Road trips — long distances traveled by automobile to reach a destination. Most people are tourists and they will see what they planned to see. They hit the open road and drive by small towns with barely a glance. Little do they know what they miss when they dismiss these small towns. So let’s be travelers and see what we see.
Perham is a small town, not unlike many small towns across America. You can see a towering grain-like elevator a couple miles off Hwy 10 in Northeast Ottertail county signaling its existence. Why would you leave the highway to go into town? If you need an excuse they do have some great restaurants. For some reason small towns have at least one restaurant that is budget friendly and has really good food. But more important what you will find is a progressive community with pride in their history and dedicated to building a bright future.
A trip down Main Street and streets running adjacent to Main Street reveals a bustling community with cars filling the parking places on both sides of the street. The first building likely to catch your eye is the Chamber of Commerce building. Built in 1902 it originally housed City Hall and the local jail. City Hall is still located in the building. This building gives you just a glimpse of a community that is proud of their history and preserves that history through restoration and repurposing their buildings.
The Perham Center for the Arts was formed in May of 2012. Through their continuing efforts they are not only preserving and enhancing the Arts in Perham. they are preserving and maintaining the historic St. Stanislaus building. The St. Stanislaus Society was organized in 1876 and the brick church with its dome of copper was built in 1922. The Polish Catholic church closed in 2009. It is a beautiful building which fortunately did not fall into America’s list of abandoned buildings. Be sure to check the Center for the Arts website for events being held during your visit.
The East Ottertail History Museum found a home in the former Episcopal Church, a beautiful stone building that was built in 1887. In the late 1920s, after the Episcopal Church’s congregation split, the building was purchased by the American Legion. In 1984 it housed the Perham Public Library until a new library was built in 1997. It then became the permanent home of the museum. The museum is one of the most interesting and complete small town museums that I have been in. The interpretive exhibits along with the photographic exhibits and motion pictures paint an interesting picture of the history of East Ottertail County. I really appreciate the fact that the museum has designated hours. So often I find that many small town museums do not have scheduled hours. Summer hours are 10 a.m. To 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. To 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Winter hours are Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m and 9 AM to 1 p.m. on Saturday through March.
Tourism plays a big part in Minnesota’s economy and while everybody knows that Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, what you may not know is that Ottertail County has 1,048 lakes. Ottertail County has more lakes than any other county in the entire USA. If fishing or boating is your thing you don’t have to go far to find that perfect lake.
Perham has a lot to celebrate!
February has the Freeze Fest with it’s Annual Freeze Your Face Off Race and the Freezin’ For a Reason Plunge which benefits the local Kinship Care Program.
In June the Turtle Fest is a hit with adults and children alike with a parade, turtle races and a ride on the Perham Express.
In addition to great resorts and restaurants, Perham has an unbelievable assortment of shops. Their gift shops are amazing. As my followers know, I do not review or recommend lodging, restaurants or shops. However on a rare occasion I find a place that totally exceeds all of my expectations consistently in service, product, price and most important, friendly and helpful staff. If you are in Perham two “must stop” gift shops are The Wild Goose and The Goose Gang. You will not be disappointed. http://wildgoosegifts.com and http://goosegangtoys.com/
Like so many small towns across America Perham began with the railroad. It was in 1871 that North Pacific Railroad President Josiah Perham brought the railroad through Perham.
What sets Perham apart from most small towns in America is its business and industry. It is very unusual that the number of people employed in a community is higher than the combined number of men, women and children living in the community. With a population of just over 3,000 over 4,000 people are employed in Perham. It’s clear that the cornerstone of business and industry in Perham was laid by two men: the late Darrell (Tuffy) Nelson and his son Ken Nelson. Darrell Nelson founded Tuffy’s Pet Foods in his hometown of Perham in 1964. Through the lean and the fat years Tuffy’s has been a mainstay in the community though it changed hands once. Darrell’s son Ken expanded the family industry to include Barrel O’ Fun (chips and snacks) and Kenny’s Candy (licorice) which are sold under KLN Family Brands.
Tuffy’s Pet Foods and KLN Family Brands employ over 25% of the total workers. Workers need medical services — a new state of the art hospital was built and 465 people are employed in the health industry. Workers need good schools for their children — their schools, employing 218, are excellent! (I can attest to that after spending 30 years in education and watching my grandchildren in Perham learn and grow.) Workers need utilities, food, homes, entertainment and that list goes on. And I could go on and tell you that while the rest of the country’s building permits issued bottomed out, Perham’s permits issued remained stable.
Perham is a small town with spirit, heart, and a great future.
There is so much more to Perham and other small towns across the country than meets the eye! If you take that little jog in the road you may just find a great place to visit for a day, a week, a summer or you may just find a place you want to stay forever.