We wanted to share a great article on Larry Swenson in the Fargo Forum. We all enjoy Larry’s talent and gregarious nature – but we forget that he has a life outside of Detroit Lakes. He’s written plays, he has a CD, he travels with groups all over the world!
Well, read the article for more info. (Special thanks to Bob Lind for writing the article and for the In Forum for their permission to reprint.)
Ordinary guy, extraordinary life
Bob Lind, The Forum
Published Sunday, June 22, 2008
Valley R&R columnist Bob Lind has been with The Forum since 1969. He retired from full-time reporting in 1998 and writes the “Neighbors” column on a part-time basis. He is married, with four children and nine grandchildren.
Other than that he lives in four places, writes songs that are sung in other countries, works with the longest-running musical show in the Midwest and is distantly related to five presidents, Larry Swenson is just your average guy-next-door.
Right now he’s producing/directing “Hootenanny,” a weekly show at Fair Hills Resort, Detroit Lakes, Minn., featuring the resort’s staffers. The first performance this summer is Tuesday.
Besides this, he annually sets up the summer Concordia College Global Language Villages in Mexico, and he works with the alumni of Up With People, the organization for young people that seeks to build bridges between people of different countries through music and interaction.
Larry toured with the group in the United States, Canada and Europe in 1978-79. Now he takes part in the group’s reunion each July in Tucson, working with about 100 kids from around the world and having them perform the same musical shows once put on by their parents.
This is the guy who grew up on a dairy farm on Middle Cormorant Lake near Lake Park, Minn., where his parents, Doug and Norma Swenson, still live.
Larry graduated from Lake Park High School and Concordia and earned a master’s degree from the School for International Training, Brattleboro, Vt.
He calls himself a “road warrior” because he divides his time among Mexico City, St. Cloud, Minn. – where he lives maybe two days a month – Fair Hills Resort and the farm home at Lake Park.
He’s a motivational speaker, a teacher trainer for language instructors and he even has a license allowing him to officiate at weddings.
Sweden to Audubon
Something dear to Larry’s heart is cultural diversity. He’s joined Ruben Flores, a Mexico native now living in New York City, in creating a musical show, “The Minnesotan and the Mexican.” It’s part comedy, part serious music and part community talent show involving local musicians, children and others. It also teaches lessons about cultural diversity and fights racial insensitivity.
Larry wrote and directs the show and sings and plays the piano in it. It has been presented in several states as well as in Mexico and Sweden and in some area schools, including those in Detroit Lakes, Lake Park/Audubon and Waubun/Ogema, and he hopes to present it to schools, colleges and community action groups in the Fargo-Moorhead area, also.
One big family
The show at Fair Hills was started in 1965, making it the longest-running musical production in the Midwest. Some of the songs Larry wrote for it in the 1970s are still performed, including “The Pelican Lake Song” and “Wide Mouth Frog.” Many of those songs are sung in several countries and are known as “Larry’s songs,” because he either wrote them or arranged them.
All this is from a man whose hobby is genealogy and who has more than 16,300 people in his family tree. They include people who came to America on the Mayflower and were at the first Thanksgiving; both President Roosevelts, both President Bushs and Ulysses Grant; painter Grandma Moses; author Laura Ingalls Wilder; and England’s Princess Diana. And maybe some who could be considered important.
This also is the man who Up With People once gave its Everyday Hero Award for his work in improving understanding between peoples of the world.
Yet, when people (including his family, he says), ask Larry what he does for a living, his answer is, “I do things that keep me happy.”
Like singing, directing, writing, cutting through cultural/racial walls – and, if the occasion is right, perhaps even performing that all-time Fair Hills Resort Hootenanny favorite, “Send Me to Glory In a Glad Bag.”
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