Deerwood celebrates 150th anniversary with festivities

The city of Deerwood will celebrate its 150th anniversary (or sesquicentennial) with a four-day celebration starting Thursday, July 7. There will be a parade, children’s activities, fireworks, entertainment, food vendors, a farmers market, open houses and more.

Deerwood Police Chief Mark Taylor and public works foreman Patrick Radtke set the time capsule on the stage of the Deerwood Auditorium
Deerwood Police Chief Mark Taylor, left, and public works foreman Patrick Radtke set the time capsule on the stage of the Deerwood Auditorium in preparation for the sesquicentennial opening program Thursday, July 7. The time capsule was designed, manufactured and donated by TNT Industries Inc.
Contributed / Mike Aulie

DEERWOOD — The number of people in Deerwood is about to increase a whole lot more.

The city of Deerwood will kick off a four-day celebration starting Thursday, July 7, in honor of its 150th anniversary.

“Hopefully, the whole street will be lined in blue,” said Jeff Bordwell, who along with his wife Joella will sell T-shirts commemorating the sesquicentennial of the city’s founding.

The celebratory events planned in Deerwood include open houses, a parade, family activities, fireworks, a farmers market, food vendors, entertainment, dancing, live music and more.

“I think that it will be a wonderful celebration, and I hope people just kind of take in kind of the sights of what we have to offer in the auditorium and around town,” Bordwell said.


Deerwood Mayor Mike Aulie added: “And we’ve put together kind of a self-guided tour where people can travel around Deerwood in the area a little bit and see some of the landmark things that go back into the 1800s, early 1900s.”

Mike Aulie headshot
Deerwood Mayor Mike Aulie

Bordwell is involved in the Cuyuna Iron Range Heritage Network, a nonprofit organization established in 1989 as the Cuyuna Country Heritage Preservation Society. Its members collect and preserve physical artifacts that document life on the Cuyuna Range.

“We're kind of the source of a lot of the history of Deerwood … and we pulled some of that information archived in our office — those pictures and things — for an open house that we're going to have in the auditorium that'll run, basically, Thursday through Saturday,” Bordwell said.

Deerwood is located about 18 miles northeast of Brainerd in Crow Wing County. Deerwood is defined by a 3-square-mile area that includes several lakes, and the city has a population of 526, according to the 2020 census.

“Deerwood has always been changing and adapting to the times and that goes all the way back to the early 1900s,” Aulie said.

Deerwood Deer3.jpg
City of Deerwood. Brainerd Dispatch file photo

Noted for its heritage and rural charm, the area was known as Withington from 1871 to 1881, which led it to be confused with Worthington in southwestern Minnesota. Famous for its whitetail deer population, “Deerwood” was deemed a fitting replacement as a name for the community.

“The railroad put Deerwood on the map, just like it did with Brainerd,” Aulie said. “We have a real direct time tie-in to Brainerd. Brainerd was a year ahead of us in technically being founded.”

The Deerwood area boomed as the Northern Pacific Railroad forged its way through the region with an expansion from Carlton to Brainerd. The first depot was built in 1871, and as more settlers arrived, the village grew and gave birth to the Cuyuna Range, according to city officials.


“By the turn of the century, Deerwood had a population of almost 1,000 people back then, because of people moving into the area for different things,” Aulie said. “Tourism — from the beginning — played a big role here.”

Aulie has been the mayor of Deerwood for more than a dozen years and has long been preparing for the city’s sesquicentennial celebration, which officially begins with the opening ceremony at 7 p.m. Thursday at Deerwood Auditorium.

“We'll have Scouts kind of do a presentation of the color and read the Pledge of Allegiance and we'll have some of our legislators and other area mayors will be there,” Aulie said. “I'll be giving kind of a history of Deerwood … and then we'll have a time capsule.”

TNT Industries Inc. manufactured the time capsule and is a family business in Deerwood with more than three decades of metal fabricating experience.

“We'll be putting things in the time capsule that will be monitored in the auditorium,” Aulie said. “We won't seal it (or) mount it Thursday night because we're gonna want to put some stuff in from the celebration itself, so that will happen at a later point.”

Saturday will be when most of the sesquicentennial events will take place, including the 10 a.m. parade on Forest Road.

“Deerwood is not a big city, so the parade is only going to be about five, six blocks long,” Aulie said. “It will start on the west end of Forest Road and end just past the auditorium … but then we've got different musicians and entertainment scheduled every hour from 11 to 4 o’clock.”

The fireworks display will begin at dusk on Saturday, with parking and viewing also made available at TNT Industries on County Road 12.


“They'll be fired off from out in Serpent Lake and kind of should be pretty much visible from all over town,” Aulie said.

Bordwell said, “It's going to be a pretty special day with entertainment and bringing food vendors in. Part of our farmers market that we have in Crosby — some of those vendors will come to Deerwood for that time also.”

Schedule of events

Thursday, July 7

  • 4-7 p.m.: Pizza feed at Deerwood Legion
  • 7 p.m.: Opening ceremony at Deerwood Auditorium (with history display, brief program, time capsule and refreshments)

Friday, July 8

  • All day self-guided tours of historic sites (with map available at Deerwood Auditorium)
  • 10–4 p.m.: Open house at Deerwood Auditorium (with display, historians, chance to reminisce with others and refreshments)
  • 10–4 p.m.: Open house at Deerwood Bank (with display, free gifts)
  • 10–4 p.m.: Open house at Depot Museum (located behind former Crosby Super One)
  • 4 p.m.: Jambalaya Feed at The Deerstand
  • 6 p.m.: Outdoor dance at The Deerstand

Saturday, July 9

  • 10 a.m.: Parade along Forest Road in Deerwood
  • 11–5 p.m.: Family activities in area of Splash Pad Park, Deerwood Auditorium and Fire Hall
  • 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Farmers market
  • 10 a.m.-4 p.m.: Food venders and entertainment
  • Dusk: Fireworks launched from Serpeant Lake near Deerwood swimming beach

Sunday, July 10

  • Morning services at Deerwood Church
  • 8–11 a.m:. Breakfast at Deerwood Legion

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
What To Read Next
Get Local