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Water Carnival splashes down

DETROIT LAKES - It's finally here: Detroit Lakes' biggest festival of the summer, the 73rd Annual Northwest Water Carnival, gets underway on Friday, July 11.

The Northwest Water Carnival was the brainchild of the Detroit Lakes Jaycees, who have been hosting the annual event since they first organized as a chapter, in 1935 (with the exception of 1937, when it was cancelled).

Every year an admiral is chosen to take charge of the carnival, and this year it was Cara Frank.

"I'm anxious for it to start and all come together. It's a fun week even though we're exhausted," Frank says. (With the support of local businesses, the 50-odd Jaycees members have been working all year to plan out the schedule.)

The best part of serving as admiral is "meeting a lot of new people," Frank says, adding that the hardest part has been trying to make sure "everything is running smoothly and goes off without a hitch."

In honor of admirals past and present, the famous Great Admiral's Hat Hunt begins on Wednesday, July 16, at 4 p.m., and continues until the hat is found. The hat can be found on public property, either inside or outside. The intrepid sleuths who locate the elusive chapeau will receive cash prizes.

Part of the admiral's responsibility each year is to introduce a new event. There are actually three additions to the Water Carnival this year -- including the Detroit Lakes Mid-Summer Bike Tour, taking place Saturday, July 12; the Water Carnival Talent Show, taking place on Tuesday, July 15; and a Spanish Juerga, taking place on Friday, July 18.

The Spanish Juerga (pronounced weer-ga), which the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center is hosting, will consist of a pig roast, fiesta dancers, music and conversation.

"I'm interested to see how it turns out," Frank said, referring to the Spanish Juerga.

Admission is $10 for adults and $4 for students. There is a $2 discount for attendees wearing water carnival buttons. Food and drink will be available for purchase. "It's a big fiesta," said Historic Holmes Theatre Executive Director Amy Stearns, who is helping to host the event along with the rest of the theater staff.

The summer festival has something for all ages, ranging from the Bash on the Beach for the adults to a Pet and Doll Parade for kids. There are a multitude of events intended to be enjoyed by the whole family as well.

A $2 button can get you into almost every activity and event. Buttons can be purchased at participating local businesses and all carnival events.

As always, the schedule begins with the crowning of Miss Northwest 2008 on Friday, July 11. The pageant takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Historic Holmes Theatre. The winner of the title will have an opportunity to represent the northwest part of the state at the Miss Minnesota Pageant in June 2009.

A trio -- or triathlon, if you will -- of athletic competitions will also take place, beginning with the inaugural Detroit Lakes Midsummer Bike Tour on Saturday, July 12. The Water Carnival Swim will also take place on July 12, while the NWC Fun Run/Walk is planned for the following Saturday, July 19.

Whether you're looking for a leisurely bike trip around the lakes area, or possibly participating in an extended triathlon, the Mid-Summer Bike Tour can meet your requirements.

"What we're trying to do is start a tour similar to the communities like Brainerd (and) Park Rapids," says Detroit Lakes' Bruce Imholte. "We just felt that Detroit Lakes should have a ride here."

There will be a 15-, 30- or 45-mile ride, and all start at the Pavilion and continue around the south side of Detroit Lake. From there, the 15-mile ride will go around Abby Lake and come back into Detroit Lakes. The 30-mile ride will cross Highway 59 and come out by Lake Sallie and Lake Melissa before coming back into town, ending at the Pavilion. The 45-mile ride will head to Zorbaz on Pelican Lake and through Cormorant and back into Detroit Lakes along County Road 6.

And to be an even bigger part of the water carnival, there's an opportunity to be part of an extended triathlon, by participating in the Lake Swim and the Run/Walk. Imholte said there will be some type of recognition for those who participate in the triathlon.

Many other sporting events will be taking place throughout the week, including the ever-popular Demolition Derby (July 12), the 13th Annual NWC Legion Baseball Classic (July 17-20), the brand-new NWC All-Comers Track Meet (July 18), and the NWC Softball Tournament (July 19).

Bring the kids along for some family fun, including the Junior NWC Pageant (July 14); the Pet Show, Pet and Doll Parade, Kid's Show, Frog Jump and Turtle Race, Sand Treasure Dig, and the Old Fashioned Kid's Games (all on July 19); as well as Inflatable Games (July 19-20).

Want to catch a bite to eat, or try something new to tempt your tastebuds? Then check out the Farmer's Market, Beer Tasting/Home Brew Contest, the Chili and Salsa Cook-off, and the Pancake Breakfast.

If you're looking for a little music to spice up your life, stop in at the Spanish Juerga at the DL Pavilion on July 18; listen to some great concerts in the park on July 19, with Island Time, Vincent and the VanGoes, Show Tyme DJ Service and Tim Eggebraaten -- then head on down to the Bash on the Beach that evening and listen to the music of October Road.

"When I was chosen as admiral last year, I had them (October Road) in mind," said Cara Frank, this year's water carnival admiral.

Want to enjoy some time with the whole family? Then why not spend a few hours at the Family Jam on July 13, come to the NWC Talent Show on July 15, or sign up for the Water Balloon Toss on July 16. Also on July 16, enjoy an Ice Cream Social and the ever-popular Water Fights. A Classic Car Show takes place July 19, as does a Family Picnic, Ship Building and Sand Castle Building contests. And of course, you can't miss the Parade of the Northwest on Sunday, July 20 at 1 p.m.

Frank is particularly looking forward to the parade.

"I think it brings together so many people in the community and those around us. I enjoy seeing the community's involvement and support. We wouldn't have the water carnival without all the support from the businesses."

The parade will be preceded by a Classic Car Cruise at 12:45 p.m. For more details and a complete schedule, check out

(Staff writers Pippi Mayfield, Jason Adkins and Brittany Peterson contributed to this story)

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