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Cragun's: A bustling resort community

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Park Rapids Enterprise
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Cragun's: A bustling resort community
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

 It all started in the early 1930s. Today, it has blossomed into a bustling resort community. Cragun's Resort and Hotel on Gull Lake is its own community.

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Guests can stay on the land there without having to leave.

Everything is there. There's 45,000 square feet of meeting space, sports center, basketball court, running track and an exercise room.

The four-season resort has a full-service marina with pontoons, speedboat, kayak, hydro-bike, fishing guides, snowmobiles, ice skating, cross country ski, snowshoe, 30 snowmobiles to rent, 45-hole golf course, spa and dining with five venues.

Several hundred employees cater to the thousands of guests each season.

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Resort name: Cragun's.

  • Year founded: 1940.
  • Owners: Dutch and Irma Cragun.
  • Amenities: Four-season resort, full service marina with pontoons, speedboat, kayak, hydro-bike, fishing guides, snowmobiles, ice skating, cross country ski, snowshoe, 30 snowmobiles to rent, 45-hole golf course, spa, dining with five venues (some open seasonal).
  • What sets the resort apart: Personal involvement by owners; family oriented. All buildings connected, so visitors don't have to walk outside; 45,000 square feet of meeting space, sports center, basketball court, running track, exercise room.
  • Number of employees: 300 at peak.
  • Number of rooms: 260.
  • Size in acres: 30-plus.
  • How many can sleep there at full capacity: 1,000.

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The resort community all started with Merrill K. Cragun Sr. and his wife, Louise.

They began their involvement in 1934 with their ownership in registering the name of Paul Bunyan Inc. The objective was to develop and promote tourism in central Minnesota, primarily in the greater Brainerd lakes area.

The Paul Bunyan involvement did stimulate the interest of resort development for Merrill and Louise, and they began their adventure in 1940 by the building of a few cabins on this site.

By the end of 1947, they had a lodge and 12 cabins - one of the first Gull Lake resorts. Louise Cragun led the operational management of the property with help of her father-in-law, Virgil Cragun, while Merrill Sr. maintained a full-time job in the Twin Cities and became the weekend visitor.

Merrill Jr., known as "Dutch," had a full-time summer job at the age of 9, being in charge of worms and minnows.

Cragun's first food service with a dining room that seated 20 started in 1948. The first six motel-type units were built in 1949.

In 1957, Dutch took over as manager and the building continued incrementally every year. The outdoor swimming pool was opened in 1963. In 1965, Dutch acquired a partner: his wife, Irma.

By 1977, the pool area had become enclosed and the operating season started to expand. They began to hire full-time employees for their Gull Lake resort. The acquisition of the neighboring property, Cronoble's, happened in 1983. The winterizing and building of more units continued and the second property, Island View Lodge was incorporated in 1988.

The property now covers 4,500 feet of shoreline and hosts many conferences. The growth continued with the 45 hole Robert Trent Jones Jr. Golf Course and The Legacy Courses at Cragun's.

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