If Duluth feels like home,
it's because it could be.


Hansi Johnson


Destination Duluth’s purpose is to educate and inspire people about the quality of place of Duluth, Minnesota, thereby shaping the city and region’s positive growth.

Grandma’s Marathon Is A World-Class Event with Small-Town Charm

It’s almost that time of year again: Grandma’s Marathon weekend. Known as one of Duluth’s unofficial holidays, the race is a huge part of the fabric of our community and has been since its inception in 1977.

Unsurprisingly, it takes many, many people to put on a great marathon. This includes staff and interns, volunteers, Board members, sponsors, and runners alike. And we certainly can’t forget to mention the support of our community’s fine residents and business owners, who provide such great hospitality for our guests.

Recently, Destination Duluth visited with some of the people who make the event happen: Zach Schneider, Marketing and PR Director, Grandma’s Marathon; Tom DeSutter, race volunteer; and runner, Tony Loyd.

Each eagerly provided their unique perspective on what makes Grandma’s Marathon so great. They also explain why the marathon’s tagline – “a world-class event with small-town charm” – is so fitting.


Grandma’s Marathon began in 1977 when a group of local runners planned a scenic road race from Two Harbors to Duluth. There were only 150 participants that year, but organizers knew they were on to something special.

The first poster advertising the inaugural Grandma's Marathon in 1977. Photo submitted.

The race got its name from the Duluth-based group of Grandma’s Restaurants, the first major Marathon sponsor. Grandma’s Marathon is now a self-governed nonprofit organization with a 17-member board of directors. There is also a staff of 11 full-time employees, plus interns and seasonal staff.

“The North Shore Striders was the name of the group who started the first race,” Schneider explained. “The Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon was added in 1991, and the William A. Irvin 5k was added in 1994. And today, Grandma’s Restaurants are still a major sponsor.”

Dick Beardsley & Garry Bjorklund share a drink near a water station during the 1981 Grandma's Marathon. Beardsley went on to win that race in 2:09:37, an event record that stood until 2014. Photo submitted.

Weekend Timeline

This year’s “Grandma’s Weekend” will be June 15-17th, 2023. The weekend kicks off with the Essentia Health Fitness Expo, held Thursday, June 15th – Friday, June 16th at the DECC. Here, 100+ vendors will be on-hand, displaying race-related gear.

Guest speakers and authors will also take part, including Duluth native – and Olympic athlete – Kara Goucher, along with another runner, and the author of “Running While Black,” Alison Mariella Desir.

Friday’s festivities will include the annual Michelina’s All-You-Can-Eat Spaghetti Dinner; a tradition for 47 years. Saturday will bring the children’s whippersnapper events. And the entire weekend will feature plenty of live music and other entertainment.


Grandma’s Marathon leadership are incredibly pleased with this year’s numbers. “For 2023, we have more than 20,000 runners registered,” Schneider said. “And we sold out back in March, which was one of our earliest sellouts.”

Zach Schneider, Marketing and PR Director chats with a local reporter. Submitted photo.

Schneider provided plenty of other interesting race statistics, too:

  • Grandma’s Marathon is the 12th largest marathon in the United States
  • In 2023, just over 9,000 people will run the full marathon
  • In 2023, 9,400 people will run the ½ marathon
  • In 2023, 2,700 people will run the 5k
  • An estimated 45,000-50,000 people are expected to travel to Duluth in 2023 for Grandma’s weekend
  • Race leadership expects an economic impact of roughly $21M
  • All 50 states will be represented with runners
  • Runners are expected from 68 countries, including Mexico, Ethiopia, Canada and Kenya
  • A whopping 3,500-4,000 volunteers are needed for the race. Volunteers handle everything from water station stops, questions about the event, finish line logistics, the spaghetti dinner, and much more.
  • The top men’s and women’s finishers will earn a prize of $10,000
  • The top men’s and women’s wheelchair finishers will earn a prize of $3,000
  • The top men’s and women’s half marathon winners will earn a prize of $3,000
  • Other prizes, such as time incentives and winners of the non-binary category, will also be awarded.

Schneider also added that this year’s marathon should be extra-exciting, due to the large demographic of elite runners. “It’s an Olympic trials year, so we expect a really strong field of runners,” he noted.

More than 9,000 participants begin the race at the start line of the 2019 Grandma's Marathon near Two Harbors. Photo by Jack Rendulich.

Duluth's Uniqueness

Duluth provides the perfect backdrop for a June marathon. “There are so many things that make Grandma’s in Duluth so special,” Schneider said. “Duluth offers a unique combination of elements that add up to make it the 12th largest race in the U.S.

“We have lots of natural beauty, including the race route along Lake Superior, and the fact that you’re basically running in the northern Minnesota wilderness for the first 20 miles. Then, the runners see people for the last six miles, when they really need a boost.

“The people here also make it great,” he added. “Our city has always opened its arms to be welcoming to runners. The event is well-organized, and runners feel like they’re wanted and appreciated. We have such wonderful hotels and restaurants, too. The entire community feels it when its Grandma’s weekend.

“And, when it comes to weather,” he added, “The temps are typically in the low-to-mid 50s, rising to maybe the 60s with the wind off the Lake, which pushes the runners.

“Grandma’s has really become an unofficial holiday here in Duluth. What happens here during Grandma’s weekend isn’t common; we should be proud of it.”

3500+ Volunteers

Troll Mile --- Jim & Barb Collette greet runners in front of their home along the Grandma's Marathon racecourse. For more than a decade, the Collettes have decorated their curb with hundreds of trolls to "watch" the marathon and "cheer" on the participants. Submitted photo

Tom DeSutter has been volunteering for Grandma’s Marathon for over 20 years. This year, he will serve as co-volunteer coordinator for the Marathon information booths.

“We operate two information booths, one on Thursday evening and two on Friday of Grandma's weekend,” he explained. “I share the coordinator responsibilities with an old friend and workmate, Joan Andrews.

“Together, we recruit, train and schedule approximately 30 information booth volunteers annually.  We are the 'go-to' people for all concerns during race weekend.  Fortunately for us, come race day, our work is complete and we get to enjoy the spectator activities.”

DeSutter shared some positive remarks about what makes Grandma’s so special. “The entire atmosphere surrounding race weekend makes it a ‘festival of running’ in my mind,’ he noted.

“Since both the half and full marathon are point-to-point races, it requires extra coordination. (Start line bussing, gear bag management, and a myriad of other concerns). But, all the work pays big dividends for the runners, as Grandma's truly is a unique and fun event.

“The residents of Duluth really do embrace the marathon year after year,” DeSutter added. “It is certainly an inconvenience for some (people who live on the course in particular), but they still travel up and down the course and experience the enthusiasm for the runners.

“Musical groups providing live music, along with a cast of characters providing all kinds of entertainment suggest that the residents of Duluth are ‘all in’ when Grandma's weekend arrives every June!”

A Runner's Perspective

Runner Tony Loyd is scheduled to participate in his 4th Grandma’s Marathon this year. Loyd is originally from Arkansas, but currently lives in Little Canada, Minnesota.

Loyd shared his thoughts about the race. “You know how they say Grandma's is a world-class event with small-town charm? It is absolutely true! Grandma's punches above its weight class. And they do so with a tiny staff. The few staff members wear a lot of hats. And the volunteers fill in the gap. How they pull this off year after year, well, it's a miracle.

A runner is overcome with emotion while crossing the finish line during the 2021 Grandma's Marathon. Submitted photo

“I would stack Grandma’s Marathon against marathons in major cities around the world: Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York, Tokyo, and Duluth – which one of these is not like the other? And yet, Grandma’s is a world-class marathon.

“It's amazing how Grandma's enjoys the support of cities, villages, and counties,” he added. “I talk to a lot of race directors. They tell me that it's getting tougher to put on races. They don't always get the kind of cooperation they need. Grandma's Marathon enjoys deep community support. It takes a village, and all the villages from Two Harbors to Duluth show up. I've never been anywhere where the entire town shuts down and comes out to support a running event. Grandma's is special.

