Photographers who attended the the second annual "Celebration of Photographers". There are over 250 contributing photographers. Photo by Nathan Klok.
The second annual Destination Duluth “Photomeet & Celebration of Photographers” was held at Spirit Mountain on Monday, Jan 17, 2022. Following the afternoon Photomeet, photographers, guests and sponsors gathered in the chalet Moosehead Saloon for appetizers during the social hour, followed by a presentation and awards ceremony.
After attending the launch party in 2013, John Heino became one of the first contributing photographers. –Photo by Nathan Klok
The presentation included the history of Destination Duluth, going back to 2006 when co-founder Branden Robinson purchased the DestinationDuluth.org domain. Branden, Chris Swanson and Tom Livingston began meeting in 2012 and formed the non-profit organization. On May 23, 2013, about 40 content creators met at Zeitgeist, each offering to donate content for Destination Duluth’s Facebook page. The support of the creative community was and always has been the reason for its success.
Co-founder Branden Robinson at the Celebration of Photographers event. –Photo by Nathan Klok
Following its launch, Destination Duluth saw remarkable growth, topping over 2,000 in just 20 days, hitting 5,000 on day 50, continuing to add 100 fans a day, and reaching 50,000 on day 500. Today, there are over 225,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram @destination_duluth.
At the gathering, Managing Director Jerry Thoreson shared the mission of Destination Duluth: “to educate and inspire people about the quality of place of Duluth, Minnesota, thereby shaping the city and region’s positive growth.”
Jerry Thoreson, Destination Duluth's managing director sharing photos from leading photographers. –Photo by Nathan Klok
Destination Duluth’s mission focuses on three qualities of place:
Lake – Taking inspiration from the largest fresh-water lake in the world by volume, Destination Duluth covers Lake Superior from Duluth to Grand Portage on the North Shore, and to Bayfield, WI on the South Shore through photography, videos and stories.
Life – By sharing the life-giving qualities of Duluth, we are educating and inspiring people to visit and #befromDuluth.
Light – Photographers know “it’s all about the light.” Our goal is to put a spotlight on this amazing place we call home. Through social media, we do this by showcasing amazing photos and videos. On our website we share stories of people of Duluth who weave the fabric of our culture.
Thoreson shared achievements from 2021, including 52,000,000 impressions, along with 2,400,000 engagements. That averages to 142,000 views a day, with 6,500 clicks of engagements. The engagement rate is so remarkable that Destination Duluth was ranked third in the nation in social media engagement in the tourism category, according to shareablee.com for three consecutive months in August-October, 2021.
Forty-seven photographers were recognized for their photos exceeding 200,000 impressions on the Destination Duluth’s Facebook page. Twenty-one had over a million impressions and were recognized as a Top Photographer. Award certificates were presented along with DLH decals.
This photo by Jeff Doty was viewed over 500,000 times on Destination Duluth
In 2022 Destination Duluth seeks to substantially develop their website by sharing a Photographer Profile series and “Life in Duluth” stories.
Destination Duluth’s upcoming events are the “9thAversary Photomeet and Party” on May, 23, 2022, tentatively scheduled at The Depot; a fall “Photomeet” at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum/North Shore Scenic Railroad, and the third annual Celebration of Photographers to be held as a gala at the DECC on January 16, 2023.
Photographer Profile Series - #1
After being born in Duluth in 1983 and residing here until 1989, the twists and turns of life brought Charlie Smith elsewhere.
After his parents’ divorce, Smith, along with his mother, Linda Popkes, and his brother, Tim, moved to South Dakota – the home of the boys’ new stepfather. Later, college, followed by a few career hops, kept him away as he matured into adulthood.
But his beloved hometown was never far from his mind - and heart. “Growing up, Duluth was always our vacation spot,” he said. “Duluth has always been a staple in my life. Going over Thompson Hill was, and still is, a thrill for me.”
Smith finally moved back home to Duluth in 2014, which brought him a sense of peace, and the comforting feeling of home. Since then, he has experienced success in all areas of his life. Today, he is a photographer (many of his compelling images have been featured with Destination Duluth); a Duluth Transit Authority (DTA) bus driver; a homeowner; a dog dad; a volunteer; and is even engaged to be married.
Charlie proposed to his girlfriend Britney at the Glensheen 2021 Fall Photomeet. –Photo by Glen Blaszkiewicz
Smith recently opened up about his journey and shared his story with Destination Duluth.
After graduating from high school in Estelline, South Dakota, Smith attended a year of college at South Dakota State University. As a young man, he struggled to find his niche.
“I bounced around on the eastern side of South Dakota until I turned 30. There was just no stability,” he said. “I was living out my 20s, trying to figure out my life. During that time, I changed oil, was a bouncer at a bar, sold cars, changed tires, and built kitchen cabinets.”
