FIFTY LAKES — As a young man, Bruce Bodin fell in love with traveling up north and fishing near Fifty Lakes in the Brainerd lakes area. In 1962, he decided to share that love with his wife, Audrey, and their three young children, Bill, Brenda and Bob, all age 5 or younger.
Now, 50 years later, the Bodin family hasn’t missed a summer at Edgewild Resort on West Fox Lake, now owned by Pete and Bonnie Nelson. In fact, they recently stayed in the same cabin they rented a half century ago.
They have outgrown the once rustic cabin — one that has changed over the decades and now has hot, running water, for instance. Their family — now four generations strong — rents three more for a total of four cabins at the small, secluded resort — the only one remaining on the Fox Lakes that once boasted nine resorts in the 1950s.
During a time when more and more traditional, family resorts are vanishing in Minnesota, the Edgewild Resort experience for the Bodin family of Red Wing is a shining example of what is so wonderful about spending time together on the shores of an up north lake.
“It’s our piece of heaven,” said Barb Cooper, the youngest of the Bodin children, who has been to the resort every summer since she was born. “It’s family. We’re all here.”
The Bodins — Bruce and Audrey, both now 78; and their children, Bill, 54, and his wife, Karen; Brenda Huebner, 53, and her husband, Jim; Bob, 52, and his wife, Cindy; and Barb, 47, and her husband, Mark; as well as most of their grandchildren and all three of their great-grandchildren, cherish this time together. Only two of the seven grandchildren — one who is serving in the military and another who had to work in Missouri — were unable to attend this year. One grandson even flew in from Florida — and introduced a girlfriend to the family — to spend two days at the resort.
Bruce and Audrey hope their children and families carry on this tradition for decades to come. As Audrey was sharing this sentiment, sitting at the table in Cabin 1, with her husband and four children, a loon could be heard calling on the lake, as if inviting the family to come again to this place they call their home away from home.
Their vacations over the years truly have been all fun and games. But that’s not to say there haven’t been healthy competitions.
The Bodins love to fish. Barb has built a reputation as the bass expert in the family; Bob is the walleye pro. The two have traded, back and forth, the family fishing trophy over the years.
Fishing has changed over the decades. When they were young, Bruce would take the kids out in a small, rented boat powered by a now-vintage 3-horsepower Johnson, or by dad.
“I’d row them all around the lake,” Bruce remembered. Now all the children have their own boats. It’s a chance for them to repay their dad and take him fishing. “I don’t make him row anymore,” Bill joked.
Brenda remembers one night fishing when she caught a nice, 3-pound bass. Her brothers then delegated her to the front of the boat, taking away her fishing pole and handing her a flashlight as they kept fishing — they weren’t going back to shore allowing their sister to outfish them.
The friendly family competition doesn’t end with fishing. There have been countless golf tournaments, shuffleboard games and poker games played over the years.
They made their own, old-fashioned fun. No radios. No TVs. No video games. The kids remember another early highlight. They each would get a dime a day to spend — coincidentally, that was the cost of a soda pop in a glass bottle at the resort lodge. Like hundreds of young visitors to Fifty Lakes in the late 1960s and 1970s, they remember feeding orange soda to the pet caged bear at the grocery store in town.
“Our family enjoys being with each other,” said Bruce, the family patriarch. “I hope I have a few years to keep coming.”
To mark this 50-year milestone, the resort owners together with community members, including Fifty Lakes Mayor Steve Dahlke; longest Fifty Lakes resident Jeanne Coffin, 82, who baked for the occasion; and former resort owners Jon and Julie Engle, who owned the resort for 32 years, celebrated over cake with the Bodin family. They were joined by other longtime resort guests Dale and Carol Hoeppner, who have vacationed at Edgewild for 36 consecutive years, and John and Jeannie Mantanelli, who were married 17 years ago at the resort.
“This family has been amazing,” Pete Nelson said of the Bodins, adding that he loves the wholesomeness of the traditional extended family vacation. “There are too many family traditions that don’t get maintained like this.”
Next year, for two weeks in the heart of the summer, you will find the Bodins once again loving life on the wooded shores of West Fox Lake.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Bob said.
There’s More to Explore in the Brainerd Lakes Area. The Brainerd Lakes Chamber is the tourism resource in central Minnesota, representing more than 350 lodging, retail, attractions, recreation, and dining businesses in the region. The Chamber operates offices in Brainerd, Crosslake, Pequot Lakes and the Welcome Center on Highway 371 South and online at explorebrainerdlakes.com.