I’ve been a Minnesotan for all but a few years of my life and I can say with seriousness, I’m looking for cold days like these to be gone for good.

They keep me from the garage, working on projects. They keep the kids from bouncing around outside for more than three minutes. And my poor black lab, who loves to be outside, can barely even stand running across the yard long enough to sniff the neighbor’s dog.

For an outdoors person like myself, days below zero are depressing. But opportunities exist where even the outdoors type can enjoy the indoors these days.

I had the pleasure of taking the family to town last Saturday. We decided to head over to the Cozy Theatre for “Masked Matinees.” While the short walk to the theatre from a public parking lot was brisk it didn’t last more than 30 seconds. The cold breeze isn’t quite so bad when you’re wearing a mask. Once inside we were, as usual, welcomed by the smell of the greatest buttered popcorn around and warm theatres ready for us to sit back and relax.

The “Masked Matinees” are an interesting idea borne by a group of Wadena Rotary members who decided to work with other community sponsors and supporters to provide free movies each Saturday morning in February and March.

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The idea was pretty simple. We need to find ways to support our local businesses and we need to do so safely, following current recommendations for public safety. One such business, the Cozy Theatre, has been closed a couple times now due to Gov. Tim Walz executive orders related to COVID-19. But now that they are open and can show movies with plenty of social distancing, they still need people to show up. And trust me, you can.

A couple brave community members asked around to see if anyone would sponsor free movies at the theatre. No surprise, we have really generous business partners in this community that saw the good in promoting a community event that embraces taking some simple safety precautions.

Those businesses include: Ameriprise, Central Minnesota Credit Union, Davis Appraisals, Hubbard Radio, Mason Brothers, Merickel Lumber, Mid-Central National Bank, Niles Law Office, Pemberton Law, Schuller Family Funeral Homes, Tri-County Health Care, Wadena Pioneer Journal, Wadena Rotary, Wadena State Bank and Walmart.

The group even got an extra boost from supporters that wanted to see expenses paid for so the event could easily go the eight weeks as planned. Those supporters include: Joel and Kim Beiswenger, Canoe Paddle Kettle Corn and Russ Davis.

These shows are similar to the annual Christmas matinees which are also free showings. Those have been going on since the 1940s, according to Cozy owner Dave Quincer. This year because of the closures, those free shows in December couldn't happen.

The first showing was last Saturday and it was great! Earlier in the week I visited a business I don’t often frequent to see what they had in store. Though you don’t have to make a purchase to get the free tickets from participating businesses, I wanted to. I suspect the added traffic to these businesses could be another help to our local businesses at this time. The ticket locations include:

All Around Divas, Central Minnesota Credit Union, Drastic Measures Brewery, 1776 Clothing Company, Hometown Crafts, Make Me Wine, Lyles Shoes or Owly Bean Roasters.

The process is easy. All you have to do is get yourself a ticket, and show up at the theatre with that ticket and with a mask on your face.

Quincer noted that about 60 showed up for the first free show, which was “LEGO Batman.” With a capacity closer to 150, there was plenty of room for more. But the 60 that showed up were the biggest crowd for the weekend, even though Quincer offers reduced prices on weekend matinees.

In case you have not seen the ads or promotions, these movies are at 10:30 a.m. each Saturday morning in February and March. This Saturday, you have a chance to see a film that hasn’t been in most theatres since it first appeared in 1939, “The Wizard of Oz.” You may not have a chance to see this in theatres ever again.

While you are out, go ahead and hit up other local businesses this weekend. Many are taking part in a Winter Extravaganza event with special deals and chances for shoppers to come away with prizes.

I encourage you to get out this weekend. Want to do so safely? Wear a mask to stop the spread and wear some winter clothes to block the cold. If you don’t have access to either of those things, this community has shown they are ready and able to help. Just ask.