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Barbara Kellett and Linda Wilcox

Barbara Kellett (left), one of the Roseville Headliners Salon organizers, with fellow Headliner attendee Linda Wilcox.

Food for thought--and conversation

Newfound friends make a monthly date with University experts

From eNews, October 11, 2007

A teacher, a lawyer, and a therapist walk into a College of Continuing Education event...

No, this isn't the set-up for a new joke. These people are part of a group that has dubbed itself the "Roseville Headliners Salon." The group meets the first Thursday of every month to attend "Headliners," the popular College of Continuing Education (CCE) event that gives people a chance to meet University of Minnesota and community experts for firsthand knowledge of the day's most intriguing stories (see sidebar).

"The original salons were gatherings of individuals who got together to discuss politics, arts, history, what-have-you," says Barbara Kellett, one of the group's founders. "When we decided to see if we could get this thing going, Mike [Kellett, Barbara's husband and the group's co-organizer] and I thought 'salon' seemed like an appropriate name."

The Kelletts, who had previously been involved with the CCE's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, received the initial e-mail invitation for Headliners and thought it would be a fine opportunity to put together a group of friends. They decided to pair attendance at Headliners and the discussion group with a meal beforehand, because "food is such a wonderful way to build a sense of community," says Kellett. "It encourages interaction, conversation. It brings people together."

The couple came up with a list of friends--some people they had met fairly recently and others they had known for years.

"It's quite an eclectic mix," says Mike Kellett. "There is a librarian, therapist, social worker, teacher, doctor, lawyer, minister, and businesspeople. No two of them are alike--and they all have a different take on things."

Each month, the Kelletts send out an e-mail asking folks to RSVP for that month's event. Then, to those interested in attending, Barb gives them a heads-up on the dinner's main course, and they, in turn, sign up to bring side dishes.

Be a headliner attendee

The 2007-08 Headliners season, which runs from October to April at the Continuing Education and Conference Center on the Twin Cities campus in St. Paul, opened with University of Minnesota professor John Adams discussing the implications of the I-35W bridge tragedy and possible solutions for the future. Events are held the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. and tickets are $10. Since speakers discuss current news, topics are chosen just weeks prior to each event.

To sign up for e-mail notifications, visit CCE or call 612-624-4000. To listen to a recording of Adams's talk, see Headliners October 4.

When the group gathers at the Kellett's home, they chat over appetizers and then sit down to a family-style potluck--that interspersed with lively and sometimes heated, but always friendly, discussions about everything from sports (did you know there's a grass tennis court in rural Iowa that anyone can go play on, and then have strawberries and cream, courtesy of the court's builder?) to the environment.

"Both the dinner conversations and the event itself give me a great chance to learn new things," says attendee Tom Behr. "It's a unique opportunity to stay in touch with things you otherwise wouldn't normally know about."

Jerry Kneisl (instigator of the grass tennis court discussion) adds that the monthly gathering is "a chance to have a good discussion...and good dessert."

Although they first brought the group together, the Kelletts are quick to point out that the salon is about the group, the conversation, and the sense of community--not any one person or couple.

"Lifelong learning is important to us," says Mike. "To have an opportunity to attend an event like this, and to get these fascinating people together...it's a great experience."