The faces of many in Brainerd’s business community, captured Sept. 22, 2021, will be on display 150 years in the future.
When the residents of Brainerd open a time capsule on Sept. 25, 2171, among the items they will be met with is a photograph of those who attended this week’s Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event.
Mayor Dave Badeaux, flanked by Sen. Carrie Ruud and City Administrator Jennifer Bergman, is holding a large pair of scissors just above a bright blue ribbon, held in front of the Brainerd sesquicentennial logo he created.
The ribbon was cut to ceremoniously bring the city into its next 150 years.
Future residents will look at that photo, Chamber President Matt Kilian said, just as those here today gaze at the black and white photos on display at the Crow Wing County Historical Museum, showing snapshots of the last 150 years.
“Every one of you are part of that 150-year story. We’re all standing on the broad shoulders of those people that came before us,” Kilian told the crowd gathered at Rumbly Hall Wednesday. “... And the future generations are standing on our shoulders, and we are the people that they’re going to look up to and look back at in the photos like the one we’re going to take tonight.”
A slew of speakers followed Kilian, giving their take on Brainerd through the years and their visions for the future.
While being mayor wasn’t an easy feat in 2020, it has been an honor in 2021, Badeaux said.
Brainerd has a unique history, he went on to say, being founded as a city at the place where a bridge was chosen to cross the Mississippi River to connect the Great Lakes to the western portion of the country.
“It’s not just unique for us,” Badeaux said. “It’s unique for the entire nation because we were the location that was selected. And we’re lucky that it’s so beautiful because I believe that’s the reason why we continue to thrive.”
A walk through Evergreen Cemetery will show generations of families who called Brainerd home and ancestors of those who still choose to live and work in Brainerd.
While businesses are a cornerstone of a city like Brainerd, it’s ultimately the people, Badeaux said, who create the community and forge the future.
“Businesses will come and go, but the city itself, and that momentum that we're building, is what's most important,” he said. “So as we celebrate this moment in time, as we talk about 150 years and we place the marker, what we're really doing right now is not putting a bookend on 150 years. We're placing a marker that we will measure ourselves from for years to come. And I ask you, please activate yourselves and be a part of that solution and be a part of that direction that we're headed because we are a rocketship, and we are not asking for permission for where we’re going.”
Crow Wing County Commissioner Steve Barrows spoke of how proud Brainerd should be of its growth and especially of its thriving downtown area. The business community weathered a tough year last year but ultimately pulled through and continue to make Brainerd the focal point of Crow Wing County.
He encouraged everyone to keep that momentum going.
“We have an opportunity. We are behind the eight ball here,” Barrows said. “… Let’s persevere, and let’s push forward, and let’s remember to support our businesses when we can do it.”
Ruud, R-Breezy Point, shared her gratitude for being able to represent Brainerd at the state capitol, after having become a weekend cabin-goer in 1969.
Ruud joked that she hopes she gets to read for herself the letter she put in the time capsule when it’s opened in 150 years.
Isaac Schultz stood in on behalf of Congressman Pete Stauber, tipping his hat to Brainerd’s residents and small business owners for making the city a vibrant place to live and work.
“This last year and a half has not been easy, and we all know that,” Schultz said. “But if there’s one thing I’ve learned through Matt (Kilian), through chamber members, it’s that this community, as much as anyone in the 8th Congressional District, is resilient. And I’ve seen that resiliency in many small business owners.”
And those small business owners are the ones who will help Brainerd to continue growing and thriving for decades to come, he said.
In the time capsule
A committee of Brainerd representatives chose the following items to place in the time capsule, which will be opened on Brainerd’s 300th anniversary in 2171.
Brainerd Dispatch sesquicentennial wrap, 2021 Year in Review, and Her Voice magazine celebrating the achievements and contributions of local women.
COVID-19-related items, including a variety of masks, a vaccination card and an empty bottle that contained locally made hand sanitizer.
A smartphone representing the technology used for daily communication, media consumption and entertainment.
2021 “Brainonian” high school yearbook that features a 100-year retrospective section.
An Ojibwe medallion (beaded necklace) emblazoned with a Brainerd “B,” donated by Brainerd School Board member Charles Black Lance via the American Indian Parent Advisory Committee.
Hand tools and a blueprint used in the 2021 construction on Brainerd High School and the Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts.
Packaging of popular grocery items and menus from area restaurants.
“Help Wanted” sign indicating the severe labor shortage experienced by many local businesses.
Brainerd Lakes Chamber tourism promotions, which include area brochures, maps, T-shirt and a Paul Bunyan souvenir.
Items used in popular recreational activities, including logoed golf balls and fishing lures.
A promotional key chain sold to raise funds for Brainerd’s historic water tower as well as a small piece of fallen stucco that symbolizes its need for repairs.
A Bible used at St. Francis Catholic Church, which is also celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2021.
Brainerd police officer and firefighter badges.
Insignia from the Minnesota National Guard 194th Armor Regiment, headquartered in Brainerd.
A credit card and cash currency in $20, $10, $5, $1 and coin denominations.
Twenty-three local businesses and organizations purchased small containers called caplets to also be placed in the time capsule with any items they chose. Caplets are still for sale for $250, with proceeds benefiting the restoration of the historic Brainerd water tower. For more information, visit brainerdlakeschamber.com.