Most of these freebies were verified as of July 2020 and some businesses were updated due to COVID-19 restrictions.
If you know of others deals not listed, please let me know. Connect with me with the form at the bottom of this page.
From a bottle of wine worth your age to free car washes, I rounded up the best freebies you can snag on your birthday. Check out my segment on KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live.
Also on Give Me the Mike:
A review of HopCat, the Nicollet Mall bar with 80 beers on tap
“Happy Birthday! We look forward to celebrating with you in person. While some of our dining rooms are temporarily closed, you can still enjoy Texas Roadhouse TO-GO with Curbside pickup! And once the majority of our dining rooms are open, we’ll be sure to send you a birthday gift.”
The Minnesota State Fair announced that its extremely-popular Food Parade will return to the State Fairgrounds October 1 – 4 and 8 – 11, 2020.
Participants will be able to purchase an arrival time each hour between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. Like the original Food Parade, tickets are $20 per vehicle with an additional $5 in fees. Each vehicle can have up to five people inside (ages 4 and under are not counted).
The October tickets are done via a ticket lottery, which is now open. Click here to sign up for your chance to go. The ticket lottery is open until Thursday, September 17 at noon. To learn more about how the ticket lottery process works, click here. Those who win through the lottery will be notified on September 21.
There is a way to purchase a ticket. You can become a Friend of the Fair, which benefits the Minnesota State Fair Foundation. Learn more here.
The second round of the Food Parade includes some new vendors, including Minneapple Pie, who serves deep-fried apple pies. You can also purchase deep-fried pickles. Overall, the entire menu will have flavors of fall.
Get my full review of the inaugural Minnesota State Fair Food Parade by clicking here.
Veterans who need to get back on the road can do so with the help of a Cannon Falls nonprofit.
Nate’s Community Garage helps low-income individuals and any Veteran living in Dakota, Goodhue and Rice Counties with necessary car repairs. They launched in February 2020 and in less than six months, have already helped more than a dozen families.
According to Alisha Fitzpatrick from Nate’s Community Garage, the group handles repairs which only address safety concerns that will ensure safe transportation.
“There is a huge void in the area when it comes to helping with car repairs,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have done tons of research and come up with no much information to help those who need help. Car repairs are essential, and a means of giving someone independence and stability.”
Katie Gerlach from Faribault brought her 2011 Escape to Nate’s. “I found out about two weeks into owning it, that there were so many issues that needed to be repaired,” Gerlach said. “I was so exhausted and sick just thinking about how to make ends meet while affording these costly repairs.”
After applying, Gerlach received new brakes on her vehicle, thanks to the work of Nate’s. “The time there went so quick as all the employees made sure we were fine and if needed anything,” Gerlach added. “They kept us smiling and full of laughs. It was like we were right at home with a best friend.”
“We rely solely on donations and small grants,” Fitzpatrick said. “So 95% is donations from the community around us and our events. We do charge clients 25% of the total car repair (up to $1,000) plus applicable sales tax. We cover the other 75%.”
In addition to donations, Nate’s Community Garage accepts new car parts. They are also starting to host events to expand their outreach.
Those who are interested in receiving services from Nate’s Community Garage are encouraged to fill out an application on their website or Facebook page. They do follow household income guidelines, which are available on their website.
In my Serve Our Society series, I shine the spotlight on amazing Minnesota-based nonprofits.
If you would like to nominate an organization to be featured, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in Lavender Magazine, September 2020
September is National Recovery Month, a time to increase awareness of mental health and substance use disorders. It’s also a reason to celebrate the people who recover.
In Eden Prairie, Pride Institute is helping LGBTQIA individuals from around the country reset in a comfortable environment.
“We were the first LGBTQIA-specific program for substance use and addiction treatment in the country, and since have become leaders in the field for 34 years,” said Luke Miller, Pride Institute’s Director of Business Development.
Pride Institute originally opened in 1986 as a direct response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. They provide residential, partial hospitalization, and outpatient treatment services for substance use disorder and addiction. They also have specialty programs that occur weekly, including Transwellness, Meth and Men, Sexual Health, a family program, and other gender-specific groups.
“Our model was created for the LGBTQIA+ community specifically,” Miller said. “A lot of programs have tracks, or specialty groups, but at Pride, being queer is the standard, not the exception.”
Residents of Pride typically stay 30 days, while outpatient services last approximately 20 weeks, or five months.
