Good news for Polar Pete fans: The fluffy and friendly polar bear mascot will be making even more appearances around Detroit Lakes this winter as part of Polar Fest.
The previously volunteer Polar Pete gig is being turned into a paid position this year, ensuring that Polar Pete will be shaking more hands and giving more high-fives at events throughout the multi-day festival.
“Over the past several years, Pete has been less and less seen — he’s been ‘hibernating,’” Polar Fest Co-Chairwoman Megan Smith said, laughin. “Our goal is to bring him out of hibernation and have him at as many events as possible.”
Smith explained that not all of the organizations or businesses that host Polar Fest events have a person who is willing or able to fit into the Polar Pete costume and play the part during their event. Finding a volunteer to be Polar Pete can be a challenge for event hosts, and it often just doesn’t work out.
As more and more events are added to the Polar Fest lineup every year — last year, there were a record 42 events — organizers want to make sure that Polar Pete continues to be a familiar face around the festival. They also want to set some consistent standards, as far as how tall Polar Pete is, how he wears his vest, the gestures he makes, etc.
“We want to have that continuity, that branding, that same visual appearance,” Smith said.
Polar Pete is a beloved figure of Polar Fest for many local and visiting kids and families. He’s a smiling character that doesn’t speak, and doesn’t take part in any physically demanding activities like skiing or tubing: “He’s just a welcoming, visual presence and a reminder that it’s Polar Fest,” Smith said.
The costume is sized for a person of medium build, about 5-feet-8 to 5-feet-10 inches tall, but Matthew Davis, Smith’s Polar Fest co-chairman, said that size requirement is somewhat flexible if a shorter or taller person is interested in donning the suit.
Ideally, Davis said, interested applicants will come in pairs, as it really takes two people to pull off a great Polar Pete appearance — one to wear the costume and another to serve as that person’s guide, or assistant.
“Polar Pete, when he’s in costume, is somewhat limited in terms of visibility and ease of movement, plus it’s nice to have somebody there to make sure kids aren’t tugging at the costume and things like that,” Davis said. “So the ideal would be having two people. A retired couple, or a parent and child... But we don’t want to turn anybody away if they’re interested in being Polar Pete. I think we could work with one person, too.”
Applicants need to be at least 18 years of age, for liability reasons. Those interested can email PolarPeteDL@gmail.com or call 218-234-2501 for more information.
Smith and Davis said they’re also looking for suggestions of new events to add to the Polar Fest schedule, and for businesses or organizations that are willing to host an event. Volunteers are also needed to help out during individual Polar Fest events. To volunteer or make a suggestion, email the address above or contact Davis at 701-388-1883 or Smith at 218-844-7669.
Polar Fest is the area’s biggest winter festival, taking place annually at locations across Detroit Lakes over multiple days in February. It’s organized by the nonprofit Propel DL, which promotes prosperity in Detroit Lakes through educational, charitable and recreational programs.
For more information about Polar Fest, visit polarfestdl.com.