Weather Forecast


Oak Center releases music lineup

Annual performer Monroe Crossing will play a Christmas matinee Sunday, Dec. 4 at Oak Center.

As the seasons change, most work lives thrive on as usual - minus the dissolving daylight.

But for one business owner, the transforming terrain marks a new season, shifting thoughts from crops to catchy compositions.

Steven Schwen, humble owner of Oak Center General Store based in rural Lake City, respects the change from the earth.

The store is the home base for Earthen Path Organic Farm, a 14-acre fruit, herb and vegetable farm that provides part of the produce for their Community Supported Agriculture program. Shares are purchased and produce is picked up weekly.

Nearing a mellow brink of the building's 100-year anniversary, the structure, built in 1913, was resurrected by Schwen in 1976 after years of abandonment and was dedicated to rebuilding a better world -- from the earth up.

The whimsically-aged store carries organic meat, produce, eggs, herbs, coffee and bulk items on the main level and a community hall on the top floor housing concerts.

The music season is now in full swing - running from October through April, cleverly allowing Schwen to farm full-time in its peak.

The unique varieties of musical talent are offered through Folk Forum, a community outreach program started by Schwen and influenced by music, theater, round table discussions and practical workshops. It serves to raise consciousness and build the local community.

Priding themselves as "offering the best live music you can find in southeastern Minn.," the forum has evolved from its beginning in the late 1970s.

Created by alternative-lifestyle seekers, the forum served as a safe place to support each other through workshops and speakers.

"There was the sense of rebuilding the planet," Schwen said. "It served as a niche."

Music eventually made its way into the meetings and by the mid-80s the hall walls filled with tunes on a regular basis.

"One Friday night a workshop on homeopathic medicine was done by Julian 'Winnie' Winston," Schwen said, "the next night he walked in with a pedal steel guitar and banjo -- the place filled up."

As concerts continued to capture the community, Schwen realized this meant something more. "Sympathetic and ecological people came to meet other people," he said. "It was hard to get people to sit back down after the music break."

From annual regulars, such as 20-year veteran folk-singer Bill Staines, to new artists such as blues-guitarist Susan Werner, Schwen keeps the concerts balanced with a blend of carefully hand-picked musicians.

As his waitlist grows with perspective artists recommended from forum volunteers to the artisan's themselves, Schwen's focus on the fusion of people, land, peace and justice guides the line-up and also his own world.

"It is a magical place," Schwen said. "People ask if I am the owner - I say, 'It owns me.'"

If you go...

When: Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; some Sundays, just call

Where: 67011 Highway 63, rural Lake City

Cost: Tickets are sold in advance, at the door or through the mail and are priced from $15 regular price to $5 low income.

More info: Call Steven Schwen at 507-753-2080 or visit to find more information about volunteering with Folk Forum.

Upcoming concerts

Susan Werner

Susan Werner will play live folk, blues, jazz, songs of love and love lost music.

When: Saturday, Nov 26 at 8 p.m.

Charlie Parr

Charlie Parr will play live authentic north shore blues tunes with opener The Sudden Lovelys.

When: Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m.

Monroe Crossing

Monroe Crossing will perform a Christmas matinee. Celebrating their 10th year in 2010, the group dazzles audiences with an electrifying blend of classic bluegrass, bluegrass gospel and heartfelt originals.

When: Sunday, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m.

Steven Lehto and John Wright

Lehto and Wright will perform live. Collectively, their backgrounds include jazz, blues, fusion, pop, Latin and rock. Joining them is Matt Jacobs on drums and percussion, and his background is similar.

When: Saturday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m.

The Roe Family Singers

The Roe Family Singers will perform live music. From Kirkwood Hollow, Minn., the Roe Family Singers are husband and wife Kim and Quillan Roe.

When: Sunday, Dec. 11 at 2 p.m.

The Reunion Band

The Reunion Band will play classic rock and roll. This five-piece classic rock and roll band has just one mission: Give the people what they want in danceable, recognizable music from the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

When: Friday, Dec. 16 at 2 p.m.

The Dollys

The Dollys will play tradition country music. Kari Shaw, who finds her roots in the music of the Trio and other traditional female country artists, rounded out the Dollys with two of Minneapolis' most sought-after voices, Andra Suchy and Joanna Jahn.

When: Saturday, Dec. 17 at 8 p.m.

Erik Koskinen and Molly Maher

Erik Koskinen and Molly Maher will play live blues, folk and country music. Best known as an ace guitarist and producer/engineer (Trampled By Turtles), Koskinen also should be recognized as a masterful songwriter and rousing country singer. He is back this year with Maher. Breaking all conventions, she plays her guitar upside down and in different tunings.

When: Friday, Dec. 23 at 8 p.m.

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

(651) 301-7880