Bold. That was the type of year 2014 was for the Museum of Lake Minnetonka. With an overhauled timetable, national press coverage, and another Captain at the helm, it was nothing short of this. Here we will reflect on this truly spectacular year.
New Passenger Experience
It began by asking the question “How can our passengers’ experience be more historical?” We realized at that point that the Museum had to reinvent itself – no longer could we simply provide a mere boat ride. Instead we would have to provide a fully historical, educational, and legendary experience. The first order of business was to overhaul Minnehaha‘s timetable with all new and unique cruises, each of which would cover a different part of the lake and highlight different stories from Lake Minnetonka’s past. Among these new cruises included Minnetonka’s Gold Coast, Legends of Big Island, and Victorian Gems, Cottage Treasures. An additional specialty cruise called The Grand Minnetonka Voyage was added as well. Departing only once a month, this two-and-a-half hour cruise would be by far the most inclusive experience the Museum had ever offered.
In preparation for the upcoming season, the Museum’s volunteers attended an educational seminar presented by Captain and local historian Aaron Person. The seminar was divided into two separate sections: one covering the narrative of Lake Minnetonka’s vast history, the other covering the heritage sites that Minnehaha would pass by on her new routes. By the end of the night, all of our volunteers could say that they were now experts on everything Lake Minnetonka.
It was all over the news: water levels on Lake Minnetonka reached near all-time highs this past June. A lake-wide slow wake ordinance was issued in order to protect Lake Minnetonka’s delicate shoreline, and many businesses suffered as a result. Luckily for us Minnehaha was specifically designed to not leave a wake, so operations were not affected (we enjoyed using the hashtag #NoWakeNoWorries on our social media pages). With no powerboats zipping by on our cruises, it was as if the lake had gone back to a time mirroring that of when Minnehaha originally entered service.
This summer we started a new partnership with the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society by hosting two of their “Tapping History” programs, both of which were sold-out! The first program occurred in June with special guest Bette Jones Hammel, author of Legendary Homes of Lake Minnetonka. Featured, of course, were many of Lake Minnetonka’s historic and architecturally significant homes including the historic Walden Estate and the Ralph Rapson-designed Wyer House. The second program took place in August with special guest Scott McGinnis, one of the area’s best regarded historians, who spoke about many of the hotels and boarding houses that once lined Lake Minnetonka’s shoreline.
The MLM pinned another Captain this past summer. Jack McMullin, who has been with the Museum for three years as a Purser, earned his Captain’s bar this past July. Congratulations, Jack!
Wayzata Summer Concert Series
As has been tradition for the MLM over the past several years, Minnehaha participated in the Wayzata Summer Concert Series by bringing concert goers from Excelsior up to Depot Park for a musical evening in Wayzata. Performers this year included the ever-spectacular Davina & The Vagabonds, The High 48s, Patty Peterson & Family, and Jeff Dayton. Somehow we were blessed yet again with incredibly gorgeous weather every single night. As usual, these were by far the most serene moments we had all summer.
The MLM received more press coverage than ever this year, including several live-streamed segments on KSTP and a special feature on KMSP. In August, however, we went national by being named one of CNN’s “7 Fabulous Steamboats Around the United States.” We were truly honored to receive all the attention.
After decades of being held concurrently, James J. Hill Days and Apple Day were finally held on different weekends this year. Wayzata celebrated its 40th Annual James J. Hill Days with the biggest celebration ever – a full-scale carnival and a rock concert were only two of the many events held. Minnehaha was there as well providing hundreds of people with a taste of Lake Minnetonka. Additionally, we participated in a new historical walking tour put together by representatives from the MLM itself, the Wayzata Historical Society, and the Wayzata Chamber.
Excelsior Apple Day was held two weeks later, and it also was bigger than ever with a car show, the BSLOL Antique & Classic Boat Rendezvous, live music, and even a pie tasting contest judged by celebrity baker Marjorie Johnson. Minnehaha was there, too, providing hundreds of more people with a taste of Lake Minnetonka.
Although ridership on board Minnehaha was low at the beginning of the season, we certainly made up for it at the end. It was typical on our ever-popular Fall Colors cruises for Minnehaha to be fully booked, and the colors, as well as the weather, could not have been more spectacular. Thank you to everyone who came out and supported us on those fine weekends – with your help we were able to end the season with a bang.
The Year Ahead
As we plan for the year ahead, our marketing committee is currently working on a new website that is due to be launched sometime this spring. The goal for the new site is to have it be beautiful, informative, and user friendly.
Winter maintenance is well underway with several tasks already completed. Tasks that still need to be finished, however, include rebuilding Minnehaha‘s telescoping smokestack, replacing rot, and rehabbing the usual mechanical systems. The boiler has already passed inspection for the upcoming season and we couldn’t be more exited to fire it up again!
We would also like to emphasize our plea for willing volunteers who can help with “behind-the-scenes” tasks such as marketing strategy and manning the MLM booth at community festivals. If you are interested or would like to help, please send us an email addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to EVERYONE who supported us this year. Whether you were a passenger, a volunteer, a member, a donor, a sponsor, or simply a fan of the steamboat Minnehaha and Lake Minnetonka history, you are what made 2014 such a great year for us. Let’s keep it up for 2015 – full steam ahead!