DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — The streets and waters of Detroit Lakes, Minn., were already filling up with people Tuesday, June 29, ahead of the Fourth of July weekend.

Carrie Johnston, the president of the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce, said seeing this happen this close to the holiday is a sigh of relief compared to last year.

"We're ready for tourists," she said. "We've always been built around tourism, but we're ready this year to really bring people back."

Johnston added this is starting to be a complete flip from 2020, as she estimated most businesses in town lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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One of those businesses was Mainstream Boutique, where owner Barbara Zahasky said sales were down 22% last year.

A chalkboard inside Mainstream Boutique in downtown Detroit Lakes is decorated for Independence Day. Finn Harrison / WDAY
A chalkboard inside Mainstream Boutique in downtown Detroit Lakes is decorated for Independence Day. Finn Harrison / WDAY

She said this year is the most vibrant she's seen downtown in her eight years of being downtown.

"(The traffic) means the world to us," Zahasky said. "Every day last year, it was just, 'Put one dollar in the till, we're a dollar ahead.'"

Hub41, a restaurant just across from Detroit Lake, was limited to just having outdoor seating at this time, according to owner Gretchen Hunter.

Customers sit outside Hub41, a restaurant just across from Little Detroit Lake. Finn Harrison / WDAY
Customers sit outside Hub41, a restaurant just across from Little Detroit Lake. Finn Harrison / WDAY

Hunter said even though her employees are now trying to push past food shortages this year, she's happy to have a steady flow of customers again.

"I get goosebumps, and I can probably just cry right now thinking about all the locals and surrounding area just taking care of us through the whole pandemic," she said.

Detroit Lakes city officials will cut the ribbon on the Heartland Trail, a nearly five-mile stretch from just outside of Detroit Lakes to Frazee, on Thursday, July 1. Finn Harrison / WDAY
Detroit Lakes city officials will cut the ribbon on the Heartland Trail, a nearly five-mile stretch from just outside of Detroit Lakes to Frazee, on Thursday, July 1. Finn Harrison / WDAY

The growth hasn't been limited to just businesses, as city leaders are also gearing up to cut the ribbon on the Heartland Trail, a nearly five-mile multiuse trail between Detroit Lakes and Frazee, Minn., on Thursday, July 1.

Chleone Stewart, Detroit Lakes' tourism director, said state legislators helped fund the project, and she can't wait for them to see what she calls the "fruits of their labor."

"(The Heartland Trail's) been many years in the making, and it's just exciting to have a ribbon cutting (Thursday) to celebrate those years of efforts," Stewart said.

With hundreds more expected to be on the water this year from last year, and the city's firework show expected to be back after getting canceled last year, business owners are hoping the the wave of traffic lasts beyond July 4, as they continue the climb back to normalcy.

"It's been a great bounce back year for (all of) us," Zahasky said.