Loyd also shared how Grandma's Marathon has all the components of what he calls a “perfect marathon,” including:

  • Flat and fast, but with a few rolling hills to let you recruit different muscles
  • A beautiful, scenic course
  • World-class elite runners
  • Plenty of citizen runners
  • Great crowd support
  • Friendly volunteers
  • Medical volunteers
  • Press corps
  • Sponsors


For Schneider and his small but mighty crew, hosting Grandma’s is a highly rewarding endeavor. The marathon is a premiere event that the entire region should be proud of.

Bridge Finishers --- Participants proudly display their finisher medals with the Aerial Lift Bridge in the background following the 2018 Grandma's Marathon. Submitted Photo

“I don’t think big things should be reserved for big places,” he said. “It’s incredible to see what can happen when people work toward this combined good. Grandma’s is proof of what can happen when the community comes together.”

For more information, please visit grandmasmarathon.com.


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A Taste of Jamaica In the Heart of Duluth

A Taste of Jamaica In the Heart of Duluth

Spicy, mouth-watering Caribbean cuisine is served up with pride in Chef Tony O’Neil’s kitchen at his popular Jamrock Cultural Restaurant.

Chef Tony O'Neil. Photo submitted.

O’Neil was born in Miami, lived in Jamaica for a few years as a young boy, and then moved back to Miami. “I get my love of cooking and many of my recipes from my grandmother who also moved to Miami. I would watch her prep and cook and found that cooking authentic Caribbean dishes was something I was really passionate about,” O’Neil said.

After attending college at the University of North Dakota and playing Arena League Football, he moved to Duluth. While working a few other jobs, he started manning the grill outside of Duluth’s Aces, cooking up jerk chicken, cornbread, and mac and cheese.

Word of mouth spread, and seeing that his food routinely sold out, O’Neill went in search of another place to cook and serve his food. In Superior, he worked out of the Business Center and at Average Joe’s.

Deciding to come back across the bridge, he set up shop in the location of the former Pak’s Green Corner, and he has now made his home at 319 W. 1st Street in the Duluth Building.

Working with a team of five, he has a full menu of unique dishes, from starters to desserts, to give patrons a true culinary adventure every time they return. O’Neil says, “Everything at Jamrock is always fresh, never reheated, never cooked and frozen to reheat and serve later.”

On the Menu

Jamrock’s customers love to start with some of his delectable sweet, buttery coco bread, grilled Bob Marley jerk seasoned wings, or his spicy beef or jerk chicken in a golden pasty crust. Another starter favorite is his jumbo Carnival shrimp dish with jerk seasoning and mango chutney and relish.

Photo submitted.


His sandwiches include reggae jerk, blackened tilapia, chicken breast, and jerk pork leg. Some of Jamrock’s seafood delights are whole red snapper, salmon, and tilapia.

For entrees, diners have a potpourri of choices: shrimp, (jerk, curry, scampi, or Carnival), jerk or curry chicken, lamb chops, curry goat, Jamaican pepper steak, and his legendary oxtails.

O’Neil says that his most popular dishes are jerk chicken, loaded fries, pepper steak, and Mac and cheese. “I am really proud of our Gouda Loaded Mac n’ Cheese. People say it is the best mac and cheese anywhere,” he said.

Other sides to choose from are butter green beans, cabbage, plantains, potato salad, cornbread, and Jamaican street corn.

Specials also pop up on the menu frequently from the inspired Chef Tony who might whip up jerk ribs, beef brisket and polish beef, or loaded brisket street tacos.

Jerk ribs, Gouda Loaded Mac n’ Cheese and cornbread. Submitted photo.

He has wowed his customers with his specials of shrimp po boys with a Cajan aioli sauce, a chicken and andouille sausage pastalaya with loaded crawfish bread, and stuffed jerk ribeye made with King crab, gouda, onions and peppers.

For desserts, O’Neil works with Chef Paul Lukens, a local pastry chef, who has the Scarlett Pie shop. Mostly on weekends, Jamrock has some of Chef Paul’s cheesecake and French blueberry syrup, banana pudding pie with tropical jam and coconut filling on top, or his rum cake.

Jamrock offers dine-in, take-out, and delivery with Food Dudes. Many patrons like to keep up on specials and new menu items on Jamrock’s Facebook page that O’Neil updates daily.

“I love being a chef. It doesn’t feel like work,” he noted. “When I look out at my customers and see them putting fork to mouth and enjoying their meals, it really gives me a good feeling. I am also proud of providing jobs for my employees and working together with them to make the restaurant great.”

He added, “Our food offers a different option for diners. It is not your standard menu. I call it a cultural restaurant because we are not just providing wonderful food, but also giving people a diverse taste of another culture.”

Happy diners give their testimonials on Jamrock’s webpage at jamrockculturalrestaurant.com.  “Absolutely the best food in the Twin Ports, hands down.” "Amazing food and service and an upbeat atmosphere. I love that Tony wants to serve his community and strives to put out the best product possible.”

Jamrock is also available to cater a variety of events: holiday parties, grand opening celebrations corporate events, weddings and more. They bring Caribbean flair to any event.

Chef Tony says on his website, “At Jamrock Cultural Restaurant, we have three main goals. We want to share good food with the community, bring people together to bond over a meal, and create a go-to spot for fun times.”

Jamrock’s hours are: Open Tuesday through Saturday from noon until 9 pm. Closed on Sunday, available for special events, Closed Monday.

For more information, call 218-310-6320, follow them on Facebook, or visit their website at jamrockculturalrestaurant.com

 On June 3, ONeil is having a Jamrock Summer Groove party where people can dance, drink, eat and have a good time. Chef Tony will serve up jerk chicken on the grill, cornbread, and more. A DJ will provide the Afrobeats, reggae, and hip-hop music to keep the party vibe going from 10 pm to 2:30 am.



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Duluth Airshow is High-Flying Family Fun

To the delight of aviation aficionados everywhere, one of Duluth’s premiere events will be returning in 2023. The Duluth Air & Aviation Expo (aka “Duluth Airshow”), presented by Essentia Health, will take place for the 15th time, the weekend of July 15-16th.

Skilled pilots from the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force A-10 Demonstration Team will enthrall the crowds below by flying overhead in a variety of high-tech aircraft. These talented aviators also show off some pretty unique formations.

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels headline the 2023 Duluth Airshow. Photo submitted.

The event also features aviation-related displays and vendors. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. And, adventurous spectators can even sign up to take rides in the aircraft.

Best of all? The event is appropriate for the entire family.

Duluth Airshow performers mingling with the spectators. Photo submitted.


Ryan Kern, who is the president and founder of Duluth-based business Kern and Kompany, shared that the Airshow typically draws impressively large crowds, consisting of visitors and locals alike. Many staff are needed, too; in addition to Kern’s internal team, it takes a whopping 500 volunteers per day to coordinate and produce such a large event.

Over 500 volunteers each day assure a smooth experience. Photo submitted.

“Our attendance is typically around 50,000 spectators, with approximately 75% coming from the Twin Cities Metro area,” he noted. “But we also have people coming from all over the world. We get regular attendees from Europe, Canada and Mexico each year.”

The Duluth Airshow is Minnesota's largest spectator event north of the Twin Cities. Photo submitted.

Unsurprisingly, the event is quite popular with those who have served in the military, too. “The Airshow is the largest gathering of veterans in the state of Minnesota,” Kern added.

Many veterans are thrilled to attend the Duluth Airshow. Photo submitted.


Kern has always had personal ties to the military and grew up around aviation. His grandfather, father, and stepfather all served in the U.S. Air Force.

After starting Kern and Kompany, Kern found success producing a variety of local events. But he knew there was a niche yet to fill in the community – an airshow.

“Kern and Kompany was established in 1997 and we started out doing small events, mostly sports related, in the community,” Kern explained. “When I had the idea of reintroducing an airshow to the Duluth community, it became very clear that I was going to need to get support from some key players early on, and also personally accept any financial risk associated with the event.”

He continued, “At just 25 years old, I headed to Washington, DC to meet with Congressman James Oberstar about a new era for airshows in Duluth. With the Congressman’s swift support of a young entrepreneur with a big vision, the Duluth Air & Aviation Expo as we know it today came to be.”

