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Celebrating Brainerd's past: History Week starts Monday

There's a party in Brainerd next week, and everyone is invited.

It's been dubbed Brainerd History Week, and it runs June 16-22.

The idea for the celebration sparked when a few Brainerd history lovers wanted to recognize the construction of three landmarks: Brainerd City Hall, the old fire hall and the Parker Bandstand in Gregory Park, all turning 100 this year.

It has since ballooned into a full-fledged party for the people and town overall.

"This is a celebration of people. The people are what make (Brainerd)," said Mary Koep, History Week Committee co-chair and Brainerd City Council member.

"It's a time for older people with some memory (of the history) to reminisce and younger people to realize what went on with people before them," she added.

One event that both Koep and History Week Committee co-chair Carl Faust, a Brainerd History Group member, are excited about is the day of reconciliation, where city leaders will partner with the White Earth Nation American Indian tribe to honor two tribe members who were unjustly hanged in 1872. A plaque will be unveiled at the corner of South Fourth and Front streets, where the hanging took place.

"It will be a somber event, but an important one," Faust said.

Koep agreed, noting organizers spent the most time and effort in that aspect of the week to make sure it was done correctly and with a lot of care.

Another aspect organizers are excited about is the open house display at the southeast corner of Front and South 6th streets, which will detail the 1933 First National Bank holdup by Lester Joseph Gillis, more commonly known as Baby Face Nelson.

The History Week Committee was inspired by events conducted at the city's 50-year celebration. One aspect they'll mimic is a non-denominational service Sunday in Gregory Park.

Other history week events include: Tours of city hall and the fire hall, history walks through downtown, a birthday cake and reception at city hall and kid's parade through downtown.

Interest in the city's history week has snowballed, Faust said.

It started with the History Week Committee — made up of Koep, Faust and four others — and has grown into a slew of residents wanting to lend a hand and be part of the week's events.

"It's because you can't have this every year. These buildings are only going to turn 100 once," Faust said. "There's more interest in preservation, too."

As people gather at each of the week's events, they'll be able to talk and even speculate what life in Brainerd will be like another 100 years from now, Koep said.

"There's a lot of pride and love for this city," she said. "I'm just so glad we live here in Brainerd. There's a beautiful river and good people who help you any time you need it. It's a time for us to celebrate Brainerd."

Faust added, "We need to appreciate the folks that built the town - the first doctors, first hotel people. How can we appreciate them if we don't remember them? It always goes back to the people. History is way more than buildings."

Follow event highlights throughout the week on Twitter:

Search #BrainerdHistoryWeek or follow reporter Jessie Perrine @brainerdnews.

Schedule of events, week of June 16-22,

*For a complete schedule, go to

Monday: "Official day"

11 a.m.: The week of events starts with the county carillons and a citywide simultaneous church bell ringing.

11:05 a.m.: City hall and fire hall Centennial celebration; speakers, honor guards, Walter Straka, survivor of the Bataan Death March, Tower Award presentation, time capsule presentation. Birthday cake until 4 p.m.. Tour of building, historic photos. Music on lawn.

1 p.m.: Old fire hall photo shoot out front with any former workers.

2-4 p.m.: Open house at current fire hall, East River Road.

Tuesday: "Railroad Day"

1 p.m.: Railroad Day, Northern Pacific Center.

1-5 p.m.: Car show in the roundhouse; Hourly tours of the Clock Tower building and grounds.

1-3 p.m.: Meet and greet with descendants of first Brainerd families, NPC event space, blacksmith shop building.

3-5 p.m.: History display booths.

6 p.m.: Gala Event, dinner and entertainment. Tickets are $50. Buy at the Crow Wing County Historical Society, NPC Clock Tower, or online at

Wednesday: "Teddy Bear Parade and American Indian Day"

10 a.m.: Kiddie parade downtown. For 10-year-olds and under; strollers welcome.

2 p.m.: American Indian hanging reconciliation, corner of South Fourth and Front streets. Plaque unveiled to honor two White Earth Nation American Indians unjustly hanged in 1872.

3 p.m.: Reception at the Lecture Hall, Central Lakes College. Tribal historian overview of Anishinabee people. Tour of the (Pete) Humphrey Center.

3-7 p.m.: Brainerd Express Roundabout, downtown Brainerd.

Thursday: "Crow Wing County Historical Society Day"

10-11:30 a.m.: Evergreen Cemetery walking tour, highlighting distinctive monuments and notable pioneers.

12 p.m.: At the fairgrounds: Carbine House ribbon cutting, vintage tractors, blacksmithing, wool spinning, and educator Mary Tornstrom portrayed in the school.

Friday: "Downtown Day"

11 a.m.: Buffalo Hills Marker tour (2 blocks). Meet just south of the high rise.

1 p.m: 1933 Baby Face Nelson robbery display, southeast corner of Front and South 6th streets.

Saturday: "Gregory Park Day"

11 a.m.: Centennial celebration for Parker bandstand, Gregory Park.

12 p.m.: Old-fashioned kid games, Gregory Park.

Sunday: "Church Day"

1 p.m.: Non-denominational church service in Gregory Park.

2 p.m.: Cit-wide simultaneous church bell ringing to end Brainerd History Week.

Daily events: Downtown Brainerd history walk, city hall tours, historic geocache event, historic art and photo list, vintage cars.