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Otter Tail River, Detroit Lakes city beach draw holiday crowds

The Otter Tail River was the place to be on July 4, judging by the crowds that were gathered there Wednesday.

"We had a substantial amount of traffic problems," said Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon. "The Otter Tail River kept us pretty busy... we had several officers running traffic, controlling some issues there."

Many of those "issues" were alcohol-related, Gordon noted.

"Any time you have this much heat, (combined with) alcohol, it's conducive to problems," Gordon said, adding, "We were busy, but not overwhelmed."

The ambulance was called out a couple of times to transport people suffering from alcohol poisoning, Gordon added. "There were parking problems, traffic problems, alcohol problems... it's two and a half miles of river, and when you put 5,000 people out there..."

Still, it was "nothing that was extraordinary," he said. "Other than that, it was a pretty enjoyable day."

Detroit Lakes Police Chief Kel Keena echoed Gordon's sentiments.

"There were a lot of people on the (city) beach, and they were down there early," Keena said. "We had a lot of people in the parks, (but) the crowd was as well behaved or better behaved than in recent years."

In the period between noon on Tuesday, July 3, and noon Thursday, July 5, city police officers "made roughly 32 arrests," Keena said, adding, "Most of those were alcohol related... minor consumption, open containers in vehicles, DWIs."

The crowds coming back from tubing on the Otter Tail River earlier in the day also had a local impact, Keena noted.

"We felt a lot of impact from the river," he said. "Once they started coming off the river at 5 or 6 p.m., we got a second wave of people coming into town."

"I think (the fireworks display) was well attended, and people were relatively well behaved... people really just enjoyed themselves.

"We didn't seem to have the cultural clashes that we've had in the last few years," Keena added. "I think all of the promoted events, at Islands, Lakeside (Tavern) and the Pavilion were all well run and adequately staffed from a security perspective."

Lori Blonigan, manager of Lakeside Tavern, noted that the staff was "better prepared than in previous years, so everything ran smoothly."

While the Thursday, July 5, concert by co-headliners Warrant and Firehouse was sold out, the other two nights of live band performances on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 3-4, were also very well attended, Blonigan said.

"Scarlet Haze (who performed on the 4th) was a big hit," she said.

"It was awesome. It went even better than expected. We were very happy with the way everything turned out."

While there have been reports that the July 4 crowds in Detroit Lakes have not been as large as they were 15 years ago, Dave Hochhalter, president of the Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce, said he feels attendance has been "fairly consistent" over the last 10 years.

"I think overall, we had a good crowd of visitors and residents," he said.

While the fact that the holiday fell in the middle of the week instead of on the weekend undoubtedly had an impact on attendance, Hochhalter said the initial reports he has heard from local restaurant and lodging businesses has been positive.

"I think overall, it was a good week," he said. "I've heard pretty good reports from everybody."

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