Brainerd's neighbors to the north, East Gull Lake, Lake Shore and Nisswa, provide the lakes area with events, contests and golf courses that draw crowds from across the country.
The popularity of Gull Lake, the small town charm of Nisswa and the overall up-north feel of these communities keeps people coming back year after year.
The number of year-round residents in the tourist-driven cities of Nisswa and East Gull Lake is growing.
"The snowbirds are getting older and some are electing not to leave," said Harold Kraus, Nisswa mayor.
More than 12,000 anglers tested their luck on Gull Lake's Hole in the Day Bay last year during the 14th annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza. Brainerd Dispatch/File photo
Kraus said four housing developments, totaling 79 single-family building lots, have been built to satisfy Nisswa's growing population.
Linda Gettelman, former executive director of the Nisswa Chamber of Commerce, said the increase in year-round population allows retailers to stay open all year.
"Nisswa doesn't close down Labor Day weekend," she said.
Aside from the annual summer events, including turtle races, the Freedom Day Parade and Nisswa-stammen Festival, Teresa Faust, current executive director of the Nisswa Chamber, is working to make Nisswa more than just a summer destination.
Nisswa celebrates the autumn season in mid-September with the Fall Harvest Festival. The family event has pumpkin carving, a medallion hunt and vegetable harvest sale.
Major employers: Causeway on Gull Resort, Bar Harbor Supper Club and Zorbaz.
Notable events: Snow Golf at Bar Harbor.
East Gull Lake
Major employers: Madden's on Gull Lake, Cragun's Resort, Kavanaugh's Resort, Gull Lake Resort, Ernie's on Gull.
Notable attractions: The Classic golf course at Madden's on Gull Lake, Legacy Courses at Cragun's, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campground.
County: Crow Wing.
Major employers: Grand View Lodge, Viking Label and Packaging, Schaefer's Foods, Nisswa Public School.
Notable attractions: The Nisswa Family Fun Center, at Crow Wing County Road 77 and Highway 371, features outdoor water slides, rock climbing walls and amusement rides.
Notable events: Nisswa Turtle races, Nisswa City of Lights, Majestic Pines Art Festival.
In November, the City of Lights draws more than 5,000 people to Nisswa. Along with wagon rides, bon fires and a fireworks show, downtown businesses simultaneously flip on their holiday lights, providing holiday spirit throughout the town.
"People stand in the streets and watch the fireworks," Gettelman said, stating people don't mind the cold during the winter fireworks show.
Blustery winter weather didn't seem to faze many anglers during the 14th annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Gull Lake either. Dean Olson of Crosslake won a Ford pickup by catching a 4.46-pound walleye in the 2004 contest. Olson beat out nearly 12,000 other anglers for first place. The 2005 contest is scheduled for Jan. 22.
Another area legacy, the Nisswa Winter Jubilee, a 31-year Nisswa tradition, almost didn't happen this year. The February event is sponsored by the Nisswa Jaycees, and because of lack of volunteers, originally was canceled in January. When the cancellation was announced, several residents came forward during a community meeting and volunteered their support. The 2004 Nisswa Jubilee consisted of the Miss Nisswa Pageant, a dance, snow sculpture and wood-splitting contests. The 2005 Nisswa Jubilee is scheduled for Feb. 11-13.
Kraus uses one word to describe Nisswa, "unique." He said keeping the northwoods small-town feel through events and appearance can be difficult as more businesses come in to the area.
"People like the quaintness of downtown Nisswa," Kraus said. "It's a challenge to improve it but don't lose it."
City hall was one building city officials decided didn't meet Nisswa's building standards. Built in 1964, Nisswa City Hall had little to no insulation, was too small and had poor acoustics, making it difficult to hear during meetings. In August, the building was demolished and a city hall is being built on the same site. The building is expected to be completed in July.
Deanna Anderson, co-owner of Bar Harbor restaurant in Lake Shore, also decided it was time to rebuild. In April the new building opened, with room to seat 239 people, nearly doubling the seating in the old building. Anderson expected the extra seating would cut the time patrons had to wait to be seated during the busy summer tourist season, but she was wrong. "We were full to the brim from the time we opened until the end of September."
HEIDI LAKE can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5879.
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