Public Speaking

Are you interested in the history and culture of the Mississippi River Valley? Consider hosting an event with The Mississippi Valley Traveler. Dean Klinkenberg, author and photographer, currently offers a couple of different presentations:

The Mississippi River in Song: What the River Means to Us
There are hundreds of songs about the Mississippi River. Many were written by musicians with an intimate knowledge of the Mississippi, but some were written by people who’ve never even seen it, including a lot of people from around the world. They come from just about any musical genre you can imagine: country (whether classic, contemporary, or alternative), rock, punk, blues, and bluegrass. What on earth are all those people writing about?

Dean Klinkenberg explores that question with a musical float trip through the history of the Mississippi River, mixing clips from songs with stories about the river’s history. Klinkenberg covers six topics:

  • River towns: amusing and sometimes unfair snapshots of communities from the Headwaters to the Gulf;
  • People of the river: river rats, light tenders, Cajuns, and Isleños;
  • Floods and levees;
  • Monsters, real and imagined;
  • Boats: flatboats to showboats and shanty boats; and
  • Steamboats.

Many of the songs are from well-known musicians like Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, but many more were recorded by talented artists who might only be known to their mothers and best friends. Not every song will be universally appreciated, but most people will leave humming at least one tune. And everyone will see the Mississippi River in a new way.

A talk with all six topics takes about 90 minutes, but it is easily customized so that three topics are presented in 45 minutes, allowing time for discussion and questions afterwards.

Klinkenberg presented a version of the talk as a keynote address for the Mississippi River Conference at Moline, Illinois in October 2014. For the keynote,  he created a 45-minute talk by sampling broadly from several of the topics above.

A Traveler’s Perspective of the Mississippi Valley
Klinkenberg explores the essence of communities through the lens of a traveler in his talk called In Search of Great Places: Travels along the Mississippi River. He has been to over 30 countries around the world but has learned that he doesn’t need to travel far to satisfy his desire for local foods, rich culture, and fun people. He finds plenty of that along the Mississippi River. The one-hour talk is richly illustrated with photographs and stories about the people and places along the Mississippi River.

Traveling the Great River Road is a bit easier today

Klinkenberg has presented for a number of groups, including:

  • Des Moines Public Library
  • River Valley District Library; Port Byron, IL
  • Galesburg (IL) Public Library
  • Minnesota City Historical Association
  • Dubuque (IA) Public Library
  • La Crosse County Historical Society
  • Rock Falls (IL) Public Library
  • Clinton County (IA) Historical Society
  • Beltrami County (MN) Historical Society
  • Winona County (MN) History Center
  • Grand Rapids (MN) Public Library
  • Alton (IL) Public Library

“Klinkenberg’s presentation was a big hit. He is funny, informative, and knowledgeable. His informal style had the audience engaged even before the program officially started.”

  • Jane Easterly, Galesburg Public Library, Galesburg, Illinois

“The members from our Writers’ Workshop and those who attended Dean’s presentation enjoyed hearing Dean share his enthusiasm and knowledge from his adventures along the Mississippi. He was an entertaining and informative speaker.”

  • Laura Walth, Librarian, Des Moines Public Library, Iowa.

“Dean Klinkenberg’s presentation to the Des Moines Public Library’s writer’s group was a very informative, highly entertaining experience for me.  He has a great sense of humor and his “tell it like it is” style was obviously appreciated by our group.  I was surprised that as a native Iowan I did not know about many of the interesting sites he covered. Thanks to him I am making a better effort to know my home state.”

  • Terry Crane, Retired Educator, Ankeny, Iowa

View clips from the presentation “In Search of Great Places” below.

To schedule a talk, contact Klinkenberg via email (

Share Button

One Response to Public Speaking

  1. Steve Meyers October 29, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    Hi Dean,
    Just bought three of your Lansing to LeClaire books from the Potosi brewery and am thoroughly enjoying my copy. The other two are for my river rat friends ( kind of an oxymoron thing to say ) that camp, canoe, kayak and bike with me. Thought they would enjoy them for Christmas if I don’t give them to them before that. I would love to here one of your talks if you ever get up to the Cherry Valley ( Rockford Illinois ) area. We’ve become huge fans of the River, Corps campgrounds and the towns to and along the river and can’t wait to check out some of your favorite places. Beats the heck out of fighting traffic up ad down I-90 to Wisconsin every weekend, for sure! Thanks and keep us posted if you come up our way!

Leave a Reply