He continued, “While selling cars, I landed a job at a wholesale driving company where I’d be driving a semi-truck, and I came to Duluth for a vacation. But, when I returned to South Dakota, I found out the job had been given to someone else, and my roommate was selling his house and moving. So, I was basically going to be both homeless and unemployed.”
After doing some soul-searching, Smith said a bittersweet goodbye to his family in South Dakota and returned to Duluth in 2014. Thankfully, his father, Dale Smith, still resided in Duluth, along with much of Smith’s extended family, providing Smith with a built-in support system in his old hometown.
After settling in, Smith found work building cabinets and later worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). He soon discovered, however, that his real passion was in the world of photography.
“The invention of the smartphone with a camera was really what sparked photography for me,” he shared. “I started out with a Blackberry Flip Pearl, and seemed to have an artistic eye, along with an eye for lighting and angles. I could make a simple cell phone shot unique.”
A wall of sea smoke made for a dramatic arrival of the Edgar B. Speer to Two Harbors. –Photo by Charles Howard Smith Photography
Smith’s photography, along with his small business (professionally, he uses the name Charles Howard Smith Photography, in homage to his heritage; Smith was named after his grandfathers, who were both WWII veterans), continued to improve and grow.
Today, Smith’s specialties include images of landscapes, wildlife, and the northern lights. He often travels up the North Shore, chasing down the perfect shot; often requiring a rope and cleats to reach his destination.
Aurora display from just outside Charlie's home in Morgan Park. –Photo by Charles Howard Smith Photography
While Smith is happy to share the details of his current equipment (he has upgraded to a Nikon D850, and a Nikon D500 for wildlife shots), he is reluctant to give out his secret locations. “I would just say that the Arrowhead Region of northern Minnesota is good, and Boulder Lake Reservoir is a good place to start,” Smith said with a chuckle.
Smith sells his photography through the website SmugMug, which is linked from his Facebook page. Recently, he sold over 100 calendars, which feature Smith’s images of a moose in a pond, the northern lights, Bentleyville, and other unique photos.
His photography has been a great addition to Destination Duluth’s online presence, too; he has had over 100 images featured on their social media platforms since 2016, with over five million impressions.
Lake Superior Sunrise in Tofte, MN. –Photo by Charles Howard Smith Photography.
When it comes to advise for other budding photographers, Smith likes to keep it simple.
“The best camera is the one you have on you,” he shared. “You don’t need all the fancy equipment to get started. Use a cell phone. Just capture the moment.”
Career and Family
In addition to his photography, Smith works full-time as a bus driver for the DTA. His routes take him all over Duluth; from downtown to UMD; from the mall area to Lakeside and Gary.
Another special interest is his volunteer work. Smith volunteers time around the holidays to dress up as Santa Claus for the residents at Viewcrest Health Center. “I just love doing it,” he said. “There are some folks there with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and you can just see the memories flooding back.”
Charlie loves playing Santa. –Photo by Glen Blaszkiewicz
Smith and his fiancée, Brittney Russ, own a home in Duluth’s Morgan Park neighborhood, which they share with their three dogs. The couple will be getting married in October 2022 at Gooseberry Falls, which is a site sure to provide some captivating images.
Eventually, the couple hopes to purchase some acreage near Two Harbors and add children to their family.
The Draw of Duluth
After several years away from his hometown, Smith is glad to be home. “The Lake, along with the beautiful views, were my biggest appeal to coming home,” he said. “It just becomes part of your soul; who you are. I love how you can drive while staying in Duluth, and see trees, waterfalls, wildlife, and hike on the Superior Hiking Trail. And, the people here are so nice and really embrace winter.”
The South Pier Lighthouse is surrounded by Lake Superior "Sea Smoke" –Photo by Charles Howard Smith Photography
Speaking of people, Smith also noted his gratitude for the good friends he’s met through the pursuit of photography in Duluth, including Randy Wolf and Jeff Doty.
Ultimately, Smith hopes to continue honing his photography and growing his business. He shared, “My goals and dreams are to build my photography enough so I can retire early and go exploring.”
St. Louis County’s Duluth Depot building has an amazing history from being the “Ellis Island” of this region to serving as community refuge during the 1918 Fires, to even recently serving as a vaccination site in early 2021. “Beyond the history, it is a space today where all are welcome,” said Kristin Johnson, in charge of Depot Marketing and Events, for St. Louis County.
Offering a potpourri of programming, exhibits, events and educational opportunities to the region and state, the Depot is a regional cultural center and on the National Register of Historic Places. Their vision is to serve as a cornerstone of arts and cultural organizations and to entertain, educate, inspire and provide space for a diverse group of guests.
Mary K. Tennis, Director of the Depot and Extension Services, said, “The Depot is many things to our community: a historic building, a contemporary art gallery, a performance center, an educational resource and a welcoming event space. We connect culture with curiosity and creativity blossoms!”
