[Music] Lakeland Currents, your public affairs program for north-central Minnesota.
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Hello again everyone and welcome to Lakeland Currents.
I'm Ray Gildow.
You know, over a million and a half anglers live in Minnesota.
That's counting young kids because not all young kids have licenses, so they're not always included in those numbers.
We have over 11,000 Lakes, even though they say we're the land of 10,000, and we have over 5,000 lakes that are fishable So, Minnesota has a phenomenal history of fishing, and I'm talking today to 2 people who are making it their life to show what this has done in our country--what it has done in our state, I should say.
So, if you have any interest in seeing about the history of Minnesota fishing, we need to have you go to the Little Falls area and visit the Minnesota Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame.
And my guests today are 2 people who are very influential on keeping those places humming.
Brenda Perlowski, to my right, is the executive director of the Minnesota Fishing Museum, and Robert DeRosier is the president of the board.
And thank you both for coming.
Robert, I know you've been involved with this a long time, longer than Brenda has, and Brenda you've been at it a long time too.
So let's just kick off about the Fishing Museum.
Where is it located?
I know you have different hours that you're open, but what might people see when they come there?
Well, our hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00am-5:00pm, so when they come in--we're actually located right in Little Falls, 304 W Broadway--so they would see quite a bit when they come through the door.
A lot of people, their first reaction when they come in there think, "Wow.
It's a lot bigger than I thought."
They pull up and our parking lot might be kind of small, but the building is actually very large when they come in.
They actually walk into our gift shop, then they would, kind of, walk on our dock.
They'd see our 1946 Larson boat, and then they'd be greeted by myself and Tyler, and then we would, you know, get them going.
We'd give them a small tour.
We would take them through and give them a little bit of introduction about the museum, kind of talk to them.
I would give them a short intro, so, maybe I'd talk to them.
If they wanted to learn about the history of the museum, I would probably, you know, talk to them.
I would show them the the memory boat, for instance, talk to them about the 1949 Larson boat.
So, basically, I would come in and say, you know, "Hey!
This is the memory boat.
Did you know that in 1949, Larson's had a fire.
They lost everything: the plans, the forms, even the night watchmen died in the fire."
And so, a lot of people are very surprised about that.
But Larson's decided they would actually rebuild the plant and rebuild everything, and then, when they got in there, they had no idea how they were actually going to make the boats.
And so one of the guys said, "You know what?
I know my part."
Another guy jumped in said, "You know, I know my part."
And so they actually made the boat from memory, and that was one of the first 3 of the of the boats that they made that day, and we actually were lucky enough to have the Borgstrom family return it to us.
And so, it's one of our favorite boats that's on display.
Is that in Little Falls?
That all occured?
That large factory?
Yeah, Well, I didn't know that history.
It's just a few blocks from the museum.
I'll be darn.
So, it's right on display there.
I like to talk about--some of my favorite ones are the 1902, the Smith electric one, because that's our oldest motor.
I do have a Miller, one of the Knuckle Busters, right in front, because it's kind of a different one.
It actually has the propeller where it actually changes it, so you can go forward and reverse just by moving it on the propeller.
I've just got--they're kind of in order, so it goes, you know, from the 70's to the 60's to the 50's: kind of goes in order.
I talk about the record fish that are on the wall, so they can, you know, take a look to see what they're actually, kind of--some people like to go for the big ones.
And they're all replicas?
Right, they are replicas.
And then we have a 270 gallon aquarium.
We have Al's frozen ponds, so if you want to take a look at, you know, a 3-dimensional scene in the back, you can kind of take a look at that.
We have decoys.
There's just a ton of things for you to take a look at, of course, all artifacts.
We're all friends, were friends of Al Baert, who was the co-founder with Morry Sauve.
Robert, you've spent a lot of time with Al, as a friend.
How did this get started in his house?
How did he get this museum started?
Well, he tells the story of how he had a small collection of some lures.
Those of us who fish, we've gotten some from our grandfather, whatever.
So he had a few items and he went to a trade show of fishing...
I don't know, antique show kind of thing, and he didn't like what he saw of that.
He felt that fishing was more about people than about the tangible lures and things, and so he came home and told his wife that he was going to start Minnesota's Fishing Museum.
And that's how he told the story.
Do you know what year that was, roughly?
Well, it would probably have been in the late 80's or 1990's, somewhere in there.
He then started to look for a home.
He began to put the word out that he was going to do this, and so friends, through the grapevine, found out that he had this concept and he began collecting things and he filled his house.
Later years, when I first met him, I went to his house to see what this was all about and, of course, he had his garage full.
He had some other storage locations full.
His basement, the rafters were just solid lures going across.
Were they almost all donations?
