If Duluth feels like home,
it's because it could be.

#befromDuluth

Hansi Johnson

Purpose

Destination Duluth’s purpose is to educate and inspire people about the quality of place of Duluth, Minnesota, thereby shaping the city and region’s positive growth.

Destination Duluth: Accomplishing our mission

Dennis O'Hara

 

At Destination Duluth, our mission is simple:

We want to grow Duluth.

Many folks, “weekend warriors” if you will, travel to our fine city to escape long commutes, rush hour traffic, and suburban sprawl. They arrive as tourists, spending a weekend or two hiking our magnificent trails, catching a live musical performance, or sipping one of Duluth’s locally crafted beers or spirits.

Perhaps over the course of a single weekend they intuit what we locals have always known --- that Duluth is a treasure, a sparkling jewel in the crown of Minnesota’s Great Northwoods. From the deep azure mystery and inherent adventure found in Lake Superior to our world class arts and cultural scene, Duluth simply has it all.

Fully rested and rejuvenated, many visitors discover that their hearts belong in Duluth, and never want to leave this magical place. Have you had this feeling? Have you felt drawn to our city? Have you considered making Duluth your home?

Our goal is to help you do that.

Enter Destination Duluth

Co-founded in 2013 by resident Duluthians Branden Robinson, Christopher Swanson, and Tom Livingston, “Destination Duluth was created to fill the need of educating the public about the qualities of Duluth as a ‘destination for life,’” Livingston shares.

Robinson echoes this intent, adding, “We believe Duluth to be a world-class community, thanks to its natural, social and economic assets.”

Simply put, Destination Duluth is here to showcase all of the amazing things that make Duluth … well, Duluth. It's a phenomenal place to live, and we want to share it with the world. Through a wealth of stories written by local residents and accompanied by amazing photography, we hope to inspire you to become a Duluthian yourself.

How Destination Duluth Can Help You Come Home

With an abundance of great jobs, a healthy work-life balance, and natural beauty to spare, we are ready to achieve our mission of recruiting the next generation of Duluthians --- which could include you. Here are three ways we can help as you contemplate following your heart home to Duluth.

Step 1 Spend some time perusing this website and our Facebook pageDestination Duluth is chock full of stories such as “Why We Live Here,” along with insider information about Duluth’s parks and recreational opportunities, thriving arts scene, burgeoning reputation as a craft beer mecca, and more. Here, you’ll find many reasons why we love living here, and think you will, too.

We’ll also share event details, tips for navigating the city, and secrets only a local could tell you. And, there are photos, loads of spectacular photos, highlighting Duluth in all its glory.

Step 2 Wondering if a life-changing move is really viable? We share success stories, proving that it is definitely possible to take the plunge and relocate. We hope to inspire you through features like “Coming Home,” which highlight stories of people who have already taken the leap and relocated to Duluth, and are living a life they love.

Step 3 And when you are ready to make your move, you’ll find here at Destination Duluth great local resources. This is where you’ll find guidance on the nitty-gritty details of moving here, including job-hunting, home-buying, outdoor adventures, activities for kids, and plenty more.

Duluth’s Future and You

We at Destination Duluth truly believe that Duluth’s best and brightest days are ahead. And we want you to join us here while the rest of the world catches up.   

“Duluth has a wonderful history which must be remembered and celebrated,” Robinson shares. “But there is a new chapter unfolding before us, one that celebrates the past, yet embraces opportunities for the future. The first step is welcoming and encouraging people to plant their roots right here in the Zenith City.”

Duluth can definitely be a destination for life --- YOUR destination for life.

Are you ready to #befromDuluth?

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Make your move to #befromDuluth

Make your move to #befromDuluth

Video by Joe Fairbanks

If you’re in the market to buy a house, we have great news!

As of this writing, interest rates for home mortgages continue to hover near historic lows.[1] And, if you’re looking to relocate (hint: #befromduluth), in many cases you don’t even have to find a new job. More businesses than ever are offering work-from-home options.

So, in a nutshell, it’s a great time to:

  1. Buy a house, and
  2. Move to Duluth!

Sound overwhelming? We can help! Destination Duluth visited with two individuals who would love to help you achieve all of your Duluth dreams.

Real Estate Agents: One Local; One Transplant

Brok Hansmeyer with RE/MAX Results and Dana Morrison with Results Support Services are real estate agents from The Zenith City Group, based right here in Duluth. Interestingly, Hansmeyer has spent much of his life in Duluth, while Morrison moved here from the San Francisco bay area in 2015. Together, they provide unique perspectives on life in Duluth.

“I grew up in Esko, Minnesota, and attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth,” Hansmeyer said. “I’ve lived in Denver; I’ve lived in Dallas, but my family and I have always come back to Duluth. This is our home.”

Morrison explained that when she and her family were looking for a change, Duluth was at the top of their list. “My husband and I had recently started a family. We wanted to live somewhere we could afford to buy a house, and where we could be close to nature,” she said, adding, “We found Duluth! We purchased a home, and are making really deep roots here in the Duluth area.”

Amenities

While their paths home differed, both Hansmeyer and Morrison are obviously in agreement: Duluth is a pretty cool place. We asked them to provide some specifics, for those who are really thinking about relocating here.

“Duluth is an amazing community,” Morrison said. “Not only are there lots of people who are entrepreneurs, but there are so many things to enjoy with this city. One is the Lincoln Park Craft District – you can go to the Dovetail Café and learn a new folk trade. Or you can go have a beer across the street. Our family also enjoys seeing old films or plays done at the Duluth Playhouse. It’s really a spectacular place to be.” Morrison also noted that her family enjoys the plethora of outdoor activities Duluth has to offer, such as camping and the area’s beaches.

For Hansmeyer, nature - along with Duluth’s “small-town feel” - is a big part of what keeps him here. “When I think of Duluth, it’s a ‘big, small-town,’” he said. “It doesn’t take that long to get to know a lot of people, and I love the outdoors. I love living close to Lake Superior, and going for walks and skipping rocks with the kids. It makes my heart feel alive being right by Lake Superior.”

