On the Road: Lake City - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

On the Road: Lake City

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LAKE CITY, Minn. (KTTC) -- Lake City is home to fewer than 6,000 people but its population grows every summer with tourists looking for a scenic retreat. 

The small community is nestled between the Mississippi Bluffs on Highway 61.  The city, just 60 miles southeast of Minneapolis/St. Paul, is the birthplace of water skiing and thousands flock to its shores to enjoy water sports year round.

"Red at night, sailors delight.  Red in the morning, sailors take warning," said Lake City resident and veteran mariner, Craig Wylie.

The centuries old adage may as well be Lake City's motto.  Every summer, Lake Pepin visitors take in the city’s dramatic landscapes by boat or by board.

On Thursday, after a week of storms, some of the city’s seasoned mariners took to the lake on an overcast day.

"We went sailing last night just before the storm came in and then we heard the rain," said Wylie.

When rained out, locals find refuge in the city's downtown.  Helen Collopy and her husband, Lloyd, moved to Lake City only three years ago, but their family ties to their new home go back much farther.

"My grandparents helped settle this town," said Helen Collopy.  "My parents used to have an account at the old bank…grill now.”

Lloyd said his first impression of the city and its people was a good one.  At his first trip to the local grocery store, many people said “hi” to him without even knowing who he is, the experience stuck with him and his opinion hasn’t changed.

"This is the greatest place in the world, right here," said Lloyd Collopy.

The city has transformed many times over its nearly 150 years.  But if you look closely, many of its inhabitants have worked hard to preserve its history; like at the Lake Pepin Pearl Button Company.

"They took clams right from Lake Pepin here and they would and brought them into this building here and they would saw these holes into them and they would create blanks and these blanks were used to make the final button product," said David Close, co-owner of the Lake Pepin Pearl Company.

A display at the back of the building explains what brought hundreds to the area at the turn of the 20th century.

"Once they would drop that one in the water they'd pick up another one,” said Close of the clam bars, a device that catches the clams.  “They did this all day long."

Now, the building serves as an antique store housing thousands of mementos from the past.  The city's treasures can be found at any mile in the city, but most seem to come back to one place; the lake.  Where, on its shores, new people come every year to explore its natural beauty.

"We're one of the tourists this summer,” said Dianna Schollmeyer, who’s visiting from Alaska with her family.  “There's plenty to do in the summer where in the winter it seems a little quieter," said Dianna’s husband, Nick.

The Schollmeyer’s, like many, will be attending Water Ski Days.  Water skiing was invented in Lake City in 1922 by Ralph Samuelson.  Now, the city celebrates its historic past with three days of water skiing exhibitions, nightly live music, a street carnival, festival food and sports tournaments.  The weekend festival begins June 27 and ends June 29.

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