Wedding Service

Lakeside resorts rely on summer vacationers



Resorts have had to deal with a drop in tourism during the winter months in addition to restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

“People are eager to enjoy the summer. And reservations are great, ”said Abbey Pieper, director of sales and marketing at Madden’s on Gull Lake.

RELATED: The Brainerd Lakes Region Beaches Winter Lull Weather

Vaccinations, a decrease in COVID-19 cases and the recent lifting of a statewide mask warrant are some of the reasons for the increased call volume the station has seen, according to Pieper.

“We’re full so it’s always a good way to kick things off for the summer,” Pieper said a few days before the holidays. “The mask’s mandate, I think, was a good signal, you know, to build consumer confidence to encourage people to travel and travel safely.”

The Madden Pavilion is one of the newest lakeside event facilities in the Brainerd Lakes region. The 10,000 square foot event space sits on the shores of Gull Lake and can accommodate wedding ceremonies and receptions, group meals, corporate events and more.

COVID-19 put the brakes on wedding plans last year, but it’s starting to bounce back this year, Pieper said.

“There is a very high demand for weddings and family reunions. And I think that maybe it comes from the latent demand of 20, ”Pieper said. “People were going to get married in 20, they couldn’t get married in 20, so they pushed their marriage back to 21. Well, people always got engaged at 20, too. And they’re planning to get married in 21. We’re seeing record call volumes. “

RELATED: Lake District Campgrounds Return After Memorial Day Losses

Madden’s traditionally opens in late April and closes in late October, with associations, corporate meetings, and events at the resort from April through early June, and family reunions through September, when golf outings at the complex and meetings resume.

The hospitality industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with mass gatherings and travel initially discouraged by public health experts.

“Overall the resort business was in there,” said Eric Peterson, general manager of Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake. “When it comes to getting away from it all and spending time with family and friends, people are ready to do it now.”


RELATED: Kavanaugh’s Resort on Sylvan Lake Celebrates 50 Years of Hospitality

Still, there have been a lot of changes in 2020.

Like many other resorts, Cragun’s switched to providing room service or a take-out menu last year, something the resort never had until 2020. But there are reductions in some areas. activity also meant a reduction in associated personnel.

“Families always showed up… and the people who were driving on vacation stayed pretty strong,” Peterson said.

This year, it seems that business is back to normal.


Almost all cabins and hotel rooms at Cragun's Resort have a view of Gull Lake.  Submitted photo

Almost all cabins and hotel rooms at Cragun’s Resort have a view of Gull Lake. Submitted photo

“Our demand is on the rise. We’re way ahead of 2019, which is probably a more relevant year to compare, so we look forward to June, July and August very well. “

Peterson said reservations at the resort related to weddings and group affairs were also making a comeback.

RELATED: Couple Get Hitched Into Coronavirus-Style Wedding

“Even during the pandemic, you had people willing to travel. But again, the numbers have grown dramatically with that – the comfort level of traveling – so I think pent-up demand has the most to do with that, ”Peterson said.

From Thursday May 27 to Monday May 31, more than 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, a 60% increase from last year when just 23 million people traveled, the lowest never recorded since AAA started recording. In 2000.

“We’re open year round, so we definitely have business in the offseason, in the winter season,” said Peterson. “But I would say that June, July and August… well over half of our annual turnover is done in those three months.”

AAA Travel expects a significant rebound in the number of Americans planning to travel this Memorial Day holiday weekend.

One of these destinations will be the Brainerd Lakes region.

“They feel a little more secure in the North – just outside. Also with our area there is a lot to do, so it makes sense that this is kind of a vacation travel mecca, ”said Frank Soukup, Marketing Director for Cote Family Destinations, owner of Grand View Lodge.


Behind the historic exterior of Grand View Lodge in Nisswa is a high-tech network that helps the visitor plan their visit and communicate with the resort while staying in Grand View.  Steve Kohls / Forum News Service

Behind the historic exterior of Grand View Lodge in Nisswa is a high-tech network that helps the visitor plan their visit and communicate with the resort while staying in Grand View. Steve Kohls / Forum News Service

The resort was around 30% occupied during the last Christmas season, compared to a 90% occupancy rate in previous years for Christmas and New Years, according to Soukup.

RELATED: Grand View Lodge Ranked Among Best Resorts in Midwest

“Most of our income comes from the summer. And then we try not to spend that much over the other nine months of the season to kind of get back to next summer, ”Soukup said.

The resort underwent major construction in 2019, a $ 55 million addition to the Grand View Lodge property, which increased the occupancy rate, according to Soukup. This investment has helped attract a number of new visitors.


The Garden Cottages real estate development is part of a $ 55 million expansion project at Grand View Lodge.  Pete Mohs / Brainerd Dispatch

The Garden Cottages real estate development is part of a $ 55 million expansion project at Grand View Lodge. Pete Mohs / Brainerd Dispatch

“We’ve seen a lot of our guests all year… deciding they were going to leave last summer… so we added a whole wave of new guests last summer,” Soukup said. “This year, as things started to open up, we had these new guests from last year and returning guests from 2019 all competing for the same time period.”

The Breezy Point Resort features four restaurants offering casual dining, a conference center that can accommodate up to 450 people, and three golf courses.

Like other resorts in the area, Breezy Point Resort took a hit in 2020.


The entrance to the Breezy Point Resort.  (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

The entrance to the Breezy Point Resort. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

“Convention and meeting business was down well, our weddings went well,” Dave Gravdahl, station general manager, said of last year’s earnings. “Our catering business, of course, has been closed for April, May, and part of June – just do it.”

The outdoor – and socially remote – golf course at the resort was the only saving grace for Breezy Point in the fall, according to Gravdahl.


The Breezy Point Resort offers golfers three different 18-hole courses, the Deacon's Lodge, the Whitebirch Course and the Traditional Course.  (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

The Breezy Point Resort offers golfers three different 18-hole courses, the Deacon’s Lodge, the Whitebirch Course and the Traditional Course. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

“Once our golf season started, our golf groups were in place. Golf, overall, was just great for us, ”said Gravdahl.

The resort town on the shores of Pelican Lake is celebrating its 100th anniversary and hopes to have many more birthdays. It has entertainment seven nights a week and live bands six nights a week, which are popular.

“I think people are more comfortable now with travel now that more Minnesotans have been vaccinated,” Gravdahl said.

FRANK LEE, County and Features reporter, can be reached at 218-855-5863 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL.





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