Archived Story

Phelps Mill Festival welcomes new manager, offers same great attractions

Published 11:15am Friday, July 12, 2013

The Phelps Mill Festival is one celebration filled with timeless standards: great food, music, arts and crafts and scenery. New to this year’s festival, however, is a face behind the scenes that most visitors may never see.

Last fall, Ashby native Ken Martin took over as the manager for the festival after 10 years of helping with the weekend’s planning, setup and security. Martin has attended the festival since he was 5 when his parents would sell crafts at the event.

With the festival a family event every year, Martin has learned to appreciate what the festival brings to local residents and summer vacationers.

“I love the variety. I could walk through the exhibits 100 times. I just really appreciate everyone’s skills,” Martin said. “And the food. Love the food.”

Serving different roles in the past, Martin brought a wide range of experience to the position this year. Entering the final few weeks of preparation, Martin relied on that experience to make sure everything was finished.

As an employee at the Fergus Locker Plant, he even had a hand in preparing the weekend’s food, as he cut 4,000 pork chops for the Underwood Lions to serve.

“I’ve kind of got all aspects of this festival under control,” Martin said with a laugh.

The festival grounds are open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. A pancake breakfast is served on each day at 8 a.m.

The festival features 150-plus exhibits of arts and crafts, offering a number of new and returning artists and vendors. Nonprofit groups will also provide a variety of ethnic and American foods.

Four local Lions groups, including those from Underwood, Battle Lake, Ottertail and Dalton will be involved with the festival. Each day will be full of entertainment as well, including comic James Wedgewood at noon and 2:45 p.m. on Saturday and the Boundary Water Boys at 1:15 p.m and 4. On Sunday, the 57 Chevy band will perform starting at 12:45 p.m.

One of the most popular festivals in the area, the Phelps Mill Festival welcomes between 8,000 to 15,000 each year. With admission at $3 a person, with children 12 and under free, the day has always been affordable fun for the whole family.

For Martin, the unique beauty of the festival’s location has been one of its biggest draws. With easy parking, cool shade and plenty of green grass, the festival is always comfortable, even when the grounds get crowded.

But most impressive is the hard work of so many workers who make the festival run smoothly. Each year, Martin takes a step back to admire all they accomplish. This year, with his new position, that will be even more special.

“It’s amazing, just amazing, to see it all transform in half a day,” he said. “A lot of people really enjoy it, and that’s what I love.”

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