Huge crowds show up for water carnival's Parade of the Northwest

On Sunday, July 17, the final day of the 86th Northwest Water Carnival, big crowds showed up for the annual Parade of the Northwest and a grand finale show by Bald Eagle Water Ski Shows out of Centerville, Minn. The water carnival's co-admirals said attendance was very high for most events during its 10-day run, which began July 8.

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Huge crowds lined both sides of Detroit Lakes' Washington Avenue as the Parade of the Northwest got underway on Sunday, July 17, 2022. With a total of 130 units, the parade lived up to its reputation as one of the largest in Minnesota, closing out the 86th Northwest Water Carnival on a high note.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — The 86th Northwest Water Carnival wrapped up its 10-day run in Detroit Lakes on Sunday, July 17, with sunny skies bringing out huge crowds to watch the Parade of the Northwest, allowing it to live up to its reputation as one of the largest parades in Minnesota.

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The Stars and Strips were waving in the breeze as the Lake Region Veterans Color Guard marched at the front of the Parade of the Northwest in Detroit Lakes on Sunday, July 17, 2022. A total of 130 units were included in this year's parade, which lasted a little over two hours.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"We had right around 130 entries," said Kasey Fetzer, co-admiral of this year's water carnival. "This was probably one of our biggest turnouts (of spectators) for the parade. A lot of people commented, even the mayor (Matt Brenk) commented that it was more people than he remembered in the last few years."

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An impressive array of trucks from the Detroit Lakes Fire Department advanced down Washington Avenue near the beginning of Sunday's Parade of the Northwest, which ended the Northwest Water Carnival's 10-day run on July 17, 2022.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"We had a couple of (parade entry) cancellations at the last minute, probably because of the heat," added Fetzer's co-admiral, Andrew Lessin. "But I thought overall, things went pretty smoothly."

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About a dozen classic cars started off Sunday's Parade of the Northwest down Washington Avenue in Detroit Lakes on July 17, 2022. Northwest Water Carnival Co-Admirals Kasey Fetzer and Andrew Lessin said the crowds at this year's parade were among the biggest they'd seen.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

In fact, he added, "smooth" was the term he would use to describe the festival's entire 10-day run.

"There are always a few hiccups," Lessin said, adding that the spotty rains on Family Day (July 10) definitely "put a damper" on what he calls his favorite day of the water carnival, but they made the best out of it with an impromptu dance party and moving some of the events around on the schedule.


"But other than that (the rains), nothing really major happened that wasn't able to be easily fixed," Lessin said.

Rain almost played a part in Saturday night's country-themed Bash on the Beach concert, featuring Eddie Montgomery and Troubadour, but "as soon as it hit 3 o'clock, (the rains) went away and the weather was perfect," Lessin said.

He also noted that attendance was very good for most of the water carnival events this year — particularly Hairball's Bash on the Beach concert Friday night , which was sold out.

"We sold all of our tickets, and we were still letting people in," Fetzer said, adding that the estimated attendance was about 4,500. "We eventually had to turn some people away."

Attendance at Saturday night's country-themed Bash on the Beach concert was not nearly as well attended, but Fetzer noted that the rains which threatened the event earlier in the afternoon undoubtedly contributed to the overall drop in attendance, estimating it at between 800-1,000.

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The three-tiered pyramid formed by members of Bald Eagle Water Ski Shows at the close of their Sunday afternoon show on Little Detroit Lake drew gasps from the crowd on shore. The water ski show was the final event of the 2022 Northwest Water Carnival, which wrapped up its 86th annual run on July 17, 2022.

The performance by Bald Eagle Water Ski Shows that closed out the 2022 water carnival also drew a large crowd, Fetzer added.

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Sunday afternoon's performance by Bald Eagle Water Ski Shows on the shore of Little Detroit Lake included some moments of graceful acrobatics as well as impressive jumps and tricks.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

The show, which is based in Centerville, Minn., has been in operation since 1950, and their skiers have been coming to the Northwest Carnival for more than 30 years now, according to the show's emcee.

The show, which lasted about an hour and a half, included lots of barefoot skiers, ramp jumps, water ski ballet, and other entertaining stunts and tricks.

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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