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Minnesota Destinations: Perham

From Turtle Fest to Veterans Museum, explore Perham and the surrounding area. It's the perfect place to get away.

Surrounded on all sides by rolling hills, and with lakes and rivers at every turn, Perham is situated in one of the state's most scenic areas. With its genuine hometown feel, friendly people, community festivals and dynamic downtown shopping environment, it's a premier destination for travelers.

Perham is seated in northeastern Otter Tail County, along Highway 10 between Detroit Lakes and Wadena.

Otter Tail County is nationally known for having more lakes than any other single county in the United States, with 1,048. There are also numerous rivers, streams and other waterways meandering through the countryside.

With the area's abundance of pristine waters, it's no wonder dozens of resorts have taken root here, catering to the many anglers, boaters and other vacationers who come to visit.

The economic anchor of the area, Perham has a reputation as a vibrant, growing city with a strong and supportive community of people behind it.

The center of agriculture and industry in the eastern part of the county, Perham is home to Bongards' Creameries, Arvig, and KLN Family Brands, which makes Barrel O' Fun snacks and Tuffy's Pet Food products, among many other things.

Perham's dynamic retail sector is also well known, often attracting visitors from miles around with its small-town charm and wide variety of specialty shops, clothing stores, eateries and more.

Many walking paths and recreational trails wind through town, often connecting with the city's parks, golf courses, schools and athletic fields.

Perham is also home to two renowned museums, a new state-of-the-art medical center, a library, a historic Pioneer Village, a disc golf course, a retro-style movie theater and a community fitness center.

On just about any given weekend in Perham, and especially in summer, the calendar of events is packed with things to do. Beloved annual events like the International Turtle Races, East Otter Tail County Fair, Crazy Days sidewalk sales, parades and community festivals attract thousands to town every year.

Just down the road, about 10 minutes east of Perham, the community of New York Mills is a revolving door of unique artistic and cultural events, including the annual Great American Think-Off, the Continental Divide Film and Music Festival, and more.

South of Perham, in Ottertail, the annual Smokin' Iron Truck and Tractor Pull is always a hit. And in the tiny town of Dent, the Dent Daze summer festival never ceases to please.

But what keeps visitors coming back to the area again and again is the top-notch neighborliness of the people here. Perham and the surrounding area are always well received as a family-friendly tourist destination - a place where hearts and hospitality are big, and opportunities for fun and relaxation are virtually endless.


For more than a quarter-century, Perham's Turtle Fest and International Turtle Races have been the highlight of the summer for local kids and families as well as visitors from all over the world. People have traveled from every corner of the globe to attend the races, which take place in downtown Perham every Wednesday in June, July and August.

Turtle Fest, a nine-day community celebration built around the turtle races, will be going on this year from June 15-23. Events will include magic shows, street dances, soap box and demo derbies, rides on the Perham Express train, a dog expo, a medallion hunt and much more.

For a complete schedule of events, visit the Perham Lions website at


Perham is home to two renowned museums - the History Museum of East Otter Tail County and the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum, also called ITOW.

ITOW is an internationally recognized one-of-a-kind museum that collects and preserves veterans' stories, drawing in history buffs and other interested parties from all over the world. It's open every Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission costs are minimal.

The History Museum of East Otter Tail County tells the stories of the people, places and events of the area through interpretive exhibits, photographic displays, and original motion picture footage. It is housed in a historic stone structure built in 1887, and is open daily to the public. A genealogy lab welcomes visiting researchers.

For more information on either museum, visit


For more than 100 years, the fair has been a summer highlight in Perham. Offering family fun with a small-town feel, this year's fair will feature a carnival, concerts, a petting zoo for the kids, exhibits, livestock competitions and much more.

The 2013 fair is set for July 25-28. For more information, visit


This small town boasts big things in the way of arts, culture and community events.

Last summer, the town's annual Ronald McDonald House Ride was the largest charity motorcycle ride of its kind in the world, drawing in thousands of bikers and raising more than $134,000. This year's ride is scheduled for June 8.

The community is also home to the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, which hosts regular live theatre and concert performances, as well as innovative art exhibits. The cultural center is nationally known for its annual Great American Think-Off, which solicits the opinions of armchair philosophers from across the country. The 2013 Think-Off is scheduled to take place June 8.

The annual Corn Feed and Puppet Pageant Festival is another prime example of New York Mills' appreciation for the arts. This unique event, taking place August 16, features larger-than-life puppets on parade. That same weekend, the town will host the Continental Divide Film and Music Festival, featuring screenings of Minnesota-made movies and live concerts.

The home of Lund Boat Company, the "world's finest fishing boat," New York Mills hosts Lund Mania every summer, featuring fishing tournaments, a parade, a street dance and more. This year's Lund Mania will be July 12.

New York Mills is also within easy driving distance to two other area attractions - Phelps Mill and the Finn Creek Museum. Both hold popular festivals every summer.


One of the fastest growing communities in rural Minnesota, Ottertail is serenely situated on the eastern shores of Otter Tail Lake, south of Perham along Highway 78.

The city's "pet" otter - a 10-foot high, 14-foot-long statue made from 1,200 pieces of welded steel - is a prominent and popular landmark that was recently relocated to a spot along the city's new bike path.

Ottertail is widely recognized for its annual Otter Fest, taking place this year August 9-10, featuring a demolition derby, parade and other activities.

And every summer, thousands of visitors flock to the town for its annual Smokin' Iron Truck and Tractor Pull, a two-day event that attracts more than 80 pullers from across the nation. This year's event will be June 14-15.

The community also hosts an annual Pumpkin Festival, in which local growers win prizes for the biggest and ugliest pumpkins, and a Polka Fest that draws in polka lovers from all over the region.

For more great ideas on vacations and daytrips in Minnesota, see our entire magazine at