“With Duluth,” he added, “You’re never far from nature. When you look at the different neighborhoods – East, West, or on the Hill, you’re never very far from the woods or trails. We have a good quality of life. There’s a lack of traffic, plenty of job opportunities, and access to the outdoors, such as cross-country skiing, mountain biking, lake activities, hunting and fishing.”

Duluth also boasts some great opportunities when it comes to education. “People with kids have great options for schools, whether it’s public, private, or charter schools,” Hansmeyer said. “Duluth is a big enough city where there are lots of options for schooling.” Hansmeyer also mentioned the many post-secondary options here, including the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Lake Superior College, The College of Saint Scholastica, and the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

Duluth is also known for being home to many large employers, and as a great place to receive top-notch health care. “We also have lots of big employers, such as Amsoil, Enbridge, or Cirrus,” Hansmeyer said. “And Duluth offers excellent health care with Essentia Health and St. Luke’s.”

Housing stock

Between its large range of unique neighborhoods and diversity of housing stock, Duluth has something for everyone. “When you’re looking at houses in Duluth, you really have a wide range of options,” Morrison shared. “You can start at $110,000 for a 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom starter home, or you can look up to $1.5 million, where you have the 7,000 square foot home with all the bells and whistles. So, there are really options for any person looking to move to Duluth.”

“When you look at Duluth versus a bigger city, say Seattle, a $600,000 house in Seattle would be about half the price in Duluth,” Hansmeyer said. “So, it’s a little bit more cost-effective. Your income isn’t going to drop by half by moving to Duluth, but your housing is certainly going to be cheaper if you’re moving here from most big cities in the U.S.”

Neighborhoods

When considering neighborhoods, how could you possibly pick a favorite, when they’re ALL so amazing?! At Destination Duluth we love them all, but here are some specific enticements to keep in mind.

Duluth’s Far West neighborhoods (Norton Park, Gary, Smithville, and Fond du Lac) are attractive due to their accessibility to the St. Louis River, Jay Cooke State Park, and the Munger Trail. The Lake Superior Zoo is also found on the West side.

Lakeside, Lester Park and Congdon out East all provide super convenient access to the Lakewalk, Brighton Beach, Seven Bridges Road, Tischer Creek and Lester Park. Piedmont and the Heights are known for their amazing views of the hillside and the Big Lake. Think amazing sunrises and sunsets.

And on Park Point, life is literally a beach! Enough said.

All provide quick access to the excitement of downtown or a spin up the hill to run some errands.

For questions about Duluth or any of its unique neighborhoods, Hansmeyer and the rest of the Zenith City Group would be happy to share what they know. “Our team is knowledgeable about the different neighborhoods, and what’s happening in each one,” he said. “We know where home values are, versus where they were two years ago. This knowledge of the area we provide can be very helpful.”

No matter the neighborhood, Duluth has so much to offer, said Morrison, the recent Duluth “transplant.” “If you’re looking for a place to call home that has the small-town feel but all the big city amenities, along with health care and education, Duluth is your place,” she said.

Call the Pros

Well, there you have it: glowing testimonials from real estate professionals: one Duluth native, and one Duluth transplant. Are you ready to finally make the leap, and #befromDuluth? If so, Morrison, Hansmeyer, and the rest of their team would love to help.

“When you work with a member of our team, you’ll find that they’re friendly and want to be helpful, whether you’re in the process of buying or selling a home; whether you’re on day one, just thinking about it; or you’re on closing day and excited to buy a house,” Hansmeyer said.

“We pay attention to details and will help you make wise decisions through the process of buying or selling,” he added. “We’d love to help you find your place to call home in Duluth.”

For more information, please visit livinginduluth.com – a website run by the Re/Max Zenith City Group.

 

[1] Current Mortgage Rates: Compare today’s rates | NerdWallet

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Find a job using NORTHFORCE

Video by Joe Fairbanks

NORTHFORCE – Your Talent Community

In Duluth and the Surrounding Region

In a world where social media is king, many look to well-established websites like Indeed or Monster to recruit talent or search for their next job. But these conglomerates simply can’t – and don’t - offer that personal touch.

But this is Duluth. We are “Minnesota nice,” after all. Things are done a little differently here.

Enter NORTHFORCE. According to Cara Overland, the group’s Twin Ports and Northwestern Wisconsin Strategy & Development Consultant, NORTHFORCE is “A community-supported program that helps retain and recruit talent in the Northland. This includes a ten-county area including the Twin Ports, Iron Range, and Northwestern Wisconsin.”

The organization was founded in 2014, and is based in Duluth. It is a program of Northspan, an economic development organization.

Highly Personal Service

Each person who reaches out to NORTHFORCE, whether a human resources professional, business owner, or job-seeker, will receive a personal e-mail from Overland. She will ask personal, individualized questions about the person’s goals, including a friendly offer to help.

Overland is no doubt an expert in her field. After all, she is a success story herself. “I found this very position on NORTHFORCE,” she shared. “So, I’m a case study and a testimonial myself.”

Options for Job Seekers and Employers Alike

Overland gave a bit more insight into what NORTHFORCE has to offer. “NORTHFORCE helps employers post positions on our job board, and also helps candidates register and create a profile, upload their resume, and get connected with available positions in our area,” she said. “We bridge the gap between employers and candidates.”

Each of the consultants on the NORTHFORCE team are highly familiar with the region and all it has to offer. As such, NORTHFORCE consultants are some of the area’s biggest cheerleaders.

“One of the unique things about NORTHFORCE and our consultants is that we are from the communities we represent,” Overland, who is from Duluth, said. “Duluth is magical,” she added. “It’s a fantastic-sized city. We have incredible employers here, along with our green spaces and natural landscape. People come here on vacation and fall in love with it, and I’m here to help them move here if that’s what they want to do.”

Any Job; Any Company Size

NORTHFORCE can assist people who are seeking any sort of work, whether full-time, part-time, seasonal work, an internship, or freelance gigs. All fields and business segments are represented, too; including health care, hospitality, manufacturing, and many more.

