Flyway 2016: It’s a lean, mean festival machine

A film festival is a strange beast. It can be a community event showing local films, like a farmers’ market for movies. It can be a for-profit corporation, selling mainstream films to big audiences for big bucks.

Or it can be the Flyway.

This is the ninth year that the scrappy, ambitious film festival has brought an eclectic assortment of movies to the Mississippi River towns of Pepin, Stockholm, Alma, and Red Wing. The festival, which runs from October 19-23, has attracted national attention for its creative spirit and its willingness to invite emerging filmmakers to share their work.

But like any volunteer-run nonprofit organization, the Flyway has had its challenges. Life happens: people move away, jobs change, partnerships end. Schedules get postponed. Some feared that the Flyway would live no more.

And then – like the mythical Lake Pepin monster depicted in the 2016 Flyway logo – the festival reared its head and roared back to life.

“We took stock of what the Flyway really means to the community, and we realized that it was incredibly important,” said Mary Anne Collins-Svoboda, the new Flyway board chair. “It’s been very gratifying to talk to community members about strengthening the organization and hearing how much support we have.”

In addition to Collins-Svoboda, the new board consists of Jane Whiteside, vice chair; Anne Anderson, treasurer; and Lu Lippold, secretary. The advisory committee includes Judy Krohn, Susan Eldredge, David Potter, Jody Wurl, Kristin Debner, John Anderes, Dorothy Thompson, Irene Wolf, Allison Lisk, Bruce Johnson, and Linda Herman. Jim Brunzell, who has been a major force behind Flyway programming for several years, is again lending his expertise to the Flyway.

So what will be different this year?

“More happy hours, no formal workshops, more films, a new venue at the Villa Bellezza Winery, and screenings at the historic Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing,” said festival founder Rick Vaicius. “We’re streamlining some things, adding others. And our film lineup this year is pretty amazing.”

The film lineup, along with ticket and pass availability will be announced next week. The selections include stunningly beautiful narratives, disturbing documentaries, hilarious and moving short films, and, in a nod to the upcoming election, some untold political stories.

“There’s a special emphasis on lore and legend, including films about Minnesota and Wisconsin,” added Vaicius. “We’re featuring some our best regional filmmakers as well.”

See below for visual clues about a few of the films you’ll see at the Flyway. And stay tuned for the big reveal when the Flyway announces its lineup!

2016 Flyway logo by Jon Hunt

Swee Pea Girl Asleep American Fable

Pepie the Lake Monster Rears its Head in New Flyway Logo

Pepie Flyway Logo Banner
For centuries, travelers on Lake Pepin have caught glimpses of a frightening sea serpent roiling the waters. Now, at long last, the creature has been captured: as a graphic design by Twin Cities artist Jon Hunt. The eye-catching image is the new logo for the ninth annual Flyway Film Festival on the shores of Lake Pepin, which will take place from October 19 – 23, 2016.

Hunt first learned about the legend of “Pepie,” the Lake Pepin monster, from Flyway Film Festival Operations Director Diana Vaicius, with whom he shares a fondness for creepy, unexplained phenomena.

“I’m totally fascinated with cryptozoology,” says Hunt, referring to the study of mysterious creatures such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and Pepie. “There are only a couple of ‘confirmed’ lake monsters in America, and Pepie is one of them.”

When Hunt shared a first draft of his logo design with Diana Vaicius, she suggested that he take it up a notch.

“It’s a monster, after all,” says Vaicius. “The first image looked a bit too friendly.” Hunt agreed, and the final image resembles a moderately scary monster from 1950’s-era horror films.

Early sightings of a Lake Pepin sea creature date back to the late 1600s, when Father Louis Hennepin was exploring the Mississippi River. Indians were said to use only strong wooden boats on Lake Pepin because the creature could pierce through birchbark canoes. Local newspapers have published fairly regular accounts of “a lake monster seen swimming in Lake Pepin” since the 1860s.

The Flyway Film Festival has featured a new graphic design each year since its inception in 2008. Hunt was delighted that he could combine his interest in Lake Pepin lore with the promotion of the Flyway.

“I’m a huge fan of the film festival and of what it’s brought to the Lake Pepin area,” says Hunt. “Now if we can get some proof that Pepie really exists, I’ll be a happy man.”

Flyway 2015 is over. The Flyway Ax Awards live on, literally forever.

The 8th annual Flyway Film Festival was a blast. It was epic. It was everything a film festival should be. We saw films that blew our minds. We ate. We drank. We learned vital info from top-of-the-line industry pros. We drank some more. We exchanged brilliant insights. We danced in the streets. There was pie.

Al Milgrom was extremely pleased with his Flyway Ax.

These are the awards that Rick handed out on the night of the gala, which was before the film screenings even started, because that’s how we roll. The awards are granite sculptures shaped like ax heads, made by a famous sculptor who lives nearby. Yes, there’s a story there.

Best Narrative Feature
Remittance, by Patrick Daly and Joel Fendelman

Best Documentary Feature
In Transit, by Albert Maysles, Lynn True, Nelson Walker III, David Usui, and Benjamin Wu

WI/MN Showcase
Lost Conquest, by Mike Scholtz

Seed&Spark Short Film Awards

James Martin, Ax sculptor David Culver, Jen West, and Seed&Spark's Erica Anderson

James Martin, Ax sculptor David Culver, Jen West, and Seed&Spark’s Erica Anderson

Little Cabbage, by Jen West
11 Life Lessons from an Awesome Old Dyke, by Allison Khoury

Founder’s Short Film Award
Hunter’s Fall, by Peter McCarthy

David & Linda Brassfield “Flyway Spirit” Award
Al Milgrom

Trailblazer Award
Kristjan Knigge

Sculptor’s Choice Awards

Kristjan Knigge and Peter McCarthy

Kristjan Knigge and Peter McCarthy

The Driftless Area, by Zachary Sluser
Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play, by Jerome Thelia

Congratulations to the award winners, and to all the wonderful filmmakers who screened their work at the Flyway!


Thanks to photographer Bruce Christianson for donating his time and talent to document the Flyway.


Explore Alma
Red Wing Innovation Incubator