2019: Year In Review

Photograph of the steamboat Minnehaha on Lake Minnetonka.

Dear Minnehaha supporters:

It is hard to believe that another beautiful season of steamboating has already passed into history. 2019 was the restored Minnehaha’s twenty-fourth year on Lake Minnetonka. Despite less-than-ideal weather on many weekends, ridership was good with about 8,000 passengers sailing aboard Minnehaha from late May to early October. This was only possible because of the persistent support received from the community and the dedication of our 70+ volunteers. The following is a recap of just some of the highlights from the past year.

Per usual, the first part of the year focused on Minnehaha’s winter maintenance. Every Saturday, a group of about ten volunteers met at “the barn” to work on various projects. Work this year included repairing the genset cooling system, replacing drains, repairing seats, and regular painting and wood repair. Thanks to the dedication of our winter maintenance crew, Minnehaha was ready to be launched by mid-May.

A big change came in March when the MLM office and archives moved to a new location at 312 Water Street in the Excelsior Mill building. As was the case with the former location, the new space is shared with the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce. The new Welcome Center has worked well as a gathering space and also serves as a safer storage place for the MLM’s historical archives. Be sure to look for the big Minnehaha model out in the hall when you visit!

The new MLM office and Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center (photo courtesy of Frances Stevenson)

The MLM’s Annual Meeting was held on May 15. At the meeting, three new candidates were inducted into the MLM Hall of Fame: Terry Burns (Engineer), John Palmer (Purser), and Cliff Schlueter (Captain). Once the steamboating season kicked off on Memorial Day weekend, the MLM held a season kickoff party for volunteers and friends at the Pique Travel event center in Excelsior.

For the sixth year in a row, the MLM partnered with the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society to host a series of “Tapping History” programs onboard Minnehaha. The series’ first program, presented by author and historian Elizabeth Vandam, focused on the Lake Minnetonka projects of architect Harry Wild Jones. In July, program attendees had the opportunity to hear the thoughts of early Lake Minnetonka visitors in their own words, selected by historian Lisa Stevens and read by actors Mark Benninghofen (Guthrie Theater) and Sue Scott (A Prairie Home Companion). In August, historian Scott McGinnis shared stories about historic shipwrecks and maritime disasters on Lake Minnetonka.

Tapping History
“Tapping History” with Sue Scott and Mark Benninghofen (photo courtesy of Tom McCarthy)

Minnehaha sailed into autumn by participating in James J. Hill Days in Wayzata and Apple Day in Excelsior. Fall Colors cruises ran through October 6. To mark the end of the season, the MLM hosted its annual volunteer appreciation party at Wayzata Brew Works on September 30. At the party, eight new candidates were inducted into the MLM Hall of Fame: Darel and LaVerna Leipold, Bill Niccum, Bob Bolles, Bob Woodburn, Stan Straley, Bob Dumas (posthumous), Ross McGlasson, and John Anderson. All of these candidates played integral roles in Minnehaha’s restoration and early operation.

Minnehaha was hauled out of the water on October 16 and placed back in her winter maintenance barn shortly thereafter. Earlier in the year, the MLM received notice that Minnehaha will no longer be granted access to the privately-owned launch site at 600 West Lake Street in Shorewood after December 31, 2019 (see “An Update On Minnehaha‘s Status” for more information). The MLM Board of Directors is actively pursuing solutions for launching and storing Minnehaha in 2020 and years beyond. We are in a stronger position than ever to solve this issue and remain very hopeful for a positive outcome. Winter maintenance is continuing as planned. We will keep everyone updated as further news develops.

Steamboat Minnehaha


As always, we thank all of our members, volunteers, donors, partners, and passengers for their continued generosity and enthusiasm throughout the year. With their support we point the bow forward, steaming full speed ahead into a new decade. From all of us at the MLM, Happy New Year!

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