The late U.S. Congressman James Oberstar was a key supporter in starting the Duluth Airshow. Photo by congress.gov

In addition to the Airshow, Kern and Kompany produces many other well-known Duluth favorites, such as the Duluth Drag Races - a one-of-a-kind legal drag racing event that takes place on a public street (Garfield Avenue). A new addition under the Kern umbrella is a multi-generational celebration of German heritage: Duluth Oktoberfestival.

Kern, along with his staff of five, also plans and execute the Essentia Health High School All-Star Game Series. They also work behind the scenes at events like the AAD Shrine Circus and other regional events.


The Duluth Airshow, which offers fun for all ages, is held on the mid-field apron of the Duluth International Airport, between Monaco Air and Cirrus Aircraft. Kern provided some details about the weekend’s logistics.

“The Duluth Airshow grounds cover a space which is over a half a mile long, and we fill it up with entertainment which is well-suited for everyone - from the first-time airshow attendee to the most hard-core aviation enthusiasts!

“Just like any large-scale event, plan time for event traffic and parking. Prepare for the Duluth Airshow the way you would for the State Fair or an event at Target Field: dress in layers, give yourself lots of lead time, and enjoy the flying, the static displays, the fair-style food options, and the educational and entertainment vendors.”

“I recommend wearing comfortable footwear and planning to spend the day with us,” he added. “The gates are open from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., with the flying window taking place between 11:00 and 4:30.

Pro Tips and What to Bring

Kern recommends that spectators bring three things to the Airshow: ear protection, seating, and sunscreen. Their website provides a valuable Top 10 Insider Tips

“Some of the aircraft flying at the show will be loud …really, really loud! The announcer does a great job of letting the crowd know when ear protection is needed ahead of time, so no one will need to wear earplugs all day, but this is a must-have item.

Earplugs are strongly recommended as F16s roar past the crowd. Photo submitted.

“Complimentary earplugs will be made available at the show from our presenting partner, Essentia Health, but we also recommend over-the-ear protection for children. Often, the foam earplugs are not a great fit for kids.

“And, unless you have purchased a Presidential Chalet or Flight Line ticket in advance, you must bring your own seat,” he added. “The Airshow is different than an outdoor concert where a blanket might work; you will definitely want a chair for this event because the pavement can get hot and uncomfortable.

“And, finally, sunscreen," Ryan emphatically states, "I cannot stress this one enough! Wear sunscreen and reapply often! By design, shade is scarce at the Duluth Airshow to maximize the amazing views of the planes, but sunscreen is a must when you are planning to spend the day under the open sky.”


The Duluth Airshow has received many recognitions over the years. Since its inception in 2001, the show has received Pinnacle Awards for Business Ethics and Contract Negotiations, Event Expansion and Education, Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Waste Reduction Green Initiative, and The Duluth Airshow’s Protected Group Fund, making the Duluth Airshow the most awarded and recognized show in the entire United States.

The Pinnacle Awards, presented by the International Council of Airshows (ICAS), recognize creative thinking, professional execution, and demonstrable results in the areas of airshow operations and management.


Kern and his wife, Lindsay, who serves as Community Outreach Director for Kern and Kompany, live in Duluth’s Piedmont Heights neighborhood with their two daughters, Reagan (15), and Paisley (12).

Ryan and Lindsay Kern are the founders and organizers of Duluth Airshow. Photo submitted.

The Kerns are lifelong Duluthians, other than the fact that Ryan Kern attended high school abroad in Aberdeen, Scotland. Like so many parents, much of their time outside of work is spent participating in the activities that have captured the interest of their children.

But in the time that they carve out for family, they enjoy traveling together to new and exciting destinations, and of course, taking in events large and small to continue to learn about and bring new ideas to the Duluth community.


For this Duluth family, producing events that support our local economy and have a substantial economic impact while bringing many visitors to the area is a rewarding endeavor.

“The Duluth Airshow highlights the important role that aviation plays in our community," Linsay stated. It also "ignites excitement in the next generation of aviators, celebrates the men and women of the armed forces past and present, and has an economic impact that pumps dollars into our local economy. For all these reasons and many more, we are proud to produce the Duluth Airshow in the place we call home.”

“The support from our community is the key to our success,” Lindsay shared. “We are frequently recruited to bring this event to other cities across the nation, but Duluth is our home, and it’s important to us that we make you proud to have this event in your community."

Goals and Dreams

Kern and Kompany are constantly looking for new ways to layer and bring more value to the Duluth Airshow that showcases our region as an aviation mecca.

In 2021, Essentia Health signed on as a presenting sponsor, bringing increased reach and valuable resources to the event. In turn, this partnership has allowed the attendance and awareness of the event to soar all across the midwestern United States.

Ryan and his team are always working on ways to keep spectators excited about the future of aviation at the show. “Each year we intentionally change over 95% of our performers, and work hard to bring in military and civilian aircraft on the ground so people can get up close and see it,” he explained.

“This year, we tasked ourselves with securing F-35s that will be displayed on the ground so people can experience the latest generation of American airpower.”

General admission, upgraded seating, and parking tickets for the Duluth Airshow can be purchased online at duluthairshow.com. General admission tickets are also available at all Menards locations throughout Minnesota.


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Big Daddy’s - Come Hungry, Leave Stuffed... Guaranteed!

Big Daddy’s - Come Hungry! Leave Stuffed! Guaranteed!

Big Daddy's Caricature of owner Dave Gonhue. Photo submitted.

In the Twin Ports burger scene, a few iconic places come instantly to mind. For many tourists and home-town folks alike, it doesn’t get any better than the legendary burger and fries platter at Big Daddy’s restaurant in Duluth’s Piedmont neighborhood.

From his humble beginning as a teenager working as a dishwasher at Country Kitchen in Duluth to his amazing success in his twenty-plus tenure with Big Daddy’s, Owner Dave Gonhue has forged his own path.

He had been working for a few restaurants in the area, including Blackwoods, honing his cooking skills, when his mother-in-law gave him the opportunity to buy her restaurant in Butte Falls, Oregon, and move there.

Instead, Gonhue chose to stay in the Twin Ports, where he grew up, and pursue his own culinary track. When he decided to open his own place, after doing the leg work to make that happen, he found his location in a small strip mall at 2828 Piedmont Avenue. He has stayed ever since, opening the doors of Big Daddy’s in 2001.

Gonhue’s no-frills, down-home cooking has grown with increasing popularity, and he has built a loyal clientele in the twenty-plus years since.

Burger Lovers’ Choices Galore

While you can get a basic version of a hamburger or cheeseburger at Big Daddy’s, the question is why would you want to? An incredible array of choices there bring customers back to try a multitude of other toppings and variations.

The seasoned 1/3 pound hamburger can be prepared with different choices of cheeses, bacon, olives, chili, onions, jalapeños, mushrooms and much more.

Big Daddy's popular BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger

Other options include a pizza burger, a vegetarian burger, the Big Daddy, the Big Mama, and the Mega Cheese. And diners with bugger appetites can choose to get a 1/2 pound burger instead of 1/3 pound.

Of course, each burger comes with a heaping 1/2 pound serving of their famous delectable fresh-cut, seasoned fries.

Everything is prepared in their open kitchen, right in the center of the restaurant. Some people like to sit right at the counter and watch as their meals are cooked.

“I like to have the kitchen open for everyone to see their meals being prepared. It is part of the restaurant’s fun atmosphere, and the kids love it,” he said.

Gonhue has fond memories of going to supper clubs like Superior’s Cronstrom’s with his parents and watching the chefs who would cook steaks right in the dining room.

“I was one of those kids who liked to watch chefs work in their white coats and their chefs’ hats. I think that was the start of my wanting to cook and own my own place

Wait, There’s More!

If you are looking to change it up from a burger and fries, Big Daddy’s offers a potpourri of hometown cafe favorites such as their pot roast and gravy, hot turkey sandwich, meatloaf and more.

“I went through several versions of the meatloaf to get to the one that was approved by my mom,” he said.

