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Winter blast

DETROIT LAKES - Polar Fest: As the name implies, it's a celebration of all things winter -- an opportunity to experience all that Detroit Lakes has to offer when the temperature drops below freezing.

"Detroit Lakes is so well known for its summertime fun," says Kesley Myhre, one of the 2008 festival's many organizers. "But we have so much to offer in winter as well -- cross country skiing and snowmobile trails, ice skating at Lincoln rink (outdoors) and Freeman Arena (indoors), sledding on the hill behind the Boys & Girls Club...

"We want this to be an event not only for the people in the lakes area, but to draw in people from all over," she added.

The ultimate intent, Myhre noted, is to make Polar Fest the winter counterpart to the Northwest Water Carnival.

"Our goal is to make Polar Fest bigger and better every year," she added.

To that end, the Polar Fest committee has invested many volunteer hours into expanding the lineup of activities to fill nine calendar days starting on Saturday, Feb. 2.

Broomball and curling tournaments, pond hockey, a "Freeze Your Buns Run," the Midnite Riders Classic Old Timers Snowmobile Run ... a plethora of outdoor activities can be found for winter loving sports enthusiasts to enjoy over the next week and a half.

The Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center as a whole is teaming up with Polar Fest this year for its first-ever "Get Mugged" fundraiser.

"We added a fundraiser for the DLCCC whereby people can purchase mugs, decorate them and then get discounts on coffee, hot chocolate and soup from participating businesses, including Mary's Brew, Lakes Brewed Awakening, Sunflower Hill, Country Kitchen and Perkins," Myhre said.

Though the community mug-painting events have already taken place, drawing an estimated 50-75 participants, there will also be some pre-painted mugs available at the DLCCC starting early next week, said Becky Mitchell, organizer of the "Get Mugged" fund-raiser.

In addition, a total of 14 local "celebrities" got together last week to paint mugs for a special online auction that begins this Sunday, Feb. 3, and concludes on Sunday, Feb. 10.

Celebrities who participated in the event include local artists Hans Gilsdorf, David Norstad, Linda Doebbert, Joann Knapp and Val Voigt; Mayor Larry Buboltz; Becker County Commissioner Barry Nelson; Detroit Lakes Public Schools Superintendent Doug Froke; Detroit Lakes City Administrator Bob Louiseau; and other well-known local TV, radio and business personalities including Carol McCarthy, Andy Lia, Chris Mehlhaff and Michael Mercil.

"We're hoping this (fund-raiser) grows and becomes an annual event," Mitchell noted.

And that's not all. Also new this year is the Washington Square Mall's "Splash for Cash," in which area residents can sign up for an opportunity to dive into an ice cold -- in honor of Polar Fest, of course -- wading pool with a pair of oversized winter gloves and attempt to scramble for a pile of "mall cash" (laminated to protect it from the effects of being immersed in water).

"We're going to have three separate events, with four people each, at 10 a.m., 12 noon and 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5," said Washington Square Mall manager Dawn Olson, who is also a member of the Polar Fest organizing committee.

Pre-registration at the mall is required. "The deadline to sign up is Feb. 1 (Friday)," Olson added.

To make the event a little more "polar," the wading pool will be decorated with an ice sculpture provided by the DL Holiday Inn, noted committee member Beth Pridday.

There will also be ice cubes in the water. "It's kind of a warm-up event for the Polar Plunge," Olson joked.

Speaking of which ... the granddaddy of all Polar Fest events, the signature Polar Plunge, will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9.

A fund-raiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Detroit Lakes, this event entails, as the name implies, a daring plunge into the icy waters of Little Detroit Lake.

Earlier in the day, the Freeze Your Buns Run takes off from in front of the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center at 9 a.m.

A broomball tournament is set to take place at the Lodge on Lake Detroit, also starting at 9 a.m. that Saturday. Contact Jim at the Lodge at 1-800-761-8439 for more broom ball information. In addition, Old Timers Pond Hockey begins at 10 a.m. that Saturday as well, and will be played on Little Detroit Lake in front of the Pavilion. To register, call Mike Schiltz at 850-1112.