Jessica Green from Minneapolis heard about Pride Institute from a friend who attended their treatment program. Green was a resident for six weeks in 2019.
“My journey with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues began when I was about 12 years old,” Green told Lavender. “I used substances to numb emotions that I did not want to feel, and as a way to cope with the fact that I really did not want to be alive. Prior to deciding to attend Pride Institute, I was in such a dark place that I had decided that ending my life was the only way to deal with all of this. Due to some divine intervention, the idea came to me that maybe getting sober could help with some of these problems.”
Green, who identifies as pansexual, experienced problems with inpatient hospitalization because staff did not know where to room her since her attraction is not dictated by gender. “This really got in the way of addressing necessary issues at the time,” Green said.
“This sort of thing would never happen at Pride. Pride allows people to be comfortable in their true identity, removing what is often a serious barrier to receiving help. It also allows individuals to build a support network of folks in the sober LGBTQ+ community that is immensely helpful both at Pride and after discharge.”
“Since we are an LGBTQIA-specific treatment program, most of our patients correlate their substance use with past trauma and negative life experiences that came with being in the ‘other’ category society placed them in,” Miller said. “Pride is, and has been, providing safe spaces for people in the community so they can share their stories, and hear others like them, to gain the tools and education to beat addiction.”
“At Pride, an individual can be fully comfortable expressing their gender identity and sexuality without fear of being judged for these things,” Green added.
Pride’s residential location, in Eden Prairie, includes 42 beds.
“During my time at Pride, I took part in group therapy sessions, individual therapy, art therapy, 12-step recovery meetings brought in by community organizations, meditation-based recovery, and even spending time outside going on walks or having bonfires as a part of my recovery,” Green recalled. “I saw a psychiatrist, who helped with medication for my mental health issues. I was monitored by excellent nursing staff who ensured my safety at all times. I had the opportunity to get to know so many amazing individuals, many of whom I am still in contact with today. On Saturdays, my family was allowed to come visit and they brought my dog to come see me, which really helped as I missed her so much while in treatment. I was even able to attend the Gopher State Round-Up with Pride, which is a yearly Alcoholics Anonymous convention that takes place in Minnesota with the chance to attend many meetings and meet groups from around the state.”
During COVID-19, staff at Pride are following CDC guidelines to provide patients the care they deserve. Pride Institute’s outpatient program has moved to a virtual platform.
Pride Institute is in-network with Minnesota Medicaid and accepts public funding through the state of Minnesota.
“If an LGBTQ+ individual feels that substance abuse is negatively affecting their life, Pride Institute is an amazing place to begin a journey of recovery,” Green said. “There is so much more to life than drugs and alcohol, and it is possible to get and stay sober with Pride. Pride Institute didn’t just change my life. It saved my life and allowed me to build a life worth living.”
To learn more, call Pride Institute’s admissions team at (952) 934-7554. You can also fill out a referral form on their website, www.pride-institute.com. An admissions coordinator will do an over-the-phone assessment to make sure your needs, goals and values will be best served by the program.
If you’re looking for a unique dinner experience that will support six Twin Cities restaurants and businesses, you’ll want to participate in Cochon555.
On Thursday, September 10, six Twin Cities chefs will prepare a six course dinner that you can pick up and enjoy from home. That evening, you’ll be invited to a Zoom experience with the chefs who will share expert plating instructions and cooking techniques. They will also answer any questions you may have.
Meals cost $115 per person and can be picked up on September 10 at St. Genevieve in Minneapolis. In addition to the six courses, you also receive a bottle of wine. You can order your Carry Out With Cochon dinner by clicking here.
Cochon555 is a national event, stopping in Minneapolis every year. Cochon, which is the French word for pig, celebrates heritage pork dishes. Chefs are challenged to use pork in creative ways, and the results are spectacular. I’ve had the honor of attending Cochon555 multiple times, and it’s a fun event.
Typically, one chef from the Minneapolis event heads to a national Cochon555 competition. In 2018, Tomlinson won the Grand Cochon contest.
Learn more about Carry Out With Cochon, happening Thursday, September 10, by clicking here.
If you have not attended the Llama Costume Contest at the Minnesota State Fair, you are missing a thing of beauty. Llamas are just fun looking animals, and they are patient as 4-H students decorate them in unique costumes and trot them around an arena for the one-night event.