Mom-approved meatloaf. Photo submitted.

Other favorite choices are hot dogs, chili dogs, chicken wraps, fish sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, grilled ham and cheese, BLTs, and Denver sandwiches.

Sides include cheese and chili cheese fries, onion rings, cheese sticks, broccoli, side salads, soups, cole slaw and cottage cheese. Diners can pair their food with a chocolate, vanilla or strawberry malt, or a variety of fountain Pepsi-product soft drinks with free refills, or canned sodas.

Big Daddy’s also serves a variety of breakfast dishes including omelets, eggs, country-fried steak, biscuits and gravy, corned beef hash, breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, French toast and a potpourri of sides. “We think we have the best breakfast in town,” Gonhue added.

The Big Daddy omelet. Photo submitted.

Seniors can get smaller portions of many of the breakfast and lunch/dinner options. Big Daddy’s also features a kid’s menu.

Big Eaters’ Bragging Rights

Big Daddy’s invites people to “become part of burger-eating royalty” by competing in one of their eating challenges—the smaller “Belly Buster” Challenge or the Big Daddy of all eating competitions, “The Challenge.”

The one-hour “Challenge” features a monster burger with 7 pounds of beef patties, 22 pieces of bacon, 22 slices of cheese, and 2 pounds of fries.

The Challenge Burger. Photo submitted.

This daunting feat has a one-hour time limit. Those who are able to eat it all receive their meal free, a Big Daddy's T-shirt and have their photo added to the restaurant’s “Wall of Fame.”

“Believe it or not, the person who has done this the fastest and completed it all is a petite, 120 pound woman!” Dave said with a chuckle.

Molly S. won the 7lb challenge burger and fries contest. Photo submitted.

Fresh foods

“I also take pride in our fresh foods, with no frozen meats ever. And we were happy to have been named Best Burger in the Twin Ports a few times.”

In his small, unassuming diner restaurant, in a quiet neighborhood, Gonhue can still be found behind the grill, flipping burgers that are a far cry from fast food, and putting a smile on his customers’ faces, from their very first bite.


Follow Big Daddy's on Facebook. For a complete menu, go to duluthsbestburgers.com







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Matt Baumgartner is a passionate advocate for Duluth

Matt Baumgartner President of the Chamber, Passionate Advocate for Duluth

Taken on North Shore Scenic Railroad Train Left to right: Amanda (wife), Benny (son), Matt, Ruby (daughter), Liz (sister). Photo submitted.  

Many people speak glowingly of their hometowns. But not everyone can say they’ve made it their life’s work to make that town a better place. Matt Baumgartner, who was born and raised right here in Duluth, has made it his mission to do both.

Baumgartner has served as the President of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce since July 19th, 2021, upon the retirement of his long-time predecessor, David Ross.

Referencing his drive to pursue this role, Baumgartner said, “Duluth should be prosperous for everyone, and I believe that the Chamber is the organization best positioned to drive that vision. Leading the Chamber became a goal for me when I realized it was the convergence of my passions, including business, community, and leadership.”

In addition to forging ahead in a Duluth-centered profession, Baumgartner and his wife Amanda share a personal passion for the area, and believe Duluth is a great place to raise their two young children.

Amanda and Matt Baumgartner at the 152nd Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Dinner. Submitted photo.

Left to right: Benny (son), Ruby (daughter). Submitted photo.

“Duluth offers natural beauty and amenities, a diverse local economy, and an adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit, which all converge in the Northland to bring unparalleled opportunity to our region,” Baumgartner said. “It is the reason that my wife and I remain steadfast in our desire to raise our children here.”

Deep Roots

As noted, Baumgartner has lived in Duluth all his life. He grew up in the Chester Bowl area and now lives in Lakeside.

His father, Tab, has worked for St. Luke’s for nearly 40 years, while his mother, Susan, also has nearly 40 years’ tenure - with the City of Duluth. Baumgartner shared that his parents were an inspiration for the path he ultimately took in life.

Matt Baugmgarter's family. Front row left to right: Dan (twin) and Peggy (great aunt) Back row: Mary (sister), Tab (Dad), Matt holding Ruby (daughter), Susie (Mom), Liz (sister), and Joe (brother). Photo submitted

“My parents instilled in me a spirit of community involvement and servant leadership,” he noted. “They both have served on numerous boards and commissions seeking to better our region for everyone.”

Baumgartner has four siblings: two sisters and two brothers, one of whom is his twin.

Matt and his twin brother Dan at Ridgeview Country Club during the Downtown Duluth golf scramble. Submitted photo

Education and Earlier Career

After graduating from Duluth Central High School, Baumgartner attended St. John’s University, where he studied business management. He also played basketball for the university.

Later, he attended Excelsior College, a private, non-profit institution in Albany, New York, where he earned his Master of Business Administration (MBA), with a concentration in accounting. Interestingly, Baumgartner’s late uncle, Dr. Bernard Schumacher, was an Associate Dean for the school.

Prior to working for the Chamber, Baumgartner worked at Grandma’s Restaurant Corporation, where he served as General Manager and Director of Government Affairs.

He began his career with the Chamber in 2016 and has held a variety of roles in subsequent years, including Board member (2017-2018), Chamber’s Executive Committee (2017-2018), Chair-elect (2018-2019), Chair (2019-2020), and Past-Chair (2020).

Civic Duties

Over the years, he has also been active in civic organizations. From 2012-2017, Baumgartner served on the Board of Directors for the Lake Superior Marine Museum. He served as the President of the Canal Park Business Association, for nearly five years. Additionally, he was a participant on the Mayoral Downtown Task Force, the Spirit Mountain Task Force, and a was member of the FIRST Robotics Regional Planning Committee.

Currently, he is a member of the DECC Board of Directors, its Treasurer, and a Finance Committee member, and is the Chair of the Duluth Area YMCA Association Corporate Board.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has recently asked him to serve on their Chamber Executive Board (MCCE). Here, Baumgartner will be the only representative from the northern half of the state.

Personal Life

Baumgartner met his wife, Amanda – who is also from Duluth - in 2007, and they were married in 2012. Amanda is also an accomplished professional; she earned her Master’s degree in clinical social work from The College of St. Scholastica, and works as a psychotherapist for Essentia at Amberwing.

The couple have two young children: Ruby (3), and Benny (1). The Baumgartner family enjoys a wide variety of interests. Ruby loves skiing, and Benny loves exploring. Matt enjoys outdoor activities and reading. Amanda loves camping, yoga, reading, the outdoors, and traveling. They all love spending time together as a family.

In regards to Baumgartner’s goals, he had this to say. “Personally, my goals are just to have a healthy and happy family. Professionally, my goals are to help make Duluth realize its potential, and create a region that is the best place to raise a family. With that, we would have excellent business conditions with great jobs; public safety; equity and inclusion; great schools and access to education; access to reliable and affordable health care; an excellent quality of life; population growth; and tax base growth.”

Chamber – Next 150 years

The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce celebrated 150 years in 2020. Looking ahead, Baumgartner has big plans for the next 150. “I want to unfreeze our organization from any status quo and adopt a new and bigger vision,” he noted.

“We set out with an ambitious plan – for our organization as an enterprise, as an operation, and also for the work we do in service to our businesses and community,” he added. “This plan would reposition our Chamber and its ability to provide collaborative leadership and influence in our region.

Taken at the 148th Fighter Wing Left to right: Daniel Fanning (Duluth Chamber), Matt Baumgartner (Duluth Chamber), Senator Amy Klobuchar, Jennifer Cady (board chair-elect and Military Affairs Committee Chair), and Colonel Curtis Grayson (148th Fighter Wing)

“We conducted a deep, rigorous strategic planning process. It affirmed certain things we were doing well, and revealed other areas of opportunity where we could do better. Our events are top-notch and we have solid programs. We do well with membership retention. We have a strong communications department.

“However, we have opportunities. We need to lead on policy and advocacy. This should be central to our work as a Chamber. Yet, we have not had a person in this role for quite some time. I am proud to say we have a policy person now.

