News from Lake Wobegon: Guest host on Prairie Home Companion

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Garrison Keillor, the host of "A Prairie Home Companion" radio program, is taking a few weeks off from those duties early next year, according to the Star Tribune.

It's only the second time in the program's 40-year history that Keillor is bringing in a guest host. The Feb. 7 and Feb. 14 shows at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul will be hosted by Chris Thile, who plays mandolin for Nickel Creek and the Punch Brothers.

The substitution was made public when the program announced its schedule of six new live shows in January and February. Keillor will host the other four, as usual. He posted this brief statement on the program's website.

“Prairie Home has been a pretty dependable show and now and then it likes to do something entirely different. Chris Thile is a gifted artist and a great musical enthusiast of far-ranging interests. He is a great choice to host two shows in February, along with music director Rich Dworsky and the Acting Company, and I look forward to sitting at home and listening to them.”– Garrison Keillor

The program has only had a substitute host one other time; that was in 2011 when fiddler and vocalist Sara Watkins, who is a member of Nickel Creek along with Thile, hosted the show with Keillor sitting in as a featured guest, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Keillor, 72, talked a few years ago about retiring from the program. In 2011 he told the AARP Bulletin he was looking for a new host for A Prairie Home Companion because he planned to retire from the show in the spring of 2013.

But he's walked back from those plans, and told the Associated Press a few months ago he's already thinking about the next season of the radio show, which would begin in September 2015.

Keillor celebrated the 40th anniversary of "Prairie Home Companion" in July with a three-day event at Macalester College.

Tickets for the six new shows go on sale Tuesday, and you can buy them here.

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