Brainerd to celebrate History Week in June
Three local landmarks are turning 100 this year, so a small group of history lovers want to celebrate — Brainerd style.
The celebration is rolling out in the form of a week-long string of events dubbed History Week. It runs June 16-20. The week could be extended into the weekend, as well.
“There’s a charm and mystique to Brainerd. It’s still there — we just have to bring it out,” said Mary Koep, History Week Committee member and Brainerd City Council member.
She added, “It’s our job to make people see that (mystique).”
Enter History Week.
It began as a celebration of the construction of three landmarks: Brainerd City Hall, the old fire hall and the Parker Bandstand in Gregory Park. It has since ballooned into a full-fledged party for any other buildings or businesses turning 100, as well as other historic events that happened in the town.
The idea for the celebration ignited at a city council meeting in October. Carl Faust, Brainerd History Group member, appeared before the council to update them on a separate issue. That’s when Koep suggested the get-together.
Meeting every month or so, the History Week Committee — made up of Koep, Faust and four others — brainstormed about what other events to add in the week-long celebration of Brainerd.
One that Faust is especially excited for is a reenactment of the 1933 First National Bank holdup by Lester Joseph Gillis, more commonly known as Baby Face Nelson. Faust expects the downtown event to include several actors, old cars and old weapons.
Koep is looking forward to a possible memorial plaque to be dedicated to two American Indians who were hanged at Eighth and Front streets many years ago. The committee is working with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe to possibly hold a “day of reconciliation” and dedication of a memorial plaque at the street corner, as well as conducting a possible powwow.
The group wants to also honor the railroad history by inviting descendants of early railroad families to a reception and by holding tours of the railroad center.
The committee has been inspired by events conducted at the city’s 50-year celebration. One they might mimic is a nondenominational service Sunday in Gregory Park.
Other committee ideas include: Tours of city hall and other old buildings, history walks through downtown, a birthday cake and reception at city hall, kid’s parade through downtown, and community get-togethers in each neighborhood. The committee invited the governor, but has not yet received a response.
The events are still fluid and can be added to or changed. The History Week Committee is putting a call out to residents to weigh in.
The committee is still looking for other buildings, businesses or people who are turning 100 this year as well.
History Week will be a string of events that will pull in everyone from avid history-lovers to the curious passers-by, organizers say.
“If we don’t start thinking about history, we’re just going lose the history,” Faust said. “There’s a lot out there to be found yet.”
He hopes History Week will inspire people to celebrate what they like about Brainerd. It might be a vintage building, a classic home, and even the fact that ancestors lived here.
“I love Brainerd and its history,” Koep said. “We concentrate too much on the negatives. We need to capitalize and build on the history.”
Faust says celebrating a community through its history encourages people to think differently.
“They say their roots are here and there, but what are those roots? It’s the people who started the town, who built the buildings,” Faust said.