Silver Lake Splash: a tradition born out of necessity

Whether attendees wanted to run, splash, float, color or just relax on the beach to enjoy the action, there was plenty going on at 2014’s Silver Lake Splash. (Linda Baumeister/Review)
Whether attendees wanted to run, splash, float, color or just relax on the beach to enjoy the action, there was plenty going on at 2014’s Silver Lake Splash. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Many are comparing the draw of the Silver Lake Splash fundraiser in North St. Paul to the Historical Society's ice cream social of years past.

More than 1,000 beach-goers attend each summer, says volunteer resident Ingrid Koller.

"It's just a really nice way to bring the community together," she says. "It's a fun event."

Keeping with tradition, the sixth annual beach party fundraiser will take place at Silver Lake beach in North St. Paul on Sunday, July 19, from 1 to 5 p.m. All proceeds from the event go to the city's Beach Fund to help pay for lifeguards to staff the public beach.

Saved by residents

For many years, the operating costs for Silver Lake beach were included in the city's budget. But in the wake of the Great Recession, beach funds wound up on the chopping block in 2010.

When residents Koller and Lynette Olsen heard the news, they banded together to come up with a solution for keeping the beach open. With the help of Mary Kvaal and some of their neighbors, they threw together the first Silver Lake Splash fundraiser on short notice.

"We came up with a plan that if we could come up with a good portion of the cost, [the city] would pay the difference of the cost," Kvaal says.

The event raised about $4,000 in its first year, and it's grown steadily, bringing in a little more than $7,000 last year, says Kvaal. The city continues to pick up the remainder of the cost.

Council member Candy Petersen, who's been supporting the event since its inception, says the group is aiming to raise $10,000 this year.

In 2014, it cost the city $24,280 to staff two lifeguards at the beach, so it can remain open.

This year, the beach opened on June 6 and will close Aug. 9. Red Cross-certified lifeguards are on duty daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"It's not only about the money. It's also about raising awareness, so that everyone is aware it takes money to put lifeguards at a beach," says Koller, noting that in addition to keeping swimmers safe, they also keep the beach well maintained.

Time to take off the life vest?

Petersen says she's always considered Silver Lake beach a local gem — one that the city should pay for.

Now that the economy has been on the mend, she thinks it's time to revisit the city's financial role in maintaining the beach.

"It's like snowplowing, I think it should be financed by the city," she says.

Kvaal anticipates that even if the city did absorb the beach expense back into its annual budget, the event would continue on as a popular community event.

If the city ended up covering a greater portion of the expenses, though, she says, they might be able to bring back more entertainment like a water skiing show.

Koller agrees, adding she's never considered the fundraiser a huge burden on volunteers.

"I would say even if we raised only $1,000 ... I doubt the city would say, 'Sorry, we can't have lifeguards.'"

Newly appointed council member Tom Sonnek says he's particularly invested in preserving Silver Lake beach because he considers it a heritage place. He says he's open to revisiting the cost-sharing plan, if need be. 

"I'd hate to do anything that would stifle that community engagement and stop them from their involvement and ownership over it," he says. "But at the same time, they shouldn't feel like they have to have this successful event every year to keep lake open.

"I could see the city billing some of that more back into the budget so the Silver Lake Splash group can continue to grow."

Family-friendly activities

"Any Day Now," a local band that plays at the Church of St. Peter and the Friday night History Cruze Car Show will hit the stage for a feature performance. "Early Bird Strings" will also be playing at the event.

Activities include a martial arts demonstration, inflatable play structures, face painting and a number of carnival games, including a new football toss game this year.

Back by popular demand, those looking to get creative have the opportunity to register for a sand sculpture contest this year. And those looking to dunk a local bartender are encouraged to check out the dunk tank roster on the Silver Lake Splash Facebook page. 

This year's line-up of food vendors includes I heart Smoothies, Stemig Ice Cream, Darn Good Foods, Tot Boss, Snack Shack and Premier Pizza.

The raffle offers a first-place prize of $300 and $200 for second place. Tickets are $5 each and can be purchased by contacting Mary Kvaal or posting on the Silver Lake Splash Facebook page. Tickets will be available for purchase at the event as well.

There will also be a silent auction, featuring items donated by a number of local businesses, including handbags, gift cards, gift baskets, vouchers for fire truck rides, and more.

"I can't thank the city, the community and the businesses enough," Kvaal says. "If it wasn't for them, the event really wouldn't be what it is."

Erin Hinrichs can be reached at 651-748-7814 and ehinrichs@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/EHinrichsNews.


If you go...

Help support the community beach at the Silver Lake Splash fundraiser on Sunday, July 19, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Silver Lake beach located off of 19th Avenue East in North St. Paul.

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