By Joe Tougas, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato]

Photo by Amanda Sievert
Harold Motter (left) was one guest on 'Michael Feldman's Whad'ya Know?.'
Harold Motter (left) was one guest on 'Michael Feldman's Whad'ya Know?,' which broadcast nationally Saturday from the Midwest Wireless Civic Center. The show, sponsored by KMSU radio, drew a live audience of about 500.

MANKATO — Funny how it sometimes it takes a big stage, bright lights and a traveling radio show with a national audience to appreciate the good stuff you've got.

And Mankato's good stuff was introduced to some 300 radio stations across the country Saturday morning as Public Radio International's "Whad'ya Know?" hosted by Michael Feldman broadcast live from the Midwest Wireless Civic Center.

About 500 people attended the two-hour show, which is ordinarily broadcast from Madison but hits the road occasionally. On Saturday, it was area residents who were on the air - some selected beforehand, some at random during the show.

Lisa Coons from the Coffee Hag got to read the comic disclaimer to the show's quiz. Billy, Hawk and City Mouse played great versions of "Sittin' On Top of the World," and bandmate Tim Waters' tune "Smile All Over."

Eagle Lake's John Rezmerski read poetry and blew the place away with it. Ted Marti from Schell was interviewed about the New Ulm brewery and shared six bottles with the show's host, Michael Feldman, and the show's jazz combo.

For 15 years, Feldman has made an entertaining show by spotlighting the character of the towns he visits, and he found plenty of comic fodder from news events in and around Mankato. From the mourning dove hunts to the visit by President George Bush, Feldman touched on the familiar for laughs.

Before chatting up local news with Free Press regional editor and columnist Tom Lawrence, Feldman noted a Free Press headline: "Bush faithful gather in quarry," following it with "Spaceships fail to arrive."

It was a couldn't-lose crowd for Feldman. All he had to do was drop a name - person, place or thing - and if it was local, it worked.

"The other thing I want to know," he said, "is where is Mount Kato?" Big laughs.

Another local name, Timberwolves owner and local business giant Glen Taylor, was actually the answer to the quiz's qualifier. After picking Mankatoan Harold Motter from the audience to participate in the quiz, the lines were open to the rest of the country to phone in and play along.

But they had to answer this question: On what business did Taylor make his success?

The guesses came from New London, Conn., to Dubuque, Iowa, and included timber, cattle, nuclear submarines, trucking and children's book author, each guess just killing the crowd. Finally, when a call came in from Lake Crystal, the crowd cheered, the question was answered correctly (printing) and the game continued.

Rezmerski - a retired Gustavus Adolphus College professor - read several of his poems and talked about the craft with Feldman, who compared Rezmerski's work to William Carlos Williams. When Rezmerski read a poem in which a televangelist hawks Christianity like an auctioneer, the audience roared. And in one quick comment to Rezmerski, Feldman demonstrated his ability to keep the show on task and the community front and center.

"Do more," Feldman urged the poet. "You've got 'em now. Keep going."