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The International Vinegar Museum  (Roslyn, South Dakota)

(Reprint from News: September 15, 2001)

August 31, 2001

 

I like to visit small, quirky, out-of-the-way places when I travel and, fortunately, there are a lot of quirky places in the Midwest.  After I left Fort Sisseton State Park, I drove a few miles south and stopped by the small town of Roslyn, South Dakota, one of the quirkiest towns that I’ve ever been to.  Or rather, based on its small size, I should say that Roslyn has one of the highest “quirk-per-capita” ratios of any town in the U.S. -- and for three reasons.

 

First, this is one of only two towns I know with the name of Roslyn, the other Roslyn being in Washington, a bit east of Seattle.  Roslyn, Washington, as you may know, was where they filmed the quirky television show, “Northern Exposure,” though it was supposedly set in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska.  Remember seeing the Roslyn Bar (which the show’s producers changed to “Roslyn’s Bar”) on each week’s opening clip where the moose casually strolls down the street?  They had to import the moose, but the Roslyn Bar is the real thing.

 

The second quirk (I’ve listed the quirk facts in ascending order to build tension, just as my 7th Grade English teacher, Mrs. Fields, taught me) is that Roslyn is the hometown of accordionist Myron Floren. If you’re a fan of Lawrence Welk or polkas, you know who Myron Floren is. If you’re not a fan, you probably make fun of Myron Floren. As I found out, though, you don’t make fun of Myron Floren in South Dakota because he’s hot stuff here... and he’s also, as I would discover, a pretty nice guy.
 
Third, and quirkiest of all, Roslyn is the home of the International Vinegar Museum.  It’s actually the only Vinegar Museum in the world (hence the “International” part) and, Myron Floren notwithstanding, was the main reason that I decided to drive to Roslyn.  The museum is in the former Town Hall, the most impressive building in Roslyn, which in itself should be enough to draw huge crowds.  Seriously, though, as I entered the museum, I wasn’t sure if this was a spoof or if it was for real.
 
It’s the real deal, folks, and the sole operator, a jovial guy named Lawrence Diggs, really knows his vinegar.  Although he doesn’t brag about it, Lawrence has a Ph.D. in something (Food Science, I think) and goes by the nickname “Vinegar Man."  I dare say that Lawrence Diggs, who in his spare time works as a “Vinegar Consultant” (don’t ask), probably knows more about vinegar than perhaps anyone on the planet.  

 

       

Above left:  Roslyn is proud of its most famous native, accordionist Myron Floren.

Above center:  Bustling (?) downtown Roslyn.  That's the International Vinegar Museum on the right.

Above right:  The world's only Vinegar Museum.

 

When I walked in, the museum was empty except for the Vinegar Man, who greeted me with a smile and a handshake.  I spent the next 30 minutes walking around and reading the various displays on vinegar and I actually learned a lot of interesting things.  For instance, people have been making vinegar for thousands of years using whatever fermentable food product happened to be on hand, including rice in the Orient, grapes in Greece, wheat in England (for the “malt vinegar” they put on Fish & Chips), and corn or apples in the U.S. 

 

Some other vinegar trivia:  It kills bacteria so it’s widely used as a food preservative, it cleans windows, and it’s a handy antidote if you happen to get stung by a deadly Australian Box Jellyfish.  I’ll keep that in mind when I go swimming at the Great Barrier Reef next year.

 

After a while, two couples entered the museum and Lawrence gave the five of us an interesting tour, complete with a “vinegar tasting” at the end.  I tried to suppress a smile as Lawrence very seriously told me to swirl the vinegar in the glass and let the aroma “waft” (a term he used) up to my nose.  After a few tastes, though, I was really getting into it. 

 

I know I poked fun of the International Vinegar Festival on one of my funny photos (see Humor), but Lawrence Diggs takes his vinegar seriously.  He’s also one of the nicest, most intelligent, and most interesting persons that I’ve met on this trip.  After a three-hour visit to the museum, including a long discussion with Lawrence, I decided that vinegar is cool. 

 

You can reach Lawrence at his website, www.VinegarMan.com

 

       

Above left:  On a vinegar tour.  This is the vinegar "wall of fame."

Above right:  Dr. Lawrence Diggs, the Vinegar Man, showing us how to properly taste vinegar.

Above left:  After the tour you can purchase all sorts of vinegar products.  I bought a spray bottle of vinegar room deodorizer as a gift... but for whom?

 

1-6306_Vinegar_Festival_Sign.jpg (47623 bytes) Left:  Yes, there's even an International Vinegar Festival.  Not only can you hear Pastor Wilson singing "his hits" (as only the Pastor can sing them) and see the Hutterite Choir, but you can also hear "the Polish singer," Tony Wika.  Yep, only in the Midwest...

 

 

 

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