With the cancelation of the 2020 Minnesota State Fair due to the Coronavirus, we have to wait until 2021 to attend the Costume Contest.
However, State Fair officials are running a costume contest — and you don’t need a llama to enter.
By Friday, August 28, email email@example.com with a picture of you and your pet in complimentary costumes. LEGO my EGGO! Sonny and Cher! A bottle of ketchup and a hot dog!
One lucky winner will receive a pair of tickets to the 2021 Minnesota State Fair, which runs August 26 through September 6, 2021. Make sure you go on the day of the Llama Costume Contest or the Llama Agility Contest, both enjoyable events during the Great Minnesota Get Together.
Also on Give Me The Mike…
In 2019, the Minnesota State Fair brought two million people together for 12 days of fun. So it was an obvious, yet disappointing, choice to cancel the 2020 State Fair due to the Coronavirus.
To give some Minnesotans a taste of the Great Minnesota Get Together, State Fair officials planned the first-ever State Fair Food Parade. Tickets sold out in the matter of two hours.
If you have tickets to the Food Parade, or want to see how it went, I went on day one and documented the whole experience. Click here for a full guide.
There are plenty of other ways to get a taste of State Fair foods leading up to Labor Day. Check out this list of restaurants and businesses where you can find official Fair foods.
I will keep adding to this guide as I hear of more options. Thanks to Becky Olssen for this suggestion!
Also on Give Me The Mike…
When the 2019 Minnesota State Fair ended, who would have guessed the hot accessory for 2020 would be a face mask?
Minnesota State Fair officials added face coverings to their official online store which also features t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and mugs. Typically, you can shop for Fair-branded merchandise in a store located at Visitors Plaza on the Fairgrounds.
To be honest, official Fair merchandise available to public is not typically the most trendy looking stuff. However, designers did a good job creating face masks, along with a gaiter. You can get a face covering featuring Fairchild, one of the two mascots for the Fair, for $12. They’re also selling a three-pack of more simplistic masks for $20. Face coverings are available in adult and youth sizes.
You can buy the face coverings on the Minnesota State Fair’s Fair Wear online store.
Save the date now: The 2021 Minnesota State Fair runs August 26 through September 6, 2021.
Also on Give Me The Mike….
Originally published in Lavender Magazine, August 2020
In the 1980s, members of the LGBTQ community battled complete isolation. It inspired a Minneapolis-based nonprofit to form, and they are still working to ensure we can all live free from discrimination.
The PFund Foundation started in 1987, in response to the AIDS crisis. At the time, the ignorance of many in society was combated by Pfund, who decided the LGBTQ community could provide for itself and ensure no one fights the battle alone.
PFund continues their mission where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are celebrated and live free from discrimination, violence, invisibility, and isolation.
Today, the PFund Foundation is a premiere LGBTQ grant maker in the Upper Midwest, providing money to individuals, small businesses, and organizations from Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
PFund is helping the LGBTQIA community survive the COVID-19 pandemic by providing micro grants. “We’ve had requests for rental and utility assistance, food and other necessities,” said PFund Executive Director A. Charlene Leach. “From organizations and small businesses, we’ve had requests for trauma-related services and PPE equipment.”
Those grants have supported people who may have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Ms. Leach said, “There are many gig workers in our community that remain out of work due to social distancing and our overall goal is to maintain a safety net to ensure the stability of the community.”
Due to the wide array of circumstances COVID brought forth, PFund has no requirements on how funds are used, however, an application is required. Anyone is welcome to apply on their website.
PFund is expected to dispense $250,000 in COVID-19 micro grants, with the hope to add more funds as social distancing mandates continue.
In addition to grants, PFund creates and develops leaders within the LGBTQ community. “The definition of leadership varies depending on the person,” Leach said. “It will look different for someone who is recently leaving university than it does for a mid-or-senior career professional.”
PFund offers scholarships to those looking to continue their education, but that doesn’t mean you need to be enrolled at a traditional college or university. The nonprofit grants leadership awards, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, to people invested in the LGBTQIA community, seeking to maintain work as a community activist or organizer or who may need financial support attending conferences and workshops.
According to Leach, “We define leadership as someone actively engaged in advancing LGBTQIA equity, whether though paid work, volunteering or investing.”
Applications for scholarships typically open in January each year. There’s no age limit on who is eligible.