“We need financial resources to have a deeper impact on business conditions, economic development, and community development. I live and breathe finances, and our financial position, like many organizations, has been challenged by rising expenses, and we simply cannot just pass those through to our members.

“The research shows that successful large Chambers should have a Foundation to support the efforts of the Chamber. We have answered that call.

“Our new Foundation is now the largest Chamber Foundation in all of Northern Minnesota. It will support the work and mission of the Chamber and strive to improve economic opportunities, equity, and improved quality of life through research, education, advocacy, participating in charitable activities, and support of individuals, businesses, entrepreneurs, and economic transactors.

“By adding a policy person and establishing a Foundation, we are now positioned to be the most influential business advocacy organization in Northern Minnesota.”

Why Duluth?

When asked, Baumgartner can very quickly point out many reasons people may want to #befromDuluth.

“Raising a family requires access to medical care,” he said. “It requires great neighborhoods with public safety. It requires great education at all levels, and in Duluth we are fortunate to have great schools from K-12 AND Lake Superior College, CSS, and UMD.

“We also have world-class research being done on the industries of the future taking place at the Natural Resource Research Institute just off Highway 53 in Duluth,” he added. “So, we are truly educating for the future.”

He continued, “It also requires a vibrant, growing economy that is diverse enough to withstand industry downturns. Here, we have arts and entertainment, aviation, banking and financial services, clean energy, construction, higher education, IT, manufacturing, medical, natural resources, the port, recreation, retail, support service, tourism, and transportation.

“Who else can offer all of that (and more) buttressed by the outdoor opportunities we offer?! The four seasons have been mentioned – how about four seasons of fishing? We also have Hartley, Lester Park, Hawk Ridge, the Lakewalk, Chester Bowl, Spirit Mountain, St. Louis River, Grassy Point, Lincoln Park, Piedmont, the Rose Garden, Western Waterfront, Willard Munger, and the Superior Hiking Trail. Further, we have Park Point and Bayfront Park, which is operated by the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

“And I might also note that in our world-class port in Duluth, we are quite literally the intersection of wilderness and commerce. I think that is a nice microcosm for ‘why Duluth.’”


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"For the Love of Duluth" podcast shines a spotlight on all things Duluth

For the Love of Duluth Podcast
Tour Guides to the City
Tom Jamison and Yvonne Myers 

Now in its third season with 39 episodes, "For the Love Of Duluth" podcast interviews the people who make the fabric of Duluth.

For the Love Of Duluth podcasts highlight what makes Duluth such a vibrant and exciting place to live or visit. Two current Duluthians, “one transplant and one lifelong resident,” as they describe themselves, discuss a broad range of what Duluth has to offer, including the art, culture, food, breweries/cideries, and, of course, the city’s fabulous views.

Tom Jamison was a business litigation attorney for 25 years in the Twin Cities.  When he decided to retire from the law, he bought a medical supply company, Lake Superior Medical (LSM), and moved to Duluth.

“I enjoyed the business world and decided that being an entrepreneur would be more fun, in 2015, I decided to buy my own company. I have always enjoyed visiting Duluth, and so the move was a great one for me.”

Yvonne Myers was born and raised in Duluth. Myers graduated in 1986 with an Associate Degree in Nursing. She worked for 11 years at St. Luke's in the Cardiac department. Since then, she has done Marketing for Lake Superior Medical Equipment, with a stint in Home Care Nursing added in as well.

Tom and Yvonne started the podcast in August 2021 with a short introductory podcast.

Yvonne Myers and Tom Jamison are the creators and hosts of the podcast For The Love of Duluth

“I have really enjoyed working for Lake Superior Medical, and Tom and I have become good friends,” Myers said.

Jamison added, “You won’t find two bigger fans of Duluth than Yvonne and I. We both love the city. When the pandemic hit, we saw many companies stepping up. With LSM we decided to do everything we could with fund-raising, volunteering and donating food."

Then, in the fall of 2021, they hit upon the idea of starting and hosting their own podcast to highlight all the wonderful people, sights and vistas that Duluth has to offer. LSM became the sponsor of the For the Love of Duluth podcast.

“We wanted to talk about people doing interesting things in Duluth. We know we will never run out of ideas, with so many wonderful folks in all walks of life,” said Jamison. Destination Duluth’s own Managing Director, Jerry Thoreson, was a recent guest on one of their podcasts.

Other guests have included include Zach Schneider of Grandma’s Marathon; Josh Stotts, owner of Sir Benedict’s; Sarah Maxim of Lake Superior Brewing; Dan Hartman Executive Director of the DECC musician Charlie Parr; Tom O’Rourke, Executive Director of Hartley Nature Center; and Jason Wussow, owner of Wussow’s Concert Cafe.

Tom Jamison and Yvonne Myers with special guest Charlie Parr

Jamison and Myers tape their 45-minute podcasts every month at Wussow’s Concert Cafe, on Central  Avenue in Duluth, a coffee house that features live music, an espresso bar, food menu, and beer and wine.

The two are now in their third season of For the Love of Duluth  “Each of the podcasts is a labor of love and we learn so much each time,” said Jamison.

Myers says she especially enjoyed an interview with Duluth author, Alex Messenger, who related a breathtaking story of a frightening grizzly attack he survived in the Canadian Tundra.

Jamison and Myers enjoy getting e-mail feedback and mentions on Facebook and Instagram from their listeners after every podcast. The people they feature also spread the word on their own social media.

Every guest of the show receives a sweatshirt in appreciation for their contribution to For the Love of Duluth podcast

Reflecting on his own love of the area, Jamison said, “As much as I absolutely love the local music scene, I also enjoy being able to get out into the woods with the peace, the waterfalls and the beautiful scenery. The parks, the trails for biking and hiking are other favorites.”

Seeing the city through the eyes of a tourist is how Myers reinforces her love of Duluth. “You have to start with the beauty of Lake Superior. Every reference point always begins and ends with the Lake.”

They both agree that the food and beverage scene and the area entertainment attractions are on their top five lists as well for other aspects of what they refer to as the “hidden gem of the Northwest.”They even note they don’t mind the extremes of the seasons.

“When For The Love Of Duluth was in the planning stages, one thing was certain: we wanted Duluth to be the star of the show and the podcast to serve as a tour guide for those looking to visit Duluth or a resource for those who already call the beautiful town, home,” noted Jamison.

Hear new and past podcasts on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast sites. Learn more about For the Love of Duluth at their Facebook page.












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Dr. Matt Davies - A Duluth Neurosurgeon Focused on Faith and Family

Dr. Matt Davies - A Duluth Neurosurgeon Focused on Faith and Family

Dr. Matt Davies has accomplished much in his 36 years. He and his wife, Athena, have been married for ten years, and have two young children: Madilyn (5), and Alexander (3).

Dr. Matt Davies and his wife Athena and their two children Madilyn (5), and Alexander (3)

Davies has been employed at Duluth-based Orthopaedic Associates since 2020. Here, he is both a neurosurgeon and a partner at the firm.

Davies is also a man of deep faith. He begins each day by reading his Bible and setting the intention to be a good husband, father, and surgeon.

“I get up at 4 am every day. That’s the only quiet time in my life,” Davies said with a laugh.

“I start my day by reading the Bible. That’s foundational to me. Then, I work out and I’m out the door by 6 am.” Davies continues until the work is done; this can be as early as 3 pm or as late as 10 pm.

With his talent and abilities, Dr. Davies could practice medicine just about anywhere. However, he has chosen to plant roots in Duluth.

Denfeld Success Story

Davies was born in Hibbing, and has one sibling; an older brother, Chris. His father, Chuck, worked for the State of Minnesota, and his mother, Cindy, worked at Target. The family moved to Duluth when Matt was two after his father received a job offer here.

The Davies family, including Matt's parents Chuck and Cindy, his brother Chris (Dr. Chris Davies), with his wife Maria, Athena Davies and children Madilyn and Alexander.  Submitted photo

Davies excelled in both athletics and academics from a young age. He played football and basketball for the Denfeld Hunters, and proudly represented Denfeld as a team member in the 2004 state basketball tournament.