Housing a number of tenants/collaborators devoted to arts, cultural, and educational opportunities, the building has become the regional hub for the programming they offer. These organizations include the Arrowhead Chorale, Duluth Art Institute, Minnesota Ballet, St. Louis County Historical Society, Duluth Playhouse, and the Lake Superior Railroad Museum/North Shore Scenic Railroad.
Admittance to The Depot is free, as are most of the community events hosted here. Three floors of the Depot are free to experience with donations suggested and appreciated. Many tenants offer shows, camps and workshops at a ticketed price.
Hailey Eidenschink, the Depot’s Tours & Program Coordinator, said, “The Depot is uniquely positioned in that we are a St. Louis County asset. Therefore, we can provide services that uplift community members.”
The Arrowhead Chorale is an auditioned symphonic choir whose vast repertoire includes Medieval music, to world premiers – sacred and secular, folksong and art song, opera chorus and jazz – as well as music traditions from across the world.
“We love being part of the arts community at the Depot, and one of our favorite things is our annual Holiday Traditions and Jubilations concert, which takes place in the Great Hall every December,” said Rachel Bartell, Business Manager for the Chorale. They also host The Great Hall Marketplace during the holiday season where over 60 local and regional vendors set up their craft goods in the Great Hall and other areas.
The Duluth Arts Institute (DAI) is a fine arts organization serving artists, art enthusiasts and art learners. They offer art classes and camps in painting, pottery making, tapestry, and open studio time. The DAI is home to three galleries. They also host exhibitions in the St. Louis Depot Great Hall, and select works displayed in the Depot entry and in the Duluth City Hall.
Christina Woods, DAI Executive Director, noted, “The Depot is the only community collaborative providing arts, culture and history under on roof. The humanities are the cornerstone to the understanding of complex issues we face as a community.”
The Minnesota Ballet is the premier classical ballet company and dance education organization in the upper Midwest region, providing high-quality performances, pre-professional ballet training and outreach programs. The School of the Minnesota Ballet offers fine ballet training and performance opportunities for children, young people and adults.
“The Depot is such a community asset providing a stream of people coming through the doors that benefits all of the organization,’ said Kelli Latuska, Executive Director for the Minnesota Ballet. “We love having our rehearsal space here for our company, having classes here and holding staged performances and fundraisers in the Great Hall.”
Since its inception in 1922, the St. Louis County Historical Society has sought to discover, preserve and disseminate knowledge about the history, and prehistory, of St. Louis County as well as the state of Minnesota. The Society maintains and operates a museum as well as participates in the collections and operations of a historical research center.
JoAnne Coombe, the Historical Society’s Executive Director, said, “We are proud to be home in the Depot. We offer visitors an opportunity to see our permanent exhibits including the immigrants waiting room, the Depot Square shops, temporary and traveling exhibits and the Veterans Memorial Hall.”
The Duluth Playhouse has two Depot theaters, one houses their Family Theater, and the other is the Underground. The Family Theater is a place for the entire family to enjoy the magic of live theater together with plays and musicals. The Underground is a one-of-a-kind performance space, located in the lower level of the Depot, presenting cutting-edge plays and musicals.
Amber Burns, Family Theater Artistic Director, explained, “In addition to our performances, we offer classes year-round and summer camps. We are very happy to be in the great artistic community that the Depot provides. The County has offered several building-wide community events and the collaborative energy here is wonderful, all in a beautiful space where people can experience art and culture.”
The Lake Superior Railroad Museum and North Shore Scenic Railroad are both exciting draws to the Depot. They house a collection of several hundred major artifacts including the world's most powerful steam engine, the first steam locomotive ever in Minnesota, a rare box cab electric motor and beautiful private railcars. There is a charge for the Museum and for the various train excursions.
According to Executive Director and General Manager, Ken Buehler, “The North Shore Scenic Railroad safely carries over 110,000 passengers a year and is a major tourist destination in the Northland. Better Homes and Gardens Magazine picked our railroad as ‘One of the 10 Best Family-Friendly Scenic Train Rides in North America.’ USA Today rated our Fall Color Trains ‘One of the Five Best in America.’”
“For 130 years (our birthday is in March), the St. Louis County Depot has acted as a hub for the region. Our team is now striving to continue to honor that history by creating future opportunities for the people of our area to make connections with this amazing building,” said Johnson.
“It's more than what meets the eye! No one expects to walk into an old, gorgeous train station, see a play, view beautiful art, or learn the history of the area all in one place. There’s so much to do at the Depot - always something exciting going on,” added Bartell.
Locally-Grown Flower Farm and Florist Offers Nature-Inspired Products that are “Grown, not Flown”
Brook and Derek Hoffbauer, co-owners of rural Duluth-based Duluth Flower Farm, are your typical hard-working farmers. Together, this married couple, along with their four children – Donna (16), Deegan (14), Dane (12), and Dottie (7) - operates five greenhouses and two farms, which are spread across five acres.
