How far are we from Dallas?

Published 12:40 pm Saturday, October 25, 2008

My goal for today’s column is simple.

I’m trying to find out how often people mistake Austin, Minnesota for Austin, Texas.

It can’t be all that often, can it?

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After all, one is in the state that houses the biggest shopping mall in the country, where curling and ice fishing are popular and where the Grumpy Old Men first called each other moron and putz.

The other is in the land of barbecue, in the state of the Alamo and where the stars at night are big and bright.

To the folks who live in these two cities, telling them apart is easy.

One has roughly 24,000 people; the other has roughly 700,000.

One has a January temperature range of 2 to 20; the other is more like 40 to 60.

They’re as different as night and day, John Wayne and Wayne Newton, and lightning and lightning bug.

But to visitors, the ones who may be coming here or there for a wedding or vacation and are looking for information by phone or the Internet, the two Austins can cause some confusion.

“On average, we get one call a week for sure, asking how far away we are from Dallas,” says Cheryl Corey, executive director for the Austin (Minnesota) Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We don’t get them daily, but it does happen.”

At the Herald, we get a stream of consistent e-mails from people in Austin, Texas wanting to put their event in our paper.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Jane Crowley, owner of Stuttgart Tan and Travel here, says that people do confuse the two once and a while, but it would be worse if we had a commercial airport.

“It’s a huge problem with Rochester, Minnesota and Rochester, New York,” Crowley says.

I can imagine.

So it does happen from time to time. People call businesses here when they meant to call Austin, Texas.

But does the same hold true for the other way around?

How often do people in Texas get calls that should have come here?

“Personally, I actually have never come across that yet,” says Jennifer Walker, director of marking and communication for the Austin (Texas) Convention and Visitors Bureau.

As I continued my research, however, I did discover that the two cities have at least one more thing in common than their names.

Any guesses?


While Austin, Minnesota is where it all began, where the Spam Museum is and where the product is still made, Austin, Texas hosts an annual “Spamorama,” festival that celebrates Spam. According to, the first Spamorama was held in 1978.

“When it comes to Spam, it happens all the time,” says Beth Krauss, media relations manager for the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau in Texas. “When it comes to other stuff, you don’t get a lot of confusion, but when it comes to Spam, yes.”

We could take the confusion one step further.

Perhaps we could build a commercial airport here and start offering flight packages that include a tour of the Spam Museum and a ticket to Spamorama.

On the other hand, perhaps not.