Polar Pete is returning to Detroit Lakes — and he's bringing his best buddy, King Isbit, with him! The two mascots will once again figure prominently in the community's annual celebration of all things winter, Polar Fest, when the popular winter festival returns for another 12-day run on Thursday, Feb. 4.

In fact, Pete and Isbit will be the focus of a brand-new event set for this year's festival: A radio play written by local resident Kendra Gilsdorf that will be recorded live at the Historic Holmes Theatre and aired on KDLM Radio (1340 AM).

"It will feature a cast of local community theater actors," said Polar Fest volunteer Viva Lauinger, who is handling publicity for this year's festival.

That play, "The Arrival of King Isbit," is set to make its KDLM debut at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13. Like most of the 20-plus events planned for the 2021 edition of Polar Fest, it has been adapted (into a radio play format) to accommodate COVID-19 pandemic safety restrictions.

"We want to be able to get out and celebrate winter, even with how different that may look in 2021," said Lauinger, adding that festival volunteers have really had to "think creatively" this year as they planned to stage events both familiar and brand-new.

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For instance, while the Minne-"soda" Hotdish Challenge will still be held at Grace Lutheran Church on Sunday, Feb. 7, it will be a drive-through event this year, with the public being asked to pick up their hotdish samplers outside the church between 4-6:30 p.m. and bring them home for dinner.

Likewise, the Daddy's Little Sweetheart Dance on Friday, Feb. 12, which is normally held at the Historic Holmes Theatre, has gone completely virtual this year, and the Chocolate Fantasy at the Becker County Museum will not offer the usual opportunity for museum patrons to go inside and pick out their own tray of chocolates to take home.

Instead, they are offering something new: This year, Chocolate Fantasy participants can opt to purchase a ceramic tray online, prior to the event on Friday, Feb. 12, then take the tray home and decorate it before bringing it back to the museum to be professionally glazed and fired in a kiln. The finished trays — filled with chocolate! — will be ready for pickup or delivery on Feb. 12.

"All of the chocolate has been made or purchased by local businesses and donated for the event," said museum director Becky Mitchell. For more information, call the museum at 218-847-2938 or visit the website at beckercountyhistory.org (click on the "Store" link in the upper right hand corner of the main page).

Even the festival's signature event, the Polar Fest Plunge, will look a little different; rather than the familiar public event where spectators gather by the hundreds around the hole in the ice where the plunge takes place, the plunge will be streamed online, with "proxy plungers" helping to raise funds for the Boys & Girls Club of Detroit Lakes. Participants can still sign up and raise pledges to earn "cool" incentives, participate in the PF Hashtag Challenge; and engage with the public on the Club’s social media pages. Stay tuned for more updates on Facebook, Instagram and the bgcdl.org website.

Though many staples of Polar Fests past — like Ice Tee Golf, the Polar-riffic Spaghetti Dinner and the Freeze Your Buns Run — will be returning, others are brand-new.

"We're doing something called 'Kool Kites on the Lake' this year," said Lauinger, noting that the Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) event will be held out on the frozen waters of Little Detroit Lake, near the Pavilion.

"You can either bring your own kite, or pick up a 'blank' kite at the community center and decorate it," she explained.

Laser tubing at Detroit Mountain, ice skating at Peoples Park, and cross country skiing along the trails of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge are also on the schedule, which can be viewed in full at polarfestdl.com.