“Whether you’re a big, small, or mid-size business, you get the same attention from me as a consultant, and NORTHFORCE as an organization,” Overland said, adding, “Whether you need a line-level employee or a CEO, we can help you find those people.”

Key Partnerships

One of the ways NORTHFORCE makes successful employer-employee “matches” is through their partnerships with local colleges, universities, and technical schools – in what they call their “Student Connect” program.

For instance, Andrea Chartier is a Career Counselor at the College of St. Scholastica (CSS), and regularly relies on NORTHFORCE services to help her students find employment or internships. “Our partnership with NORTHFORCE has allowed us to really be intentional in supporting the students who want Duluth to be their home, or who want Duluth to be their next step, and need some help building those bridges and connections to employers,” she said.

Chartier also works with CSS alumni, too; many of whom have moved away and are looking to return.

Coming Home

Along with Overland, Chartier is also a huge cheerleader for living – and working – in Duluth and the surrounding region. “I call myself a ‘boomerang Duluthian,’” she said with a laugh. “I grew up in Duluth, and have lived in California, Utah, and Minneapolis, but ultimately decided to come back.”

“It’s an ideal place to raise kids,” she said. “You can be at a park, beach, or forest every day, and you’re not surrounded by hordes of people.”

“You can be a big fish in a small pond here in Duluth,” she added. “I felt I could really make some magic happen here in a way I never felt I could in a big city. It’s such a special, magical place in so many ways. There are a lot of opportunities, a lot of internships, and amazing possibilities.”

Whether you are a job-seeker, or need to find the perfect candidate to fill a role at your business, NORTHFORCE can help. Please visit northforce.org to learn more.

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Catalyst Story Institute - Building a Creative Community

JoAnn Jardine

The word “catalyst” is defined as “someone or something that encourages important progress or change,” and "a person whose talk, enthusiasm or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic or energetic.”

The Catalyst Story Institute, based in Duluth since 2019, clearly fits both of these definitions. They are a year-round educational and professional development institute empowering creators to bring their narrative stories to fruition.

With the ever-increasing demand for fresh TV programming and the need to have content across many platforms, Catalyst is not only a showcase for high-quality television pilots and series. They also bring together the next generation of creative talents.

Catalyst’s long-term mission has been “to build a strong creative community that discovers new voices, curates their work and advances their career by lowering the barriers between storytellers, audiences and the industry.”

They have been diligently expanding their network with strong support from WDSE-WRPT here in Duluth, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Korea Foundation, the Upper Midwest Film Office, as well as other local partners and sponsors.

Leadership from Philip Gilpin, Catalyst’s CEO, has brought not only the Catalyst home base here to Duluth,  but also an annual Content Festival that brings hundreds of people in the industry together annually.

Philip Gilpin Jr. (CEO/Executive Director at Catalyst Story Institute) and Riki McManus (Chief Production Officer at Upper Midwest Film Office).

This 2021 Festival included content screenings. workshops, table reads, panels, and presentations on a variety of topics such as the art of pitching and financing for projects. Panelists, speakers and participants featured a wide swath of the industry, with producers, screenwriters, media experts, actors, casting directors, agents, show runners, and many more.

The exciting red carpet gala on the final night, held at the Depot, included an awards ceremony, with awards presented to the best projects and performances in a number of categories.

Ireon Roach, lead actress in "The Come Up,” receiving her award for Catalyst’s Outstanding Drama Actress, presented by Nikki Coble. Photo by JoAnn Jardine

“There is no better way to do include hundreds and hundreds of producers, creators and executives. We have them all in one space. We can talk to them. We can show them our beautiful lake. We can show them our beautiful Lakewalk. We can show them the topography and the things that we have to offer,” said Upper Midwest Film Office Executive Director, Shari Marshik.

Catalyst’s collaboration with the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Korea Foundation, and the Innovation Station at the US State Department, is also helping them to expand both in the US and internationally. The Korean’s delegation attending the Festival was especially timely because South Korean entertainment is more popular than ever with their highly popular Netflix show, “Squid Game.”

Chungmin Lee-Director, Korea Foundation Los Angeles Office, Elaine Kim Co-Director of Break Through Now Media, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, Michelle McLean-Miss Universe 1992, Global Tourism Ambassador - Namibia. Photo by JoAnn Jardine

An important announcement that came out during the festival is that the group behind the Emmy Awards is partnering with Duluth's Catalyst Story Institute to mentor television and web series creators around the globe.

Gilpin explained, “The National Academy of Arts and Sciences partnership will have an immediate and lasting impact for storytellers and the industry. Creating this kind of trusted pathway is something that has been needed for a long time, and now it runs through Duluth - putting us at the center of the indie TV world. In the months ahead, we will begin connecting creators with industry mentors. I’m very excited to see where those connections lead in the years to come.”

Catalyst works with organizations such as UMFO to create year-round production opportunities for creators in places like Duluth where they can enjoy a high quality of life while working on their stories.

This long-term economic development approach requires a strong state, regional, and local municipal effort — work that is supported by St Louis County with their production tax rebate, and the State of Minnesota with their newly created tax credit.

Building a career in the industry requires hard work and a strong professional network. Catalyst focuses heavily on creating environments where people can develop genuine friendships and lasting partnerships. UMFO is also offering workshops locally on a variety of pertinent topics including jobs available in the industry and what training is needed.

While Catalyst’s outreach is nationally and internationally increasing every day, they are working to make Duluth and the region, a filming hub as well. Key infrastructure elements such as an airport, a number of centralized venues, hotels, restaurants, and a vibrant arts scene including ballet, orchestra, and multiple theatres, are also attractive incentives.

“There are now thousands of people around the world who had never heard of Duluth before Catalyst. They now think of Duluth as being a vibrant arts industry hub in the USA because their first introduction to our town was via Catalyst,” said Gilpin.

Both Gilpin and McManus feel that getting even one important episodic show to film in the region would be a game-changer in both the creation of local jobs and the dramatic impact on the local economy across the spectrum.

“With direct revenue to local businesses, Catalyst brings in far more money to the community than it receives from local sources. We are a money generator for our local economy,” said Gilpin.

