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Museum fund-raiser set for Sept. 24

Museum staff member Margie Rousu gives a group of DLCCC summer camp kids a tour of an authentic pioneer house in the Becker County Museum Thursday during Kids' Day at the museum.

Got on a pair of blue jeans, that's fine. Got on a long black dress, that's fine too.

"Come in jeans or dress up -- it's come as you are," Becker County Historical Museum Manager Carrie Johnston said of the museum's new signature event, Denim & Diamonds.

For the first time, the Becker County Historical Society will host the Thursday, Sept. 24, event. It will begin with a social hour at 6 p.m., followed by the program at 7 p.m. in the Historic Holmes Theatre and ballroom, including a film screening.

While there are similarities to many other fund-raising efforts in Detroit Lakes -- silent auction and food -- this one stands out. The premier of "Timber -- Dead and Down" will also be shown that night. This is a red carpet event, Johnston said.

It started when the Department of Natural Resources wanted to take a historic look at logging in the area and approached the historical society. Producer Jeff Schlossman sat on the historical society's board of directors a few years ago and was getting involved with filmmaking after learning more about it, sitting on the Fargo Theater board of directors.

"Rather than do a little poster board thing of the history using photographs, there was so much more information that we wanted to get out about the history of the area," Schlossman said.

Not just the history of the area, but getting the word out about what the historical society has to offer was also important with the project.

The film focuses on lumbering in the northwest portion of Minnesota, including Becker County and the Otter Tail River. Johnston said the film is a documentary, but it includes some fictional stories of what interactions between people may have been.

"We are completely blessed Jeff would do this," she said.

"We're making the story come to life -- that of people in the Detroit Lakes area, whether it was the settlers or the Native Americans that are here all seem to have a connection with the early logging and the early history," Schlossman said.

The timber rush is what populated the area and shaped what Becker County would become. It helped form what Becker County is in the sense of government-owned land, state forest and wildlife refuges, he added.

"There are a lot of interesting stories of floating the logs down the Otter Tail River," he said.

"It took a lot more research than we ever thought," Johnston said.

She said that Schlossman was more than happy to take on the project.

"This is just his passion," she said. "It started as a Paul Bunyan tall tale (type film) then shifted to be truly historic."

The process was a two-year process, she said.

"It shifted gears mid-frame because part of the story is why did the forest recover so well in this area," Schlossman said. "We decided at some point that we needed to focus on everything until 1917, when the Frazee mill closed, one of the largest mills in Minnesota."

About 250 million board feet of timber were cut at the Frazee mill. They floated the logs over 12 lakes, 32 miles and 32 dams down the Otter Tail River, he said.

"There's a lot of interesting stories that come out of it," he said.

The purpose of the movie wasn't just to get the word out about timber in Becker County either.

The purpose was to "inspire people to explore history and explore geographic history, where it would be history in a certain area. Every area has its own unique history," he said.

"We're trying to bring out that as people are sitting out on docks enjoying the summer days on the lakes, they didn't realize that those lakes were completely covered in logs at one time."

Other key players in the documentary were Kirk Roos as director and Tom Tollefson as cinematographer.

The documentary will be available on DVD after its release the night of the event. The DVD will be available for sale at the museum.

"It was just the best way to share the information of the historical society and to hopefully create more interest in history and hopefully inspire other people to keep track of history in the area.

It is more important, and sometimes a lot more interesting, than you'd ever think," Schlossman said.

"There will be great food, great auction and then sit down to screen the entire film," Johnston said of the hour-long documentary.

"We hope to establish this as our trademark event for years to come," she added.

Tickets are $50 apiece or $450 for a sponsor table of eight. Everyone is welcome. Tickets are available at the museum or from board members.

During the social hour, Bruce Wisted will provide music entertainment, and the food is catered by Speak Easy.