Stories, songs, skiing and snowshoeing set for Itasca's lantern-lit event
Storytelling, songs, snowshoeing and (cross-country) skiing... yes, Itasca State Park's Jan. 12 festivities are being brought to you by the letter "s."
Yet it's not a visit from the characters of Sesame Street, but rather, the park's annual lantern-lit ski and snowshoe event, which is once again being held in conjunction with some fun indoor activities, starting with a 4 p.m. storytelling session featuring Park Rapids writer and retired teacher Steve Maanum at the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center.
Maanum's hour-long presentation will be followed by the main event, where outdoors enthusiasts can enjoy a little evening jaunt along a 1.5-mile trail lit by kerosene lanterns, located along the park's south entrance road, anytime between 5 and 7:30 p.m. A campfire will also be crackling merrily near the trailhead for visitors to enjoy — and they can even roast some free marshmallows while they're there.
And finally, guests can come back inside the visitor center at 6 p.m. for a "Music Under the Pines" concert featuring acoustic folk and alt-country musician Lori Goulet Reich.
All of these activities are free and open to the public, though a state park visitor's permit is required.
A deeper look inside the festivities
Writer and retired teacher Steve Maanum will appear for a second straight year as part of Itasca's "Presenters Under the Pines" series. He will present "Storyteller 2.0: How Many Embarrassing Stories Can One Man Have?"
"We have all experienced situations that didn't go as planned, but most of us have enough dignity and common sense to keep them to ourselves," says Maanum. "I, on the other hand, don't appear to have any dignity or common sense. I turned many of my situations and embarrassing moments into a monthly column for Minnesota Boomers (titled 'My Endless Childhood') from 2010-2014."
Maanum, who also appeared as part of Itasca's January 2018 festivities, says he will have an all-new list of stories to share, according to Connie Cox, Itasca's lead interpretive naturalist, who is once again in charge of planning for the 2019 event.
"It's not a repeat of last year," she said.
The main event gets underway at 5 p.m., when a trail along the Many Lakes Road leading to Itasca's south entrance will be lit by kerosene lanterns for visitors to enjoy cross-country skiing (classic or skate) and snowshoeing under the pines.
"People can come or go at their leisure," says Cox. "Round trip from our building (the visitor center), it's just about three miles, but they don't have to go the full length if they don't want to.
"If people do not have their own snowshoes or skis, we do have a limited number of snowshoes available for checkout on a first come first serve basis," Cox said, "or people can wait until they are turned back in to check them out."
Be sure to dress appropriately for outdoor winter conditions, in warm, well-insulated clothing, Cox said, adding that the trail will remain lit until approximately 7:30 p.m.
In addition, there will be a campfire set up at the trailhead for people to warm up... or folks can bring some hot dogs, buns, and the fixings for 'smores — marshmallows will be provided free of charge — and enjoy a little snack that's been roasted over an open fire.
"We'll have hot cocoa and coffee inside the visitor center as well," Cox said, "and people can come in and warm up by the fireplace while they listen to some live music."
Starting at 6 p.m., the visitor center will once again be host to a live concert featuring Minnesota musician Lori Goulet Reich.
"Lori will sing a variety of music best described as acoustic folk and alt-country," Cox said. "She also has played in various bands both classic rock and country, so you can expect to hear some well-known tunes.
"We will also have our gift shop open," she added, "so you can come in and check that out, or purchase a park permit or ski pass."
Cox noted that if the weather and/or windchill conditions become too severe and any of the day's activities need to be cancelled, information will be posted on the Itasca State Park page at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website: www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/itasca/index.html.
"You can also call our front desk at 218-699-7251 for more information," she said.