Here, the Hoffbauers grow a wide variety of dahlias, peonies, and many other flowers, along with plants, fresh fruits, and veggies. Come November, they use fresh evergreens to create nature-inspired products from what is local and in-season.
Derek’s father, “Farmer Doug” Hoffbauer, a long-time farmer and well-known vendor at local farmer’s markets, has been an astute mentor for the couple. “Doug has taught us everything we know,” Brook shared, adding that Derek’s mom, Lois, also inspires her about farming and family.
Educating his family and the community is a big part of Doug’s legacy. “It’s important to him that the kids know where food comes from,” said Brook. “Our kids participate in farmer’s markets, and with planting, harvesting and production. And Donna, our new driver, can now deliver local freshness. The kids have been selling since they could see over the counter. They’re learning both math and business skills.”
Together, multiple generations of Hoffbauers share the load of growing, harvesting, and selling their products. And, the philosophies behind how they farm – including using ethical, sustainable growing practices, selling products that grow well in our local soil and climate, and abiding by the phrase “grown, not flown,” also continue the legacy Farmer Doug started over 35 years ago.
As any good farmer knows, there is a season for everything. While Duluth Flower Farm operates year-round, they strive to use what is local and in-season. If they cannot grow it themselves, they support other farmers when possible.
Spring on the farm brings annuals, veggie starts, hanging baskets, blueberry plants, strawberry plants, potted arrangements, and the kids help with collecting Farmer Doug’s maple syrup.
With summer comes a wide assortment of fresh veggies, along with Duluth Flower Farm’s highly-popular dahlias and peonies, and about 100 other flower varieties.
Fall is the season for pumpkins, squash, gourds, apples, and Farmer Doug’s pick-your-own pumpkin patch. The Farm has a presence at a variety of local fall festivals and harvest fests.
Winter is when the evergreen business picks up. Balsam Fir is the most popular tree species used for Christmas trees and wreaths. Duluth Flower Farm’s hard-working designers create many wreaths, winter porch pots, kissing balls, gnomes, garlands, and more. They also ship their balsam wreaths from Balsamwreath.com, a website Derek created in college.
Besides the family, Duluth Flower Farm also employs several people. In the summer, they usually have four designers and two harvesters. During winter, they maintain a crew of about 20 people, who handle designing, shipping, harvesting, and other tasks.
Weddings, Funerals and Everyday Flowers
Duluth Flower Farm provides full floral services for funerals and weddings and also offers “just because” bouquets. “We offer a full design or a DIY option – we can pick the flowers with your event in mind and you can create your own wedding or event flower arrangements,” Brook shared. The design team is available and ready to work with couples and special event requests to bring their vision to life.
When it comes to weddings, they believe your wedding florals should be an experience that includes what is local and in-season at the time of your celebration. “We always start with what we grow,” Brook added. “We try to use what is fresh and in-season. If we don’t have it, then we partner with other farms. And if we can’t get our items locally, then we will use our full florist capabilities.”
Where to Purchase
While the Duluth Flower Farm is open by appointment only, there are plenty of other places their products can be purchased. “Most people call and pick up their order, or visit our website to place an order for delivery,” Brook said, noting that delivery services are available for the greater Twin Ports area. In the winter, balsam wreaths can be shipped nationwide.
However, Duluth Flower Farm also grows for many florists who support local farms, and they enjoy selling their products at Duluth’s Whole Foods Co-op stores. They also maintain a presence at the Duluth Farmers Market, located at 1324 East 3rd Street, throughout the spring and summer.
From October through December, Duluth Flower Farm rents a space at the Dan’s Feed Bin Garden Center, at 821 Hammond Avenue in Superior, where they sell wreaths, Christmas trees, kissing balls, evergreens, and centerpieces, along with decorative gnomes and garland. Their shipping crew will ship many wreaths nationwide, from Balsamwreath.com. Duluth Flower Farm still has plenty of fresh centerpieces for the holiday season, available now.
And, a country farm stand held at Farmer Doug’s (3361 Lindahl Road), is open through much of the growing season, selling flowers, veggies, and more. The farm stand successfully operates using the “honor system.”
Being a farmer is incredibly hard work, but it isn’t without its rewards. Brook shared a story about a customer with a unique request, and a bittersweet backstory.
“We had one customer come in with a request for a uniquely-shaped Christmas tree to remember her late son by, and she shared their memories together around that tree. Each year we bring that tradition to life for his mother. We are honored to be invited into the stories our customers share with us, and it brings us such joy to be able to design with their stories in mind.”
“It’s also rewarding for us to teach the next generation about what’s local and in-season,” she added. “We want people to know what’s available locally, and to be inspired by nature.”
