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'We're the same'

Minnesota governor plays up common ties before Winnipeg visit

By BRENDAN O'HALLARN -- Winnipeg Sun

  The visit of a U.S. state governor would normally be met with little fanfare.

But Jesse Ventura, governor of Minnesota since 1998, isn't your average politician.

The 6-foot-5, 270-pound former pro wrestler, known as "The Body" in his grappling days, has become an absolute cultural icon, revered to the point that some pundits are touting him as a future president.

Jesse Ventura, who enjoys ice-fishing trips in the winter months, says Minnesotans have more in common with Manitobans than with many of their countrymen in the southern states. -- File photo
The former Navy SEAL, movie star and now Governor of our southern neighbour is making his first official visit to Manitoba later this month. It'll be a flying trip. Ventura arrives on July 12, and leaves late the next day, to be home in time for his 50th birthday on July 15.

In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with The Sun, Ventura reminisced about Winnipeg from his AWA and WWF pro wrestling days, chatted a little politics, and spoke about the common bonds that tie our state and province together.

Ventura said Canada is often forgotten by Americans, despite the close diplomatic and trading ties the countries have enjoyed for more than a century.

"Well, we want to continue to have great relationships with Canada," he said.

"That's the essence of my visit, to let Canada know that we here in Minnesota want Canada to be our best friend."

LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST

As Midwesterners, Ventura said Minnesotans and Manitobans have the same live-life-to-the-fullest approach to making the best of a sometimes harsh climate. Minnesota has been voted the most livable state in the Union the past five years, he proudly pointed out.

With a booming high-tech sector, investments in health and exponential growth in tourism, Minnesota has emerged as a tiger of the Midwest, with economic growth to rival any Sun Belt states.

Ventura said Manitoba can follow its success.

"We just quietly go about our business. We have a good stock of people here that realize what it takes to get the job done," he said.

"I think Winnipeg can parallel us in the same way -- the people that actually live here know how good the life is here."

While he hasn't visited River City as an elected official, Ventura was a regular visitor during his heyday with the Minneapolis-based AWA, and fought his farewell bout in Winnipeg as he finished his career in the WWF. But he wasn't out prowling Winnipeg's nightlife.

FULL-TIME JOB

"To me it was business and a job when you're wrestling and holding a full-time schedule like that," Ventura said. "I used to train at the Gold's Gym up in Winnipeg, but basically it stayed to that. Just training, performing, getting your sleep and you're on to your next city."

This time, Ventura will pack a week's worth of public events into his 24-hour visit, speaking at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, meeting with local officials, and doing his weekly radio show from The Forks (which will be broadcast locally on CJOB).

You can bet that he'll spend at least part of that time selling his state, particularly as a tourist destination for Manitobans.

"One thing you'd be very amazed at is our culture. We are actually second to New York City for the number of theatres," he said.

"And Canadians love pro sports. Unfortunately, Winnipeg lost its hockey team, and fortunately we got ours back, after losing it to Texas. Imagine that, Minneapolis and Winnipeg have no hockey team but Dallas, Texas, does.

"That makes a lot of sense."

Ventura said he doesn't have another visit to Manitoba on the schedule yet, but hopes to come north again before his term expires in 2004.

Ventura has no plans to run for U.S. presidency
More on Jesse Ventura




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