Mainstreet Radio began in 1987, with an introductory member staff of Rachel Reabe, John Biewen and Leif Enger, whose mission was reporting from rural Minnesota to all of Minnesota. It first appeared as part of MPR Journal and Morning Edition broadcasts, providing both long and short form news features. In the years following, Mainstreet Radio expanded both in reporter contributions and programming. Starting in the 1990’s, Mainstreet Radio presented a monthly two-hour special, focusing on rural issues. Important regional topics included the environment, economy, and health matters outside the Twin Cities metro.
Mainstreet Radio has won numerous journalistic awards, including for the programs “Meth in Minnesota” and “The Rural School Challenge.”
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October 17, 1988 - Midday presents a special Mainstreet Radio documentary, entitled “Migrant Farm Workers.” The documentray profiles migrant farm workers who came to Minnesota, and wound up staying here. Following the documentary, Jose Trejo, executive director of the Spanish Speaking Affairs Council, answers listener questions about issues facing Hispanics in Minnesota.
September 8, 1989 - MPR’s John Biewen presents “Dancing on Beat: Portrait of a Reservation Family,” an inside look at the lives of a Native American family on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota. Following documentary, MPR’s Bob Potter interviews Mike Bongo, director of American Indian OIC in Minneapolis, about his thoughts about documentary.
September 8, 1989 - Mainstreet Radio’s John Biewen presents the documentary “Dancing on Beat: Portrait of a Reservation Family,” which follows an Ojibwe family on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.
December 27, 1989 - A Mainstreet Radio special from southwestern Minnesota town of Madison. MPR’s John Biewen presents a documentary entitled, "We're Not Dying," which highlights how the town survived the 1980’s farm crisis. Across the farm belt, the 1980s were the most difficult decade in a half-century. One farm in ten went out of business in the decade. Farming towns suffered as well, losing population, schools, and businesses. Madison was no exception to those challenges. Program includes various interviews of residents, who share their memories on the upheavals of crisis and thoughts on their uncertain future.
October 10, 1990 - Jon Grunseth, I-R candidate for governor; and Rudy Perpich, incumbent DFL governor of Minnesota, speaking to the endorsing convention of the SHOW Minnesota Education Association. Grunseth and Perpich shared their differing views on education issues and answered audience questions. Program closes with brief Mainstreet Radio: Red Lake Falls School report from MPR’s Leif Enger. Enger examines Global Studies Institute high school, which focuses exclusively on “global studies.” Report includes various interviews of individuals at the school.
October 29, 1990 - On this Mainstreet Radio program, MPR’s Leif Enger reports on the attempts for a truce on the border of the BWCA since the 1978 Boundary Waters Wilderness Act.
April 12, 1993 - A Mainstreet Radio special broadcast from the Grand Casino Mille Lacs near Garrison, Minnesota. Program highlights American Indian casinos; what some term as the “New Buffalo.” MPR’s Catherine Winter interviews Leonard Prescott, chairman of Little Six Inc.; Charlie Berg, state senator and chair of Minnesota Senate Gaming Regulation Committee; Bernita Churchill, elected legislative official for Mille Lacs Tribe; and Doug Twait, commission of public affairs for Chippewa Tribe. Group discusses benefits, concerns, and issues of gambling in Minnesota. Program also includes various other segments. MPR’s Mark Steil reports on how casinos came to be in the state. MPR’s Dan Olson joins a gambling group on a bus trip to Jackpot Junction. MPR’s Rachel Reabe interviews individuals in the Mille Lacs casino. MPR’s Leif Enger reports on outside firms managing casinos. MPR’s John Biewen reports on spreading benefits to Native Americans in the cities. This is part 1 of 2 in this special broadcast.
April 12, 1993 - A Mainstreet Radio special broadcast from the Grand Casino Mille Lacs near Garrison, Minnesota. Continued program highlights American Indian casinos; what some term as the “New Buffalo.” MPR’s Catherine Winter interviews Leonard Prescott, chairman of Little Six Inc.; Charlie Berg, state senator and chair of Minnesota Senate Gaming Regulation Committee; Bernita Churchill, elected legislative official for Mille Lacs Tribe; and Doug Twait, commission of public affairs for Chippewa Tribe. Group discusses benefits, concerns, and issues of gambling in Minnesota. They also answer listener questions. Program also includes various other segments. MPR’s Mark Steil reports on how casinos came to be in the state. MPR’s Rachel Reabe interviews individuals in the Mille Lacs casino. MPR’s Leif Enger and John Biewen report on investments and changes seen on reservation and with its tribe members. This is part 2 of 2 in this special broadcast.
September 16, 1993 - On this Mainstreet Radio segment, MPR’s Catherine Winter reports on Father Frank Perkovich, also known as the Polka Priest, and Joe Cvek & the Polka Mass-ters.
September 24, 1993 - Mainstreet Radio presents broadcast from the Meadowland Farmer's Co Op in Lamberton, Minnesota. The program focuses on how local area is dealing with the effects of flooding from the previous spring and summer, and the impact it is having on farms and the economy.