Yes, yes, yes.
So that's, you know, kind of, how he got started and Al's idea was that, you know, this museum should be about Minnesota's fishing, but about people.
And so, if you come to our museum-- Brenda was talking about the different displays-- you'll see these shadow boxes that Al and Morry had built with some of the early donations.
So, the idea was that a family who had someone who might have been very driven to fish, that they had very many memories with--maybe that grandfather or someone who passed on--and so, when they went to, you know, sort through all his things, they find his tackle box, and so Al's idea was you could donate that tackle box to the museum.
He would take the contents and arrange them in this box.
You've seen them there, you know, 2 by 3 feet, I suppose, a glass front on them.
And he would arrange those in there.
Then, he would ask for a photograph and maybe a little story about that person that he could put inside the the box.
So there may have not been any valuable artifacts in that box, but the value was in the memories that the family had with this person and what fishing really meant to people.
And so, you know, we saw, later, families come to see the display for that particular person, and it was very emotional at times.
So that was what he really thought about starting a museum, in addition to some displays with, you know, manufacturing.
There was the bat wing lure, which was started by a gentleman who was a soldier in World War II who came back to Piers, Minnesota and started a small little company to build a strangler called the Battler.
And we were able to get from the family all of his patent applications and his molds and those kind of things.
And you'll see that on the wall, for one example.
So, you know, Al looked at it to be about Minnesota.
We do have, of course, lures that are, you know, from other parts of the country--other types of fishing, but mostly it's about Minnesota people, Minnesota manufacturing.
And I know a lot of people ask me, "Well, how did the museum end up in Little Falls?"
And I've talked it with Al over the years many times about that too, and part of it was because he didn't have interest from some of the other communities that he talked to.
There didn't seem to be a lot of interest.
Whereas Little Falls was very open, I think, to this, from the very beginning.
Is that fair to say?
Yeah, so he had some interest but he wasn't always--didn't always find that the location was right.
So, for example, there was a travel museum that was started down near Owatonna, where the first Cabela's came to Minnesota.
Oh sure, off 35.
And the gentleman that owned that facility also won some adjacent corn fields next to it, and he invited Al to come down and talk about having Minnesota's Fishing Museum down there, co-located with that and the Cabela's store and all of that.
And so, he examined that and it didn't appear that that really was going to be able to come together.
That was one example.
He went to Walker, Minnesota at the request of Jeff Arnold from Reeds, and Jeff was offering the back room of his store at the time.
You know, Al would tell the story how he met with Jeff and they went in and, of course, Al had this voluminous pile of lures, and he looked at this little room, and it just wasn't going to work.
And, eventually, he came to Little Falls, met with the city administrator, kind of told him what he wanted to do.
So the city administrator, you know, met with the mayor and explained this to him and so the mayor decided that, well, we'd look into this by forming a committee.
And I happened to be available, so I was appointed to this committee.
And we met with Al and listened to his story and what he wanted to do.
We went down to his house, as I described, and saw what the idea was, and so we came back and met with the councilman and described what we had seen and that we thought we should examine this.
We weren't making an all-out commitment yet, but we thought we would go further with looking at the possibility of this resulting in something.
So, that happened, and we worked with Al for a while and, eventually, the city council said, "We'd like to have this.
We'd like to support you in Little Falls."
So, shortly thereafter, we started moving stuff up, and a lot of it went in the basement of the City Hall and other places.
And, for a short time, we were in the depot, the old depot.
We had a few displays.
There wasn't a lot of room in there.
And we did that for a while and, you know, we're just looking for help.
The city donated some money, $30,000, I think, to help us get started.
It was money we needed.
It was a loan, actually, which we did pay back, years later.
It took us a long time to pay it back, but that kind of got us started to look for a location.
And we came up with the building that we're currently in, on the west side of Little Falls, and that's about 10,000 square feet, and we've filled it all.
We have stuff stored other places.
Other places, I know.
Brenda, how long have you been the executive director now?
Been in there quite a while now, haven't you?
Most museums are not self-sufficient.
If you look across the history at art museums and the different kinds of museums, it's always a challenge to keep them operating.
How do you do it at Little Falls?
You know, we have quite a few fundraisers and we do do a little bit of charitable gaming, but, you know, we actually have a big fundraiser coming up.
We just finished one.
We just finished Christmas Tree Lane, but we also have another big fundraising coming up which is Night with the Fishing Pros which will be March 24th, 2023.
But we also have, you know, 3 of them, actually, throughout the year.
We have the Hall of Fame Induction and of course we have visitors that come through the museum, so we have tours and then we have our gift shop sales.
So, pretty much, we're self-sustaining and we have memberships.
