It's a Friday in Minnesota, and that means tonight's a good time for a meat raffle.
It may be a part of Minnesota culture, but to newcomers and out-of-towners, the meat raffle baffles. As "Eat, Pray, Love" author Elizabeth Gilbert observed in the New York Times after visiting a Brainerd meat raffle in 2006, "You know you're an outsider when something that seems perfectly normal to everyone else is impenetrably bizarre to you."
Meat raffles are considered a form of legal gambling, and they're regulated in this state by the Minnesota Gambling Control Board. They are common in Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as in Canada and England.
In this installment of our occasional series, Field Notes, producer Melissa Townsend takes us to the meat raffle at the Eagle's Club in Litchfield, Minn. Townsend observed that the weekly event "is as much a family reunion as a fun evening out to celebrate the week's end. It's also the lifeblood of some of these rural community clubs that are struggling to survive as the towns' populations become older and smaller."
Townsend gives us a front-row seat for the action, and a behind-the-scenes look at who comes to the raffle and why.