Winter Haven

Fr. Edward C. Ramacher

Fr. Ramacher was the priest with St. Francis Xavier Church in Sartell from July 1949-July 1957. During this time he helped create Winter Haven.

Winter Haven

The winter festivities began in 1950 and ended in 1954. The Sunset Lodge Quonset hut was used year round for activities.

Winter Haven was located in what is now Watab Park on Riverside Avenue. Sunset Lodge was on top of the hill on First Street North.

In the photograph you can see the oblong skating rink. Left of the skating rink was the toboggan hill. Sunset Lodge is on top of the hill above the Welcome sign.

Promotional buttons for Winter Haven

St. Cloud Times Article describing the opening of Winter Haven in its first year. Identified in the photograph are left to right, Fr. Ramacher, Mrs. "Ma" Bernick and Governor Luther Youngdahl

A jacket from Winter Haven

An Automobile license plate decoration from Winter Haven

Historical Society display case paying tribute to Winter Haven

Promoting the Fun Valley of Minnesota

Attractions: Winter Haven

By Joyce Gelle

“It is important to provide good, inexpensive, recreation facilities for the community especially for the children and young folks.” was the philosophy expressed by Reverend Edward C. Ramacher in the Fall of 1949. Father Ramacher was a young, new priest at the recently organized St. Francis Xavier Church in Sartell. He wanted to organize a community effort to assist in bringing the different factions together in Sartell and surrounding areas. He had successfully done so in Little Falls and chose to use the same approach in Sartell.

With the assistance of John Shank, Jr. President, Joseph Gallus, Business Manager Ripley Sartell Sr. Vice President and Alec Hovannes, Sect-Treas, and a 46 member board of directors, including Fr. Edward C. Ramacher, this dream became a reality. At 120 ft. long and 40 feet wide, the Sunset Lodge building was constructed on St. Francis Xavier church property which was on a hill adjacent to the Watab River. The building provided over 4000 square feet of space and included amenities such as a roller skating floor. It also had a stage, concession stand and roller skate exchange. Governor Luther Youngdahl officially attended the Grand Opening at 6pm on February 18, 1950. He opened the playground by raising a U.S. Flag made by Ms. Anna “Ma” Bernick. A banquet was held that included all visiting and local dignitaries, queens from many other areas of the state, a musical program and speeches. Each year a Winter Haven Queen was chosen. The winner received an all expense paid week long vacation at the famous Sun Valley, Idaho resort. On February 27, 1950 the Queen, Princesses and her court officially received written notice of their selection as Winter Havens first Royalty.

The center grew to include toboggan rides down the slides built into the slope of the Watab River. A large ice skating rink was built on this river. Ice skating contests were also held. Parades were held that included marching bands, drum corps, dignitaries and all the snow queens. On Sundays, Snow Trains would come from the Twin Cities that included 900-1000 young people wanting to join in this popular winter event.

Over the years many popular musicians, dignitaries, movie stars and even the Buttermaker Officers joined in the fun. In 1953 the program even included a variety show at the St.. Cloud Tech auditorium in St. Cloud. A popular play entitled “Minnesota” was sponsored by Winter Haven at the Paramount Theater in St. Cloud as a money raising event to support Winter Haven events in Sartell.

Excerpt taken from ”History of Sartell, Minnesota Lumber, Paper, Valves, And Progress A Century of Progress Welcoming a Century of Promise” pages 199-200