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A pavilion for the people: Maple Lake destination a community tradition

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Maple Lake Pavilion owner Duaine Sanden has worked to preserve the atmosphere of the popular venue near Mentor, Minn. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
Maple Lake Pavilion owner Duaine Sanden shows a collage of Christmas cards that Lawrence Welk sent decades ago to previous pavilion owner Katherine Schuh. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

MENTOR, Minn.—Since 1928, the Maple Lake Pavilion has provided a destination for residents across northwest Minnesota for roller skating parties, wedding dances, birthday celebrations, anniversaries and other milestones.

Ninety years after first opening its doors, the Pavilion is a cornerstone of the Maple Lake and Mentor, Minn., area as the town's only large gathering place. During the months of its operations from mid-May to mid-September, the Pavilion hosts a variety of events ranging from craft fairs to family reunions, wedding receptions and concerts and plays.

The Pavilion opened for another season in May with a roller skating party for the Win-E-Mac kindergarten class. Each season the community center closes out its operating season with a Halloween roller skating party, free to the children in the community and complete with hayrides—or sleigh rides, depending on the weather.

The owner of the Pavilion for the past 12 years, Duaine Sanden, said the events that the Pavilion hosts each season make his job worthwhile.

"Anniversary parties, family gatherings, birthday parties are a lot of fun," he said, "Wedding receptions are always exceptional."

But his favorite part of the job? The people.

"You meet so many people from different walks of life," he said.

Sanden is only the third owner of the Pavilion in its 90 years and says he inherited the resort from its previous owner, Katherine Schuch, after years of doing business with her and helping her tend to the resort after her husband's death.

This year, the community can expect many of the same events that have grown into traditions at the Pavilion. The Johnny Holm band, which Sanden says accounts for about 60 percent of his business all year, took to the stage for the 46th consecutive year at the Pavilion May 28, drawing a crowd of 1,180. When asked if he was happy with the event's turnout, he replied he was "very much so."

Mentor's arts and crafts festival, an annual event at the Pavilion, draws about 3,500 people to the Pavilion. But possibly the most notable of the Pavilion's events, the Maple Lake Improvement Association's Annual Lake owners Car and Bike Show will take over the Pavilion for Labor Day weekend in September. The event features a picnic, concert and dance and more.

Aside from community-oriented events, Sanden says the Pavilion will host multiple wedding receptions and family gatherings over the summer.

In the end, Sanden said it's the Pavilion's consistency and being a good neighbor on the lake that make the resort a success and a beloved aspect of the Maple Lake community.