doug out for a walk and walks out on the ice in search of an elusive discarded axe. As Berge sinks in the soft slush from the warm weather, with Doug looking on, he reflects on his life and vows to do things differently if he escapes with his life.

May: Mattress
"It's been sunny and warm up there, warm enough for us anyway, and it's just been absolutely beautiful––been paradise, gorgeous." Clarence Bunsen gets a haircut, the Lutheran Church council deals with a few small issues, and Duane Bunsen and his wife repair their relationship.

June: Graduation Prank
"It's been cool. There's been some rain, which we appreciate out there because it gives you a reason not to do things you thought you were going to have to do." The high school decides to hold graduation outdoors at the last minute, the class of 2015 pulls off one of the better graduation pranks in recent memory, and the town takes time to enjoy the summer weather.

July: Parade
"Full-blown summer out there. The raspberries are ripe. They're so sweet––how we love them. The boats are out on the lake, fishing boats and pontoon boats are out there." Mr. Snecker falls asleep on the curb in front of the Chatterbox Cafe, the town holds a mostly successful 4th of July parade, and we hear the story of the famous Living Flag.

August: Cemetery on the Hill
"The little town that time forgot is what they used to call it. That didn't mean anything to me when I was your age but now I'm 75 years old and you go back to this place and so much is the same as when you were 17." The Chatterbox Cafe, Sidetrack Tap, Skoglund's Five and Dime, the Statue of the Unknown Norwegian, and the one stop light are all still there as the host returns for a funeral and recounts how he fell in love with his high school sweetheart Corinne. As a bonue, we hear the story about Aunt Evelyn's ashes, the naked parasailor, the pontoon boat, and the hot air balloon.

September: Bears
"It's not the New Year, you know, or anything of the sort, but September: a gorgeous, gorgeous time, and the leaves are turning and the smell of apples in the air." The host recalls a notable childhood moviegoing experience, Lyle Janke's 10th grade biology class learns about bears, and we get a few thoughts on the power of memory.

October: Lunar Eclipse
"It's fall. It's a gorgeous, gorgeous fall! It's been chilly, down into the 30s at night, but people are still sleeping with their windows open because it's good to breathe cold air." The horizontal Lunar Eclipse when the moon is red is one of the reasons we are glad our family stayed and settled here in the north. Many of the townsfolk, including Pastor Liz, describe the powerful effect that the eclipse has had and what they were doing that fateful night.

November: Thanksgiving
"It was good and cold on Thanksgiving Day, which was good. It just made Thanksgiving feel more necessary somehow." Families destroy the social order by purchasing their Thanksgiving meals online, the host prepares a subpar grape salad, and we hear a few observations about unique holiday traditions.

December: The Messiah
"We got this gorgeous snow. People had prayed, hoped for this snow and then it fell and the world became right again." Duane Bunsen accidentally destroys his mother's collection of glass figurines, the Lutheran Church decides against staging Handel's 'Messiah,' and Marlys Tollerud gives her sister a painting for Christmas.

Get "A Year in Lake Wobegon" >>>


Liner notes for the album include poems that Garrison has written for each month of the year, plus broadcast information for the Prairie Home show that each monologue came from. Here is the poem for September, from the perspective of a college student beginning their fall semester:

Bring me a pizza and a bottle of beer
You women come right in here
Turn that music up good and loud
This isn't church
This is a dancing crowd
You intellectuals shut your traps
Get up and dance and shake your laps
Tonight let's all be loose and free
Forget the University
The lonely journeys of the mind
Give me synchronicity
With those in front and those behind
Dance does more than philosophy
To raise us mortals toward the sky
So said Shakespeare so say I

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Mandolinist/composer Peter Ostroushko––a frequent performer on A Prairie Home Companion and the show's musical director for several years––has entertained audiences the world over.  He grew up listening to tunes played at family get-togethers in the Ukrainian community of northeast Minneapolis. It's this music that provides the basis for many of his compositions. His first recording session was an uncredited mandolin set on Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. Since then, his works have been performed by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Kremlin Chamber Orchestra among others, and his music has been featured on public television specials such as Ken Burn's film The National Parks

Peter's advice for young musicians:
"I always tell young musicians this great piece of wisdom. Dig up the yard and plant a garden. Vegetables, flowers, whatever gets your socks off. Getting your hands in the dirt will teach you all you need to know about being a musician. See it through––from the backbreaking work of tilling the soil until the fruits of your labor show themselves at the end of the growing season. The planting of the seed till the plant produces its bounty is watching God at his creative best. What inspiration! Plus, if you can't get any gigs, you won't starve." 

Musical interludes are included between these fresh Lake Wobegon stories, and a full song rounds out each of the three discs included. A portion of each sale will go to Peter as he recovers from a debilitating stroke suffered in 2018.

Full songs:
McCully's Waltz - The Whalebone Feathers - Heart of the Heartland

Get "A Year in Lake Wobegon" >>>



  • Greetings,

    My wife gave me a xmas present;

    A PHC rug, I do not know where she got it from.


    Where all the women are strong,
    all the men etc…
    We had it on display in our entry way, never, God forbid was it used as a rug.
    My wife has passed, I moved to an apt and the rug was lost during the move.
    Is it at all possible to obtain a replacement, I truly would appreciate it, holds fond memories of my wife’s loving demeanor.

    Thanks, Tom

    320-699-0046 cell

    Tom Koralesky
  • I’ve listened and yearned for your programs since I accidentally came across a show in the early 80s, a single parent, at the end of a long, hot summer afternoon in one of the hundreds of endless suburbs of L.A. Then and now your stories help keep me a bit more on the sane side, and an imaginary visitor to a kind, funny, sometimes sad, extraordinary town. Thank you, Garrison.

    Rosy Newlun
  • Excellent!! My parents taught me early on not to hate. I have lived by that advice until the past year and with the current President lying, with every word out of his mouth, I am approaching the point of hatred. I am almost 80 and I have never seen such an incompetent team of losers.

    Jerry Felgenhour
  • I Simply echo Peter s Words and one further comment— after a long time i managed to get you Book of Limericks Beautifully assembled Thank you

    Dermod P. Lynskey
  • Thank you for your wonderful writings. I became a fan in the 1980’s and enjoyed your recorded stories. My favorite, even after all these years, is “Bruno, the fishing dog” on the Gospel Birds tape. Rather than replace all those tapes, or transfer them to my computer, etc., I actually bought a Sony boombox. Now I can still hear all those great stories from when I first discovered your radio show. Thank you so much. PS – My dad is from East Grand Forks MN and my mom from Grafton ND. After WWII they came to California and so I am a native, but with deep roots in MN and ND (pioneers in the 1800’s) so I still feel like a farmer’s daughter.

    Susan Larson

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