Davies earned the prestigious Hunt Scholarship, due to his success on the playing field and in the classroom. This scholarship provided a full ride to the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD).

Why Medicine?

Davies shared his reasons for becoming a surgeon. “When I was 13, my best friend, Ben Johnson’s, dad, Dennis Johnson, was diagnosed with cancer. He was like a second father figure to me. Dennis was a weight lifter and this mountain of a man. I watched him become a smaller version of himself as he got sicker.

“One day, Dennis told me, ‘You need to be a doctor,’ and that just stuck with me. I valued his opinion immensely, and I had always had an interest in science.”

Unfortunately, Dennis ultimately succumbed to his illness. However, Dr. Davies’ work is no doubt a significant part of Dennis’ legacy.

And, why neurosurgery? “I’ve always loved using my hands,” he explained. “And I like fixing things. Maybe it partially comes from my athleticism. And academically, I love the brain, the spine, and neuroscience.”

But neurosurgery wasn’t even on Dr. Davies’ radar until his wife, Athena, mentioned it. “Athena pointed it out to me and suggested that’s what I should do. At that point, I hadn’t even considered it.”

Davies ultimately committed to pursuing neurosurgery in his 3rd year of medical school.


As noted, Davies attended UMD, where he earned an undergraduate degree in cell and molecular biology with a minor in chemistry and psychology. His brother, Chris, was also pursuing medicine; interestingly, the two were college roommates and took many of the same courses.

During college, Davies played rugby for UMD, and worked some interesting part-time jobs. Among them, he was a bartender for Mr. D’s, Ace’s, and the Duluth Curling Club. He coached 9th grade Denfeld football. And he and Chris both had jobs as mail coders for the United States Postal Service.

After graduating Summa Cum Laude (with a 3.98 GPA), Davies attended medical school at the University of Vermont in Burlington. He graduated in 2013 with honors, and was part of Alpha Omega Alpha, an honors society in the field of medicine.

Davies completed his seven-year medical residency at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.

Supportive Wife

During his time at UMD, Davies met his future wife, Athena - a fellow UMD student - at a blood drive. Davies was instantly smitten.

“We talked briefly, and I couldn’t get her out of my head,” he shared. In fact, I told my friend Steve, ‘I’m pretty sure I just met my future wife.’”

The two wouldn’t cross paths again until they were reintroduced many months later by a friend. Their first official date was in 2008, at Duluth’s Green Mill Restaurant.

At the time, Athena was studying biology. Today, she possesses both a nursing and a nurse practitioner degree.

Throughout his moves to Vermont and Texas to pursue his education, Athena has been a constant, supportive presence in Dr. Davies’ life. The two were married in Vermont in 2012. Their children were both born during Davies’ residency in Texas.

Athena, who is originally from New Hope, Minnesota, currently stays home with the couple’s two children.

Return to Duluth

Interestingly, both Davies brothers made the decision to return to Duluth. And their parents still reside in the home the boys grew up in.

Dr. Chris Davies works as an anesthesiologist at Lakewalk Surgery Center. He is also the owner of the Pain Clinic of Lake Superior.

“Neither of us thought we’d come back, but Duluth had this gravitational pull on both of our lives,” Davies said.


In his role as a neurosurgeon, Dr. Davies’ days vary. He specializes in treating the spine, and handles all types of spinal surgeries, including trauma, tumors, cysts, correcting degenerative issues, and addressing congenital anomalies such as scoliosis. He also treats the sacroiliac (SI) joint, with particular focus on motion preservation surgery and artificial disc replacements.

“Issues with the SI joint can be difficult to diagnose,” he said. “People have often had chronic back pain for years. It helps to have a pain physician as a brother. We often consult professionally.”

Dr. Davies performs surgeries at St. Luke’s, the Lakewalk Surgery Center, and also has outreach appointments in Hibbing and Grand Rapids, several days per month. He finds his work as a surgeon incredibly fulfilling.

“The most rewarding thing about the work I do is practicing medicine in my hometown,” Davies said. “I enjoy giving back to the community that has done so much for me, and it brings me great joy every day.”

Life in Duluth

The Davies family (which also includes two Pugs and three cats) live in Duluth’s Piedmont neighborhood. Madilyn and Alexander will be starting school at Stella Maris Academy next year. And the entire family is involved at Rock Hill Community Church. Dr. Davies also serves on the Board for the Greater Denfeld Foundation.

Matt Davies with daughter Madilyn and son Alexander. Submitted photo.

Despite their very busy life, Matt and Athena enjoy everything Duluth has to offer. This includes date night once a week at their favorite restaurants, including Va Bene and Lake Avenue Restaurant & Bar. They also maintain a membership at the Kitchi Gammi Club.

The Davies family also has family memberships at the Lake Superior Zoo, Great Lakes Aquarium, and Duluth Depot. The kids also love visiting Skyline Social & Games, Adventure Zone, and Defy Trampoline Park.

Above all else, Davies enjoys watching his family grow and is continually developing a deeper faith in God. “I’m becoming more and more connected with my church,” he said. “I started attending a men’s group on Thursday evenings, and enjoy working on my spiritual and personal development. But most of all, I just enjoy being with my family.”

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Growing Happiness at Bloom Wilder Dan McClelland and Jae Jeon 

Growing Happiness at Bloom Wilder ‘From Their Farm to Your Door’
Dan McClelland and Jae Jeon

Dan McClelland and Jae Jeon, owners of Bloom Wilder. Photo submitted.

There is nothing quite like going to one’s front door and receiving an unexpectedly bright, fragrant floral arrangement or bouquet, especially when those flowers are as fresh and distinctive as those from Bloom Wilder.

In 2018, husband and wife Dan McClelland and Jae Jeon began growing gorgeous flowers, just outside their front door in West Duluth. That garden grew into a flower farm and now into their thriving floral business, Bloom Wilder.

“We are very proud that at our flower farm and design studio, we use our own harvested flowers in our arrangements. What we do is really a labor of love,” said Dan. They enjoy growing tulips, daffodils, and especially dahlias, along with many other varieties.

Bloom Wilder offers floral arrangements for all occasions, weddings and special events. They sell their flowers mostly through their online shop with Twin Ports delivery service available.

The florist offers a subscription program to send flowers to loved ones or office friends and associates. "Each year we carefully select over 300 varieties of seeds and bulbs to keep our little farm bursting with flowers. May to October we craft beautiful bouquets and share them with you," according to their subscription page on their website.

Bloom Wilder plants over 300 varieties of seeds and bulbs to uniquely design each arrangement. Photo by Dan McClelland.

“I enjoy delivering the flowers,” said Dan. “I get an immediate reaction, and it is fun to see the happy faces.”

Dan wears many hats in the business doing much of the manual labor, taking the photography, maintaining the website and social media and talking to customers.

Jae chooses the seeds and decides what they will grow, selecting the colors and varieties and then designing and creating the floral arrangements.

They are the company’s only two employees, and both agree it is their shared aesthetic that makes their collaboration so meaningful.

Their seven-year-old son also Dion likes to “play in the dirt” and has his own little mini-garden area to plant and tend.

Seeds of Their Business

Jae was born in Seoul, and in her late twenties, moved to Jeonju (about two and a half hours south of Seoul), opening a flower shop there.

Jae Jeon holding Bloom Wilder's fresh-picked flowers. Photo by Dan McClelland

“I always loved giving flowers to friends and family, but I found the design and packaging were usually unattractive. A new wave of floral design was coming into Korea from Europe and Japan at that time. I had experience in fine art but not flowers. I wanted to develop my skill and the best way to do that was open a shop of my own,” she noted.

She and Duluth native Dan McClellan met when he went to Korea to teach English. In a rom-com movie sort of way, Dan ended up also working in Jae’s shop and a romance blossomed.

He had worked in landscaping in the Twin Cities where he went to college. Dan is also a visual artist and has always had a general interest in growing things.

He comes by it naturally from his father, (also named Dan McClelland), who is a landscape architect and designer and Glensheen Mansion’s former curator of historic grounds.

