Monthly Archives: December 2017

2017: Year In Review

Courtesy of Mike Dinndorf

Dear Minnehaha Supporters:

Another year of Minnehaha’s distinguished career has already passed. 2017 brought us a number of hardships, but we prevailed and ended the season successfully with a total ridership of 8,800 passengers. Fun times were had and much business was taken care of, and new friends were made while others are remembered. The following is a recap of just some of the past year’s major events.

The season started in an unfortunate way. While the sale of the former Bayview property was pending, access to Minnehaha’s home dock and utility lines was limited. This led to the cancelation of cruises during Memorial Day weekend. The issue was thankfully resolved after the new owners completed the purchase, and by early June Minnehaha was able to begin operating as scheduled.

The MLM gained several new crewmembers at the beginning of the season. Brett Byriel, who joined the MLM in 2016, was qualified as a Lead Purser by September. We congratulate Brett on his accomplishment and look forward to qualifying more crewmembers next year.

For the fourth year in a row, the MLM partnered up with the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society for three “Tapping History” programs onboard Minnehaha. These included a program by Alan Lizee about the historic sailboat Volante in June and a program by Joni Scheftel about growing up on Big Island in July. Todd Warner returned as host of the third program, the 2nd Annual Lake Minnetonka Antique and Classic Boat Parade, in August. Inspired by a similar event on Lake Muskoka in Canada, approximately fifty boats cruised in tandem with Minnehaha from Excelsior to Wayzata and back.

Per usual, Minnehaha participated in all of the community events in Excelsior and Wayzata this year. Due to unforeseen circumstances, cruises during the Wayzata Art Experience were cut short. However, Excelsior Art on the Lake, James J. Hill Days, and Excelsior Apple Day were all successful. Minnehaha also sailed up to Wayzata for four concerts in July with performances by Jeff Dayton and Davina and The Vagabonds, among others. Furthermore, Minnehaha was a part of the Wayzata Historical Society’s thirty-fifth anniversary celebration in August with two boathouse-themed cruises narrated by historian Joanie Holst.

Courtesy of Jason Jenkins (Sun Sailor)

The season ended with a bang when the MLM welcomed members of the HeritageRail Alliance onboard Minnehaha as part of their annual conference. Members came from across the United States and Canada to ride local heritage rail lines and learn about each respective organization. After riding the Excelsior streetcar line, they boarded Minnehaha – Minnesota’s only “floating streetcar” – and learned a great deal about Lake Minnetonka’s unique transportation history.

On land, MLM volunteers were busy with other efforts. Beginning late last year, work began in earnest on establishing a proper archive for the MLM. The Archives Committee hired Rachel Howell as a professional consultant for the project and worked for several months completing many important tasks. Work continues on various small projects, but the MLM is proud to have a proper archive at last.

Courtesy of the Meloche Family

On a sadder note, the MLM regretfully lost a dear friend this fall. Leo Meloche, who served as Director of the Minnehaha Restoration Project between 1990 and 1996, passed away peacefully on the morning of November 5. Without his tenacity and determination, Minnehaha would have never been restored. Thus, we are eternally grateful for his efforts and are dedicated to carry his legacy on. Rest in peace, Leo.

Despite the hardships of 2017, Minnehaha ran a successful season and is now back in her barn, safe and sound, receiving TLC from our winter maintenance crew. As always, we thank all of our members, volunteers, donors, partners, and passengers for their continued generosity and enthusiasm. With their support we point the bow forward, proudly carrying the legacy into 2018. From all of us at the MLM, Happy New Year!

Courtesy of Jeff Bipes

Archives Update

Aaron Person, Captain

2017 was the year that the MLM finally established a proper archive for its collection of photos, videos, documents, blueprints, and memorabilia. The idea to do this began many years ago, but it was daunting. Volunteer Kathy Newman started the effort by moving the archives to their current location in 2013. Finally, in 2015, an official Archives Committee was formed (members included Aaron Person, Sherry White, Helen Sears, Dave Peterson, Chris Wolf, and Juli Englander). Over the next year the Archives Committee met with and received tours from representatives of the Minnesota Historical Society, Hennepin History Museum, and other organizations to learn the proper basics of archiving.

By 2016 the committee had decided that it would be best to hire a professional consultant for the initial phase of the project. With the expertise of volunteer Helen Sears, the committee received a $9,157 legacy grant from the Minnesota Historical Society for labor and supplies expenses. The committee interviewed three candidates that October and ultimately hired Rachel Garrett Howell as the consulting archivist. Work could finally begin!

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Remembering Leo Meloche

Courtesy of the Meloche Family

Leo Conrad Meloche was born in Escanaba, Michigan on December 17, 1931. After graduating from Washburn High School in Minneapolis in 1950, he went on to study at the University of Minnesota. He served in the United States Army for a time before embarking on a thirty-one-year career in sales at IBM Corporation.

During retirement in the 1980s, Leo eyed the hull of the streetcar steamboat Minnehaha sitting on shore near the edge of town in Excelsior. According to local lore, he and resident Bob Bolles looked at the hull after saving the former Blue Line Café ticket booth. It was then that they conspired to restore Minnehaha back to her original glory.

Leo helped form the Steamboat Division of the Minnesota Transportation Museum (the MLM’s predecessor) in 1990, which subsequently received title to Minnehaha’s hull. A barn near Excelsior public works was constructed later that year so that restoration could begin. After fifty-four years on the bottom of Lake Minnetonka and ten agonizing years on shore, Minnehaha was in rough shape. Nevertheless, the Minnehaha Restoration Project began. Leo would act as Director of the project.

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