Fatigued after nearly three years of pandemic, and fresh off the latest contentious election cycle, Minnesotans were drawn to different kinds of stories in 2023.

The Star Tribune's audience dug into all the twists and turns on the path to legal marijuana, just as you followed the travels and trials of a rogue moose. You got deeply invested in a pop icon's weekend stand in Minneapolis, and in one Minnesotan's search for love on "The Golden Bachelor." You were drawn to stories about Minnesota's identity, engaging in a surprisingly heated debate over how the state should be represented on a new official flag. And, in the Star Tribune's most-visited story of the year, you puzzled the implications of another pop diva's mysterious visit to a Minneapolis restaurant.

News moves fast, and it can be hard to remember the last year's local highlights and lowlights. To help, let's look back at 11 of the biggest Minnesota stories and moments of 2023.

Minnesota Democrats run the table at Capitol, legal weed ensues.

Legal recreational marijuana was the big, blazing outcome out of Minnesota's legislative session earlier this year (though we're not likely to see retail dispensaries until 2025). And that wasn't all: Democrats enjoying full control of Minnesota government for the first time in a decade fiercely organized around a broadly progressive agenda. Paid family medical leave? Check. Gun control, universal school meals, and codifying abortion rights? Check, check, check.

Twin Cities Marathon nixed hours before race.

Most of the runners planning to run the 42nd Twin Cities Marathon had no doubt already carbo-loaded when, early the morning of Sunday, Oct. 1, an email from organizers went out announcing the race had been canceled on account of heat. It was the first time weather scrapped the marathon, but planners said hot, humid conditions — the local temp ended up hitting 91 that day — made the long race unsafe. Many ran the route anyway, and the nonprofit that runs the marathon was left facing its latest financial setback.

Taylor Swift takes over Minnesota.

Scoff at the overcultural significance of Taylor Swift all you want. But her Eras Tour's two-night stop at U.S. Bank Stadium in June drew more than 120,000 people to downtown Minneapolis over a single weekend. Local Swifties shelled out small fortunes for tickets. They bejeweled their outfits. Politicians renamed the city and proclaimed "Taylor Swift Days" across Minnesota. Swift delivered in fan-fulfilling performances and surprise song choices. Spectacle aside, the concert produced an economic boost for downtown Minneapolis that rivaled the Super Bowl. Come back anytime, Tay.

Tom Emmer spends four hours as nominee for most powerful job in Congress.

It took Minnesota Congressman Tom Emmer two decades of working in politics to get in a position to launch a bid for U.S. House speaker — and a couple of hours for his ambitions to evaporate. The Republican from Delano positioned himself as a Goldilocks-style speaker candidate amid the chaos and Republican infighting that followed Kevin McCarthy's ouster from the job — not too uber-conservative, and not too liberal either. But Emmer's hopes of becoming third in line for the presidency quickly sputtered after Donald Trump allies labeled him not sufficiently loyal to the former president.

A no good, very bad year for Mike Lindell and MyPillow.

Speaking of Trump allies, Mike Lindell's downward spiral this year started with an auction notice: Chaska-based MyPillow was selling hundreds of pieces of equipment and office furniture. Founder and CEO Lindell claimed revenue plunged following his high-profile championing of Trump's debunked election fraud theories. That drew defamation lawsuits from election machine companies that cost him millions each month in legal fees. In October, Lindell's attorneys asked to be pulled off the cases because he'd stopped paying. Lindell found new counsel, but the challenges threaten to bankrupt him and his Chaska-based company.

A moose on the loose in central Minnesota.

By fall, Swift-ian memories had faded as Minnesotans fixated on a new icon: a young moose whose plodding journey from Iowa to northern Minnesota captivated thousands on Facebook. Fans held their breath for weeks as they waited for the young buck to safely cross Interstate 94 in central Minnesota. They named him Rutt and have been tracking his movements. Unlike the cougar recently on the loose in Minneapolis — whose urban sojourn ended in tragedy — Rutt appears to be alive and well. He was last spotted near Bagley.

Minnesota's cannabis director resigns after one day on the job.

The tenure of Minnesota's first statewide cannabis regulator was only slightly longer than Emmer's speaker bid. Erin DuPree stepped down as head of the Office of Cannabis Management in September — just one day after Gov. Tim Walz appointed her to the job — following revelations she sold illegal products at her hemp shop. Three months later, Walz is still looking for a lead regulator for the state's fledgling recreational marijuana industry.

The Minnesota Vikings extended family loses its patriarch.

No single person was more closely linked to the history and legacy of Minnesota's NFL franchise than Bud Grant, who died in March at 95. As Vikings head coach for 18 seasons, including four Super Bowl appearances in the late '60s and early '70s, the wry, taciturn Grant embodied a specific kind of no-nonsense Midwestern fortitude for many Minnesotans. He stayed engaged in public life after retirement, most notably as a passionate advocate for outdoor recreation. But for Vikings fans of a certain age, the image that will endure is of the stoic, white-haired Grant, forever pacing the sidelines.

Leslie Fhima is 'The Golden Bachelor' runner-up.

A Minnesotan never gets the final rose. "Bachelor" franchise fans were hopeful that would change this season, as Minneapolis fitness instructor Leslie Fhima seemed to develop a sincere connection with "Golden Bachelor" Gerry Turner. But he dumped her during the season's finale, giving the rose instead to some New Jersey widow. Now, Fhima's just looking for someone she can "be still with," potentially as the star of a "Golden Bachelorette" spinoff.

Minnesota gets a new state flag and grapples with its identity.

"The Bachelor" comparisons proliferated as a commission tasked with redesigning the state flag narrowed more than 2,000 public submissions down to six concepts, then three flags and ultimately one finalist. Minnesota hearts broke as favorite designs landed in the rejection pile. There was an outcry when the state's official bird — the red-eyed loon — didn't appear anywhere on the new flag. Fortunately for loon lovers, the state bird became the star of the state's redesigned seal.

Lady Gaga eats at a classic Minneapolis restaurant.

On its face, the Star Tribune's most-visited story of the year feels ... random? Trivial? Just the facts: Lady Gaga was spotted at Cafe & Bar Lurcat in July, nibbling on shared plates at the quintessential Minneapolis restaurant. Minnesotans love celebrity sightings in our state. Toss in a visit to a beloved institution, and we're beside ourselves. But there's also the enduring mystery: Though there are theories, to this day no one knows exactly why Gaga was here.