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Fair Hills is looking for help locating former staff for a reunion

“When I arrived at Fair Hills after my freshman year of college, I didn’t know a soul. When I left in August, I’d made lifelong friends,” says Paula Cox of Fargo.

     Throughout the years, millions of family guests have enjoyed their vacations at the resort, taken care of by the “young people” and the Kaldahl family.

     The resort has also hosted family reunions, meetings, conventions, weddings, proms, quilters, scrapbookers, fishermen/women and the Governor’s State Fishing parties. Even Pope Benedict XVI stayed at Fair Hills before he was Pope, back in the mid 1970s.

     “I returned to work there two more summers. Fair Hills is a place like no other, a care-free place where families come back for decades, where there are no keys or phones in the cabins, where kids visit the soda fountain for an ice cream cone and we knew what their name was and what cabin they were in,” Cox continued. “We called it work, but really it was just a fun summer adventure, complete with us performing in the weekly ‘Hootenany’ show.”

     This summer Fair Hills will be hosting “its own” with an All Staff Reunion, and celebrating those friendships the week of July 13-20.  Since 1926 staff members have been serving the Fair Hills guests.  Now it’s time for them to celebrate and be “guests” themselves.

     Staff members from as early as the 1930s are invited to attend the reunion in mid July.

     “Since there are literally several thousand of Fair Hills alumni, many of whom live in this area, we need the public’s help in locating those former staff,” said Larry Swenson, reunion chairperson. “With families and young people moving, and all the address changes for streets and roads, our contact information needs updating.  Thus, we need everyone’s help to get the word out to past staff, so that they can be informed of this special week.”

     “Whenever there is some kind of local event and someone mentions the resort, people start coming out of the woodwork, as having worked there, or knowing someone who worked there.  In my own high school graduating class of 1972, there were 4 of my classmates that spent their summers taking care of the guests at FH.” 

     Swenson himself started working at Fair Hills in 1970 when he was a junior at Lake Park High School, and was joined by classmates Curt Hansen, Scott Olson, Nancy (Moe) Fern, and Ila Mae Lindstrom. “All the other area towns were represented by their local high school and college students who depended on the resort for their summer jobs. We have over 1200 past staff members in our ever growing data base.”

     This year’s reunion will begin with a cocktail hour on Saturday, followed by an evening of “Fair Hills Memories” in the pavilion. There’ll be a parade by the FH Marching Band and a picnic mid day on Sunday.  Sunday night will be the highlight of a Reunion Hootenanny/Show.

     Each group of staff from the various years will be onstage to perform a song or two from “their” show. 

     The Fair Hills Hootenannies are the longest running musical show in the entire Midwest, starting with their debut around a campfire in 1965, and the people returning for the reunion are the very performers who did all those shows, as well as doing their normal job in the dining room, lobby, beach, golf course and grounds. Some of the staff will be there the initial weekend, and others will be staying as guests for the entire week.

     Five generations of the Kaldahl family have been involved in Fair Hills for nearly 90 years.  It was a resort since about 1904, and was purchased in 1926 by Ed and Bessie Torgerson Kaldahl.  Chester Kaldahl, known as an international ski jumper, and the man who started the Detroit Lakes High School band, worked with his father, Ed, in the resort business, before passing it along to his son, Dave and Dave’s wife, Barb. 

     Dave and Barb are now 81 years old, and are still active in the programs of the resort. Dave still serves early morning coffee to the guests in the lobby, then works in the kitchen each morning.  He performs in the Tuesday night Hootenanny, and leads the final song in the Thursday night Talent Show every week.  Barb leads the 3 mile walk every morning and then teaches water aerobics daily.

     Beth (Kaldahl) Schupp, their daughter, is now the resort’s general manager. Some of Beth’s children are also involved in the programs at Fair Hills, teaching sailing and skiing, and growing some of the organic produce served in the Fair Hills kitchen.  The entire Kaldahl family looks forward to hosting the staff who have worked with them for decades.

     For more information, to help locate “lost” staff,  to receive an invitation, or to register for the reunion contact Larry Swenson, Caitlin Pawlowski or Beth Schupp at their “singable” phone number: 218-847-7638, or