While the industry has already made LA in the West, NYC in the East, and Atlanta in the South, hot spots for television content, Catalyst and other organizations are working to make Duluth and the state of Minnesota, the Hollywood of the North.

Learn more about Catalyst Story Institute at catalystories.org

 

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The DSSO - 91 Years of Symphony

Steve Mattson

The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra

Sharing the Power of Music and Musicians’ Artistry for Over Ninety Years

According to Hans Christian Andersen, “Where words fail, music speaks.” The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra (DSSO)  has been “speaking” to area audiences for over ninety years.

The Duluth Civic Orchestra was first organized in 1931 and practiced in the carriage house of Alphin Flaaten, a professional music teacher. Their early concerts were held in the Duluth Armory, but in 1966 the Civic Orchestra moved to the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center Auditorium.

By 1975, the name of the musical organization was changed to the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra. They are renowned for their professional level of performance of symphonic music, both classic and new works, and the guest artists they host from around the world.

The DSSO’s symphony orchestra blends a magnificent collection of up to 100 musicians who play instruments from four basic families: strings, woodwind, brass and percussion. Each season they feature 6-7 masterwork concerts and 2-3 pops concerts.

They also perform “casual” afternoon concerts in various locales throughout the area where they encourage families to bring even young children to enjoy the music.

German conductor, Dirk Meyer, joined the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra as the Music Director in 2013. Meyer is also Music Director of the Augusta Symphony in Georgia and locally, the Lyric Opera of the North.

Dirk Meyer, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra Music Director

He has also been a guest conductor for orchestras throughout the United States and many orchestras in Europe and abroad. His engaging and entertaining conducting style has made him an audience favorite.

“Standing on the podium and working with our great musicians is the most rewarding for me. I am also really proud of the level of cultural offerings in theater, ballet, and opera, as well as from our colleges in our community,” said Meyer.

He added, “We enjoy our community outreach with ensembles in events like our ‘Beerthoven’ appearances in bars and breweries, playing Huskies’ games and for the 4th of July at Bayfront. We love getting music out to more people in different venues.”

Erin Aldridge is the DSSO’s Concertmaster. She also serves as Professor of Violin and Director of Orchestras at UWS.

DSSO’s Concertmaster Erin Aldridge

“The Symphony is not an elitist thing. We want our music to be open and accessible to everyone. I am very passionate about what we do at the DSSO, and I enjoy sharing that passion with our audiences,” Aldridge said.

Like Aldridge many of the DSSO musicians have educational connections in one of the area college or high schools. She said, “I love making music and I love teaching. I think I have the best of both worlds.”

Brandon VanWaeyenberghe was named the DSSO’s Executive Director in September of 2019. Before coming to Duluth, he served as the director of finance for the Charlotte Symphony.

Director Dirk Meyer and Executive Director Brandon VanWaeyenberghe

“I take great joy in my job with the DSSO. This is an exciting place to work, with wonderful musicians and a great conductor. We will always be looking for ways to build our audience and to have active conversations about how we fit in as an inspirational form of entertainment in the community,” VanWaeyenberghe said.

Melanie Sever, the administrator for the Duluth Superior Symphony Youth Orchestras (DSSYO), is also a freelance musician, plays with the DSSO, and is a flute instructor at UWS and CSS.

The DSSYO is one of the oldest youth orchestra programs in the country. For more than 80 years, thousands of young musicians throughout the Northland have found inspiration in this program.

The DSSYO gives young musicians the chance to sharpen their music skills through a variety of experiences with DSSO conductors and musicians in rehearsals, sectionals and side-by-side performances with the DSSO.

“I recall my positive experience playing with the DSSYO myself when I was in high school,” says Sever. “It is what propelled me to go into music. This is such a rewarding program for the students and for the music professionals who work with them.”

Competitive auditions are held annually to find new DSSYO members. Membership is open to students aged 10 through high school in their Youth Symphony, Concert Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble and Sinfonia.

“The Youth Orchestra is one of the most important things we do. I especially enjoy working with these young talented musicians,” said Meyer.

The DSSO Symphony Chorus has a long history of performances, going back to its founding in 1959. This chorus of dedicated volunteers appears regularly with the DSSO in presentations of choral-orchestral masterworks, operas and pops concerts.

Christabel Grant is a past member of the DSSO Chorus and is a current member of the Board of Directors. Her adult children were part of the DSSYO growing up.

“The DSSO has been an important part of our family for many years. It is a legacy of the love of music that we have been proud to pass down to our children, Grant said.

“Music restores my soul, and the DSSO has been an important part of that,” she said.

When asked why people who may have never been to the Symphony should attend, VanWaeyenberghe said, “It is wonderful to support local artists and support the local economy. The DSSO concerts are not stuffy or formal. You will see people dressed in jeans and t-shirts and people in tuxedos and fancy dresses, all coming together to enjoy music together.”

The communal experience of going to a DSSO concert is summed up in a quote from their website. “Music has the power to transport us in time, space and emotion. Poignant pieces of music can bring us to tears or make us dance with joy. It makes us remember moments we might have forgotten. Music shapes our experiences and brings us together. It moves our hearts and shakes out the cobwebs. Join us at a DSSO concert this season, and share in the joy.”

For more information about the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, Youth Orchestra, Concert Series, and tickets, visit dsso.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Living at Split Rock Lighthouse

Dennis O'Hara

Split Rock Lighthouse - Come for the View, Stay for the Story

Video by joefairbanks.com

 

For Hayes Scriven, Split Rock Lighthouse isn’t just where he reports for work. It is also his home.

Scriven, a self-professed “history geek,” considers his job as site manager to be a dream job. It blends his love of history with his other passion – the enjoyment and appreciation of nature.

“My family loves kayaking, canoeing, fishing and hunting, and now we live in a place where we can do that all the time,” Scriven said. “Tie that in with the history aspect, and add the aura and status of Split Rock, and it’s the perfect dream location.”

