Polar Fest is a community celebration of all things winter. It’s held annually in Detroit Lakes, during the week and weekend of President's Day in February, and consists of many individual events and activities that encourage people to get outside and enjoy winter.


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Polar Fest is organized by Propel DL, a nonprofit organization that exists to advance, promote and enhance prosperity in Detroit Lakes through educational, charitable and recreational programs. Polar Fest is run by an independent, all-volunteer committee of local folks.

Individual events within the festival, such as the polar plunge or hotdish challenge, for example, are led by different civic groups, businesses and people from the Detroit Lakes area. Polar Fest is a true community event, planned and executed by the community, for the community.


Polar Fest was started in 1996 by Erika Johnson, a previous owner of Lakeside Tavern. She loved winter and wanted to see some sort of celebration of winter on or near Detroit Lake, outside her restaurant.

Coincidentally, at the same time, Ron Zeman, former board member for Develop DL, heard about people jumping into a hole on a frozen lake to raise money for an organization, and that led to the development of the Polar Fest Plunge. The plunge was a hit, and Polar Fest grew and evolved out of that, with more activities added into the mix as the years went on.

In 2002, lack of support left Polar Fest with only its key event, the plunge, and no other activities. But a few years later, in 2005, a new group came together to reinvigorate the festival. Since then, Polar Fest has grown every year, into the 10-day, many-event festival it is now.

For more stories about 2020 Polar Fest, CLICK HERE.