Having never water skied, my 11-year-old daughters weren’t sure what to expect as they impatiently waited in the bleachers for the Little Crow Water Ski Team in New London, Minn. The town’s Neer Park hummed with energy as the 70 skiers warmed up and boat motors growled to life.
The 36-year-old ski club’s Friday night shows are the biggest event of the year for New London, which turned 150 this year and has fewer than 1,300 residents. Lakes dot the surrounding region, but the ski team performs during the summer on a mill pond fed by the Middle Fork Crow River, polishing its skills for regional competition. The team has made it to nationals about 15 times and won the national championship twice, said president Craig Boesch.
The Little Crow show requires an annual theme, and a script that knits together the jumps and flips, the ski ballet and the elegant lifts along with skits, dance, gymnastics and a little comedy. This summer they’re firing up the Britney Spears hits and the theme song to “Friends” while time-traveling to 1999. A Garth Brooks impersonator leads the audience in a wave, and spastic “Saturday Night Live” cheerleaders seek campy laughs.
My girls are too young to catch the ’90s references, but while one homed in on the stomach-flipping stunts, the other happily snapped photos of the sparkly costumes and flashy moves. The show ended much like it started, with 25 skiers carefully balanced into a four-tier pyramid. They make it look easy, and finish with a flourish.
The Little Crow Ski Team performs on the last three Fridays in August at Neer Park. Tickets are $3-$8 (littlecrow.com). It’s just one thing to do in New London and Spicer, 5 miles to the south.
Hit the lake: Take a swim at Sibley State Park’s Andrew Lake beach, or head to Saulsbury Beach Park (aka Kandiyohi County Park No. 4) on Green Lake in Spicer. Check with Green Lake Cruises for a fajita/margarita cruise, Saturday morning Bloody Mary cruise or Sunday brunch cruise on a 55-passenger boat (1-320-235-4448; greenlakecruises.com).
Glacial Lakes State Trail: This 22-mile paved trail links Willmar and Hawick on a former rail line, including an easy 5.5-mile stretch between New London and Spicer. You can also bike 3 miles to Sibley State Park west of New London on a paved shoulder of County Road 148.
Goat Ridge Brewing Co.: Cool off from a ride on the trail with blonde, amber, IPA or stout styles at this new brewery in New London. Kids and non-drinkers can order root beer or ginger beer. Watch for live music, such as the “garbage bluegrass” band Black River Revue on Aug. 21. Open Thu.-Sat. (1-320-212-3801; goatridgebrewing.com).
Glacial Lakes Winery: Taste wines on the patio, including the popular Castle Red, and take a tour of this Spicer operation. Catch free outdoor live music Thursdays through Sept. 10. Fall visitors can get fresh Honeycrisp and Zestar apples from their orchard, try apple wine or participate in the Sept. 12 Grape Stomp with food, art and music (1-320-796-9463).
Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center: This 500-acre campus in Spicer hosts a full-moon canoe paddle, rock climbing and kid-focused history workshops in a pioneer cabin. Six miles of trails are maintained for hiking and cross-country skiing; ski and snowshoe rental available (1-320-354-5894; prairiewoodselc.org).
New London is 108 miles west of Minneapolis. The quickest route follows Interstate 94 to St. Cloud, exiting at westbound Hwy. 23.
Where to sleep
Spicer Castle on Green Lake, built in 1895 as a summer cottage for John Spicer, is now a B&B and restaurant run by his great-granddaughter. It’s known for costumed murder-mystery dinners, and meals such as walleye with mushroom and walnut sauce or apricot basil chicken. Its 17 rooms include Eunice’s Room with a swinging queen bed or Raymond’s Cabin, a rustic log cabin (from $118; 1-320-796-5870; spicercastle.com).
Dickerson’s Lake Florida Resort was built in 1924 and offers a classic lake experience, with 13 cabins and a 450-foot sand beach less than 10 miles from New London (from $169; May through early October; 1-320-354-4272; dickersonsresort.com).
Sibley State Park’s 2,600 acres includes two campgrounds. The sites near Lake Andrew’s beach book fast, with others tucked into a rolling mix of prairie and woods. Four year-round camper cabins also are popular (1-320-354-2055; dnr.state.mn.us).
Where to eat
Feel like a kid with twisty cones blended with candy, banana or Nutella, among the sweet temptations at the Deep Freeze in New London. The ice cream stand also serves flavor-burst soft-serve cones, turtle bars, tacos in a bag, hot dogs and barbecue sandwiches (open seasonally; 1-320-354-0093).
Grab sweet rolls and muffins at the New London Bakery (1-320-354-2243). In Spicer, Zorbaz (1-320-796-2195; zorbaz.com) is popular for lakeside pizza and cold beer, while Bello Cucina serves pastas, pizza and Italian entrees (1-320-796-0203; bellocucina.com).
New London: newlondonmn.net. Spicer: spicermn.com.
Lisa Meyers McClintick (www.lisamcclintick.com) wrote “Day Trips From the Twin Cities” and “The Dakotas Off the Beaten Path.”