In an interesting “full circle” turn of events, Split Rock is also the place where Scriven proposed to his wife, Jenny - years before they would make the site their home. Last year, Scriven moved his family, which now includes Jenny and their two children, Aneliese (12), and Devin (9), directly on-site.

The move has been a good one; highly enjoyable for the entire Scriven family, and a great fit for the management and care of Split Rock Lighthouse.

Previous experience

Prior to his new position, Scriven, who grew up in Nerstrand, Minnesota (just outside of Northfield), served as Executive Director for the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center (BVHC) in Superior. And before that, he was the executive director of the Northfield Historical Society, a job he began at just 22 years old.

But Minnesota’s North Shore has always beckoned. “My wife and I are big outdoor people,” he said. “We’d come up the Shore, and it always had a spot in our hearts.” And, when speaking about Lake Superior, he noted, “There’s this magic behind it. It has this pull you can’t get away from.”

Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse, perched on a ruggedly beautiful 160-foot cliff, is a huge tourist draw, bringing in a whopping 150,000 visitors in a typical year. In addition to the actual lighthouse, the property also includes Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, featuring a lakeshore picnic area, trail center, tent camping, and 14 miles of hiking, biking, snowshoe, and cross-country ski trails.

The history of the lighthouse itself is rich and intriguing, indeed. On November 28, 1905, a single storm-damaged 29 ships on Lake Superior. Soon after, a delegation descended upon Washington, D.C. to lobby for a lighthouse.

Originally known as Stony Point, the name Split Rock was first used by the lobbyists when describing the location, and, ultimately, the name stuck. In early 1907, Congress appropriated $75,000 for a lighthouse and fog signal at Split Rock. The U.S. Lighthouse Service completed the construction of the 7.6-acre facility in 1910.

The lighthouse remained operational for many years. But, as new navigational technology, including GPS, began to emerge, the use of the lighthouse as a navigational tool declined. Split Rock Light Station was closed in 1969.

The State of Minnesota obtained the site in 1971 and transferred administrative responsibility to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1976. The Historical Society continues to manage the site, and is also Scriven’s employer.

Family decision

The Scriven family loves their life at Split Rock, where they can experience wildlife, including eagles and bears, and outdoor activities, like kayaking and canoeing. For them, living on-site was the best choice.

“We had the option on whether or not to live on-site,” Scriven said. “I talked to the previous site manager, Lee Radzak, who raised his family here, and he said I’d never regret doing it. So, I talked to my wife about privacy, and the different type of life we’d have. We decided that if we wanted to do this job right, we needed to live on-site.”

“Our kids thought it was so cool,” Scriven added. “My son said, ‘Can we move there right now?’” Ultimately, the family moved in the day before young Devin’s ninth birthday, and the entire family got to celebrate with a beautiful new view.

An amazing journey

Not everyone gets to say that they have their dream job. Hayes Scriven is well aware of his good fortune and relishes every moment.

“Every day is so different,” Scriven said. “I get to meet so many different people, and the kids love the North Shore. Having that freedom and enjoying nature is so important. Every day is an amazing journey.”

“I feel so fortunate and humbled,” he added. “I’m awestruck all the time. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and not many people get to have this experience.”

 

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The Mayors of Lincoln Park

 

Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood has undergone a remarkable renaissance in the last ten years. Going from a downtrodden part of Superior Street, filled with dusty storefronts and empty buildings, to what is now a vibrant and active arts, shopping, breweries, cideries, and dining mecca.

Part of the credit for the success of this transformation undeniably goes to two visionaries, Tom Hanson, co-owner of the Duluth Grill, OMC Smokehouse, and Corktown Deli, and Chris Benson, owner of Frost River.

Tom Hanson and Chris Benson

Many think of the two men as the unofficial “Mayors of Lincoln Park” as each has anchored important businesses, and each has fostered and supported many other business people to open up shop and revitalize what is now known as the Lincoln Park Craft District.

“Lifting Lincoln Park” Tom Hanson

Tom Hanson came to the restaurant business early. Growing up in St. Paul, one of his first jobs was as a dishwasher in a Mexican restaurant.

“My wife and I both began lifelong careers in the restaurant industry. Jaima worked for Wendy’s in Maplewood, and I for my friend’s dad at Primos on the East Side of St. Paul. We both moved on and met at Ground Round in 1980. Since then we have worked off and on together at The Richfield American Legion, The Village Inn Sports Bar, and Augustino’s in Fitger’s Mall,” said Hanson.

Hanson started as part of the Embers chain with The Duluth Grill Embers as a franchisee in 2001. In 2005, he began breaking away and doing their own menu, and, in 2008, established the Duluth Grill as sole owner with his wife Jaima.

Duluth Grill

Since then, Hanson has been legendary for his wildly popular restaurant. Featuring an extensive menu of good old-fashioned down-home cooking, the Duluth Grill was even featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” in 2010 and again this past April on Fieri’s spin-off “Triple D Nation”.

Known for their comfort foods, new takes on classic dishes, an amazing breakfast menu, and baked goods and desserts to die for, the Duluth Grill has long been an established favorite for tourists and locals alike.

“In 2014, I began thinking of another restaurant and dreaming of a second location, but I didn’t have a specific plan,” said Hanson.

He explained, “Chris Benson from Frost River came in and said, ‘I would love to have you across the street from me.’ He told me of his vision for the street and what it could become.”

Deciding with his son Louis on opening a barbecue place in Lincoln Park, across the street from Frost River, the idea for OMC Smokehouse was born, opening in 2017.

Tom Hanson, Louis Hanson, Jaima Hanson OMC Smokehouse

Not long after, once again, it was Benson who came to Tom and said, “You know, you ought to open a deli,” and the seeds were planted. The Hansons opened Cork Town Deli on the other side of Superior Street from OMC Smokehouse in 2018.

In the past months, during the COVID crisis, Hanson has been very conscious of the tough times that his fellow Lincoln Park business owners have been going through during the pandemic year and has worked on “Lifting Lincoln Park”

They put together the OMC Smokehouse Cookbook, filled with favorites with smaller batch recipes for people to make at home. Along with an online fundraiser, the money raised from the sale of the cookbooks went to the neighborhood business owners through initiatives working with Ecolibrium3, whose mission is to care for the community.

