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Polar Fest brings big crowds for final weekend of fun

Garden gnome Terry Whitmer does a face-plant into the frozen water of Little Detroit Lake during Saturday’s Polar Fest Plunge. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham1 / 8
Boys and Girls Club employee Mike Evans does a cannonball during Saturday’s Polar Fest Plunge. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham2 / 8
Team Ice Cream member Elizabeth Lopau cringes as she makes her way to the steps out of the frozen water of Detroit Lake. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham3 / 8
Brailee Sgro, 9, and Jacy Cieluch, 7, fly down a small tubing hill built by Bring Back Detroit Mountain on the ice of Little Detroit Lake Saturday. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham4 / 8
Ramzey Galbrecht, 5, of Frazee grips a sunfish tight as he walks to have it measured during Saturday’s youth fishing derby. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham5 / 8
Spectators check out some of the hundreds of classic snowmobiles during the ULTRA Snowmobile Club’s Vintage Rally and Swap Meet Saturday morning. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham6 / 8
Norseman Motors and Webber Family Ford challenged each other to a tug-of-war during intermission at Saturday’s Polar Fest Plunge. The Norseman team of Amber Jasken, Leif Erickson, Jason Talbert, Lars Hetland and Eric Ashcroft give a mighty pull, but the team lost to Webber and was pulled into the icy cold water. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham7 / 8
Bryan Kalbunde of Waubun runs up a hill on Rossman Avenue during Saturday morning’s Freeze Your Buns Run. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham8 / 8

A relatively warm and sunny final weekend brought big crowds to wrap up this year’s Polar Fest celebration, which concluded Sunday in Detroit Lakes.

“The Plunge (the celebration’s signature event, which took place Saturday afternoon) went really well,” said Polar Fest co-chair Sue Trnka. We had 164 people jump, and those 164 people raised $23,000 in pledges.”

However, Trnka added, the overall total raised for the Boys & Girls Club by this year’s Polar Fest Plunge won’t be known until later on this week.

The first annual Tug of War Challenge, held during “halftime” festivities at the Plunge, also went very well, Trnka added.

“The Tug of War was very fun,” she said. “The team from Webber Family Ford pulled Norseman Motors into the lake — but Norseman had the best costumes ever!”

As the name might imply, Norseman Motors team members dressed as Vikings for the occasion, Trnka added.

The newly-added sauna for Plunge participants also went over well — “the plungers were happy,” she said.

Trnka’s co-chair, Amy Degerstrom, said all of the events held during the final two days of Polar Fest were well-attended, from the ULTRA Vintage Rally, Swap Meet & Snowmobile Run on Saturday morning, to the Frozen Fireworks and Polaritaville Dance that evening, and the new “Skating with Polar Pete” event at People’s Park on Sunday afternoon.

“The ULTRA Rally had so many people there — hundreds of them,” Trnka said.

“That was a really successful event… it was amazing the number of people who came out for that,” Degerstrom added.

“And the Detroit Mountain people (who ran the Family Snow Games event) actually built a little mountain on the lake by the Holiday Inn — with pine trees,” said Trnka. “There was a good turnout for the fireworks too.”

“The fireworks are always really awesome,” Degerstrom added, noting that having a fireworks display in the middle of the winter is a fairly unique event, which always brings good crowds.

“It was a great way to bring the day to a close — and the Polaritaville dance, hosted by the Parrot Heads, is always fun.”

“They actually put sand down on the floor (at Zorbaz), so you can dance in the sand,” Trnka added.

Despite the chilly winds that blew across People’s Park on Sunday, the inaugural “Skating with Polar Pete” event held that afternoon was very well attended, as was the Concordia College concert at Holy Rosary Church, Degerstrom said.

“We probably had about 100 people there (for the ‘Skating with Polar Pete’ event), both kids and parents,” Trnka said. “We gave out lots of free hot chocolate.”

Another inaugural event, the Snowman Building Contest coordinated by Marcus Lacher’s event planning class at M State, also went well.

“We had just over 20 entries this year, which was pretty good considering the snow conditions and the challenging temperatures,” said Lacher. “Not surprisingly, we had several non-snow entries, including the co-winners of the Business category: DL Newspapers and Laker Prep School (Mary Rotter).”

Winners in the individual/family category were the Moran siblings (Trnka’s children), Emily, Bobby and Jack, with their “Minion” snowmen.

“I’m very happy with the results for an inaugural event,” Lacher said. “The class raised money working a fundraising event for the Washington Square Mall this past December. The money raised was used for prizes (Chamber Bucks) for the winning entries for our competition.”

“It was a good Polar Fest overall,” Degerstrom said. “Even though it was cold a lot of the time, we didn’t have any bad weather that caused us to cancel or postpone an event.”

“It was a great way for people to get out of the house and enjoy the winter,” said Trnka — especially on the final weekend, where temperatures stayed above zero for most of the time.

“Overall the events were very well attended,” Degerstrom said, adding that the Polar Fest Committee is always looking for input from the public on how to make next year’s celebration bigger and better.

“We’re always looking for feedback — what you liked, what you didn’t, and how we can make it better,” she added.

Comments can be left on Polar Pete’s Facebook page or Twitter account, @thepolarpete, or sent by e-mail to:

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes

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