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Mouse River Park regulars gather to catch up in off-season

Park regulars gather to catch up in off-season

Jill Schramm/MDN Darrell Iverson, left, manager at Mouse River Park, and long-time camper Harvey Campbell visit at the Mouse River Park winter gathering held Jan. 18 in Northern Plains Inn.

It was a family reunion of sorts this month when Mouse River Park’s loyal summer campers caught up with each other in Minot.

They get together because they miss each other and miss the socializing and laughter during the long winter, said camper Steph Spencer of Carnuff, Saskatchewan, who attended the group’s annual winter banquet Jan. 18 in Northern Plains Inn.

“There’s so many different people here, but Mouse River Park is our bond,” said Denyse Halladay of Roche Percee, Saskatchewan. “It’s a whole different culture. There’s no place like Mouse River Park. There just isn’t.”

The park, located west of Mohall along N.D. Highway 5, has many long-time, regular campers and sees up to four generations of families coming back year after year. Regardless of how long they’ve been coming, repeat campers agree on what draws them. It’s the people, they say.

Randy and Sharon Miller of Lampman, Saskatchewan, had been heading to Powers Lake 35 years ago when the agent at the border suggested Mouse River Park instead. They took the detour, and to this day have never been to Powers Lake. Friendships are the reason they come back to Mouse River Park every year, Sharon Miller said.

“It is just a fun place to go,” Randy Miller added.

Years ago, campers planned an off-season gathering so they could stay in touch. It eventually went by the wayside until three years ago. Miles Eckert of Minot revived the event, which grew from an attendance of 55 the first year to well over 100 this year.

About 150 campsites and an estimated 125 cabins, along with day visitors, bring summer weekend attendance at the park to as many as 500 people, according to park caretaker Darrell Iverson.

Harvey Campbell of Pierson, Manitoba, a park camper for 30 years, spends from Thursday morning to Monday morning at the park from mid-April through September. In doing so, he’s formed life-long friendships.

“That’s one thing they do down there is socialize,” Campbell said. “I always had a joke that I go down to the bar and convenience store to get a bag of ice, and by the time I get home, I have a bag of water. Because you visit with everybody.”

Every Fourth of July includes a parade. This year’s Christmas party, which typically features a Santa visit and lights contest, will be July 18. There’s a ladder ball tournament on Aug. 1, cook-off on Aug. 8, pork roast on Aug. 15 and potluck supper Sept. 6. Kids games are held on the holiday weekends.

The pork roast started about 20 years ago, put on by several campers. They donate proceeds, amounting to about $1,000 each year, to the park. The raffle and supper Jan. 18 also raised $2,515 for the park.

Campbell said the park is increasingly attracting young families, which is important for the park to thrive. Money donated to the park has allowed it to put in a play area for children and an outdoor basketball court. There’s bicycles to rent, kayaking and fishing.

“In 2011, we lost everything in the park,” Campbell said of the major flood that affected the region. “But it came back.”

The park was cleaned up and improved. A new gazebo has hosted weddings and family reunions.

Iverson, who has been caretaker more than 20 years, said the park’s success has much to do with the involvement of the people who camp there every summer. The way everyone pitched in to restore the park after the flood, even helping the older campers who couldn’t do as much physical work, showed the type of community it is, he said.

“The way I look at it, it’s a little bit of paradise,” Campbell said of the park community. “It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a million-dollar motorhome or a camp trailer or tent, everybody gets along.”

Mouse River Park also is a place where newcomers are always welcome. But Campbell said they need to be aware of the pull of the park.

“It grows on you,” he said. “If you come once, you will be back.”

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