So anybody that wants to help support us, they can always become a member of the museum.
We have individual memberships and we have family memberships.
And, of course, we always take monetary donations.
And I know sometimes you get multiple things donated.
And you can put some of those for sale, if you get permission from the families.
Is that how that works?
Well, when people donate to us we always do a deed of gifts.
We haven't sold anything that people have donated to us for-- I guess I've been there since 2014 as an employee.
We have not sold anything.
Since I've been there, except for some very--we have a swap meet for motors and that's some very, you know, motors that are in really rough shape.
I mean, so we really don't sell a lot of things.
You're kind of like a small business that went through the virus.
That was so challenging.
So many small businesses have faded away.
They weren't able to survive that, so I'm so glad to see that the museum weathered that storm.
2018 was really hard on us too because we had road construction.
You had that road construction.
People couldn't much during our busy tourist time, as well.
I want to send a shout out to John Peterson who was the founder of the Northland Tackle.
Is it his grandson, Jace, or is it his nephew?
Well it's actually his brother, Duane Peterson's, grandson.
Okay, so it'll be his nephew.
They are doing the footage that we're going to use over our discussion today.
I just want to give a shout out to those guys because I know they spent a lot of time at the museum taking pictures, and hopefully that'll show up well on our debate.
Now, how does the museum tie into the Hall of Fame?
Well, John is a good example of how that tie has come together.
So, the museum was a standalone entity at one time.
As was the Hall of Fame, when it was located, well, initially up in Walker when Jeff Arnold started it, and it moved to Brainerd at the Gander Mountain store.
We weren't involved in that at all.
And, at one point, 2012, I believe, they came and talked to us about maybe if we, since we had a full-time staff, that we could maybe help them run that, since they were having a little difficulty running it with strictly volunteers.
And so, that resulted in us blending together.
We actually, I think, purchased the Hall of Fame for a dollar, you know?
I'm not sure how that all works, but there's a legal document.
And so we have one board of directors.
We had one with the museum, as it stood alone at one time, and we talked about how we might support both organizations, and we decided that we would have one board of directors that would support both these elements, under one roof.
Hopefully, one day.
Well we're under one roof now.
We don't have the full display that we would like to.
We've been working on that for the Hall of Fame portion of our effort, but that's how we came together.
And the connection for us with those legends in the Hall of Fame has been, you know, very beneficial.
People like John Peterson have been able to see what we're trying to accomplish.
Like Ray Gildow.
Like Ray, yes.
And so, it's been a fabulous connection for us.
Do you remember the year that they started the Fishing Hall of Fame?
I know it hasn't been that long.
Was it 2000?
2000 was the first class.
So it's been 22 years?
I just think it's wonderful that so many of these people were inducted before they left and their families have gotten to see that and I know, if you ever go to the hall, for people who ever go to the Fishing Museum, you can see that there's a great need for more space.
To try to get all of these displays up from both the Hall of Fame and the Fishing Museum is a real challenge.
And so, hopefully, that's something that we can see coming down the road, maybe a location that will be big enough to really feature all the things that we need to feature about this.
So how many men and women are in the Hall of Fame right now?
Do you know off the top of your head?
Either one of you?
There are 78 in there right now.
Well, that includes the, you know, the companies and organizations.
But, you know, we're just wrapping up the class of 2023, and I can't divulge those names yet because we're still going through that process.
They'll be over by the time we air the show.
Oh, I suppose.
But, yeah, I know what you're saying.
So, that 2023 class, or typically what, 3 individuals and then companies that are also involved?
And some of these companies that have been in the Hall of Fame now have been around forever: Vexilar, Rapala, people from Rapala.
It's just a unbelievable history in Minnesota of all the things that have been developed here: the underwater camera, splash guards on boats.
I mean, those are things that are Minnesota developed.
So it's so cool to see those captured and sitting somewhere where people can go see it.
You also have a little gift shop.
What do you sell there?
Well, we've got apparel.
We've got some books.
We've got clothing.
You know, there's just tons of different stuff.
I mean, you can come in and find--we've got right now, we've got some-- I feel like I'm on the spot.
I'm trying to think.
What's out there right now?
I've got a lot of cards.
We've got a little bit of tackle.
There's some books.
There's things about the, you know, the area.
There's a lot of clothing, caps, basically fishing related stuff.
But there's also some knickknacks.
There's quite a wide variety.
There's toys for the kids.
There's lots of different things in there.
And I know the fishing industry has gone through a lot of turmoil in the last 5 or 6 years.
There's been a lot of companies sold and bought by other companies.
How is the support for the Museum and the Hall of Fame been by companies?
Have they been pretty supportive of what you do?
Brenda is communicating with them all the time and they've been fabulous.
