This photo, left, from about 1987 is not a good reproduction, but this sextet is standing on the dam during the draining of the pond and the reconstruction of the Pelican Rapids dam at that time.
From left, Justin Hovland, Torrey Hovland, the late Marv Martinson, Winnie Martinson, and Jeanne Hovland, and Jenny (Hovland) Hendrickson.

Pelican Pete has made a million memories since 1957—and the Pelican Rapids dam itself has been a memory-making sight for a century. 

The demolition of the dam for a Pelican River restoration project, combined with the relocation of Pelican Pete, has revived memories and prompted folks to look through the scrapbooks and photo albums. 

Harold Holt, retired Pelican teacher, coach, and history enthusiast, pulled a few newspaper clippings from his file, pertaining to the last big renovation of the dam, in 1987. When the pond was drawn down for the reconstruction 35 years ago, graffiti was discovered dating to 1924—signed by Oscar Mesna and Robert Frazee—from a founding city of Pelican Rapids family. 

Harold also tipped us off to some “new graffitti” on the rebuilt dam from 1987. It turns out his brother, Carl Holt, was with the crew that worked on the ‘87 project. 

Holt, Carl Grefsrud, and a number of other locals were working for Bob Resset Construction, who was the concrete sub-contractor for the 1987 project. Several of the guys, including Carl, put their handprints and initials on the freshly-poured concrete, recalled Carl Holt. 

So the workers were part of a little slice of history—but the current demolition project removed all the evidence. 

“It is sort of sad to see the dam gone and the pelican removed, but hopefully when they get it all done, it will look good,” said Carl Holt. “The giant pelican will still be a draw to town, and the rapids will be a draw for kayakers too.”