According to Hanson, Lincoln Park is now a like-minded group of people, pulling in the same direction. “I live in Lincoln Park and walk to work every day. And I truly love Duluth. It is a big small town with a wonderful quality of life.”

Chris Benson’s Vision

Tom Hanson said of his friend Chris Benson, “I know I get a lot of credit for what has happened in Lincoln Park, but it is really Chris who should get so much of the credit for having the vision of what this neighborhood could be.”

The Benson Family

Chris had been working in marketing for many years, and with his wife Dr. Andrea Hustad Benson and their three daughters, living in Rochester and the Twin Cities. Andrea got a job offer from St. Luke’s to work as an anesthesiologist.

She had grown up in Duluth, and so for her, it was a homecoming when she accepted the job. She has since also become Chief of Staff Elect at St. Luke’s.

Chris’s first thought was, “What am I going to do in Duluth?” His friend Jared Rinerson, was starting a leather chopper mitten business and Benson decided to help him get that off the ground.

They were looking for some equipment and went to see Steve Emerson who had started Frost River originally. He had closed the business and was selling all his equipment that was stored in a pole barn in Floodwood.

Benson ended up buying all the equipment eventually and decided to reopen Frost River, first in a building close to WLSSD. He hired a few sewers and the business started slowly with the Frost River label and name remaining the same.

Frost River Trading

“I wanted a Superior Street address for marketing and as a destination business. So we moved to Lincoln Park in 2011 at the former site of Minnesota Surplus and also bought the buildings on either side,” Benson explained.

With the main floor as a store, the manufacturing operation on the second level, and with bigger equipment on the lower floor, the business has grown, with the mail-order still a big part of what they do.

They sell luggage, shoulder bags, briefcases, messenger bags, and many other Frost River label products that they manufacture by hand onsite, one piece at a time. In addition, the other products they sell are all American-made with such items as mugs, soaps, dog gear and a fun potpourri of other outdoor related goods.

Benson has won the Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Award, Emerging Entrepreneur award, and Established Entrepreneur, and the American Made Outdoor Gear Award, among others.

During the pandemic, Benson and his staff shifted their operation for six months to working on PPE and later on renovating their store. Their online sales sustained them and allowed them to continue working on PPE.

The newly renovated Frost River store

Benson bought some new machines, hired more than 50 temporary workers and went to work sewing masks and making face shields.

“I was hearing from my wife as this went on about how frightening this was with what she was seeing at the hospital firsthand and of the immediate need for PPE. We saw that we could make a difference,” he said.

Benson has always looked at every aspect of his business being about honesty, integrity, passion, and character. “It has not been just about developing my business but also developing a neighborhood and being a steward of the Lincoln Park Craft District,” he said.

He added, “I love Duluth. I love seeing the creativity and the sweat equity that craftspeople are putting into Lincoln Park.”

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Called to the Lake

Distillers Emily and Joel Vikre

 

Emily and Joel Vikre explain at their Vikre Distillery site, “We never planned to become distillers. But one frigid January night, Lake Superior, vast, majestic, mysterious, called us with a bidding we could not refuse. ‘Come,’ she whispered to us. And we knew we would.”

As they describe it, they came here from Boston in 2012 as “a Norwegian girl who dreams in flavors. And an American boy who distills dreams into reality” to “a town still hiding rumrunner's tunnels from Prohibition and a lake so compelling, people tattoo its outline on their bodies.”

Emily at the Vikre bar

Emily is a native Duluthian who graduated from East High School and went on to Carleton College earning a degree in Biology. Moving to Boston, she took a job as the Boston Children’s Museum Health and Fitness Education Program Coordinator.

She went on to receive her MS in Nutrition Communication from Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts - and her Phd in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition also from Friedman.

Emily is a nationally recognized food and drinks writer, blogger and food photographer, who has been a regular columnist for the James Beard award-winning site Food52 and contributed to many other publications, including Lucky Peach, Minnesota Public Radio and Norwegian American Weekly. She has also written a book, “Camp Cocktails, Easy, Fun, and Delicious Recipes for the Great Outdoors!

Joel built much of the furniture for Vikre and now works as a craftsman and builder with Tilt Town Fab and Cedar and Stone Nordic Saunas

Joel was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and grew up in Spokane, Washington. He went to Dartmouth College receiving his undergrad degree in ecology and then went on to medical school. He received his MS in Health and Medical Science. He became more interested in anthropology, non-profits and working on hospitals at the organizational level.

Deciding to leave medical school because he wanted to focus on global health initiatives, he helped to start two internationally acclaimed non-profits that fight HIV-AIDS and promote water sanitation in parts of Africa.

Joel recalls learning about rudimentary distilling from a grandmother in a mud hut in a Kenyan village, who made some moonshine called “Tears of the Lion.” He explained, “The process wasn’t very scientific, but I liked the taste.”

Emily and Joel met through mutual friends in 2008 when they both came back to Duluth for a wedding and reconnected in Boston where they then were both living and working. They “eloped” in 2010 and had their Duluth wedding in 2011.

One fateful night, in 2012, the couple was visiting Duluth and Emily’s parents, Lise Lunge-Larsen, children’s writer and storyteller, and Dr. Steven Kuross who practices with Essentia Health in hematology and oncology.

The four of them had a discussion about distilling, wondering with all the crafts beer companies popping up, why no one had pursued distilling spirits locally. With their science backgrounds, Emily and Joel began researching spirits and distilling, talking about what it would entail and where they would live to pursue it.

“After lots of discussion, when we decided to go ahead, we thought, ‘Why live anywhere else?’ It felt like it was a perfect gift from the Lake,” Emily said.

“This move came at a good time for us, and it was a great decision. We both wanted to be rooted to a place,” Joel added.

They found space for the distillery in the shadow of the Lift Bridge in the Paulucci Building in Canal Park. It took them a year to raise the finances, buy and install equipment, and jump through all the other big logistical hoops, before they could open their doors.