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pike Lake Golf & Beach Club - Exciting Multi-Use Development for the Community
What if there was an idyllic place on a lake, just outside of Duluth, where people could play golf, have a delicious meal, go to the beach, get married, hold a reception or a party, and even buy a beautiful new townhome to live year-round?
Pike Lake Golf & Beach Club fits the bill for all that and much more. Located on East Pike Lake Road at the intersection of Martin Road on the eastern edge of Pike Lake is this multi-use site with a storied history.
It was a stagecoach stop in the 1890s, with the recreation area first developed in 1917 as the site of a hotel, water slides and a Ferris wheel. It was often referred to as the “Atlantic City of the North.”
It later became known as the Duluth Auto Club, with the American Automobile Association of Minnesota (AAA) operating it as a golf course from 1931 until 2016. After three years of legal wrangling, the AAA was finally okayed to sell 68 acres on this site to Roger Anderson, a long-time Pike Lake resident, and his family— wife Dianne and sons Travis and Anthony.
The Andersons have an exciting long-term vision of all that the Club can offer with golf, beach, family recreation and special events. In March of 2020, they began work on the renovation which included the Clubhouse with a new fully loaded kitchen, and improvements to the course. They were able to open in the early summer of 2020, and things have been hopping ever since.
Featuring beautiful views and well-groomed fairways and greens, their executive length, par 32 nine-hole golf course offers challenging play for all levels of golfers. They have a Junior Golf League for kids ages 5 to 17 for lessons to help kids learn the basics of golf and develop their skills. The Clubhouse has a small shopping area with golfing and Club attire and other golfing needs.
Their beautiful beach area is family-friendly, with a kids’ play area, picnic tables, and wonderful spots to put down a blanket or a beach towel to catch some rays. People are invited to relax in the sun or shade on the patio.
The daily beach rate is $3 per person or a $25 beach punch card good for 10 visits. They also offer kayak rentals for two hours, three hours, or a full day. The beach and outdoor patio area are also pet-friendly. Guests are asked to leash their dogs and clean up after them.
The Beach Club includes indoor seating, bar seating and a large patio for outdoor seating overlooking the lake. Inside the Clubhouse are big-screen TVs, speakers and new lighting.
Offering a Friday night fish fry and other drink and food specials, they have a varied menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner selections.
Their large breakfast menu, served from 7 to 11 am, includes eggs, hash browns, sausage, bacon, french toast, pancakes, omelets, breakfast burritos, and breakfast sandwiches. Breakfast also includes their full bar menu with Bloody Marys, screwdrivers and mimosas.
Lunch and dinner, served from 11 am to 8 pm., offers a great selection of “pub-style” fare with appetizers/quick bites, including wings, battered crispy green beans, chicken tenders, cheese curds, fries and onion rings. A fresh selection of salads, a variety of baskets including chicken sandwiches, a BLT, nine choices for a variety of 1/2 pound burgers with assorted toppings, and a kids’ menu, give guests something to fit every appetite.
One recent dinner patron said, “This was my first visit to the Golf Club since the new owners upgraded the former Auto Club. The restaurant, bar and patio are a welcome addition to the Pike Lake/Caribou Lake community as a whole. I look forward to other improvements or amenities the new owners will bring to the Club.”
Other fun things to do onsite include playing Bocce Ball and Corn Hole. The Club has held car shows, rummage sales and skating parties in the winter. Anderson notes they also plan on having live music.
Hosting a wedding and a reception with the space and the flexibility for 200+ guests or intimate small groups for just family and friends gives couples the chance to create their own magical one-of-a-kind, unforgettable day.
The event planner at Pike Lake will work with couples to decide where on the property they want the wedding set up. The Club provides two bartenders, tables and a tent for bar service. Couples are free to supply their own rentals, a caterer, DJ, band, lighting, tent, tables and chairs.
Planning a private party is made easy with a variety of options with a package of a private room and a bartender to take care of drinks and food. Parties for birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties, baby showers, retirements, and corporate groups, are just some of the options for special events that the site can accommodate. They are also building a 250-300 person event center for larger parties and events year-round.
Anderson has received approval to build twin homes and other housing on the property for purchase, rent or as coops. “The land is the most valuable thing we have here, and we are excited to provide options for lake living. We want to have a model home ready as soon as we can.”
He said he wants this Club to be a family legacy to be handed down for generations. “We want this to stay a golf course here forever.”
He added, “My family and I are so proud that the community is taking advantage of all that we have to offer. It is a country club for everyone, without the fees.”
Visit their website atwww.pikelakemn.com for more information, to book tee times, and to find out about upcoming special events. People can join their E-Club at the website to stay up to date on specials and news.
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. 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:
Buy a house, and
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
If you’re game to experience Duluth from a totally unique vantage point, consider a ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad (NSSR).
“A train ride is good for everybody,” said Ken Buehler, Executive Director for the Lake Superior Railroad Museum (LSRM), and General Manager for the NSSR. “Something happens when you’re on the train, relaxing with family and friends, and looking out the window. You can feel the stress just wash away.”