There's even fireworks! Organizers have raised over $3,300 in community donations for the festival's first-ever fireworks display, set to take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9 on the Detroit Lakes City Beach.

But if you prefer your winter activities to be a little less chilly, the Native Harvest Slow Food Dinner gets underway at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7 in the Historic Holmes Theatre Ballroom. This meal will include a menu of Native Harvest's signature wild rice, heritage turkey (raised by Lori and Jim Gellings of rural Zerkel), winter greens salad, carmelized baked apple and more.

The dinner will be capped off with a 7:30 p.m. concert by Annie Humphrey in the main theater.

Humphrey was born and raised on an Ojibwe Indian reservation in northern Minnesota. Her mother, the noted author and storyteller Anne Dunn, whose published works include "When Beaver Was Very Great" and "Grandmother's Gift," was her early inspiration to start writing music.

Humphrey's first national exposure came on the album "The Whispering Tree," a collaborative recording of poetry and music by various artists featuring Humphrey on three tunes. Since then, she has released two CDs of her own, and in 2001, she was named Female Artist of the Year at the Native American Music Awards.

Some of the other new events unveiled for the 2008 festival include a snowflake scavenger hunt (clues in the Feb. 6 Becker County Record), a Detroit Lakes High School one-act play production called "Nickel and Dimed -- On (Not) Getting By in America" at the Holmes Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 5., a Mother-Son Football Frenzy on Sunday, Feb. 3 (yes, it takes place before the big game!), and a "Scrap-A-Thon" scrapbooking event for mothers and grandmothers, held during the Daddy's Little Sweetheart Dance on Friday, Feb. 8.

The Holmes Theatre is also hosting a Valentine-themed Pizza Pops Concert on Sunday, Feb. 10, with music provided by the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra; and a free showing of the movie "Groundhog Day" to be run on Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Holmes Ballroom starting at 2 p.m.

A complete schedule of events can be found at the Chamber of Commerce Web site, (click on the Polar Fest bear icon). Here is the condensed version:

• Saturday, Feb. 2: Free screening of movie "Groundhog Day," 2 p.m., DLCCC Holmes Theatre Ballroom.

• Sunday, Feb. 3: Mother-Son Football Frenzy, noon-3 p.m., Holmes Ballroom; Miss Polar Fest Pageant, Holmes Theatre, 6:30 p.m.

• Tuesday, Feb. 5: Special performance of the Detroit Lakes High School One-Act Play, "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America," at 7 p.m.

• Wednesday, Feb. 6: Snowflake Scavenger Hunt. Watch for details in the Becker County Record.

• Thursday, Feb. 7: Native Harvest Dinner, Holmes Ballroom, 6 p.m.; Annie Humphrey Concert, Holmes Theatre, 7:30 p.m.

• Friday, Feb. 8: Ice Tee Golf Tournament, Detroit Lake in front of Zorbaz, 1 p.m.; Daddy's Little Sweetheart Dance, Holmes Theatre, 6 p.m.; Vern Turner Memorial Open Bonspiel, Lakes Curling Club, all day.

• Saturday, Feb. 9: Freeze Your Buns Run, DLCCC, 8 a.m.; Outdoor Broom Ball Tournament, Lodge on Lake Detroit, 9 a.m.; Old Timers Pond Hockey, Little Detroit Lake in front of DL Pavilion, 10 a.m.; Boys & Girls Club Polar Plunge, registration 11 a.m. at Lakeside Tavern, Plunge at 1 p.m. on Little Detroit across from Lakeside; fireworks display, DL City Beach, 7 p.m.; "Welcome to Polaritaville" Dance featuring Acoustic Addition, Zorbaz, 7:30 p.m.

• Sunday, Feb. 10: Outdoor Broom Ball Tournament, Lodge on Lake Detroit, 9 a.m.; Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra "Pizza Pops" Concert, Holmes Theatre, 2 p.m.

• Other activities (ongoing): Polar Fest Kids' Art Show, Washington Square Mall, Feb. 2-15; sledding, hill behind Boys & Girls Club; ice skating at Lincoln Rink and Freeman Arena; snowmobiling on area trails; cross country skiing at Maplelag Resort and Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge; Shopper's Plunge for Cash, Washington Square Mall.

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