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Partying on the peninsula

Weedheads posing for a picture on the sandbar on Detroit Lake last Saturday afternoon are Matt Moltzan of Vergas, Dave Swyter of Perham and Eric Doll of Perham. (Brian Basham/Tribune)1 / 3
Hundreds of boats anchored on the Detroit Lake sandbar last Saturday afternoon. (Brian Basham/Tribune)2 / 3
Matt Moltzan, Eric Doll and Phil Doll prepare some Alaskan halibut for the grill on their pontoon anchored on the sandbar Saturday.3 / 3

The leeward side of the Detroit Lake sandbar was sweltering by mid-afternoon Saturday. Eric Doll of Perham decided to take a dip among the several hundred anchored boats, on what the locals call Cox's Point.

Maybe it was the heat getting to him. Maybe it was the beer. Maybe he wanted to impress the ladies. Maybe it was a combination of all three that made Doll decide to reach down and pull up a large clump of seaweed and place it on his head.

"It's a seaweed mullet," he exclaimed.

Soon, two of his buddies joined him and had party-goers near the three both laughing and repulsed at the sight. A bikini-clad woman waded out to them and requested a picture, which the three gladly took.

So goes the average Fourth of July weekend at the sandbar.

Hundreds of people congregate on what put the "detroit" (French for strait) in Detroit Lake on these hot summer weekends to have a few drinks, swim and socialize with longtime friends -- and people they haven't seen in years.

"There's a lot of people you haven't seen in a while out there and it's a good place to hang out and get some sun," said Brandon Johnson, who has been going to the sandbar for two or three years. "It's just the summer thing to do."

For Eric Doll, Phil Doll, Matt Moltzan and Dave Swyter, the sandbar has become an annual gathering point on the Fourth of July weekend. The four have been going there the past six years.

"We go muskie fishing in the morning, then pull in (to the sandbar) afterwards," Swyter said.

"There's just something there for everyone," said Kim Fuhs, who has been living on Detroit Lake for 10 years and going to the sandbar for "a long time. It's a great place to socialize and meet people. The kids can meet other kids and have some fun."

It hasn't always been a busy summer hangout, according to Jim Bruflodt, who grew up in Detroit Lakes. When he was young, he and friends would swim across the channel near the small island on Detroit Lake to get to the sandbar, and walk the rest of the way to Cox's Point.

"There were very few boats that would come out here then," Bruflodt said.

That has obviously changed as boaters young and old flock to this shallow spot that "splits" the lakes of Big and Little Detroit.

The younger party crowd tends to anchor near the shore, wading in the shallows, playing football, Frisbee or just drinking and socializing.

The party gets older the further from shore you go, with several boatloads of Baby Boomers lashed together enjoying a cool breeze and drinks with friends and family.

But young or old, the Detroit Lake sandbar is the summer place to be and be seen, or do nothing at all except enjoy the sun and water.

"We just like sitting out there and soaking in some water and some rays," Johnson said.

"It's a good place to get a little sun, relax and escape reality for a while," Fuhs said.