Looking forward to the past

The only thing that's not historic about Brainerd History Week is the fact the celebration is only three years old. The third annual Brainerd History Week will be June 15-19 and the focus this year is on Northeast Brainerd. This year's events wil...

Classic Ford vehicles sit outside the former paper mill during last year’s Brainerd History Week. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)
Classic Ford vehicles sit outside the former paper mill during last year’s Brainerd History Week. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

The only thing that's not historic about Brainerd History Week is the fact the celebration is only three years old.

The third annual Brainerd History Week will be June 15-19 and the focus this year is on Northeast Brainerd.

This year's events will run from Wednesday through Sunday, as opposed to last year, when they took up an entire week, Mary Koep said. Organizers thought the compressed timeline might boost attendance, she said. Also, there will be more of a focus on holding events later in the day, as people who work during the day couldn't attend events held in the middle of the day.

"It's experimental," Koep said. "If it doesn't work at all, we can always take a look again."

Outlining the planned events, Koep stressed the final times and dates are still to be determined. The final schedule should be confirmed in early May.



Festivities will kickoff on Wednesday, which will focus on downtown Brainerd. Organizers are planning a children's parade along with other children's activities like a puppet show, treasure hunt and face painting.

Carl Faust will lead historic tours of downtown Brainerd and there will also be tours of the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse. The city's Walkable Bikeable Committee will assist with the children's parade and the evening tours of downtown.

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe will again be involved this year, Andrew Hook said. Jamie Edwards, government affairs director of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, told the Brainerd City Council at its March 21 meeting the band had accepted the city's invitation to be a part of the celebration.

The Band will have dancers perform a jingle dress exhibition, as well as show a movie explaining the origin of the jingle dress and Ojibwe culture. They also proposed hosting a discussion on different cultural issues, Hook said. Organizers hope those events can take place at the Brainerd Public Library.

Edwards also told the city council the Band would like to establish an ongoing relationship, Hook said, which would be mutually beneficial. This relationship could include cultural exchanges, government to government interaction and recognition of Native American heritage across the region, he said.

"The continued discussion with our Native American neighbors is nothing but good," Koep said. "It can't bring anything but good."

The Brainerd Salvation Army is celebrating 125 years and will host an open house as part of Wednesday's events. Fire Chief Tim Holmes is planning on having an antique fire truck available on Wednesday for children to explore, Koep said.


Organizers are setting up tours of the old Brainerd library building, a gold-domed structure at 206 Seventh St. North. The building was built in 1904 in the Classical Revival architectural style, according to the National Register of Historic Places. The building now contains a law office and retirement learning center.

"That Wednesday should be a full day," Koep said.


Thursday's focus will the the Northern Pacific Center, Rick Fargo said, and there will be tours of the historic railroad shops and buildings like last year. Roundhouse Brewery will open its doors and hopefully lead tours of the facility, slated to open this spring. Organizers are planning to have retired railroad shop employees stop by to talk about their experiences working in the facilities.

"Sit down, have a beer with them and talk about the old days and the shops there," Fargo said.

The Crow Wing County Historical Society will host a fundraising dinner at the NP Event Space that evening, Fargo said.


Friday's focus will be on the Brainerd National Guard Armory, which will include tours and information on the history of the building. Organizers are hoping Camp Ripley will be able to lend exhibits to the armory for Friday. At the very least, organizers are planning to talk about the history of the tanks sitting in front of the armory, Koep said. There's also talk of getting some area veterans to come by and talk about their experiences.


Tours of the Crow Wing County History Museum and the Mississippi riverfront are also planned for Friday, Fargo said.


Saturday will focus on the Brainerd Industrial Center, site of the former Wausau paper mill, as well as the dam. There will also be bus tours that day of the old streetcar line in Northeast Brainerd.

The morning starts with tours of Evergreen Cemetery, Hook said, which will hopefully focus on some notable Northeast Brainerd residents as well as Brainerd's founders and notable historical figures.

"That was a very successful event last year," Koep said.

Like last year, there will be tours of the dam and building which used to be the paper mill. Organizers are hoping to invite former paper mill workers to talk about working in the facility, Koep said.

There will also be general walking and driving tours of Northeast Brainerd on Saturday.



Ending the week again on Sunday will be a church service in Lum Park, for which a pavilion is reserved, Koep said. The service is planned for 2:30 p.m., and from noon to 2:30 p.m., family and children events are planned.

"Families can bring picnics, would be invited to bring picnics," Koep said. "And sit and enjoy the camaraderie."

Pastor John Stiles from First Lutheran Church in Brainerd, joined by other area pastors, will lead the service.

Other events

The Brainerd Housing and Redevelopment Authority will celebrate its 50th anniversary on June 6, Fargo said, so the organization wanted to hold an event recognizing the accomplishment during Brainerd History Week.

Members of the Franklin Arts Center have asked about hosting tours in the historic building during the week, Koep said. The center is in the building which used to serve as Franklin Junior High.

Many people have come forward about wanting to host something during the week, Koep said. Organizers are open to any suggestions and would like to include any good ideas.

"We don't say no to anybody," Koep said. "If they've got a good idea and a way to participate, we welcome them."


Other plans

The railroad and the paper mill are two key components of Brainerd's history, Hook said, and it's been critical to have both involved for the celebration.

Like last year, organizers are planning on producing a pamphlet with information on Northeast Brainerd, the focus of this year's history week. It will also include information on other key areas celebrated during the week.

Organizers are mulling the option of having reservations for certain events, Koep said, but also don't want to discourage people who show up to events without planning it. But for events like a bus tour, where space is limited, reservations might be added, Fargo said.

All the organizers putting together Brainerd History Week aren't getting paid at all for their efforts, Hook said.

"This is all done by volunteers that believe in our community," Hook said.

"It's been fun," Koep said. "It's really a labor of love."

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 218-855-5859 or . Follow on Twitter at .

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