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P..P..P..Polar Fest fun all set to start

Every February for the past 17 years, dozens of people have plunged into a small hole in the ice of Little Detroit Lake to raise funds for the Detroit Lakes Boys & Girls Club.

And for most of those years, "The Plunge" has been the focus of an annual winter celebration known as Polar Fest.

During that time, the festival has grown from a single weekend, to a week, and now lasts a full nine days.

"It just started to build and build," says Sue Trnka, resource development director for the Boys & Girls Club of Detroit Lakes and Perham.

Trnka is the co-chair of this year's Polar Fest celebration, along with Becker County Museum director Amy Degerstrom.

"There's really something here for everyone to enjoy -- sports, family stuff, food, fireworks, dancing, wine tastings, lots and lots of music -- and a lot of it's free," Trnka said.

Though the day of the Polar Fest Plunge is particularly jam-packed, with 11 separate events planned, there's plenty to do during this weekend's kickoff festivities as well -- and there's something going on during every day of the celebration, which runs Feb. 8-17.

"We have four new events this year," Trnka noted.

The first one is the Hidden History Happy Hour set for this Friday at 7 p.m. in the Becker County Museum.

Following some socializing -- with drinks provided by La Barista, and appetizers courtesy of Lush Lola's -- Amy Degerstrom, Trnka's Polar Fest co-chair, will present an entertaining history program, "What's Under That Dress? The Ins and Outs of Women's Undergarments."

It's the first in a series of monthly "Hidden History" programs to be hosted by the museum, at locations throughout the county. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door.

The next new event takes place Sunday, Feb. 10 at BJ's Barbecue Shack, which will be hosting the inaugural Winter Mini-Golf Masters & Bean Bag Tournament starting at 1 p.m. Besides the ongoing mini-golf and bean bag competitions, guests will also enjoy hot chocolate, s'mores, and special prices on some of the tastiest food and drink selections on BJ's menu. There is no admission fee to attend.

Another new event is the Chocolate Chill to be hosted by the Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Feb. 11 from 4 to 6 p.m.

For the price of a $5 "treat box," available at participating locations, guests can stroll the halls of the Washington Square Mall and sample chocolates and tasty treats from area vendors, listen to folk music from folk singer Shari Breznay, and maybe even win a door prize.

Meanwhile, they will have plenty of chances to fill their "treat box" with truffle cookies, chocolate flavored licorice, candy bars and more, while shopping at downtown merchants offering in-store specials.

On Thursday, Feb. 14 - otherwise known as Valentine's Day -- the Holiday Inn on the Lake will be offering a Sweetheart Wine Tasting at the Ice House, and other local restaurants will be offering holiday specials as well.

One other item is new this year as well, Trnka noted.

Participating businesses will be distributing free "Polar Fest Passports," which guests can use to explore eight different Polar Fest activities.

At each activity held as part of the celebration, there will be a special poster displaying a unique code. Simply write down that code in one of the eight boxes on the passport.

As soon as all the boxes have been filled, write your name and contact information on the completed passport and either drop it off in the central commons of Washington Square Mall or mail it to the Polar Fest Committee, PO Box 622, Detroit Lakes MN 56502-0622 by Friday, Feb. 25.

Each completed passport will be an entry into the drawing for a "frost-tastic" prize package, Trnka added. The drawing will take place Feb. 25.

But old favorites have not been forgotten, Trnka said, such as the Daddy's Little Sweetheart Dance on Friday, the Poles & Holes Fishing Derby and Big Detroit 100 Vintage Snowmobile Races on Saturday, and a presentation by famed Minnesota photographer Joe Rossi at the DL Public Library on Monday.

A complete schedule of activities is available at the all-new website,

Festival mascot Polar Pete will also be posting throughout the celebration on both Twitter (@thepolarpete) and Facebook.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454