It was a day God meant for water-skiing. Bright blue sky. No wind. Not a ripple on the lake. Temperature in the mid-80s. High season in Minnesota’s Park Rapids resort area.
But there wasn’t a speedboat to be seen. No kids whoopin’ and hollerin’. No spray from a passing boat. No need for fishers to brace themselves against a wake, because there was none.
Welcome to a down economy here, where pulling a skier once around Potato Lake can burn up $10 in gas, or more.
When the economy tanks in the Twin Cities, metro public agencies report numbers to confirm what most people suspect. Outstate, the signs are more subtle, but they’re there.
For example, two restaurants that served citified meals burned down a couple of years ago, and have not been replaced. The fanciest and priciest restaurant around, The Goose Crossing, just outside Nevis, closed this year. Vacationaire, a smaller substitute with a smaller menu, presumably is drawing visitors who had eaten at Goose Crossing. But the servers say tips are down this year.
And there’s the irony. Although nearby resorts seem to be keeping most of their cabins full — perhaps the soaring cost of airfare has prompted Minnesotans to drive up north instead of paying for individual tickets — people aren’t spending as much on the treats that bring in extra money for the resort owners.
One manager recently sponsored bingo games that drew 50 guests. He had four workers ready to scoop high-markup ice cream cones for the crowd that hung around after the games were over, as they had in the past. But this year only two players bought ice cream, and one of them had won the $32 pot.
“People just aren’t spending money the way they used to,” he said.
Nonetheless, year-round residents who have watched business rise and fall have kept their sense of humor. A new sign in Fuller’s gun and pawn shop in downtown Park Rapids asks customers to “please unload gun & remove ski mask before entering.”
So come on up. The water is fine — and full of loons, if not skiers.