Calling all cooks, chefs, bakers and other practitioners of the culinary arts in the lakes area: For the third year in a row, the Minne-"Soda" Hot Dish and Dessert Bar Challenge is set to cap off the opening weekend of Polar Fest in Detroit Lakes on Sunday, Feb. 9.

From 4 to 6 p.m. that evening, anyone can come in to Grace Lutheran Church's fellowship hall and sample the delectable dishes prepared for tasting by the event's celebrity judges. But before that can happen, people need to submit their entries in either the hot dish or dessert categories.

"The entry deadline is Sunday, Feb. 2," said the event's coordinator, Jim Brogren, adding that all people have to do to enter is call him at 218-841-2968 with the name of the hot dish or dessert bar they're submitting.

"Then bring a large crock pot or small NESCO roaster filled with hot dish — or a full pan of bars — to the church by 3 p.m. on the day of the challenge," he said.

For a bit of added excitement, one of this year's hot dish challenge entries is being submitted by reigning Miss Minnesota Kathryn Kueppers.

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Though she's keeping the name of her dish under wraps, Kueppers is excited to be making her first winter visit to the community; her last stop in Detroit Lakes was during the 2019 Northwest Water Carnival, for the crowning of Miss Northwest and Miss Northwest Outstanding Teen.

“I’m certainly excited to come to Detroit Lakes and experience it in the winter,” she said. For more on what brought Kueppers to Detroit Lakes for Polar Fest, check out the Tribune's special Ice Breaker publication, which will be part of the Wednesday, Jan. 29, edition. This publication will also include details about all the Polar Fest action, and a few surprises that organizers have planned.

In addition to Miss Minnesota, the Hot Dish Challenge will also include four celebrity judges, whose names are yet to be determined. Past judges have included former television news anchor Kathy Coyle and Detroit Lakes Police Chief Steven Todd, as well as this reporter.

Each judge will evaluate the entries for taste, appearance and originality. Trophies will be presented to the winners in both the hot dish and dessert bar categories, as well as the People's Choice Award, which will be given to the favorite overall submission (either a hot dish or dessert, not both), as voted on by the event's attendees.

There will also be beverages provided by Pepsi — which is where the "Soda" part of the event's name comes in — as well as chips and buttered bread, provided by the church.

Admission is a freewill donation, with all proceeds to benefit the Becker County Food Pantry.

Other events planned for Polar Fest's opening weekend include the Grand Lighting Ceremony for King Isbit's Royal Courtyard and Palatial Playground at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6 ; the Daddy's Little Sweetheart Dance at the Historic Holmes Theatre and the Welcome to Polaritaville Dance at Shorewood Pub (benefiting the Lakes Area Imagination Library), both of which are Friday, Feb. 7; and the Detroit Lakes Breakfast Rotary's Poles & Holes Ice Fishing Derby and Great Polar Race, Saturday, Feb. 8. The Vern Turner Memorial Bonspiel will also be going on Friday through Sunday, Feb. 7-9, at Lakes Curling Club. Visit polarfestdl.com for a full schedule.

If you go

What: Minne-"Soda" Hot Dish & Dessert Bar Challenge

When: Sunday, Feb. 9, 4-6 p.m. (challenge entries due by 3 p.m.)

Where: Grace Lutheran Church, 213 Roosevelt Ave., Detroit Lakes

Admission: Freewill donation, with proceeds to benefit the Becker County Food Pantry.