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Start planning now for a big summer in Lake City

Celebrations this summer along Lake Pepin include Water Ski Days and Tour de Pepin during the city's sesquicentennial.

01 Heidi's Huggamug Cafe
From left, Berdell Blaisdell, Judy Burfeind, LaVada Reckmann and Mary Peterson, all of Lake City, chat with each other around a table at Heidi's Huggamug Cafe on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Lake City.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

LAKE CITY — If you haven't booked some time along Lake Pepin for the big summer that will be in 2022, you might want to get that done now.

Lake City is in the midst of a milestone year, and visitors from across the Upper Midwest and beyond are already planning on descending on the town that lies along the shores of the Mississippi River's largest lake.

"First off, it’s the 150th anniversary of the founding of Lake City," said Edward Hoffman, executive director of the Lake City Chamber of Commerce. "It's the 100th year since Ralph Samuelson invented water skiing. And it's the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Water Ski Days."

All of this, Hoffman said, has businesses hoping for a big tourism summer in Lake City.

In fact, visitors have been steady even through the winter months, which portends good things for when the weather warms, said Heidi Walker, owner of Heidi's Huggamug, a coffee shop and café located on Chestnut Street next to the Lake City Marina.

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"We're open 5:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and we'll be open later when it warms up," Walker said. "But even now we have quite a few people in from out of town. A lot of them are people who came in the summer and came back to see us when they were passing through town."

02 Heidi's Huggamug Cafe
Hannah Casey, a cook at Heidi's Huggamug Cafe, puts together a couple of breakfast sandwiches for customers on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at the cafe in Lake City.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Walker said last summer she saw a lot of customers traveling from the Twin Cities and Wisconsin coming to Lake City and stopping in for a bite.

Walker opened her café last summer and has slowly seen both the business grow and her offerings as she has expanded from a basic menu to one that features multiple pages of food items. To prep for the busy season this summer, she's already gearing up her staff to handle being open longer and serving more customers.

"I've already hired new people," she said. "I usually need about two months to get them ready."

Walker isn't the only eatery that's opened with an eye toward success this coming summer.

Diane Schurhammer never planned to open a coffee shop, but while looking for new space for her real estate office, she saw a little café space that she thought could be made into something new.

That space became Rustic, a coffee shop and bakery that is closed during the winter months but will open Fridays through Sundays beginning April 29 through the fall, Schurhammer said.

"We really plan to expand our hour," Schurhammer said. "My baristas are mostly high school and college girls, so during the school year it's hard to find helpers during the weekdays."

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Hopefully, she said, the COVID-19 pandemic begins to ease up more and more so "we can get out and enjoy each other's company."

Schurhammer said she hopes to have items ready for boaters to grab and go.

Lake City has several coffee and breakfast options, but that's part of being a successful tourism town, she said.

"We have a lot of condos down here, people who come down on the weekends for the VRBOs," Schurhammer said. "People want to experience different things, so you need options for them."

Despite the pandemic, Hoffman said tourism in Lake City has been booming. For example., the city's lodging tax revenue saw a three-year high in 2021.

That, said John Hutchinson, who owns a vacation rental property on the lake, is why the rental market is mostly booked already for the coming summer.

"Vacation rentals in Lake City are doing quite well," Hutchinson said. "We're already book through this year. For some of the bigger events, like Water Ski Days, you can hardly find a hotel room."

Hutchinson said when the pandemic first hit, no one was looking to rent a room, but that "only lasted about 60 to 90 days."

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Hoffman said the city is hoping to capitalize on the big year of events by growing its tourism business. For example, Lake City is hiring videographers to create marketing videos during each of the four seasons of the year.

03 Heidi's Huggamug Cafe
Michelle Marvin, Heidi's Huggamug Cafe manager, brings a customer's order to their table on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at the cafe in Lake City.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

"The videographer shooting 'winter' is here already," Hoffman said. "We're pairing them with Minnesota-based musicians to create their videos."

Part of the work toward more tourism has been creating more events during the cold months. There was a fat tire bike event in February, and Winterfest was spread across the entire month of February, not just one weekend. On top of that, repair on U.S. Highway 61 is finally completed, and the city is making some final upgrades to Ohuta Park such as a splash pad and a new bathhouse for the beach.

"One of the most impressive things I've found is all the beaches here in town," Hoffman said. "Anyone can enjoy them and they don't cost a lot of money."

Lake City's key events

Through the remainder of 2022, Lake City will host plenty of events designed to draw crowds from around the region. Here's a list of those events:

DatesEvents
April 30Girls Day Out (shopping, sales, etc.)
April 28We Are Water Exhibition opening celebrations
May 21Lake City Music Showcase
June 4Tour de Pepin (annual bike ride from Lake City)
June 18Kernza Fest
June 23-2650th Water Ski Days (celebrating 100 years as Lake City, the Birthplace of Water Skiing)
July 2Firemen’s Dance
July 4Fireworks over Lake Pepin
July 15Chamber Golf Tournament
July 30-31Sail for Leukemia
Aug. 13Y-Knot Tri (inaugural year for a new Lake City triathlon)
Aug. 13Float-a-Palooza
Aug. 27Vintage Baseball Game (a 150th Committee event)
Oct. 1-2Fall Fest (every weekend in October)
Johnny Appleseed Days
Nov. 5-6Doe Days (shopping)
Nov. 26Christmas Parade and Park Lighting
Brian Todd is the news editor at the Post Bulletin. When not at work, he spends time with his family, roots for the Houston Astros and watches his miniature dachshund sleep, which is why that dog is more bratwurst than hotdog. Readers can reach Brian at 507-285-7715 or btodd@postbulletin.com.
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