By Brent E. Frazier, mayor
City of Pelican Rapids 

Let’s head up north!

So where is considered up north? Of course, that all would determine where you are living at the present time.

If you live in Texas, Kansas would be up north. If you live in Missouri, Nebraska would be up north, and if you live in Iowa, Minnesota would be up north.

Heading up north during the summer months has always been a destination point for many people, and the community of Pelican Rapids has been that destination point in the past, currently, and into the future by people from all 50 states and Mexico.

The community of Pelican Rapids has the fortune to be surrounded by fields of corn and soybeans, groves of hardwoods, and an abundance of freshwater lakes, streams, and rivers. 

Areas such as this have become a haven of tranquility for those who live in the larger cities. As they seek a place to rest, relax and refuel their mind, body, and soul, apart from a sea of humanity of hustle and bustle.

When people travel here for an extended period of time, they need a place to ‘hang their hat’ for a while. They go about their daily activities at ‘the lake’ to then end the day to slumber into a relaxing night’s sleep without an alarm clock.

These places of four walls and the basic necessities of living have truly changed over the years as slowly we have witnessed the decline and disappearance of ‘mom and pop resorts.’ This has not only happened in northern Minnesota, but also here in the Pelican Rapids area. Unfortunately, this tourism institution of the family resort, has been slowly fading into the sunset. 

Family resorts of the 1950s-60s

Back in the late 1950s and ’60s, one would notice signs leading to many resorts such as: Dunn’s Lodge, Oak Lodge Resort, Solinger’s Resort, Fair Hills Resort, Frazier’s Resort, Strand’s Resort, Camp Linda, Loghaven Resort, Herb Johnson Resort, Crystal Lida Resort, Jake and Jenny’s, Olson’s Resort, El’s Resort and Isle View Resort. These are just a few, as there are many more to reflect upon when one’s memory cooperates. 

These resorts were some of the first convenience stores on the lake, which sold everything from pop, candy, canned goods, toilet articles, soap, aspirin, bandages, minnows, and angleworms.

Family resorts declined by 50 percent since 1985

A glimpse back at the “golden age” of family-owned resorts. Pictured is Cross Point Resort, on Lake Lida, the probably late 1940s. Photo from Tom Albright collection.

Yes, since 1985, the number of resorts in Minnesota has declined by nearly fifty percent. That is a huge economic impact on any community. 

Sleeping in a cabin, casting a hook from the end of a dock, swimming on the beach, listening to the sound of the loons, napping in a hammock, roasting marshmallows over a campfire, diving off a homemade raft, cleaning and scaling fish with a spoon, playing horseshoes, and reading a paperback book under the glow of a kerosene lantern are just memories for many of us. 

In the past, the same family would return summer after summer to the same cabin. The progression was thus handed down from one generation to the next, and that same family was seen each summer in the same community. 

Many times, dad would drop off mom and the kids at the lake to then return back to the city for a week of work and then later rejoin them again on Friday evening. 

Many reasons for decline in resorts

So how and why is this institution of the family resort disappearing across the landscape?

The tourism industry attributes much of this decline due to the economic pressures that can range from the guests changing expectations of technology and modernization, to the escalated value of shoreland. 

It seems as if most people, but not all, would like to have the same luxurious features during their vacation as they enjoy in their home.

Gone are the days of the ice box, clothesline, bunkbed, porcelain bathtub, propane or wood-fired cooking range, lightbulbs that dangled from the ceiling from a chord, open window for ventilation, a. m. radio and wooden boats with a pair of oars. 

Enter the days of ice-making refrigerators, king-size beds, walk-in showers, electric ranges, energy-efficient lighting, air conditioning, Sirius XM radio, Wi-Fi and pontoons with a four-stroke outboard motor. 

And with the increase of lake shore values as we continue to witness, many a resort owner has sold their resort to make room for residential home developments and condominiums. And who could ever blame them for this decision? The resort owner has given up their 24-hour on-call job for seven days a week to now an 8 to 5 job like most of the working force.

As stated before, through each passing decade of history, here up north, we have noticed the decline of many family resorts. Places for many a visitor to temporarily live, ‘hang their hat,’ dine, sleep, shop in the local city and partake in water recreational activities.

We do ‘tip our hats’ to those resorts that are still standing strong in our community. These are the resorts that continue to attract visitors to the community of Pelican Rapids, where many a visitor can temporarily live, work, and play.

As we reflect on family resorts, we recognize a bit of nostalgia for a few of us with gray-colored hair.