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City Of Lakes Loppet Festival: Biggest One Yet

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's the last day to get outside and enjoy the City of Lakes Loppet Festival in Minneapolis.

Organizers say this year has been the biggest one yet for the weekend event.

Thousands have been skiing and snow-shoeing in the Lake of the Isles area since the festival began in 2002.

Much of that has to do with former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who helped start the festival. He also joined the fun Saturday during the Luminary Loppet event.

It was his first time back cross-country skiing since he suffered a major heart attack about a month ago.

"When I was lying in the ambulance, I didn't think a month later I'd be out skiing but it says a lot about the people at the heart institute and also about healthy living, which they told me I had a heart attack because of genetics but zero damage because of my lifestyle," he said.

Rybak was hoping to participate in Sunday's 42K Freestyle but of course, had to scale back after his heart attack.

The colder than average weather didn't deter participants, with the event boasting the most well-attended festival yet but the cold snap did effect a few details over the weekend.

Organizers say they had to delay a few events because of the extreme cold morning, but they were able to let people know a few days in advance.

The event has really grown since its first year. In 2002, about 800 people participated in the festival and it has now grown to 21 events with thousands of participants.

The goal of the festival is to get people enjoying the outdoors and being active.

Participants at Sunday's events say they're most excited about the Loppet's future.

"The Loppet's expanded to just a winter skiing event to a year-round stewardship of the parks, celebrate outdoor activities, children getting people more active," said John Dietrich.

Organizer Kristen Spargo said they're looking forward to adding even more events, such as ice skating races, in the near future.

The Loppet goes until about 5 p.m. Sunday, with plenty more events, including the highly anticipated dog sledding races -- a new event this year.

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