“The anticipation of boarding the train is part of the fun,” he added. “Then, the engine pulls up, the bell is ringing, the horn blasts and people start boarding.”
“It’s a narrated excursion that moves through town,” added Josh Miller, NSSR’s Station Manager. "The NSSR provides a great option for making memories. You’re not going to forget your train ride in Duluth.”
The NSSR and its partner business, the Lake Superior Railroad Museum (LSRM), are housed in Duluth’s Depot; a beautiful structure that was originally constructed by the Northern Pacific Railway in 1892. Visitors can start by taking a tour of the Museum - to see and learn about a variety of local railroad artifacts - and follow it up with an actual experience riding a train.
Buehler provided some historical context. “We had the opportunity to take archival material of the railroad, meaning its classic, vintage railway passenger coaches, along with private cars and dining cars, and put those to use for the purpose they were designed and built: which is to provide transportation, good times, and memories out on a real working railroad,” he said.
“So, the NSSR became an operating arm of LSRM. Here, people can ride the cars, see the scenery, and experience the golden age of railroading.”
When it comes to choosing the excursion that’s right for you, there is something for everyone. There are elegant dinner trains; beer and wine tasting trains; and even a first-class experience under a beautiful glass dome, in a car known as the Duluth Zephyr. A concession car selling snacks and beverages is available on every excursion.
And, for the youngsters in your group, there is a pizza train; “The Great Pumpkin Train;” and even “A Day Out with Thomas,” featuring the much-loved children’s character, Thomas the Tank Engine.
Route choices include ample variety, too. “Our route goes between Duluth and Two Harbors, which is 30 miles,” Miller said. “There are full-day excursions, but many are much shorter. We’re geographically located in a unique spot – our train track runs right along the shore of Lake Superior, between Duluth and Two Harbors.”
This means that, whichever excursion is chosen, passengers enjoy a front-row seat to many of Duluth’s most well-loved treasures. For instance, “The train goes by the Great Lakes Aquarium, and Lake Superior is right there outside your window,” Buehler said.
“Along the Lakewalk, passengers can wave to people, which is part of the fun,” he added. “We go through the Lakeside/Lester Park neighborhood, and the Northwoods, up into Two Harbors. It’s never-ending panoramic scenery, with all those different backdrops out your window - all in a single train ride.”
Success and Accolades
A train ride on the NSSR has simply become a “must do” for visitors to Duluth. “Just in the past ten years, we’ve seen a huge boom of tourism here in Duluth,” Miller said. “Along with that, we’ve seen an increased number of riders on the NSSR. We’ve watched our ridership essentially double over the past 10 years. It’s been pretty exciting for us and for tourism as a whole.”
“We see about 100,000 passengers a year,” Buehler added. “We’re one of the major tourist attractions in Duluth, and we take that very seriously.”
Beyond Duluth, the word has also spread; both far and wide. Over the years, the NSSR has received many appreciative nods from a variety of local, regional, and even national publications and websites.
“Better Homes & Gardens said we were one of the best family-friendly scenic train rides in North America,” Buehler noted. “And, CNN listed our fall colors train as one of the top five in the nation.”
Joy for all Ages
Buehler, Miller, and the rest of their hard-working team of staff and volunteers take great pride in providing a memorable “train story” experience for all of their passengers, including tourists and local residents alike.
“I like to sit on a park bench and watch people get off the train,” Buehler said. “I love seeing the smiles on kids’ faces; tiny tykes that fell asleep peacefully to the rocking motion of the train; and excited parents and grandparents talking about their train experiences. After a train ride, our guest passengers are in a completely better place.”
Enjoy a Bird’s Eye View of Duluth With Lake Superior Helicopters
Whether you’re a tourist or a “lifer,” there are so many unique and versatile ways to explore Duluth. Traveling via snowboard; fat tire bike; ski; hiking boot; and even snowshoe are just a few of our many options, depending on the season.
But we can also add another transportation modality you may not have considered: helicopter.
That’s right, helicopter. Lake Superior Helicopters (LSH), established in 2009, operates out of Duluth International Airport. LSH patrons can choose from 15-, 30-, and 60-mile tours, where passengers can view the Twin Ports from up above. One thousand feet above, to be exact.
LSH customers can choose the first-class treatment, which includes champagne, chocolates, and even a full red-carpet experience. Or, they can opt for the adrenaline-pumping, “doors off” option. The experience is so immersive that passengers can literally hear conversations between their pilot and air traffic control. Morning, afternoon, and sunset flights are available.
No matter which tour is chosen, all LSH passengers are promised a safe and unforgettable helicopter excursion. “It’s a very fun experience,” said LSH founder, Eric Monson. “It’s liberating. The best way I’ve heard it described is that it’s like a magic carpet ride.”
