The Lake City Chamber of Commerce/Visit Lake City took home a top award at the Explore Minnesota 2023 annual conference held on February 28th at the Bloomington/Minneapolis South Double Tree by Hilton. Chamber Director Elizabeth Greenawalt was on hand to accept the Only In Minnesota Award in recognition of the 2022 celebration of Lake City’s 100th Anniversary as the Birthplace of Water Skiing and 50th Water Ski Days, while former director and current tourism manager Ed Hoffman joined the conference virtually.
Explore Minnesota described the award as recognizing, “an initiative that exemplifies the spirit of “Only in Minnesota,” celebrating experiences unique or exclusive to Minnesota,” and is presented annually to one, “iconic organization, event or person that has become synonymous with Minnesota or a community within the state.” During their presentation at the conference, the emcee discussed the history of Ralph Samuelson and Water Skiing, the community-wide effort necessary to put on last year’s events, the media attention that shone on Lake City in 2022, and even invited the approximately 350 in-person conference attendees, and hundreds of others joining virtually from around the world, to come to Lake City to enjoy the newly renovated Ohuta Park and to take a “Selfie with Ralphie.”
“It is a great honor for Lake City to receive this award and to be in the company of all its past winners,” Hoffman said. “We accept this award on behalf of an entire community that came together for this celebration, and with a special acknowledgment of the assistance lent to Lake City by Betsy Anderson Gilman from the USA Water Ski and Wake Sports Foundation, and the efforts of Destination Lake City’s Marco Molinari who helped forge that strong relationship. We’d also like to recognize all of our amazing volunteers and sponsors, including the generous support of Water Ski 100 presenting sponsor Hearth and Home Technologies, for helping to make these special events possible.”
Chamber Director Elizabeth Greenawalt added, “The outpouring support of so many volunteers and community members to execute these milestone celebrations in Lake City was unbelievable, and we are so humbled to accept this award on behalf of Lake City. It was a very special year for our community, and we look forward to building on last year’s festivities to make 2023 a great year as well.”
Lake City received international attention for the 100th anniversary of Ralph Samuelson’s 1922 invention of water skiing on Lake Pepin. Dozens of stories appeared in scores of media outlets, including the Smithsonian, Reader’s Digest, Boating Magazine, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. 2022’s Water Ski Days broke all previous attendance records, and featured national talent ranging from Hall of Fame water skier Glen Sperry to Top-40 country artist Chase Matthew. 2022 also saw a temporary Hall of Fame exhibit come to Lake City, the release of Ben Threinen’s documentary “Ralph Samuelson: The Father of Water Skiing”, and the dedication of a life-size bronze statue of Samuelson in Ohuta Park.
Previous winners of the Only In Minnesota Award include The Saint Paul Winter Carnival, The Minnesota State Fair, and Warroad’s Riverbend Skate Path.
Explore Minnesota is the official tourism promotion office of State of Minnesota, led by Executive Director Lauren Bennett McGinty, a large staff of tourism professionals, and a council of Governor appointees. The 2023 annual conference event was emceed by comedian and radio host Miss Shannan Paul, and speakers at this year’s conference included Governor Tim Walz, Executive Director of Tourism Diversity Matters, Greg DeShields, and celebrated explorer Ann Bancroft. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith provided prerecorded remarks.