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Ron Schara marks 1,000th episode of 'Minnesota Bound,' the show that almost wasn't

Longtime host reflects on Raven, a red bandana and the Minnesota institution he helped create.

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — In the mass of people at the Minnesota State Fair are those who arrive just knowing where they are bound.

“Big fan; I always watch Minnesota Bound,” a visitor tells the affable man in the fishing vest, sitting comfortably on the porch of the little log cabin on the fairground’s east side.

“It makes me feel good,” the woman continues. “For some reason, it soothes me.”

Ron Schara thanks the visitor, smiles, and tells her, “We should hire you.”

It’s a scene that plays out again and again, as fans of the television show Schara launched 26 years ago stop for autographs and Minnesota Bound souvenirs.

“If you have money you can go in,” Schara jokes with a group heading inside the cabin where his books, calendars and branded clothing are on sale.

Credit: Chad Nelson
Ron Schara (right) poses with fans of Minnesota Bound

The fair porch encounters have been going on for years, but this year is special. Minnesota Bound is about to mark a milestone – its 1,000th episode.

It’s a feat almost unheard of for a 30-minute, weekly non-news show produced for local television.

Schara credits the show’s staying power to a simple formula.

“I tell people, ‘I'm not trying to teach you how to catch a fish on Sunday night. We're telling stories about interesting people; we're telling stories about interesting places. That's the secret to the show. Plus,” Schara says with a twinkle in his eyes, “I'm damn good looking, I mean that didn't hurt.”

For years, those good looks were wasted as Schara told his stories as the Minneapolis Star Tribune's first outdoors columnist.

Approached by KARE 11, Schara launched Minnesota Bound as a weekly segment for the station's 10 p.m. newscast.

Credit: Minnesota Bound
Ron Schara and has dog Raven, the longtime hosts of Minnesota Bound

Then, having found his footing in a new medium, Schara pitched a half-hour show to the station's, then-general manager, who promptly turned him down.

“He sent down the message, ‘Can't do it. We can't afford to do that show.’”

The rejection of Schara’s pitch turned out to be a blessing when the GM suggested an alternative.

“He said, “Well, you produce it, we'll sell it, and I'll buy it from you, and you'll own it,” Schara recalls. “Bingo!”

With ownership, Schara and his first employee, producer/photographer Joe Harewicz, invented a format that's remained, for the most part, intact.

The pair created an outdoors show with an emphasis on storytelling aimed at a broad audience. So, no tips for gutting a deer, but plenty of stories about family hunting and fishing traditions, fall colors, the quirks of wild birds, plus, a weekly cooking segment.

Credit: Joe Harewicz
Ron Schara poses with his first employee, producer/photograph Joe Harewicz, in the early days of Minnesota Bound.

Schara and Harewicz also discovered Minnesota Bound’s accidental co-host.

“I'm sitting there talking to Joe Harewicz,” Schara says. "‘What should the set look like? Should I sit by the fireplace like all the old outdoor shows?’ And my wife spouts up and says, ‘Why don't you have Raven sit next to you?’”

Three generations of Ravens, Schara’s beloved black Labradors, co-hosted with their human — Schara always referring to his Ravens on-air as the “star of the show.”

Each Raven wore the signature red bandana Schara initially snagged from a hook in the hallway of his home, simply to provide a contrasting color to Raven’s black fur for the camera.

The third Raven died in 2020, two years after Schara retired from his hosting duties and handed the reins to the show's longtime reporter Bill Sherck and Schara’s daughter Laura.

Credit: Devin Krinke
Bill Sherck and Laura Schara, the current hosts of Minnesota Bound

The elder Schara remains as a Minnesota Bound contributor, still producing and writing stories that interest him.

“I'm so proud of my dad and what he started,” Laura Schara says. “We hope we carry on that same tradition. That is our goal of keeping the essence of what the show is.”

Sherck says it didn’t take him long to realize a key to the show’s longevity is Ron Schara’s authenticity.

“Ron gave me advice right when I started, ‘Be yourself, don’t try to copy,’” Sherck recalls. “Ron always said, ‘Don’t be an expert, be a communicator and do it with heart.’”

Credit: Devin Krinke
Current Minnesota Bound co-host Bill Sherck points to a poster of Ron Schara and Raven, the show’s longtime co-hosts.

Today, Ron Schara Productions employs two dozen people producing seven different programs scattered over broadcast, cable, and streaming services — all spawned by the original.

Sherck stands next to a "Minnesota Bound" poster, featuring Ron Schara and Raven. Their backs are to the camera as they face a glassy lake and the setting sun.

“It's one guy and his dog and a very quiet place in Minnesota,” Sherck says.

For going on 1,000 episodes, it’s a place Minnesotans have been happily visiting.

NOTE: A Minnesota Bound 1,000th episode one-hour special will air on KARE 11 on Saturday November 13th at 7 p.m. 

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