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Ventura keeps Winnipeg smiling
By DAVID SCHMEICHEL -- Winnipeg Sun

They say the mind is usually the first thing to go, but in Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura's case, the body might already be on its way.

"Do I feel 50 -- yeah, a little bit," joked Ventura, who'll celebrate the birthday milestone at home this Sunday. "I remember during my wrestling career where I could get tossed around the ring all night, and the way I feel now, I play 18 holes of golf and I get sore. That's kind of depressing ... after all the things I've done."

'I FEEL 22'

Golf-induced aches and pains aside, Ventura figures he's still in pretty fit form, averaging three miles on the treadmill several times a week.

"And mentally, I feel terrific," he laughed. "Mentally, I feel 22."

The former U.S. Navy SEAL and pro wrestler kicked off a two-day trip to Winnipeg last night with a speech to travel and tourism officials at the Fairmont. Sharply dressed in charcoal pinstripes, Ventura kept the crowd smiling with his down-to-earth delivery, getting good laughs with a tale of a baseball game he caught with former Winnipeg mayor Susan Thompson last month.

"When she left the seat next to me to go into the booth, the (St. Paul) Saints came back and took the lead," he said. "When Susan came back I invited her to go back into the booth. I said, 'When you leave, we start to win.' Lo and behold, Susan came back and Winnipeg won."

But Ventura's address wasn't all fun and games. The appearance also gave him a chance to help unveil a new joint promotion with Northwest Airlines, aimed at getting Canadian travellers to spend time in Minneapolis/St. Paul on their way to other U.S. cities.

WAIVE STOPOVER FEE

From Sept. 1 to Dec. 15, the airline will waive its stopover fee for passengers wishing to hang out in the Twin Cities, and nearby hotels and attractions will offer discounts and other incentives.

Northwest representative Martin Gross said the promotion will allow travellers to take advantage of shopping, sports and cultural activities that might not normally fit into their schedules.

"These are the typical stopover things," said Gross, regional director for Canada. "What we hope ... is that people who usually only see the airport will instead see more of the destination, and then they'll want to come back."

But tourism wasn't the only topic Ventura touched on last night. Shared hydroelectric power also figures prominently in his plan for strengthened Canada-Minnesota relationships. Ventura's state gets much of its energy from its neighbour to the north, and incorporates that into marketing campaigns under way in California.

"We put up a sign at Silicon Valley that said, 'Occasional whiteouts, no blackouts,'" Ventura said. "(We wanted) to get those computer tech people, and it's actually worked -- we had one relocate already."

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