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Anybody want the Aqua Belle? If you're willing to haul it, houseboat with a history could be yours

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501

Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The Aqua Belle is ready to set sail to a new home.

Although the name Aqua Belle probably doesn't ring a bell for most, it's likely that anyone who has driven South Shore Drive has noticed the red and white boat parked in a yard.

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Last week, at a Detroit Lakes Planning Commission meeting, Kevin Melicher asked for the removal of the Aqua Belle in order to build a more suitable guesthouse on his South Shore Drive property.

"It does appear to have some history for some people, around the Detroit Lakes area. It would be nice if someone could use the Aqua Belle and remove it from its current location and rebuild it like it was in its day," Melicher said. He and his wife, Jean, live in the Fargo-Moorhead area, and the South Shore Drive serves as a second home.

In the July 12, 1987, issue of the The Forum, reporter Bob Lind wrote an article with Clem TeVogt and the Aqua Belle.

TeVogt acquired the Aqua Belle in 1960. It was equipped with floodlighted tables on the top deck and booths on the lower deck. Meals were catered in from the Park Hotel, and Wednesday nights were barbeque rib night.

A ticket for a ride on the Aqua Belle was $3.85, which included a free meal. Couples were only $5.

There were dances aboard on Saturday nights, accompanied by a band or 45 rpm records.

TeVogt recounts that those were the days before safety regulations, meaning no lifejackets on board. Boat inspections were done each year at $5 per boat. The inspectors would basically check for "any big holes in the boat."

The Aqua Belle operated for two summers until TeVogt decided to discontinue the cruise. He also operated the Miss Detroit boat, which he ran for 20 years.

"We didn't make any money, so we quit," he said of the Aqua Belle. "It was my own fault. I didn't promote it well."

The Aqua Belle went to the Ralph Holland family, and they parked it at their South Shore Drive residence, an owner previous to the Melichers.

"When we bought the property, it was, of course, novel. My wife was wondering what the heck I was thinking about when we pulled up to look at this place," Melicher said with a laugh. "But the novelty kind of changed when we tried to figure out, how are we going to try and make this work and use it for our family?"

Over the years, although it's been used as a guesthouse, it has fallen into disrepair. The Melichers have replaced some windows in it, but there is more fixing up to be done.

"It's in pretty tough shape as far as the flooring and the decking, that would have to be redone," he said.

Ideally he'd like to recoup the cost of the windows they've put into the boat, but if someone is willing to move the boat off his land, Melicher said they'd be willing to donate it to a new owner.

Anyone interested in owning the Aqua Belle can call the Melichers at 701-235-3835.

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