That's a that's a key portion of what you guys are doing, I would guess, for sure.
You know, we talked about Al Baert.
We lost him in the last year.
And you said he was 98, and he was still trying to do things for the Hall and the Fishing Museum, until the day he died.
I was lucky enough to be able to fish with him.
He just was a delight to be with, didn't take things too seriously.
But he was, until now, until the last year, you could almost always find him at that fishing museum at some point during the week.
Oh, you know, if we had school tours or anything coming in, he was still there.
You know, we have a motor that--it's a folding motor--he would still come in and pop that thing open so the kids could see it come open.
It was just so cool that he would always do that.
Robert, I don't need to get into the all the debates here, but I'm sure there's debates about if you do get a new facility where should that be located?
What community should it be located?
I can imagine that's a challenging discussion, isn't it?
Just because of the past that Little Falls has been there and where people think it should go.
Yeah, a lot of different viewpoints.
Of course, you have the old school, the original workers, volunteers, board members that, you know, started the support of the museum as it exists in Little Falls.
So they have an affinity for a location.
That might be in central Minnesota, near Little Falls.
And you would expect that.
They've worked pretty hard at this since 1997, when I first met Al, we've been working on this all of that time with, you know, a variety of different people.
The community has supported it.
The city, in some capacities, has.
And so you have that vantage point.
Then you have, of course, some in the the tourism that would like to see us maybe in a fishing destination, let's call it.
You know, the Brainerd Lakes area.
The Alexandria Lakes area.
And, you know, those are, you know, certainly something that could weigh in a good debate that that's a good place to locate Minnesota Fishing Museum.
And then, last of all, of course, there are those that think that the metro area, where the most people are, that we should build Minnesota's Fishing Museum there.
And so there's been a lot of discussion.
We've looked at a few opportunities that have been presented to us that didn't quite work out that have been in the paper.
Governor Dayton was the governor at the time that we had the financial collapse, well near collapse, of the Mille Lacs area and the fishing.
Was not going well, and so the idea was to build a hatchery over there, I think, and put a big lake manager and a hatchery.
And the thought was that maybe we could co-locate, and they would call it a fishing campus, along with some other fishing related things, and become a tourist element to this location.
And so we examined that.
It didn't come to to fruition.
The legislature decided not to provide the money for the hatchery, and so we moved on.
And we've had some other opportunities to come and look at things, but we just haven't found the right fit yet.
So, where it will be, we don't know.
We're looking for the support.
I've spent some time down at the legislature when we were looking at a location north of Little Falls, near Camp Ripley, there was some talk of that.
And so, there's a lot of interest and a lot of opinions on the political side, also, as to where.
Is there some support in the legislature, you think?
We felt a lot of support.
I appeared before a couple committees to talk about this proposal that was being looked at, up near Camp Ripley, I and Brenda walked the halls of the legislature down there, shaking hands.
And we do have land in Little Falls.
You do have land?
So you have a place you could build?
Yeah, that's cool.
We're winding down here but, if people want to make a donation or if they're interested in more about the museum, what is the website?
mnfishingmuseum.com or just Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame.
And if someone--I know you take nominations for the Hall of Fame.
How do they do that, Robert.
Well, Brenda can speak to that, at one time, it was a committee, formed by the Legends, who would receive the nominations and sort through that whole process.
And the names generally came up from the industry itself.
It was Legends who knew other people.
And so, when it came to us, we conversed with them about that, and it has opened now to where the public has some opportunity.
A little broader.
Anybody could make a nomination.
And then when they make a nomination?
They just have to be over 50.
They have to have lived in the state of Minnesota for 25 years.
And if they don't get the nomination their name can stay in the... what's the word I'm trying to find here.
It could stay in the hopper.
For 3 years.
3 years, okay.
That's good to know.
And so it goes to the summit.
They, you know, at the summit, the legends meet.
They talk about all the nominees that have been presented.
They have a resume that they go through, and so everybody can-- when they submit a nomination, they have to submit a photo, a resume, letters of recommendation.
So they get a lot of information about--so make sure that when you submit your Hall of Fame nomination, that it's complete, that you can put as much information as you can, because that's what people need, the Legends need, to hear about your nominee.
To be able to make a decision?
Yeah, to make an informed Good stuff, you guys.
Keep up the good work.It's just so great to have this part of our history being recorded and a place where people can go see it.
Thank you for having us.
Thank you, Brenda, and thank you, Robert, for being on here.
You've been watching Lakeland Currents, where we're talking about what you're talking about.
And, if you get a chance, go to Little Falls and visit the Fishing Museum and the Hall of Fame.
I'm Ray Gildow.
So long, until next time.