Even if you’ve lived in Duluth all your life, an aerial tour with LSH will no doubt give you a completely fresh perspective of the area. And, while you’re seeing the area from a bird’s eye view, the flying altitude is still low enough to see everything in great detail.
“Most of our tours fly only 1,000 feet off the ground, compared to commercial airlines, which fly at about 30,000 feet,” Monson noted. “So, you get a really nice perspective, especially with a helicopter. There is a lot of good visibility out of the front, but every single seat is a window seat.”
LSH tours hit many of the “high points” of Duluth’s most interesting attractions. “We fly out over many different sites in Duluth,” Monson said, “Including Glensheen Mansion, the St. Louis River, over the coal docks and ore docks in Duluth and Superior, Park Point, the Aerial Lift Bridge, and Canal Park, to name a few. And of course, we fly over the shores of Lake Superior.”
In addition to being a visual delight, LSH tours are educational, too. “Our tour guides and pilots go through extensive training on the local area,” Monson added. “They are able to give a history of the different structures and sites in Duluth; they can give you information about activity in the port; and they can also provide info about nature and industry in the Duluth area.”
Safety is Key
“Safety is paramount in everything we do,” Monson said. “If we don’t have well-maintained, safe helicopters, well-trained and professional pilots, and a well-trained ground crew, then we aren’t doing our job. We do as much as we can to mitigate risk. We want you to have a safe, reliable, and fun experience.”
Prior to their flight, passengers are instructed on how to safely enter, fly in, and exit the craft. LSH pilots receive extensive training, so they are equipped to handle any issues that may come up during the excursion. And, two full-time mechanics work right here, on-site in Duluth, to maintain LSH’s fleet of aircraft.
Great Option for Everyone
Whether you are seeing Duluth for the first time, or have lived here for 30 years, a tour with LSH has something for everyone. “We’ve had several customers fly on a tour, come back, and say they’ve been coming to Duluth for 10 or 15 years, and they learned more about Duluth on that tour than in all their visits prior,” Monson noted.
“That is a really positive thing for us. We work really hard to make sure that, not only do you get that experience in a helicopter, but the tour’s going to have a lot of information, and you enjoy it.”
“Our goal is to have a safe, positive experience, and just return with that ‘wow factor’ after you get back that makes you want to come and do it again.”
Garage Starts - Strengthening, Supporting, and Empowering Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs are often relieved to learn that many of the world’s largest and most successful companies had humble beginnings. While anyone willing to start a business usually possesses ambition, work ethic, and “hustle” in spades, many initially lack the resources and business savvy needed to successfully launch their company. Enter Garage Starts.
Located in Two Harbors, Garage Starts launched two years ago. Its mission is to “strengthen, support, and empower entrepreneurs.”
And, that title?
“We got our name from the place where some of the world’s most successful businesses began – in people’s garages,” said Matt Barrett, the company’s Director of Sales and Marketing. He noted global giants Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft as a few aspirational examples who started in a garage.
Garage Starts can provide assistance to businesses trying to get off the ground, or even help established businesses operate more smoothly. “We take people looking to start a business or those who need support, and help them get through the initial stages of launching and growth,” Barrett said. “Clients sometimes have a business idea, or come to us with a business they’ve had for 30 years that just need traction or was affected by COVID-19.”
Garage Starts can help business owners with many things, including:
Weekly structure and strategy meetings
Writing a business plan
Figuring out financing options
Building up stock
Handling logistical and operational details
Fractional relationships, where a member of the Garage Starts team will hold a specific position within the company for a time
Tracking metrics, and more
Typically, a business partnership with Garage Starts lasts somewhere between 18 months and two years. “We can continue after that, but it’s usually more organic, as needed, or on a set schedule,” Barrett said.
Thus far, the company has supported about 30 clients, representing a wide variety of business segments, including food manufacturers; construction; the service industry; e-commerce retail; brick and mortar retail, and physical product manufacturers.
The team at Garage Starts feels confident that they can assist just about any business. “Generally speaking, business is business,” Barrett said. “At the end of the day, it all runs on the same principles.”
Barrett himself is no stranger to the roller-coaster of the entrepreneurial world. A passionate outdoorsman, he developed something called the Duck ID App, which helps users identify duck species. Today, the app is available on Google Play, with about 10,000 users.
“Similar to how many businesses are started, I had a problem,” Barrett explained. “I searched for a solution and couldn’t find one. So, I created one.”
Barrett also brings a background in sales and sales management to the table.
In addition to Barrett, the Garage Starts team has three other employees. Barrett explained their various roles.
“Chris Swanson, the head coach, brings vision, leadership, and focuses on the big picture. Calvin Luhrsen handles the operations side. He meets with business owners week in and week out and introduces them to funding agencies. And, Sarah Koster handles our logistics side.”
