Busy in lake country

Anecdotal observations are only worth pennies on the dollar, but I’ve returned to the city with a few positive reflections after a holiday weekend spent on the water. First and foremost, boots on the ground suggest that, even though the water is still very cold, more boaters than average were out on the water taking advantage of a beautiful Memorial Day weekend in the Upper Midwest.

An early-summer holiday that is often unseasonably cold and rainy in this neck of the woods, this year’s Memorial Day was a real charmer. Temperatures soared into the mid 80s, humidity made it feel like real-deal summer and freeways and highways were clogged with boat-toting trucks and SUVs heading to lake country.

In north-central Wisconsin, where I’m from, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen the area stores, roads and waterways so busy. Seeing the lakes and rivers buzzing with brave tubers, fishing boats, pontoons and PWC was all the more impressive given that the lakes were still iced over on Easter.

Being from a beautiful, rural area is a sharp contrast to my life in Minneapolis, a bustling information city on the rise. Up north, the recession hit earlier, harder and has persisted with little relief. Established resorts, restaurants, and dealerships closed, traffic visibly dwindled and it was obvious that holiday weekends no longer attracted the same level of tourists as past years.

So what’s it worth that Wisconsin’s lake country was buzzing — and Minnesota, too, from my coworkers’ reports? Perhaps not much, but it helps this consumer’s confidence to see resort country finally picking up.

If the marine industry is to truly thrive, it can’t be based solely on well-heeled urban folks escaping to the cabin two or three times a summer. Seeing increased local and out-of-town traffic is a great sign, and one that could have many implications if the hinterlands of North America start sharing the bounty of our economic recovery.

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