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Still room to join DL Chamber's popular Fall Color Tour -- Hop on the bus, Gus

The Scenic Byway is bursting with brilliant fall foliage right now, putting on quite a show for the upcoming eighth annual Fall Color Tour -- set to roll out Thursday, Oct. 6.

The Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Lake Country Scenic Byway Association are organizing the event, which they say is meant to show people the amazing things that sit right in their own backyards.

There will be two motor coach buses -- one leaving from Detroit Lakes and taking the Scenic Byway to Callaway, Itasca, Osage and Park Rapids, making stops along the way.

The other bus will take off from Park Rapids at the same time and making the same stops, but in reverse order.

The goal is to meet in the middle for lunch.

"There are so many neat attractions to see right here in our area, and to take a day to just explore and see the things along this route is just neat when the leaves are at their peak," said the Chamber's Tourism Director Cleone Stewart.

Stewart helped put the first Fall Color Tour together eight years ago and says it was so popular their passenger vans didn't cut it.

"I said 'We need to think bigger than this, people!'" Stewart laughed.

Now she says they get about 100 people hopping on the bus for the event.

The bus beginning in Detroit Lakes will first collect passengers in Frazee at 7:30 a.m. and Perham at 7:50 a.m. before departing from the Kent Freeman Sports Arena in Detroit Lakes at 8:30 a.m.

Their first stop -- Dynamic Homes in Detroit Lakes.

"They've built more than 10,000 homes in that plant, so we'll get to see how they're built -- which I think will be so interesting," said Stewart, who says she always tries to book stops that men will like as well as women.

From there, it's on to Callaway.

"We're going to see the newly painted mural on the White Earth Land Recovery Project Building," said Stewart, "and then stop inside where they have crafts like the honeys and the wild rice and their birch bark canoes..."

The wheels on the bus go round and round until they reach Itasca State Park, where lunch is served at Douglas Lodge.

"They'd normally be shutting down for the season, but they're staying open just for us," said Stewart, "so they'll be serving up some of their wild rice specialties."

This is also where they will be meeting up with the Park Rapids crew.

They'll be rollin' out the barrels for the next stop, which is at the Black Swan Cooperage in Osage.

"This is a family who started a business manufacturing big whiskey barrels for the industry of distilling spirits," said Stewart, "So they're going to bring us in and show us how they do that."

The final stop is Park Rapids Aviation.

"They are a world leader in putting floats on planes," said Stewart, "The do single and twin engine planes, the servicing, painting, upholstery, the electronic work -- and they're nice enough to open their doors to us."

Stewart says over the years they've stopped at places such as Maplelag, Spanky's and the Richwood Winery -- and in doing so, introduces those businesses to new, returning customers.

Stewart says not only does this event promote local businesses and attractions along the Byway, but it gives people a chance to meet new friends and get behind-the-scenes tours of places they wouldn't normally see.

Many in the group are annual fans of the tour.

"And I often hear, 'I thought you'd run out of ideas, and here you are -- it's better than it was last year."

Stewart says they will have ambassadors and board members along the byway to give history on the area being traveled, transforming the Byway into more than just beautiful scenery.

The cost of the Fall Color Tour is $61 per person, and that includes the transportation and lunch.

Although the deadline to register was Friday, Sept. 30, Stewart says people can still call Monday, Oct. 3 because there still may be room.

Contact the Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce at 847-9202.