Deeply meaningful work
For Barrett and the entire Garage Starts team, the work of supporting entrepreneurs is a calling. “I look at it as a ministry,” Barrett said. “It’s not unheard of for people to be in tears in our office. Literally, every entrepreneur we work with tells us they’re scared, lonely, or overwhelmed. They often say, ‘I feel like I’m on an island here.’”
“And, I get the amazing opportunity to tell them they’re just like everyone else, and it’s just a matter of getting through it,” he added.
“We have an opportunity to help people find success and balance. You can run a successful business without sacrificing everything else in your life. We are truly motivated by helping people.”
Are you trying to launch a business, improve your current business, or need some advice for recalibrating your company in a post-COVID world? Please visit garagestarts.com. The entire team looks forward to helping you.
Visit the Lake Superior Railroad Museum By Andrea Busche
Whether you are a native Duluthian or just here for a visit, consider adding the Lake Superior Railroad Museum (LSRM) to your itinerary. Featuring the finest collection of railroad equipment, vintage locomotive artifacts, and educational exhibits, LSRM has something for everyone.
“The mission of LSRM is to preserve, interpret, and present to the public the history of railroading, especially as it relates to our area,” said Ken Buehler – Executive Director of LSRM and General Manager of the North Shore Scenic Railroad.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the railroad industry in Duluth and the surrounding area, you’re in luck; all stories and exhibits displayed at LSRM are tied directly to the region at large.
“The founders focused on this area. The artifacts here – the snowplows, rotaries, steam locomotives, diesels, and the cars – are all very important to this area because they ran in this area,” Buehler said. “This is where they stayed because this is where they worked.”
Duluth’s Depot was originally constructed in 1892 by the Northern Pacific Railway. Today, it is home to LSRM and its partner, the North Shore Scenic Railroad. And, if the proposed Northern Lights Express, a high-speed passenger rail service, becomes a reality, then the Duluth Depot would serve yet another important purpose: as a fully-operational transportation hub.
Buehler shared a few highlights LSRM has to offer. “The things that tourists like when they come here is the diversity of the artifacts. But yet, the rail enthusiasts will notice something very special about visiting LSRM, and that is the collection itself. For instance, there is the William Crooks, the first steam locomotive ever in Minnesota. It was brought up the Mississippi River on a barge.”
“And then, there is the largest and most powerful steam locomotive ever built, Number 227 Mallet from the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway. During WWII, it lugged down tons and tons of iron ore, and fed the machinery that saved the world.”
But even more compelling than the artifacts themselves are the personal stories that shine through the exhibits. “The stories of the men and women who built the railroads – that have built our great nation – are told at the LSRM through the artifacts that are in the collection,” Buehler said. “At LSRM, we’re full of stories about Duluth, about the evolution of the Iron Range, and about the great contributions made here in the Twin Ports, where rail meets sail.”
North Shore Scenic Railroad
In addition to the fantastic artifacts on display, visitors can take an actual train ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad, which departs with regularity from the Duluth Depot. Here, the story and unique history of trains come alive, as people of all ages can take a fully narrated tour along the beautiful shore of Lake Superior.
In addition to the North Shore excursion, there is a pizza train, a beer tasting train, and even the family-friendly - and wildly popular - Thomas the Tank Engine weekends.
Large Economic Impact
LSRM and the North Shore Scenic Railroad comprise a large part of the Twin Ports’ tourism economy. “LSRM and North Shore Scenic Railroad are destination attractions,” Buehler said. “We support the Twin Ports tourism industry, which in turn supports 7,000 jobs and generates nearly $14 million per year in hotel/motel and tourism-related taxes. So, we have a huge economic impact on this area.”
“One example is our very popular Thomas the Tank Engine weekends,” he added. “The economic impact of having 18,000 people come and see Thomas and his best friend, Percy, here at LSRM has been documented to be $8.5 million.”
Funding and Support
LSRM is partially funded through the generous support of its nearly 1,000 members. It also receives a portion of the proceeds generated by the North Shore Scenic Railroad, and is otherwise funded through grants and other donations.
Buehler shared that LSRM’s success is due, in large part, to its large, and deeply dedicated, volunteer base. “We are an all-volunteer operation,” he shared. Our volunteers keep the museum vibrant; they keep the railroad running; and over the years, they’ve donated hundreds of thousands of hours.”
LSRM maintains an interesting and educational YouTube channel, which can be found at Duluthtrains.com/videotours. Here, you can view over 130 behind-the-scenes video tours, take an in-depth look at the collection, hear railroad stories, and more.
An official guide to the LSRM, which offers detailed descriptions of each and every piece in the collection, is also available for purchase in their gift shop. The guide makes a perfect gift for train enthusiasts. But your experience isn’t fully complete without a museum tour and a ride on one of those impressive trains.
“What makes LSRM a destination,” Buehler shared, “Is that we are a world-class train museum. We have even been recognized by USA Today as the best transportation museum in America.”