On July 26th, 2016, I packed up my cat and some "small boxes" (which may or may not have contained twenty pairs of shoes) and made the five-hour drive for Rochester, Minnesota from Peru, Illinois.

Before May of that same year, I'd never been to Rochester. I'd been to Minnesota, but not Rochester. I only had a narrow idea of what living there would be like. I pictured cold winters and a busy city. I was praying for more hills and trees because I missed them! We didn't see a whole lot of trees and hills in Illinois... because farms.

My arrival stunned me. I really was coming to a bigger city than where I lived in Illinois, and that was exactly what I hoped for! I found those hills and trees too. What I didn't know is that I'd find an immensely supportive and loving community who found my "east-coast humor" (a.k.a Italian-American mannerisms) and "Pittsburgh-ese" amusing. It didn't matter that I wasn't "from" Rochester. You accepted me anyway.

I guess that's truly the "theme" for Rochester. We're so diverse. More diverse than most places in the country I've visited. To me, that's so special.

TSM Rochester: Val Kleinhans

I came to this city two years ago hoping to gain some "street cred" and knowledge within my chosen career path. Yep - that's radio. I chose it.

Thankfully, a few nice folks at Townsquare Media decided that I deserved a shot and put me to work on Z-ROCK 107.7 and Quick Country 96.5 - I've LOVED it ever since. I've loved laughing about farm life with you, drinking beer and having Juicy Lucys with you, discussing our favorite musicians, getting excited about community events with you, and poking fun at those who believe our "subway" really has a train! I've loved trying Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese food for the first time here.

TSM Rochester: Val Kleinhans

Most importantly, I don't know if I'll ever find another community (other than my native Pittsburgh) that was SO KIND to me as I sought treatment for anxiety and depression. Mayo was a godsend... seriously. Your encouragement and support was as well.

Thank you, Rochester, for making the past two years of my life truly amazing - and for sharing my journey with me. Thank you for welcoming me with open arms, and proving to me that "Minnesota nice" isn't just a veiled way of calling Minnesotans "passive-aggressive" people. We get it. We've heard the jokes. It's so much more than that - and to be honest, the "passive-aggressive" part still doesn't make sense to me, because I've found Minnesotans to be hard-working and blunt when they have to be. To me, "Minnesota nice" is our behavior. It's our actions. I don't know a single other city in the country who has a whole group of folks that dedication portions of their life to showing kindness ( *cough* looking at you, Teal! *cough* ) as often as possible.

Here's to many more years!

Listen to Val afternoons from 2p to 6p on Quick Country 96.5

Listen to Val from 10a to 2p on Z-Rock 107.7.