Polar Fest hot dish, dessert bar challenge draws a crowd; kite flying also a hit despite the cold

Despite the cold, snowy and blustery weather on Sunday, Polar Fest events like the Minne-Soda Hot Dish and Dessert Bar Challenge and Cool Kites on the Lake drew good crowds.

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Amber Schwarzrock, at right, aka That Midwestern Mom, shares a laugh with dessert bar challenge winner Ranae Sexton after presenting her with her trophy at the Minne-Soda Hot Dish and Dessert Bar Challenge on Sunday, Feb. 13, at Grace Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Polar Fest's opening day success on Saturday continued through the weekend, as Sunday events like the Minne-Soda Hot Dish and Dessert Bar Challenge and Cool Kites on the Lake drew good crowds.

The hot dish and dessert bar challenge brought a dozen entries in each category, with celebrity judges including Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander, Chamber of Commerce President Carrie Johnston, Forum reporter Tracy Briggs and Detroit Lakes Tribune reporter Vicki Gerdes taking about an hour to reach their decision.

At the end of the afternoon, it was Kara DeVries Schumann and Ranae Sexton who took home the first place trophies in the hot dish and dessert bar categories, respectively. Schumann's entry, a Philly Cheesesteak Hotdish, also won the People's Choice Award.

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Kara DeVries Schumann, at right, was all smiles as she accepted her trophy for first place in the hot dish challenge on Sunday, Feb. 13, at Detroit Lakes' Grace Lutheran Church. She was presented the award by Amber Schwarzrock, at left, also known as TikTok sensation That Midwestern Mom.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

TikTok star Amber Schwarzrock, also known as "That Midwestern Mom," helped to hand out trophies and posed for selfies with the hundred or so attendees.

Earlier in the day, the second annual Cool Kites on the Lake event on Little Detroit Lake also brought out a nice crowd.


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More than 25 large kites were flying over Little Detroit Lake on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 13. The second annual Cool Kites on the Lake brought in kite flyers from Illinois, Wisconsin and North Dakota as well as Minnesota — and one couple from the United Kingdom!
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"This year we had nine kite pilot groups and they had over 25 kites in the air," said organizer Amy Stoller Stearns. "One of the couples was from north Staffordshire in the United Kingdom. This was the couple with the giant octopus kites. We also had pilots from Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota."

Stearns noted that they hope to bring back the event next year as well.

"This kite event was a brainstorm from last January 2021, when I was trying to figure out what we could do during COVID that’d be colorful and bright and encouraging," she said. "I went down a crazy internet rabbit hole and learned a lot about kites and discovered that there are kite festivals all over the world.

"I emailed some kite people that I found online and Mike Gee (from Jamestown) responded and he really helped me connect with the four professional kite flyers we had last year. Mike connected me with Suzanne O’Dell at the Buffalo (Minn.) Chamber of Commerce. They do a kite fest each year. Suzanne was extremely generous with her knowledge and contacts, and we are working together to bring more kiters to Minnesota. Each kite pilot is independent, but they love to fly together and attend kite fests like ours."

Detroit Lakes' Polar Fest-ivities continue throughout the next two weeks, winding down on Sunday, Feb. 27.

This week's highlights include a rescheduled Freeze Your Buns Run on Saturday, Feb. 19, which is also the date for the Rotary Poles 'N Holes Ice Fishing Derby and the ULTRA Vintage Snowmobile Show, Rally and Radar Run, hosted by Detroit Lakes' own ULTRA Snowmobile Club.

A complete schedule can be found at .

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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