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Fantastic Fourth of July

DETROIT LAKES - Though near-perfect weather brought thousands of people to the lakes area over the holiday weekend, there were no fatalities and no major traffic accidents reported, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.

"The traffic volume was pretty much the same (as last year) -- it didn't look like gas was almost $4 a gallon," said Captain Bruce Hentges. "We didn't really see a decrease in traffic -- at least not here."

"It was awesome," said Tate Jansen of Zorbaz. "On July 4, when the street was closed down (during the evening), we had a line that stretched out our door, across the street and out onto the beach. It was pretty amazing to see that.

"It's always our best day of the year, but we completely smashed last year's sales record."

In fact, Jansen noted, "this year's July 5 (sales) beat last year's July 4 (total)."

Jansen said the "perfect weather" was at least part of the cause. "It wasn't too hot, it wasn't cold... it was pretty warm, but the wind kept it livable."

But despite the holiday crowds, there were no fatalities reported in the Detroit Lakes district, and no serious accidents, Hentges said.

"We arrested 33 people for DWIs (driving while intoxicated), most of them in the Detroit Lakes area," he continued. "That's about par (with last year), or maybe a little higher.

"But the weather was also very nice -- that makes a big difference. There were more people out and about."

There were also more patrols out on the road over the holiday weekend, due to increased funding to the Minnesota State Patrol, Becker County Sheriff's Department and Detroit Lakes Police Department provided for just that purpose, he added.

Although there were hundreds of incidents handled by Detroit Lakes police and Becker County deputies over the holiday weekend, independence day in DL was notable this year for the lack of serious crimes.

Detroit Lakes Police Chief Kel Keena said his officers handled a lot of minor things like underage drinking and "little fights and frays."

He said younger revelers tended to party at the Ottertail River tubing area all day and come into town in the evening, so the daylight hours saw more family activity and his officers got busier when the sun went down.

"It was one of the safer July Fourths," Keena said. "It was busy, though -- I think our numbers will be as high as ever."

"We had a few accidents," noted Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon. "But it actually went very well."

"We still had a substantial number of arrests, but fewer than normal," Gordon added. "We had 66 'book-ins' through the weekend, which is probably a good 20-25 less than normal. That's a 20-30 percent reduction in arrests this year, on average."

Besides the increased patrols, Gordon also attributed the decrease in arrests to the attention given to law enforcement's "safe and sober" campaign efforts.

"The media has helped us get the message out that we have zero tolerance," he said. Despite that fact, however, "virtually all the issues we had were with excessive alcohol use," Gordon added.

Gordon noted that tubing on the Otter Tail River was still a very popular activity -- but "we saw a lot of buses and limousines bringing groups of people in (instead of individual cars)."

Charlotte Enger of Ed's River Run said they had a couple of people at their place grilling hot dogs and offering bottles of water to the tubers. There were over 600 hot dogs and bottles of water served, she reported.

"We thought it was a church group, but it wasn't," she said. "They were just doing it to be nice."

Gordon noted that there were a couple of boating accidents with minor injuries reported, but with the amount of traffic on the lakes, that was actually a "respectable" amount, he added.

"Overall we were very pleased with the way the weekend went for the county," he said. "Our officers were very busy, but never substantially behind. They were able to respond rather quickly."

David Langworthy of St. Mary's EMS reported that his crews were "busy, busy, busy" throughout the weekend.

"We handled 58 calls over the four-day weekend," he said. "But we were overstaffed so we could cover the higher number of calls.

"It's really no different a mix (of calls) than we normally see, it's just that we have such a large influx of population (over the holiday) that there's more of them."

Langworthy reported that there was at least one person brought in with a "pretty serious" fireworks injury, who ended up being transferred to a hospital in the Twin Cities for treatment. But they were brought in by private party for transfer, so he really didn't have any further information on the incident.

"Our crews were very tired, but they handled all the calls very well. They deserve to be thanked for all their hard work over the weekend."

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