For the past couple of weeks, the Detroit Lakes Jaycees have pretty much taken over the town, as the 83rd Northwest Water Carnival brought in record or near-record crowds during its 10-day run, July 6-15.
From the kickoff party at Lakeside Tavern on July 6 - which drew an estimated 1,300-plus people - to the Parade of the Northwest this past Sunday afternoon, near-perfect weather reigned, with only a short rain shower toward the end of the Water Fights on Wednesday, July 11 to briefly dampen the festivities. (And considering that most of the participants, and onlookers, were pretty wet already, no one really minded.)
"We were really blessed with the weather throughout the week," said Natalie Bly, who along with Andy Castagneri, served as co-admirals of the 2018 Northwest Water Carnival.
"The weather helped a lot," Castagneri added. "The whole water carnival was really well attended, I think."
This past weekend, in particular, brought big numbers down to the Detroit Lakes city beach, park and Pavilion, where record-breaking crowds rocked to the music of Hairball, ONE, Firehouse and Warrant during a two-night Bash on the Beach concert event (Friday and Saturday), and families flocked to the beach for a chili cook-off, bean bag tournament, sand castle building and live music throughout the day on Saturday.
Though entries were few in number at the annual Chili & Salsa Cook-off, with just three blazin' hot entries this year, the "Chicks & Hicks" chili took home both the first place and "Gastro Blaster" (hottest chili) awards.
"We've had as many as 17 entries in the past," said Jaycees President Alma Alaniz, noting that they would have to do a better job of promoting the cook-off next year.
The Sand Castle Building Contest brought in over a half-dozen entries this year, with first place honors going to Detroit Lakes' own Marlowe Pratt in the junior division and the trio of Aedan, David and Lee Harper of Pine Point for the adults.
Other Saturday festivities included a classic car show, pet and doll parade, pet show, sand volleyball tournament and family picnic at the park.
Sunday's schedule began early with a pancake feed, followed by the finale of the Legion baseball tournament at Washington Park and the Parade of the Northwest and Water Ski Show in the afternoon.
As has become a tradition in recent years, some parade participants and crowd members engaged in a bit of a "water war" as floats turned the corner from Washington Avenue onto West Lake Drive.
"We think it was one of the best 'water fights' we've had during the parade," said Bly. "It was so much fun!"
Not all of the feedback from that portion of the parade was positive, however: Underneath the post about the parade on the Detroit Lakes Newspapers Facebook page, there were many who had some concerns about the unsolicited water attacks on spectators and those on the floats.
One parade participant, Amy Erickson, wrote: "So... I love being in the parade with my whole heart... right up until about Lakeside, when people start blasting you in the face with super soakers and hoses. I wish that there was a sort of reciprocal understanding that if we're not throwing water at you, we'd rather not be doused."
Another participant, Heather Perrine, wrote: "A spectator actually advised my husband to roll up his window when we came around the corner by the Pavilion. I don't mind the water as a spectator and would expect it if I was on or pulling a float that partook in the water fun, but when royalty floats come by, it should be an unwritten rule that you don't spray around them. Our girls were wearing dresses and ended up wet. No they didn't ruin them, but it's annoying nonetheless."
Other commenters scoffed at the complaints.
"Y'all... It's the WATER Carnival Parade," wrote Kendra Wolfe. "If you don't wanna get wet, don't go. Or wear a poncho... There are people who love and embrace the celebration for what it's all about and the laughter and joy from them at the parade was priceless. Don't ruin others' fun because you can't handle getting a little wet."
Castagneri and Bly admitted that they had received some negative comments and messages as well.
"We do it all in fun," Castagneri said. "We apologize if we upset anyone, but it's become an expected thing from us (i.e, the Jaycees) at the end of the parade. We don't intend to get anyone wet who doesn't want it, but it's become a tradition, and I think a lot of people look forward to it."
"We do have rules," Bly said, adding that the Jaycees instruct participants on who to avoid when spraying water - infants, young children, elderly and disabled, or other people who indicate that they don't wish to get wet.
All in all, the co-admirals said, the 83rd Northwest Water Carnival was a big success - and now they're ready to hand over the reins to their successors, 2019 co-admirals Brian Anderson and Matt Kelly.
"We'll help them in any way we can, to make next year's carnival even bigger and better," said Castagneri. "That's always the goal."