From now through the middle of February, Detroit Lakes residents, businesses and community organizations will be caught up in the spirit of celebrating all things winter, as Polar Fest takes over the community for a 12-day run from Thursday, Feb. 7 through Monday, Feb. 18 - and the Becker County Museum is no exception.

Starting with the Grand Lighting Ceremony for King Isbit's Royal Courtyard and Palatial Playground on Thursday, the museum will be opening a new exhibit in the Royal Courtyard that will include historic photographs of "favorite winter activities and winter festivals from Becker County's past and present," says museum director Becky Mitchell.

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Drawing on the success of last year's ice harvesting exhibit at the Pavilion, this exhibit will also include "an homage to ice harvesting," Mitchell added - but unlike last year, the new exhibit will be housed inside a heated trailer rather than the chilly confines of the Pavilion, which isn't really built for winter use.

The exhibit will be staffed by a combination of museum employees and Polar Fest volunteers, she said - and there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved.

"We need a lot of volunteers to be Royal Guards," Mitchell said, adding that anyone can sign up to work a two-hour shift during Polar Fest, whether as individuals or in groups. Volunteers can sign up anytime at the website, www.iceharvestDL.org, by clicking on the "Get Involved" link at the top of the page.

"Businesses and organizations can also arrange for a block of time to volunteer as a group, by calling the museum anytime between now and Feb. 7," Mitchell said (the museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, but closed on Sundays and Mondays).

Also new for this year's Polar Fest celebration, the museum will be hosting a "Chocolate Fantasy" fundraiser on Valentine's Day - Thursday, Feb. 14 - from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Businesses, organizations and individuals located in Becker County can pre-order custom-designed chocolate treats, donated by local individuals and businesses, for delivery or curbside pickup on Valentine's Day - or people can come in and pick out their own trays of goodies to take home!

"Pre-order small or large trays of assorted chocolate goodies by Wednesday, Feb. 13 and we will deliver them to any business or organization in Becker County on Valentine's Day," said Mitchell.

Deliveries will take place between 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Or, if you'd like to deliver the trays yourself, pre-order them for curbside pickup at the museum (714 Summit Ave.) between 11:30 a.m-5:30 p.m. on Valentine's Day.

"Prefer to choose your own treats? Then stop into the museum between 4-6 p.m. on Feb. 14 and pick out your favorites!" Mitchell added.

"We'll also have a Valentine's Day open house," added Emily Buermann, the museum's programming director. "There will be vintage valentines and love letters, wedding photos and other valentine-themed artifacts on display throughout the day."

Cost is $20 for a small tray, or $40 for a large one; deliveries will include a $5 transportation fee; orders can be placed at the museum's website, www.beckercountyhistory.org (click on the "Store" link at the top of the page), or by calling or stopping by the museum during its regular operating hours.

"Create a unique gift to let someone know you're thinking of them," said Mitchell. "All proceeds will support the museum's programming and exhibits."

Also this Valentine's Day, the museum will be bringing back its popular "Sweetheart Grams." Between now and Feb. 14, area residents can order a Sweetheart Gram, which consists of a metal pendant, engraved with a special phrase or nickname (must be short enough to fit on the pendant), attached to a necklace, bracelet or keychain.

"Pick a pendant and we will personalize it with your message," said Buermann. "Then, choose a necklace, bracelet, or key ring for your pendant, pick out a piece of chocolate, and take it with you for just $10! You can also add some pretty beads or charms for just $2 each."

Or if you'd prefer, you can arrange for delivery of your Sweetheart Gram to a business, office or school in the Detroit Lakes, Frazee or Lake Park area for an additional $5 delivery charge. Each delivery will include a piece of chocolate and a written note.

Deliveries will take place on Feb. 13-14. Like the Chocolate Fantasy, all proceeds will directly benefit the museum and its programming.

Also during Polar Fest, the museum will be hosting its monthly Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Wednesday, Feb. 13.

Local quilters Deb Ormseth and Nancy Hanson Murphy will "explore the history of and future trends in quilting," said Buermann. "Examine quilting artifacts and learn about the Lakes Area Quilt Guild, then design your own quilt block!"

Many beautiful quilts are currently on display in the Museum, donated by local quilters, which will be available for viewing after the presentation. There are no admission fees during Brown Bag Lunch events, which start promptly at noon. Bring your own lunch or order a box lunch for $8 by calling the Museum at 218-847-2938, no later than 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb 13.