Plans for Detroit Lakes' 150th birthday bash beginning to take shape

Detroit Lakes will officially be celebrating its 150th birthday during the weekend of July 29-31. A wide variety of festivities are planned, from an outdoor film festival to the ceremonial burying of a time capsule.

These 150-year celebration banners were installed on light poles throughout downtown Detroit Lakes at the beginning of the year, and will remain in place throughout 2021. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

The city of Detroit Lakes turns 150 years old this year, and plans for its sesquicentennial birthday bash are slowly beginning to take shape. A variety of events are scheduled for the weekend of July 29-31, including live music, an outdoor film festival and food trucks galore.

The festivities get underway at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, July 29, when Detroit Lakes' iconic sailboat sculpture — designed by local artist Hans Gilsdorf — is rededicated at its new home on the corner of Washington Avenue and North Shore Drive. The sculpture is in the process of being refurbished for the sesquicentennial.
The ceremony will include a speech from Mayor Matt Brenk, the ceremonial burying of a time capsule and a ribbon cutting. Also at that time, various city departments will be setting up their "big rigs" in the City Park for families to explore. The "Hoot & Toot" display will continue until approximately 7 p.m.

Immediately following the sailboat rededication ceremony, there will be an ice cream social at 5 p.m., followed by the return of "Rotary Trucks & Tunes," featuring live music from local musician Matt Aakre in the City Park Bandshell. There will also be approximately a half dozen local food trucks selling a variety of tasty summer favorites until 8 p.m.

There are also plans in the works for the Becker County Museum's commemorative 150-year history book to be on sale throughout the festivities, with author Pippi Mayfield stopping by for a book signing. Several "swag" items decorated with the city's sesquicentennial logo will be available for purchase as well.

Though plans for the remaining two days of the celebration are still in their infancy, an outdoor film festival is tentatively set for Friday, July 30, in the City Park Bandshell, and a "Lakes-Palooza" celebration, featuring live music, food and more, is set for Saturday, July 31. More information will be posted on the celebration website, , as it becomes available.


Coincidentally, the Becker County Fair will also be going on that weekend, July 28-31. The fair will be celebrating 127 years in Detroit Lakes this summer; visit or check out their Facebook page for more information.

Sesquicentennial public art project to be unveiled April 30

Another sesquicentennial event that will be coming up within the next month is the unveiling of the "150 Sails Up in DL" public art project, set for Friday, April 30 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Kent Freeman Arena in Detroit Lakes.

Every sailboat sculpture, large and small, will be on display inside the arena — the one and only time that all of them will be gathered in one place, according to organizer Mary Beth Gilsdorf.
Though they are "going to need to do some measuring" to make all 150 sculptures fit inside the rink where the celebration will be held, Gilsdorf said during a planning meeting earlier this week, she was confident that they would be able to do so.

Volunteers are also being recruited to help with crowd control, which will need to be strictly enforced due to ongoing pandemic safety restrictions.

After the Regatta is concluded, the sculptures will be distributed to their new homes at businesses and public venues around the city. For all the latest details, including photos of some of the in-progress sculptures, visit , or check out their Facebook page .

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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