Dan noted, “When Jae and I decided to come to the U.S. to Duluth in 2015, we weren’t quite sure what we were going to do. After a few other jobs and trying to figure it out, we bought a house with a little bit of land which we slowly started to cultivate. We put in a small greenhouse at the back of the garage. I built some flower beds and the ‘seeds’ of our company were begun.”

When another lot in their neighborhood became available, the couple bought that also and the business grew. Their Studio and Farm on Highland Street is a place dedicated to environmentally friendly practices. Instead of using floral foam, they create their arrangements with reusable frameworks, and they do not use plastic packaging. They also use organic farm practices to grow their flowers.

“Wild. Seasonal. Local”

Jae added, “We're building a business that showcases our talents and also reflects the never-ending beauty of the world. Every day, people choose to show their love for one another with flowers. We get to be a part of that and that's the biggest reward.”

Jae displays a colorful, locally grown bouquet of flowers. Photo by Dan McClelland

Jae truly follows an artist’s process with her floral arrangements. “When I start a bouquet, the momentum builds and it becomes effortless,” she explained. “The planning, the planting, the harvesting are all struggles – but when I finally get to the studio and begin creating, there's a great release.”

“For us, there’s no comparison to the color, scent and vitality of the seasonal blooms we grow. A connection is lost when flowers are shipped thousands of miles away. It’s beyond the simple concept of ‘freshness.’ Our blooms retain their spirit. That’s what makes us unique,” she said.

“Designing with homegrown flowers compliments our naturalistic style and our desire for a healthy, happy future. Today we’re connected to the changing seasons and have a renewed purpose. I follow the season's lead. Today I'm in love with spring tulips and sweet pea!” noted Jae.

They feel that their business is emblematic of the phrase “Local is beautiful.” As they explained about Bloom Wilder at their website, “Together we are settling into a lovely and unpredictable life on a flower farm.”

Another quote from their website eloquently explains why they love what they do. “There is beauty in a flower’s struggle toward the sun and desire to thrive. We let the blooms take center stage — in all their grace and power.”

Visit their website at bloomwilder.com Follow them on Instagram @bloomwilder

Contact them with questions or to place orders at bloomwildermn@gmail.com or 218-600-9727.

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Rich Hoeg is "The Owl Guy"

Rich Hoeg

Destination Duluth Photographer Profile Series

Rich Hoeg is "The Owl Guy"
Renowned for his Images of Birds, Northern Lights

Photo by Rich Hoeg

The best advice Duluth-based photographer Rich Hoeg can offer is to be prepared - at all times. “I always have a camera with me,” he said. “Even if I’m not going out specifically to take photos, I know that if you don’t have your camera, something will happen.”

Hoeg has witnessed some pretty incredible, unexpected sights over the years. “Once in Oklahoma while bicycle touring, I saw a Meadowlark migration in progress,” he noted. “I had never seen one before, and there were just hundreds and hundreds of birds.”

Another spontaneous event occurred when a Crested Caracara (also known as a Mexican Eagle) landed on a flowering cactus - right next to him. “It happened in Texas as the Bluebonnets were flowering,” he said.

Rich Hoeg is undoubtedly a bit of a renaissance man. In addition to his photography, he is Ivy League-educated and enjoyed a lengthy career in the software industry until his retirement. He is also a hardy outdoor adventurer, having completed several long-distance bicycle tours. He is even a published author.

But, Hoeg is probably most well-known for his avian imagery. His website, 365 Days of Birds, is the result of a self-directed project where he took photos of birds every day for a year. To this day, people still affectionately refer to Hoeg as “The Owl Guy.”

Photo by Rich Hoeg

Young Shutterbug

For Hoeg, a lifelong Duluthian, his love affair with photography began in childhood. “As a kid, my parents let me get twelve photographs developed every summer,” he explained. Digital cameras would not appear on the scene until much later.

“Really, it was the birds that got me interested,” he added. “We had some feeders by our house in a grove of pine trees. While playing in the forest near my childhood home, I would hear the Blue Jay mating call, and watch the birds get drunk on fermented berries.”

As a photographer, Hoeg is mostly self-taught. In his youth, he learned through simple experimentation. Later, as an adult, he took community education classes, read articles, and watched YouTube videos to hone his craft.

Today, his equipment of choice includes a Canon SX70 and a Sony A6300. He explained the purpose of each camera.

“The Canon is a super-zoom bridge camera that has a small sensor but is good in bright conditions. And the Sony is a higher-quality, mirrorless camera that is lighter, with fewer moving parts. It’s a good option for low light.” He also carries a monopod to help stabilize his camera and prevent blurry photos.

Photo by Rich Hoeg

Education and Career

Hoeg earned an undergraduate degree in political science from Dartmouth, and later, a master’s degree in economics and statistics from the University of Rochester, New York. He spent 28 years working at Honeywell, until his retirement in 2013. There, Hoeg worked as a senior software project manager and helped build Honeywell’s web infrastructure, including its first-ever websites.

Hoeg chooses to remain active in his retirement. He was one of Destination Duluth’s first Board members, serving three years on the Board, with another three as Board Chair.

He has also served on the Board of Directors for Warm Showers, a non-profit hospitality exchange service for people engaging in bicycle touring, and for the French River Lutheran Church. Additionally, Hoeg works as a volunteer naturalist for Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog.

He is currently in the process of publishing his 6th children’s birding book, called Smokey Finds a Rainbow, about a Great Grey Owl who was born in the northern pine forest and sets off in search of seeing its first rainbow. Hoeg’s books are available for purchase on his website, and he also generously gives away free PDF copies.


Interestingly, Hoeg met his future wife, Molly – who is also from Duluth - in Rochester, New York. “We learned that we grew up only a mile apart, but went to different schools,” Hoeg explained.

Although the Hoegs lived in the Twin Cities for about 20 years, they eventually returned to Duluth, where they plan to stay. For those thinking about relocating to this area, Hoeg shared, “My biggest advice is to come visit in the winter. Everyone loves to visit in the fall, when Duluth is showing itself off in the best way. To live here, you need to embrace the outdoors, and understand that there are mornings that are -20. But there are all kinds of ways to be engaged in winter, such as curling.”

Rich and Molly have now been married for almost 40 years, and have three adult children and seven grandchildren. The Hoegs live in a home they built on Seven Bridges Road, in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood.

Wildlife Photography

Hoeg’s preferred niche is wildlife photography. He enjoys snapping photos of many, many species of birds and other creatures. He also specializes in images of the northern lights. He openly shares some of his favorite locations to capture both, on his website.

Photo by Rich Hoeg

As noted, Hoeg’s most well-known project was “365 Days of Birds,” which ran from 2014-2015, and is also his website name. He explained a bit about how the project began.

“If you don’t know how to do something, the best way to learn is to just do it. I wanted to get better at photography, and I had heard of other ‘365-day photo’ projects. I decided to take a photo of a bird every day, no matter what the conditions, or where I was located.”

Hoeg chose birds because he enjoys them; in fact, he considers himself both a birder and a naturalist. “A lot of wildlife photographers don’t know a lot about their subjects, but I’m very interested in the species of birds and their habitat,” he said. “I track the family of owls that live near my home, and always learn about the animals I’m interested in.”

Another of Hoeg’s projects was called “30 Superior Nights.” Here, he photographed Lake Superior for 30 nights, to improve his nighttime photography skills.

Active Lifestyle

Rich and Molly Hoeg have participated in many long-distance bike tours over the years. The couple also loves to travel. One of their favorite locales is Norway, where Rich has captured some stellar images of the northern lights.

Hoeg is also an accomplished trail runner. About two and a half years ago, however, while trail running, he experienced a scary health incident.

“I was running on the Lester-Amity Trails, and I collapsed,” he shared. “It turned out I had a heart valve problem. My Garmin device said I was on the ground for 30 minutes.”

After crying out for help, a young couple came to his aid. Ultimately, Hoeg spent 14 days in the hospital, after having open-heart surgery.

Thankfully, today, he is healthy and well. But he has changed a few things.

