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Pine River receives first s'more bench

Ole and Lena's Sweet Revenge of Pine River is the location of the first s'more bench in the lakes area. "We are flattered. We've had a lot of feedback on it. People really like it and there are a lot of photo ops. It was really nice we were the f...

Josh Porter of Avalon Studios, also known for his ox statues throughout the lakes area, installs the very first smore themed bench outside of Ole and Lena's Sweet Revenge in Pine River on behalf of the Whitefish Area Lodging Association. Photo by Travis Grimler
Josh Porter of Avalon Studios, also known for his ox statues throughout the lakes area, installs the very first smore themed bench outside of Ole and Lena's Sweet Revenge in Pine River on behalf of the Whitefish Area Lodging Association. Photo by Travis Grimler

Ole and Lena's Sweet Revenge of Pine River is the location of the first s'more bench in the lakes area.

"We are flattered. We've had a lot of feedback on it. People really like it and there are a lot of photo ops. It was really nice we were the first ones," said Deb Oliver of Ole and Lena's.

This bench has a backrest and seat shaped like a chocolate bar and graham cracker, respectively, along with marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker supports. The bench is one of four benches set to be installed before the completion of the summer season by fiberglass artist Josh Porter, known for his Ox Trot statues.

"It doesn't feel like the Ox Trot because we will probably add a few here and there every year as they determine locations," Porter said. "The mold is actually harder than I thought. I thought it would be a quick thing, but it seems like it never turns out like I think."

The benches are part of a promotion by the Whitefish Area Lodging Association (WALA).

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"Our target audience is young families, so doing it at a park was a great idea," said Kathy Moore, WALA marketing coordinator. "There are so many things at a park they can use. When we started talking to different cities about park benches, a lot of them wanted a uniform look and feel based on their park aesthetics, so we started thinking maybe there were businesses around town that would utilize this. We talked to Josh and asked how it might work."

The benches serve multiple purposes. They are being installed in visible, high traffic locations with the hope of drawing people in for photo opportunities. While there, those in the photos might use the nearby businesses and, unknown to them, their family photos on the bench will bear the "Smorevacation.com" address, hopefully prompting people to see the address, visit the site and see the businesses listed there.

WALA is borrowing real estate for these benches from participating businesses. In addition, they insure the benches for liability and manage any maintenance such as painting and crack sealing, leaving the nearby businesses to reap the rewards of visitors coming to see the benches.

The theme of s'mores is a continuation of one of WALA's local claims to fame.

"We've self declared ourselves the s'more capital of Minnesota," Moore said. "Hopefully it will be an attraction and people will come for miles to see and sit."

WALA and Porter plan to install three more benches this summer, including one near the A-Pine in Jenkins before the end of August, and two in Crosslake at the newly developed Linda Ulland Memorial Garden projects near the Crosslake U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Area.

Over a span of several years, WALA intends to install more benches in the lakes area, a few at a time. The goal is then to expand outside of the area to draw people in.

"Initially, there is a bench coming here in Pine River, one in Jenkins at the A-Pine and two locations in Crosslake," Moore said. "We've also already started having conversations with someone in Pequot Lakes and Ideal Township. The idea is we would kind of circle the Whitefish area with these benches and create some kookiness and then get one in the Mall of America, get one in the Target Center and get one at the Xcel Energy Center and other places with high traffic volume. Initially it will just be local."

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Interested businesses can inquire about benches at vacation@whitefish.org .

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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