“Opening a distillery was a big lift, and we had a lot to learn to understand the business,” noted Joel. They were licensed to start operating in August of 2013, and their first distillery products (three gins) were released in February of 2014. They also opened their on-site cocktail room at the end of 2014.

They have a “Drink less. Drink better” philosophy of alcohol use. Producing boreal gins, a Scandinavian distilled spirit called aquavit, whiskey, rye and a bar master series of liquors, Vikre has received numerous awards including from Wine Enthusiast, Good Food, and San Francisco’s world spirits competition.

Depending on the demands at the time, they share the work at Vikre with Emily working on the branding, “story-telling,” and marketing, and Joel working on the order fulfillment, nuts and bolts of the equipment, and the distilling.

They typically have thirty employees, which has fluctuated a bit seasonally and with the COVID closures when they had some temporary layoffs.

Running a for-profit business has brought some social and ethical considerations to the forefront for the couple. At their website, they note, “From the inception of Vikre Distillery, our goal has been to take our funny little business, in this industry that is not known for its conscientiousness, and strive to create a model where we use our business to support the community and the environment.”

They pay their employees a living wage and work hard to create a positive work environment. They both note that it is important for them to give back to the community by supporting a variety of area groups and donating to local causes.

One important initiative was to give away at no cost, and later selling at a reasonable price, a 70 percent alcohol solution hand sanitizer. They gave sanitizer to other organizations as well, including the Duluth Police Department, some area grocery stores, and to CHUM homeless shelter. The sanitizer is still available at their onsite shop and their website.

Nearly everything that the Vikres do brings them back to the beautiful shores of Lake Superior, and for their business, using the sparkling cold water of the Lake and wild botanicals including juniper, cedar, and spruce from the Northwoods.

Emily, Joel, Espen, and Vidar Vikre

Joel describes Duluth as “the coolest community I have ever seen. I have fallen in love with it here. The multi-generational family connections and the rituals of family are all so special. I enjoy feeling being part of a ‘village.’”

“I have loved reconnecting with old friends who have also come back, and meeting new people and making new friends,” added Emily.

Even with their busy schedules at Vikre, they still are always dabbling in new ventures. Joel built much of the furniture for Vikre and now works as a craftsman and builder with Tilt Town Fab and Cedar and Stone Nordic Sauna. Emily is at work on her second book, this one a family camp cookbook.

Emily has also enjoyed area arts organizations and is on the Board of Directors of Loon Opera. Joel is the President of the Board of Directors of the St. Louis River Alliance. And they both take all the time they can get with their sons Espen (7) and Vidar (3), soaking up every outdoor experience they can get in together as a family in every season.

“I loved growing up here,” said Emily. “It is such a wonderful place to live. The trails, the parks, skating, skiing, biking, the time with the kids here now is so special. The access to nature is unparalleled.”

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Play, Explore, and Discover At the New Duluth Children’s Museum

Play, Explore, and Discover At the New Duluth Children’s Museum

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Duluth Children’s Museum, the fifth oldest children’s museum in the nation, was established in 1930 and has been a valuable resource for area children, their parents/care-givers, and educators ever since.

Over their 90-plus years, the Museum has been housed in a variety of spaces including the Salter School, the Duluth Depot, Clyde Iron, and, most recently, in popup spaces downtown, while they were waiting to move into their new location in Lincoln Park at 2125 W. Superior Street, site of the long-time Randy’s Cafe.

For now, they have remodeled and done their installations on the first floor of the building. Brightly colored walls and displays, interactive play areas, and engaging exhibits all provide children (ages 0-10) with a place to learn new things about themselves and the world around them.

Cameron Kruger, President of the Duluth Children’s Museum, said the Museum’s former location at Clyde Iron had 13,500 square feet. He explained, “The new building will be 12,000 square feet once we are able to open up the additional floors. One of the biggest differences in location related to size is that there was no way for us to safely provide space outside for programming. With our new courtyard and greenhouse, we have a lot of outdoor activity space now.”

“Our team, including our staff, members, and volunteers, have all worked hard to make the opening of the new space a reality. We are very excited to again offer this quality place for children to learn and play,” added Kruger.

“We love this area, owning our own building for the first time, and being on the DTA bus line for more people to get to us. We have a parking lot behind the building as well. We look forward to completing our phase and three projects and offering more space and exhibits for our visitors,” said Katie Frank, President of the Duluth Children’s Museum Board.

Littlest Explorers

The Museum’s youngest visitors have a nature-themed Infant and Toddlers’ room designed just for them where they can practice gross and fine motor skills while climbing, sliding, “wobbly” walking, and having other interactions with the space. An adjacent “Nurture Room” gives a quiet environment for caregiver nursing, pumping, and child calming needs,

Jeff Brown, owner of BrownKnows (www.brownknowsdesign.com) is the designer and fabricator for the Infant and Toddlers’ Room at the new Museum building.

Brown noted, “I love collaborating with other artists and energetic people to bring their visions to life. This project for the Children’s Museum has been fun, and I am looking forward to seeing the kids having a great time in the space.”

Exciting New Spaces

The Manoomin space lets the children explore the St. Louis River Estuary from inside a canoe. They learn how wild rice is an important species to the ecology of waters within the Great Lakes region, providing food and habitat to endemic and migratory species.

Loose Parts is the area where kids learn STEM concepts by manipulating ramps and balls on the giant magnet wall, building on magnet and construction tables, and practicing concepts with daily programs.

The Learning Lab doubles as a science lab for children to learn how plants grow and as a kitchen space for them to prepare snacks with fresh produce from the Museum’s greenhouse and garden.

Aviation Exploration gets kids behind the throttle of a real Cirrus airplane to explore concepts of flight and aviation learning stations with airplane launchers

The Adventure Treehouse and indoor playground offer a safe environment for climbing and sliding. A reception area and a gift shop are also on the main floor.

Future Plans

The second phase of the project will include the construction of an elevator, a modern HVAC system for the second floor, a two-story climber with a surrounding staircase, additional exhibits, a classroom, and a dedicated birthday party space.

