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'It Feels Like We're Back To What It Was': Lake Communities Embracing Summer After Pandemic's Gloom

This article was originally published on May 28, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Just in time for the holiday weekend, there are no longer any COVID-19 distancing or capacity restrictions for the first time in over a year.

It's a chance for people, like those around Lake Minnetonka, to get together and celebrate.

Summer traditions run deep at the Cottagewood General Store in Deephaven.

"It's been here forever and it's so awesome I used to come here when I was a kid. My parents used to live down the street," Deephaven resident Alyssa Derosier said.

The store has been here for more than a century and community-owned since the 90's. But it never saw a summer quite like last year.

"It was just scary for everybody. We didn't know if we were doing things right," Cottagewood General Store manager Laurie Jenkins said.

But summer is back on and people are ready.

In Deephaven, there are a lot of ways to get to Back Channel Brewing. You can paddle up, park your boat, and there's also a popular bike trail nearby.

They have food trucks out and the patio is in full swing. The owners say they were pretty strict with COVID-19 restrictions, but they're really excited to get back to being a community hub where people can greet the next table over.

On Saturday, Back Channel is offering a free beer if you get a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

And in Excelsior, the boat club is getting their rentals ready. Pontoons are popular this year, as they're the perfect ride for a reunion.

"People are just looking to get out with people other than their immediate family, you know," Bay to Bay Boat Club owner Tom Jacob said.

And others are getting ready to open their doors for the first time, and most are ready to be back together.

Over at White Bear Lake, Tally's Dockside restaurant has been celebrating summers on the lake for more than 80 years. Like all restaurants last year, they worried about surviving the limits on capacity and shutdowns.

Typically every summer, they have live music on their deck three times a week, but they had to cancel their bands in the pandemic. On Friday, Smooth Sensations Band played together for the first time in 14 months at Tally's Dockside. The live music had people dancing, and drew crowds to the deck, even though the weather was a little chilly.

Janine and Joe Dechainte were having dinner at Tally's, making plans for the summer ahead.

"It's 80 degrees and then it's 60 degrees. That's the way it is, and you know, you get used to it," Janine said.

"We came here to check on the boat rentals. We sold our boat about five years ago, so we got to get out on the water again," Joe said.

It wasn't too chilly for the Boberg family to get out on the lake Friday evening. Olivia, 10, and Ella, 8, are looking forward to a summer of showing off their smiles.

"I really like it because you can finally go in the lake," Ella said. "It feels way better not to wear a mask."

Dan Louismet and his daughter Frankie went out for a bike ride around White Bear Lake Friday night. They were happy to see crowds again at the restaurants.

"This is kind of our victory lap after a long kind of 14 months of quarantine and social distancing and masks," Louismet said. "This time last year it was kind of grim. The restaurants weren't open, there weren't as many boats on the docks, but now it feels like we're back to what it was."

To thank all their customers for showing up in the pandemic, Tally's Dockside staff started the tradition of doing toasts with their customers Friday night at 6 p.m. They're keeping the tradition into summer 2021.


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