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Legacy Destination: Willmar Lakes Area a showcase for the state of Minnesota

Andre Nelson, a watercolorist from Rosemount and Spicer, works on a painting during the New London Fine Art Festival. (Tribune file photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR -- Organizers in and around Willmar are preparing to leave a legacy.

A wealth of events planned to celebrate the area's arts, history and outdoors for Willmar Lakes Area Legacy Destination Weekend are ready to go Aug. 17 through 19.

Legacy Destinations is a statewide collaborative project between the Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, Conservation Minnesota and Explore Minnesota Tourism. The project gives the chosen Legacy Destinations funds to showcase and promote their local resources and organizations while offering Minnesota residents and visitors a variety of activities.

"Because our economy is pretty tight, a lot of people aren't traveling as far as they might," said Art Norby, organizer of the New London Fine Art Festival. "There's more competition between smaller destinations across the state, so to be designated as a cultural point in the state is really important."

Kicking off at 9 a.m. next Friday with the New London Fine Art Festival, the weekend will be packed with events for everyone to enjoy.

The weekend will showcase cultural literacy and cultural diversity while also providing visitors with opportunities to grow skills and talents, said Cheri Buzzeo, manager of The Barn Theatre in downtown Willmar

For those interested in visual arts, the fine arts festival will bring to the area more than 20 exhibitors ranging from sculptors to painters to photographers.

"If you live a hundred miles from a major metropolitan area, it's not an easy trip to the Walker Arts Center. It's not an easy trip to the Guthrie. It's not an easy trip to the Weisman Museum," Norby said. "The legacy money allows that same activity to come to us out here."

Not only will area artists exhibit their artwork, but artists from across the state and across the country will come to show their work as well.

The festival will run through 6 p.m. and continue at 9 a.m. Saturday.

From the fine arts festival, visitors can take a horse-drawn carriage to the New London Music Festival, which begins at noon Saturday. An eclectic set of music including blues, acoustic and rock will appeal to a wide variety of visitors.

"We're having a lot more kids' activities too and trying to make it more of an all-ages event," said Jeff Vetsch, committee chairman of the music festival. "I'm hoping we increase our attendance since there will be more people around the area."

Along with the big festivals, there will be a variety of other activities and events throughout New London, Spicer, Willmar and Pennock.

"There's just so much going on hopefully people will get out and enjoy the weekend," said Beth Fischer, executive director of the Willmar Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Along with the fine arts festival, those interested in visual arts can visit the Kaleidoscope Gallery in New London. The gallery was made possible by legacy funds and showcases artwork from area artists. Visitors are welcome to stop by and help celebrate the gallery's second anniversary.

For those looking for a show, Tom Orth will direct several performances of Agatha Christie's play "A Murder is Announced" Wednesday through Friday at Tthe Barn Theatre in Willmar and the Little Crow Ski Team will perform at 7 p.m. Friday on Crow River at Neer Park in New London.

Tours of U.S.-Dakota War historical sites and the Old Log Church will be available throughout the weekend as well.

"I hope we get some state-wide attention and people realize that the northern half of Kandiyohi County has some great tourism opportunities," Vetsch said.

For more information about Willmar Lakes Area Legacy

Weekend, visit