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Pippi Mayfield, Forum News Service, Published July 31 2013

Detroit Lakes businesses prepare for rush of WE Festers

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – WE Festers have officially hit Detroit Lakes, and businesses are stocking their shelves to accommodate one of the busiest weekends of the year.

From bags of ice to cases of beer, crates of eggs to rolls of bandages, everyone is preparing for whatever may come with the 40,000-plus people who descend upon the area.

WE Festers come from near, far and from every direction, so no matter where the business, they’re likely to see an increase in sales this week.

Aaron Swenson, owner of Bleachers Bar & Grill, said he has offered kegs and eggs with tap beer and scrambled eggs the past couple years and it was a hit. His business, located along Becker County Road 22, is in a prime location for catching WE Festers.

Last year, he added a little bit more to the breakfast with egg burritos and such, and “it totally took off.”

So, for the long weekend, Swenson has completely switched his business and now closes at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday because there aren’t any customers at night with the WE Fest headliners on stage. Instead, he’s open for breakfast, something he usually doesn’t do.

Swenson also owns the General Store just up the hill. This is his first WE Fest owning the gas and convenience store. He’s been taking advice from previous owners about how to prepare, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t stress over it.

“This will be our sixth year (at Bleachers). We know the drill. The unexpected at the General Store, that’s making me lose sleep.”

Swenson is prepping with extra ice, beverages and hot sandwiches, and a larger staff over the next few days to accommodate the surge in customers.

“It’s always fun to see it come, and OK to see it go,” he said of WE Fest.

Another semi-newcomer to the WE Fest season this year is Lakes Liquors Manager Jim Watland, who started at the liquor store April 1.

“I took my lesson from the Fourth. It was so big for us,” he said. The municipal liquor store did $70,000 extra in sales that week.

Watland said besides the typical beer, it’s almost a hit or miss as to what people want each year for alcohol. The key is to just keep it all stocked.

To keep up with the product going out by the cartloads, Watland has trucks stopping at the liquor store to restock shelves each day. They normally get trucks every two days, he said.

The liquor store also has a trailer of ice outside for coolers.

Health care prepares

Essentia Health St. Mary’s in Detroit Lakes has increased its staff this year in anticipation of WE Fest weekend.

“We had a pre-WE Fest huddle with all our department managers and our president and went around the whole hospital facility, ED (emergency department), urgent care, and talked about what preparations have been put into place and what came up last year that we need to think about this year,” said Shawn Christianson, director of quality at Essentia.

She said hospital officials have reviewed all patient care and supplies used from previous years in an attempt to gauge what to be prepared for this year. The weather forecast is included in their preparations.

“The ambulance crews actually post a truck outside of WE Fest and help with hydration on the WE Fest grounds,” she said, adding the Frazee area coverage is turned over to Perham so more staff and an additional truck are available for the Detroit Lakes area this weekend.