The basement level will include another classroom and collection storage. The Museum has a collection of more than 10,000 cultural and historic objects that have long served as teaching and research tools.

Phase three will include a rooftop garden, peaceful spaces to enjoy the outdoors, and a solar panel that will provide children with the opportunity to learn about sustainable energy.

For more information, hours, admission costs, and membership options visit their website at duluthchildrensmuseum.org, their Facebook page, or call 218-733-7543.

 

 

 

 

 

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The DECC is a Jewel of Duluth

The Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC)

Year-Round Fun for Tourists and Residents

The Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center

Located on the waterfront with panoramic views of the Aerial Lift Bridge and Duluth Harbor, steps away from Canal Park, Downtown Duluth, restaurants, hotels, and shopping, the publicly-owned multi-use facility, the DECC is truly at the epicenter of entertainment in the Twin Ports. Since they first opened their doors in 1966, the DECC has been a mecca for tourists and local residents alike.

Cover of the Grand Opening Program in August, 1966

Dignitaries at the Grand Opening of the Duluth Arena included Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

The banquet at the opening of the Duluth Arena - August 1966

Pioneer Hall was added in 1976, introducing a hockey rink with a smaller seating capability that uses foldout bleacher seating. Pioneer Hall is now the home of the Duluth Curling Club, with an upstairs lounge and eight curling rinks, which can be expanded to provide up to thirteen curling sheets for major events. It has hosted two World Championships, the U.S. Olympic Trials and numerous other national events.

Over the years since then, the complex has added convention and meeting space, and the Amsoil Arena in 2010. Built at a cost of $6.5 million, the Arena portion of the complex houses a 190-by-85 foot hockey rink with 5,333 seats and six locker rooms.

Amsoil Arena

The Amsoil rink can be converted to host concerts, dinners, conventions and shows. The DECC was the selected site of the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Championships in both 1968 and 1981. And, they hosted the 2003, 2008 and 2012 Women’s NCAA Division I Frozen Four.

A spacious lobby separates the Arena from Symphony Hall, with a central location for the ticket booths. Symphony Hall seats 2,221 and is home to both the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and the Minnesota Ballet. Symphony Hall also plays host to concerts, touring shows, operas, dance recitals, high school graduations and a variety of other activities.

Symphony Hall

The DECC also offers two ballrooms, 30 meeting rooms and over 100,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space to host conventions, trade shows and community events. Spaces can also be reserved for parties, weddings, and receptions.

The Lake Superior Ballroom

In 2008, the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center received the Governor’s “Minnesota Great Award.” This recognition honors excellence in businesses that preserve the environment through innovative practices preventing pollution and waste and improving resource efficiency leading to sustainability. The DECC has become one of the area’s significant environmental stewards.

On May 14, 2021, Daniel Hartman was named as the new DECC Executive Director replacing interim director Roger Reinert. Hartman had a successful tenure as the director of Glensheen for eight years prior to taking on this new position. He led Glensheen’s team as they rebranded the museum, increasing its visitorship and community relevance.

“We had a very impressive applicant pool, which I believe demonstrates the interest in both the DECC and Duluth,” said board member and search committee chair Don Ness. “Dan’s successful track record and leadership at Glensheen, his passion for Duluth and his creativity combined to confidently bring him forward as our finalist.”

Hartman noted that he learned from his position at Glensheen about a wide variety of marketing strategies, and about how to work on projects a facility needs to remain maintained and updated. “Some of the DECC’s technology needs upgrading. The Amsoil, however, has amazing technology,” Hartman noted.

He said he has also gained an appreciation for the historical buildings in Duluth working at both Glensheen and the DECC. “The DECC has a mid-century modern style that is still beautiful, with things like the three-tiered chandelier system,” he said.

Hartman, as a UMD senior in 2006, led the student campaign to build the DECC’s AMSOIL Arena. He also served on Duluth’s city council from 2010 to 2014.

“It is an honor to serve now in this role at the DECC, and my hope is to build on the good work of the past leadership and staff. In the immediate future, I will support the DECC’s great health and safety record so guests feel welcome and confident as we return to more events,” said Hartman.

“I also want to showcase and further leverage the DECC’s proximity to the greatest lake there is — Lake Superior,” he added. “We are this great combo of a versatile indoor facility located in an outstanding outdoor city.”

Sue Ellen Moore has worked at the DECC for nearly 20 years and is now the Director of Sales. “We are so excited to have the doors back open and to be scheduling events. We have aways booked events years in advance, but incredibly, we have some events already booked through 2038,” she said.

Moore added, “Customer service is at the heart of what we do. And we are very proud to be such an important part of the cultural fabric of Duluth.”

“Visitors love that they can walk out the doors and be right on the waterfront. They can board the Vista for a boat ride or go across the parking lot to board the North Shore Railroad for a ride up the shore. The nearby Great Lakes Aquarium is another fun tourist attraction,” said Hartman.

During the pandemic, the DECC also served as both a site for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. “We want to keep the DECC on the path of community collaboration as they have done throughout their history. We are here when the community needs us,” Hartman added.

“As we emerge from the pandemic and see brighter days ahead, we are very excited about what Dan, his leadership, and his vision will bring to the DECC team,” said board chair Pat Mullen. “The board is ready to support Dan as he takes on this new role and is confident that he will bring new energy and innovative ideas for a successful future.”

Commenting on his vision for his new position, Hartman said, “I am still in the early stages of my new job, but I know I want to want to continue the wonderful legacy of the DECC. We want the facility to continue to adapt to meet the needs of the community, and we want to continue to grow. It has been important for me to meet with as many people as I can who have held past leadership roles and worked at the DECC, to learn from them about what the future should be, while also building on the past.”

Moore added, “Stay tuned for big things ahead and good days to come. We will be keeping people up-to-date, on social media and elsewhere, with what is going on at the DECC and sharing our story. You can already feel the refreshing changes in the air ahead.”

“I have already found that the care and love for the DECC is real,” said Hartman. “It takes passion to care for a special facility like Glensheen and the DECC. The people who work here now and those who have worked here in the past carry on that passion for this jewel of the community.”

 

 

 

 

 

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