Loving the Loppet: ‘This is about as Minnesota as it gets’

“We’re hard core, everybody out here is,” said one Luminary Loppet participant to another Saturday evening, as the -20 wind chill cut across Lake of the Isles, through hats and scarves and long underwear, and reminded all concerned of the cabin fever-usurping survivor’s spirit that kicks in this time of year in Minnesota. Temperatures hovered at or below zero throughout Saturday’s festivities, which included cross-country ski races, bike races, sled dog races, and beer drinking. One man’s timeline:

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

3 p.m. Accompanied by the singular sound of her skis cutting through snow and poles piercing the ice, a lone skier tests out the loppet course.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

3:30 p.m. Ready for the flame: Thousands of luminaries are built and placed all over Lake of the Isles, including this pyramid, inspired by Mexico’s Pyramid of the Sun.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

4 p.m. Joanne Sunderland, Minneapolis: “The luminaries are very magical, almost Celtic. How long did we live in a world lit only by fire? It’s a really special event for me because three years ago to this very day my mother died, and a week later I did the luminary and that’s what was really healing: Just being in nature and I could feel her saying, ‘Don’t grieve anymore.’ I could actually feel my mother’s arms lifting me up and saying, ‘I’m taking your grief.’ That stuff happens; I think that there are spiritual powers that we’re all capable of tuning in to, and it has nothing to do with religion.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

4:30 p.m. Jim Williams, Wayzata: “We’re part of the Wayzata High School Nordic ski team and we’re here lighting all the luminary’s candles tonight. There’s a lot of candles to light. We’ve got about 45 kids on the team, we’ve done this for years, and we’ve got kids serving cookies and cocoa later, and the guys love it. Good to give back.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

4:45 p.m. At the starting gate, champing at the bit to cut loose.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

5 p.m. At the cue of the announcer’s “Hike, hike, hike!” they’re off …

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

5:30 p.m. Jeff Bevers, Appleton, Wisconsin: “We’re playing Kubb, it’s an old Scandinavian Viking chess game.

It’s about thousand years old. You try and knock the king down with these blocks, that’s the goal. I come every year, I’ve been doing it for eight years.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

5:45 p.m. Mike Martin, Minneapolis: “I’ve been tending this fire for five or six hours. I was in the bike race earlier, and I’ve been watching the various races going on and I’m waiting for my date, so I’ve been out the ice a lot today. This is about as Minnesota as it gets; I’m drinking a pint of Surly Furious, and I love watching young kids with good form skiing out on the ice. Amazing.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

6 p.m. The Norse god Thor, as spotted in the ice sculpture garden.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

6 p.m. Saeed Alkaabi, Mohammed Alkaabi, and Obid Almansoi, Minneapolis. “We’re students, we’re from Dubai, we don’t have anything like this there. We have sand dunes,” said Mohammed Alkaabi.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

6:15 p.m. Luminaries lit, main race starts.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

6:30 p.m. At the registration tent, with a cold but happy Surly beer rep who wanted to remain anonymous: “Hanging out in the freezing cold, drinking beer outside, skiing – and they’re drinking one of Minnesota’s best beers, Surly Furious. It’s what we do in Minnesota in February. “

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

6:45 p.m. Scott Anderson, Mound: “We come here every year, we help set up the luminaries, and this is my fire. Or at least I’m keeping it going tonight. I wish more people knew about (the Loppet), because it’s really one of the best things Minnesota has to offer.’

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

7:15 p.m. The silence of the night is cut only by the steady sound of skis scraping the lake ice and snow.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

7:30 p.m. The pyramid, now lit, draws skiers and spectators like moths to flame.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

8:15 p.m. Luminaries on the lake.  

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Sue Halligan on 02/03/2014 - 03:30 pm.

    Great Story

    I’m as far from a sports enthusiast as one can get, but I loved this story and the pictures. I can’t remember ever hearing about “the Loppet” before (I’m a St. Paul girl). Maybe it takes a winter as brutal as this one to make this interesting.

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