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More Polar Fest fun starts Thursday in Detroit Lakes

If you find yourself at loose ends this weekend, it won't be due to a lack of things to do.

Over the course of the next four days, Detroit Lakes' annual Polar Fest celebration will go out with a bang -- quite literally, in the case of Saturday's winter fireworks display on the city beach.

From Thursday through Monday, Feb. 12-16, volunteers and sponsors from around the lakes area have put together a full slate of events and activities, encompassing everything from turkey bowling to live music and dancing to President's Day shopping specials.

"Polar Fest is organized each year by a group of individuals who want to celebrate winter," said Amy Stoller Stearns, administrator of the Historic Holmes Theatre, who is one of an "army" of volunteers that have contributed their time and talents to the planning of the annual festival. "There is no budget for Polar Fest -- everything is done with sponsors and volunteers -- yet each year it's grown, as new people have stepped forward (to contribute)."

The festivities begin Thursday with an event that was postponed from Tuesday due to the ice storms that swept through the region.

Yes, it's time for Turkey Bowling! St. Mary's Innovis Health is sponsoring the return of this novelty sport, in which contestants will fling frozen birds across an impromptu bowling alley set up in the parking lot of St. Mary's North Campus from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hot cocoa and chili will be on sale to keep participants and spectators warm; prizes will be awarded. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Melody Jahnke at 844-0709.

Thursday evening, the action swings over to the Historic Holmes Theatre, which will host a special "Glacial Girls' Night Out" courtesy of the Detroit Lakes Downtown Business Association.

From 5 to 8 p.m., the Holmes Ballroom will be filled with the sounds of live music from Fargo-Moorhead's Matt Velline. For a $5 admission fee, guests (despite the title of the event, men are welcome to attend) can enjoy some shopping as they browse through booths featuring selections from local retailers, artisans and home-based businesses, then sit down and enjoy some live music, appetizers served up by Country Kitchen and a cash bar courtesy of Bleachers Bar & Grill.

On Friday, the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center and Zorbaz are teaming up to host the third annual Ice Tee Golf Tournament on Little Detroit Lake.

Registration begins at noon inside Zorbaz, where participants can enjoy a free lunch before heading across the street to a nine-hole golf course set up on the ice. Teams of up to four people can sign up to take part in the tournament for a fee of $100 (per team). There will be prizes awarded, and all participants receive a free winter "Ice Tee" hat. Advance registration is encouraged, but not required; call 844-4221 for more information.

"We had some pretty good golfers out there last year...there were three holes in one," noted Kesley Myhre, marketing coordinator for the DLCCC and Historic Holmes Theatre.

"But we also have a lot of people out there without a lot of golfing experience," added the DLCCC's Brett Wolf, who has helped to organize the event every year since its inception. "It's for golfers of all abilities and experience."

On Friday night, the Historic Holmes Theatre will host its fourth annual Daddy's Little Sweetheart Dance, starting at 6 p.m. Girls between the ages of 2-12 are invited to bring their dads, grandfathers, uncles and special friends to the theater for a semi-formal ball featuring music, dancing, photo opportunities and a grand march on the theater stage.

Though the Grand March, which starts at 6:30 p.m., is open for moms, family and friends, the rest of the event is reserved for these "little sweethearts" to enjoy a special night with their dads.

But moms don't need to feel too left out -- they can always head over to the Valentine's Weekend Wine Tasting Event at the Lodge on Lake Detroit, 5;30-7 p.m.

For $25 per person, guests can enjoy three different wines with food pairings (pre-registration is required by calling 847-8439), then sit down in the Lodge's Fireside Lobby for an evening of live jazz music featuring Nancy Harms and Jordan Christianson from 7-9 p.m. This special Live at the Lodge event is open to the public as well, for a $5 cover charge (waived for hotel guests).

Friday is also the opening day for the Vern Turner Memorial Open Bonspiel at Lakes Curling Club and the Rhino Old Timers Hockey Tournament at Kent Freeman Arena. Both of these competitive events will continue each day through Sunday.

