Discovering Detroit Lakes

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Forest Edge Gallery near Vergas

Discovering Detroit Lakes

By Dee Goerge

It's been more than 15 years since Cat Leff and I collaborated as the graphic artist/editor team for LakesAlive, a regional magazine published by the Fargo Forum. This summer we decided to spend a day together to check out Detroit Lakes, one of the beautiful areas LakesAlive covered.

The adventure began about 8:30 a.m. five miles south of town on US Hwy. 59 at Shady Hollow Flea Market. In its 52nd season, its outdoor shopping amidst 3-1/2 acres of shade trees is a must-do summer tradition for residents, cabin owners and tourists—and it is both kid- and pet-friendly.

Antiques caught Cat's eye, and there were plenty to be found, from household gadgets to garden tools. There were signs, signs, everywhere signs—old and new—to cover historical, heartfelt and humorous themes that reflect Minnesota life. With food stands and a grill, 25 quaint cabins and as many as 100 vendors selling clothing, furniture, food and arts and crafts, there is something for everyone's tastes. Plants, honey, syrup and live-edge charcuterie boards from local entrepreneurs captured my attention and some of my cash.

A large copper figure in a garden outside a brown house.

Forest Edge Gallery near Vergas

Since we were in the neighborhood, we headed to the upscale Forest Edge Gallery near Vergas. The 12-mile drive on Co. Rd. 17 wound us around trees and lakes, then onto gravel roads. The gallery appeared suddenly like a hidden treasure with copper and stainless steel sculptures glittering in the gardens and trees near a pond. Sculptor Patrick Shannon shared how he transitioned from social worker to potter and metalworker. Along with two other artisans he blends all types of metals in modern, abstract and traditional outdoor sculptures. Inside the gallery, jewelry and paintings by his partner, Helena Johnson, and fine art from other area artists fill the walls and shelves. For a midweek adventure, Helena invited us to check out her "Women's Wednesday" every other week with art demos, wine tasting, live music and refreshments.

After a morning of fresh air and art, it was time for lunch. From the many great places to eat in Detroit Lakes, we chose Roasted Pub and Eatery on Washington Avenue, where we planned to check out local shops. The restaurant covers all the bases for whatever you crave, from coffee and fresh pastries to craft beer, wine and cocktails to a full menu of creative appetizers, sandwiches, steak and seafood. We shared a delicious wood-fired pizza. The atmosphere was lively with a bar, booths, tables and nooks to enjoy private conversations.

Refueled, we proceeded to discover new and old treasures while wandering through some of the shops in Washington Square Mall. On Washington Avenue, JQ Clothing Co. and Mainstream Boutique offer trendy clothes for women of all ages. And Beautiful Junque pulled us in with its chalkboard message: "Your husband called and said, 'Buy anything you want.'" Owned by a mother/daughter who love repurposing furniture, clothes and accessories, the shop is filled with calm country-friendly treasures from local "makers."

Vintage 'n Vogue carries repurposed items, too, including upscale clothing and old items in pristine condition. The consignment boutique also stocks new items, such as local soy products that give the store a wonderful aura. It took some time to explore the main level and basement filled with treasures to decorate and use in every room of a home.

Inspired by all the clever crafters' work we'd seen, we made a quick stop at the Red Pine Quilt Shop just before it closed. With walls covered with quilts to inspire and rows of colorful fabrics to make it happen, my quilting heart decided it's worth revisiting when there's more time to browse.

No summer fun day is complete without a frozen treat, and we had a couple of nearby options with the always delicious Dairy Queen of Detroit Lakes and CherryBerry. In the mood to try something different, we opted for the self-serve frozen yogurt bar at CherryBerry. It only took a few minutes to customize our concoctions from a long wall of yogurt and topping options.

If we'd had more than a day to visit, we would have enjoyed staying overnight in one of Detroit Lakes' many awesome hotels on the shore of the city's lake, such as the Lodge on Lake Detroit, which combines fun and relaxation with first-class amenities to spoil and pamper.

Instead, to give our day the proper finish, we headed to Richwood Winery, 13 miles north of Detroit Lakes via Co. Hwy. 21 and Co. Hwy. 34 East. Richwood Winery is Minnesota's northernmost grape winery, owned and operated by women. The nine-acre property next to Buffalo Lake encompasses the whole operation. The vineyard of La Crescent, Frontenac Gris, Marquette and Itasca grapes overlooks the water, treating visitors to a spectacular view as they listen to live music and sip wine (or other beverages) after sampling them in the winery's log cabin tasting room. The wine-making magic happens inside a converted garage. There's enough outdoor space for 300 people at events—such as the annual Summer Solstice festival in June and the Grape Stomp in September—to play games, check out vendors, listen to music and, of course, drink wine. 

On this late Saturday afternoon, a duo sang songs by music legends ranging from Simon and Garfunkel to the Rolling Stones to complete the relaxed, fun atmosphere for which the winery is known. The gazebo was the perfect spot for us to relive our day and to catch up on where our life journeys had taken us.

Though our friendship began publishing others' stories in the magazine, we agreed that it's much better to get out there and create our own stories while experiencing great places like Detroit Lakes.

Dee Goerge

Dee Goerge is a contributing editor for Farm Show magazine and freelance writer for other publications. She lives in rural west central Minnesota and enjoys quilting and gardening.