Detroit Lakes’ annual celebration of all things winter, Polar Fest, is set to open this Thursday, Feb. 4, with more than two dozen activities slated to take place in and around the community through Monday, Feb. 15.

First up is the annual tapping of Lakeside Tavern & Brewery’s “Winter Shanty” ale, which is specially crafted for Polar Fest. The first keg will be tapped at 4 p.m., with pints of the special brew on sale for just $3 each throughout the evening.

Also on Thursday, the "MN Sn'Ice Snow & Ice Showcase" will open in the Detroit Lakes City Park, with spectacular light displays, ice sculptures and more. The showcase will remain open to the public throughout the festival. Visit iceharvestdl.org for more information.

The outdoor rinks and warming house at Peoples Park in Detroit Lakes will be open throughout Polar Fest as well. Hours are 3 to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays, and noon to 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays (there will also be extended hours on Monday, Feb. 15, which is President's Day).

Also ongoing throughout the festival's 12-day run will be the Little Polar Bear Game hosted by Detroit Lakes Early Childhood Family Education; the Polar Fest Photo Contest, which features photos specifically taken at Polar Fest 2021 activities; and the "Wishing Tie" tree at the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center.

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A wine tasting and Great Polar Hunt kickoff

Friday, Feb. 5, marks the start of the Chamber of Commerce’s Great Polar Hunt. Contact the Chamber at 218-847-9202 or dlchamber@visitdetroitlakes.com to register; cost is just $10 per person.

Once you have registered, watch your inbox for an email, to be sent out at noon on Friday. This email will contain the puzzle you will need to solve by finding all the hidden signs around Detroit Lakes. All signs will be on public land, or at local businesses; some driving will be required. Participants will have until 4:59 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16 to complete the puzzle and return it to the Chamber office at 700 Summit Ave. for inclusion in the grand prize drawing, which will take place at 5 p.m. The drawing will include prize packages filled with local gift cards worth more than $100.

Also on Friday, the Detroit Lakes Noon Rotary Club is hosting a virtual wine tasting event starting at 7 p.m. This virtual wine tasting with sommelier Jean Taylor will help participants choose the best wines for Valentine’s Day, and enjoy a fun evening of Zooming, laughing, and sharing with old friends and new.

Cost is $75, and each ticket purchased includes four bottles of wine, an invitation to the Zoom event, and recipe suggestions for food pairings with the wines. Once you sign up, you'll receive an email with directions on picking up your wine and how to join the Zoom webinar. Register at https://bit.ly/2LzuwSY.

Saturday, Feb. 6, begins with the Detroit Lakes Kiwanis Club’s Polar Fest Pancake Breakfast, with serving from 8 a.m. to noon at the American Legion Club, 810 West Lake Drive. Tickets will be sold at the door.

Poles ‘N Holes on-site fishing tickets sold out

Though all 250 on-ice fishing tickets for the Detroit Lakes Breakfast Rotary’s Poles ‘N Holes Ice Fishing Derby on Saturday have been sold, ice fishing enthusiasts need not despair: There is a virtual option.

“We had to cap it (ticket sales) at 250 this year, due to COVID-19,” says Breakfast Rotarian Kathy Michaelson. “The format has changed a lot — we have to abide by all the social distancing and mask wearing and other COVID safety standards — but we’re very lucky that we got the permit from the DNR to have it.”

Because participation in the regular derby is so limited, however, the Rotarians decided that they would add a “virtual” derby to the Polar Fest schedule as well.

“The virtual derby will take place the following weekend, Feb. 12-14,” Michaelson said, “and it is open to all.”

To sign up, download the free Fish Donkey app on your smartphone or tablet (available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store) and sign up for the Poles ‘N Holes Virtual Derby — cost is $30 per entry.

Once signed up, participants can fish on any ice-covered lake in the region, then take a picture of their captured fish and upload it for judging.

“The winners will be determined by length, rather than weight (which is the determining factor for Saturday’s derby),” Michaelson said.

Breakfast Rotarians will also be on the ice this Saturday selling raffle tickets during the derby, which runs from noon to 3 p.m.

“Tickets for the raffle are $10 each,” Michaelson said, adding that they will also be available for purchase in advance, from any Breakfast Rotarian or at any of the following locations: Lakes Sports Shop, Quality Bait and Tackle, County 6 Gas and Bait, Northshore Gas and Bait or Lakeland General Store.

“We have 2,500 tickets and as of this morning’s (Tuesday) Rotary meeting, we had about half sold,” Michaelson said. “We will be giving away over $11,000 in prizes.”

Drive-in style hotdish dinner at Grace Lutheran

A Polar Fest staple for the past three years, Grace Lutheran Church’s Minne-Soda Hotdish Supper will be served up drive-in style this year.

“We can’t do the Hotdish Challenge inside the church this year, due to COVID,” says organizer Jim Brogren. “So we will be serving it up curbside instead.”

Between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, cars can drive up to the church, where they will be met by volunteers who will take their orders and collect payment for the dinner.

“The cost is $10 per person,” Brogren says. “Each meal includes a tater tot hotdish, veggies, a dinner roll and a brownie.”

Once your order has been taken, you can just wait in the car for it to be delivered, he added.

For all the details, as well as a list of activities taking place next week, visit the website at polarfestdl.com.