On Saturday, the schedule becomes even more crowded. At 9 a.m., the action begins with the start of both a long-standing Polar Fest tradition and a new event that may soon become one.

The annual Freeze Your Buns Run will begin and end in the DLCCC parking lot. Registration for the 5K run/walk event gets underway at 8 a.m., followed by the start of the race at 9. If you register by Thursday, Feb. 12, the fee is $12; after that, it goes up to $15. The first 100 people to sign up will also get a free winter "Freeze Your Buns" hat.

Making its Polar Fest debut this year is the Great Polar Race. Modeled on the popular reality TV competition "The Amazing Race," this local event will feature teams of between 2-4 people (registration is $10 per person or $35 for a team of four) searching for and solving clues as well as completing physical tasks and challenges.

The event is open to all ages; however, each team will need to have some form of transportation available to follow the clues and complete challenges. (If a car is used, one member of the team will need to have a valid driver's license.)

Registration for the Great Polar Race is still open; the event will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday in front of Washington Square Mall. For more information, contact Gabe Stoltman at 844-4221, Ext. 218.

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, a Youth Fishing Derby gets underway on Little Detroit Lake across from Zorbaz. The Lakes Area Chapter of the Minnesota Darkhouse & Angling Association is sponsoring this event, which is open to kids age 12 and under. The derby ends at 1:30 p.m.

The Becker County Historical Society will take a little visit to Detroit Lakes' past starting at noon, with an ice cutting and harvesting demonstration on Little Detroit Lake in front of Lakeside Tavern.

Then, at 1 p.m., Polar Fest's signature event gets underway. The 13th annual Polar Plunge, which raises money for the Boys & Girls Club of Detroit Lakes, will also take place on Little Detroit Lake across from Lakeside Tavern. Registration for the Plunge gets underway at 11 a.m. inside Lakeside Tavern and goes until 12:30 p.m. All plungers will receive a free t-shirt and a $25 Lakeside gift certificate; there will also be prizes awarded for costumes. Plungers who raise at least $250 in pledges will have a chance to win a $1,000 cash prize.

While the Plunge is going on, there will be a "Party Under the Tent" outside Lakeside Tavern. A $20 ticket will let you enjoy the Plunge from the comfort of a heated tent, equipped with a big screen television that is set up to watch the festivities outside. Each ticket will offer an opportunity to win a 42-inch Panasonic plasma TV, a weekend spa getaway at the Shooting Star Casino or a portable ice house with a sled (valued at $600). Free beer and brats will be served to ticketholders all afternoon. There will be additional raffle prizes and games as well. Call the Boys & Girls Club at 847-5700 for more information.

If you haven't had your fill of winter fun after all this, then head on down the street to Zorbaz for the first annual Coors Light Chili Cookoff. Registration is at 2 p.m., with judging to follow at 3 p.m. Call 847-5305 for more information.

And then, as promised, for the second year in a row, the Winter Fireworks Display gets underway at the Detroit Lakes City Beach starting at 7 p.m.

Saturday's festivities will conclude with a "Welcome To Polaritaville" Dance at Zorbaz, immediately following the fireworks. Sponsored by the Lakes Area Parrot Heads and Zorbaz, this event is free admission with a donation to the Boys & Girls Club.

On Sunday, the action slows down a little bit, but there's still plenty to do, as the Bonspiel and Old Timers' Hockey Tournament reach their conclusion. The Becker County Museum will host an open house from 1-4 p.m., with treats, tours, music and more.

The Lodge on Lake Detroit will also host another Live at the Lodge concert, featuring the music of jazz duo David Ferreira and Russ Peterson. There is a $5 cover charge (waived for hotel guests).

With all the Polar Fest lodging specials going on over the weekend and a federal holiday on Monday, guests are invited to stay in town an extra day and take advantage of a variety of President's Day specials offered by local retailers. The Polar Fest Kids' Art Festival also continues through Monday at Washington Square Mall, and there are a variety of other activities available including ice skating at Lincoln Rink and Freeman Arena, snowmobiling, sledding and more.

A complete schedule is available for download at the DL Chamber of Commerce Web site,