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HomeNewsPapa Charlie’s Destroyed by Fire During Lutsen 99er Mountain Bike Race

Papa Charlie’s Destroyed by Fire During Lutsen 99er Mountain Bike Race

Saturday, June 24 was a bittersweet day for Cook County and visitors to the North Shore.

It started at 6 a.m. with a call to report a fire at Papa Charlie’s, a popular restaurant, bar and mu­sic venue at Lutsen Mountain for many years. As the morning progressed, fire departments from several communities responded to the mutual aid call.

Charlie’s planned to open early that day, 1:00 p.m., to welcome supporters and racers from the Lutsen 99er mountain bike event. They were, according to a Facebook post, to offer, “cheese curds and beer for supporters and racers.”

Next to Grandma’s Marathon, the Lutsen 99er is one of the largest outdoor sporting events on the north shore. Hundreds of people were rid­ing in one of the four distance races through the trails and woods in Cook County. Each had fam­ily and friends there to support them. But by one o’clock it was clear the building was a total loss and Papa Charlie’s wouldn’t be opening.

In the past, the Lutsen 99er began on Lutsen Mountain at Papa Charlie’s doorstep. This year the start of the races had been moved down to the parking lot of Superior National Golf Course at US Highway 61.

In addition to Papa Charlie’s, the building housed servers and network equipment that keep Lutsen Mountains operating. The folks at Lutsen Mountains will be posting updates on their Face­book page and website as they recover from this tragic loss.

The gondolas and other facilities on the prop­erty were not impacted by the fire and no injuries were reported.

Six north shore fire departments responded to help contain the fire and minimize damage. Lutsen first responders, some who were also race volunteers, were first on the scene. They received mutual aid from departments from Tofte, Schro­eder, Grand Marais, Maple Hill, and Silver Bay.

Also responding were personnel from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, North Shore Health Ambulance, US Forest Service, and Ar­rowhead Electric Cooperative.

In a press release the day of the fire, Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen wrote, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this tragic loss. Papa Charlie’s holds a special place in everyone’s heart and mind. We are fortunate that we have such a wonderful volunteer public safety response in Cook County to prevent fur­ther loss.”

On a happier note that day, Cook County’s na­tive son Will Surbaugh, a professional mountain bike racer, earned the first place medal in the Lutsen 99er.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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