The PFund Foundation is funded by individual donors, other foundations, corporate sponsors, and an endowment. “There are a number of foundations that are long time funders of PFund, but also fully invested in LGBTQIA equity,” Leach said. “Some of those funders have supported the work of PFund for many years.” PFund also receives state government funding.
As PFund looks ahead, elevating voices of the Black community, along with Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color who identify as LGBTQIA remains top priority. “Aside from financial investment through our scholarships, we recently launched our Emergent Leaders Initiative, a program designed to assist with the development of young leaders by providing professional development, coaching and networking,” Leach tells Lavender. The initiative is in partnership with Quorum, the Twin Cities’ LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
Leach also pointed to the wide array of opportunities that can open up thanks to the help of a scholarship. “According to the CDC, Black women are three to four times more likely to die during childbirth. While there are many factors that contribute to that number, PFund Foundation was able to provide a scholarship to the second African American midwife in the state of Minnesota. While that doesn’t solve all the issues, it’s a step that I hope others will follow in recognizing that representation is also part of the problem.”
PFund is also working to diversify the voices within its organization. “I will also add that for the first time in PFund’s 32 year history, it has a Black woman at the helm,” Leach said. “I think it speaks to the commitment of the Board of Directors in our quest for equity.”
Like so many businesses, COVID-19 has taken a toll on how PFund can serve its neighbors. “Like most organizations, we have seen a decline in giving but we remain steadfast in our work for equity,” Leach said. The nonprofit accepts online donations for those looking to help support others in the LGBTQIA community.
And there are other ways to help besides opening up your wallet: “Anyone interested in getting involved can join the Board of Directors or serve on a Board committee, assist with grant review for our scholarships, or volunteer at an event, once social distancing has been lifted,” Leach said. “We are also accepting volunteers who would be interested in sending care packages to our scholars who are college students.”
PFund ignited during one crisis, and is steadfast during this one.
“As long as the rights of anyone in the LGBTQIA community are at risk, we will be there, fighting for their rights and fighting for equality,” Leach stated. “We have new programming and enhanced trainings, we’ve diversified our funding, and are growing exponentially. We invite the community to engage with us as we create the world we want to leave for those behind us.”
To donate to PFund, or to apply for a COVID-19 micro grant, head to www.pfundfoundation.org.
Originally published in Lavender Magazine, August 2020
No matter if your 2020 dream vacation was happening by plane, train, or automobile—chances are COVID-19 has altered or canceled those plans.
Despite COVID, LGBTQ-friendly destinations around the country are still open for business. If you’re comfortable traveling now, this fall is a perfect time to go, as tourism numbers are down and you won’t have to battle crowds. These destinations will happily welcome you whenever you’re ready to travel again.
I have had the pleasure of visiting some of the most LGBTQ-friendly destinations in the United States. Here are three spots I hope every queer person has the chance to visit in their lifetime.
Located on the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown, Massachusetts, commonly known as Ptown, has served as an escape for those in the LGBTQ community for generations.
During Ptown’s most popular themed week, Carnival, the town of 3,000 residents swells up to 70,000 people. From women of color to bears, Ptown hosts a celebration for nearly everyone.
COVID-19 has taken its toll on Ptown. Tony Fuccillo, the Director of Tourism for the Town of Provincetown, told me that most events are canceled through the end of 2020. There’s a different feel because the nightlife isn’t what it once was. However, Fuccillo added that it hasn’t stopped people from visiting. Ptown offers plenty of outdoor activities, which many consider safer than indoor activities (while following proper social distancing guidelines) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
LGBTQ-owned Art’s Dune Tours has offered guided excursions of the Cape Cod National Seashore for nearly 75 years. This year, You will be in an SUV with a tour guide who points out the untouched beauty of the land, which was dedicated by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. The sunset dune tour includes a 60-minute car ride and your chance to watch sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. They can also serve you an oceanfront dinner for an additional cost. It was the most rewarding part of my May 2017 trip.
Ptown also offers kayak and paddle board rentals, along with whale watching tours.
Fall, in particular between Labor Day and Halloween, is a great time to visit, as hotel room prices drop considerably from the main tourist season. Plus, it’s still warm. Your priority for booking a Ptown vacation is finding a place to sleep. Ptown is not home to any chain hotels, or “formula businesses” as they’re legally referred to, and instead is populated with smaller bed and breakfasts.
Find my 10 tips on planning a perfect Ptown vacation here.
