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Brainerd to celebrate history week in June

Front Street in Brainerd, circa 1898.

What will items in a time capsule tell people about the summer of 2014 a century from now?

This June, Brainerd is celebrating the centennial of city hall. Brainerd City Council member Mary Koep said when local historian Carl Faust first brought up the idea of a celebration, she suggested an entire week devoted to history. Koep said that hasn’t happened since 1923.

Brainerd’s history week celebration is planned June 16-20. It will kick off with an 11 a.m. celebration June 16 on the steps of city hall, as long as it isn’t raining or snowing, Koep said. At 11 a.m. churches across the city are being asked to ring their bells. The county was asked to join in with its carillon bells at 11 a.m. and then keep its bells quiet at noon while the ceremony continued.

Tuesday at the Crow Wing County Board meeting, Administrator Tim Houle said the county will be able to respond to both those requests after looking at the complex system.

The event will include a color guard, antique autos and live music with old-time tunes, cake and coffee. Koep said an old-time band will play on the lawn at city hall.

“So we anticipate a really wonderful time,” Koep said.

To facilitate the event, streets will be closed from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. including Laurel between Fourth and Sixth streets and Fifth Street by the old fire hall.

A time capsule will be buried beneath the bench that sits outside the east entrance next to the city parking lot. City staff is purchasing a new bench to be dedicated to the late Bonnie Cumberland, former council president.

“We hope 100 years from now there will be enough information, they’ll dig it up and see what’s in it,” Koep said.

She invited the county to submit something that would be relevant to include. There are activities planned throughout the week.

“Another impetus for our history week was this, even people in this area say ‘why doesn’t Brainerd get the big box stores,’ or ‘why didn’t Brainerd get Olive Garden’ and you know that kind of thing well come on folks,” Koep said, saying those places are going to locate where their business is and that’s on the highway. “That is simply the way it is. Let’s accept that. Let’s build on what we’ve got. What has Brainerd got? We’ve go something Baxter won’t have for 100 years and that’s history.

“Brainerd is a historic town. I always thought there was kind of a mystique about Brainerd. People come here. They love to be here. We need to build and capitalize on the a wonderful, exciting, sometimes not so good, but always interesting history from Brainerd.”

Faust received chuckles from the county board and staff when he said he was just on hand in case Koep was at a loss for words. When the idea of a week first came up, Faust said they wondered if they had enough to fill it. But there turned out to be so much to include, they are thinking the history observation could be an annual event.

This June, activities are expected to include tours of the Northern Pacific Center and a gala event in the clock tower building complete with sit-down catered dinner and music. Three landmarks in the city will be recognized for turning 100 — city hall, the historic fire hall and the Parker Bandstand in Gregory Park. Among the plans is a reenactment of the 1933 First National Bank holdup by Baby Face Nelson.

Faust asked the county to participate in the Brainerd historic art tours and perhaps have a guided tour of the 1930s paintings hanging in the courthouse from noted artist Sarah Thorp Heald.

Heald explored the early history of Crow Wing County with paint and canvas. Her paintings depict trading post life, Native Americans, early settlers and an environment rich in woods and streams.

With city hall celebrating this year, Faust noted the historic Crow Wing County Courthouse will also be celebrating a birthday of note in 2020.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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