Harriet: Jewel in the crown

  • Article by: CONNIE NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 7, 2011 - 12:59 PM

It's the gem in Minneapolis' sparkling chain of lakes, mixing big-city splendor with small-town charm. An added bonus: It has its own little elf.

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'I'm 92 and I roller-blade!" Felix Perry announces to the small breakfast crowd at the concession stand. The Justin Bieber lookalike who serves him coffee and eggs dutifully asks where.

"Where? Right here!" Without prompting, Felix continues: "Calhoun's got the pretty girls, and Isles is just weird. This," he says, "is my lake."

Harriet, the gem in Minneapolis' sparkling chain of lakes, exacts this kind of possessiveness, this kind of passion.

Well, maybe not the lake itself.

The color of green Kool-Aid, admittedly weedy, it's a lake just like any other urban lake. Ducks patrol the shallows, alert for handouts. Neglected sailboats bob impatiently in place, like shoppers in the return line at Target. A confetti of kids crowd the water at the two small beaches, their shouts of "Cannonball!" rolling like thunder over the beach towels abandoned on the sand.

And the paths that ring the lake (one for walking, the other for biking and blading, please) are no more crowded than the paths that connect Harriet to her siblings, and, from there, to the river and the rest of the world.

But Harriet (named for the wife of a Fort Snelling officer) manages to mix big-city splendor with small-town charm. The elf (Mr. Little Guy) quietly works the southwest shore, answering the notes children leave at his tiny wooden door in the base of a tree. On her northeast side, the formal gardens lure shorts-clad strollers and clutches of wedding parties, with their caketop brides and fluttery bridesmaids.

The crowning glory is the bandshell, with its flag-topped turrets, eyebrow roof lifted in constant surprise and wall of windows that perfectly frame the sailboats -- those set loose from their moorings.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, every single night and twice on Sundays, the bandshell turns Minneapolis into Mayberry.

Sitting on a blanket spread out on the grass, listening to Sousa, watching the kids play tag, the old men clap to tunes they've heard a hundred times, the bike racers stop their whirring progress for just a minute, a minute won't hurt, my heart swells with what must be pride. As the moon rises over the lake, I stand for the ovation and realize there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

Make room, Felix. It's my lake, too.

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  • LAKE HARRIET

    Located in Minneapolis. Acres: 344. Maximum depth: 85 feet. Amenities: Bandstand; gardens; 3 miles of paths; two supervised beaches, one with a floating swimming dock; tot lot; boat dock; two fishing docks; concession stand/eatery (Bread & Pickles) that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seasonally; picnic shelter; restroom facilities.

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