Recently, scouts from the television show American Horror Story were in Ptown to scout sites for an upcoming season. Fuccillo wasn’t able to confirm if the show will actually film in Provincetown on schedule next spring, but don’t be surprised if you see Ptown as the backdrop for the beloved drama.
Out west, Palm Springs is known as one of the best LGBTQ destinations in the world.
Located two hours east of Los Angeles and two hours northeast of San Diego, Palm Springs boasts 14 resorts exclusively for the gay community, including many clothing-optional options.
My January 2017 trip to Palm Springs marked my first time staying at a clothing-optional resort, and I didn’t know what to expect. Or see. But to be completely honest, the clothing-optional part wasn’t a big deal. Guys are welcoming, no matter your body type. What those resorts offer is a great opportunity for you to meet other travelers. When booking your stay, check with hotel owners to see if they will host an afternoon happy hour. Many serve up complimentary drinks. Similar to Provincetown, Palm Springs bans chain businesses in certain parts of the city. The result gives small businesses the opportunity to thrive.
Click here to check out reviews of Palm Springs gay resorts I visited during my trip.
Non-chain, LGBTQ-owned Townie Bagels, is a spot I have recommended to many people who have made the trip to Palm Springs. Owner Andy Wysocki wanted to bake bread for fun. After completing coursework at the San Francisco Baking Institute, he would bring his creations to the Sunday morning coffee group he attended with his husband, Bill. That evolved to selling baked goods at farmer’s markets and then opening a restaurant at the southern end of Palm Springs in 2015. You’ll see Bill handling front-of-house duties while Andy bakes bagels, “less-gluten” crackers (made with almond flour), scones, and baguettes in the back.
Do not pass up on the Palm Springs Air Museum. Located on the tarmac of the Palm Springs Airport, the Museum has an array of planes flown in World War II, including two featured in the movie, “Pearl Harbor”. The museum is staffed with veterans who volunteer their time to graciously share their stories and vast knowledge. For me, it was an incredible way to witness that era of American history. Many of the airplanes are outside, which makes it a good activity to take on during COVID. Tripadvisor ranks the Palm Springs Air Museum as the number one attraction in the city.
The main Palm Springs tourist season runs late-January through April. Be aware that the desert gets very hot during the summer months; July’s average high temperature is 108 degrees. Their visitor’s bureau, Visit Palm Springs, tells me that the summer months typically draw a wide array of European visitors who seek out the heat.
The annual Palm Springs’ White Party, which is considered by many to be the largest gay dance music festival in the nation, is rescheduled to take place October 30 to November 2, 2020.
Located about one hour northeast of Green Bay and a total of five hours from Minneapolis, Door County, Wisconsin is the authority in hospitality and a haven for those looking to escape. Due to its geography, you can watch the sunrise over Lake Michigan, and that evening after a quick car ride, you’ll see the sunset over Green Bay.
The city of Sturgeon Bay serves as the front door to Door County. To get from Sturgeon Bay to the county’s northern tip, you will drive for nearly an hour. You will definitely need a car, as ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft aren’t available and you won’t see people hailing taxis.
LGBTQ-owned Chanticleer Guest House hosted me for an August 2018 visit. Owners Darrin and Byron pour their hearts into the bed and breakfast, cooking for guests and delivering food and beverages to rooms in the morning. They updated the main house, built in 1916, along with a barn, which both have suites.
During a typical travel season, Door County officials recommend you book a B&B for the summer season six to eight months in advance.
In Ellison Bay, make a reservation at Wickman House for dinner. They adapted to COVID guidelines by offering outdoor seating and a “summer of BBQ” themed menu with nightly specials. The restaurant is open “almost year-round”. Door County is famous for its cherries, and a visit to White Gull Inn in Fish Creek is a must for their cherry-stuffed French toast with a cream cheese filling. Thanks to this menu item, the restaurant won Good Morning America’s Best Breakfast Challenge in 2010.
If you’re looking to get beyond Door County, you can take the brand new Washington Island Ferry, which was christened in June 2020. She has the capacity to hold up to 28 vehicles and 150 passengers. Washington Island offers beautiful outdoor scenery and is worth visiting if your trip to the area is more than three or four days.
Considering the amount of driving around the county you will do once you’re there, you will want to spend at least three days in Door County. Head here for guides on what to do in Door County over a long weekend, and guides for those who are able to spend more time away from home.
Due to COVID-19, it’s highly recommended you check with businesses on hours and guidelines while planning your next trip.