ALTURA, Minn. (AP) - In a town of barely 500 people, along a Main Street that spans four blocks, stands a bar that keeps its rural area hopping with events every weekend.
Sometimes it’s charity events. Sometimes it’s beef jerky contests, or live music, game feeds, auctions or even an Easter Egg hunt. And sometimes it’s dueling pianos or nationally traveled comedians.
The Winona Daily News reports that Pooter’s Sports Bar and Grill in Altura is the only place within a conceivable distance that makes bloody marys with 25 food items packed on top.
“We stay pretty busy,” co-owner Teresa Pierce said, after listing more events the bar named after her husband does than what could be written down.
Pooter’s Sports Bar and Grill is just one of the many rural bars serving its community more than just a few drinks. They serve as one of few - or sometimes the only - common space for rural residents to congregate, socialize and host events. In essence, they act as community centers.
On a recent Friday, nearly every seat was taken inside Pooter’s with patrons laughing as they gathered around small tables or greeting each other with bright-eyed smiles.
“Hey old man!” local farm worker Steve Reps bellowed out across the bar, his high-pitched laughter permeating through the room.
Up walked local resident Mark Spencer who joined in on the laughter and gave Steve a firm but friendly pat on the back. After talking with Steve for a few moments, Mark explained why he loves his small town bar.
“Small town bars are awesome,” he said. “You can relate to people. In a big city you sit down and no one talks to you.”
From a few feet away Cori Swain chimed in.
“It’s like ‘Cheers,’” she said. “Everybody knows everybody.”
And indeed it seemed like everyone did. Small social circles would collide and at times exchange people until later in the night when most patrons headed into the back room, where Minneapolis comedian Kevin Craft - who’s been featured on CNN, Last Comic Standing and the Tyra Banks Show - was ready to start his set.
Patron Mark Kieffer said residents are thankful to have a place that livens the town with so much activity and events. It gives residents a chance to experience new things and stay local, he said.
“It’s nice to have a place that’s willing to go out on a limb to try something like (bringing in comedians),” he said. “It keeps local money in town.”
And it helps the area’s organizations and clubs - like youth sports teams who host their meetings there - by letting them use a room in back that seat about 250 people.
“To this town in particular it’s very important for all the functions it serves,” Kieffer said.
Although he didn’t play to a completely full room, Craft said he loves coming to rural bars for shows.
“I’ll keep coming back until they tell me not to come back,” he said enthusiastically.
He said it’s worth the drive from the cities because he knows rural communities like Altura appreciate it.
“The support system is very strong (in rural communities),” he said.
And it’s a totally different feel of environment than in a bar in the cities.
“It’s intimate and personal,” he said. “Here people want to buy you shots.”
Only a few minutes after Craft picked up the microphone, the whole room was laughing hysterically as they enjoyed a night together as a community.
Pierce said she and her husband, Pooter, are just thankful to have the large space, to have local support and to be able to offer the events they do.
“We try to do something bigger for the locals,” she said. “The community is really loyal and we try to give back when we can.”
Information from: Winona Daily News, http://www.winonadailynews.com
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