MILAN - An abundance of wildlife and fish attracted Hosea Randall to the shores of Lac qui Parle Lake.
A commercial hunter, trapper and fisher, Randall harvested waterfowl and fish and packed them in barrels which he shipped by rail to fine restaurants in Chicago and New York.
And sometime in 1928, as far as his grandson Jeff Randall can tell, Hosea opened up what today is known as the Milan Beach Resort.
It was originally on the west side of the lake. One winter the building was sawed in half and, with horses and logs, hauled across the ice to its current location near the Milan Bridge on the east shore, according to Randall.
"Best steak on the lake" is among the advertisements that the third-generation Randalls use to lure people to the shores of Lac qui Parle Lake these days.
All of these years later, the Milan Beach Resort remains a family-owned and operated business. Jeff Randall and his wife, Stephanie, and his brother, Jason Randall, own and operate the resort.
Just a few years ago they expanded its campground and built a brand new kitchen and bait shop room and remodeled the bathrooms and other areas.
"We tried to keep the old atmosphere in the public part of the cafe," said Jeff Randall of the remodeling project. The resort's knotty pine interior, and walls sporting the mounts of trophy deer and walleye, continue to provide its original, traditional feel.
Tradition is important here, he said. His local customers hold strong to their Scandinavian heritage, he explained, and are none too adventurous when it comes to the menu. Fresh walleye, tender steaks and chicken dinners remain the favorites.
The two brothers grew up in the business. Jason stayed with it all these years. Jeff left to work as a chef in Alaska and did a 24-year stint as a funeral home director before he returned to the business after the death of their mother, Jane, in 2013 at age 68.
All of the 42 miles of shoreline on the lengthy lake - part of the Minnesota River - are undeveloped and protected as part of the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area. The resort and its campground represent the only commercial development on the lake.
The Lac qui Parle State Park is a neighbor to the resort, and it hosts visitors from all around the state and beyond.
The abundance of wildlife continues to attract people to the shores of Lac qui Parle Lake. Jeff Randall said many of the resort's customers are those who come to hunt, fish, hike, birdwatch or just enjoy the scenery. The resort offers breakfasts, lunches and a full dinner menu seven days a week throughout the year to serve customers from places close and far.
Things have changed since Hosea and his wife, Mildred, originally made the resort a destination, he said. In its heyday, it also featured a large ballroom and roller skating. It hosted big bands including Lawrence Welk and Tommy Dorsey. There were boat rentals along with the campground and restaurant, Randall said.
It's a little quieter these days, but no less fun, he said. Most of those who stay in the campground come from within roughly 30 miles of the resort. This is their place to getaway, but it's not so far away that they can't be back to their farm or work on short notice, he explained.
The campground holds 50 sites; 20 are permanent sites with sewer, water and electricity. Other sites offer electricity for RVs and there are tent camping sites too. There are plans to add a shower/bathroom facility for the campground.
There's a waiting list for the seasonal campground sites. Surprisingly: "Most of the yearly people hardly fish,'' said Randall of the campers. They enjoy the campfires and lakeside ambience in the company of friends.
In contrast, the two Randall brothers loves to fish.
Getting out on the water can be a challenge for the busy operators. From the fishing opener in May through basically the end of February, the schedule is hectic for the resort owners and their helpers. Fishing in the summer, hunting and fishing in the fall, and ice fishing in the winter brings lots of activity, no different than when Hosea Randall got it all started, Randall explained.