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Ojibwe Rally returning to DL

The Ojibwe Forest Rally will feature three days of racing this year, including a stage on the streets of Detroit Lakes. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

The 2014 Ojibwe Forest Rally is going to be bigger and better than ever, according to race chairman Erick Nelson.

The off-road rally itself will be extended from two days to three days of racing, with a ceremonial start in downtown Detroit Lakes set for Aug. 22. The Buffalo River Speedway stages of the race will be run on Thursday, Aug. 21 this year.

NBC Sports will be filming this year’s Ojibwe Forest Rally for a rebroadcast on Saturday, Oct. 12, Nelson said.

“We haven’t had ESPN in quite a few years, so the NBC deal is big,” Nelson said.

On top of that, the final stage of the rally will take place on the streets of Detroit Lakes. The stage will run from the Becker County Fairgrounds along West Lake Drive to the Detroit Lakes High School parking lot. Nelson said spectators can watch the race from a safe distance off the street for most of the route, except the sharp turn to Washington Avenue near the Pavilion and other select locations.

“We’re going to have so many places for people to watch this year,” Nelson said.

To ensure the public’s safety, Nelson has been working closely with the City of Detroit Lakes and the Detroit Lakes Police Department since the end of last year’s rally.

“I spent about four months going back and forth going over different options with them and what sort of things they would need. Basically, what would we need to do to get this approved,” Nelson said.

West Lake Drive along the beach will be completely lined with snow fence, Nelson said. And the road should be closed down for only about an hour to run the short stage.

“The City Park, there will be certain areas you can stand and certain areas you can’t,” he said. “The intersections, you just will not be allowed. But that’s not because we’re taking away the good spots or giving somebody who paid for something the good spots.”

While some spots on the city route are going to be restricted, much of the route will be open to good spectator viewing.

“Is Lakeside going to allow people to watch from their patio? I’m pretty sure they probably will,” Nelson said. “I know Zorbaz is. They’re going to have a little thing enclosed right in front.

“How cool is that? You can watch right there. Like seven o’clock on a Saturday night. How neat is that? You’re not going to be able to miss it.”

Planning the rally without a stage in town takes about 200 volunteers, Nelson said. With the stage through town, he wants a dedicated crew of 100 volunteers just to handle the Detroit Lakes city leg.

“Honestly, for this weekend, I need 300 people to help me,” he said. “That’s a big number. But we need them to make sure we have the lakeside safe, to make sure we don’t have kids running through trees at City Park, to make sure the intersections are blocked off.

“It’s a big deal, making sure everything goes the way it should and stays safe and everybody has a good time. If we do this right, there’s no reason people wouldn’t want us to do it again. In our series for the year, this will be the biggest show.”

For more information about volunteering for the rally, go to