“I always make sure my wife knows where I am. I carry my cell phone and/or a GPS.” He has also added an e-bike into his exercise regime, to help him crest big hills. But he remains as active as ever and still exercises about five days per week.


The Owl Guy has some great tips to offer to other photographers. “Get off the automatic setting, and learn to use your camera,” he noted. “Learn to use the aperture and shutter priority in combination with manual control of your ISO.

Photo by Rich Hoeg

“I would also suggest doing a project like 365 Days of Birds, that forces you to get out and learn,” he added. “For me, I love being out in the woods. I’ll go out every day.”

To view Rich Hoeg’s photography, please visit his website, 365daysofbirds.com. He also created - and maintains - two Facebook photography pages: Minnesota Boreal Forest Birds & Wildlife, and Northern Lights – Lake Superior Region.



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Wild State Cider brings cheer to the Lincoln Park Craft District

“Plan B” business name grows into a perfect fit for Wild State Cider. 

Wild State Cider is located at 2515 W. Superior St. Submitted photo. 


Wild State facility produced about a million cans of cider last year. Submitted photo.

According to Adam Ruhland, co-founder and co-owner of Duluth-based Wild State Cider, the meaning of the term “wild state” is ultimately open to interpretation.

“We had a business name selected,” Ruhland shared, “But right before we opened, we had a trademark … situation. So, the name Wild State came out of that, and having to come up with another name.”

He explained some of the inspiration behind their moniker. “Wild State can refer to the type of product we offer, where we don’t put additives into our cider. It could also be a place you go to be yourself, such as the wilderness.” For some, the name may also conjure up thoughts of our beloved NHL hockey team, the Minnesota Wild.

Although it wasn’t their first choice, Wild State has morphed into the perfect fit. Now that the cidery has been open for four years, company leadership simply can’t imagine operating under any other name.


Wild State Cider initially opened in March 2019. The business was founded by Ruhland and an old friend, Andrew “Drew” Price,” whom he met in summer camp back in 2008.

Andrew “Drew” Price (left), and Adam Ruhland (right) are co-founders of Wild State Cider... along with a sweet doggie companion. Photo submitted.

Ruhland has a bachelor’s degree in media/video production, and a master’s degree in special education - both from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Prior to owning Wild State Cider, he worked as a teacher and also in the digital marketing industry.

Interestingly, Ruhland also met his wife, Katie Ruhland, at the same summer camp where he met Price. Katie is from Duluth and works as a technology teacher at Raleigh Edison Charter School. Settling down with a woman from Duluth provided the impetus for Adam to relocate.

While Ruhland is from the state of Virginia, Price is from Duluth. As Ruhland was taking a little “life detour,” where he lived in Vermont for a few years – a highlight during that time was drinking Woodchuck Cider - Price was brewing beer at Voyageur Brewing Company in Grand Marais. The two combined their passion for craft beverages with their years of friendship and decided to start a business.

For its first few years, Wild State operated a warehouse, production facility, and taproom out of its location at 2515 West Superior Street. Recently, Ruhland and his two co-owners, Price and Allison Longley, were able to purchase an off-site warehouse roughly three miles away, on 59th Avenue West. The taproom – where all the customer fun happens - is still located at 2515 West Superior Street.


Today, the cidery has grown to include roughly 30 employees. In addition to its owners, there are taproom employees, a sales team, production team, marketing team, and more. The cider recipes are typically created, at least initially, by Longley and Price, and then work their way through the “tasting team” until they are ready to go.

For his part, Ruhland typically handles finances, personnel, distributors, and directs the growth of the business. “Every day is different when you own a business,” he noted. “There’s always something new to figure out and solve.”

Vibe and Events

Ruhland describes the taproom’s vibe as “Scandinavian modern.”

“We have maple wood tones, lots of natural light, vertical lines, and a color scheme of black and white,” he explained. “We also have a plant wall, which was installed by Duluth Living Walls, which provides a lot of breath and life.” The taproom also features lots of unique touches, including twinkly lights, exposed ductwork, and even a large overhead garage door that can be opened when the weather allows.

Wild State Cider has a small kitchen, too, so a few food options are available, including hot pretzels, Vermont-style soft-serve ice cream, and chips and salsa. Customers are encouraged to bring in outside food, as well.

In addition to simply being a cool place to hang out and enjoy a cider, Wild State also hosts a variety of events at the taproom, too. Events include trivia nights, bingo, a Monday night curling league, a Fall Cellar sale, house plant exchanges, Sunday markets, and more.


Wild State Cider creates a variety of hard ciders which are made from a custom blend of fresh apple juices. Wild State prides itself on not adding additional sugars or other sweeteners to its product, other than apple juice. The cider is also sorbate- and gluten-free. Wild State utilizes pasteurization, rather than chemicals, to keep its cider fresh.

Cheers to a glass of Wild State Cider. Photo submitted.

Its flagship options, which are available all year, in all markets, include pear, semi-dry, raspberry hibiscus, classic dry, and hazy pink pineapple. Seasonal and limited-release ciders are also available, and the “on tap” options vary weekly.

Wild State also does occasional collaborations with other local companies, such as Vikre Distillery. The duo’s limited-release canned cocktail last November was a huge hit with customers.

Wild State sources its apple juice from orchards and press facilities in Washington, New York, and Michigan. The business typically orders juice by the tankerload, which equates to 5,500 gallons of juice, and typically orders one tankerload per week. The cidery produced 180,000 gallons of cider last year, which equates to about 80,000 cases or around a million cans.

While Ruhland can pinpoint the specific apple varietals used, there is more to the story. “We typically use Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, and McIntosh apples, but we order by requesting things like how much acidity we need; how much sugar content we want; and by pH,” he explained. “The orchards and press facilities we use then blend the juice to meet these requirements.”

Wild State Cider also offers plenty of merch; sweatshirts, hats, hoodies, glassware and more are available for purchase online and in the taproom.

Where to Buy

Customers who visit the taproom can order cider by the glass, or try several mini samples with a flight. Kegs, four-packs, cases, crowlers (25-ounce cans), and refillable growlers (32-ounce glass containers) can also be picked up to enjoy at home.

Additionally, most major liquor stores, including Target, Trader Joe’s, Cub Foods, Costco, and more, carry the product. Wild State Cider is also available at select restaurants and bars.

The product can also be shipped direct-to-consumer, in 40 states. Please visit wildstatecider.com to learn more.

Another unique option is the Wild Cider Club. Participants can choose to receive specialty ciders, which are usually only available in the taproom, delivered to their home four times a year. Local residents can also choose to pick up their order.

Giving Back

Giving back to the causes they care about is important to Wild State’s leaders. The company donates 1% of its top-line revenue to various non-profit, environmental organizations which help people gain access to the outdoors.

Wild State also participates in local environmental efforts, such as the “Clean Yer Creek” initiative.


For Adam and Katie Ruhland and their family, which also includes a 4-year-old daughter, Tessa, a one-year-old son, Davis, and a dog named June, Duluth has become a wonderful place to call home. The family has settled down in the Morley Heights neighborhood, which is a perfect location to enjoy all their favorite activities.

“That gap of five years I spent in Vermont helped condition me for the cold weather,” Adam noted with a chuckle. “Then, Katie and I lived in St. Paul for a while, but it was too urban. We wanted to go somewhere with less people and more recreational opportunities.”

Duluth appeared to be the perfect fit. “Duluth – and Lake Superior – are so impressive, geographically,” he added. “And, we love skiing and hiking. We enjoy how the trails here are so intertwined through the neighborhoods.”


Wild State customers can expect to see a slight brand refresh in the coming weeks. While Wild State’s logo (featuring a bear, fox, and goose), won’t change much, the logo and packaging will undergo a slight refresh, to give the products a more polished look. Additionally, the plastic PakTechs (the device used to connect four-packs of cider) will also be phased out, in favor of cardboard cartons.

Ruhland shared some of his dreams for the future of Wild State Cider. “Our ultimate goal is to be the top cider in the region. Also, we want to be a place that is a staple of Duluth. We want our employees to be happy, paid good wages and benefits, with a good work-life balance.”

Please visit wildstatecider.com to learn more.

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