Mother Nature didn't wait for the calendar, why should we?
It's time to kick back like it's summer -- because it has been for awhile.
Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the unofficial start of summer, but the weather doesn't always cooperate. With snow and cold sometimes lingering into April and even May, the holiday ends up serving more as the unofficial start of getting ready for summer.
This year is different.
The non-winter, followed by an unusually warm spring (remember that 80-degree day in March?) enabled folks to tackle their annual tasks weeks ahead of schedule. Gardens have been planted, painting jobs are under way, boats have been launched and docks have been put in.
The No. 1 thing now on many to-do lists: Start enjoying it.
"An early spring always bodes well for summer," said Jim Vick, marketing director for Lutsen Mountain and president of the Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association. "If the spring is cold and slow, people have chores to get done at home -- getting the garden in and stuff like that. But with the early spring, a lot of folks are ahead of the game on their chores and ready to think more about getting away."
It's going to seem like summer, even if you're only going to a city park.
In Minneapolis, the Park Board had planned to open its 65 wading pools June 2, then it decided to open six of them for the holiday weekend. But as the temperature climbed into the 80s, city workers went into hyper-drive. "We've been rushing to open as many as we can," said board President John Erwin.
There was also a rush to get on the city's lakes.
By the end of March last year, 42 percent of the canoe racks had been reserved. By March this year, 67 percent of the racks were taken. "And the canoes started showing up right away," said Erwin. "There's only one reason people would put their canoe by the lake that early: They want to use it."
Planting o' the green
Gardeners got a jump on things, too. The rush at nurseries "started really early this year," said Lew Gerten, owner of Gertens Greenhouse and Garden Center in Inver Grove Heights.
"All of our cool-weather crops were gone by April 1st. In fact, some of those cold-weather plantings already are harvestable. I got a call from a neighbor who says that he's ready to start picking lettuce."
Cabin owners took advantage of the warmth, as well. At Waterfront Services in Crosslake, owner Julie Simard said that crews have been out installing docks for several weeks already.
"I think everybody has been pretty excited to get up here this year," she said.
Boat storage facilities give mixed reports about early-bird requests. At Gull Lake Marina near Brainerd, Ted Stamm said, "Even with the early ice-out, it's been normal." But at Hi Tempo Snowsports & Watersports in White Bear Lake, Sherri Peterson reported that "a lot of people have been picking their boats up early."
The warm temperatures have even made a difference in Stephanie Challes' bank account. When the Andover resident first returned from her sophomore year at Bemidji State University, she thought she'd start working at the Wheel Fun Rental facility on Lake Calhoun at the end of May. But then she got a call saying that the business was opening May 6. "I got an extra three weeks of work," she said.
Amy Scheller of Minneapolis also made good use of the bonus summer. Or, more to the point, her kids -- Anna, 2 1/2, and Ira, 6 months -- did.
"We went to the playground" every day, Scheller said. "They loved it."
Not everyone has gotten a jump-start on summer, however. The sailboat buoys at Lake Calhoun were put out April 1, a week ahead of schedule, said Rich Makela, commodore of the Calhoun Yacht Club. But while many of his fellow sailors were quick to launch their boats, he had commitments that kept him off the water until Friday.
So, is he ready to start his summer now? "You better believe it!" he said.
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392 Staff writer Larry Oakes contributed to this report.