A tradition at Train Bell Resort
MERRIFIELD--For the past 75 years, the Kuhn family has been gathering during the week of the Fourth of July on the east shore of North Long Lake at Train Bell Resort.
MERRIFIELD-For the past 75 years, the Kuhn family has been gathering during the week of the Fourth of July on the east shore of North Long Lake at Train Bell Resort.
It's a desirable vacation spot when the weather is warm and the sun is shining, but what keeps family members coming back year after year is the sense of tradition.
Dewey Kuhn, 76, first came to the resort with his family in 1942 as a 9-month-old baby. The family came to Merrifield because his father saw an ad in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune for Train Bell Resort. The ad touted the resort as family-friendly, with a safe, sandy beach, he said.
"And we've been coming ever since," Kuhn said.
The only break in the 75-year run came during World War II, when Kuhn's father served in the military. The gathering started small, he said, and grew to include both sides of his family, with numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws. There's about 50 immediate family members there this year, he said, with attendance climbing to as high as 75 some years. Family members come from all over the United States, including Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, California and more.
"It's really a unique gathering that it continues every year," Kuhn said. "Especially cousins that normally see each other on an annual basis, being so far away."
The family keeps coming back every year for a number of reasons, Kuhn said, including the scenic lake, safe beach and attractions in the surrounding area. Over the years, the family has gotten to know the different resort owners, he said. Some Kuhn family members even come back later in the year for more time at the resort.
When asked why they keep coming back year after year, Kuhn family members emphasized the fact the gathering is a tradition and a way to see extended family members they may only see annually at the gathering. The gathering is a way to get to know family members they normally wouldn't know, and it's awesome to see a large family getting together on an annual basis.
This year, the family decided to do something to honor their history at the resort, Kuhn said. He works for the Verdin Company in Cincinnati, which manufactures bells. He decided a bell would be a perfect fit for the Train Bell Resort, so a bell was mounted on a post between cabins 9 and 10, which serves as a gathering place for the Kuhns during their time at the resort.
"The bell is a circle, and it represents the family circle that's gathered here," Kuhn said. "Throughout history, bells have been rung in celebration and they've been rung in mourning."
Each year, the Kuhns hold several potluck dinners during their time at the resort, Kuhn said. At these dinners, they honor family members who have died. This year, they started honoring deceased family members by tolling the bell for each one.
Kuhn's favorite part of the gathering is seeing the family gather together in one place, and to see families interacting and taking part in activities together. Some of his favorite memories are from when he was a kid and the trains used to pass by on tracks next to the resort. They used to get into mischief by sneaking into empty train cars to throw cherry bomb fireworks.
"Of course it made a heck of a noise," Kuhn said.
The traditional family gathering has spawned traditions of its own. There's a family newsletter sent out 3-4 weeks before the gathering takes place, Kuhn said. The family member who took over the newsletter recently added a daily newsletter during the week. There's sheets of family trivia in it, culminating in a trivia night at the end of the week.
Organizing the annual gathering isn't the issue, Kuhn said. The issue is when newer generations of Kuhns move across the country and find it hard to make it back to North Long Lake each summer, due to distance and work commitments.
"I don't think there's any need to encourage people to come, they all want to come," Kuhn said.
As Kuhn's father Art got older, he used to wonder if the tradition would continue after he was gone, Kuhn said. It has become plain to see the tradition will continue, he said, and will be carried on by younger generations.
"It's really interesting and encouraging to see that they want to continue this tradition," Kuhn said.